Fishing in Murky Waters?

Some of the Oldest Faded Documents are Readable over the Internet

New technology is helping genealogy.

As more data reaches the Internet, we should be in a position to resolve some of our brick walls. However, there are still undiscovered records such as church journals. In my days of roaming around Georgia searching for relatives, I have seen the most amazing things passed down through the generations, including priceless European histories and genealogies of the Royal families. Sometimes such items end up in archives and public libraries, but mostly they disappear. Interviewing relatives is helpful, to gain more background information. Speaking to relatives is a grand friendship which produces unexpected information. Ideally, one should belong to all of the online websites. Because this is impractical, it is always a good idea to review each website and decided on the best one for your needs. For this reason, Georgia Pioneers lists all available data to the possible subscriber before hand. Click on “databases” But it gets better, if you click on “counties” there is a complete list of all of the names of testators (of wills and estates). Although there are some books indexes of wills and estates, they are not always complete. While digitizing wills for the States of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, I discovered items not indexed as well as old colonial-style writing, faded ink, torn pages and wear and tear over the ages. By the time the court house books were microfilmed in Georgia during the 1950s, they were already in a state of decay. However, the improved technology of today for imaging, microfilming and internet visibility, there is a better chance of actually reading some of the faded pages. With a little bit of study, one can usually interpret the worst documents. That is why I microfilm all possible visuals. The old colonial handwriting is best interpreted by a print-out of the document.

Then a close study using a colonial handwriting-guide. First, resolve what the surname looks like in colonial handwriting. Then, other standard language. The beginning of old Wills begin with “In the Name of God, Amen” With that information, one can work out the letters. Eventually, one understands the characters and solves the puzzle.

Some of the oldest, most tattered records can be read today with reasonable effort.

Colonial Handwriting Chart

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Jeannette Holland Austin

Jeannette Holland Austin

Author of 100+ genealogy books. Owner of 8 genealogy websites available by subscription.