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               September, 2012

      Charles Hansen, Editor
      Leslie Ann, Guest Contributor
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  The Transcription of a Will
  — Leslie Ann

Transcribing a will can be both overwhelming and rewarding. Overwhelming because at first glance it may look like a bunch of gobbledygook. Rewarding because when you are done you may have discovered valuable information.

If you are a palaeographer, transcribing a will is probably a walk in the park for you. And it helps if you are savvy with legal lingo. But, if you are anything like me, you need all the help you can get.

I transcribed my first two wills with a notebook and a pen while sprawled out on the couch. It can take up to five minutes just to figure out one word, so I prefer to be comfortable instead of staring at the computer screen. Of course I had my Blackberry nearby. The Dictionary.com app really came in handy. If it weren't for this app, I would still be stuck on the word charnell. And I would be lost without my book Genealogical Research in England and Wales, Vol. III. I still prefer a good ole page turner. This book is available through Worldcat and amazon.com.

I found this software called Transcript that I will probably use for the next will that I transcribe. That will eliminate the step of transcribing from the notebook to the computer. To work with PDF files you will also have to download Ghostscript.

This software allows you to transcribe without having to switch between your document and your word processor.

*Update - I have transcribed a few things with this software since the original writing of this post and let me tell you it saves so much time. If you have not downloaded this software yet, what are you waiting for?

The following links will be very helpful in guiding you through the transcription of any old document.

The National Archives - Palaeography
Medieval Writing
About.com - Reading Old Handwriting
Palaeography
Dictionary.com

Here is a sampling of 17th century letters:

I still have four more wills to transcribe. Wish me luck!

Good luck on your next transcription project and may it be fruitful!



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