BCG Skillbuilding at NGS 2013: Ronald Hill on “Interpreting the Symbols and Abbreviations in Seventeenth Century English and American Documents”

Please welcome guest blogger Judy Kellar Fox, CGSM.

Ronald A. Hill is the gentleman behind the distinctive full white moustache.  He brought decades of experience reading and interpreting old English and American colonial records to share with conference-goers.   While the topic could fill an entire course, he gave a taste of Elizabethan script that researchers of seventeenth-century records encounter.

At first glance the words seem to be a foreign language, the individual letters indistinguishable.  Ron pointed out some common spelling differences from modern English (soe for so; wher for where; ys for is).  He provided upper and lower case letters in many versions, then showed contractions and abbreviations that have not survived in contemporary English.  The examples all appear in the syllabus, and Ron has graciously agreed to post them on the BCG website so folks who listen to the recorded version of his talk will know what he is talking about.  After the conference, we will be able to give you the link to those handouts.

A number of examples of full documents filled the slides of the last part of the class.  Ron read through them fluently, following along with a pointer.  Perhaps that was frustrating for those who would like to learn to read them, too.  I saw it as an affirmation that it is possible to learn, despite the fact that the scripts looked as different from each other as separate languages.  Ron described how: “[You] gotta study that a little bit.”

A great supplement to this talk is Ronald A. Hill, “Interpreting the Symbols and Abbreviations in 16th and 17th Century English Documents,” Genealogical Journal 21 (1993), 1-13.

We thank Ron for making his handouts from his NGS 2013 lectures available to our readers. You can click on these links for his Chancery Court handout Hill-T212 and his abbreviations handout Hill-W141.

This session has been recorded. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at http://www.jamb-inc.com/category/genealogy. This is session W141 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

Judy reports, “Blogging is a recent activity for me, inspired by a need to share family mementos and photos with members of the younger generation, to reach them with a medium they use.  That’s Ancestors from the Attic (http://foxkellar.blogspot.com).  I’ve also been experimenting with a blog as serialized research report: Pinpointing Dennis Buggy’s Irish Origins (http://foxkellarbuggy.blogspot.com).  It allows me to demonstrate and explain good practices with each post.”

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