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Madison County Genealogical Society

Minutes of the Meeting - October 8, 2009


The October 8, 2009, meeting of the Madison County Genealogical Society was held at the Edwardsville Public Library in Edwardsville, Illinois.

President, Robert Ridenour, called the meeting to order.


In the absence of our Treasurer LaVerne Bloemker, President, Robert Ridenour presented the financial report for the month of September 2009.

*** NOTICE ***

Dues for 2010 are now being accepted. We would very much appreciate receiving your renewal checks by 1 January 2010. Present members will receive one more Stalker in December and two Newsletters in November and January.


Do you have a family member that is interested in (or even obsessed with) genealogy? A membership in the Madison County Genealogical Society would be a very thoughtful Holiday Gift. A gift card will be sent to the recipient of any gift membership.

The following memberships are available:
Individual/Family Annual Membership $20.00
Patron Annual Membership $30.00
Life Membership $250.00

Contact our Secretary, Barbara Hitch, at, about a gift membership.

October Meeting

On October 8, 2009, Linda Osterdock presented a program titled Deciphering Handwritinng in American Documents.

Ms. Osterdock began her presentation by comparing the appearance of Colonial era letters to modern day versions. She supplied hand-outs which had several examples of each character, both upper and lower case, as written during the Colonial era.

Because of the origins of the early Colonial settlers, documents of that period may contain one or more of several languages - Latin, French, English, Spanish, Dutch, or even Native American. The presentation given by Linda concentrated on English.

Elizabeth Shown Mills has commented that the further back in time you go, the more plain English looks like a foreign language. Very early documents did not use punctuation or spacing between words. So you may have to make a translation of a continuous string of strange characters into known English words.

Ms. Osterdock gave several helpful hints for reading old handwriting:

Common Helpful Hints for Reading Old Handwriting

Suggestions From Elizabeth Briggs, The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

The material distributed to attendees by Ms. Osterdock included a list of common abbreviations and contractions and a list of old style abbreviations of proper names. She also discussed the Thorn and Yogh. The Thorn and Yogh were hand-written characters that represented "th" and "gh," respectively. When movable type was first used in England in 1476, the typesets purchased from the continent did not contain these characters. The English "y" was used as a substitute for the Thorn, so "ye" would become "the" and "yt" or "yat" would become "that." The Yogh, as written, appears somewhat like an Arabian "3" with a tail, and represents the sound of "gh" in "cough," "trough," etc.

The handout also included a list of books, websites, and classes on deciphering old handwriting. This list is available at the following link.

Deciphering Old Handwriting