Reading Old Handwriting

Reading Old Handwriting

Course Overview

Reading old handwriting is an essential skill for genealogists but sometimes it can be challenging. Genealogists study and practice reading old handwriting in order to read and interpret the documents essential to family history research such as probate files, wills, land records, deeds, and court files. Many documents require the genealogist to read old handwriting to transcribe, abstract, or extract the pertinent data and use it in their family history.

This illustrated course explains the writing systems and styles used in the United States during the last three centuries. Every module has multiple hands-on exercises to develop expertise in reading handwriting from a variety of locations and time periods. Upon completion of the course, students will have techniques and strategies for reading handwritten documents encountered in their research.

Author: Carla Cegielski
Course: Online, cloud based
Price: NGS Members $75 Non-members $100

Course Description

DNA Helix

The ten modules of this course guide students through several examples and exercises to learn to read a variety of old handwriting styles. The course includes multiple practice exercises and suggested strategies for reading wills, deeds, court records, as well as other types of documents. This course will give students hands-on experience reading documents and an overview for transcribing them.

  • Module 1—Handwriting in America
  • Module 2—Writing Implements and Inks
  • Module 3—Reading Letters
  • Module 4—Reading Numbers and Dates
  • Module 5—Signatures
  • Module 6—Strategies for Deciphering Difficult-to-Read Text
  • Module 7—Reading Copies
  • Module 8—Transcription
  • Module 9—Resources and Tools
  • Module 10—Furthering Your Skills
  • Supplementary Exercises—Six Additional Exercises to Further Enhance your Skills

About the Author

Carla Cegielski

Carla S. Cegielski is a freelance genealogical researcher and writer living in Ohio. After retiring from teaching at a local business college, Cegielski began lecturing on various genealogical topics. She is a frequent speaker at genealogical societies, libraries, and conferences. Carla writes the Tech Tips column in the quarterly NGS Magazine.  


Continuing Genealogical Studies  Members Non-Members
Reading Old Handwriting $75 $100
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The Continuing Genealogical Studies courses are cloud-based so you can take the course from home or anywhere at any time. You need either a computer or tablet with an internet connection to access the lessons, examples, and practice exercises. For this course you may choose to download transcription software onto your computer to help you complete the practice exercises.

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NGS grants a license to an individual to take the course shown above. This grants the individual a personal, nonexclusive, nontransferable right to the course materials for that student’s personal educational use only. All students work independently.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Course?

The Continuing Genealogical Studies series of courses have no set time or date for attendance. These online courses are designed for individuals who have varied schedules and allows them to prioritize their learning and work at their own pace.

Students have access to the course for six months from the time of registration. If you need extra time, a three-month extension can be granted by contacting the NGS Course Administrator.

When Can I Start the Course?

Within three business days, you receive two separate emails, one that confirms your registration and one that provides log in instructions

Refund and Cancellation Policy

All purchases of courses are final. No refunds or credits are available.


Here is a link to the Continuing Genealogical Studies: FAQs. If you have further questions, please contact the NGS Course Administrator.