As opposed to reading a French language newspaper, the reading of old handwritten records in French requires being aware of certain unique features that may complicate this task. The average reader with an intermediate knowledge of the French language will quickly realize that, in older records, scribes may have included words that do not match their modern equivalents, either because they were misspelled or because they were not French words but words in a dialect of French or influenced by another language spoken in the area. These variations could also be the result of Latin influence when writing the French words, for example using “y” instead of “i” or additions of "L" to certain words, such as in “La foy” instead of “La foi” or “Ceulx” instead of “Ceux.” These are examples of the challenges that the researcher may face when reading old French handwritten records. This section includes the following main challenging features:
We recommend studying these sections thoroughly before reading old manuscripts. Doing so will help you be more confident in your ability to understand these records and minimized misinterpretations or missing the information you are searching for. Note also that certain areas of France have been influenced by Germanic languages.
It is very helpful to have an alphabet open while transcribing a record. You can see our French-language alphabet charts here.