Skip to main content
Making sense of old handwriting

Dutch Handwriting

Although the specific requirements for keeping registers have changed from time to time, the formats of entries have stayed basically the same. This tutorial will introduce you to those basic formats; that is, it will focus on the specific information contained in each entry and locate where that information can  be found.

Reading old handwritten records in Dutch requires an awareness of certain unique features that may complicate this task. The average reader with an intermediate knowledge of the Dutch 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 Dutch words but words of a derivative dialect or influenced by another language spoken in the area, such as Frisian spoken in Friesland, or Latin used in the Catholic churches throughout the Netherlands. For example, in written Dutch; /j/ and /i/ are used interchangeably, such as in Marietje spelled as Marietie or Arie is spelled as Arij. The section of the sidebar under  Techniques & Tools provides examples of some challenges a researcher may encounter in reading old Dutch and also provides assistance in those particular challenges:

It is 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 minimize misinterpretations or missing the information you are searching for.  The other topics under the Techniques & Tools section of the Sidebar are for your reference as you develop your personal paleographic expertise.

It is very helpful to have an alphabet chart open while transcribing a record.

Below is a sample record from...that illustrates the types of challenges you might find while reading old manuscripts.



Paleography Introduction