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Making sense of old handwriting

Numbers


As you go through old records, there will always be a date present. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how numbers and dates work in Spanish.

Numbers

General/Latin-numbers

In Spanish records, there are two main types of numbers used to express figures and dates. The first group of numbers used in Spanish records is the set of roman numerals. Even though they may show some variations from the ones still used today, they are also usually easy to read. The researcher must be aware of the common use of some lower-case letters to represent roman numerals, for example, iii instead of III.

We recommend that the researcher check other records written by the same scribe to ensure the correct reading of a particular number. The chart of roman numerals to the right is also helpful while gaining a familiarity with the different styles in which they can appear.

Portuguese-Tools-Numbers/Roman-U

Some of the older documents you look at may use the following symbol:

This "U" like character signifies the space between the thousands place and the hundreds place.

Portuguese-Tools-Numbers/Roman-Numeral-Example

For example:
or "1 U DXCI" would be 1591.

Before the "U," the scribe may place a "1" instead of an "M" (such as with our 1591 example.)

The second and most relevant types of numbers are Arabic numerals, which are the most widely used today. These are usually easy to read, but some are sometimes confusing because their shape could be similar to other numbers, such as 1 and 7 or 5 and 9. Here are some examples:

General/Tools-Numbers/Number-0
General/Tools-Numbers/Number-1
General/Tools-Numbers/Number-2
General/Tools-Numbers/Number-3
General/Tools-Number-4
General/Tools-Number-5
General/Tools-Number-6
General/Tools-Number-7
General/Tools-Number-8
General/Tools-Number-9

When dating documents, most records will use Cardinal Numerals or Ordinal Numerals; however, it is not uncommon for documents that use a mixture of all four kinds of number systems. Below is a basic guide to numbers you may encounter in Spanish records:

Below is a basic guide to numbers you may encounter in Spanish records:

Arabic
Roman
Cardinal
Ordinal

0

nūllus

cero

-

1Iunm/unafprimero
2IIdossegundo
3IIItrestercero
4IVcuatrocuarto
5Vcincoquinto
6VIseissexto
7VIIsieteséptimo
8VIIIochooctavo
9IXnuevenoveno
10Xdiezdécimo
11XIonceundécimo
12XIIdoceduodécimo
13XIIItrecedecimotrecero
14XIVcatorcedecimocuarto
15XVquincedecimoquinto
16XVIdecicéisdecimosexto
17XVIIdecicisietedecimoséptimo
18XVIIIdeciochodecimoctavo
19XIXdiecinuevedecimonoveno
20XXveintevigésimo
21XXIveintiunovigésimo primero
22XXIIveintidósvigésimo segundo
23XXIIIveintitrésvigésimo tercero
30XXXtrientatrigésimo
31XXX1trienta y unotrigésimo primero
32XXXIItrienta y dostrigésimo segundo
33XXXIIItrienta y trestrigésimo terceiro
40XXXXcuarentacuadragésimo
50Lcincuentaquincuagésimo
60LXsesentasexagésimo
70LXXsetentaseptuagésimo
80LXXXochentaoctogésimo
90XCnoventanonagésimo
100Cciencentésimo

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