The Census Challenge

Census documents represent an entirely new challenge. Unlike the Directories which are very easy to read, 19th Century census documents are written records that contain old-fashioned handwriting. Since there were many different census workers collecting/processing the information we are exposed to all sorts of different styling of writing, from legible to indecipherable.

Because of the variances in handwriting, it takes awhile to get acquainted with the subtleties of an individual’s ‘scrawl’. At times, the poorest of the hand written documents seem like a hopeless effort but we have found that the more pages that you look through, the more you become conditioned to the writing, and that there is benefit to saving the difficult documents to the end of the process; to take advantage of what you have learned. We have now learn how to read even the worst of writing.

There are some very useful guides published to advise about reading old text and it’s worth looking them up. Perhaps some of the best resources we will soon have though are our volunteers themselves who, by the nature of their involvement, will be able to consider themselves gifted readers of classic Victorian handwriting!