About us

The Scottish Handwriting resource on ScotlandsPeople is maintained by the National Records of Scotland. Content for Scottish Handwriting has been provided by archivists in Scotland and researchers who use Scottish historical records.

The primary purpose of this resource is to provide online tuition in palaeography (reading old handwriting) in the context of early modern Scottish historical documents. It is aimed mainly at those whose research involves reading Scottish historical records written in the period 1500-1750, although some assistance is given with 19th century writing too.

There are three key elements of successful palaeography in this period:

  • Studying secretary hand (a form of handwriting common in Western Europe in the period), and other characteristics of handwritten records, such as methods of abbreviating handwriting.
  • Keeping up reading speed through regular practice.
  • Having help at hand for difficult words, such as dictionaries of the Scots, English and Latin languages, gazetteers, and specialist glossaries.

Whatever your level of palaeographical ability, our interactive tutorials and palaeography posers will help you study the characteristics of Scottish handwriting and improve or maintain your reading speed. Regular use of our coaching manual should develop your technique and may help you overcome specific problems when you 'get stuck' while reading a document. There are also links to other online palaeography websites, and details of dictionaries, glossaries and other useful publications.