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Help with a very old secret letter

(139 Posts)
Mindtrope Sat 17-Dec-16 20:17:12

I have an old letter 1903, it has been found recently, and may explain some unknown parentage but we can hardly read it. In fragile but good condition, but written in such archaic / florid script we can hardly read. Is there a service we can use?

CostaBrava Sat 17-Dec-16 20:20:21

Take a pic and show the MN super sleuths

Maudlinmaud Sat 17-Dec-16 20:23:35

Oh yes. Please post a picture. Not sure if mn will be able to help with the parentage but I'd love to see it.

hesterton Sat 17-Dec-16 20:25:29

Photo just the bits you can't make out perhaps? Hopefully you can maintain your privacy that way.

WellErrr Sat 17-Dec-16 20:27:56

Oooh I love old letters and books!

Aussiebean Sat 17-Dec-16 20:29:01

Contact the local uni and ask the history department. Or a museum They are pretty good at reading old handwriting.

Plus I would scan it so you limit unnecessary handling and you could email it to someone willing to have a go.

lovelearning Sat 17-Dec-16 20:33:12

Oooh I love old letters and books!

Me too.

What else do you know about the letter, Mindtrope?

Mindtrope Sat 17-Dec-16 20:34:14

I am so surprised at the response. Much appreciated. I will take a picture of a part of the letter ( in good light) tomorrow and post. Thanks for your help.

HarrietVane99 Sat 17-Dec-16 20:39:09

Try local record office or archives, rather than museum. If you don't know where it is, it'll be on your county or borough website, usually under libraries. They'll be able to advise you on the best way to store it, too.

happychristmasbum Sat 17-Dec-16 20:44:40

Oh how lovely! Hope you get a positive outcome.

LeopardPrintSocks1 Sat 17-Dec-16 20:46:58

How intriguing smile

UnGoogleable Sat 17-Dec-16 20:56:50

Nothing that the collective mind of MN can't solve!

TheProblemOfSusan Sat 17-Dec-16 21:02:38

If you want to google for ideas on how to read it, the term you want is palaeography - reading old writing.

But if it's 1903 it's not that old and unfamiliar, it's just a question of getting your eye in, and it might take a while. Start by writing out what you can read on a separate sheet, putting things like [could be 'and'] in square brackets for the ones you're not sure of. Then work out what characters you can read and what shape they are, and see if you can spot any similarities in the words you're struggling with.

There's a good guide in this PDF - wallaceletters.info/sites/wallaceletters.info/files/NHM_Palaeography_Guide_2014.pdf

Taking a really high res photo you can zoom in on will really help too.

Mindtrope Sat 17-Dec-16 21:03:02

lovelearning I have a few details of the circumstances passed by word of mouth, looks like a local headmaster ( possibly married) in 1890 fathered my grandfather, left the scene left her in poverty, but wrote this letter 13 years later to her. The letter was found in my grandfather's fishing stuff ( his out of bounds place in 1965, and again only recently surfaced.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Sat 17-Dec-16 21:05:49

I may be able to read it, if you can take a good enough photo. I read a lot of old documents and 1903's pretty modern for me.

Mindtrope Sat 17-Dec-16 21:05:56

TheProblemOfSusan Thanks.that's really helpful.

buckeejit Sat 17-Dec-16 21:07:49

Ooh, an intriguing letter, shameless place marking smile

Mindtrope Sat 17-Dec-16 21:08:06

Great, I will take a scan and photo.

TheProblemOfSusan Sat 17-Dec-16 21:10:52

You're welcome, Mindtrope, it sounds like it's important to you to know what's in it. If you don't mind sticking it on here I'll check back tomorrow and see if I can make anything of it - though I haven't done it for a while myself and when I did it was manuscript writing in much earlier periods.

Though, my handwriting is pretty shocking so I do get a lot of practice :D

TheLadyWithTheYellowHat Sat 17-Dec-16 21:13:36

How exciting! I love stuff like this place marking for the big reveal grin

Mindtrope Sat 17-Dec-16 21:13:42

THanks

RJnomore1 Sat 17-Dec-16 21:15:58

Place marking too I have a good eye for old writing will happily have a go at it tomorrow

Fidelia Sat 17-Dec-16 21:37:48

I'm pretty good at deciphering old handwriting too (although probably not as good as Surely)

RaveclawZia13 Sat 17-Dec-16 21:41:02

What part of the country are you? If you have a local archives they should be able to help you. They will have technology to repair any damage and have equipment that won't damage the document.

YorkieDorkie Sat 17-Dec-16 21:47:11

Ooohhhh love this sort of thing! It's like a treasure hunt!

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