A Free Online “Beginners Guide To Latin” Course

Beginners-Latin-CourseIf you are lucky enough to trace your ancestors back before the mid 1700s then it will not be long before you find that more and more of the documents you wish to consult are written in Latin. This creates a big problem for Family Historians and Genealogists who were not taught Latin in school. To make things worse even those who were taught Classical Latin will find the Latin used in old English documents significantly different. We were therefore excited to discover a free, online, Beginners Guide To Latin available from the National Archives entitled “Latin 1086 – 1733: A practical online tutorial for beginners”. We recommend that anyone who has traced their family back before the mid 1700s takes a look at this Beginners’ Latin tutorial.

The tutorial is divided into 6 sections:

  • Introduction
  • Where To Start
  • Tutorials
  • Reference
  • Activities
  • Further Practice

The Introduction explains how the course will cover the Latin used in official documents between 1086 (when the Doomsday Book was written) to 1733 (when all official documents were written in English).

The Where to Start section shares a few tips on learning Latin.

The Tutorial section includes 12 lessons which increase in difficulty.

The Reference section covers topics such as a Word List, Common Problems, Dating Documents.

The Activities section contains 12 challenges to test what you have learned from the 12 Tutorials

The Further Practice section is a link to their free online Palaeography course.

As we have mentioned above; the course is free and we feel provides an excellent introduction to the type of Latin used in old historical documents. If you would like to learn more about Latin we suggest you take a look at this free course.

If you feel that this Beginners’ Guide To Latin is too basic for you then we recommend that you take a look at their free online Advanced Latin course.

Free Online Palaeography Course

Authorisation-of-expenditurePalaeography is the study of old handwriting.

Typewriters were not invented until the 1860s and, even after that, many documents of interest to Family Historians were handwritten with pen and ink in large, heavy, leather bound, books or on parchment. If you have managed to trace your ancestors back before the 1841 Census then it will not be long before you find yourself sitting in a darkened room squinting at feint, faded, handwriting on a microfiche screen wondering how anyone who wrote so badly could ever become a Curate.

I was very interested to recently discover a free online Palaeography Course run by The National Archives entitled “Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500 – 1800 A practical online tutorial“. If you are interested in genealogy and would like to learn how to read old manuscripts then you may like to take a look. The tutorial was developed in partnership with the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies (SLAIS), University College London.

The course is free and is broken down into 5 main sections:

  • Introduction
  • Where To Start
  • Quick Reference
  • Tutorial
  • Further Practice

The course is supplemented by a light hearted Ducking Stool game and some links for further reading.

The Introduction is a brief summary of Palaeography and why you may find it useful.

The Where to Start section looks at Reading, Standard Phrases, Transcribing, Spelling and Abbreviations.

The Quick Reference section looks at Dating, Numbers, Money, Measurements and Counties.

The Interactive Tutorial covers 10 documents arranged in order of difficulty, each document has an explanation of it’s historical background, a glossary, notes on the palaeography, a sample alphabet taken from each document and a full transcript.

The Further Practice section has links to many documents so you can gain some additional practice.

The Ducking Stool game which follows is a light hearted game introduced as follows: “A 17th-century woman has been accused of a crime and as her punishment she faces the ducking stool. To free her from this fate you must correctly transcribe the following words…”

The Course ends with a Further Reading section with links to many useful documents and websites.

I would recommend this free National Archives Palaeography course to any Family Historian or Genealogist as a fascinating introduction to the world of old handwriting.