Maw/Man/Shaw – Old Illegible Handwriting

Old handwriting has been the bane of my life for quite a while.  My Mum used to be summoned to read letters from my Great-Aunt – and she was quite legible!  If you ever look at old parish registers, sometimes you get lovely neat copperplate writing.  But often it’s a style all it’s own.  This is only an issue when you don’t know what you’re looking at.

Take for example the surname of my gg-grandmother Rose Anne Maria Buxton’s mother Frances.  On Rose’s birth certificate it looks like Shaw.  On Frances’ marriage certificate, it still looks like Shaw and is indexed so.  But is it?

On the original parish record (which I found on the IGI, see below for more), her surname clearly begins with an ‘M’.  There are lots to compare it to!  But what are the other letters???  Here it is (click on it to see full version):

Other family records suggest it’s Maw.  Which is a name.

So what does this mean for further research?  It means I need to search all three possibilities and I should check original documents.  The indexes on all computerised sources are only as good as the transcriber’s ability to make out the words!

Update 2 Jan 2012 – found another variation – Moy!!!

Norfolk records on the IGI

The IGI was recently revamped and now has the option of looking through their collections (somewhat like Ancestry).  Hidden in there are the unindexed images of various Norfolk (and some other county’s) records.  The ‘Browse Images’ against the number of records is the give away.

FreeReg have indexed many of the parishes (see here for where they’re currently at), but if they haven’t got to it you will need to know where and around when you’re looking for.  And they can be a bit slow to download.  But, you can save the images you find and it’s good to be able to browse the records of a particular town if you’re looking to see what’s there.  You never know what you might find!  Especially when the spelling changes with every generation!


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