Minims! – by Darci Crandall

One thing that I super love about indexing and arbitrating is the handwriting.  I love to look at it!  There is such character in a person’s script, and there is such a wide variety of styles.  I tend to look at it like a puzzle—Handwriting can often be challenging to decipher, but oh so rewarding once you figure it out!

In all the time I’ve spent indexing and arbitrating, minims have been my greatest ally in puzzling out an unknown word.  A minim is a down stroke in calligraphy.  An “i” has just one minim, “n” and “u” each have two minims, “m” has three minims, and so on.  Also, take note that some minims are tall, like “t”, and others dip below the writing line, like “p”.

Identifying the minims can help you untangle all the letters in a word.  Take the example below:



Count the minims and work out the combinations of letters they could represent.  Using the context of the sentence, you can often figure out what word it should be.

Since things like “Panl” and “Peinl” aren’t words, those can be ruled out and the word can be identified as the name “Paul.”

Try applying minim counting in your indexing!  For more help, check out Tips for Reading Old Handwriting in the Ancestry Wiki!




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Reader Comments

This is interesting. I will be applying this to my great-grandmother’s bible as some of the writing I do not understand.