Learning to transcribe old documents.
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Learning to transcribe from ‘ye olde englishe’ and latin.

Transcribing the baptism register from Norfolk, England in my previous post, “Transcription and Translation: Baptism of Elizabeth Stalham and others from the St. George Tombland Church register” was particularly problematic for me, requiring my learning to transcribe from ‘ye olde englishe’ and latin.


I am familiar with transcribing in several languages such as German, Swedish, French, etc., even though I do need help from Google Translate.

For this translation, I was able to interpret the text fairly easily, including the months, and the years. At first, I thought there were no days mentioned at all, until I took a closer look and realized there was one small ‘word’ in each entry I couldn’t account for. One thing I did notice was the pattern of repetition within each entry and it’s resemblance to the pattern of repetition to Roman numerals – even if they did appear to be just miscellaneous symbols or text (see image below).


Baptism record for Elizabeth Stalham - marked.


To confirm my suspicions, I did some research into interpreting Latin dates. It took some time and effort as everything I found at first referred to the date formats used in general, including those used in recording events in genealogy software.

Just as I was about to give up and use my standard ‘????’ in place of the mysterious text since I was unsure of my conclusions, I came upon the following web page that provided the answer I was looking for. They were ‘Reading dates in old English records.’ The following is the verbatim section from the page that specifically provided the answers I was seeking.

The chart below shows some of the different ways numbers may be written.

1 unus, primo, primus, I i
2 duo, secundo, secundus II ij
3 tres, tertio, tertius III iij
4 quattuor, quarto, quartus IV iiij, iv
5 quinque, quinto, quintus V v
6 sex, sexto, sextus VI vi
7 septem, septimo, septimus VII vij
8 octo, octavo, octavus VIII viij
9 novem, nono, nonus IX viiij, ix
10 decem, decimo, decimus X x
11 undecim, undecimo, undecimus XI xi
12 duodecim, duodecimo, duodecimus XII xij
13 tredecim, tertio decimo, tertius decimus XIII xiij
14 quattuordecim, quarto decimo, quartus decimus XIV xiiij, xiv
15 quindecim, quinto decimo, quintus decimus XV xv
16 sedecim, sexto decimo, sextus decimus XVI xvi
17 septendecim, septimo decimo, septimus decimus XVII xvij
18 duodeviginti, octavo decimo, octavus decimus, duodevicesimo, duodevicesimus XVIII xviij
19 undeviginti, nono decimo, nonus decimus, undevicesimo, undevicesimus XIX xviiij, xix
20 viginti, vicesimo, vicesimus, viccesimo, vicessimo, viccessimo XX xx
21 viginti unus, vicesimo primo, vicesimus primus XXI xxi
22 viginti duo, vicesimo secundo, vicemus secundus XXII xxij
23 viginti tres, vicesimo tertio, vicesimus tertius XXIII xxiij
24 viginti quattuor, vicesimo quarto, vicesimus quartus XXIV xxiiij, xxiv
25 viginti quinque, vicesimo quinto, vicesimus quintus XXV xxv
26 viginti sex, vicesimo sexto, vicesimus sextus XXVI xxvi
27 viginti septem, vicesimo septimo, vicesimus septimus XXVII xxvij
28 duodetriginta, vicesimo octavo, vicesimus octavus, duodetricesimo, duodetricesimus XXVIII xxviij
29 undetriginta, vicesimo nono, vicesimus nonus, undetricesimo, undetricesimus XXVIV xxviiij, xxix
30 triginta, tricesimo, tricesimus XXX xxx
31 triginta unus, tricesimo primo, tricesimus primus XXXI xxxi

Numbers may also be written as scores. A score is twenty and is written as XX or xx. If XX is above another number, it would be multiplied by the number under it. Therefore, four score or eighty could be written as XX over IV or xx over iiij as shown below.

XX xx

IV iiij


  1. About.com; “Reading and Understanding Old Documents & Records”; Kimberly Powell; http://genealogy.about.com/od/basics/a/old_handwriting.htm.
  2. Family Search; Reading dates in old English records; Document ID: 111804; https://help.familysearch.org/publishing/43/111804_f.SAL_Public.html.

A fifties' child, mom, wife, avid genealogy researcher, web contributor and author/owner of four blogs including Empty Nest Ancestry, Feathering the Empty Nest Nest, Top Web Blog Tips, Job Bully, and our extensive family genealogy database site at Blythe Genealogy.