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

Learning to transcribe old documents.

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.

1unus, primo, primus,Ii
2duo, secundo, secundusIIij
3tres, tertio, tertiusIIIiij
4quattuor, quarto, quartusIViiij, iv
5quinque, quinto, quintusVv
6sex, sexto, sextusVIvi
7septem, septimo, septimusVIIvij
8octo, octavo, octavusVIIIviij
9novem, nono, nonusIXviiij, ix
10decem, decimo, decimusXx
11undecim, undecimo, undecimusXIxi
12duodecim, duodecimo, duodecimusXIIxij
13tredecim, tertio decimo, tertius decimusXIIIxiij
14quattuordecim, quarto decimo, quartus decimusXIVxiiij, xiv
15quindecim, quinto decimo, quintus decimusXVxv
16sedecim, sexto decimo, sextus decimusXVIxvi
17septendecim, septimo decimo, septimus decimusXVIIxvij
18duodeviginti, octavo decimo, octavus decimus, duodevicesimo, duodevicesimusXVIIIxviij
19undeviginti, nono decimo, nonus decimus, undevicesimo, undevicesimusXIXxviiij, xix
20viginti, vicesimo, vicesimus, viccesimo, vicessimo, viccessimoXXxx
21viginti unus, vicesimo primo, vicesimus primusXXIxxi
22viginti duo, vicesimo secundo, vicemus secundusXXIIxxij
23viginti tres, vicesimo tertio, vicesimus tertiusXXIIIxxiij
24viginti quattuor, vicesimo quarto, vicesimus quartusXXIVxxiiij, xxiv
25viginti quinque, vicesimo quinto, vicesimus quintusXXVxxv
26viginti sex, vicesimo sexto, vicesimus sextusXXVIxxvi
27viginti septem, vicesimo septimo, vicesimus septimusXXVIIxxvij
28duodetriginta, vicesimo octavo, vicesimus octavus, duodetricesimo, duodetricesimusXXVIIIxxviij
29undetriginta, vicesimo nono, vicesimus nonus, undetricesimo, undetricesimusXXVIVxxviiij, xxix
30triginta, tricesimo, tricesimusXXXxxx
31triginta unus, tricesimo primo, tricesimus primusXXXIxxxi

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.

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About Christine Blythe

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.


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