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Test Your Skills on an Early 18th Century Document


It's time for another skill challenge!

Try to read the document below and then see if you can answer the questions. 

The answers will be posted Friday, September 20, 2019.

Thomas Lovell
click to enlarge

1. What type of document is this?

2. Where would you find this document?

3. Without worrying about months or days, what year was Thomas Lovell born?

4. Where was Thomas Lovell born (take a creative stab at this)?

5. What year did he live in Salem?

6. Whose house did he live in?

7. How long did he live in that house?

8. What was near the house and who owned it?

9. Thomas Lovell is describing a memory/fact that occuried how many years ago?

For an extra challenge, take a stab at transcribing the document.


Have fun! The answers will be released next Friday, September 20, 2019.



Marian Pierre-Louis is a genealogy professional who specializes in educational outreach through webinars, internet broadcasts and video. Her areas of expertise include house history research, southern New England research and solving brick walls. Marian is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars where she produces online genealogy education classes. Once a month you'll find her as the evening host of Legacy Family Tree Webinars. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.





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I am so glad you posted this! The entire conversation today in education about whether or not to teach cursive astounds me! If people can't write in cursive, how will they read cursive; and even with the knowledge of reading and writing cursive, we struggle with yesterday's styles. However, we have a better start at reading history's written records with the background of being familiar with cursive. Sad to think of so many historical document illiterates in the future who will have to depend on someone else transcribing for them. Talk about censorship...

I love it! More please.

Awaiting answers.

Even if you are fluent in modern day cursive writing, you may have trouble with this document because there exists some old character styles that are no longer used. One is the letter 'd'. Examples can be found as the first letter in the second word of this document and another example shows at the end of "New England". Another troublemaker is the double s. It was often written to appear as "fs" although close examination of that first character will show that it is not an 'f', but a vertically elongated "s". For an 's', the top and bottom loops are on opposite sides of the vertical staff whereas both loops are on the same side for an "f". Examples are found in the words, Essex and Massachusetts. The writer was not sure about the spelling of Massachusetts and left out one character near the end of that word.

Returning to the 2nd word of this passage, it is "deposition".

The very proper term, anno Domini, preceded the written date. We do not often see that these days, instead we find its initials, AD, which refers to "in the year of the Lord" meaning that the date falls in the Christian era.

Although knowing a few small fragments of early written style, I have great difficulty reading this passage.

This is exactly why cursive should be taught in schools. I can read documents written hundreds of years ago and this will be lost if children can't read and write in cursive.

If you want your kids to read cursive, write your will in cursive and tell them what you have done. Only those who can read cursive will be able to interpret and execute the will.

The deposition of Thomas Lovell being in his 87th year of (age)
Recorded Aprill [sec] 8, 1707 now of Ipswich
I, this deponent, does testify in anno Domini one thousand six hundred & forty I was an inhabitant of Towne Salem in ye coun(ty) of Essex in ye province of Massachusetts Bay in New England in which I lived about seven years & for about 3 years I had my aboad [abode] in ye house of Mr. William Bacon
that he bought of Capt. Traske & was neer [sec] ye first Corn Mill that of said Traske did .......

I didn't think this was that hard. I've had a much harder time with other documents from the same time period... Then again, perhaps I didn't find that difficult because I read a lot of these.

If you want a real challenge try reading a French or ::shudder:: German handwritten document of the same period.


The intent behind the skill challenges is to get people to think about the documents they are encountering. The focus is not on the handwriting but if that proves to be practice for someone that's an added bonus.

If this document was easy for you then you must be a fairly advanced researcher. That's wonderful! Everyone is at a different stage but we are all on the same journey to find our ancestors.


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