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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rogers

And You Think Your Handwriting is Bad

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

I thoughight want to see examples of old plats from the South Carolina Lowcountry. They date around 1711, and the date is significant because it was then that the British Crown officially opened the Waccamaw River Basin for purchase. These land grants were referred to as Colonial Grants, not to be confused with Royal Grants, which sound much grander, although they served a different purpose.

In 1733, the British Crown wanted to levy a tax on the colonist land owners, but the British had lost track of who owned what. The plan was to require landowners to document their ownership of their lands, and in doing so, they enabled the British to update their records and issue new grants. In return, the planters received stiff taxes and updated land grants called Royal Grants. If the landowners refused to document their land, their ownership would be terminated. It was a pretty clever move on the part of the British.

If you look closely at the plats, you will see that they are practically impossible to read. Handwriting, let along spelling, wasn’t standardized, then. Those few who were lucky enough to know how to write, learned from tutors or from members of their family. Handwriting is still evolving, of course, but not like back then.






For those of you interested in learning to read original documents, there are a number of books on the subject. One is called: UNDERSTANDING COLONIAL HANDWRITING by Harriet Stryker-Rodda.Good luck to those of you interested in learning how to do this. If you get good at it, you can always find historical groups who would happily invite you to help them.





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