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This is a discussion of the difficulties of reading old handwriting as well as understanding the errors that occurred in previous interpretations of such handwriting. The arrows left and right of the page title will take you to further discussion on the subject of translations. Use the arrows in the title to move back and forth between the pages.

One of the challenges that I experienced was the definition, pronunciation and spelling of French names or words in south Louisiana documents that were challenging, such as:

veuve for "widow"
pére for "father" or for "Senior - Sr."
fils for "son" or for "Junior - Jr."

Many French vowels also contain accent marks to characterize pronunciation, such as the "é" (e with acute accent). This letter appears in many surnames, as well as in the above "pére".  The use of accents can also be confused with a dot for the letter "i". For example, the "e" is often written with no clear loop and resembles an "i".  An "e" without a clear loop and with an acute accent looks exactly like an "i".

Each person recording the census information may have had a different level of education. This could explain variations in spelling names, particualarly in the French language when their backgorund education is with the English language.  The reversal is true for a French person communicating with English speaking people. I did find in the 1830 St. Landry census information that the census takers seemed to be familiar with the use of the French spelling of surnames, but made some mistakes when writing other names.  For example, "Johnson" is also "Jeansonne" in French and often the English "Johnson" became "Jeansonne" on the census, probably because the census enumerator was French and more confident in spelling names and words in French.  They did not foresee any problems in later years for researchers.  This same example became a reverse problem when the enumerator was non-French and wrote "Johnson" for "Jeansonne" since the pronunciation was the same.