A free resource: "Guide to English Secretary Hand" -

+10 votes

This describes a free resource posted online by Yale University's Beinecke Library:

“Secretary hand” is the name for the dominant form of handwriting used by writers of the English language from the late 15th through the mid-17th century. This particular style was known as secretary hand because much of the work of writing was done by professional copyists, known variously as secretaries, clerks, scriveners or scribes.

Secretary hand can be difficult to read. The letters have different shapes than our contemporary equivalents. The alphabet was also slightly different. And, as importantly: 16th- and 17th-century writers spelled and wrote their words in ways that can seem unfamiliar. Even when you can read the letters, the words themselves can still be a bit of a puzzle.

But secretary hand can be learned. Moreover, the sooner you learn, the sooner you’ll be able to read texts written by hand, by people living lives as real as yours, in a past both recognizable and impossibly remote. Many, even most, of these writings have never been published–have often, in fact, never received all that much attention. 

Beinecke Early Modern invites you to learn to read secretary hand:

Guide to the Basics of English Secretary Hand

in The Tree House by Jim Angelo G2G6 Mach 6 (66.4k points)
retagged by Jim Angelo

2 Answers

+4 votes
Wow! How wonderful! Thanks, Jim.  I know when I learned Secretary Hand (although I don't presume to call myself an expert), it did indeed open up a whole new view into the lives of my ancestors.  Wills, especially, were an invitation to read, rather than emit a shriek of horror.
by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
Perfect timing! I've been making use of the free downloads from the National Archives and I've got a stack of wills to go through.
+3 votes

Scottish Handwriting .com also has some great help on deciphering the old script. 

by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (362k points)

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