Mastering Spanish Handwriting and Documents: 1520-1820

(1 customer review)


Author: George R. Ryskamp, Peggy Ryskamp I H. Leandro Soria
Publication Date: 2023
Pages: xxii, 308 pp.


English-speaking researchers and historians working with a Spanish-language document face two hurdles—understanding the handwriting and vocabulary, and grasping the record’s institutional, historic, social, and cultural context. This book’s unique and detailed content fills both needs.

With images, charts, transcribed documents and in-depth commentary, Mastering Spanish Handwriting and Documents: 1520-1820 addresses fundamental handwriting concepts and challenges relevant to Spanish-language documents. Multiple examples familiarize readers with records written in both Humanistic hand (itálica) as well as the older, more difficult Secretary hand (cortesana or procesal), in the process giving users a deeper, more accurate, and more fulfilling research experience.

Beyond letter forms, the volume’s comprehensive textual discussions examine the format and procedures underlying ecclesiastical and legal record types—from a parish marriage record to the Spanish inheritance system—giving readers the context for a document’s vocabulary and format. Forty-two transcribed and translated Spanish-language documents form the book’s showpiece, adding depth and personality to the text. A “Notes and Comments” section at the end of each translation conveys document-specific commentary, ranging from a discussion of a priest’s handwriting idiosyncrasies, to weights and measures used in an inventory, to methodologies for determining the most likely correct translation for an obscure legal phrase.

Spanning three centuries of Spanish-language documents and with content applicable for researchers at all levels—including native speakers unfamiliar with early handwriting– Mastering Spanish Handwriting and Documents: 1520-1820 uniquely synthesizes the life and career of George R. Ryskamp (1950-2022), whose passion for and expertise in teaching Hispanic genealogical research lies behind every sentence.

George R. Ryskamp (1950-2022) practiced law in Riverside, CA, as a Probate and Estate Planning Specialist for fourteen years. In 1993 he joined the History Department at Brigham Young University, creating and teaching courses in Southern European research and paleography with a particular emphasis on Spain, as well as courses on United States probate, land, and legal systems and documents. The combination of both careers spanned nearly fifty years of experience in the archives of Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Mexico and most other Latin American countries, the Netherlands, and the United States. He viewed his numerous opportunities to mentor students while doing on-site research as the highlight of his teaching experience. Beyond authoring numerous books and articles on Hispanic and United States research, he lectured regularly at national and international conferences.

Peggy Ryskamp, cg, first became intrigued with the contents of a Spanish parish book thirty-five years ago and has since worked in repositories ranging from local parishes to provincial and national archives. She enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for Spanish-language genealogical research in the classroom, and she has taught Family History at the university level and lectured at multiple conferences and institutes. With her husband, she has co-authored two books and mentored students in archives throughout Spain and France. In January 2020, the couple was presented the Utah Genealogical Association Silver Tray Award for Publishing Efforts and Contributions to the Field of Genealogy.

  1. Leandro Soria, a native of Santa Fe, Argentina, came to the United States as a student at Brigham Young University in 2000. While completing his BA in Spanish Translation and Interpretation, with a minor in Family History, he spent two spring terms as an intern gathering records and researching in archives throughout Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal. He was the supervisor of the team of BYU students who initially developed under the auspices of the Center for Family History and Genealogy. Since leaving BYU in 2010, he has been employed by FamilySearch in Collection Operations, supporting the acquisition, publication, and indexing of genealogical records from Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.

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1 review for Mastering Spanish Handwriting and Documents: 1520-1820

  1. Leroy Martinez

    I highly recommend this book for reading colloquial Spanish writings. I have at least 25 years of translating past Spanish documents. This is a must-buy book for such research.

    Leroy F. Martinez J.D.

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