Exploring Marylands Roots

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Read a Colonist's Diary

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What Does It All Mean?

Try to read Father Andrew White's descriptions of Maryland in 1634. Do you notice words that are spelled funny or used in a strange way? Are there words you've never seen before? What do you think Father White is trying to say in these paragraphs from his journal?

The English language has changed a lot in the last few hundred years. Here are a few hints to help you understand the unfamiliar words and phrases from this 17th century diary:

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  • When you see a word like "firft" or "fhip," try changing some of the "f" letters to an "s." Those strange words suddenly become "first" and "ship." It's sort of like deciphering a code!
  • Sometimes the letter "u" and the letter "v" are transposed or used in place of each other. So "vpon" and "riuer" really mean "upon" and "river."
  • There was no standard spelling or punctuation for English in the 17th century. Even though many words look to us as if they're misspelled, Father White was considered an excellent writer in his time.