Reading the old Portuguese records can be a difficult and frustrating experience. You will be looking at very old handwriting that has many differences in style from the more modern handwriting of current records. Some of the problems you will encounter include: 

  • Words will be separated at the end of the line and may not show any punctuation 
  • Many words, and especially names, are abbreviated 
  • Spelling of words may be different from what you are used to seeing 
  • Some handwriting is neat and legible while some is very difficult to read because of the small size, an exaggerated slanted style, or just sheer sloppiness 
  • Finally, the condition of the records, themselves, when filmed, might be very poor. Often, the ink will show through from the back side of the previous page making it very difficult to read, or the ink will be very light and hard to read.

But, the good news is that these records CAN be read. With a little help and a little knowledge, you can be searching for your ancestors in the old church records in no time at all. Oh, did I mention patience and perseverance? They are a necessary requirement, as well. The help and the knowledge parts, I can attempt to provide. For the rest, you're on your own! :)

An essential resource to help you learn to read the records is now online at It is the complete Basic Portuguese Paleography. This is a PDF file so can be viewed online or downloaded to your own computer:

Basic Portuguese Paleography

© Kathy Andrade Cardoza 2022