Sponsored By GenealogyBank

12 October 2012

Is that "s" an "f"?

Remember when using digital versions of old newspapers and relying on optical character recnognition that an "s" may appear to be an "f."

That's how I found Absalom in the index as Abfalom.

Human eyes might not have read it that way. But computers, reading millions of letters will do that.

The option, for those that find this irritating, is to read the newspapers one at a time.


  1. That showed up a lot in early American letters and legal work and in English publishing.

  2. Many of the American documents I've referenced from the mid-1800s and earlier, as well as Dutch and German documents, seem consistent in their use a character which most closely resembles a lowercase f with a descending flourish intended to be a lowercase s. It was at first confusing to me and seems to confound many upon first encounter.

    There seems to be so little reference information about *why* they did that. Is someone aware of what that character is called and perhaps a Wikipedia page about it? Thank you.

  3. The use of the "P" looking symbol for the double S trips up many beginners. In my early research I found many people in a census named "BAP." Mississippi is often seen written as "MiP."