Course Description

This online course is an introduction to paleography as it relates to genealogical research. Paleography is the study of ancient writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts. The course focuses on United States records, and introduces you to Old English, German, and Scandinavian scripts found in US and European records. This course, in conjunction with the other courses in this program, will help prepare you to apply for a professional genealogy credential through ICAPGen or BCG. This course has been designed to provide you with solid academic content and develop practical research skills which are critical for a professional genealogist across many research settings.

Students need basic computer skills to be successful in the course. Please note that this course does not teach you basic computer skills, rather it is assumed that you are already quite familiar with using a computer. To help ensure that you do possess the necessary skills, you will work through a technical skills inventory and then take a quiz. The inventory is simple; you are asked one or two Yes/No questions about a basic skill. If you answer "No" to any question, you are encouraged to read or watch videos on the topic. Once you finish the inventory, take the short quiz at the end. If you don't pass the quiz the first time, review the materials and re-take the quiz. You may take the quiz as many times as you want, but you must pass the quiz with a score of 85% or higher before you will be allowed to continue in the course. Your highest score will be recorded.

If you need to develop or refresh your computer skills, you are invited to enroll in the one-credit BYU-Idaho course, GS 107: Computer Basics.

Course Outcomes

As a result of completing this course, you will be able to do the following:

  1. Recognize different record types written in various scripts.
  2. Identify genealogical terms and phrases in these records, including those written in English, Latin, German, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
  3. Read and understand genealogical information.
  4. Transcribe genealogical information accurately.
  5. Determine accurate dates in records.

Learning Model Architecture

The course follows the BYU-Idaho Learning Model with a weekly cycle of Prepare, Teach One Another, and Ponder and Prove activities.

You will prepare by completing readings and coursework. You will analyze historical documents to learn different types of handwriting used in various time periods and practice writing in the historical styles.
Teach One Another:
You will teach one another through discussion board interactions focused on case studies. You will also have assignments to teach other people in your life and share those experiences with the class.
Ponder and Prove:
You will demonstrate your skills by completing interactive activities, assignments, research projects, reports, and assessments (quizzes).

This is not an independent study course. The group teaching and learning activities require you to cover material at the same time and at the same pace.


Lesson 01 — Course Overview
Lesson 02 — Introduction to Paleography
Lesson 03 — Transcriptions, Extracts, and Abstracts
Lesson 04 — Penmanship in America: Post-Colonial Era
Lesson 05 — Penmanship in America: Colonial Era
Lesson 06 — Advanced Secretary Hand
Lesson 07 — Reading and Deciphering Documents
Lesson 08 —Synthesis Week
Lesson 09 — Dates, Calendars, Numbers, and Latin
Lesson 10 — Using Contextual Clues
Lesson 11 — Old English Paleography
Lesson 12 — German Paleography
Lesson 13 — Scandinavian Paleography
Lesson 14 — Paleography Final Exam


Course Expectations

Writing Requirements

In this course you will be required to write papers as part of certain assignments. You will need to follow the instructions carefully to write a professional, college-level paper. Make sure that your paper is focused on the topic given by your instructor. Be concise and clear. Rambling will not be accepted for full credit. Do not attempt to “pad” your responses by being wordy. Your papers should be well-organized using paragraphs with correct spelling and punctuation standards. The quality of writing is your responsibility. Poor writing will lower your grade.

To learn more about writing standards visit BYU-Idaho Writing Center website for tutorials and handouts. Tutoring sessions are also available to students in the Writing Center on-campus or online via Skype. If your schedule does not coincide with the Writing Center hours (9:00am – 5:30pm Monday - Friday) you may email your paper to and receive written feedback for your paper within 48 hours. Visit the Help for Online Students page for more details on these resources.

Remember, it is your responsibility to understand and follow the instructions completely! If you have a question regarding an assignment, ask your instructor early for clarification. Last minute questions cannot be expected to be answered immediately.


Course Texts and Materials

Weekly Time Commitment

The online class policy is that for every credit hour, you should expect to spend 3 - 4 hours of work per week. For this class, you should plan on spending approximately 9 - 12 hours per week.

Due Dates

Refer to the calendar for due dates. Your assignments may be graded by your instructor or by I-Learn. Late submissions may result in a point deduction.

Remember that discussion boards have two due dates: one for your initial post and one for responses. Make your initial post by MidWeek and your response post by End-of-Week.


This course is comprised of readings, activities, assignments, assessments (quizzes), a midterm exam, a final exam, and a final project.

A 93%-100%
A- 90%-92%
B+ 87%-89%
B 83%-86%
B- 80%-82%
C+ 77%-79%
C 73%-76%
C- 70%-72%
D+ 67%-69%
D 63%-66%
D- 60-62%
F below 60%


Explanation: There will be two exams. The midterm exam is during Lesson 07, and the final exam is the last week of class.
Overall percentage of grade: 14%


Explanation: These are quizzes at the end of each week that measure your abilities and understanding in a particular area. These quizzes are timed and can only be taken once.
Overall percentage of grade: 20%


Explanation: Assignments consist of short essays, questions, or assignments that must be submitted to the instructor. They are only allowed to be completed once. The synthesis project is a 3–5 page paper that summarizes what you learned during this course and how it will help you in your genealogy endeavors.  
Overall percentage of grade: 38%


Explanation: Activities are step-by-step procedures that you follow to gain experience with the new content being taught that week. The activities contain many documents that need to be examined and analyzed. You will then answer questions regarding the given documents. Practice makes perfect, so some of these activities can be completed with multiple attempts to get all the correct answers. Check each activity to know how many attempts you are allowed. The Technical Skills quiz is part of the Activities category.
Overall percentage of grade: 28%


University Policies

Academic honesty is required and any violation with be dealt with according to the University Academic Honesty Policy.

Policy on Sexual Discrimination/Harassment

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an education program or activity that receives federal funds, including Federal loans and grants. Title IX also covers student-to-student sexual harassment. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please contact the Personnel Office at (208) 496-1130.

Reasonable Accommodation for Students with Disabilities:

Brigham Young University-Idaho is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office, (208) 496-1158. Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by this office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You should contact the Personnel Office at (208) 496-1130.

Due to the nature of certain assignments in this course, some images do not include alternative text. If you need assistance with these images, please contact your instructor.

Personal Conduct

All of your correspondence with the teacher or other classmates must be respectful. Writing something disrespectful or “venting” is unprofessional and not becoming of a university student. In addition, it is not in accordance with the Honor Code of BYU-Idaho and you will be subject to discipline accordingly. You are invited to re-read the BYU-I Honor Code and the “Principles of Personal Honor.”


Materials on I-Learn and related sites are protected by US Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code). These materials are only for students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. All content in I-Learn, including quizzes and exams, is copyrighted by BYU-Idaho. Posting copyrighted material to a public website violates federal law and the University Honor Code.