Shorthand Report

□ I have recently received the coroner's report for my ancestor, Thomas Suffolk, who died suddenly in 1883 at his home in Birmingham. The two witnesses were his wife and half-brother who married a year later, so could there have been foul play? I am very interested in the statements they made to the coroner, but they are still in the original Pitman Shorthand form. The Coroner's Office and Reference Library do not do transcriptions, and I have contacted the Brasshouse Language Centre, but have not had any reply. Are you aware of anywhere that I can get the statements transcribed? Gary Maneffa Birmingham

I How frustrating to locate the surviving coroner's report only to find that it hasn't been transcribed from the original shorthand! Having used Birmingham coroner's records on a regular research basis for many years, this is the first one that I have found in this format.

The system of shorthand devised by Sir Isaac Pitman became the most widely used form until the late 20th century and a secretary who was trained in Pitman shorthand may be able to decipher it for you. However, the meaning of the words does not depend only on the placing of the symbols, but also on whether the strokes were heavy or light - and due to the age of the document and the necessity to make a photocopy, this makes it even harder to decipher the weight of these marks.

One of my colleagues identified that Thomas had eaten some tinned salmon and that he complained that he felt unwell the following morning... but perhaps one of our readers would be able to help transcribe it? DH

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