Is Cursive Writing Lost to this Generation?

Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

An old opera presented in Atlanta, Georgia ca 1888 is reminiscent of some of the things which what has been lost to the past. The great opera houses, traveling actors and artists, seem to have faded well into the memories of our own ancestors. Likewise something as beautifully elegant and memorable as the old cursive scripts, the teaching of cursive handwriting is forgotten in our school system. This book at the court house includes forty pages of olden estates from 1809 to 1815. It was written by the clerk of the court in the old-style handwriting, however, it was scanned with the new technology and the result is that it is quite visible and readable. Notably, the handwriting of county clerks varies with the person and era. Although genealogists are familiar with the styles used by early colonists to the present day, it appears that cursive recognition is being overlooked in the education systens of this generation.

Cursive writing, too, seems to be unreadable to this generation. Over the ages, the writing styles have changed rather dramatically. The entensive use of Latin was used extensively in the old records. Should one venture into archaic English records (certain surviving records of the monarchy date back to 1400), one must also learn how to read the flourishing stylish script as well as understand Latin terminology. In England, of course, one must search the parish records as well as those of the monarchy. Monarchy Records

The fancy script written in India Ink was carried over in the American colonies. Eventually, handwriting styles changed even up to the early 1900s. We have but to glance at the old penmanship books to learn this fact. Here is a chart which may be used to help decipher old script. You will find from readiing old Virginia Wills in the 1600s Virginia Pioneers is not an easy task. Nevertheless they were added. To really dig into these documents is the only means of finding the immigrant, etc. What I usually do is learn to write the name of my ancestor. Then, I read every old will in the county where my ancestor reportedly resided. Many of the old records mention relatives in the country of origin. In that way, I can recognize that name while learning some unexpected family information.

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