Thursday, July 7, 2016

Another Case for Cursive

One of the things I've written about before is the need to continue teaching cursive handwriting. I'm continually reminded of this as Wendy and I research old documents in our genealogical research. Deeds, wills, census records, birth and death certificates, if they go back a hundred years or further, well, they're most likely written in cursive.

Even for those of us who learned to read and write cursive, some of these old documents are difficult to read, if not next to impossible. What made me think about this was a manuscript I found in the Missouri Historical Review. It's a biography of one of my ancestors, Adam Zumwalt, or as the author, Solomon Zumwalt, wrote it, "Biographa of Adam Zumwalt". This is a fascinating historical work, penned by Adam's son Solomon, in 1880, who details his memories of his pioneer father. The version I have is typed out, but is accurate as far as the spelling is concerned. So, what we have is the language of this frontier man from the 19th century.

It's perfectly readable, typed out as it is, even with the misspellings and speech patterns of the day. However, would it be so easy for me to read if it was handwritten in cursive? Here's an example: "...So Adams brother Gorg fited him of with hors sadel and gun. So he jind the arma. The raized som 7 or 8 hundrid men." Now, think about reading that in cursive.

That is why we must not lose the ability to read cursive. It is a beautiful and historical part of language.

Keep writing, friends.


  1. Can't remember what the show was but had a segment about letters 2 native American chiefs had exchanged in the 1870s about a killing that had occurred. Both had learned written English. Their letters were written in absolutely beautiful script but the spelling and the grammar were so eccentric that it required a word by word translation by a historian. Clark aka anonymous

  2. Ah, I love it. I'd really like to see their letters. It's something when you can see the words actually written. We've been indexing some old census records and marriage documents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and we really have to puzzle over some of the letters.


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