Running Writing Heirlooms


We all know the thrill of seeing an ancestor’s signature for the first time. Somehow it makes them seem that much closer to us.

P1190433In her Heirlooms podcast Maria (from Genies Down Under) suggests leaving a sample of your handwriting for descendants, perhaps even some of your family history. Quite honestly this would be a challenge beyond palaeography with some of my notes <smile>. In fact future readers may wonder if it was encrypted.

There’s increasing discussion that we are losing our familiarity with “running writing”, both reading and writing it, that we always type and never write. Is that true for you? Yes I certainly prefer to type stories or family history, not just for legibility but also so it can be stored digitally. Also because these days I think through my fingers, if that makes sense, and my writing can’t keep up. Perhaps we should also be storing a digital copy of something we’ve handwritten. And while we’re at it, why not save a voice recording?

Maybe it’s my career in administration but I have no problem recognising who wrote what annotation on a file (provided I’ve seen their writing before). I can almost always tell who a letter or card comes from without cheating and looking at the back, or opening it first.

How about you? Do you still send snail mail letters, cards or notes? Do you recognise your friends’ or family’s writing? If the answers are a resounding “no” perhaps it’s a resolution for 2013 to occasionally revert to the old ways and use non-digital social media. After all one day someone may think that card is an heirloom. What do you think?

By the way I’ve started another blog (yes, mad I know!) called Bewitched by Books. It’s not rocket science to figure out its content so if you’re interested why not pop over and have a look. Today’s post is a bit of 1950s fun which will be of interest to those with an interest in the more recent “olden days”, and life in our youth, well mine anyway.

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16 thoughts on “Running Writing Heirlooms

  1. My mother had beautiful hand-writing, while my father’s was sort of wavy lines with the occasional spike or drop if a “t” or “g” was required. In the early 1980s the secretaries in my work unit argued that it was cheaper to buy me a computer (unheard of!) than to have them struggle with my scratchings. So I will continue to write on birthday and Christmas cards, and leave samples for our children to laugh and puzzle over.

  2. I still like to write by hand, though I guess that’s no surprise.. I still write the odd letter and always draft stories and poetry in longhand. All my poetry ends up handwritten in journals as well as digital copies. Like many others, I get quite excited to receive something handwritten, and yes, I can recognise the writing of most of my family and friends. :-)

    As for my husband, I’m always asking him to decipher his handwriting, which even puzzles him at times.

    • I think you just like to write Chris! I rarely write more than cards or short notes as it gets scrawlier by the second -especially if I’m rushing. Those journals of yours will be true family treasures. Amen to the comment about husbandly writing…ditto.

  3. Oh yes Pauleen… I so love all those Ancestral handwriting treasures as well as the early writing attempts and then the developed script of my children and grandchildren. Seems I’ve always been obsessed with this topic and, as a teacher in 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, strongly focussed on passing on the skill of a flowing writing style with daily practice, focus on “pencil hold” etc.
    I’d forgotten the term “running writing”… thanks for the reminding :-)

    • Yes, that’s true Catherine, the children’s and grandchildren’s writing is equally important. Perhaps that’s why my cupboards bulge so much :-) I was so slow writing at high school in my determination to be neat that I had to learn to be messy in order to finish exams.

      • Oh yep… exam writing/ note taking etc. in a fast, legible script, which doesn’t make your arm nearly drop off, is all in the technique. Makes me laugh to think that all my hand-writing lessons “went out the window” with the advent of laptops, notebooks and now tablets. HA HA HA… who ever would have thought, eh? … :-D

      • On the other hand, teaching myself to type (with rather a large blue cloud over my head!) way back in the 70s has paid dividends!

  4. It gives me a rush of pleasure to find something handwritten by a relative (though sadly nothing survives past grandparents, that I know of).

    As a student, I developed my own ‘shorthand’ to take notes – a fast scrawl with abbreviations that probably would be indecipherable to lots of people. And to me, sometimes…

    • I’ve been lucky to find some signatures way back, but not many. Yes I had/have my own shorthand for notes in which some abbreviations can be interchangeable and have to be assessed by context (eg cty might be country or community)…or not figured out at all. But a friend and I were talking about this yesterday and she said she can’t always read her own Pitman’s shorthand so I felt not so bad ;-)

  5. You are so right in what you say. I remember suddenly one day at work abut 14 years ago, suddenly realising, , with everything done on computer, I hardly did any proper handwriting (as opposed to scribbled notes for my own use). That isn’t stricly true as I still do write birthday and Christmas cards, sympathy cards, and personal letters to people who I know are not on e-mail. But my handwriting ability is sinking past and I look back amazed at what it looked like in past notebooks that I still have. I admire the writing of my father (very distinctive and decisive) and my mother (small, neat and precise) and was over the moon to find in a Record Office wills of my GGGG and GGG grandfathers with their copperplate signatures. I don’t even like my own signature but I am very proud of my little granddaughter”s early attempts! . It does make me wonder abut the future of handwriting, though.

    • Very interesting observations Sue. I guess we’re unlikely to entirely give up hand writing but like you mine is certainly diminishing. It also gets untidier which is why I recently bought a new fountain pen to smarten up my act ;-) My mother’s writing is still perfect copperplate. Ditto my eldest daughter’s. I was thrilled when I saw a late 18th century signature of an ancestor….mostly they were illiterate.

  6. Ooh, I love when I get the chance to see an ancestor’s handwriting. I’m fairly interested in graphology (I know, I know) so even though I haven’t made a serious study of it, it’s fun to guess at what they were like based on their slants and loops. As for me, I tend to compose in type, print the document, rewrite and edit in longhand, and rinse & repeat ’til done. I like to alternate like that because touching the manuscript stretches my brain a little differently than seeing it appear on a screen, and I think my writing benefits from the exercise. Cards and letters — well, occasionally, but I was bad at letter-writing long before I sent my first email. :)

    • Thanks for visiting Brandy! I can’t say I study the “slants and loops” but like you I feel seeing my ancestor’s handwriting makes them see real. Like you I tend to print off longer documents and edit by hand -but rarely properly rewrite. I always thought it was just a generational preference wanting to see a hard copy but it makes sense that adding touch to it changes the dynamic.

  7. Pauleen, thanks for the reference to the Genies Down Under podcast on heirlooms. I love this blogpost! The idea of treasuring our ancestors’ handwriting (and our own) is very dear to my heart. I have handwriting-envy every time I hear about someone inheriting a handwritten journal. What a gift!

    • I have more than handwriting envy if someone has a journal, trust me:-) Jealousy is a curse as they say. I was super-thrilled when I found the signature of my ancestor in the church records in the late 1800s and still remember the thrill of my first “find” of a signature in the archives.

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