The gift of handwriting
My handwriting is terrible. I was introduced to my first computer keyboard at the age of seven and I’ve eschewed using a pen and paper ever since.
Based on articles in the media about the death of handwriting and how schools are ditching pens and papers for computers it seems there’ll be far less handwritten artifacts for future generations to find when they research ancestors from the present. But of course those future genealogists will probably have access to the thousands of photos we’ve posted of ourselves all over social media.
In the absence of photographs of my ancestors I’ve always been thrilled to find samples of their handwriting in old letters and documents. It allows me to get a far more vivid idea of them than simple facts listed in an online database could. It’s an almost tangible connection to them: like they’re sending you a message from that time and place rather than just finding a record of it in an official document. Family trees can be rather abstract exercises the further back in time you go, but having the actual markings of your ancestors on a document makes them seem so much more real.
That’s why I chose to use the actual handwriting of my great-grandfather – Alexander Nicholson Hunter – for the title graphic of this website. His signature is the first of many family artifacts and documents I hope to share.
Alexander Nicholson Hunter’s signature
Another great sample of his writing is from the wedding register on the day of his marriage to Elizabeth Ann in Randfontein, South Africa, on 9 December 1918. I love the flourishes on the A and N of his initials:
Finally, a slightly less expressive example can be found when he witnessed the marriage of his youngest daughter, Daphne, in 1955. The use of ballpoint pens had become quite common by that date and so the flourishes in this sample aren’t as grand:
No one is ever going to use a sample of my hideous handwriting to decorate a webpage but I’m pretty proud that the wonderful signature of my great-grandfather gives this website’s title such a distinctive look.