As Cursive Writing Becomes a Lost Art, What About Reading Cursive?

by , under Andover, Education, Writing and Editing

I was spurred into writing this post by a post on “Rootdig,” the genealogy website of Michael John Neill, posted on 

It was titled “Scripting An Answer–Palmer and Spencerian Handwriting” and was intended to give information on the timing of the two main handwriting systems that have been used in America until recently when grade-school teachers stopped drilling students on how to write in cursive.

In the coming decades, these students without instruction in cursive writing will be hard-pressed to read handwritten documents that pertain to their ancestors, such as personal letters, wills, and even census enumerations.

I remember sitting in several grade-school classes in Andover, Ohio, practicing cursive writing. This was after being drilled in writing the alphabet in the form of block letters in the first and second grades. Interestingly, when I got to Case Institute of Technology in 1960, I got another dose of writing instruction and practice, but this was to make sure that I could write clearly any labels and call-outs required on engineering drawings.

When I was “playing at” high school sports (I spent a lot of time sitting on the bench), our basketball, baseball, and track teams competed against Spencer High School. We visited that school in Geneva, Ohio, for away games.

The full name of the school was Platt R. Spencer High School, named after the developer and promoter of Spencerian Script, a handwriting system that was widely accepted in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Spencer was born in Geneva Township and is touted today as a famous native.

The Spencerian system was eventually replaced by the Palmer Method of cursive writing and that probably was what I learned in grade school.

John Neil posted several websites for further reading by genealogists. They were:

Just between you and me, I have developed a modified system of cursive writing that I find is easy to use, yet very readable. I use whenever I am keeping handwritten notes at genealogical conferences and other meetings.

  1. Kat

    Most students of today don’t even know how to hold a pencil or pen! Perhaps they will record their notes on a lap top?


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