I don’t know why I get all gooey about finding the signature of an ancestor…but I do. I guess I have a penmanship obsession and probably since I myself first learned to write. Some kids might search their parents’ faces for familial resemblances…or perhaps observe their mannerisms for a shared tic. I was always aware of my mother’s handwriting…she was a prolific list-maker and our house was a flurry of scraps of paper with her itemized ‘to-dos’. Grocery lists and Christmas lists…random lists to keep her mental train on the track. I was never without the presence of her distinct cursive style. I have years of my report cards…each quarter bearing her signature…Mrs. Deborah J. Martin. And I have an envelope flap with my grandmother’s return address written in her stylish flourishes….like my mother’s…and not.
I was one of those kids who wrote a rough draft of my homework…doodling in all the margins like a crazed Michelangelo with a stark white ceiling overhead. I then rewrote it in my best penmanship on my best paper…not for the teacher’s admiration or the expectation of a big A+…but because penmanship is an art form to me. No hearts dotting i’s kind of stuff…sweeping capitals…lovely loops and sure and true strokes of a pen. And blue ink. Something about words splashing across the paper in blue ink. I held a grudge against my bank for years when they insisted I sign my business documents in black ink. But everyone knows bankers have no art.
I don’t really write anymore…by hand, that is. I do sign greeting cards. I have recently reintroduced sending greeting cards to my friends and family…though I still admit to sending electronic ones on occasion. And there is electronic banking…and posting on social media…well that just takes the whole idea of handwriting communications to the obsolete category.
Perhaps that is why I have become a ‘scripto-phile’…if I can coin a word. It is the personal styling of an individual that cannot be accomplished with a keyboard and I suppose why a collector falls in love with old toasters or antique spoons. Or collects pens. Now THAT I could fall into without much of a push. And perhaps why my FaceBook page is The Genealogists Inkwell.
For now…I hoard images of my ancestors’ signatures in my digital library. Where there are no portraits to compare eyes…noses…chins…there ARE signatures and where I think I can see a familiar loop…up stroke…t cross…something of my own Palmer Method crafted penmanship and I am reassured.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
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