Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Handwriting & Heredity: Does your handwriting resemble that of an ancestor?

The hands of some Fitzpatrick and Hynes family members.
For those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time writing on a laptop or desktop computer, when we kick against the traces of the tech world and take a pen in hand, our writing may show those marked changes which can be brought on by the ergonomics of tap, tap, tapping on a keyboard. The movement of our hands and the ability to write may also be affected by the simple wear and tear of daily life, and for some of us, diseases such as arthritis change the way in which our hands move, and thus the way in which we write.

A few days ago while I was perusing records, I noticed the toll ten years had taken on the handwriting and the signature of one of my 2nd great-granduncles. Although the signature is still very much his own, there is a slight shakiness to the way in which the characters are formed.

When I looked through other documents — letters and the like — I noticed there are similarities in the cursive writing of members of the same families, similarities which appear to have come down through the generations. When you consider your own handwriting, do you ever compare it with that of your parents or grandparents, or perhaps someone further back? Do you notice any resemblance between the characteristics of your writing and that of a family member, or is your cursive hand distinctively different?

According to geneticists, there may very well be a gene by which characteristics of handwriting might be passed on through the generations; however, they have yet to discover precisely that gene. Some say it is more likely cursive writing is affected by the way in which a child's fine motor skills are developed through schooling, both formal and otherwise. However, if it is only a matter of schooling, then why is it we might find a great-grandchild whose penmanship mirrors that of his great-grandfather's?

Does your handwriting share any traits 
with the writing of an ancestor or a relative?

The signature of paternal great-grandfather Patrick Magee, 1901 Irish Census.
His daughter Mollie wrote with the same flourish, forming her 'M's in the same manner.
The signature of paternal great-grandfather Patrick Geraghty, 1901 Irish Census.
His grandson, my father Michael, formed his 'G's in an identical fashion.
The signature of paternal great-granduncle William Dunne,
Royal Dublin Fusiliers recruitment record.
William's sister, my great-mother Mary Dunne Magee, wrote with a similar hand.
The signature of maternal great-grandfather Thomas Fitzpatrick, 1911 Irish Census.
At least one of his granddaughters forms her 'F's in precisely the same fashion.
©irisheyesjg2015.
Click on images to view larger versions.

6 comments:

  1. I love this post, Jennifer. I have been collecting ancestors' sample signatures for a while now, wondering how best to feature them on my blog. I was thinking about posting them to a separate 'memorial' page, but I've not figured it out fully yet. It is fascinating to see the similarities in handwriting passed down through the generations. Mine resembles my mother's, but is quite unlike all my siblings'.

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    1. Dara, thanks for your comments. Always very much appreciated. I am with you, and find it fascinating to note the similarities in handwriting passed down through the generations. My own hand has nothing in common with my family of origin, but bears some resemblance to that of a great-grandaunt. I believe handwriting is part of the reason I am so drawn to original documents, with the idea that our DNA and their's might be co-mingling at the touch of the signature. A wonderful thought.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. Jenn, I'm with Dara, and love this post too. An interesting and thought provoking topic. I've always noticed how much my handwriting differs from my sisters, but is very much like one of our aunts.

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    1. Charlotte, thanks for your comments. Always very much appreciated. Lovely to see you've made that discovery too.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. I love this approach! It is always a thrill to see ancestral signatures and hold documents they touched and signed....a tactile link across the centuries. My own writing has changed a lot over the years...I had to learn to be less neat as it was stopping me from finishing exams. Now of course, I find it much easier to "think" and write on a keyboard. My daughter's handwriting is very like my mother's and there can have been no teaching influence as when she learned cursive writing we lived thousands of kilometres from my mother. intriguing isn't it?

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    1. Pauleen, thanks for your comments; always very much appreciated. As I mentioned to Dara, I do love that idea of a tactile link, especially the idea of a link to grandparents and great-grandparents. A friend accused me of sentimentalizing, but as I woman who did not have the privilege of knowing any of my grandparents, that touch across time is very appealing. Given evidence like that of your daughter's cursive writing, I too am definitely intrigued.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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Cheers, Jennifer

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