Might be a great idea to create some sort of tutorial to teach kids cursive, so they can read those old documents.
As a church we are taught and encouraged to keep journals for many reasons. Our young people as old as 46 don't use or have a difficult time reading/writing cursive because they were not taught through the education system.
Problem: all our historical documents are in cursive as well as our ancestors journals. These documents will be of no use to those unable to read them....
We must encourage and assist those who don't have this skill. A link to being self taught might be appropriate for those who don't have someone to assist them. We in the Family Search Centers/Church Stakes/Wards should be encouraging those to learn this skill and sharing why it is vitally important.
Appreciate your time
Debra L Darling
There are tons of very old documents around today with old fashioned handwriting and many people can't read them. There are online groups which will transcribe uploaded images. That will be the way of the future and all will be well. The amount of documents languishing in Europe because they were written in Latin is a much bigger problem. If kids really want a history related career where they can name their own salaries, have them learn Latin.
Mod note - Similar ideas were merged here and a duplicate reply was removed.
I was shocked to discover (only quite recently) that cursive is not taught in American schools, as it is still taught in the U.K. I assume children and younger adults in the U.S. have to get assistance from an older adult if they get a letter from an elderly relative - or don't Americans communicate by letter any longer?
I disagree with Gail on the points she raises: it would have cost me a lot of money if I had had to pay for "translations" of cursive and older forms of writing. Although, strictly speaking, the main problem from anyone getting back to 17th century records in the U.K. lies with being able to understand "secretary hand", not simple cursive. My lack of Latin has not been too much of a problem, as most wills were written in English and one only has to know basic terms and "equivalent" names* to understand a parish register entry written in Latin. (* filia / filius, uxor, vidua, etc., as well as Carolus = Charles, Gulielmus = William, etc.)
I don't know how readily available they are in the U.S., but I have purchased very slim guides to Simple Latin and Old Handwriting that I make sure I always have by my side whenever I know I am going to have to read 16th / 17th documents - say at a (county) record office, where I can still read original manuscripts, although they usually appear on microfilm.
In view of these thoughts, I do have limited support for Susan's idea, although understanding cursive itself still won't be of great use once it comes to needing to understand pre-18th century documents.
Cursive is still taught in my local school district.
@Paul W Cursive was taken from many US schools in 2010 when the government removed cursive from the Core Curriculum. However, it is slowly making its way back one state at a time. I believe with California's recent legislation there will be 22 or 23 states again teaching cursive in elementary schools. And yes, the parents and grandparents do have to translate cursive. My great-niece could not read the note I sent to her when she graduated from high school. We are also realizing that it is better to print addresses on envelopes these days as the post office seems to have a problem with even the most beautiful cursive.
@Paul W I have seen numerous documentaries that lament the number of historic documents all over Europe, dated from the middle ages and earlier, languishing in a curators care, waiting for a Latin expert to read them, translate them and make the contents available to history experts. We all know of breakthroughs in the past 5 years because someone found and translated a document. If this career field was better publicized, it might inspire some US history students to study Latin with enthusiasm. The chance to live, study and work in Europe might be considered a fantastic opportunity for many.
As I said, I am not worried whether today's students learn to write cursive. I have not written cursive in decades. I am too slow at it. When I have to take notes with paper and pen / pencil, I print. It is much faster. Reading cursive is something any adult can learn if they become interested. We are all doing that now with old fashioned handwriting that the general public cannot read.
Gail touched on the aspect of this that was bugging me from the start but I didn't realize why: writing cursive has nothing to do with reading it. In fact, it is perfectly possible to learn to read without ever learning to write at all -- printed, cursive, typed, or anything else.
My 13-year-old has not been taught cursive. She complains about not being able to read my writing, but there are multiple factors at work there. (Nowadays, my handwriting is sort of half-cursive, and it's primarily employed on the grocery list, which is a vertical surface on the fridge -- and I flip between languages pretty randomly on it.)
There's nothing new in the current American situation of young people being unable to read the handwriting of their elders. They stopped teaching Kurrentschrift in Germany over a generation ago, so now, the old records can only be read by the dedicated paleographers among historians, genealogists, and other interested groups. The rest of us muddle through, and beg for help in the places where those miracle-workers are known to congregate.
Similarly, none of us learn English secretary hands in school any more, and yet, genealogists and others regularly make use of the parish registers and such that were written in it. It takes me a bit, but once I've figured out the first half-dozen words, I find that I can get the hang of a particular scribe's hand and read all but the most obscure words/names on the page.
Here's one of the easier-to-read examples of a (1662) will I just came across. You can judge for yourselves if a knowledge of cursive would be any advantage in reading 17th century secretary hand!
@Paul W That's another interesting aspect of this dilemma, knowledge of cursive in one era and place doesn't really translate to other forms of cursive. Once you go far enough back, extra training is required anyway.
It certainly helps to know "modern" cursive, but that only goes so far, and in my experience children stop using it the exact moment they're allowed to. My early teachers told me I would be using cursive all my life, but by the time I reached middle school, all anyone wanted was 12pt Times New Roman. Me and most of my classmates stopped using cursive right then and there, so even those of us that did learn cursive in school are generally over a decade out of practice. Which just leads us back into the "training required anyway" situation.