Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Matter of Handwriting

In perusing the notes in the family photo album I found, there were some quirks that showed up in the handwriting on some pages. One of those pages involved a listing of names, which I was keen to decipher. Before sharing one example in particular, we need to make a detour to discuss handwriting.

Those of us who learned our cursive hand under the strict attention of our grade school teachers may think that, of course, everyone had to write the same way. Not so, as we broaden our exposure to what others learned while sitting under the noses of their school teachers.

Couple that with the experience of school children in a country like Ireland—where, while we don't often give this a thought, the place was actually a land of two languages—and we introduce yet another influence over just how children were taught to form their letters.

So, what becomes of the handwriting of an Irish student whose every exposure to the written word had two kinds of print—both English and Irish? Consider, for a moment, the header to the 1950s form upon which we had found the death record for Alice Hawkes Reid's mother. Notice the two languages and their very different fonts.

I'm thinking, in particular, of the letters D and B. If you click on the example above, you'll notice both of these letters have unusual ascending lines—something we don't, at least in America, include in the formation of those letters. For instance, observe the handwritten portion on the top line to the far right, indicating the District of Bandon, a town in County Cork.

Now, let's shift gears and take a look at one of the photos Alice Reid had included in the family album we've been studying. Here, she shares a picture of three women, and provides their given names. But is it Chris, Alice and Bolly? Or should we make that Dolly? It does include an oddly-formed first letter for that third name.

Chris, Alice + Dolly - at the sitting room window of Chris's bungalow.

Of course, we can be fairly certain that the Alice in the middle of that threesome was the other Alice we had already met when she and Mr. W. O'Malley were "off on a spree" with Harry and Alice Reid. In fact, though we have yet to figure out just who she was, this Alice figured quite prominently in the pages of the album.

But now we have two other women introduced in the collection of Hawkes friends and family. And I'm not sure this addition makes it any easier to determine just who they were.

Still, the use of the word "bungalow" was a tantalizing hint. Intimating a smaller place—at least than Bride Park House itself—it caused me to wonder whether there were any other buildings close enough to the original property to be considered part and parcel of the same estate.


  1. The font on the post-independence BMD certs is our Gaelic font, Jacqi, and used for writing in the Irish language. I agree the first letter in the name 'Dolly' or whatever, is definitely unusual, though I find it hard to imagine your Hawkes family were reared in the Gaelic persuasion.

    1. Oh, you are absolutely right, Dara. This family was a British transplant from the 1700s, if I remember correctly, and one branch settled in a town in County Cork known for its strong anti-Catholic sentiment. Still, that was not just one separate incident of that unusually-formed D (or B or whatever it was). I couldn't help but wonder if it might have been influenced by what she saw around her, in that style of writing. Curious, to say the least.

  2. I would be very careful about "reading" much into "bungalow". The "cottages" down the seashore (say Newport, RI) are hardly what you would think!


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