Exploring Almost Forgotten Gravesites in the Great State of Ohio

Dedicated to cemetery preservation in the great state of Ohio

"A cemetery may be considered as abandoned when all or practically all of the bodies have been Removed therefrom and no bodies have been buried therein for a great many years, and the cemetery has been so long neglected as entirely to lose its identity as such, and is no longer known, recognized and respected by the public as a cemetery. 1953 OAG 2978."

Saturday, June 11, 2016

One Example: Reading and Identifying the Letters and Words Written in Old Cursive Handwriting

Issuing a fair warning, this will not be an exhaustive study on the subject of cursive handwriting.  In fact, it will be a single example of how mis-identifying  letters (beginning with the capitol letter(s) in a given name and/or surname) led to an incorrect full name being posted on "Find A Grave", and thus literally 'inventing' a person who did not exist!

 This post could also be sub-titled: 
"How Roderick L. Simes became Frederick Limes"  
This example stems from the 1850 U.S. Mortality Schedule for Red River County, Texas.  Specifically, Line #4  where there is a name of a 32 year old male who had passed away in June.  "FamilySearch" lists the year 1850 for death on the transcription, however, I dispute that it might really have been in 1849 as the timeframe for the 1850 Mortality Schedule was from June 1, 1849 to May 31, 1850. "Name index and images of mortality schedules listing inhabitants of the United States who died between June 1849 and May 1850. "
For this entry on Line #4, apparently a 1995 "Family Tree Maker" disk shows the name as Frederick Limes, which led a "Find A Grave" contributor to post a memorial for "Frederick Limes" based on that information. 
Now it is much easier to "pull up" these original records from websites like "FamilySearch" where we can view an image of the actual record itself. 
So, we look at "Frederick Limes" on the image of the original record and something just doesn't look right about how his name appears.  We can start with the first letter of his given name "F" -- but the letter doesn't look like an "F" so we start looking around the document for other letters for names (given names or surnames) to see if there are others like it that match.  We move down the page to line #15 (see second image below) and we see a similar looking letter for a given name that we can spell out as Rebecca!  So, that funny looking F is really an R.  The letters that follow: "oderick" spell out his name: Roderick.  

We'll skip over the middle initial for now and move on to the surname which was interpreted to be "Limes", so the first letter to consider is the capitol "L".   So, for comparison purposes, we need to find other names with a capitol letter that looks like it.  
Actually, just above Roderick's entry is one for a Lucinda. We have never heard of lady named "Rucinda" -- and her "L" does not look like and "R" created for Roderick. 

Also below (see the second image below) on Line #19 there is another Lucinda -- which as it so happens is listed right below a lady named Susanah Erwin.  Thus, we found two ladies with a given name of  Lucinda in this document.  

So, these two 
ladies named Lucinda help lead us to identifying how an "L" was written in cursive handwriting by this writer in this document.
So, we become more acquainted with the appearance of a capitol "L" and a capitol "S" -- thanks also to Susanah -- and the differences between them.   
It appears that Roderick Simes' middle initial is a rather squeezed in "L".
 We can also spend time studying the appearance of the tops and the bottoms of the letters and where their "loops" are positioned to form the whole letter.  The capitol letter "L" in this document, in most instances, was created with a loop in front of it that sits along the line on the form where it is written.  For the lower front portion of the capitol "S", on the other hand, we see its loop was placed in the back along the line it is written on.

Thus, the words and names in the document itself provide clues to help us learn the true identity of our person in question.

Original sources are not always perfect in all ways of course, but carefully reviewing their information against transcriptions for discrepancies, and also comparisons made to other resources can help bring out the truth.  As genealogists, we often feel a preponderance of evidence helps us make a decision if a record is indeed correct or not.  Sadly, though, if incorrect information is shared and re-shared as being fact, the truth becomes more obscured and requires additional research time and effort to find. 

These principles can be applied to reading tombstone inscriptions and epitaphs as well!