I had a very well prepared and attentive group of teenage boys in a genealogy class recently. They all had a Spanish speaking heritage. They all came prepared to the class with information about their grandparents who were born in Mexico. With the new records on FamilySearch's Record Search, we were able to find some of their family records right online. As I showed them the records we had found, one of the boys raised his hand and said, "Mr. Tanner, we can't read cursive." This was not just one of the boys, none of them had ever been taught to read or write cursive!
I soon learned that writing in cursive, for anyone younger than twenty years old, is fast becoming a lost art. News articles from major news sources like, USA Today, have headlines that read, "Schools debate: Is cursive writing worth teaching?" In another article in the NYDaily News, the questions is asked, "Cursive writing is a fading skill, but do we care enough to save it?" There is a real debate about whether or not cursive writing has a place in the "modern" school curriculum. (Hmm, there are those of us who wonder if anything is taught in schools today at all, but that is another issue).
Think of impact the lack of cursive skills will have on genealogy. Every one of the old letters and documents I have in my huge collection is in cursive. Typewritten documents and letters are almost non-existent. Are we moving towards a time when the handwritten past will be closed to nearly all of the younger people? Family Tree Magazine ran an article recently about Closing the Generation Gap, about younger genealogists. What if the five examples given were all cursive handicapped? How many of them would have maintained an interest in genealogy?
Many genealogists have to become conversant in one or more foreign languages to make progress in their research, what if you had to learn cursive writing, just to read your grandmother's letters? I hope I am not alone in seeing this as a major obstacle to a acquiring an interest in genealogy by the upcoming very young generation. I am certain that reading handwriting may become one of the fundamental classes that will have to be taught in the future to unlock the records to those who missed learning who to write in school.