Saturday, February 09, 2008


Sometimes in the course of pursuing genealogy something
reminds me of the passage of time.

I recently ran across one instance while looking at the 1920
U.S. Census for part of my McFarland family lines. While the
parents, my granduncle and his wife, were correctly listed as
Michael and Mary McFarland, their children were listed as

This straightaway led to a “huh”? on my part.

So I looked at the actual images. Michael and Mary McFarland
are the last two entries on their sheet. Their children are at
the top of the next page. Both pages were enumerated by the
same person and as I looked at it, I at first could see no reason
why their name had been listed as McParland in the Index.

And then I saw it. It was all Palmer’s fault, the Palmer
Method, that is.

Most students nowadays are taught the Modern Cursive or
the Zaner-Bloser styles of cursive writing, but most of their
19th and 20th century ancestors wrote in the Palmer
handwriting method. The census enumerator wrote
McFarland in the Palmer style.

The picture above is of a capital letter F written yes, badly;
my writing stinks. The top character is Modern Cursive and
the bottom is an example of the Palmer capital F. The
enumerator had made the F a bit too large and the top
crossbar is nearly obscured by the heavily printed top line of
the census form. The middle crossbar has a bit of a small loop
and the effect makes the F look like a P if one doesn’t look
at it carefully. I suspect that happened when the page was
transcribed for the Index.

So once again an example why it is important to check the
variations of spelling when researching a name.

Oh, and it was the description I found online of Palmer as
antiquated that made me aware of how old I am.

I was taught the Palmer method when I went to school.

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