Ancient Cursive Language Skills Put to the Test in Indexing Training Class


Ancient Cursive Language Skills Put to the Test in Indexing Training Class

Special Report: by Ammon Pratt Rockwood and Angela Myrick Rockwood

As part of my investigative training, I’ve recently taken part in an effort to re-create and resurrect an art which some say, is dying.  Every day for the last several months, I’ve spent tedious hours, carefully ciphering the intricate writing form, known as cursive.

Cursive lettering is similar to printed lettering, only they’re just a little loopy.  Ancient peoples on this and other continents used these letter forms in formal and informal documents, written before the commencement of the digital age.


Some find the forms beautiful, most find them daunting.

As I have become more engaged with this age-old skill set, familiar to my ancestors, but somewhat foreign to modern man, I’ve grown an appreciation for this “secret language” of the past.

Recently I attended a popular “Indexing” class held by the distinguished professor of ancient familial studies, Dr. Troy Rockwood, of Family Search fame and glory.  Displaying several examples of ancient text, photographed and digitized from their original forms found on a stunning variety of flattened dead tree pulp, he challenged us to translate these strange writings into modern text.

Sharing a room packed with computers and four other like-minded researchers, I set to my task.  look like.jpg

At first the words were a blur of ornate, scribbled ink strokes, but one by one, as my mind became accustomed to the script, letters began to appear, and then words.  Dates, families, people, places and events began to appear– and gradually, each document was revealed.

“I really didn’t think I could do it,” gushed one researcher.  “When I first saw that document, I seriously reconsidered whether I was in the right field!”

“Exactly!” said another.  “But once we got started, you could kind of see a pattern to the strokes, and things just appeared.  It’s the closest thing to magic I’ve experienced.  It makes you wonder how the ancients could have even produced such writings on a regular basis… without even a keyboard!  Sometimes an “s” looks like this, and sometimes it looks like….. that!  Still, you start to get the hang of it, and then it’s actually quite, I don’t know– beautiful, I’d say.”

We’re two days into the class, and already making progress.  Will the past remain in the past?  Or will researchers like Dr. Rockwood and his associates bring these obsolete documents into the light before they’re lost forever?  The question remains to be answered.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: