Thursday, 10 October 2013

FMTSO: Handwriting

Walking across a cemetery near where I live this week, I happened to notice a gravestone where the names had been copied from the handwriting of the ones buried there:


The two resting in this grave are unknown to me; but seeing their signatures engraved on the stone like that led my thoughts to my own ancestors.

This the handwriting of my great-grandfather Samuel:

2013-07-23 Samuels Postilla, M Luther's Book of Sermons1

… found in this book …


… which is not a Bible but a selection of sermons by Martin Luther, printed in 1861.

The book was given to (or possibly bought by) my great-grandfather Samuel (born 1837) and his first wife Anna Sophia, in connection with their marriage in 1866.

Translated into English, the inscription to the left reads:


Belongs to
S. Emanuelsson & Anna Sophia Emanuelsson
Lord, Lead Us in Thy Truth for Thy Name’s Sake

In 1866 on 27th January we were united as husband and wife here on Earth. Oh faithful Jesus, keep us always in Thy love, that in the end we may celebrate the eternal Wedding with Thee in Heaven .


Samuel was 31 years old when they got married, and his wife 28. They got nine children together – the nine first names on the list to the right. Two of the girls died when they were only about 8-9 years old.

2013-07-23 Samuels Postilla, M Luther's Book of Sermons

Anna Sophia died in 1894, aged 57 (only a few months after the death of her youngest daughter). Four years later, in 1898, Samuel got remarried to a young widow, Selma – my great-grandmother.

2012_03_04 Samuel o Selma

Selma also had one daughter from her first marriage (not included in the list in the Book).

Together, they had two more children. Their first, Sally, born 1900, was my paternal grandmother.

From my childhood, I remember (from my grandparents’ home) the portrait of the stern-looking man holding the note in his hand:


It always seemed a little odd to me, and I never knew the background, until after the death of my own father a few years ago. Among his notes on family history, I found an article written about Samuel by another relative. It seems that in 1884, Samuel was involved in the founding of a free mission covenant church (and was vice-chairman for a while). My guess is that the photo was taken in this context, and that the prayer on the note was their motto. (As far as I know, it’s the only photograph that exists of Samuel. If my assumptions about the occasion are correct, it would be showing him at age 47 or so, which seems about right.)

Samuel died in 1907. My grandmother grew up on the farm where she was born, together with her mother, her younger brother, and two or three of her older half-siblings (in a village not far from the town where I live).


[These photos – except the first one - have previously been shown in my family history blog Greetings from the Past.]

Linking to Friday My Town Shoot Out: Handwriting


  1. Very interesting. Love the calligraphy, and I think lots of us will be digging in history for this weeks theme, including me! Wish you a great weekend to come.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  2. the tombstones with the handwriting are amazing and so are your own personal handwriting history's, at first i thought i had nothing but i had forgotten granddaddy's letter to me in 1944 and the Bible had my grandmothers and my mothers in it. i enjoyed reading this about your family from so many many years ago

  3. I did not know you could order a gravestone in the dead person's own handwriting. I have never heard of it here. So sad about the two children, how did they both die? Maybe something contagious and one caught it from the other...I guess these dried plants are from many many years ago.

  4. I really like the idea of handwriting on a gravestone. I wonder how they organised that? Terrific idea to tell the story of the man behind the handwriting, and such an interesting character he was, too. Such a shame that smiling never seemed to be encouraged in photos back then. Everyone can't have been as serious as they seem in historical photos!

  5. Amazing historical photos!

  6. I love this. What a treasure to have this history. The gravestone is so unique, I have never seen anything like it.

  7. I also like the handwriting on a gravestone and I bet it cost a lot less than the standard nowaday stones and even looks better. Family history is one of my favorite subjects after researching for so many years.

  8. What a super post. I love that gravestone. Sadly no one would be able to read my signature- it's a scrawl.

  9. This is an amazing collection of family lore and handwriting. People always looked so stern in those early photos!

    The signature on the gravestone is a good capture for this week's theme: bravo.

  10. I love the entry of the children written into the bible. Made me remember that when I was young ..... More than 50 years ago....EEeeek! We had a family bible with several generations written in. I wonder what happened to. Ir?

  11. What an interesting topic this has turned out to be this week. I love the writing on the tombstone also. Genealogy is an addicting thing. I did it for years and finally slowed down when I had all I thought I needed. There is always a new member marrying into the family and it starts me off in a new direction.

  12. Fascinating family history. Love the photos - they bring the ancestors to life.


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