Mary Has Terrible Handwriting

Answer key at the bottom!

In the unlikely event that you read this blog but don’t follow me on Twitter, at my new job I’ve been transcribing the diary of an old lady named “Mary”. When transcribing, if we can’t decipher a word, we put “???”. After finishing transcribing I had about 164 of those. Second pass through I brought it down to these few. I’ve asked Twitter what they think, and reposted them all here for easy browsing.

[Edit!: Here is the link for the diary, forgot to add that. Also I’ll be adding page #s to where these are. Scroll the thumbnail window on the right down to see where the pages numbers begin.]

1) Alta or Alfa? Page 34

Alta or Alfa

Almost certain this is “Alfa”, but that top crossing is much closer to her “f”s then “t”s.

2) Choir? Not choir. Page 63, very end.

not choir

Church related. Instinctively I want to say “choir” but that’s not it. Watch for that “y”s loop at the end.

3) ??? Page 110

not a clue

Bigger chunk for context. At a complete loss here, nothing makes sense. Odd abbreviation? Misspelling?

4) Hume or Home or Ham? Page 256

hume or home

Hume? Home? Terrible spelling of ham? The cursive “y” isn’t helping but there also seems to be a scribble.

5) Tire? What’s a tire month? Page 264


I’m CERTAIN that first letter is a “t”. But if so, no idea what the rest would be within context. Esoteric word? The photo of the page didn’t help as the word slightly bends into the book’s binding.

6) Mary Something Thompson Page 280

mary something thompson

This one is just plain bad handwriting, but maybe you have a better clue than I.

7) Caroly Coroly Page 289 and Page 335

Caroly coroly

Two for one. Certain it’s the same name, but what? Caroly is a real name. Coroly? Is that a “y”, though?

8) Merviley? Page 315


This name had too many squiggles for Mary to handle. Cursive is stupid. Merrill is common in the diary but this aint.

9) Croseting Page 329


Probably “croseting”, probably MEANT “crocheting”, but for you sewing folks is this something else entirely?

10) SPOON DRAWING?! Page 372

Last one! And it’s unbelievable, but I THINK Mary DREW A SPOON.

spoon 1

Mary is anything but playful. I doubt she ever dotted an “i” with a heart. If emoticons existed back in the 50’s she’d shun them. But. LOOK.

spoon 2

Alright that’s all of them. Have any ideas?

Answers! At least the best we could figure out.

1) Alta. Going with that. Nobody had a better guess, and I’m just basing this off of what I know of her handwriting. Not completely satisfied with this. >:|

Alton. Going with Alton. My sister convinced me that the “o” and “n” are just squished together. Dammit, Mary.

2) Choir. Liz got this one. Other people thought “Chorus” which makes sense, BUT if you’ll notice that little dot below the “a” in Primary? Yeah Mary has terrible handwriting.

3) into. Which makes sense if you think “into Agnes’ [house]. Other people got it but Nicole was the first.

4)  Ham, so says the majority. And it doesn’t bode well thinking about what else she could be cooking…or…who else.

5) Two! First guessed correctly by miss Liz Wong. Your gift certificate is in the mail! (no it’s not). This one hurt my brain when I finally saw it.

6) Wise. Deciphered by a much more interesting Mary.

7) Carolee. Suprised I couldn’t figure this one out! But Liz and Mary did. Good for Liz and Mary.

8) Merrillyon. Both Katie and Mollie had a good guess with Merrilly (and what a fun name that would be) but Liz went the extra mile and used the power of Google to find Merrillyon, which fits perfectly when you look at it.

9) Crocheting. I thought maybe “croseting” was a weird knitting term I was unaware of, but no knitters chimed in. Amy from the comments agreed with me that it was probably “crocheting” (Amy also got good guesses on the rest too!)

10) Drawing of a spoon. I’m going to put, in notation, drawing. Of a spoon. Impossible. Lucy Ruth guessed “sperm” and I’m surprised nobody else did.


4 thoughts on “Mary Has Terrible Handwriting

  1. Amy says:

    Here’s my votes (in order):
    1. Alta
    2. Chorus (possibly choral?)
    3. Into
    4. Ham
    5. two
    6. Louise
    7. Carola
    8. Merrilyn (as in Marilyn)
    9. Crocheting
    10. No idea. Thought maybe that would be a marking for the name of a company, or sterling, or something, but as far as I Googled, not the case.

  2. […] while we’ve all had fun with Mary and Ellison so far, a large part of my new job yields nothing of interest. It’s a lot of […]

  3. […] most of you know the drill probably. Mary has terrible handwriting, and I need your help to make sense of it. This time I have […]

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