This might just be one of the hardest family traits to confirm on your family tree, an ancestor who was left-handed. One of the major reasons was for years, a child who started using only his left hand to pick up items, to eat or even eventually learn to write with his left hand was highly discouraged. Instead they were forced to use only their right hand, the more common and dominant method of manual dexterity. Then an ancestor might have been ambidextrous - one who can easily perform tasks with either hand and this is very rare.
Being naturally left-handed has never been easy for a person in many societies. Most tools such as scissors, musical instruments, right side rounded school desk tops, corkscrews, manual pencil sharpener, manual can opener, fishing reel, circular saw and numerous other items are designed for right-handed people and the wrist action is much easier for them. With approximately 80 to 90% of the people in the world right-handed, those using the left hand are clearly in the minority. Of that group who are left-handed, it is usually men who have this characteristic rather than women.
Also in many cultures over the decades people who were left-handed were thought to be allied with the devil or involved with black magic. To force a young child to use only their right hand, the other hand was covered in cloth, tied and bound.
A slang term for a left-handed person was ‘southpaw’. In other cultures the slang term was ‘cack-handed’ which also meant clumsy. The idea of greeting someone by shaking hands was always done with the right hand, again anything ‘left’ was not acceptable. Even the phrases of ‘left behind’, leftovers’, or ‘left out’ all have negative tones.
In recent decades the stigma of being left-handed has changed and much more accepting by the people around the globe. It is just trying to get tools and products more left-handed friendly that is still needed.
One way to see if you had any left-handed ancestors is to first check photographs. A man placing his hand on a chair while posing would most likely use his dominate hand. Posing with hands together on a lap would have the dominate hand over the other. Definitely an image with the person holding a tool, a pencil, a book, etc., will show if they were left or right handed. You may have looked at a photograph of your grandparents and never realized which was their prevailing hand. Once knowing the possible struggles a left-handed ancestor had to deal with will give you a greater appreciation.
Many notable people in history who were left-handed have still managed to achieve greatest in their field. The famous left-handed group includes:
US President Herbert Hoover, Julius Caesar, Benjamin Franklin, Nelson Rockefeller, Queen Victoria of England, Whitey Ford, Judy Garland, Henry Ford, astronaut Edwin Buzz Aldrin, H. G. Wells, George Burns, Robert Redford, Caroline Kennedy, John Dillinger, Mark Spitz, Marilyn Monroe, Jay Leno, Michelangelo, Natalie Cole, Cary Grant, Oprah Winfrey, John McEnroe and Babe Ruth, just to name a few.
August 13th is the annual International Left-Handers’ Day.