Martha’s Vineyard, Mass, has a long history of sign language; in the late 1600s, the first congenitally deaf children were born on the island, and began communicating in a Kent, UK-based sign language, which eventually evolved into Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL), according to an article in the MV Times. A town on Martha’s Vineyard, Chilmark, at one time had the highest concentration of deaf people, about 1 in 25, compared to the mid-19th century US average of 1 in 5,700. A 2015 article in The Atlantic, says, “something closer to 25 in 25 knew how to sign.”

According to the MV Times, many Martha’s Vineyard residents enrolled at Hartford, Conn’s American School for the Deaf (ASD), eventually helping to “shape American Sign Language (ASL).”

Though MVSL was phased out in the 1950s, resident Lynn Thorp is now trying to get ASL recognized as a second language on the island. Since the 2000s, Thorp has compiled DVDs and lessons that are available at a local library. She has also pitched the idea of incorporating ASL in local schools and a nurses’s association. MVSL was not “well-documented”–according to the MV Times, there are no photos, videos, or records.

To read the article in its entirety, please click here.

Source: MV Times, The Atlantic