Where to Find Your Ancestors’ Signatures

Posted March 23, 2017 by Amanda | No Comment

During your genealogy research, you’ll often come across the signatures of your ancestors. Signatures are fascinating because they might be the only traces of handwriting you may find in your ancestors’ own hand. Not only are they fun to find, they can also help supplement your genealogy research.

Signatures can be a good way to verify if separate documents belong to the same person. For example, by comparing signatures, you may be able to conclude that a deed signed by James Ford is the same James Ford whose signature appears on a World War I military draft record.

Where to Find Your Ancestors' Signatures

A signature may also give you insight into your ancestor’s education level. Not everyone knew how to read and write, so don’t be surprised if you see signatures that are just a simple ‘X.’ Sometimes a clerk would sign their name on their behalf and then have the person leave their mark.

Where can you find your ancestors’ signatures? Here are some documents you can search:

  • Military draft records
    Military draft records will often include a signature.
  • Naturalization records
    When applying for citizenship, people will often need to sign their names on their naturalization forms.
  • Marriage records

    Where to Find Your Ancestors' Signatures

    Marriage record with a mark from the bride and the signatures of the groom and witnesses

    If you’re lucky, you’ll find the signatures of the bride, groom, and witnesses in a marriage record. Don’t forget to pay attention to the witnesses – they may possibly be family members of the couple.

  • Patents
    Was your ancestor an inventor? They would have needed to sign the patent forms if they filed a patent for their creation.
  • Immigration records and passports
    Immigration records may have required the signature of the traveler when they entered the country. Passports and passport applications almost always include the person’s signature as well.
  • Court records
    An assortment of court records have the potential to hold signatures. Divorces, adoptions and even court cases may hold a signature.
    • Land records
      Did you ancestor own or purchase land? The deed may hold their signature!
  • Letters, diaries, and journals
    If you have old letters or diaries, take a look at how they signed their name. With handwritten letters and diaries, you may have a good writing sample to be able to compare writing styles with other handwritten sources.
  • Photographs
    Do you have old family photographs? Check the backs to see if they were signed!

Where have you found your ancestors’ signatures?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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