Where to Find Your Ancestors’ Signatures
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.
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
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.
Do you have old family photographs? Check the backs to see if they were signed!
Where have you found your ancestors’ signatures?