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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

Signature Style

Updated: May 28, 2023

When trying to figure out if a person in a record is your ancestor, remember to check for signatures to compare. There are generally commonalities in the way a person signed their name, one way or another.

Robert B. Beaver's signature remained consistent over time (along with the use of a middle initial). It's easy to recognize that the signatures are by the same hand:

signature examples

Joseph Kaufman's signature is hard to actually read, but I know it wherever I see it. People who couldn't read or write didn't become suddenly illiterate in adulthood, though many of them could at least write their own name. His signature isn't fluid but rather looks like a piecing together of the separate, necessary strokes:


Those who couldn't write their names signed documents with a mark. Again, a person who signed with a mark likely did so throughout their lifetime. That will be the consistent element in their signatures--even in records like deeds or wills that are not originals but were hand-copied into other sources.

mark instead of a signature

An additional point about signing with a mark: We frequently see a middle initial incorrectly added to a person's name in family trees, on Find A Grave, or in narratives about that person. That is, readers mistake a mark near the person's name as part of the name. In the example above, Michael Coil's name is not Michael T. Coil. The '+' is for his mark and is not a middle initial.


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