23 December 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Signature Online

Yesterday I posted a contest of sorts asking readers if they could find a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder's signature online. It was not done because I needed it for something and could not find it, although I have been tempted to do that.

I actually came across Laura's signature myself and thought other genealogists would find the same reference I did. Some readers found other references, but this is the one I located that prompted me to write the post. Laura signed the death certificate of her husband, Almanso[sic] James Wilder, who died one-half mile east of Mansfield, Missouri, in 1949. One blog reader and newsletter subscriber JN from the West Coast found the same reference I did--Almanzo Wilder's 1949 death certificate on the website of the Missouri Secretary of State's website.

Laura's signature appears in box 17 as the informant.

Death certificate of Almanso[sic] Wilder, 1949, Wright County, Missouri, certificate 40051; digital image, Missouri Secretary of State Website (http://www.sos.mo.gov), obtained 22 December 2012.

Genealogists sometimes discuss provenance (how the record came to our possession) and how certain we are the item is what it purports to be. One should be concerned about things being what they purport to be and how we know they are what they are.

This item seems to be the real deal. There's little doubt that Laura actually signed her husband's death certificate and that the death certificate rested with the State of Missouri until it was digitized and placed on their website. Laura's signature appears on several websites, but with "just the signature" and no idea of where it came from it is anyone's guess whether any given signature is actually hers or not. I am not saying the online signatures, usually images that only include her name, are forgeries, but that images without any sources or discussion of provenance are potentially not what they say they are. Death certificates, especially when the death is not notorious and there's not fraud involved, are usually representative of what they say they are.