12 November 2013

Mrs. or Not?

The signatures come from the settlement of the estate of John Trautvetter in Adams County in 1938.

Is there any significance to the women who signed their first names versus those who signed their husband's first names?

Sometimes the use of a husband's first name when she signs "Mrs. Husbandfirstname Husbandlastname" can mean that the husband is still alive. There are four women who sign this document:

  • Mrs. Lillian Short
  • Mrs. Luella Barnett
  • Mrs. Ida Miller
  • Mrs. Cecil Neill
If this document were used to draw any "rules," it would be impossible. The only widow in this list is Mrs. Ida Miller--who signed her first name, consistent with the social "norm." The husbands of the other three ladies were all alive in 1938, including the two who signed their own name.

I know some think there's a social convention to using the husband's first name while he is alive (or they are still married) and then their own first name after they are widowed (or divorced). I'm inclined to use the "Mrs." as evidence that the person was married at one point in time and to use the husband's first name as evidence of what that name was.

I'd be hard pressed to use the presence (of absence) of the husband's first name as evidence he was alive (or dead) at the time the wife was referred to as "Mrs." 

Mrs. Cecil Neill was my paternal grandmother. I know there were times I saw her use Mrs. Cecil Neill as her signaure and others when she used Mrs. Ida Neill. I don't know when she used which and it really doesn't matter. By the time I was old enough to remember Grandma writing her name, Grandpa Neill was long deceased. She was a widow the entire time I knew her.

Of course sometimes she signed "Grandma" to things, but that's evidence of something other than her marital status.

1 comment:

Scott Tilden said...

It's always been my understanding that "proper" reference was either "misses" and husband's first name or just your first name...e.g.:

Mrs. Roger Doe
Lillian Doe

This is more the "traditional" approach I guess, since it pretty much flies against contemporary political correctness?

--Scott Tilden