Casefile Clues

10 March 2014

Is the Same Signature Enough?


If two signatures match, are the writers the same person?

On the surface the answer seems "yes." And on the surface it seems like the answer to this question would always be clear.

And probably if the handwriting is a match, the writers are the same person. Sometimes though, determining whether or not the handwriting for two signatures is a "match" is a subjective process, especially if the signatures are not carbon copies of each other.

The top two signatures are for the same person. The rationale for this belief is that image 1 and image 2 are taken from the pre-emption claim for John Lake. Lake's claim was completed in the mid-1860s. Clearly the same man as the claimant signed all the claimant documents in the file.

Image 3 certain looks like it was signed by the same man.  It was signed by a man who indicated he was of Chariton County, Missouri. My conclusion is that it was signed by the same man as the one who signed the pre-emption claim. My conclusion is not based simply on a comparison of the handwriting, although that is an important reason. But there is other reasons:

  • There is only one John Lake in Chariton County, Missouri in the time period for both these documents
  • Both of these documents involve a man who lived in Chariton County, Missouri
  • The documents are from the same time period
That makes a pretty strong case for the signatures being the same person. 

Handwriting looking the same is strong evidence--but the other reasons are crucial as well. 

It never hurts to think about your conclusions and to challenge them. Sometimes your conclusion will not change...and sometimes it will.

Note: John Lake of Chariton County, Missouri, is my wife's ancestor. He was killed by Bushwackers towards the end of the Civil War, but that's another story.

I'm not certain the  Genealogy Standards address analyzing signatures and I'm not certain I conducted an exhaustive search, but I did outline my reasons. And I know that clear analysis is an important element of the  Genealogy Standards.