Signatures, no. 1.

Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.

This is the first in a series of posts featuring the signatures of men and women born before 1900, men and women who could not take even a basic education for granted. One grew to adulthood in slavery, the others were born in the two decades after Emancipation.

  • Sara Elizabeth Sherard Coley (1883-1926), 1926, from the application for letters of administration for the estate of her husband, Rufus Coley.

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  • Bettie Boykin, 1899, from a deposition in the widow’s pension application file of Malinda Hinnant.

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  • Spicey Jane Atkinson Barnes (ca. 1884-1925), 1899, from a deposition in the widow’s pension application file of Malinda Hinnant.

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  • Dennis Brooks (ca. 1867-??), 1904, from a sworn statement in the coroner’s inquest re George Williford.

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  • Mary Ann Hines Boddie Wilkins (ca. 1875-??), 1915, from the estate file of Reddin S. Wilkins.

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  • Ishmael Wilder (1836-1917), 1882, from the application for letters of administration for the estate of Spicy Adams.

 

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