Evaluating Signatures

Several years ago I was helping someone with research on one of their ancestors.  He was was looking for an ancestor that had a fairly common name in a big city.  It was difficult to track which guy was “the guy” due to similar names, ages, spouse names and inconsistent birth/marriage dates.

At the time, one of the things we were doing was looking at signatures on different documents and comparing them to try and find the correct ancestor.  We had a few that were vaguely similar but enough differences to assume they weren’t the correct person. 

I am no expert in handwriting analysis and I understand that how someone signs their name can change over time but I was pretty confident at the time that we could rule certain samples out.

But a co-worker said something to me today that has me rethinking our analysis back then.
I had to update some forms and my co-worker had copies of the forms I signed five years ago.  I was also required to provide my drivers license (which I renewed and signed two years ago).
After I signed the forms and handed over my license the co-worker said, “are you sure these old signatures are yours?”.  Of course I was sure…I signed them.  Then it hit me.

Last June I was hiking, slipped on a rock in a stream, fell and broke the middle finger on my right hand.  The x-rays revealed a benign tumor in that finger which required surgery once the break healed.  I spent all of June, July and August with a splint that immobilized the last 3 fingers of my right hand.  Then came 4 months of therapy to try and restore the range of motion of my fingers (which I still do not have).  I still cannot make a fist or hold a pen the way I did before the fall.  Therefore, I am not able to sign my name the way I did before, I am not sure I ever will.

In 100 years when someone is researching me, if they find documents with my signature, and they compare them, I am sure it will be confused. 

By the way, in the times since the original signature evaluation of my friend’s ancestor, he has been able to find additional information that allowed him to find the right guy.  One of the signatures we had ruled out did belong to him…three of them did not.