Monday, June 3, 2013

The importance of handwriting

Being able to identify the author of a document can be very helpful. It can be almost impossible to identify the author of a typed document, but a handwritten document is a different story.

I've shared part of the following image before. I hypothesized it might have been copied from a family bible. In 1918 my great-grandmother used the bible's record of birth dates to prove to FBI agents when my great uncle, Sam, was born. (An ex-wife claimed Sam had lied about his age to avoid being drafted, among other accusations.) 
From the FBI Report: Mrs. Van Every then presented the family Bible with record of births that had been kept by her for many years, and this record shows that on January 15, 1886 a son was born and that his name is Samuel Opham Van Every, the record of this Bible has not been interfered with since the birth of this subject was recorded therein as it is in perfect condition and shows plainly that there has been no erasures of any nature.
In some letters that my great grandfather wrote to my grandmother, he indicated the bible had been lost in the 1920s. I used its one-time existence as a possible explanation for how the 1900 census taker was told that the children Abigal and Delbert were still alive. (This is actually a better explanation if the record in the bible only included dates of birth, and not death, as the FBI report might indicate.)

I have identified the handwriting on this document, as well as a date for when it was written. The handwriting above appears to be a perfect match to the document below, which my grandfather noted in 1965 was created by my grandmother circa 1940. Therefore it couldn't have been copied directly from the bible, but probably came from a combination of family knowledge, and research.

For example, I am fairly certain that the dates for her grandfather's birth and death came from Rev. Abraham Fretz's genealogy on the Fretz Family. The Fretz genealogy is mentioned in some letters that her sister, Minnie, wrote. I am disappointed that no one in the family seemed to remember when Sarah Hartley Denyer Foster died (approx 1898 according to testimony provided to The Dawes Commission in 1900). Minnie was only 12 then, but it means no one recorded the date, or the records had been lost. Of course, in 1940, the only living individuals in that top chart were my grandmother, and her two sisters, Minnie and Evelyn.

My great grandmother, Helen Lichtman Deutsch, lived until 1958. Samuel Deutsch lived until 1938. Knowing my grandmother drew my grandfather's chart circa 1940, when at least one of his parents was still around to answer questions, makes it more likely that the names for his ancestors are accurate. Samuel and Helen were the immigrants, and any records of their parents and grandparents currently lie undiscovered in Transylvania.


Anonymous said...

Interesting blog entry. The woman scorned lies about her ex. I wonder if she got in any trouble for lying.

John said...

Actually, in her defense, according to the marriage license, my great uncle lied about his age when he married her. (She was 19, he claimed to be 28, and he was really 31.)

It appears when war time came, from her perspective, he aged 3 years, but from his perspective, it was time to be truthful.