A really interesting collection to have with your family history are the signatures of your ancestors. Not all of your relatives will have available signatures mostly they did not know how to read or write. Those are the ones who simply had to sign their name with an ‘X’, known as making their mark, were then witnessed by someone who did sign their name.
Now there can easily be a large number of relatives, including aunts, uncles and cousins, who will also have a signature available to add to your family assortment. The question arises of where to find the signatures?
Always start with what you already have gathered for your family history; any photos, documents, letters, journals, deeds, marriage or divorce certificates, purchase receipts, etc. After you have located some signatures, it is best to scan the handwritten signature. If not scanning, then a photo copy of it will do. Place information such as the date of that signature and what document or paper it was on. Signatures can change over time, so that is why an date is needed. If the name is difficult to make out or read, do write out clearly the full name. Also the way an ancestor spelled their name could be based on how they thought it sounded. Others preferred to change the spelling over the years.
Additional locations for signatures would be on any estate papers, even if it was for another person’s estate. Your relative may have been a witness to such a document, so check other relatives’ documents. If by chance some old bank checks were kept, there is a signature. Contact or visit the local county courthouse of where the ancestor lived and there will be voter’s registration, deeds, business licenses, property taxes, a variety of official documents requiring signatures.
For males born between 1872 and 1900 and living in the United States in 1917 to 1918, citizens and non-citizens, had to register with the draft board in their community. That equals about 24 million men and everyone had to register, including those serving time in prisons. Besides this record providing some interesting personal information (occupation, birth, martial status, physical description) they also had to sign the form. The World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards are available from the fee-based Ancestry.com or from the National Archives - Military Records. You can get a copy to have a signature for your collection.
If by chance your ancestor was an official with the court system (such as a justice of the peace) or marshal, their signatures will appear on numerous records of that town or county. Perhaps they worked as a census taker, they would have to sign the census to verify the information they collected.
Immigration and naturalization forms and documents, especially later ones of the 1920s forward, will have the person’s signature. Passport applications have signatures on them. Ancestry.com has images of passports covering 1795 to 1925.
After collecting several signatures, it is just like anyone collecting autographs, you will want to display them. Place in an album or framed for display, they can make an interesting presentation.