Author Topic: Are these signatures the same man?  (Read 1142 times)

Offline AntonyMMM

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #18 on: Friday 13 October 23 12:20 BST (UK) »
The issue of signatures is complicated - and many researchers assume that what they see on a certificate is an image of their ancestor's actual handwriting. It rarely is.

The following applies to register office weddings, or those in churches which were "registrar attended" ... (in England/Wales)

First of all it is important to use the correct terminology - the original document is the "register entry", there is no original certificate. All certificates are required to be a copy of the information on that register entry. They do not have to be made from an image of the register, and in most cases won't be.

As a registrar at the ceremony I would get the couple, and their witnesses, to sign the register and then I would copy out the information onto a number of certificates (usually 2 or 3) and I would reproduce all the signatures myself, in the same form as they were signed in the register, but not by trying to actually copy their handwriting.

Historically, the quarterly return sent to GRO would follow the same process - with the signatures copied out by a registrar. So (with very few exceptions) GRO can't ever produce certificates that have the image of the actual signatures of any of the parties involved on them.

Nowadays the information is all transferred electronically, so GRO don't even see a copy of a signature, just the typed information from the computer record.

When ordering a certificate from the local registration office, who hold the actual register with the signatures in it, you can ask them to do it by imaging the actual register but they don't have to do it for you. The law requires them to produce a certificate that is an accurate copy of the information the register holds, not an image of the page itself.

The default for most offices is to copy the information by hand onto a blank certificate - it is the quickest and easiest way. The alternative involves laying the register flat on a photocopier (and some are too fragile for that) and then copying the page, cropping it to the entry you need, resizing it, and then copying it again onto a certificate blank - it takes much longer and whilst some offices may do it, if asked nicely, many will refuse.

In addition - many offices also don't deal with their own phone enquiries and you will get routed through the local authority call centre where operators have to deal with everything from council tax to rubbish collection and have little or no knowledge of how registration works - they will usually try and refer you to GRO, or might just complete an on-line order form for you ( which you could have done yourself) which then gets forwarded to the local office.

If you really need to see the signature and are having no luck - one option is to apply by letter addressed to the Supt Registrar of the district concerned - that sometimes works.

In a similar case, one district ( Wandsworth I think it was) still refused to copy the register for me, and supplied a handwritten certificate but then emailed a digital photo of the relevant signature  - so sometimes they can be helpful.

Church marriage registers are done in duplicate - and the way vicars get the parties to sign one, or both, and sometimes the certificates too varies widely.








Offline GillianF

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #19 on: Friday 13 October 23 13:31 BST (UK) »
Well, that is interesting and helpful - thank you.  Would you recommend I send a letter to the Supt Registrar?  I only really need a scan, photo or similar of Thomas Fleming's signature to identify/verify his signature on another document.  I would presume someone could do this and email it to me in a few minutes without too much problem.  Modern technology is wonderful!

The latest email from Lambeth says:

"Postal address is:
Lambeth Registrars
PO Box 764
WINCHESTER
SO23 5EA

Our site location is:

London Borough of Lambeth
Lambeth Town Hall
1 Brixton Hill
London
SW2 1RW"

so not sure where the original document/register I need would be held. Any advice please!


Offline AntonyMMM

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #20 on: Friday 13 October 23 13:48 BST (UK) »
They are very unlikely to send an image or scan of the signature unless you actually order a certificate from them.

What I used to do was send a letter to the SR, enclosing a cheque for the certificate fee, usually I would gently remind them of their legal obligation to supply a certificate from any register they hold and then to stress why it was so important for the actual signature to be seen. I would then go on to suggest that if that it isn't possible to do during the certificate production, then could they possibly supply an image of the signature separately.

It might work, it might not.

Why their postal address appears to be in Hampshire, I have no idea - some sort of outsourced mail handling company I suspect. Personally I would send the letter direct to Lambeth Town Hall, addressed to the SR.

I have found a phone number direct to the SR in Lambeth, it is from a list in 2015 so may or may not still be current - 0207 926 9447

Offline arthurk

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #21 on: Friday 13 October 23 13:57 BST (UK) »
Thank you, Antony, for your input on this. Just responding to this point:

Quote
The GRO can't produce a marriage certificate with original signatures because they don't have them. However, Lambeth Register Office say they can.

But Lambeth RO are insisting that the obvious copy is an image of the original register !

I think, Shaun, you may have misunderstood what Lambeth Register Office have said - although to be fair, it is rather ambiguous. I assume you're referring to this, which Gillian quoted:

An Update:

...I got a reply today:

"The certificate provided is a copy of the original entry made, we do not replicate customers signatures, what is on the marriage certificate is the signature that was captured on the day by all parties involved."

I think that when they say "the certificate provided" they're not referring to the one that Gillian already has, which as far as we know, they haven't even seen, but describing their normal procedure and using that phrase as shorthand for "the certificate that would be provided by us".
Researching among others:
Bartle, Bilton, Bingley, Campbell, Craven, Emmott, Harcourt, Hirst, Kellet(t), Kennedy,
Meaburn, Mennile/Meynell, Metcalf(e), Palliser, Robinson, Rutter, Shipley, Stow, Wilkinson

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Offline GillianF

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #22 on: Friday 13 October 23 14:16 BST (UK) »
Anthony,

Thank you, again, for a very helpful reply and suggested wording etc.  I will compose something suitable - polite but insistent!  I believe the certificate fees are still £11 but will check this on line.

On the other point raised about the certificate I have described as a 'Certified Copy' and clearly written in the same hand and with four signatures in the same hand I did send this to them making the point that it was clearly not the original with clearly different sets of handwriting and signatures.

Thanks everyone and I'll let you know how I get on .................

Offline dobfarm

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #23 on: Sunday 15 October 23 02:41 BST (UK) »
Copies of original BMD documents from register office book entries are likely hand written by R O staff also earlier GRO hand written parish church register book entry copies that look like original church register book entry copies from an earlier time as did at the time  BT copies.

 LSD's micro film copies of church register book entries though!! ( except BT's) - from country archive doc's are likely actual real copies of entries on micro film  of church registers ( real actual signature copies) or other  document entries.

I not sure if Register offices do an actual copy of their real BMD book entries at a much superior price.  ???
Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
Any transcription of information does not identify or prove anything.
Intended as a Guide only in ancestry research.-It is up to the reader as to any Judgment of assessments of information given! to check from original sources.

In my opinion the marriage residence is not always the place of birth. Never forget Workhouse and overseers accounts records of birth

Offline GillianF

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #24 on: Monday 16 October 23 11:05 BST (UK) »
An Update:

Before badgering Lambeth and, potentially, spending more money I thought I would take another look at this.  If you can bear it I want to share some background.

Bertha Springall married Thomas James Fleming in 1910.  Thomas was originally Thomas James Hitchcock but when his father died and his mother remarried he became known, as a young boy, as Thomas Fleming.  In March 1911 Bertha and Thomas had a son - James.  Bertha and baby James are in the 1911 census in Clapham Maternity Hospital.  James is listed there as Thomas James Edgar Fleming.  Bertha's husband, Thomas, is listed in the census as a shopkeeper general working at home which was 154 Ethelred Street in  Stockwell, London.  When Thomas registered James' birth (on 8th May 1911) he says he is an engine fitter of 154 200 Ethelred Street.  Thomas gave his home address at 154 Ethelred Street, Kennington Road in Stockwell, London.  When Thomas Fleming registered the birth he gave his son's name as James William Hitchcock Fleming.  Perhaps, the delay registering the birth was caused by a difficulty agreeing on the exact names for young James.  The ‘loss’ of Edgar and the inclusion of ‘Hitchcock’ as a middle name was clearly very significant.  Thomas Fleming was reviving his own birth surname for his son.

In 1921 Bertha is living with a single man with the surname of Hawkins who regularly switched his two forenames around (and they were actually switched between his birth certificate and baptism) and they went on to have a son in 1923 who was registered as a Fleming by Mr. Hawkins calling himself Mr. Fleming although he slipped 'Hawkins' in as a middle name in much the same way as 'Hitchcock' was slipped in for the earlier child (James) by his father (Thomas).

In the 1921 census James (11 years old) is not with Bertha and Mr. Hawkins but does appear in the household of Thomas James Fleming with a 'wife' called Nellie and another son named Thomas Fleming who is 7 years old.  James is listed with Thomas and Nellie and young Thomas as James W. Fleming and his age and birth place look right although the 'F' of his surname is written quite differently from the 'F' of the other surnames but the same as in the signature.  So, a different hand wrote James into the census?  The other anomaly is the senior Thomas Fleming's age indicating a birth year of 1880 when he was, in fact, born in 1886 - correct on the 1911 census.

So, is the absence of James W. Fleming with his mother but in the household of Thomas James Fleming confirmation that this 1921 census entry is correct for my man?  I am persuaded this is the case but am I persuading myself because I want it to be so?

Offline AntonyMMM

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #25 on: Monday 16 October 23 11:25 BST (UK) »
Be careful of putting too much weight on a child being "registered as" or under, a particular surname. That didn't happen (in England/Wales) until 1969.

Before that birth register entries don't show ANY surname for the child - the entry is indexed under the surname of one (or sometimes both) of the parents who are named on the entry, depending on their marital status.

Offline GillianF

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Re: Are these signatures the same man?
« Reply #26 on: Monday 16 October 23 14:12 BST (UK) »
I take your point but not sure, exactly, how to interpret it.

James William Hitchcock Fleming was definitely known by that name.  He used it for his 1938 marriage and for the 1939 Registration.

I have found another James W. Fleming born in Q4 1910 in Fulham who appears in the 1911 census with his parents who were James and Mabel Fleming and a sister named Mabel.

I don't think I can pursue Thomas James Fleming and Nellie Fleming (with sons James W. and Thomas) in the 1921 census as if the Thomas is 'mine' he did not marry Nellie.  Neither he nor Bertha divorced so could not marry their new partners but just pretended - in their own ways.

Thomas James Fleming appears in the 1939 Registration as married and living with a widowed Mary Herbert.  Thomas' birth year is one year out at 1885.  I have his death in 1961 and probate to his son - James William Hitchcock Fleming.