Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sign Here Please!

A good family historian is possessed of a curious nature. We want answers to many questions. What did our ancestors look like, sound like, how did they live? More than "just the facts" we want to know the whole story, as much as we can possibly gather.

Possessing that curiosity, I've begun collecting my ancestors' autographs or in some cases their mark. In writing my family history I have taken those signatures and placed them together on a page identifying the signer and their place in my family tree.

The signatures displayed here are of the John and Sarah Graham Campbell family. John and Sarah are my Great Great Grandparents. When you see the signature of my Great Grandfather Isaac Reed Campbell, try to reconcile this neat precise handwriting with the man I wrote about in The Tale Is Here To Tell.

I have listed where I obtained the signature and the date the signature was made, as well as, the date of birth and death for the signer.

My family has enjoyed this addition, this small detail, this curiosity to our written family history. I hope you enjoy it.

Select the photograph to view a larger version of the page from my family history.

How Did You Do That?

The signatures were contained in probate documents that had been copied from microfilm. I scanned just the signature from each copy into Photoshop CS2 (what I did would be the same for Elements). I then opened levels (found under Image - Adjustment - Levels). I moved the input slider until I got the desired level of white. I then moved the input slider to darken the signature. (White level is on the right, dark is on the left.)

Any spots or marks I removed with the clone tool. I saved each signature as a JPEG file.

Note: I also kept each signature at the same width and height, making it easy to drop and center in the document.

Then using Word for the Mac I created the document and dropped the signatures into place. Really very easy to do. Thanks for asking.



Blogger Lee said...

What a great idea! I love it!!! Could I bother you to explain to us less tech-savvy readers, how did you get the signatures from the original document to the new image, especially so cleanly?

February 25, 2008 at 3:44 AM  
Blogger TheGeneticGenealogist said...

What a brilliant idea! I'm always excited to find an ancestor's signature. I loved the way you presented the signatures as well, in a visually pleasing way with source information. Thanks for passing along the idea!

February 25, 2008 at 5:04 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

I think this is a wonderful idea. A very attractive way to display signatures.

February 25, 2008 at 5:30 AM  
Blogger Thomas MacEntee said...

Very neat.

Question: what did you use to compose the document? Microsoft Word or a photo software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements?

February 25, 2008 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Glad you all liked the idea!

I have added a "How To" to the post.


February 25, 2008 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger Chery Kinnick said...

Very helpful, thanks! I've tried collecting signatures before, but couldn't get them to come out well. I'm going to try this method now.

February 25, 2008 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...

Thanks for a super suggestion and handy helpful hints on how to produce something similar. Your autograph page is wonderful and will compliment your family research by adding a "human element" to the lives of those mentioned.

February 25, 2008 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger TheGeneticGenealogist said...

fM - beautiful work! I know that I personally get excited every time I find an ancestor's signature, but that excitement can elude non-genealogists. Using the method of display that you've shared, I think this is a great way to get those non-genealogists interested.

February 25, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Exactly, it is the human element.

I sent the page to my brother (the one who rolls his eyes when I talk about genealogy - feigns any interest - and tells me he doesn't understand the attraction), and I asked him to tell me which handwriting was most like his own.

Got him - got his interest!


February 25, 2008 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

This is a lovely idea... why didn't I think of that? (smile)
And thank you so much for including the process... very helpful indeed.
Sue Edminster

February 25, 2008 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Donna said...


Great post. I am also an ancestor autograph collector. I'm glad I'm not the only one! Mine have come from social security applications, naturalizations, and marriage licenses.

What's Past is Prologue

February 25, 2008 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Good to see another Washingtonian and so glad you like the idea.


There's a gene for this. I call it the collecting gene, my husband calls it the hoarding gene. Oh, well.

What's Past is Prologue is a lovely site!


February 25, 2008 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Donna Mac said...

What a fabulous idea! I have an autograph book I received nearly 50 years ago when I was about eight.
Within it's pages, I collected the signatures of my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, etc. My intention was to incorporate them in my family history and now I have a wonderful way to do that.

February 25, 2008 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


You are so fortunate, I wish I had an autograph book like yours instead of having to search for a signature.

My Great Grandfather Salter was an autograph collector. His autographs are now at the Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall.

It's in the genes, just ask Dr. DNA.


February 26, 2008 at 8:07 AM  
Blogger TK said...

Wow, nice work, fM, on both the signatures (very attractive presentation!) and the tutorial.

BTW, happy blogiversary!

March 1, 2008 at 7:00 PM  

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