Thursday, January 5, 2012

Collecting Reeves' Signatures

As everyone who has researched the various Reeves families knows, the Reeves, Reaves, Rives and Reavis all had a affinity for the name William. Trying to definitely identify each individual can be challenging so I have begun to collect the signatures of any William Reeves that I happen upon.

After several years of watching for a document with an original signature by my ancestor, William Reeves of Wake County, North Carolina, I recently found one in the probate file for the estate of Woodson Daniel. Wake County Militia Capt. Woodson Daniel named his lifelong neighbor and friend, William Reeves, as one of the executors of his will. The probate file of Woodson's estate contains a 1798 suit filed by one of the heirs against the estate and its executors which required that depositions be taken. The three page deposition by William Reeves also bears his signature.

He signed his name, spelling it Reves as did all of his sons. Interestingly the descendants of George Reeves of Grayson County, Virginia whose DNA matches that of William Reeves of Wake County's descendants also signed their names with the Reves spelling.

William Reeves of Wake County, NC

The signature of James Reeves' son William of Guilford County who was confused with William Reeves of Wake County by the Reeves Review was found on the 1791 will of John Rhodes of Guilford County. John Rhodes named him as his son-in-law and an executor of his will.

William Reeves, son of James Reeves of Guilford County

Even when the individual makes a mark rather than signing their name, the mark can also be distinctive and help to identify the correct person. William Reeves who died in Granville County, North Carorlina in 1751 didn't use the normal X for a mark but initialed his will in a unique manner.

The signature below is that of a witness to the 1817 York County, South Carolina will of Robert Ellis. The exact William Reeves who witnessed this will is unknown since there were at least three living in York County at the time. William Reeves, Sr., his son William, Jr. and another, as yet unidentified, William Reeves whose name was normally written with the suffix Esqr. indicating that he was probably a justice of the local court.

William Reavis whose will was written in Northampton County, North Carolina in 1784 signed his name clearly making the distinction between the name variations Reeves, Reaves and Reavis.

It's obvious from this small group of signatures how unique each is, not just the way the characters were formed but the spellings of their names. As makes more and more original records available, hopefully we can add many more original signatures to the collection that will further differentiate the multitude of William Reeves, and George Reeves, and countless others.

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