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April 3, 2009

Hand Marks - Elaborate Symbols that Replace an Ancestor's Signature

Many of you know that I conduct extensive research into the Dutch who settled in New Netherland (present day New York) in the early 1600s. One of the very interesting items found about these Dutch ancestors is that they used handmarks, or signatory marks.

A handmark is a representation of a signature (an individual's name).

Handmarks range from a very simple X to a stylized letter (often the first letter of the first or last name of the individual) to very elaborate designs.

The handmarks you see in the graphic in this post are just a few from "Papers Relating to the Condition of New Netherland" dating from 1643-1647 as found in Vol. 1 of Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York

The list of men making their marks on a letter sent to is as follows. I will be adding graphics to illustrate each man's handmark on my website under the New Netherland section for those who are interested or have an ancestor listed below.

Wolphert Gerrits
Barent Dircksen
Louis Crain (possibly Theunis Cray)
Cornelis Lambertsen Cool
Cornelis Jacobsen Stille
Abraham Jacobse(n)
Claes Caerlessen (Carstersen)
Claes Montelaar
Gerrit Wolpherts
George Hans (Holmes)
Hans Hansen
Thomas Sandersen
Ambrosius Loman (Lonnan)
Jan Picces
Pieter Adriaensen
Ritchert Colfeck
Heyndrick Heyndricksen
Lawrens Pietersen
Cornelis Souleman
Cornelis Swilwan
Laurens Pietersen (a different mark from Lawrens Pietersen above)
Jan Haer
Isack de Forest
Jacob Stoffelsen
Wolfert Gerritsen (a different mark than Wolfert Gerrits above)
Goris Bastelaer
Egbert Woutersen

There were men who could write their own names and did not use a hand mark.They were Jan Snedeker, Sibert Claesen, Abram Planck, Cornelis Wiletnsen, Pieter Colet, Abraham Pietersen, Jan Jansen Damen, Heindrick Heindricksen Kype, Cornelis Volckers, Govert Loockemans, Isack de Forest, Isack Allerton, Barent Jansen, Willem Adriaensen, Thomas Hall, Claes Jansen Ruter, Wilheim Gaulders, Jan Verbauge, Cornelis Dircksen Hoochlant, Benjamin Pawley, Richard ____, Cornelis Twits (probably meant for Swit), Jan Pathaway, P.R. Gichhous, Phlipe Grave, Albert Jansen, Cornelis Willemsen, Pieter Linde, Ritchert Gebbers, Jacob Couwenhoven, Reiner Jansen and
Jan Verbrugh

Thanks to Ted Snedeker for spotting these handmarks and passing the information on.


BDM said...

Highly interesting, Lorine. Reminiscent of brand marks on cattle? small LOL

Anonymous said...

Thanks I look forward to seeing the rest of the Handmarks - I am related to Isack de Forest

Olive Tree Genealogy said...


Ancestor Handmarks Revisited

I've also added graphics of the handmarks of 26 early Dutch settlers who used these handmarks in 1648 in New Netherland. They can be viewed at