Signatures
 

Have you ever wondered why on some of the early documents a man will make "his (x) mark" on one document and then sign the next one? Many were literate but still made their mark and this mark could mean something more than perhaps a middle name. Example: John (H) Burnett.
My little dictionary gives the meaning of a "rune:" = "any of the characters of an alphabet used by the ancient writings; a mark having some mysterious meaning or magical powers attributed to it..."
The ancient writings are filled with "his/her mark" of various designs, shapes and sizes. In the case where a letter of the alphabet was used, such as a "H"(or some other initial), it was probably a rune of some sort used as a "mark" by those who could not write their name or who DID NOT WISH TO DO SO. It is a mistake to think that some of those who resort to a "mark" on legal documents are not literate and can not write. Some turn out to be literate persons but who sign with a mark and then seal it with a signet ring.

Sometimes the "seal" impression on a ring does not carry the initial or rune that distinguishes the one using it. Inherited signet rings are an example. If a man was heir to his father's signet ring and his father was named Henry or carried some other name beginning with an H, then he may have had his ring designed with an H. In such a case that initial served also his heir even if there was no letter H in his name. It is little things like this that make people of a different age so difficult to study. Buried in this tradition of borrowed rings is the one of borrowed names.

It was common in colonial America for the eldest son to be named after his paternal grandpa but not all did so and NOT ALL infants lived to adulthood. If we only knew the names of those infants who did not live, it would answer many questions and mysteries that plague us in determining who was who.
Names from the second and third generations back beg to be used again in the newly born. It is almost as if there were a frantic attempt to "brand" each infant into the family by name identification. Lotsa, Lotsa Burnetts in American history, branded there for all to see, and a reminder that they share a common blood with a man who once dwelt on the Rappahannock in the 17th century.. The ring is lost, but the names were still used over and over as a brand identifying new babes.
The Saxon rune for the "-th" sound was a mark that some say resembled the letter Y, hence the English word THE was still written in colonial days with the rune Y and became YE in the early texts and signboards for Ye Olde Tavern. Those people were much closer to the middle ages than we, and their habits and writing reflect that. Ye in colonial script is simply the word THE but written in runic symbols. My little dictionary, under the word rune, displays a number of early English runes.

 
 
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