Saturday, March 10, 2012

Laying down your mark

I was surprised to find I've never written about Elijah Duncan before. He is my wife's ggg grandfather from her Lawrence family. When he died on December 14, 1840 in DeKalb County Tennessee at age 83 he was one of the oldest living Revolutionary War veterans in the State.

Being a Revolutionary War veteran he received several land grants in North Carolina in payment for his service. As many in his generation, he sold them and moved west. In reading the transcript of one of these transactions it talked of his making his mark, by writing the letter A on it's side. This seemed strange since neither of his names started with the letter A.

The note said this was the sign he may have been Quaker because it was a common practice of their faith. "The custom of laying down your mark when selling property was a practice utilized by many Quakers."

I had never heard of this and I'm not sure if my Philadelphia Editor daughter has either. If you Google the term, the only hits you receive are to a song called "To Remember" by Josh Kelley.

I decided to check with some Quaker experts and see what they had to say about it. I've asked if this was in fact the way Quakers signed deeds and why the letter A?

So far I've contacted editors & Ouaker experts at Quakerpedia, The Religious Society of Friends, The Quaker Information Center, Haverford College (the oldest Quaker college in the US) and my son in law who is finishing up a PhD in Early American History. Let's see which one comes up with the answer.

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