Re: Help with signatures - Steven J. Coker
Subject: Re: Help with signatures
From: Steven J. Coker
Date: May 29, 1999

James Bohler wrote:
> I was told at the first courthouse that I was researching in, by the Probate Judge
> that the LS after the signature meant legal signature.  He said that the person
> had signed his on name and this was not found after the ones where the person had
> made his mark and someone else had written the signature for him/her.

An abbreviation or acronym can mean whatever the person writing it wants it to
mean.  Webster gives the following commonly recognized meanings for the
abbreviation l.s. or the acronynm LS.

left side, letter signed, library science, locus sigilli, and long shot.

I'm sure that we could think up many more and any writer could give it any
meaning they choose.  When in doubt, I suggest trying to find out the background
of the writer.  If he had a formal or classical education, then it is most
likely he studied Latin.  If he was trained in the law and in Latin, then it is
most likely that he used the abbreviation LS to represent locus sigilli meaning
place of the seal.  That was a common usage in legal documents.

In the context of legal documents, especially from the 1700's, I would doubt
that "legal signature" would be the meaning.  I doubt it, but maybe that one
scribe used that uncommon meaning for those particular records.  I rather
suspect that the Probate Judge who told you that was wrong or didn't know his

It would seem reasonable that persons who left marks rather than signing would
also be less likely to leave a wax seal impression.  Persons who possessed seals
would be more likely to come from a higher social status and would thus be more
likely to be able to read and write.  So, I would expect it to be more likely
that LS would be shown next to names that were signed.  Similarly, I would
expect it to be more likely that there would not be an LS by persons leaving
their mark.

Often the LS is shown on transcribed documents surrounded by a spiral-like
circle.  The circle also represents the place of the seal.


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