Signatures – a sign of literacy.
Having become accustomed to seeing ‘X her mark or X his mark’ on marriage certificates I was surprised that to note that all, but one, of my director male Pye ancestors back to the 17th century could at the very least sign their names.
My great grandfather, Joseph Pye (1848-1919), apparently received some schooling (for how long has not yet been established), as he was able to make a written application to apply for land. Joseph was elected as a Councillor on the Minahamite Shire for one term. His obituary stated that Joseph was “an excellent conversationalist and could relate the history” of the district.
Joseph Pye’s father, Thomas Pye (1797-1880) signed the marriage certificate to his first wife as “Thomas Pey”; the death certificate of his daughter as “Thomas Pye” and a land sale document as “Thomas Pye”. The spelling of his surname as “Pey” is interesting as his uncle George Pye and aunt Alice Pye signed their surname as “Pey” on their marriage certificates also. The majority of George’s children’s baptisms were also listed under Pey. I had initially thought that it was just a peculiarity of the parish Curate until I looked at the respective marriage certificates which showed that the Curate had written the surname as “Pye” but George, Alice and Thomas all signed their surname as “Pey”. Eventually all the descendants signed as “Pye”.
Thomas Pye’s father, Joseph Pye (1776-1830) did not sign his name, but made an X on his marriage certificate – suggesting he did not learn to write as had his younger siblings.
Joseph’s father, Thomas Pye (1722-1793), though he ended his life as a pauper, was the son of a yeoman and could therefore write. He signed his Examination Certificate “Thomas Poy”. This may be where the spelling of “Pey” evolved from.
Thomas Pye’s father, Joseph Pye (1679-1758) signed an Indenture with his father Thomas Pye (1646-1728). They were both listed as Yeoman. Thomas Pye signed other documents which stated he was initially a Tailor before being recorded as a Yeoman. Thomas’s father was John Pye (1611-1681) who signed his Will. I have no signed documents for any of the earlier ancestors but John’s cousins once removed were scriveners Humfrey and Robert Pye.
The ability to sign a document does not equate to literacy, but it does suggest some “imperfect” education and it was an interesting project to discover that eight generations of my direct males ancestors had this skill.