Last week, I shared the bill of sale recorded by John Poteet in Baltimore County, Maryland in 1745. Here it is, once again:
Liber TB no. D, Folios 296-297
This digitized image is clearly from a transcribed volume, as the cursive is most definitely not of 18th century style.
I tend to follow a “no stone unturned” policy when it comes to solving mysteries and the fact that John is identified not once, but three different times in this document as John Poteet Itallian had me shaking my head in amazement.
I decided to go right to the source and contacted the Maryland State Archives. A supervisor returned my phone call and we talked about the liber, which he said is a transcription done many, many years ago (probably early 19th century) because the original book was very fragile even back then.
HOWEVER, the Archives does have the original book and the supervisor went to view the pages himself.
I fully expected to be told something along the lines of the page being faded and/or water damaged, difficult to read handwriting, etc. That would certainly explain how the unlikely word ITALLAIN was appended to John Poteet’s name in the heading on the top left side of the page, to his name in the opening sentence of the bill of sale and to his signature at the end, even though John was unable to write and simply signed as (His IP Mark).
Jno. (his IP mark) Itallian (Seal)
What was the outcome of this new viewing of the document? Not only was the supervisor astounded, but several archivist colleagues were also surprised, saying they had never seen anything like it.
The original page is clean, legible and, in fact, easy to read. No photo was taken because of the overall condition of this 1745 volume.
However, ITALLIAN is easily read and no mistake in transcription was made by the county clerk who recopied the volume.
As the Poteets were reportedly of French Huguenot descent, John Poteet must be rolling in his grave, knowing that some descendants today believe he is of Italian descent, as most Italians back then were Catholic and Catholics were the persecutors of the Huguenots.
I, myself, have no explanation either as to why that word was added to his name. However, I think it is unlikely that he was Italian.
This is just a theory on my part, but county clerks normally copied deeds to be recorded word for word when they were presented to the courthouse.
What if the original deed was in poor handwriting and the county clerk misread the word after John Poteet’s name? What if it actually said:
which was a common term assigned to men of a certain economic standing at the time.
The shape of that word is very similar to:
It seems to me that this might be a much more plausible explanation for that word than adding someone’s ethnicity to his signature.
Readers, what do you think?