Discovering a Signature for Joseph Gesizler

Family history is easier with the help of a research database and a tool that provides search suggestions. My database of preference is RootsMagic and the search suggestion tool is GenSmarts. Now, GenSmarts doesn’t look for hints and find possible records for me. Instead, it has a list of possible record sets that are online and off that may contain further information to pursue. I really love that the possibilities recommend things offline as I wouldn’t know these record sets exist without the help of the GenSmarts tool.

Recently, GenSmarts recommended looking for the marriage certificate of my 3rd great-grandmother Caroline Mack (b. 18 March 1838 – d. 11 Oct 1904) to her second husband Michael Billman (b 13 Oct 1832 – 1 Aug 1884). I reviewed my entry for Caroline in my RootsMagic database. In so doing, I noticed that the second marriage record has already been sourced. Yeah, me! However, the first marriage to my 3rd great-grandfather Joseph Geißler was not sourced. Thus, I decided to explore the marriage certificate once again.

I went to and selected the Search > Records links. On the search form, I typed in Caroline’s name and chose the Life Event of “Any.” In the Any Place filed, I keyed in Ohio, United States.

I received over 5,000 hits. I wanted to look specifically at marriage records in Ohio. So I added the place of Franklin County, Ohio to the “Search with a life Event” options in the left sidebar.

Caroline married Michael Billman after the death of her first husband Joseph Geißler, whose name is spelled without any consistency. When I noticed three record hints for the last name Gesley or Geissler, I knew I had the right woman with the right husband and I now had proof of their marriage and the correct dates!

There are two marriage records that have an image, one for Joseph Gesley and another for Joseph Geissler. The third suggestion is an index to the marriage record of Joseph Gesley that has an image.

“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 November 2011), Joseph Geissler and Caroline Mack, 16 Feb 1856; citing Franklin, Ohio, United States, reference vol. 2 p. 389 cn. 3; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 285,170.

The first image is for the marriage license which was issued on 16 February 1856. On this record, Joseph was required to sign his name! Happy Dance!!!!

Joseph’s signature on Marriage License

Joseph’s signature is very German and includes the beta letter known as eszett. Translate into that name into English! I can see why this record has the recorder writing Gesley (and someone indexing the Germanic signature as Geissler).  In any case, this marriage license led to the following marriage record.

“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 November 2011), Joseph Gesley and Caroline Mack, 19 Feb 1856; citing Franklin, Ohio, United States, reference v6 p263; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 285,144.

On 19 Feb 1856, Thomas O’hara, Justice of the Peace, solemnized their marriage. This record corrects that family records that said they were married on the 16th. The license was issued on the 16th and the marriage occurred on the 19th, although the 16th in the outer left column could be confusing, The testimony by Mr. Oharea says the date was the 19th.

As grateful as I am to discover these records, I was hoping the marriage documents had more information. Alas, they did not. Yet, I am so ecstatic to have a peek at my 3rd great-grandfather’s own handwriting.

My new wish is for a signature expert, like the one for celebrities on Pawn Stars, that could help me decipher hidden clues of Joseph’s origin with a signature such as his.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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