Five years ago, I gave a presentation to the biennial Church of Light convention in which I suggested that Norman Astley, who married Genevieve Stebbins in 1892 and with her was a major influence on Elbert Benjamine until her death in 1933, had been born as Thomas Henry D’Alton and then known as Thomas Henry Burgoyne from 1883 until becoming Astley and claiming that Burgoyne had died. We have found no photographs of Astley to compare with those of Burgoyne. But thanks to Ancestry.com, a North Carolina researcher made contact with Marc Demarest, publisher of the Typhon Press and IAPSOP.com, after discovering some letters from Norman Astley written in his time as a landowner in the mountains of Burke and Watauga counties. Having no expertise in forensic handwriting analysis, I am now reading a couple of textbooks to get background on the subject prior to contacting any specialists. When looking at entire letters, the general appearance of the Astley and Burgoyne handwritings seems similar, in terms of slant, size, and writing style, but this can be deceiving in that nineteenth century handwritings are often identifiable as specific styles taught by different penmanship methods. Comparing specific words is the first step I have taken, as the formation of the most common word “the” seems similar in the Astley and Burgoyne handwritings.
More complicated is the similarity of words that I found in Astley’s letters and the same or similar words in Burgoyne’s. The examples I searched for were second, accepted, received, and number. As with the examples of “the” the sepia writing is Burgoyne and the black and white is Astley; sometimes I could only find a similar word in Burgoyne. The results are below.