Select Page

Travel obligations and internet issues are going to be interfering with daily posts for at least some of the next 10 days to two weeks. So nobody will go into withdrawal, however, The Legal Genealogist offers…

The term of the day:


test.paperJust the sight of that phrase sends chills up and down the spines of every person who has ever sat for an examination of any kind where serious consequences could result. An admission test for a college. A licensing exam.

Fear not.

A test-paper in legal parlance doesn’t have anything to do with students or teachers.

It is, instead, a term you’ll come across mostly in court cases tried in Pennsylvania. And there, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, it’s a “paper or instrument shown to a jury as evidence.”1

Well, yeah, but that’s not the whole story.

Generally, when folks wanted to prove that a signature on a piece of paper was, say, John Smith’s, they could do it by bringing in a witness who could say he saw John Smith sign that paper, or they could bring in a witness who could say he was familiar with John Smith’s handwriting, or they could bring in another paper that they could prove had been signed by John Smith and the jury would look at the two and compare them.

That first, authenticated paper would typically be called a test paper in Pennsylvania’s courts. For example, in Fullam v. Rose, an 1897 case, an executor was suing to collect on what he said was an IOU due to the estate, but he needed to prove that a particular piece of paper had been written by one man. So he brought in a check that he said had been signed by that man. That check was offered into evidence as the test-paper: the paper to which the jury could compare the IOU handwriting.2


  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1168, “test-paper.”
  2. Fullam v. Rose, 181 Pa. 138 (1897); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 13 Oct 2013).
Print Friendly