Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Polls and Indentures

In the UK, a person can legally change his or her name by deed poll. I knew this, but wasn't sure why it was called that until I found the UK Deed Poll Website.

A Deed is a written legal agreement that has been signed and delivered (shown to all concerned parties). Poll is an old English word used to describe a legal document that had its edges cut (polled) so they were straight. This was done to visually distinguish between a deed signed by one person (a polled deed - hence the term Deed Poll) and a deed signed by more than one person (an indenture), which had an edge indented or serrated. Interestingly, indentures were originally written twice (side by side) on one piece of parchment, which was then torn down the middle and each half given to each party. The impossibility of matching the tear was a guard against forgery.

This explains the term indentured servant. Acccording to Wikipedia:

The agreement between the master and servant was traditionally written in two copies, one for each party to the agreement, on a single sheet of paper. The paper would then be cut into two pieces, so that the copies were separated. In order to prevent forgeries and alterations of the contract after it was signed, the cut would be
made in a very irregular manner, leaving "teeth" along the cut edge. The idea was that only those two pieces could be fit exactly together, thus showing that these were the two copies of the same contract. The teeth of the cut gave rise to the term "indenture"; while the term was applied to many multiple-party documents, it became particularly associated with voluntary servitude, which could arise from an "indenture of apprenticeship".

More about indentures.


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