I'm working on transcriptions of pardon records for two men who were incarcerated in the Joliet, Illinois, prison in the 1850s/1860s. There are signatures that are somewhat difficult to read. In an attempt to get a better read on the names, I've searched for them in the census using the parts of the name that I can read. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean I have the right person or the right name.
But when I can't read the name of the person spearheading the pardon request and I find a name "close" to that in the census enumerated as an attorney, there's a good chance it's the right person.