Searching for War of 1812 Veterans Who Got Land Patents in the 1850s

Many War of 1812 veterans, their widows, or their heirs received military bounty land warrants through Congressional Acts of the 1850s. Those land warrants were used to acquire land in the federal domain. The warrants were surrendered in order to obtain a patent that actual transferred title in real property from the federal government to private citizens. The patents are searchable on the Bureau of Land Management website ( The patent will indicate if it was issued based upon a surrendered warrant. The names of the individual obtaining the warrant are included in the database and are searchable. It can be one effective way of searching if veterans obtained a warrant based on their military service. If the names are fairly common, searches can result in a large number of search results.

One way to reduce the number of results is to search by the specific act under which the application for bounty land based on military service was submitted. Those were the scripwarrant acts of 1850 and 1855. That’s the “authority” in the search interface.

Users are also advised to leave the geographic information blank on the search form as well. That is based upon where the patented property was located and that may have nothing to do with where the soldier of interest actually lived.

The land warrant applications are at the National Archives. The application is similar to a military pension in terms of the documentation that was required.


An Unexact Verikios Does Not Mean Verikos at FamilySearch–Apparently

Searches are always conducted more effectively when the user knows how all search parameters and options work. That knowledge allows searches to be conducted in ways that best fit the varying spellings and rendering of the name.

The search interface at FamilySearch allows user to check an exact box to search for the spelling exactly as the user entered it. If the box is left unchecked, variant spellings of the name are returned. As an example search, one was conducted in the “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994” for Peter Verikios with a place of birth in Greece. No results were obtained.

When a wildcard search was conducted for first name Peter, last name v*r*k*s, born in Greece, there was an entry in the database with the last name spelling of “Verikos.” It would have seemed that an unexact search for the last name of Verikios would have turned up the spelling of Verikos in the database. After all these two spellings are Soundex equivalent and only differ by one letter–a vowel.

Sometimes wildcards are more effective and sometimes they are not. The problem is that it would seem logical that an unexact search for Verikios would catch the spelling of Verikos.

Just a little reminder that sometimes things might not work the way we think that they do.


They Have to be Related–They have the Same Last Name!

Just because two individuals have the same last name does not mean that they are related. Researchers working on a Smith family know that two people with this common last name are not related, but what about a more unusual surname?

Well it depends on the origination of the name (and that even is not a guarantee) and jumping to conclusions makes for bad research.

One of my ancestral surnames is Habben–a somewhat unusual name. In Ostfriesland, Germany, where many of these families originate the surname is somewhat more common. However, the name is a patronym actually meaning “child of Habbe.” While patronymics was practiced, two men with the first name Habbe would have children with the last name of Habben–though there might have been no relationship.

Sweden is full of Larsons, Carlsons, etc. for exactly the same reason–patronymics.

Even surnames that are not patronymical in origin may be shared by two unrelated individuals. This is especially true with surnames such as Baker, Farmer, Lake and other names that may have been derived from occupations or nearby geographical features.

There may be cases where all individuals with the same surname are related, but let research, not your gut, be your guide. My tentative hypothesis is that all or most individuals with the last name of Trautvetter are related. However, research is not complete and just because the name is concentrated in a certain area of Germany does not mean there was one common ancestor.

Last names can be used as clues to relationships. But a last name only means it was that person’s last name, not that he (or she) had to be related to someone else.


Are Directories Hiding Deaths For You?

City directories can tell researchers several things, usually related to name, residence, occupation and proximity of neighbors. Urban researchers are usually well-served by researching all extant directories for their people of interest.

In some unusual circumstances directories can tell researchers even more. Noticing these items requires the researcher to search for the people of interest in every single directory in which they may be listed–and even in ones after their death. Sometimes the temptation is to find the ancestor in a few directories and stop because “the others won’t tell me anything I don’t already know.” That sometimes is a mistake.

This image comes from a late 19th century city directory for the city of Davenport, Iowa.

The entry for Mrs Mary Cawiezell is particularly interesting. The entry reads:

Cawiezell Mary Mrs (wid Anthony) (died Feb 12th 93)

Based upon this one line, I know that Mrs. Mary Cawiezell had been married to Anthony Cawiezell prior to his death and that Mrs. Cawiezell died on 12 February 1893. The information in this entry may not be completely accurate. Names for non-English speakers, which the Cawiezells were, can be incorrect. It is possible that the date of death may be slightly off, but the year and probably the month are correct.

To confirm Mary’s residence and determine approximately when Anthony Cawiezell died, my searches will have to continue with 1893 and work backwards. Mrs. Cawiezell is likely listed in the directory published in 1893 as it most likely contained information obtained in 1892.

Deaths can be listed in unexpected places. City directories are just one of those places.


Susannah Rucker (wife of John) of Orange and Amherst Counties, Virginia was not a Phillips

I’m not yet prepared to say what her maiden name was. I may never know her maiden name.

However, her maiden name was not Phillips.

Susannah Rucker, wife of John Rucker who died in the early 1740s in Orange County, Virginia, did not have the maiden name of Phillips. Period.
The source of this statement is purported to be Edythe Whitley who made the statement in her 1927 genealogy of the Rucker family, who according to the Rucker Family Society’s Newsletter (Volume 2, Number 1, February 1991, page 5, recanted the statement in later years. Susannah Rucker moved with her children to Amherst County, Virginia, sometime after her husband’s death in Orange County.

If anyone has any source, reference, for the maiden name of Susannah Rucker, I’d love to hear about it. However, if that source, or reference, tracks back to Whitley’s 1927 genealogy–and most of the statements that I have seen do, then that’s not going to work.

Numerous sites, databases state that Susannah was a Phillips–remember that in the land of genealogy proof, frequency of repetition is not indicative of accuracy.

Susannah [—] Rucker is my ancestor–the number of greats really doesn’t matter 😉


He’s A Murphy…But Which One?

This was posted to the group page I have for Genealogy Tip of the Day on Facebook and it generated some discussion about how the first name could be reasonably interpreted. Our discussion was somewhat hypothetical as other handwriting on the page was not viewed. This was done intentionally as many indexes are created in just this way. The researcher who fails to acknowledge how some indexes are actually created are sometimes limited in their ability to utilize those indexes effectively.

It was fairly clear to me that the intended name here was “Danl”— for Daniel. In looking at it myself, I could see how someone might think is was Saul.

Readers mentioned that it’s also possible to interpret it as “Saml” or “Darel” It’s difficult to seriously argue against Saml in this case if one has already indicated Saul is a reasonable interpretation. I would not have rendered it as “Darel,” but it’s easy to see that as well. No doubt there are other reasonable renderings of the name.

Handwriting is always best interpreted in context and when compared to other handwriting on the same page or document. However, even when other handwriting is available it’s often easy to justify more than one interpretation. And sometimes, especially when analyzing signatures on original documents, other handwriting is not available for comparison.

It’s also easy to get stuck in an original interpretation of something and to occasionally fail to realize that there may be another equally valid way to view a piece or handwriting or a piece of information.

And if this Murphy man had brothers named Saul and Samuel–then that’s a whole ‘nuther problem.


A Few OCR Thoughts Based on a Marriage Announcement

I’ve been working in digital newspaper collections lately and this newspaper clipping, from the Mendon [Illinois] Dispatch of December 1935, got me to thinking about ways that we need to search newspapers. In this case, it was the typos and errors that made several key points. This clipping was located the old fashioned way though–a manual search based upon my grandparents date of marriage and where they were living at the time of their marriage.


Grandma’s maiden name was actually Trautvetter. For some reason it is spelled “Trautretter” throughout the announcement. Soundex searches will not catch the reference and other search formulations might not either, depending upon how they are constructed.

The Headline

The last name of the groom, Neill, is spelled correctly throughout the announcement. However, there is a blob over part of the name in the headline. If the headline had been the only location where the last name of Neill appeared, searches based upon that name might not have located the reference.

Still-well or Stillwell?

There is a dash in the name of “Stillwell” in the last reference to it in the announcement. Why eludes me, but again that dash (or hyphen) might cause searches for just the name of the town to not locate the reference if only the hyphenated version has been used.


It is actually Keithsburg. Easily a typo.

Fortunately the dates and other details in the document are correct, based upon the actual record of the marriage. But it never hurts to keep some of these things in mind when searching digital versions of newspapers.

And if you have the date of an event, a manual search is still a good idea–just in case.


1870 Census Double Entry–Sort Of

It looks like a typo on the 1870 census in Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois for the family of James and Elizabeth Rampley—and it is. They did not have two sons named John–the 23 year old should have been enumerated as James. Just goes to show that the census taker can make mistakes.And keep in mind that the copy we use on microfilm is the “cleaned” up copy the census taker sent to the Bureau of the Census and one that was compiled from his field notes.


Nancy Writes Her Congressman in 1916

I never thought my family was the kind to write letters to their Congressman. I was wrong. Apparently my great-great-grandmother was just that kind of person–especially when it involved her pension.

One has to admire her gumption, she didn’t even wait to get home to Illinois to write her complaint and apparently wrote her Congressman while she was in Minnesota (or likely had someone else write the actual letter). Nancy did not have her certificate with her and, given that it was 1916, she couldn’t simply email or text some kinfolk back home to have them get the number for her. So the letter to her Congressman was sent sans certificate number. Nancy’s request for an increase was apparently based upon an act of 8 September 1916 and her age. The act needs to be read in order to determine what aspects of it applied to Nancy’s situation.

The Congressman’s letter indicated that Nancy Rampley was aged 70 on 8 July 1846. Congressman Tavenner’s statement of Nancy’s age and date of birth would be secondary information. Those details likely came from the letter Nancy sent to him. That letter is not contained in Tavenner’s correspondence to the Commissioner of Pensions. I have other references to Nancy’s date of birth and, given the secondary nature of the statement in this letter, this letter will not be cited as a source for that date of birth. That would be different if I had no other source for Nancy’s birth.

And…this letter provides evidence of Nancy making a trip to Minnesota, probably to see one of her daughters who lived there. It’s possible that mention of her trip is made in one of the local newspapers–either in Illinois or Minnesota.

Nancy was denied a pension several times, but was finally approved. This letter was obtained in the widow’s Civil War pension for Nancy based upon the service of her husband, Riley Rampley. Riley served in Company D of the 78th Illinois Infantry.


Wanting to Join My Boys

I really had no idea what to expect from the “pardon from the Illinois governor” file for William Kile. I expected a petition for early release and maybe a few letters about his behavior while incarcerated, but also ran across this letter from October of 1862. Apparently Kile wanted to join his four sons  and son-in-law who were already in the Civil War.

A search of the “Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls” at the Illinois State Archives website indicated that there were actually six men with the surname Kile in Company H of the 84th Illinois. The men who were not Kile’s sons were likely his nephews as William had several brothers who also lived in Mercer County, Illinois.

As of this posting, I’m not exactly certain who wrote this letter. Hopefully a little searching will reveal the name of the author. He apparently was a Mercer County, Illinois, resident based upon his being a friend of the “prisoners relatives.”