She Held the Note Not for Clark but for Tjark

I was only looking at the estate of Anna E. Trautvetter to see if there was anything “new” in it that I had overlooked. Anna was the wife of my uncle George Trautvetter and pre-deceased him in Hancock County, Illinois, in the 1920s. The only thing I hoped to garner from the records were an address for one of her children. There was no new address for her children.

Anna’s husband survived her and I was surprised that she even had an estate settlement. No real estate or chattel property appeared in the inventory of her estate. She had no will. Her husband was appointed administrator of her estate.

Then I saw why there was an estate settlement.

There was $5400 in mortgages and government bonds that appeared in an inventory filed on 23 September 1920. Anna had money in her own name and it needed to go through probate. That answered the question of why there was an estate settlement.

Two individuals mortgaged property to secure loans from Anna. One’s name appeared to be a Clark Johnson. While I have Johnson relatives, Johnson is a common name and I did not give it too much thought. My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Johnson (actually Janssen), but her family lived south of the Hancock County seat of Carthage-generally north and east of Basco.

In reading through the rest of the probate papers in hopes of locating something related to Anna’s children, I found a typed court order that listed the mortgages held by Anna at her death.

Now I knew who “Clark” Johnson was. It was actually Tjark Johnson.

Tjark was actually Tjark Janssen (1865-1945) whose brother was my great-great-grandfather Jans Jurgens Janssen (1856-1929). Both men were born in Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany, and were immigrants to Hancock County, Illinois, where they died.

I’m not really certain the Trautvetters and the Janssens had any other connection besides the loan. They were not near neighbors. They were not from the same area of Germany. They did not attend the same church. They did not live in the same town. It was not just Janssen to whom Anna had loaned money. There was another loan to a John A. Campbell that was secured by property in Brown County, Illinois. That’s a greater distance from Warsaw than where Janssen was living.

I’m wondering how the Trautvetters became acquainted with the two men they loaned money. It looks like it was more an investment on her part instead of putting money in the bank.

This was also a reminder to me to not jump to conclusions in trying to read something. I almost misread Johnson’s first name as Clark.

Note: Tjark Janssen was my maternal grandfather’s great uncle. Anna E. Trautvetter was my paternal grandmother’s aunt (by marriage). 


Record Pitfalls: Wills

This will be the first in a series of relatively short posts on pitfalls and things to watch for in specific types of records. Remember that any record can contain an error anywhere due to oversight, human error, or individuals who give “creative answers.”  These comments are suggestive–not exhaustive.

Ancestral wills, while a valuable source, may omit children to whom the testator has already given an inheritance or children with whom the testator has had a “falling out.” If the clerk is unfamiliar with the family, legatees and devisees may be listed by the name which was familiar to the testator–not necessarily the name the person used at that point in their life.

A testator may appoint a guardian to oversee property given to grandchildren (or to others) even when both parents of that grandchild are alive.

A testator may mention “my now” spouse. This does not necessarily indicate the testator was married more than once. It is usually a phrase used to make clear to whom the property is to be given if that “now spouse” dies and the testator remarries. A married man with children may indicate that “my farm is to go to my now wife and then to her children at her death.” That way if the “now wife” dies and the widow (the testator) remarries, the will’s intent is still clear and does not need to be immediately changed.




Dear Grandma–I Hope You Can See Us

Unidentified family photograph on reverse of postcard (addressed, but not mailed) to Mrs. C. L. Johnston, Warsaw, Illinois.. Children identified as: Glenn 19, Donald 12, Allen 5– item 152784807103, 22 November 2017.

These people are a mystery other than the fact the children’s grandmother apparently lived for a time in Warsaw, Illinois.

I don’t know who they are but their images appear on the reverse of an undated and unmailed postcard addressed to Mrs. C. L. Johnston, Warsaw, Illinois. The reverse of the card includes the a short note in very legible handwriting:

Dear Grandma, I wonder if you will know any of these. I hope you can see them. Glenn 19, Donald 12, Allen 5.

That’s it. I rescued the item today on Ebay. They are probably not relatives of mine. For some reason I decided to save it and hopefully find out who the individuals are in the picture.

There is no date on the card and I’m hoping to get better pictures once it arrives.

A few quick thoughts about searching for these people:

  • Mrs. C. L. Johnston may have lived in Warsaw a short time.
  • Since initials are used it is difficult to say if Grandma’s husband is dead or alive.
  • My searches need to start in the Warsaw area for “Mrs. C. L. Johnston.”

Stay tuned.

That Chance We Share No DNA

Descendant D is the other 4th great-grandchild of Erasmus. Clicking on the image will explain this chart which also discusses the other three descendants shown on the chart.

[note: this post has been corrected on 22 November 2017]

DNA analysis is often about the numbers.

When I reviewed my DNA matches one of the first surprises I made was another descendant of Erasmus and Anna Catharina (Groß) Trautvetter. These are not a set of recent ancestors. Erasmus and Anna Catharina were married in 1791 Wohlmuthausen, Thuringen, Germany. That’s where he died in 1841 and where she died in 1823. They are my 4th great-grandparents.

They are also the 4th great-grandparents my Trautvetter DNA match on on AncestryDNA We descend from two different children of the couple–I from Johann George born in 1798 in Dorf Allendorf and he from Ernestine born there in 1804. We are 5th cousins.

“Cousin Statistics” on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki  helped me to see how likely this DNA match was. The Wiki contains probabilities for genetic connections based upon a study by Kevin P Donnelly, Statistical Laboratory, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England. (Source: Theoretical Population Biology 1983: 23, 34-63).

  • The probability that 5th cousins have no detectable DNA relationship is 69.8%. It would not have been unusual for the two of us to share no DNA relationship.
  • There is a .56% chance that I have no DNA relationship to any individual 4th great-grandparent. That’s a good chance. The chance that I have no DNA relationship to a specific ancestor increases as the number of generations increases.

The probabilities do not mean that I’m not related to these distant relatives. It simply means that there’s been so many generational passings of the DNA from parent to child that the DNA shared becomes limited and smaller as the lineage is traced further and further back. It also makes it less likely that I share DNA with distant cousins.

That explains why a colleague and I share no DNA even though we are both descendants of 17th century residents of Virginia. The connection is likely back at least as far as twelve generations from me–a set of my 9th great-grandparents or 10th great-grandparents. Based on that (and assuming my colleague is the same generation removed from the common ancestor–which may not be true), there’s more than a 94.4% chance that we don’t share any DNA. And that’s even if we share a set of ancestors.





A Grave Citation Mistake

I believe in citation of sources.

But there’s a problem with the citation that is currently being auto-generated by Find A Grave. It’s not in the format, the syntax, or the grammar.

It’s in what is “cited.”

The cemetery is being cited in the auto-generated Find A Grave citation as having the “original” (after the Memorial number in the illustration shown). Most Find A Grave memorials contain information that is not at the cemetery and is not a part of the cemetery’s records. In the memorial referenced in the illustration (146179129), the only thing on the memorial page that is actually either in the cemetery or a part of the cemetery’s records is the tombstone. I’ve been to the cemetery cited in this illustration numerous times. The picture of John is not in the cemetery. The relationships stated on the memorial page are not stated anywhere in the cemetery (John is buried next to his parents, but his siblings are buried several rows east of him and his parents–there are no proximity clues and there are no footstones suggesting relationships as are sometimes found). Other memorials include biographical information on the deceased–most of the time that is not in the cemetery either.

The cemetery should not be cited in the citation as the “citing” portion of the citation. There are times to use that format in a citation (usually for sites that have digitized Family History Library or National Archives microfilm where the original microfilm publication is cited in this fashion) .

This is not one of those times–particularly since Find A Grave memorials generally contain information not on the tombstone or in the cemetery’s records. Including the name of the cemetery in the Find A Grave citation is a good idea, just not in this way. “Burial listing” or some similar phrase may be a better approach.

Creating a citation to the memorial facilitates users citing Find A Grave. That’s a good thing. But that citation should not suggest that the cemetery is where all the information in the memorial was obtained. It wasn’t.


Getting at the First Page of Thomas Rampley’s Probate

I agreed to help a cousin with her Daughter’s of the American Revolutionary War application for our common ancestor, James Rampley. James is a qualifying ancestor based upon his patriotic service during the American Revolution. Not bad for a man who was sent to the United States as a convict from County Suffolk, England, in the 1760s. Establishing James’ qualification is not the problem. Others have already established his service.

Like me, my cousin descends from James’ son Thomas Johnson Rampley. Thomas left his native Harford County, Maryland, for the wilds of Ohio in 1817. That’s likely where he died in 1823 leaving his wife Christianna with a family of children all under the age of twenty.

The problem was that we needed to show that Thomas was deceased for the DAR application–or at least find a document indicating he was deceased. That’s where probate records from Coshocton County, Ohio, came in handy. The probate records for Coshocton County are online at FamilySearch and at Because has an index to the individuals whose estates are being settled, I decided to use it to find the first petition involving Thomas’ estate. That’s all I needed to establish his “dead by” date. I thought it would be faster.

Several entries appear for the last name of Rampley in‘s “Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998.”As soon as I saw the entries, I was reminded of why I am not really happy about how displays the results for these records.

  • There’s no way to mark the ones I have already viewed.
  • Not all entries have a date (that’s most likely because they indexed the names that appear on the index pages of probate record books).
  • There’s no way to sort the results.
  • I don’t have any idea what type of probate journal or case file the records are from until I look at them.
  • Not every entry gets indexed.

The navigation of the results is probably the largest frustration for me. I understand the limitations of indexes and know that it’s just something I have to work around.

In reviewing the probate and will book entries for Thomas that were indexed, the initial petition to begin adminstration on his estate could not be located. I knew it was there since I had a paper copy of it in my files and the initial petition to begin the administration is one of those documents that “should” almost always be around (if the records are extant).

One of the entries for Thomas was not to an actual record in the book related to his estate but was to the page in the book’s own index (created by the clerk). In reviewing those page entries, I realized the first reference to Thomas likely was to the initial petition to adminstrate his estate.

On pages 376 and 377 of that record book was the petition I needed. It was the earliest document related to Thomas’s probate and helped to establish his death date.

A few additional comments:

  • All but one of the references to James Rampley were to James son of Thomas Johnson. He wasn’t dead but was appointed guardian for some of his younger siblings.
  • One reference to James Rampley was actually incorrect and should have been to Thomas J. Rampley.
  • Always search the clerk-created indexes to the record books. Modern indexers miss things. The original record clerks can miss things as well, but it is not as likely.
  • Searching manually is always advised when you do not find what you are looking for.



Buried Along the Quincy Road By the People

Harm Habben died at the age of eighteen in Bentley, Hancock County, Illinois. After battling pneumonia for eight days, Harm died in the early afternoon of 17 March 1880. The German native likely didn’t die in the village of Bentley proper, although that is the location given on the death certificate and that’s close to to where he likely did die.

Harm likely died at home and while I don’t know exactly where the family lived in 1880, I suspect it was a few miles from Basco, Illinois–probably loosely between Basco and Bentley. That’s where various members of Harm’s family lived.

Of course I will record Bentley as the place of death as that’s what the death certificate says and I’ll site the death certificate as the source of that location.

There’s no date of burial on this death certificate and the place of burial is somewhat vague as well:

Near Quincy road in Harmony Town

The reference to “Harmony Town” is actually to Harmony Township. The Quincy Road is still referred to that by a few locals (who seem to get older as time moves on) and was the former road that was used to travel from Carthage, Illinois, to Quincy, Illinois. The death certificate makes it sound as if Harm is buried in a small farm plot or merely along side the road. He was buried in Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery–which is somewhat between Bentley and Basco, Illinois, and south of Carthage, Illinois. The cemetery and the church are located in Harmony Township. The death certificate is not wrong about the location–just not as precise as one would like.

In my database when I refer to where Harm is buried–I do not cite his death certificate since it doesn’t technically say he’s buried in the Immanuel Cemetery. I can’t cite it for a date of burial either–since one is not listed. I cite my actual visit to the cemetery and the picture I have of his tombstone for documentation of his place of burial.

It may seem technical, but one should not suggest that a document includes information that it does not. The burial location listed for Harm is discussed in my notes for him as that location is consistent with his known place of burial.

And the undertaker?

That’s not the People Funeral Home. The reference indicated that locals in the area saw to the funeral arrangements. Harm had immediate and extended family in the area and there were quite a few fellow Ostfriesen immigrants who were near neighbors. They were likely the ones to saw to the preparation of the body and burial.



GedMatch Tier 1 Webinar Regstrations Ending on 17 November

GedMatch is a great site to get more from your DNA test results. Registrations and pre-orders of downloads are ending on 17 November for our upcoming GedMatch Tier webinar on 19 November. Our announcement page has more details on this upcoming presentation and our already recorded GedMatch webinar which can be ordered for immediate download.

My First Genealogy Confusion

I’m helping a cousin with her Daughters of the American Revolution application for our mutual ancestor. This cousin and I have a lot of mutual ancestors who came from the eastern United States and Germany to settle in Hancock County, Illinois. That’s where both of us were born and raised.

I don’t remember this cousin from when I was a child, but I do remember her mother, Rose (Walker) Ufkes.

Mrs. Ufkes was my third grade Sunday School teacher. She would sometimes take us to the drug store a block or so from the church where we would get a quarter (or maybe fifty cents) and buy some candy. Those trips were a plus in my book. And I knew she was a relative somehow. Even though I was only eight years old, I thought I had it figured out. Her last name was Ufkes. My mother was an Ufkes before she was married and my grandparents had that last name. It was not too difficult to think there might be a connection.

And then my third grade Sunday School teacher confused me. She told me something that had nothing to do with drug store candy or memorizing the Lord’s Prayer. Nothing at all.

She said that she and my Grandpa were cousins. That didn’t really confuse me too much. My Granddad’s last name was Ufkes and her last name was Ufkes. Simple enough. I had already figured that out. I’m not certain what I said before the real confusion set in.

She was a cousin to my Grandpa Neill. I didn’t want to be rude and disagree with her so I must have said “ok” or something like that. But I knew I heard what she said and I knew what I knew.

I was confused and it had nothing to do with memorizing Bible verses.

I must have later said something to my parents and I was told that yes, she was a cousin to my Grandpa Neill. She was talking about herself, not her husband (who was a cousin to my Granddad Ufkes). Mrs. Ufkes was a cousin to my Grandpa Neill because their mothers were sisters.

This was on top of her husband and my mother’s father being first Ufkes first cousins.

I’m not certain how much I really understood it at the time and I was not one to argue with my parents when I was confused. I never met my Grandpa Neill–he died when I was an infant–and his parents died well before I arrived on the scene. It was difficult for me to visualize the relationship because all the “connecting people” were dead people I had never met.

It was several years later when I started my family tree research that I got the relationship straight in my head.

Her daughter is the relative who I am helping with her DAR application. Our Rampley ancestor is a qualifying patriot. The two “mothers who were sisters” were daughters of Riley Rampley, who died in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1893. And the daughter is also a descendant (as am I) of Johann and Noentje (Grass) Ufkes who married in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1874 where they later died. That’s the connection that first stuck out to my third-grade brain even though I didn’t know the names of Johann and Noentje at the time.

I was later to discover that my cousin’s Grandma Ufkes and my great-grandma Habben were first cousins–granddaughters of Johann Goldenstein who died in 1891 in Wrisse, Ostfriesland, Germany.

It’s probably a good thing no one tried to tell me that when I was in the third grade.

I might have written genealogy off as too confusing to even bother.



FamilySearch to Require Use of Free Accounts Starting 13 Dec 2017

From the blog post on FamilySearch:

Beginning December 13, 2017, patrons visiting will see a prompt to register for a free FamilySearch account or to sign in to their existing account to continue enjoying all the free expanded benefits FamilySearch has to offer.

We’re just passing this along. The free account (I’ve had one for years and am not an LDS-member) will be required to view digital images of microfilm and records. Some digital images likely will still require onsite access at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or a local Family History Center to access.