Ancestral Clues and Connections Barbara (Siefert) Bieger Haase

Barbara (Siefert) was born in Germany in 1825 and died in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1903. She was married in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849 to Peter Bieger. Some things I have learned about research from Barbara:

  • have a backup plan. Despite marrying again and leaving Warsaw, Barbara never sold the town lot and house Peter Bieger purchased. She moved back there nearly twenty years after Peter died.
  • all families have divorces.  Barbara and Conrad Haase were married and divorced—twice.
  • researching all marriages is important. Barbara’s last marriage in Iowa in the 1880s provided the names of her parents.

My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. Barbara is my 3rd great-grandmother.


Charting My 1850 Attempts

Charts are very popular genealogical research tools–even when you don’t find what you are looking for. It is organizing the search that is helpful.

The problem was that I was having difficulty finding Peter Bieger and his wife Barbara in the 1850 census. In order to search for him effectively, I used several different websites that index the 1850 census. However, looking at the same entry over and over got a little tedious and was a waste of time.

To keep track, I started with a simple chart summarizing the location of each entry. I didn’t include links to the specific website’s image. What I was concerned about was the dwelling and the family number (along with the State, County, and Town/City) as that would be on the census page regardless of what website I was using.

I could easily add columns for this chart–the best one to add would be a comments column for “why” I rejected this person as being the Peter Bieger of interest. If you do not track why a certain person was rejected, it is difficult to go back and analyze again if assumptions change about the person of interest.

I still have not found Peter in 1850, but the chart at least helps me track what I have done.

Another approach would be to search for Barbara Bieger as well. It could be that the first name of Peter is spelled so incorrectly that I’m not locating it.

Or Peter may have been enumerated with his middle name instead of his first name. Since I don’t know his middle name it makes it difficult to search for him using it.

Ancestral Clues and Lessons: Peter Bieger (about 1820-1855)

Peter Bieger was born in Germany about 1820 and died in 1855 in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois. He married Barbara Siefert in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. Some things I have learned about research and life from Peter:

  • family traditions can be outright lies. Peter’s descendants said he drowned in the Mississippi River. He died of an accidental gunshot wound.
  • provide for your family in the event of your death. Peter died while his children were both under the age of five. It wasn’t easy for Barbara to raise the two girls by herself.
  • guardianship records can be helpful. The records of he guardianship of Peter’s children provided the names and exact dates of birth for Peter’s children in addition to other information.

My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. Peter is my 3rd great-grandfather.

Ancestral Clues and Lessons: Sophia Elizabeth (Derle) Trautvetter (1808-1877)

Sophia Elizabeth (Derle) Trautvetter was born in 1808 in Helmershausen, Thuringen, Germany, and died in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1877. She married John George Trautvetter in the 1840s in Helmershausen. Some things I learned about research from Sophia:

  • sometimes people cannot be found–Sophia cannot be located in the 1870 census even though it is known she died in 1877 and immigrated in 1853.
  • don’t overlook church records. The church entry for Sophia’s death and funeral contained her village of birth.
  • immigration is not always easy. Sophia’s husband returned to Germany about 1869 and lived there until his death. Sophia and their children remained in the United States.

My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. Sophia Elizabeth is my 3rd great-grandmother.

The Defective Entry in the 1880 Defective Census originally published the “U.S. Federal Census – 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes” some time ago.

One of the best ways to make unexpected discoveries is to simply play. That’s also a great way to increase one’s search skills. I decided to search for just names enumerated in this database in Hancock County, Illinois. By 1880 the vast majority of my families were living there and it seemed like a quick way to make easy discoveries. These 1880 enumerations are relatively easy to read manually for rural counties like Hancock County and I still may choose to do that at some point, especially for southern half of the county where my families lived.

The search results were a little strange. There was an entry for someone living in Colusa, Colusa County, California. Some of these 1880 schedules of defective, dependent, and delinquent classes listed county residents in the county in which the person was a resident, but also included the location of of the institution in which they were housed.

That did not appear to be what happened to Evalin Plagg. Her index entry indicated she was living in Colusa Township in Colusa County, California. There is no mention of Hancock County, Illinois, in her index entry for this database.

She was enumerated in the Colusa County Hospital. There is no notation on her entry that she was from Hancock County, Illinois. Of course sending her to Colusa, California, from Hancock County, Illinois, would be highly unusual for the time period.

U.S. Federal Census – 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes, Colusa County, California, Colusa Township; digital image,

When I searched for Evalin Plagg (exact) and “hancock county, illinois” (exact) as a location, the entry  for her in Colusa County, California, came up. But as we saw in her index entry, the Hancock County, Illinois, location is divisible.  There is no Hancock County in the index entry–at least as it was shown above.


So why did this entry come up? I don’t know but I have an idea.

There is a Colusa in Hancock County, Illinois. So that was my next search for Evalin Plagg–with Colusa, Hancock County, Illinois, as the exact location.

There she was. Somehow her entry has been tagged in the database index for “U.S. Federal Census – 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes“as being in Colusa, Hancock County, Illinois. Evalin’s entry also comes up if the lived in is set to exactly Colusa, Colusa County, California, as well.

So apparently index entries in databases can be linked to locations that are not displayed in the index entry. That’s confusing.


That’s why it is important to not be overly reliant on search results. That’s why it is important to manually view records and manually search records.

And never cite search results. Always cite the actual record.



LiveStreaming at Southern California’s Genealogy Jamboree

I’m excited to be presenting at the annual Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree this coming June. The Society will be live streaming fourteen sessions free for those who cannot attend Jamboree in person. My session on the Bureau of Land Management Tract Books will be one of those sessions. Those who wish to view the live streaming do need to register (at no charge) first.

The Southern California Genealogy Jamboree runs from 9-11 June and will be held in Burbank, California.

Ancestral Clues and Lessons: John George Trautvetter (1798-1871)

John George Trautvetter was born in 1798 in Wildprechtrode, Thuringen, Germany, and died in Bad Salzungen, Thuringen, Germany, in 1871. He married Sophia Elizabeth Derle in Helmershausen, Thuringen. John George lived in Hancock County, Illinois, between 1853 and approximately 1869. Some things I learned from researching John George:

  • some people were not permanent immigrants. John George returned to Germany in 1869, leaving his wife and children in the United States.
  • in some ethnic groups the “first names” did not really matter. John George had several brothers whose “first names” were John. They used the second names.
  • chain migration is important. John George was in the middle of a chain of approximately twenty members of the Trautvetter family.


My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. John George is my 3rd great-grandfather.

Have You Ever?

Note: A somewhat longer version of this article ran in the Ancestry Daily News on 11 December 2002.

Today we’re asking questions of ourselves that we should also ask of our ancestors. If any of your ancestors are still living ask them the questions yourself (as politely as possible though, as some are somewhat sensitive). Most of us will not be able to get direct answers to these questions from our ancestors. However, thinking about how we might have responded ourselves might get us thinking differently about some of our own family history problems. Sometimes we tend to forget our ancestors were human and susceptible to the same frailties as we are. Putting yourself in your ancestor’s boots, shoes, moccasins, or clogs might help you get over that brick wall. There are no hard and fast answers—just questions and suggestions.

General advice on the problems we’ll be discussing is to learn about the time period, the geographic area, the cultural and political climate, and the records themselves. Asking questions and being willing to learn is an excellent starting point.

Have You Ever Answered A Question Wrong On An Application Or A Form?
Is it possible your ancestor gave a wrong answer on a document or record? Perhaps he lied about his age in order to get in the service. Perhaps she lied about her age in order to get married. Perhaps he thought the value of his farm in 1860 was no one’s business or wanted to deflate the value in case the taxman was within earshot of the census taker. There are many reasons why one might “fudge” an answer on some form (although I’m not encouraging fraud and deceit). An ancestor might have done it as well.

Obtaining all records on your ancestor may allow you to establish an approximate date of a specific event. Just keep in mind that not all these documents will be consistent. Record the information exactly as you find it. Analyzing the information is necessary to potentially reach a consensus—correcting the information as you copy it is not. Your ancestor might have intentionally lied or given quick answers to just placate the questioner. He might also have been confused about his actual age. It is also possible that he was just wanting to confuse his descendants and keep his past buried.

Have You Ever “Approximated” Your Place Of Birth Or Residence?
Some of us who live in the “boonies” find it easier to not give our exact residence as no on ever knows where it is anyway. Many times it takes more time to explain the exact location than it is worth. Consequently I frequently tell people I live 45 minutes from Davenport, Iowa, or several hours west of Chicago. It is easier. While my ancestors did not live where I did, some of them estimated their original residence of place of birth. Some of my German-born forebears listed on some American records the county seat as their place of birth, instead of the little village where they were actually born. They were not concerned with the discrepancy or the possibility of someone researching the records one hundred years later. Inconsistencies in locations may be due to approximations and listing the nearest “big city” instead of the actual location of the event.

This problem is not always easily solved. Researchers should locate as many records as possible, focusing on any source that might list the place of birth for the focus person. These searches should include the children of the focus person, and concentrate on those records that might include the place of birth for the parents. Those unfamiliar with the area being researched should obtain detailed maps and learn something about the political jurisdictions that have covered the area being researched.

Have You Ever Made A Mistake And Did Not Want Anyone To Know About It? Did You Intentionally Hide Your Past From Someone?
Is it possible your ancestor had an embarrassing secret he wanted to leave buried in the past? Was he vague about his origins in an attempt to keep the secret hidden? Did your ancestor leave Europe to avoid compulsory military service? Did you ancestor want to “turn over a new leaf in a new location?” Did your ancestor leave a painful past or childhood and never want to talk about it or think about it again? All of these are reasons to be vague about their past on official records.

I know one researcher whose ancestor left the coal mines of Pennsylvania as a child and had absolutely no intention of returning. He rarely talked of his past, and consequently, his family knows little of his origins. This ancestor did not live during a time when providing a copy of a birth certificate was necessary for employment. Mentioning specifics about the past is not conducive to establishing a new identity.

Did You Contemplate Naming A Child Something That Had Absolutely No Connection To You Or Your Family?
Many family names are passed down through the generations and some families name all their children for other family members. Some do not. Does your child’s name have a family connection? Or, did your ancestor simply pick a name for their child out of the air?

Your ancestor might have picked a name out of their contemporary culture as well. There were many individuals named for Lorenzo Dow, once a popular American figure. Not everyone who had “Lorenzo Dow” as a part of their name was related to him, and making such a conclusion is not wise. But learning that there was a famous person for whom your ancestor was named can help you from going down the wrong path.

Determining if your ancestor was named for a once famous person may be as easy as typing the name into a search engine such as Google. If my ancestor was named Abraham Lincoln Smithshire, for example, I would type “Abraham Lincoln” into the search engine, not my ancestor’s surname of Smithshire. If I find a match, there is a good chance it is not a coincidence that the particular name combination was chosen. Of course, for this particular example, if I have many American ancestors and I’m unaware of whom Abraham Lincoln is then it is time to brush up on my American history.

Another Approach
If your ancestor gave a child a first and a middle name that appears to be someone else’s first and last name, search for that first and last name combination in online databases and indexes, particularly census indexes. This is a more effective approach when the person who originally had the name is relatively obscure.

Have You Moved Somewhere Because You Had Family Or Close Relatives In The Area That Would Help Out Until You Established Yourself?
Is it possible your ancestor had acquaintances in a new city to which he moved? While some move to a completely new area to establish a new identity or a new life, many move to areas where they have some type of connection. This connection may be a family member, a former neighbor, a job, etc. The connections to family or friends may be easier to make than the connection to employment.

Analyze your ancestor’s neighbors for the first few years he lives in a new locality. If he became naturalized, determine if anyone vouched for him during the naturalization process. If the ancestor moved to a rural area, determine if any neighbors are from the same state or country. If research on your ancestor does not reveal a specific place of origin, research neighbors or associates from the same area to determine if their records are more specific in regards to their place of origin.

Did You Contemplate Eloping When You Got Married?
Is it possible your ancestors did the same thing? Did they “run off” to get married where no one would know their ages or no one would know that their parents objected to the marriage? Did they run across the state line to get married where there was no obligatory waiting period after the license was issued? These are factors that should be considered when looking for marriage records.

Some Things Do Not Change
Some things about how our ancestors and we acted are the same; certain aspects of human nature have changed little. For example, our culture, society, and the expectations we place on individuals have changed. Remember that the obligations of family and social status may have played more of a role in your ancestor’s decisions than you realize.

While you probably can’t wear your ancestor’s shoes, put yourself in his position as much as possible. Given the likely distance of time, geography, and culture, it is not always possible to imagine our ancestor’s motivations completely. However, making the attempt is always worth the effort.

Ancestral Clues and Lessons: Rebecca (Tinsley) Newman (about 1820-1880s)

Rebecca Tinsley (Newman) was born about 1820 in Fleming County, Kentucky, and died (according to her daughter) “near to Moberly, Missouri,” in the 1880s. She married William Newman in 1839 in Rush County, Indiana. Some things I’ve learned about research from Rebecca:

  • don’t assume people with similar names are one person. Early in my research, a researcher insisted Rebecca Tinsley and a Polly Anna Tinsley were the same person. They weren’t they were clearly distinct sisters–because they had different husbands at the same time.
  • some couples are related not just by marriage. Rebecca and her husband were both great-great-grandchildren of Edward Tinsley who died in the 1780s in Amherst County, Virginia.

My ancestor table can be viewed on my site. Rebecca is my 3rd great-grandmother.