Volke Behrens’ Daughter Reka was Not Herman Sartorius’ Daughter

We have mentioned Volke Behrens before on this blog. Volke Behrens was born in 1850 in Weene, Ostfriesland, Germany, to Ulfert Gerdes and Fredericka Maria (Lichtsinn) Behrens who later settled in the northeastern portion of Adams County, Illinois.

That is probably where Volke Behrens gave birth to a daugher in  the early 1870s, before her marriage to Herman Sartorius. Records vary as to when Reka was born, actually ranging from 1869 through after her mother Volke Behrens married Herman Sartorius married in Adams County, Illinois, on 11 October 1872.

The evidence regarding her paternity comes from three sources. The most reliable is the petition to sell the real estate of Herman Sartorius after his death in the 1880s. There is no daughter Fredericka or Reka listed. The second source is the newspaper account of a claim filed against the estate of Ulfert Behrens for money Ulfert received for Reka’s upbringing from her birth father. The third is Reka’s use of the last name of Behrens when she married George Ideus in Adams County, Illinois, on 11 October 1888 (same date as her mother married Herman Sartorius).

Selling Real Estate

A Petition to Sell Real Estate, filed 15 March 1886 with the Adams County, Illinois, Circuit Court, lists the children of Herman Sartorius as:

  • Johanna
  • Gesche
  • Johan
  • Trientje
  • Heinrich
  • Antje
  • Ulfert
  • Gustave

There is no Reka or Fredericka listed and the other named children have been accounted for as not being references to Fredericka by a different name. Reka was alive at the time of this petition and, if she had been Herman’s daughter, she should have been listed.

The Newspaper Account

Reka not being Herman’s daughter is consistent with an 1892 Quincy, Illinois, newspaper account of court action Volke Sartorius took against her own father’s estate. That newspaper account stated that Volke had a relationship with a man named Harm Habbus and that Reka was his daughter and that this daughter was raised by Volke’s parents. It also indicated that Volke subsequently married Herman Sartorius and that they did not raise Reka to adulthood and that Reka later married George Ideus. While newspapers can be incorrect, the reference to Reka having a father other than Herman Sartorius would easily explain why Reka was not listed as an heir of Herman Sartorius. Most of the other details in the newspaper account are consistent with the circuit court records.

Reka’s Marriage

Reka gives her last name as Behrens when she marries George Ideus. While she could have given an incorrect last name, that last name is consistent with her having been Volke’s daughter before her marriage to Sartorius and having been raised by her Behrens grandparents.


The strongest information comes from the petition to sell Herman Sartorius’ property. Her failure to be listed (when she was known to have been alive) solidly indicates that she was not Herman’s daughter. The newspaper account is consistent with that scenario. While there are a variety of online compiled sources on this family that indicate Reka was the daughter of Herman Sartorius, none have any documentation regarding that parent-child relationship.

A few of these documents will be analyzed in more detail in upcoming Casefile Clues articles.We have a little bit more research on Reka, including work on her Civil War widow’s pension. She qualified because her second husband was thirty years older than her and had been in the Civil War.

Stay tuned.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.