Whence Wilhelmine?

Wilhelmine (Trautvetter) Senf Kraft is one of those people with a big gap in her life–at least when I use what I can find for her.

For years I knew little about Wilhelmine. She was listed as Wilhelmine Kraft in the 1860 era estate settlement of her brother Michael Trautvetter in Hancock County, Illinois. She died in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1878 and was buried in the Old Nauvoo City Cemetery.

I assumed that she only had one husband–Mr. Kraft. Whether or not she had children was a mystery, but nothing in the Hancock County records where she lived suggested she had children.

That was wrong. Really wrong. Research in the records for Bad Salzungen and Wohlmuthausen, Germany, revealed there was more.

Wilhelmine was born on 26 Sept 1808 in Dorf Allendorf, Bad Salzungen, Thuringen, Germany to Erasmus and Anna Catharina (Gross) Trautvetter.  Mr. Kraft was not her first husband.  She was first married in Wohlmuthausen, Thuringen in 1834 to Johann Valentin Senf (1807-1846 both in Wohlmuthausen). She had a child in 1831 before her marriage to Senf for whom no father’s name is listed.

She had the following children (all born in Wohmultshausen–whose church records gave their dates of birth):

  1. Eva Elisabetha Trautvetter (born 1831)–there is a notation in the Wohlmuthausen baptismal entry for Eva that she died in Bad Salzungen.
  2. Johann Michael Senf (born 1835)
  3. Johann Valetin Senf (born 1837)
  4. Anna Marie Senf (1838)
  5. Johannes Senf (1842-1843)
  6. Luise Senf (1844-1844)
  7. Elisabeth Senf (1845)

Johann Valentin Senf immigrated to the United States and is living in Campbell County, Kentucky, in 1850 with his uncles Michael and Adam Trautvetter. What happened to him after that is unknown. It is not known if any of Wilhelmine’s children came to the United States.

Currently what I know about Wilhelmine ends with her husband’s death in Wohlmuthausen in 1846 and picks back up in 1869 when she signs a petition in Hancock County, Illinois, in regards to her brother’s estate. It’s a blank otherwise.

I had searched for a passenger manifest entry for her, but I had used the last name of Kraft. Now that I know she was married to Mr. Senf, she could just as easily have immigrated under that name. It’s also possible that there was another, as yet unknown, husband between Senf and Kraft. After all, Senf died in 1846 and her listing as a Kraft is not until 1869. There’s plenty of time for another husband–and another last name under which she could be listed.

Most of Wilhelmine’s siblings immigrated to the United States between 1846 and 1855. Some initially settled in Campbell County, Kentucky, but virtually all ended up Hancock County, Illinois. Brother Michael did spend a few years in St. Louis where a daughter of his sister Ernestine settled. A son of Ernestine (according to the estate settlement in which Wilhelmine’s petition appears) also supposedly lived in Cincinnati. It might be worthwhile to see if a Wilhelmine, born in Germany of the appropriate age, is listed nearby in census enumerations I already have for various members of her family.

There is no probate for Wilhemine. That would be the first and most logical place to look for her children. It seems reasonable that the surviving children immigrated to the United States.

Before I start typing her name in search boxes and hoping to find something, I need to think and make a plan.

That’s the topic of an upcoming post.

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7 thoughts on “Whence Wilhelmine?

  1. Did you try the Almshouse records. If she had children they might all be listed together as a family . Perhaps with different names. I filled a gap for a family member this way. Look at the Almshouse overseer record if possible. The towns would write letters to each other to verify if a person or family was a resident/taxpayer of that town so they could collect fees for that person/ family. This can also lead to parents and grandparents as they would be responsible for their adult children.

  2. Two ideas that may be of help:
    My husband’s German family were from Lower Saxony and were Catholic. They emigrated to the Cincinnati area, more specifically Covington, Kentucky across the Ohio River. Covington is in Kenton County but not far from Campbell County. There was a very large Catholic German population in Covington. The members of my husband’s family who wanted to farm moved on to Kansas-around Seneca in Nemaha county-again a large German Catholic population after the Civil War. That area had seen extensive conflict before and during the Civil War resulting in many folks being killed and many others leaving to avoid the violence with the consequence of land being available there.
    Concerning Nauvoo, it was the headquarters for the Mormons from 1839-1845. Wikipedia has a very informative article about the town’s history.
    I’ve found that reading a bit about the history of certain areas is helpful in figuring out where folks headed.
    Best of luck to you in your research.

  3. Try immigration records under her maiden name. One of my German great great grandmothers traveled with her mother-in-law and my great grandmother. The MIL used her married name but my great great grandmother used her maiden name in the ship’s manifest.

    • That’s a good idea. I’ve actually searched for Trautvetter so many times that I should have noticed her, but it may be worth a second look. Thanks.

  4. You state that ” Now that I know she was married to Mr. Senf, she could just as easily have immigrated under that name”. That sounds like a very good possibility given that Senf died in 1846, then “Most of Wilhelmine’s siblings immigrated to the United States between 1846 and 1855”. Maybe give a year or two to settle his estate, and for the grieving process?

    • I’ve wondered if the father’s death was part of what precipitated the migrations. I need to have a little more work done on his mill and his ownership of it.

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