What To Do When There Is No Rio in Ancestry.com

Effective use of any database requires an understanding of the workings of that database. It also requires the user to understand that no database is perfect, every database (and “helpful features”) has limitations, and that trial and error is necessary to make the most effective use of that database.

Ancestry.com‘s drop-down list of locations when searching is one of those “helpful features” that sometimes serves to frustrate instead of help.

The metropolis where I live is not included in the drop-down list of locations at Ancestry.com as shown in the illustration. There area variety of places beginning with the letters “rio,” but none of them refer to a location in Knox County, Illinois.

One may wonder why Ancestry.com didn’t “turn off” non-US locations in the list of locations for the United States 1940 Census. While laziness does come to mind, it is worth remembering that some US citizens could have been enumerated overseas. The real problem is that I can’t pull up the location I want in order to search for individuals living in this location–at least not when using the drop-down menu.

Rio, Illinois, is not the only location not in the drop down list.

There are people living in Rio, Knox, Illinois, in the 1940 census and their index entry in Ancestry.com‘s 1940 census index indicates that location as shown in the search results screen shown for individuals with the last name of Leafgreen. The search was conducted with a “unexact” spelling checked, so one other last name appears in the results. This search was conducted so that I could make certain how Ancestry actually listed Rio in the “Home in 1940” index entries. There’s actually the Village of Rio and Rio Township and that difference matters. They are two distinct political entities (the village is physically located within the township) and may appear as different enumeration districts in the census and may show up as “different” locations.

To be as certain as possible how the locations were named, I need to actually view the census images. In this case there’s a way to avoid that as both Rio the village and Rio the township contain the letters “rio.”

My search needs to be tweaked to find people just in this location. My search box is constructed as shown in the illustration:

  • “Match all terms exactly” needs to be checked
  • the location needs to be set to Knox County, Illinois, USA (fortunately that’s in the drop down menu) and “Exact to this place” needs to be checked.
  • “rio” needs to be in the Keyword box. This is set to exact in the illustration. This is why one needs to find someone already in the database in the desired location in order to determine how the location is entered into the Ancestry.com index for the 1940 census

Rio is not the only missing place in Ancestry.com‘s drop down menu. Researchers are advised to keep a list of places from their own research that are missing.

Not because Ancestry.com will fix them.

But because the researcher needs to remember them.


Thoughts On Signing the Marriage “Record”

There are a myriad of genealogy lessons and reminders in this photograph. My discussion may be somewhat rambling…so bear with me.

There were several documents my daughter signed as one of the witnesses after her sister was married. While other documents may have sentimental value (which I’m not faulting), this is the one that really matters. It’s the license that will be returned by the minister to the county courthouse (in our case, that is the county recorder). It’s the official record of the marriage. If the records are preserved as they should be, it is the one document that should still be around (hopefully) in one and hundred fifty years long after we are all gone. Somewhere under my daughter’s hand is my name as father of the bride.

At least it better be there. I didn’t actually see the license, so I can’t testify as to what it actually says. Does it have my full name? Does it have just my first and middle name? Is my place of birth on there? If so, is it just the state; the county and the state; or the town, county, and the state?*  There’s a genealogical reminder there as well.

we don’t quote or cite that which we did not see

If we didn’t actually see what a genealogical record states, we never act like, suggest, or imply that we did. This picture shows my daughter signing the license. That may not be clear in the image used for this illustration, but in my personal copy of the picture it is clear the marriage license is what is being signed and whose marriage license it is. That’s another lesson:

be careful printing information about living individuals

My daughter knew what she was signing. It was in English and she reads English. My ancestors in 1876 signed an English language document when they only read German. There were mistakes in the document that resulted in litigation. Another lesson (that’s valuable in life and not just genealogy):

read and understand what you sign

And clearly identify what an image is. I intentionally did not put a text box on this image indicating what it is. It’s not the marriage license. It is my picture of that license being signed by my daughter on 7 October 2017 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altona, Knox County, Illinois.

And it’s not the actual marriage record until it’s filed.


My daughter was not bothered by her father taking six pictures of her signing the marriage materials.  That probably makes a statement about one of us.

*-I’m just hoping that whatever amount of detail was required that they got it right. Maybe I should have looked at it.

Witnessing the Witness

My daughter signing the witness portion of her sister’s marriage license.

I could not resist taking a picture of my daughter signing her sister’s marriage license as a witness to their wedding.

Really the maid (or matron) of honor and the best man do not need to be the two individuals who sign the document as a witness. Anyone who actually witnessed the wedding (and has no legal impediments to being a witness) could have signed as one of the two witnesses. The mothers of the bride and groom could have signed as could have two of the grandmothers in attendance. The ring bearer and flower girl could not have been a legal witness because of their age.  The best man and maid of honor signing as witnesses is a tradition but not a necessity.  It’s important to be aware of where tradition ends and legal requirements begin.

It’s also important to write things down as you remember them. I think in this picture my daughter is signing a “church certificate” of the marriage and not the actual license or record that is returned by the minister to the local clerk for filing. There’s a difference between the actual legal record and a souvenir document.


A Pool Of Distant Matches

While DNA analysis for genealogy is based on science, probability, and statistics; there is something of an art to that analysis. Art in this case is not creative in the sense of creating things that do not exist, but art in the sense of efficiently being able to discern how a person is related or where that connection probably lies.

It is an art that one develops with practice.

With some work and a little bit of time, I was able to determine who my second and third cousin matches were on AncestryDNA. These nearly twenty matches were all from submitters who are descendants of another set of my second or third great-grandparents. In the course of working through those matches, I also was able to determine how some of my more distant DNA matches were related. Even if I was not able to determine how a more distant match was related, they usually shared some closer relative that I had figured out. This usually gave me a least a clue to the general area of my tree to look for their exact location.

And then I started into the fourth cousins. The relationship listed in the AncestryDNA results is an estimated one and these fourth cousins may be slightly more or less related. I have quite few fourth cousin matches. Most of them shared one of my already determined matches who were second or third cousins.

Then there was a fourth cousin match who shared no one I had already figured out. In viewing the matches those matches shared with me, I saw no one I had figured out. As I went through these matches, there appeared to be a pool of at least thirty matches to me who had no DNA in common with the second and third cousins I had figured out.

It seemed that this “circle” of matches were the descendants of at least one ancestor of mine more distant than a third great-grandparent. And yet none of my current DNA matches via my great, great-great, and great-great-great-grandparents match them.

All of Erasmus’ descendants do not share matches with each other.

Then I realized that I had already figured out how something like this could happen.  I had two “sets” of DNA matches who descended from my 4th great-grandfather (“Why All of Erasmus’ Descendants are not Matches for Each Other“). The difference was that the first time I had this problem, there were trees and other information that helped me determine the connections. There was not a group that I could not figure out.

My “pool of thirtysome matches” is similar to this situation. My determined matches are related to me through a closer ancestor that the pool of matches with whom I don’t closer relatives. In Erasmus’ s case, my closer known matches all stem my great-grandfather (the George born in 1869). In Erasmus’s case there were two more distant descendants–C and D. C was a shared match with my closer cousins. D was in a group with me all by himself. That’s a puddle with one known match instead of the pool I have.

In the Trautvetter case there simply are not large numbers of descendants. My pool of unknown matches likely stems from sibling(s) to a third, fourth, or fifth grandparent. The question is: which one?

We’ll see more about that in a future post.

Are You Paying Hidden Taxes on Your Assumptions?

We don’t always know which of our assumptions are false until we see something that outright contradicts them. Even then we might not realize that we are staring at something that flies in the face of something we believed without any knowledge, first hand or otherwise. I always just figured my landowning ancestors always went to the county courthouse to pay their taxes (or mailed a payment in). That was my recollection of what people did.

My research was never hindered because of assumptions I made about the physical act of paying taxes and my own life was certainly never impacted by my incorrect assumption.  It’s one of those things that you can function quite well in genealogyland without knowing.

I never really thought about how my landowning ancestors actually went through the process of paying their property taxes.  While there are genealogy questions that keep me awake at all hours of the night, this was not one of those problems.

And then I came across this item in the 1909 Warsaw Bulletin from Warsaw, Illinois. It indicated when the township collectors would be available to receive tax payments locally.

  • Live in Warsaw and need to pay your 1908 taxes? Go to the Hotel Grant on Saturday.
  • Live in Hamilton and need to pay your 1908 taxes? See James Shoman in Hamilton on Thursday (I guess everyone knows where he lives or has his office).
  • Live near Elderville and need to pay your 1908 taxes? See James Shoman in Elderville on Tuesday (Elderville is small. If you can’t find James in Elderville, you probably shouldn’t be handling your own affairs any longer).
  • Live in Wilcox Township and need to pay your 1908 taxes? See Robt. E. McMahon at the store of Henry Dross in Warsaw on Wednesdays or Saturdays.

The notice reminded me: how many things do we “know” because we just assumed them to be true? How many things do we think are true because we just assume that because it’s done that way today, it has always been done that way (aside from some technological changes)? How many things do we think are true across the board and in all families because “after all, that’s how my family does it and no one could be different from us.”

Some  historical practices are difficult to find out, even with Google. It is easy to search the internet (or an online database) to find the date of a specific event, when a border changed, or where the courthouse records for a certain county are located. It can be a little more difficult to find out how often a rural family may have attended church, was it common to wait two months to christen a child, etc. And remember…just because some anonymous online  person said that rural families attended church monthly or that two months to christen was really weird does not make it true.

Does not make it true.

Reading old newspapers, state statute books, well-written genealogical studies, more records in a series than just the one on your ancestor, historical studies by experts in their field, etc. can go a long way to finding some of these things out. And even then sometimes you won’t find the answer.

An unwritten, unstated, unrealized assumption could be hindering your research.

You might not even have to drive all the way to the county seat to find it.


1918 Prairie Farmer Directory for Hancock County, Illinois, Arrives

The 1918 Prairie Farmer’s “Reliable Directory of Farmers and Breeders: Hancock County, Illinois,” which I recently purchased on on Ebay has arrived.

I searched it for numerous family members. Most were found, but there were a few exceptions. Instead of discussing them all, we’ll just look at my direct line ancestors who should have been in the directory:

  • Charlie and Fannie Neill (including son Cecil)–farming in St. Alban’s Township–not found
  • George and Ida Trautvetter (including daughter Ida)–farming in Walker Township or that general area–not found
  • Fred and Tena Ufkes (including son John)–farming in Bear Creek Township–found
  • John H. Ufkes–farming in Bear Creek Township–not found
  • Mimka and Tjode Habben–farming in Prairie Township–not found
  • John and Anna Habben–technically retired and living in Elvaston and may not be listed–not found
  • John Johnson–farming in Bear Creek Township–found

My theories on the no-shows are:

  • Neills–I’m not exactly sure. I need to review the deeds for Charlie to determine if he actually owned real estate at the time the directory was compiled. The Neills owned a small farm at his death in 1948, but this reminded me that I don’t know when he purchased the property. Charlie may have been a tenant farmer who was not listed in the directory or a working as a hired man and not listed for that reason.
  • Trautvetters–not certain here either. This family moved several times between their 1898 marriage in Hancock County and settling on a property in northern Adams County in the early 1920s and could have been transitioning between farms when the directory was compiled. They may also have been renting property in Adams County as well.
  • John H. Ufkes and John and Anna Habben. Neither was actively farming in 1918. They are listed as the owners of property that their sons were farming as tenants which probably explains why they specifically are not listed.

It’s always good to contemplate reasons why someone is not in a record where they are expected to be. Contemplative ideas are not facts and should not be stated as such. However, I do include that speculation (clearly labeled as such) in my notes where I indicate the source did not contain the person of interest.

John J. Johnson owned 197 acres in section 10 in Bear Creek Township. He had a Route 2, Carthage address and had arrived in the county in 1883. He was on the “McClintock Telephone” in Basco. He had three children: Ella, Henry, and “Fena” (actually Tena). The * by Tena’s name indicated that she was no longer living at home. No wife is listed for John as his wife, Reka (Sartorius) had died several years earlier.


My Ufkes great-grandparents (Fred and Tena) are shown as renting 160 acres (the “T” indicates “tenant”) in section 24 of Bear Creek Township. The landlord for that property is John H. Ufkes. Fred is shown as having arrived in the county in 1893. In his case that’s a literal arrival–it’s the year he was born. For many of these farmers the arrival year is the year of birth. The year should be taken with a grain of salt as I have seen ones that are incorrect. Fred’s mailing address is Route 2, Carthage. The Ufkes family did have telephone through the Basco Exchange. Fred’s wife was Tena Johnson before she was married. She’s the “Fena” (with the *) listed in the entry for John J. Johnson discussed earlier. The Ufkeses had one child when the entry was compiled–John H.

Eielt Ufkes, Fred’s brother is also shown in the illustration. His entry is fairly straight-forward. The only differences are that he owns his farm of 120 acres. The children in the household include John Fooken. John was a nephew of Eielt’s that Eielt and Annie raised as their own child.

The directory also included additional directories of breeders of various types of livestock, owners of automobiles, and owners of silos.

The information could just fall into the category of “general interest,” or may have some significance depending upon the situation and the family. The silo directory indicated the type of silo and the post office address of the farmer who owned it.  This may indicate the individual was running a large enough operation to warrant having one. F.J. Goldenstein was one of the few relatives of mine who had a silo in 1918.

I’m not certain how much information I can glean from the chicken breeder’s section of the directory, but at least it would let me know what the chickens looked like that my relatives owned. In this case, an asterisk indicated the person raised purebred stock for sale. But farmers owning chickens in 1918 was not unusual. The poultry section is the largest section in the livestock portion of the book.

This is a great directory. I just wish other places and time periods had them as well.

Who Helped Raise Ida Sargent?

When people are only able to remember part of the story it can be difficult to locate additional information. That’s how it was with Grandma’s memory of the people “who took her mother in.”

All Grandma could tell me was that her mother, Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter Miller (1874-1939) was “raised by the Mulches.” There was never much detail given about why Ida’s parents could not raise her or take care of her and Grandma’s memory of the Mulches only consisted of “they were strangers and were meaner than the people who raised her sister.”  I took the “strangers” portion of Grandma’s description to mean that they were not related to her.

Never did I expect Ida to appear in the social columns of the Warsaw [Illinois] Bulletin, but there she was in 1891. Apparently listed with her foster father W. C. F. Mulch, she is referenced as spending a Sunday afternoon in August of 1891 with Theo. and Annie Trautvetter.

Theo. Trautvetter had no connection to the Mulch family. It is not known if his wife did or not. It’s always possible the connection was purely social and not based on biology or marriage.

The time period is part of why locating the foster parents was so difficult. There are no guardianship or adoption records for Ida. No guardianship records because her father was not dead and there was not really money to worry about. No adoption records are available because she was not formally adopted by the Mulches and, even if she had been, many adoptions during this time period were informal.

And the lack of an 1890 census compounds the problem. In 1880 Ida is with her parents. In 1900 she is with her husband.

But at least now, thanks to the newspaper, I have lead on who raised her.

Would You Leave Your Shadow in a Tombstone Picture?

George and Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter stone, Bethany United Church of Christ Cemetery, Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois. Picture taken by Michael Neill in 2004.

My favorite picture of the tombstone of my great-grandparents has my shadow across the bottom. Several years ago I was taken to task for including it in a post. “You really should not have your shadow in the picture” was what I was told. “It is bad form.”

I like the shadow in the picture and I have no intention of taking a “better” picture without the shadow. And if I missed lecture on “bad form,” I’m not running out to go and listen to it.

The shadow does not impact the legibility of the text of the stone. While I’m not one given to sentimentality, I like the fact that the shadow connects me to the stone in some way. I’ve made my mark on the stone without physically interacting with the stone or harming it.

And the shadow marks the image as one that I took. Years ago the same picture “showed up” by osmosis on FindAGrave. I didn’t care that the picture was used as much as I was bothered by the fact that someone chose not to credit me for the picture.* I would have graciously given permission–I just wanted them to indicate where they got the picture. They really could not say their shadow was the one on the stone (you can make out the bill of my farmer’s hat in the image). They would have had to have been standing at the same distance from the stone at the same time of day and hunched over as I slightly was. They would not have had to have worn the same hat <grin>.

After I saw this picture, I stopped worrying if my shadow was on the stone–unless it impacted the readability of the stone. It’s like I made my own annotation on the image. And it’s not a big deal. Really.

*–I realize others do not care if people use their photographs without asking. That is their  prerogative and their own business. I am not one of those people.

Ancestral Clues and Lessons: Ida May (Sargent) Trautvetter Miller

George and Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter stone, Bethany United Church of Christ Cemetery, Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois. Picture taken by Michael Neill in 2004.

Ida May Sargent was born in 1874 the daughter of William Ira and Florence Ellen (Butler) Sargent. She married George Trautvetter in 1898 in Hancock County, Illinois, and later married William Miller after George died. She died in 1939 in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois. Some things I’ve learned about research from Ida:

  • you may never know where some people are born. Ida’s records consistently indicate an 1874 year of birth. The place is more problematic, but was likely in western Illinois, southern Iowa, or northern Missouri. There are no civil birth records, the family did not really attend church, and there are no letters, diaries, or other material that would confirm her date and place of birth.
  • don’t neglect late-in-life marriages. Ida married as her second husband, William Miller, in the late 1930s when she was 64 years of age. They were married a short time before he died. Her death record, obituary, estate record, etc. are all filed under her second married name.
  • fixing tombstone typos is hard. Ida’s name is spelled “Ada” on her stone. Someone apparently tried to fix it after the fact.
  • the dead don’t always write their obituaries. Ida’s obituary was written by her daughter, Lillie. It was found in her effects after her death.

Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter Miller is my great-grandmother.