If Your Ex-Husband Is Dead, Does That Make You a Widow?

P. A. Troutfetter was dead by 1927. That is true.

Whether that technically makes Violet B. Troutfetter his widow as she is shown in this 1927 Denver, Colorado, city directory is another story.

The Troutfetters were divorced in 1901 in El Paso County, Colorado. There are no documents indicating they married again and P. A. (better known as Philip) at some point returned to Thomas County, Kansas, where he died.

1927 Denver, Colorado, City Directory, p. 2199; digital image on Ancestry.com 20 February 2014

It was not unusual for a divorced woman to pass herself off as a widow when in actuality she was divorced. In some locales and time periods a woman may be referred to as a “grass widow,” but that’s not often used on census enumerations.

Always take the term “widow” with a small grain of salt.

The Wm. J. Troutfetter in this post is a brother to P. A. Troutfetter and the Victor E. is Wm. J’s son. Violet and Philip Troutfetter had no children.

Whether having a dead ex-husband makes a woman a widow or not is another question entirely. And…in some cases it doesn’t matter what the answer is as people can tell the census taker or directory information collector any version of reality that they care to.


Post-Roads in 1873

Googlebooks contains a scan of an 1873 Congressional Act “Revising and embodying all the Laws authorizing Post-Roads, in force on the first day of December, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-three.” To be frank, I stumbled upon it while looking for something totally unrelated. That’s often how the best things are found.

The title pages have been reproduced as a part of this blog post. The specific publication also included legislation related to the District of Columbia.

The page numbering starts over again for the legislation related to the Post-Roads (a direct link to the first page is here).

The Act begins with bridges over the Mississippi River…

And continues with a list of post roads listed alphabetically by state. The page reproduced here (48) lists roads for part of Illinois.

Even a few post offices at individual residences are listed.

 Too bad there are no maps, but this was a really interesting find.

Give it a look for those areas where you have an interest.


Inoculated for Smallpox by July of 1809

A scar “by inoculation” on this 1809 Seaman’s Proof of Citizenship likely refers to an inoculation against smallpox.

Those with a knowledge of the fight to eradicate smallpox will remember that vaccines were around in 1809. How common it was for sailors to have been vaccinated during this time I don’t know.

Another interesting bit of information  that can be gleaned from these records. Sometimes one doesn’t know what is in a set of records until one takes the time to actually browse the records.

If I have any ancestor or relative on whom I’m stuck and there’s even a sliver of a chance that he went to sea, these records should be accessed if for no other reason that one never knows what information they might contain in that “description.”


An 1807 Record of Tattoos

This 1807 seaman’s proof of citizenship from Philadelphia provides an interesting physical description: a number of tattoos. The statement drew my attention as the description section is usually not as complete as it is in this document.

Curtis has quite a few tattoos for a man only about twenty-three years of age. Actually Curtis might have been at sea for a number of years as statements from seamen as young as fourteen appear in these records. 1807 probably was not his first year on the boat.

Usually the physical descriptions are not as lengthy and usually deal with missing fingers or toes, pock marks from smallpox, scars, and similar identifying characteristics. The ones for Curtis are atypical.

It took me a few seconds to determine that the first tattoo underlined here probably referred to an “Eagle on the Right arm.”

I. C. and B. C. may have something to do with his last name, but I’m not certain. He also had his name tattooed to him as well.

Unfortunately I don’t have any relatives in these records and, if I did, their descriptions would not be nearly as interesting as this one.


It’s 1900: Where are Your Ancestors?

On 1 January 1900, I had the following ancestors alive:


  • Charles Neill
  • Fannie Rampley
  • George Trautvetter
  • Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter
  • Frederich Ufkes
  • Trientje Janssen
  • Mimka Habben
  • Tjode Goldenstein


  • Samuel Neill
  • Nancy (Newman) Rampley
  • John Michael Trautvetter
  • Ira Sargent
  • Johann Ufkes
  • Noentje (Grass) Ufkes
  • Jans Jansen
  • Fredericka (Sartorius) Janssen
  • John Mimka Habben
  • Anke (Fecht) Habben
  • Focke Goldenstein
  • Anna (Dirks) Goldenstein


  • Barbara (Siefert) Bieger Fennan Haase Haase
  • Hinrich Sartorius
  • Trientje (Behrens) Sartorius
  • Antje (Jaspers) Habben Fecht
  • Hinrich Fecht
  • Bernard Dirks
  • Heipke (Mueller) Dirks

They weren’t living in that many places and fortunately I have them all located in the 1900 census. They are living in seven townships in Hancock and Adams Counties in Illinois. The Hancock County townships are fairly clustered, and it’s very probable that the St. Albans and Walker families knew of each other as did the Prairie and Bear Creek families. Only one set of my great-grandparents were married by 1900 (the Trautvetters). The rest would marry by early 1916.

1900 locations and number of direct line ancestors who were residents:

  • St. Albans Township, Hancock County, Illinois–2 (Neill)
  • Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois–5 (Rampley, Trautvetter)
  • Bear Creek Towship, Hancock County, Illinois–8 (Ufkes, Janssen, Goldenstein)
  • Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois–6 (Habben, Fecht)
  • Warsaw Township, Hancock County, Illinois–2 (Haase, Sargent)
  • Honey Creek Township, Adams County, Illinois-2 (Dirks)
  • Northeast Township, Adams County, Illinois–2 (Sartorius)

This was an interesting little exercise, but I’m not going to bother to map them. The best way to map them would be to plat their precise locations. All would have owned at least a small piece of real estate where they lived except for Ira Sargent. It’s not until 1880 that I have a direct line ancestor living somewhere other than Adams or Hancock Counties.
The other item of note personally is the fact that only one of my 3rd great-great-grandparents living in 1900 is on my paternal side-Barbara (Siefert) Bieger. All the others are ancestors of my mother.
Where are your people in 1900?


Another Oceanic Crossing for Focke Goldenstein

Immigrants occasionally return to their homeland for a visit. Unfortunately for my research, ancestral visits home were not all that common. Of my twenty-seven 19th century immigrant ancestors, only one went back for a short visit. It turns out that he returned twice.

Focke Goldenstein was born 12 January 1857 in Wrisse, Ostfriesland, Germany and immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Adams County, Illinois, where he died. According to his granddaughter Dorothy (Habben) Ufkes (1924-2008), Focke immigrated as a young man and returned  “a couple” times to visit relatives in Germany.

Years ago, I located him on this manifest from 1873. The age and name matched and he was travelling with a few other Ostfriesians. The name of Focke Goldenstein is not common so this seemed to be him and I still think it is.

Year: 1873; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237; Microfilm Roll: 384; Line: 33; digital image at Ancestry.com

I stumbled upon this entry for another Focke Goldenstein (indexed as Tocke Goldenstein).

Entry number 628 is a Focke Goldenstein, showing as a 21 year old United States Citizen on board the Oder which arrived in New York City on 18 October 1879.

Year: 1879; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237; Microfilm Roll: 420; digital image at Ancestry.com

I was not certain if this 1879 entry was mine or not. Again, the name combination is very unusual (although Focke does have nephews with the exact same name as him who also immigrated). What is interesting about this manifest entry is that 1879 Focke indicates he is a citizen upon his 18 October 1879 arrival.

My Focke naturalized and upon checking the date, I determined that the 1879 immigrant could have been mine. Focke J. Goldenstein naturalized in Knox County, Illinois, on 31 March 1879.

Naturalization of Focke J. Goldenstein from his homestead claim: Land Entry Records for Nebraska, compiled 1857 – 1908 State: Nebraska Land Office: North Platte Township: 11 North Range: 25 West Section: 12; digital image on Fold3.com

These three individuals could very easily have been the same person. In having researched Focke for years, I have never come across another person of his approximate age with the same name. That does not mean anything in and of itself, but it does make it unlikely that there is another Focke Goldenstein who was an American citizen in 1879. And the ages are all consistent enough to have been the same person. Focke’s naturalization in early 1879 could have been a means of preparing for his visit to his homeland–to ensure he was not conscripted into the military.

Focke made a return trip to Germany to visit in the early 1900s. I’ve written about that before, so I won’t repeat that information here. Those manifests are more detailed and contain additional clues making it obvious it was the same guy (residential information combined with his travelling companions).

I just wish the earlier records had those details. 


Genealogy Jazz

There’s a school of thought that some genealogists take themselves entirely too seriously and are so bogged down in research details, citations, and definitions that they wouldn’t see John Smith in the 1850 census if the name was written in block letters on the first page of the township where he lived his entire life.

There’s another school of thought that some genealogists do not take themselves seriously enough and do slipshod work and have no hope of researching any family that’s not been already well-documented back to Adam and Eve.

The reality is that some genealogy problems are easy to solve regardless of the researcher’s skill level. Others are difficult and require research experience, knowledge from several disciplines, and complex analysis. Many genealogy problems fall in the range of these extremes. It is possible for problems to be so difficult that experienced researchers can’t solve them and for others to be so easy that getting it wrong would be difficult.

Genealogy is like music. People play it at all levels and can be reasonably good at a given level. If one want to play professionally, their skills and technique will have to be practiced, refined, and improved. What worked in the high school concert band might not cut it any more. If I was able to muddle through concert band, I’ll probably have to up my game to go to the next level. And if I want to play in some sort of jazz combo that requires improvisational skills, I’ll have to learn some scales and chords whether I want to or not.

It’s not elitist to tell me that I need to learn chords if I want to play in the combo. It is elitist to tell me I can’t play because I learned my chords at Podunk University instead of Ivy League U. Chords are chords after all, and if I know them, I know them.

And it appears to me that is where the problem rests for the two genealogy schools. Some members of the serious school go to great pains to let others know that they are members of the serious school and that only members of the serious school can practice genealogy. And some members of the non-serious school go to great pains so say that they are “just researching for fun.”

“Researching for fun” is not a problem as long as we tell our ancestor’s stories as accurately as we can. We owe it to our ancestors to record their existence in a way that is faithful and consistent with the information we have discovered. The “non-serious” crowd owe themselves and others at least that much.

The “serious” crowd has a responsibility as well. Instead of simply telling members of the “non-serious” school that they are doing it wrong, demonstrate those times where some of the skills of the “serious” school may help them solve their problems. Show them how thinking about sources and being aware of methodology can sometimes move their research along or how errors can be made when one is not careful. Keep in mind that there are many problems that don’t require the “serious” school approach to solve.

Most members of the “serious” school even have problems they solved early in their research when they were using “non-serious” skills.

It’s not using “serious” skills that is the problem. It’s how those skills are demonstrated to others that sometimes is.


Charles Butlers Born in Kansas in the early 1860s

The chart summarizes information on a Charles Butler–that I think potentially are the same person. There hopefully are not too many Charles Butlers born in Kansas in the early 1860s with a father born in New York, but it is always possible.

I’m pretty certain the 1910, 1920, and 1930 enumerations are for the same man. I’m trying to locate someone consistent with Charles in the 1880 and 1900 census in an attempt to more firmly connect them with the 1870 Charles.

Benjamin Butler is living in Vernon County, Missouri in the 1880 census. This is where a Charles A. Butler marries an Annie McClure on 15 March 1880.
Right now…the problem is “Where is Charles Butler in 1880 and 1900?” The Charles from the 1910-1930 census died in Lane County, Oregon, in 1931 and I need his death certificate, but that still probably won’t answer the question of where he was in those two census years. 
It is noted that the 1880 marriage date and the estimated year of marriage for the 1910-1930 Charles is inconsistent. This could easiest be explained by Charles having a wife besides Annie McClure. 
Some conjecture here, but the chart has been helpful in keeping me organized.


Finding a Trutwettcevette

A researcher is never finished encountering incorrect transcriptions for a last name. But this one exceeded my expectations:

Trutwettcevette for Troutvetter

While transcription errors are frustrating, I can usually see how someone read the name incorrectly. I’m not even trying in this case as it’s not worth my time. I’m not even certain how they arrived as “Hads” for Haas. If they’d been transcribing this handwriting for sometime (and the records are in the same handwriting), they would have seen other “d”s on the page and they are clearly made differently than the letters that are used to spell “Haas.”

This entry could have been located by searching for the name of the bride as Effie Tripp is transcribed correctly and spelled correctly in the record. But that’s not how I found this entry.

The place of birth is transcribed in the index entry, but they are not tagged to complete locations as some locations in Ancestry.com indexes are. This entry was located by searching for “tioga” as a keyword in the database. The reason for conducting the search in this fashion was that I have numerous relatives born in Tioga, Hancock County, Illinois, and that I knew many Hancock County residents crossed into Iowa to get married. Fortunately, Tioga, Iowa, is not a town of any significance and my search results were not full of references to that location.

There probably were a few references to Tioga, New York, or Tioga, Pennsylvania, but that’s far enough away from Iowa to not significantly impact my results.

But Trutwettcevette for Trautvetter? That’s a new one and clever searching based on the name probably would not have located it.

I also located a few of my Myers relatives from the same location by using that location as a keyword. Easier than sifting through all the Myers (and alternate spellings) entries.