Let Carl Have it All and Let the Secretary Cross it Out

List of items paid out in the John J. Trautvetter estate, Adams County, Illinois, Probate Case Files, filed 1 October 1938.

The list of disbursements in the 1938 final accounting of the John J. Trautvetter estate contains an inordinate number of “x”s. Over half of the disbursements were effectively eliminated before the report was filed.

The disbursements that have been cancelled were to John’s family. He died in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, in 1937 leaving his mother and his siblings as his only heirs-at-law. The crossed out section of payments reference those disbursements and reads, when overlooking the crossouts:

Distributed balance to heirs-at-law, as follows:

To Ida Trautvetter Miller, Mother of decedent, one-fourth of residue $26.24

To Carl Trautvetter, brother of decedent, 1/8 of residue $13.11

To Cecil Trautvetter, [ditto marks indicating same share and relationship as Carl] $13.11

To Elmer Trautvetter,
[ditto marks indicating same share and relationship as Carl] $13.11

To Luella Barnett, sister of decedent, 1/8 of residue $13.11

To Lillian Short, [ditto marks indicating same share and relationship as Luella] $13.11

To Ida Neil, [ditto marks indicating same share and relationship as Luella] $13.11

Carl Trautvetter, the administrator of John J. Trautvetter’s estate, signed the list of disbursements on 23 August 1938. It was witnessed by Chester A. Groves, who signed as a notary. The list of disbursements was completed on a form pre-printed for the express purpose of settling an estate and was apparently normally to be signed before a clerk in the Circuit Clerk’s office. Groves has crossed out the pre-printed “Clerk” on the form and the word “Deputy” and replaced it with “Notary Public.” Chester A. Groves was also the lawyer for the Trautvetter estate as indicated in the list of disbursements where he received a $25 payment for his services.

The request of Trautvetter to have the list of disbursements approved by the court and have himself released from his duties as administrator makes the reason for the crossouts a little more apparent. What likely happened is that a clerk in Groves’ office typed up the form before Trautvetter signed it. It most likely was completed a while before Trautvetter signed it and before the family had made a decision.

The section of Trautvetter’s request to have the estate closed initially included a phrase indicating that the bills of the estate had been paid and that the balance should be distributed to the heirs-at-law based upon the laws of descent in effect in Illinois. That phrase has been crossed out. It has been replaced with a handwritten statement requesting that the balance of the estate be retained by the administrator for his services and that this change has been agreed to among the heirs-at-law who have given their consent and approval to the report.

So at some point before Trautvetter signed the petition to close the estate, his mother and siblings agreed that he should receive what was left over. Illinois state statute indicated how the heirs were to receive property. Trautvetter was survived by six siblings and his mother and, under contemporary Illinois law, his mother would receive a share twice as large as her children. That’s why she would have received 1/4th of his estate (2/8ths) and his siblings would have received 1/8th of his estate.

If they had not agreed to let their brother have the balance. If heirs can agree, they can sometimes override what statutes dictate–if they can agree. That doesn’t always happen.

But typists in the 1930s who don’t want to retype documents that need correcting often use cross-outs. After all, there is no whiteout.


DNA is Partially Probability

A new match (we’ll call him LHO) showed up on my DNA results recently. I suspected his connection based upon our shared matches and his username. The conversation we had confirmed how he and I are related. This post isn’t about that. When I reviewed the shared matches he and I had I was reminded of a few pitfalls of relying only on shared matches when doing analysis.

LHO and I are third cousins. Our great-grandfathers (Lewis Habben and Mimke Habben (1881-1969) were brothers). AncestryDNA indicated that we shared 28 cM of DNA across two segments. Their predicted relationship for us was in the 4th to 6th cousin range. That’s a reasonable prediction based upon the amount of DNA that we share. I won’t share the same amount of DNA with every third cousin I have and there are ranges of typical shared DNA for certain relationships that have been established (Blaine Bettinger’s shared cM project has ranges based upon submitted samples is probably the best, but is based upon users who knew their relationship and submitted the shared cM with that individual. AncestryDNA does have a page with predicted relationship information.) The ranges are broad and relationships at the range discussed in this post are far enough that there is variation. There’s nothing unusual with a predicted 4th-6th cousin actually being a 3rd cousin.

LHO and I share a common set of great-great-grandparents, Jann and Anke (Fecht) Habben, who married in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1881. There at least six of their descendants other than myself who have tested at AncestryDNA:

  • MAT with whom I share 443 cM of DNA–she is a granddaughter of Mimke Habben (Jann’s son). I am Mimke’s great-grandson.
  • PTG with whom I share 372 cM of DNA–she is a another granddaughter of Mimke Habben.
  • PTGD with whom I share 163 cM of DNA–she is PTG’s daughter and a great-grandchild of Mimke.
  • GHRD with whom I share 119 cM of DNA–she is a great-granddaughter of Mimke Habben.
  • MHSG with whom I share 33 cM of DNA–she is a great-great-granddaughter of Jann Habben.
  • LHO with whom I share 28 cM of DNA–he is a great-great-grandson of Jann Habben.

Looking at the histogram of 3rd cousin submissions to Bettinger’s “Shared Centimorgan Project,” (page 13) LHO and I are well within the typical amount of shared DNA for our genealogical relationship. We are lower than the average and that’s reasonable because the average, after all, is the average. Our shared amount of cM is typical for a more distant relationship which is why that’s what AncestryDNA predicted for us. But you can’t just rely on the predictions and they are reasonably correct at this genetic distance–not precise.

Note: of these six descendants of Jann and Anke (Fecht) Habben only two were identified with ThruLines being the initial tool to potentially determine the match. The rest were obtained after initially studying shared matches with MAT who was immediately known to me.


Three Tombstones and Two Dates of Birth

This stone for Riley Rampley in Buckeye Cemetery, Hancock County, Illinois is somewhat faded (and my picture is not the best). It indicates that he was born on 25 August 1835 and died on 27 March 1893.

The stone with Riley and his wife (shown below) provides the same information, except that it indicates he was born in 1825.

The 1835 date is consistent with other records. Of course, the tombstones do not provide primary information for Riley’s date of birth (or Nancy’s either), given when they were likely put on the graves.

Riley’s “solo” stone could be considered primary information on his date of death, assuming that it was erected closely to the time he died. It could still be incorrect–remember that classification as either primary or secondary does not indicate that the information is accurate.

The “joint” stone, probably erected after Nancy’s death, would contain primary information on her death, but not on Riley’s as it was erected thirty years after his death.

Riley also has a military stone–giving him three stones in the same cemetery.

They all should be transcribed as they are inscribed. Any comments about the perceived accuracy of an individual stone’s information should be made in such a way as to make it clear what was on the stone and what was not.


Social Security Death Benefits in the 1930s

To be honest, I never gave it much thought. The probate settlement of John J. Trautvetter mentions a receipt for $22.06 for “Social Securities compensation.” This appears to have been paid out to his mother, based on the fact that it was the same amount, $22.06, where it was listed as “Social Security benefits.” 

I’m not certain there would be any real records related to John. This is one of the few estates I have during the early 1930s where the deceased was someone who would have paid into Social Security and would have had a mother (no children) as an heir. John was working for a trucking company in Quincy, Illinois, at the time of his death in 1937.

Those “x” out lines? We’ll have an update on those.


The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

It’s not a new release (in fact it won a Pulitizer Prize for history in 2014), but I was just reminded of Alan Taylor’s The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 when someone mentioned it on a Facebook group for Amherst County, Virginia, genealogy and history and indicated that there were passing references to the county in it. Since some of my Virginia families were living in Amherst County during the time period covered, I decided that was one more reason to obtain a used copy on Amazon.com.

I’m not expecting it to mention my people, but additional historical reference is always a good thing.

I know this book’s been out awhile, but sometimes life and other things cause items to totally bypass our line of sight. Reading this may give me the impetus to start work again on my families who lived in the Amherst County area beginning in the 1760s.


An 1887 Suicide in Coffman’s Harmony Township Barn

The first two images I have had for some time, it is just now that I sat down, put them together and realized what the solution was–at least in part.

20 September 1887 letter [partial] written by Noentje Lena Ufkes
 of Basco, Hancock County, Illinois

In 1887, great-great-grandma Noentje (Grass) Ufkes writes a letter to her husband’s sister’s family in Nebraska. Must of the letter is local news of fellow Ostfriesens. Noentje mentions that Dirk Frieden shot himself in the barn of Enne Kofffman and that an “English” girl is mourning. Frieden does not appear to have been a relative, but the nature of his death piqued my interest.

There is no indication in the letter of precisely when the shooting took place, but it is reasonable to assume that it took place relatively close to when Noentje wrote the letter, maybe as early as the spring of 1887, but probably (an assumption) not before 1887.

Quincy Daily Journal mention of Fayen suicide 
from 6 September 1887

The Quincy Daily Journal of 6 September 1887 contains a mention of an event that most likely is the one to which Noentje is referring.

The the last name of the landowner is the same, but the other names are slighly different. However, it would be odd for there to have been two Coffman farmers both of whom had men shoot themselves in their employer’s barn in September of 1887.

Newspapers are notorius for getting the names of low-Germans incorrect, so I concluded that the names as written in Noentje’s letter were correct. However, there is an A. K. Coffman living in Harmony Township, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1880 and enumerated as a farmer.

While I did not perform a manual search of all the entire area near where Noentje Ufkes lived and did not come close to searching all of “near Carthage,” I believe this is the individual in whose barn the suicide took place.

1880 U S Census, Hancock County, Illinois, 
Harmony Township, Enumeration District 71, page 8D

The name matches the newspaper account. The last name is the same as the one in the Ufkes letter and Harmony Township is adjacent to Bear Creek Township in which Ufkes was living in 1887. It also seems probable that this A. K. Coffman is the one to whom the newspaper is referring seven years later. In fact, the farm on which Ufkes lived is on the extreme eastern border of Bear Creek Township–which borders Harmony Township. A plat map would confirm how “close” to the Ufkes family Coffman lived (or at least owned property), but it really doesn’t matter where in Harmony Township he lived in the context of this problem–as it’s all close to where Ufkes lived and close enough that any news would have reached the family fairly quickly.

Especially news of the suicide of an apparent fellow Ostfriesen.

But what of Enne Koffman to which Noentje Ufkes refers?

My working premise is that Noentje “translated” A. J. Coffman’s first name (or perhaps his initials) to the closest low-German name she could. English speaking census takers translated names when taking the census. It is not a stretch to imagine German language letter writers doing the same thing, especially when the letter was written entirely in German.

At least now I know where the suicide took place. I still have more research to do on this event in local papers to see if there’s any mention of the story behind the newspaper’s use of the phrase “killing the farmer and marrying the widow” or Noentje’s mention of “English” girl who is mourning.

The Quincy, Illinois, newspaper reference is not local, but finding it will help me search local papers which are not digitized and will require a manual search.

Genealogical Lessons:

  • Don’t assume the newspaper is wrong.
  • Anyone can translate any name–even in atypical directions.
  • Newspapers a distance from the event may still contain a mention of the event. In this case that allowed me to get a date I could use to search other papers. 

Got Your Deed?

This image comes from the Rockford [Illinois] Forum of 9 January 1850. Apparently the former recorder had approximately 1,000 deeds that had never been picked up. Interestingly enough my ancestor Clark Sargent purchased federal property in Winnebago County during this time period. Clark died in 1847 and, who knows, maybe his deed was in this collection.
Makes a person wonder how many deeds were never picked up by the property owners. I doubt if all 1,000 deeds were picked up by the rightful parties–wonder what happened to them.


Age of 20/30 in 1880

I’ve often seen ages listed in fractions of a year 1/12, 2/12, etc. but it is not often that I see an age listed as a fraction of the number of days in the month. Maggie Johnson is listed as 20/30 for her age in this 1880 census enumeration from Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois. The census states that she was born in May. The date this census was taken was 12 June 1880 and the actual date of the census was 1 June 1880. My guess is that this means she was 20 days old–but May does have 31 days, not 30.

1880 U S Census, Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois , page 20D, line 40.

Next step is to see if there is a birth certificate for her. That search should start in the records of Hancock County and expand from there if needed.


1850-1940 US Census Class

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This set of three lessons will look at US census records from 1850 through 1940. Topics discussed will include:

  • enumerator instructions and how information “got in the census”
  • organization of original records
  • working with family structure in 1850-1870 records
  • correlating a family’s census records over time
  • evaluating accuracy of census records
  • determining other records suggested by a family’s enumerations
  • crafting census citations

Our approach is laid-back, down-to-earth, and informal while providing accurate information and analysis.

Order here–intro price of $50 through 29 August. Regular price of $65 applies after that date. Download is immediate and media can be replayed for personal use only.


King Versus King and Queen: Virginians Who Get Moved to California

As of the date of this post, according to the “Virginia, Slave Birth Index, 1853-1866,” nearly 1300 individuals in this Virginia database were born in California. They were not just born anywhere in California–they were born in King, California, which is located in San Bernardino County. This does seem a tad bit strange.

While searches of this database were not conducted in a location where I could view the actual images, some of the individual entries in the database suggest what really happened. The April 1853 entry for Alonso contains an event place of “King & Q.” in addition to the “King, San Bernardino, California, United States” location. The “King & Q.” location is likely what is in the actual record–a probable reference to King and Queen County, Virginia. The California reference is likely a standardized location to facilitate searching and probably only entered the database because someone searched for “King” and that’s what came up. Probably.

Standardized place names to facilitate searches only works when the location is standardized correctly. Having the correct state helps.

All of which serves as a reminder to use the standardized place names on an “index record entry” of this type with extreme care when incorporating them into a personal database–if they are used at all. Of course many who attach these records to online trees give no thought to correcting the location (hey…I found something…yeah!…on to the next record). Now Alonso (from the illustration) was born in California in 1853. Those locations get copied and shared.

The incorrect standardized location also makes database queries difficult. Why would I think that to locate entries in King and Queen County, Virginia, I need to search for King, San Bernardino, California?

It would seem to me that data entry for a database of births in the state of Virginia would have at least some mechanism to reduce the chance that a birth from out of state is entered.

The usual warnings apply:

  • read the actual record
  • don’t trust the transcription
  • don’t engage in click and point genealogy

Online indexes are great, but not when Virginia births are taking place in California.