Hyding in Plain Site

Does it look like Jas. Kyle to you?

Sometimes it is clear to see how names get misread. This 1830 Census entry for Monroe Township, Licking County, Ohio, was located by searching manually. There are still times when a manual search is necessary. Not every name is easily readable.

Ancestry.com originally indexed this as “Gs Hyles” (Jas. Hyles has been added as an alternate rendering) and it is easy to see how that might have happened–particularly with the last name. That last name could easily have been read as Hyde as well. However, I think this is actually meant to be Jas. Kyle. James is known to have lived in the township for several decades.

Hyle(s) is not one of those “sounds like” variants that comes up when Kyle is entered as a search term.

And census records during this time period are one of those records that are begging to be read manually.


The File That Wouldn’t Tell Me Anything

Nancy J. Rampley, etal.
vs. Charles W. Rampley etal., Case file 391,
Hancock County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Carthage, IL.

It is always best when the files are fat and thick.

I first discovered this court case nearly thirty years ago, early in my research when my knowledge of court records, inheritance, research methods, and life in general was much smaller.

I simply wasn’t able to afford a copy of the entire file and so I copied one document that listed the names of all the parties and real estate involved.

The case appeared pretty simple. Riley Rampley died in 1893 with no will, a wife, and eleven children. The document that I copied indicated that the youngest child was too young to sign a deed and I thought that was the only real reason why the case was filed. I also thought that there wasn’t anything else I could learn from the case.

And I never looked at it again until this week.

I only meant to take a quick look–I was actually looking for something else. I really wasn’t intending to read the entire file again. After all, there wouldn’t be anything in it that would really help me and I already “knew everything” about this family.

I knew when they were born. I knew when they married. I knew when they died. And, for the most part, I knew where they lived. Reading it wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.

I was wrong.

The original bill filed by Nancy and her son William named the tenants on the Riley Rampley farm: Charles and Fannie (Rampley) Neill. I didn’t know they had rented her father’s farm early in their marriage. That was news to me. It also became apparent that the Neills weren’t going to be able to purchase the farm and that the partition suit being filed by Nancy and William effectively evicted them from the property.

The farm was originally to be auctioned at the west door of the Hancock County courthouse. The judge changed the location to the West Point post office–most likely because it was significantly closer to the farm. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, one of the notices was posted at the Breckenridge telephone building. I never dreamed the village of Breckenridge would have had a telephone office in 1909.

The final payment of expenses indicated that one of the Rampley children obtained a judgement from one of their siblings and that the amount of the judgement was attached to their inheritance. I wasn’t even aware that Justices of the Peace could hear “small” claims in the early 20th century and issue judgements.

And, my great-grandmother “couldn’t be found” in 1909 when the sheriff came a knocking to give her notice of the partition suit.

All from a case file that I thought “wouldn’t tell me anything.”

What files have you really not gone through?

Wilhelmina Trautvetter Senf Kraft in the US Census-Part I

We’ve written before about Wilhelmina (Trautvetter) Senf Kraft. The 1808 native of Dorf Allendorf, Germany, immigrated to America some time presumably after 9 February 1846 (when her husband Johann Valentin Senf died) and 1869 when her brother Michael Trautvetter died in Hancock County, Illinois.

We will start with her 1870 enumeration as that’s the first one that was located.

1870 US Census, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, page 11 (handwritten), page 223 (stamped); digital image from Ancestry.com, 6 March 2018.

1870 US Census, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, page 12 (handwritten); digital image from Ancestry.com, 6 March 2018.

Relationships are not given in the 1870 census, but references to Wilhelmina in the probate records of her brother Michael indicate that her husband was George P. Kraft.

There are two adjacent Kraft households in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. The first [dwelling 103, household 96] is headed by a George B. Kraft, a 55 year old laborer, born in Berne. The only other member of the household is apparently 62 year old Wilhelmina Kraft born in Saxony. George B. apparently has real estate valued at $600 and personal property at $150.

The next household [dwelling 104, household 97] is apparently headed by George Kraft, a 24 year old laborer born in Ohio. The census entry is split over two pages. The following names in this household appear in the following order:

  • Jennie L. Kraft, 23 years old, keeping house, born in Illinois
  • Vandever Kraft, 1 year old, born in Illinois
  • John Kraft, 26 years old, a fireman on a steamboat, born in Ohio
  • William Kraft, 24 years old, a laborer, born in Kentucky

Relationships to head of household are not given in 1870, but it seems reasonable to initially infer that George is Jennie’s husband and that Vandever is their son. This conclusion should be substantiated with other records. John and William most likely are George’s relatives–probably brothers. This census does not provide evidence of that relationship. It does however suggest a relationship among the three Kraft men. The proximity of the two George Kraft households suggests that they are father and son.

There are a lot of things that are suggested in this record. That’s part of the problem with the 1870 census.

Both George’s owned real property. There may be records of the purchase of that property and it left the Krafts’ ownership. Those records may help establish a time frame for when the family arrived in the area or provide additional information on either George’s family if they owned that property at the time they died.

According to this census enumeration, the three potential Kraft brothers were born roughly in the mid-1840s in Kentucky and Ohio. Based upon the current time frame known for Wilhelmina (her husband died in Germany in 1846 and her last child was born there in 1845), she’s probably not their mother.

Probably–based upon our time frame.

It may be worth our time to look and determine if there are additional Krafts living in Nauvoo in 1870 before we move to other census records.



Absence Makes the Genealogical Mind Wonder

The problem with reading things quickly is that valuable clues tend to be glossed over.

We’ve discussed the partition suit among Riley Rampley’s heirs before, but a closer reading of the list of parties involved indicated that one of Riley’s children was missing: Martha (Rampley) Gillham.

The question is why?

Thinking she was simply left out is not a valid conclusion. Court cases involving property rights need to involve all the interested heirs. Even if she were intentionally left out (extremely doubtful), it’s unlikely that one of her siblings wouldn’t mention the case to her and, given that notice later appeared in the newspaper and publicly via sale bills for the resulting auction, it’s unlikely a neighbor wouldn’t mention it to her.

If Martha were deceased at the time of the court action and left no heirs of her own, she wouldn’t have to have been listed. That’s not the case either–Martha was living at the time of the court case and had children of her own.

So why?

It’s actually pretty simple, but like many things, requires a reading of all the relevant papers in the case.

The Gillhams had sole their interest in the Rampley estate to her brother, William Rampley.

The Original Bill, filed in December of 1907, references the sale from Gillham to William Rampley and also provides the deed volume and page number in the Hancock County Recorder’s Office where the deed of sale was recorded.

The reason Gillham didn’t have to be a part of the suit was that she had transferred her rights in the estate to her brother. She was not overlooked.

Two of Riley Rampley’s children borrowed against their share in the estate–with their mother’s knowledge and consent. Gillham is known to have left Hancock County, Illinois. It’s possible that instead of mortgaging her interest to raise money, she simply sold it.

It’s always worth determining why someone isn’t listed where they are supposed to be.

There’s usually a reason.

Sometimes that reason is made explicit–as it is here.
Sometimes that reason is buried under indirect references.

Regardless of how easy the reason is to uncover, genealogical absence should make the researcher wonder.

It All Depends on Where-Johann, Jann, Jans, Real First Name, Not Real First Name, etc.

This image was used as an illustration for “Genealogy Tip of the Day”

I have so many Johns, Johanns, Janns, Jans, Janses (my attempt to “pluralize” Jans) in my genealogy, it’s a wonder I can see straight. Since it’s my middle name, I take the confusion in great stride. In different parts of my family the name “Johann” (and variants) had slightly different interpretations–depending upon the time period and the ethnic region in which it was used.

One should never generalize outside the immediate geographic and ethnic area in which one is working. What is true about one region and one time period is not necessarily true about another.

Erasmus and Anna Catharine (Gross) Trautvetter of Thuringia, Germany, had the following sons:

  • Johann Heinrich Trautvetter, born 1791 Dorf Allendorf
  • Johann Adam Trautvetter, born in 1794 Dorf Allendorf
  • Johann Michael Trautvetter, born in 1796 Dorf Allendorf
  • Johann Georg Trautvetter, born in 1798 in Dorf Allendorf

There were daughters as well, but our focus is on “Johann.” All the sons immigrated to the United States after their parents died in the Wohlmuthausen (Erasmus in 1841 and Anna Catharina in 1823). The sons all used their “middle” names as their actual names in the United States (except for one document George signed as Johann George). That’s because their first names were saint names given to them at their baptism. They did not actually use the “first name” of John.

Except again, for George that one time. But he’s the exception.

This naming practice was common in the time period in the location where the Trautvetters. It was common in other areas of Germany as well.

But not everywhere.

Just because something is done in one area of a country does not mean that it is done in another. Cultural practices are like that. They do not necessarily follow current political lines.

Mimke Lubben Habben and Antje Jaspers Fecht had several sons born in Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany in the mid-19th century, including:

  • Johann Mimken Habben born there in 1853.
  • Jann Mimken Habben born there in 1859.

Ostfriesland is different.

Johann and Jann are not baptismal names for these boys. They are the actual first names of these boys.  Johann did not die before Jann’s birth. Jann was not named for him. Johann and Jann are different first names. Johann is a High-German name. Jann is a low-German (Platt) name. The names were different to their parents and the community into which they were born. They were family names of other members of the extended Habben and Jaspers families.

The family immigrated to the United States and, in an attempt to anglizice their names, both sons became John Mimken Habben (sometimes John Mimka Habben in an attempt to anglicize “Mimken” which is somewhat difficult). Yes, that is confusing. But that is because both names are equivalent to “John” in English.

Their “middle name” of Mimken is actually a patronym. All their siblings (girls included) had that middle name. Much like the first name being the actual first name, using the patronyms as second names during this time period (19th century) was a common Ostfriesen practice.

Whether your Johann Michael was really a Johann or a Michael and whether your Johann Mimken was actually a Johann, depends upon the time period. Whether your Johann became a John depends on the time period and whether or not he immigrated.

It depends.

Just like a lot of research–on the location, the time period, common practices, how much your ancestor (if he was an immigrant) desired to assimilate, etc.

And it depends on how much you become familiar with those practices.

Jim Beidler discusses the call name practice in his book on German research (The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe ).




A Lot Can Happen in Twenty-Three Years

It’s easy to get “stuck in a genealogical rut” when something cannot be located and continue to beat one’s head against the same wall.

I think I’m doing that with Wilhelmina (Trautvetter) Senf Kraft.

Her Senf husband (Johann Valentine Senf) died in Wothlmuthausen, Thuringia, German,y in 1846.

The first reference to her Kraft husband (as Mrs. George Kraft) is in a 1869 probate record from Hancock County, Illinois.

That is a twenty-three year time span.

Twenty-three years.

In theory that is time enough for her to have married someone else, had another child (or more) and for the children of that marriage to have grown up and given her grandchildren.

And while that may not have happened, it could easily explain why I cannot find her:

  • passenger list entry
  • US census records other than 1880

It’s also possible the last name of Senf or Kraft is spelled incorrectly in those same records. But I’ve focused on those variants for so long that I have just about lost sight of the fact that she (and consequently her children) could be listed under another name in a variety of records. And without that name, locating them will be difficult.

I need the senf[sic] to kraft[sic] a plan.


John Rampley–The Well-Known Kentucky Jack


This was not what I was expecting when I searched Maryland newspapers for members of my Rampley family. Finding items in classified advertisements can be helpful as it documents a person’s existence in a time and place.

I’m not so certain having a horse named after a relative is quite as helpful.

I’m also not certain if the horse was named after a specific “John Rampley” or not. I’ll have to review my files as John was not one of those first names really favored by the Maryland branch of the family during this time period–James, William, and Thomas seemed more their style.

Given the unique nature of the last name and the fact that this horse was a Harford County resident there is likely a connection between the person who named the horse and some member of the Rampley family. Maybe.

I’m just not going to be looking for a birth certificate.

When You Sold Pa the Farm, Someone Described it Wrong

There are several reminders from this 1829 legal notice published in a Maryland newspaper.

Extra Details in Court Records

The first is that court records can contain a variety of information. This 1829 case was heard in the Harford County Court and centered around an incorrect legal description for a piece of property the plaintiff’s father had purchased twenty years before the case was heard.

It even names the father.

The father of the plaintiff is only mentioned because it was the deed transferring the property to the father that was incorrect in the first place. It’s fortunate that the relationship is even stated at all. If James Rampley, Junior, actually purchased the Myers property from James Rampley, Senior, there really did not need to be a reference to their relationship. Referencing them as Senior and Junior would have been sufficient to distinguish between them in the various court filings and in this legal notice. Sometimes we just get lucky and a clerk includes an additional tidbit of information.

Had Senior gifted the property to Junior or willed it to him, then the parent-child reference might have been included for additional clarification as to the transfer. But if the purchase was one for cash (which this legal notice suggests by indicating it was purchased), the parent-child relationship does not need to be indicated.

Of course the use of the word “purchase” may not technically be correct or it may actually refer to a purchase for a token amount. The actual deed would answer that question.

Dead Named In Newspapers

The legal notice does not mention it, but James Rampley, Senior, died in 1817. His name appeared in this notice twelve years after his death–and not in a reference to his estate being settled.

Former Residents Named in Paper

The legal notice indicated that Henry Myers resided outside the state of Maryland. Given the location of the property in question, he was sued in a Harford County court. It is possible that the actual court records provide more information on Henry’s residence in 1829. Or not.

It’s not like they could search for him in 1829 they way we could today.

The court records will be focused on Rampley’s title to the property in question and in describing it correctly. There may be testimony or depositions that reference other members of the families involved–including James. That testimony may give other information regarding the Rampley or the Myers family.

Maryland is a metes and bounds state. If your relative owned real property in a state that used that method of real property description, it may be worth your time to check for court records. The Rampleys were not the only people whose deeds included descriptions that were incorrect.


Reviewing Dates from a Cancelled Homestead

Order is good. I took a little time to organize the materials in John Ufkes’ cancelled homestead application file from the National Archives (for his incomplete homestead claim to the northeast quarter of section 4 in township 3 range 15 in Franklin County, Nebraska). These records are not online and had to be obtained directly from the National Archives. By themselves the dates might not appear to tell all that much.

  • 19 August 1871 John Ufkes filed a declaration of intent to become a citizen in Hancock County, Illinois. The copy of the declaration contained in his homestead application file is dated the same day.
  • 4 September 1871 John pays $13.80 to enter his claim for the northeast quarter of section 4 in township 3 range 15 in Franklin County, Nebraska. The property was 151.87 acres and the claim was entered in the Lowell, Nebraska, land office.
  • 20 November 1873 William Briggs claims John Ufkes has abandoned his claim.
  • 29 Dec 1873 Is the summons date on which John Ufkes is to appear if he wants to defend his claim. Ufkes does not appear and on this date the claim is cancelled by the Register.
  • 17 Jan 1874 The publisher of the Adams County Gazette says that for four weeks in November and December of 1873 he published notice for John Ufkes to appear at the hearing on 29 December.


Reviewing the dates caused me to notice that John’s declaration is filed in relatively close proximity to his making a homestead claim. John knew (or someone told him) that he needed to have “filed papers” for citizenship before he could make a homestead claim. John did not need witnesses for his declaration of intention–that’s only required for citizenship–but from the chronology it looks like he was getting himself ready to head to Nebraska.

Fully analyzing this information requires me to put it into a complete chronology of John’s life. Two other dates are crucial here–John’s immigration to the United States in March of 1869 and his marriage in Hancock County, Illinois, on 3 March 1874. John is known to have been in Adams and Hancock Counties in Illinois shortly after his arrival in the United States (staying with family).

Based upon the dates of his declaration of intention, the fact that he immigrated in 1869, and that he stayed initially with family, John should be in Illinois in the 1870 census. To date, despite numerous searches, he has not been located in that record. Based upon the homestead application, he was in Nebraska on 4 September 1871, but how long he had been there and how long he stayed after that date is debatable.  It is doubtful that he went to Nebraska and returned to Illinois only to return to claim a homestead. On 20 Nov 1873, Briggs claims John had abandonded his homestead–probably indicating John had been away from it for some time, perhaps all of 1873.

Family tradition was that John thought Nebraska was “too wild” and not a place to raise a family. His sister and her husband moved to Franklin County, Nebraska, shortly after the 1880 census. John returned to Hancock County, Illinois, where he married and remained for the remainder of his life (except for a few years when he farmed near Golden, Adams County, Illinois).