Israel Sylvester Estate Inventory 1727-Scituate, Massachusetts-Part I

Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Probate File Papers, 1686-1881, Case File 19970, Israel Sylvester, year 1727.

Scituate april the 25 1727

Persuant To an order from the Honorabel Isaac Winslow Esqr Judge of Probate for the County of Plymouth &c

Wee the Subscribers have maed an apprisement of the Estate of Mr Israell Silvester Late of Scituate deceased

   £ S d
Imprims To his wareing apparel


03 13 00
[I]tam To the Baest baed and furneteur 11 00 00
[I]tam To other beading 02 00 00
[I]tam To Sheets and other Lining 02 10 00

[to be continued]

We’re doing to post this inventory in parts over several days. Suggestions (and corrections) are welcome. Transcribing documents is an art and a science. It’s not just a matter of transcribing “what letters look like.” Letters can “look like” several letters and transcribing a document correctly requires looking at each item in context.

In the case of the estate inventory that means, among other things, realizing that those who made out the inventory most likely did so in some sort of order. Items were not usually randomly thrown into the list. That can be helpful in determining what a letter, word, or phrase means.


Comments on a Naturalization Index Card

Contained in NARA record group 21, National Archives Identifier 572253. Digital image on

This card was used as an illustration for a Genealogy Tip of the Day recently. It generated a fair amount of discussion, so we’re discussing it here in a little more detail.

What is this?

The cards and their origin were discussed in a post yesterday at Rootdig. Researchers should always find out about the record they are using, how it was created, what its purpose was, how it was organized, etc.

When was he born?

The date of birth is listed as 1/14/98. One may be tempted to think something is off with the date of birth when compared to the date of arrival and date of naturalization. The 1/14/98 reference is likely to 14 January 1898. All dates given on the card (and most of the cards if one takes a look at others) have two digits for the year of birth. Most of these cards were created in the middle portion of the 20th century. They knew what they meant when they indicated the year was ’98 and they were not concerned about someone using the card eighty years later. The card should be transcribed as written with annotations made as appropriate.

Why digitize the index? Aren’t the original records better?

Of course they are–when extant. And this card should be used as a stepping stone to the original record. That original record may contain more information or may indicate that information has been transcribed incorrectly (the middle name of Harold looks a little suspect to me based upon what I know of this family).

As mentioned in the post about these records, the cards were created to create an index to naturalization records from a variety of courts. It is possible that now, years after the index was created, that the originals are no longer extant, are not as legible, can’t be accessed, etc. That’s another reason for preserving finding aids of this type–they may be all that exists of the records for some individuals. That won’t be known until the researcher tries to locate the actual record.

Why didn’t digitize the original records?

The short answer: these records were easier to digitize. These index cards were National Archives records and were easier to digitize than the original naturalization records. The originals were created by courts in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Some may be available through FamilySearch either digitally or on microfilm. Filming or digitizing those records requires the permission of the current holder of the records and, while it should be done, will take longer. It was easier and faster to digitize these records. And for reasons discussed elsewhere in the post: these index cards are worth preserving as well.

Tyro or Tyrol?

The card should be transcribed as written. Tyrol is likely an incorrect reference to Tyro, Kansas. Transcribers may wish to insert a “sic” after the incorrect reference to indicate that the transcription of the card was made as is.

What if the original cannot be found?

Then this card can be used. There’s not reason to doubt the essence of what’s on the card, but any piece of information on it could be incorrect. If we use this card as evidence of an individual’s naturalization, we should make it clear in our citation that this card is what was used and not the original record. Our notes should indicate what searches were conducted in order to locate the actual naturalization record.




A Wandering Kansan: John Driesbach, Part II

The discussion of John S. Driesbach and Sophia (Dirks) Driesbach continues.

In February of 1914, Sophia (Dirks) Driesbach died in Coatsburg, Illinois. She was survived by her husband John S. It’s not entirely clear if he was living in Coatsburg when she died. His residence is not mentioned in her obituary and the reference to her funeral in the records of Coatsburg’s St. James Lutheran Church refers to her as being “foresaken” by her husband.

As mentioned in our first installment in this series, John was in front of judge in December of 1914. He was not in any legal trouble–he was getting married.

On 23 December 1914 John S. Driesbach married Nellie Jacobs in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma (Oklahoma County Marriage Record 23, page 243). The forty-three year old groom was living in Oklahoma City as was his twenty-seven year old bride. There are no parents’ names given on the application, but the age is consistent with the John Driesbach who was married to Sophia Dirks. Can it be the same John S. Driesbach who was married to Sophia Dirks of  Coatsburg, Illinois?

There’s one more thing. As mentioned earlier, John S. Driesbach (the husband of Sophia) was known to have been living in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during the 1915 time period. A 1 March 1915 order from the Adams County, Illinois, County Court indicated that John S. Driesbach had been sent notice in regards to the final settlement of the estate of his wife, Sophia. The 1 March 1915 order indicated an address for John S. of 16 N. Harvey Street, Oklahoma City.

The order does not indicate how long he had been living in Oklahoma (it’s not relevant to the estate settlement), but there seems little doubt that it’s the same man.  John’s absence from Illinois is suggested by the fact that he is not appointed to administrate his wife’s estate in Adams County, Illinois. Oklahoma City directories for time period in question may help in determining approximately when he arrived in Oklahoma City. They will not allow us to determine precisely when he moved there or whether he was living there when his wife died in February of 1914. Sometimes records are not as specific as we would like for them to be.

The court order was a significant clue in determining that the men were one and the same. One does not want to assume two people are the same simply because the name matches.

Unanswered questions are what brought the Kansas native to Carthage, Illinois, and how he met the Coatsburg resident. We will see a possible answer to one of those questions in our next post.


Missouri Western District Naturalization Index at Ancestry-It’s MO, KS, and OK Too recently announced that “Missouri, Western District Naturalization Index, 1848-1990” is new or has been updated. I wish they’d tweak the title as well for one reason:

it’s not accurate

Looking at the title may cause one to think that this database only includes Missouri. That’s incorrect. While there are records from as early as 1848 and as late as 1990, don’t think that “time”coverage is complete for all geographic areas that are included. These digital images are of index cards created by the federal government and are not the actual record. This index was created to help individuals locate copies of their naturalization records–not to serve as a substitute to those records and not to help genealogists. Ancestry has digitized these cards and indexed them (hence creating an index to the index). These images were created from items in Record Group 21: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685 – 2009 with National Archives Identifier 572253.

The following sentences are gleaned from the National Archives site that discusses the records from which this database of images was created:

  • Although this series was first created sometime after 1930, some material in it dates back to 1848. There is a gap in the records from 1964 to 1983.
  • This series consists of index cards recording naturalization petitions filed in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma courts, Federal and otherwise. The precise extent of geographic coverage is unknown.[emphasis added]
  • Most index cards are Immigration and Naturalization Service Form 1-IP. The form includes the following information: family name, given name, address, certificate number or volume and page, title and location of court, country of birth or allegiance, date of birth or age, date and port of arrival in the United States, date of naturalization, and names and addresses of witnesses. The back of the form may include information concerning cancellation of certificate, expatriation, and other facts of record.


Index card to the naturalization of Conrad Tammen who was naturalized in LaCrosse County, Kansas in 1913. Contained in NARA record group 21, National Archives Identifier 572253. [County crossed out thanks to an eagle-eyed reader]


The informational page from which the three preceding bulleted items was taken is

Never take a title at face value. And don’t be surprised at who you find (and don’t find) in these records. And remember that these cards are a guide to the actual record–not a substitute. Always look at the next image in this database–sometimes comments were writtten on the back of the cards as well.

A Tragic 1906 Death in Monmouth-Part II

Monmouth, Illinois, Republican-Atlas of 22 November 1906

The newspaper account of Joseph Neill’s death continues:

Passing over his body at a point just below the breast the body was cut in twain, the lower half passing under the train and the upper half being tossed to one side of the track.

Many See Accident

The accident was witnessed by a large number of people on the platform who were waiting for the train which was a few minutes late. Neil, who just returned from dinner, was walking down the center of the track and evidently did not hear the oncoming train on account of a sand train, enveloped with steam which was passing by to his left.

The accident happened at a point just west of the crossing on South D street and, according to the eye witnesses of the accident, it seemed as if the body was gnocked back onto the cow catcher and carried a distance of several yards. At last, however, he dropped beneath the wheels of the great steal monster half going under the train and the other half being thrown to one side.

Every effort was made to stop the train before the body could get under the train, but while brakes were applied and the engine was stopped within a distance of forty yards, it was too late by almost two car lengths.

There’s more in the Republican-Atlas about Joseph’s death and funeral. We’ll continue the transcription in a future post.

Meanwhile if I want to get a better fix on just where this happened, I’ll need to use contemporary maps. It’s possible (although I really doubt it) that the tracks have been moved (even if slightly) between 1906 and today. It’s also possible that the street names have changed as well (although in this case they have not). While using maps as close to the time of the event as possible is preferred they need to be used in conjunction with modern maps to see where the event actually happened.

While it has nothing to do with Joseph’s accident, it’s important to double check titles and names when researching and writing. I caught myself referring to the newspaper that printed  the 1906 article as the Monmouth Review-Atlas–that’s the name of the present-day paper in Monmouth, Illinois (which isn’t all that far from where I live). I’ve also referred to the accident victim as John instead of Joseph. The newspaper’s original headline made that same mistake and now I’ve gotten it in my head. Always check.

A Tragic 1906 Death in Monmouth

There’s a single tombtsone for Joseph Neill in the West Point, Illinois, cemetery. It stands beside the larger stone for his parents, Samuel and Annie Neill. Like most stones it tells little about John’s life and nothing about the tragic nature of his death.

The story of Joseph’s death is chronicled in the Monmouth, Illinois, Republican-Atlas of 22 November 1906 where the writer goes into somewhat excruciating detail. Joseph’s name is actually incorrect in the headline where he is styled as “John Neil” instead of Joseph. The headline reference was likely an accidental one to his brother John who also lived in Monmouth. It is the only known name error in the newspaper item.

John Neil Meets Terrible Death

Struck by No. 13 Near Pattee Plow Shops Last Thursday Afternoon

Body Cut Into Two Parts

Unfortunate Man was Returning to Work After Noon-Day Meal—Passing Down Right of Way Approach of Fast Passenger Not Noticed.

Joseph Neil, an employe of the Hyraulic Stone company, was struck by No. 13, the fast Chicago train at a point just north of the Patee shops Thursday and killed almost instantly.

The train was just pulling into the depot when the ill-fated man was hit and as it was traveling at a low rate of speed he was rolled along for a distance of twenty-five yards before he was pushed down onto the tracks.

The newspaper indicated that the incident happened on Thursday–the same day of the week the newspaper was printed. While the paper does not say “Thursday last” or “last Thursday,” it seems reasonable that the reference is likely to the previous Thursday, 15 November 1906 as the article concludes with a mention of Joseph’s burial in the West Point, Illinois, cemetery.

The “Patee” shops is a likely reference to the Pattee Plow Company which was operating in Monmouth at the time. Spelling error aside, the reference to the “shops” was sufficient to assist locals in known where the accident took place. That’s an important reminder that newspaper items do not always have all the detail that a modern reader would like.

The account even indicated for whom Joseph worked. That’s helpful as well given the short amount of time he lived in Monmouth and the fact that he’s not listed in many local records there.

We’ll follow up with the rest of the article which goes into more detail–perhaps more than a reader may like. Joseph’s a brother to my own great-grandfather Neill and while I am not a Warren County resident, I’ve likely ridden the train over the set of tracks where this incident  took place (assuming that while the tracks from Monmouth to Chicago have been replaced they’ve not been physically moved).

Joseph’s tragic death provides more food for thought than just research reminders–we will concentrate on the genealogical reminders in our future post. Those other “real life reminders” are just as important as well. Joseph left a wife and a young child behind as survivors after his tragic demise.

Newspapers Documenting Movements

Sometimes it can be tedious going through all the newspaper references for a relative. There are times when it can be worth the effort.

I don’t really know too much about Sophia (Dirks) Driesbach, my great-grandmother’s aunt. Sophia and her husband had no children and she died in her mid-forties in Coatsburg, Adams County, Illinois, where she was born in 1868. Her husband left the area and moved to Oklahoma where he died in the 1940s. He was not returned to Illinois for burial.

Had it not been for a variety of newspaper references I would have had fewer clues about the last eight years of her life. A newspaper article about her parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary in December of 1906 indicated she and her husband were living in Lawton, Oklahoma. It was to be one of the first in a series of newspaper references to Sophia and her husband. She is listed as having attended the celebration for her parents and there are pictures of her with her siblings (along with their parents) that were taken at the time. So I know she actually made the return trip home to visit.

She returned again to visit her parents in August of 1908 (apparently by herself). This reference indicated that she had been living in Texas “for some time.” This is the only reference located that indicated she ever lived in Texas. By 1911 the Driesbachs had returned to Illinois.

In the summer of 1911, an ad in the Quincy Daily Herald appeared stating that an employment position was wanted on a farm “by a man and wife, from now until March 1st” with a contact of J. S. Dreisbach of Coatsburg. The ad appeared in the paper for several weeks.

In April of 1912, Sophia’s unmarried sister, Anke, died. Anke’s obituary listed all her siblings as survivors, including a Mrs. John Driesbach of Coatsburg. When Sophia herself died two years later, it is stated that she had become bedfast around January of 1913. Her father Bernard Dirks died in March of 1913 and his obituary in the Quincy Daily Herald indicated that Sophia was living in Lawton, Oklahoma, at that time. If all the newspaper references are correct, Sophia became ill while the couple lived in Oklahoma. It’s possible that the death of Sophia’s father, coupled with her own illness, caused she and her husband to return to Illinois.

In June of 1913, J. S. Dreisbach of Coatsburg, Illinois,  advertised in the Quincy Daily Herald for a woman to nurse and do light housework in his home. The advertisement mentions that no children are in the household. It would appear that the nurse would be caring for Sophia.

That following winter, Sophia passed away. She died at her home in Coatsburg in February of 1914. Neither her obituary or her death notice in the “Coatsburg” section of the Quincy Daily Journal of 5 February 1914 mentions any other residence for her other than Coatsburg.

The Quincy, Illinois, newspapers may only tell part of the story and were searched initially because they were available online in digital format. Quincy is the Adams County seat and weekly newspapers in Coatsburg and the nearby area may provide additional details or references to Sophia and her husband. Research should not focus solely on one newspaper or only newspapers. Probate records for Sophia’s father, her sister, and possibly Sophia herself may shed additional light on the last years of her life.



One More DNA Test & a Question It Won’t Answer

While AncestryDNA is running their $59 DNA testing kit sale (through “Cyber Monday” 27 November), I decided to purchase one more test for a relative by marriage whose family has not been tested before. I’m hoping it will help me on one great-great-grandfather whose paternal grandparents are reasonably known–it’s just which son is the direct line that’s the problem. The test won’t tell me which son, but it could confirm the grandparent relationship.

The other question a DNA test is not going to answer.

A great-grandmother of the testee was born to a man who had a relationship with his wife’s sister while he was married. He had children with the wife and with the sister during the same time frame (at least four with each). There’s plenty of paper evidence that the sister is the mother of great-grandmother. But DNA testing is not going to confirm which sister is the mother of which children.

Always good to know which questions a test could answer and which ones it probably will not.

And there is always the probability that the results locate additional relatives of which I was unaware. The testee has five ancestors who were 19th century immigrants from Europe. While their origins are known, it’s hoped that the test will locate additional relatives overseas.


My Blogs and Subscribing/Unsubscribing

I maintain the following genealogy blogs:

  • Rootdig.comMichael’s thoughts, research problems, suggestions, and whatever else crosses his desk
  • Genealogy Tip of the Dayone genealogy research tip every day–short and to the point
  • Genealogy Search Tipwebsites I’ve discovered and the occasional online research tip–short and to the point?

Subscription/Unsubscription links are on the top of each page. Unsubscription links are also in each email sent.

Record Pitfalls: DNA Tests Won’t Spit Out All Relationships

DNA will not solve all your genealogical research problems and your DNA test results will not spit out every precise relationship you have with other testers.

It can confirm close relationships relatively easily–parent/child or sibling, etc. Certain types of DNA testing can confirm more distant connections along certain biological lines (mitochondrial for direct maternal and Y-DNA for direct father-to-son, but neither will “prove” exactly how many generations back the connection is) and autosomal DNA will indicate a relationship exists between two individuals but does not specify the type of relationship or where the “fit” is in each person’s pedigree. It takes work to figure that out.

And DNA testing cannot be used effectively without paper records–particularly autosomal testing.

AncestryDNA is $59 through 27 November–a really good price. But remember the pitfalls before you test