Wen the Adens are Found

It is easy to see how this was indexed as “Habbe Wen” on Ancestry.com.
It’s also easy to see how it can be read as Habbe Aden as well–which is what it actually is.

The Hermann arrived in New York City on 15 March 1869–apparently with several Ostfriesian individuals on board.

Habbe wasn’t really the person of interest on this manifest–Johann Ufkes was as he’s an actual ancestor. Ufkes and Aden’s family were some of the immigrants on the Hermann who indicated a “last residence” of Holtrop, Germany.

Aden and his family and Ufkes settled originally in Hancock County, Illinois. They then headed to different counties in Nebraska in the early 1870s as evidenced by their homestead records. It’s important to keep in mind that immigrants might have landed for a short time in one place, only to permanently settle elsewhere. Declarations of intention and naturalization records in the homestead applications of Ufkes and Aden document their short term stay in Illinois.

Ufkes abandoned his claim and returned to Illinois.  Aden didn’t.

It always pays to search the entire manifest for other names and if you can’t find the person of actual interest in a manifest, consider searching for some of their fellow immigrants. People didn’t immigrate in a vacuum.

And that way you aren’t searching for Habbe Wen.

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The 1950 US Census

The 1950 United States federal census will be released to the public in April of 2022. As a little thought exercise, I made a list of my direct ancestors who were alive in 1950 and where they should probably be enumerated:

  • My father–in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois.
  • My mother (Connie/Constance Ufkes)–in Rock Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois–8 years old.
  • My grandfather Cecil Neill– in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois–aged 46 years old.
  • My grandmother Ida (Trautvetter) Neill–in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois–aged 39 years old.
  • My grandfather John H. Ufkes–in Rock Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois–aged 33 years old.
  • My grandmother Dorothy (Habben) Ufkes–in Rock Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois–aged 25 years old.
  • My great-grandmother Fannie (Rampley) Neill–in St. Albans Township, Hancock County (probably)–aged 67 years old.
  • My great-grandparents, Fred and Tena (Janssen) Ufkes, in Bear Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois, aged 56 and 55.
  • My great-grandparents, Mimka and Tjode (Goldenstein) Habben, in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois, aged 68 and 67.

It’s awhile before I arrive on the scene and will appear in a federal census record.

Where should your people be enumerated in 1950?

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Why Color Matters

NoteI’m beating the dead horse again on color images for those who are new readers to this blog.

There are many documents where grayscale images made at a high resolution are more than adequate for research and analysis purposes. Frequently color isn’t really necessary in order to analyze a document completely.

Then there are documents like this which we’re working on for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.

Having used a color scan of this document (shown in the illustration), I would not want to analyze it from a grayscale or black and white image. The color makes it much easier to see the at least five (and maybe six) different handwriting styles contained within this document.

Notating on a transcription when one handwriting starts and another one begins is important and can often be done more effectively from color images.  My transcription probably won’t include notations about the color (I’m not going to worry about precisely what shade of red “Slade” is written in, but it will include annotations as to what information appears to be in the same hand. Color helps me analyze in situations like this.

And if we read Evidence Explained and the BCG’s  Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, isn’t that a lot of what research is about?

Note: Many images at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch were made from microfilmed copies of records that were microfilmed in black and white. In some cases those originals were destroyed and are longer available. My plea for color images is for projects going forward–I’m not suggesting that completed projects be redone.

But I do wonder why color images weren’t made in the first place in some of these cases.

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No Intelligible Statement, Word Blindness, and Word Deafness

I’ve been reviewing the Civil War pension file for Leander Butler, a veteran from Kansas who lived most of his post-war life in Missouri.
A doctor’s statement from 1899 indicated that Leander was unable to provide an “intelligible statement” for the doctor at the time of the examination.


The statement goes on to provide more details about Leander’s ability to answer questions. While my understanding of “word-deafness”(generally meaning that one hears sounds but can’t make out the words/meaning) and “word-blindness” (sees letters but can’t make out the words) needs to be refined, the implications are clear: Leander’s ability to communicate was hindered.

How often do we think about how able our relative was to provide accurate, reliable information to the census taker? We often think about whether an informant actually “knew” the information and whether they had “first-hand” knowledge of that information?

But do we stop and ask how reliable their memory was when they were providing information? They may have had first-hand knowledge of an event, but their memory may have been challenged by the time they were providing information.

Based on this doctor’s statement, here’s hoping Leander didn’t answer questions from the 1900 census taker.

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That “C” Was From A Comparer, Not the Original Copyist

There is a reason they refer the compiled military records at the National Archives as “compiled.” The cards that researchers use from these compiled military records are extracts from muster rolls and other records.  As such, they can occasionally contain errors.


These two cards are part of ongoing research into Henry C. Markham, a Civil War veteran. These two cards were created by the same copyist as noted on the bottom. 


The card on the left however contains an annotation in red. Apparently the initial copyist left out Henry Markham’s middle initial and the comparer noticed the discrepancy and made the correction.


Even without the notation, the middle initial “C” on the left hand card is different from that on the right hand card, even though the copyist is the same. 

Notations by comparers were made in red–at least on this card. The distinction made by the color would have been lost in a black and white photocopy. In this case, research doesn’t hinge on the “C” or whether the original copyist or the comparer wrote it.

One of the purposes the cards served was to facilitate the processing of Civil War pension claims. These cards were not created for researchers.

But it is worth remembering that information on these cards is secondary and occasionally prone to error.

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Six Foot Two with Green Eyes and Auburn Hair: John Rampley Enlists in the 78th Illinois

There are many relatives for whom I don’t have photographs. John Rampley is one of those individuals.

This card from his compiled military service record at the National Archives provided details on his physical characteristics at the time of his enlistment.

Being raised on a farm, the florid complexion didn’t really surprise me, but to be perfectly honest I was surprised that he was six feet two inches tall. Members of my paternal side of the family (from which John hails) were not known for being overly tall. It is also indicated that he had green eyes and auburn hair.

John enlisted in Quincy, Illinois, on 4 August 1862 and was living in Breckenridge, Hancock County, Illinois, at the time of his enlistment.

We’ll post other images of his compiled service record in future posts. The others are not as detailed as this one and generally indicate his presence on various muster rolls throughout his service.

What physical characteristics of your family are lurking in military records?

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Documenting Migrations Via Pension Applications

As part of an ongoing project, the War of 1812 military pensions are available for free on Fold3.com. As we’ve mentioned before, these pension files (actually all military pension files) can be a wonderful source for genealogical information. Lately my own use of these materials has focused on establishing micro-migration chains from one small area of the United States to another small area further west.

The image in this post (which has been reduced in size for posting) is from the widow’s application for Mary Hughes of Fulton County, Illinois. This affidavit in her application includes key details about her life, including when and where she married the soldier Taylor Hughes and when the family moved from Harford County, Maryland, to Ohio and from Ohio to Fulton County, Illinois.  Unfortunately the affidavit does not provide the specific residence within Ohio. The family’s move in 1820 to Ohio follows the move of two of her siblings there three years earlier. Her move into Illinois in 1840 precedes the move of some of her nephews and nieces to Illinois by a few years. That’s assuming her memory of the year is correct in the affidavit.

Mary (DeMoss) Hughes is a sister to my ancestor Christianna (DeMoss) Rampley and is a part of a larger chain of migrants from Harford County, Maryland, into eastern Ohio and eventually into west-central Illinois (generally Fulton, Adams, and Hancock County Counties–although these counties do not all share a common border). As part of an ongoing project, I’ve been tracking the movements of these families.

Widow’s pensions for extended family members may help the researcher in documenting a variety of aspects of the life for the person being researched. For migrations specifically, these records may:

  • specifically mention dates of migration
  • include names of witnesses who lives may have intersected with the claimant in more than one location
  • resurrect lost family members who appear to provide testimony or witness affidavits
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Pictures are More than Images

A recurring source of frustration for me are digital images made from pictures with nary any provenance.

If I see a picture online that someone purports to be my 3rd great-grandmother and it’s the only picture I’ve ever seen of her anywhere and there’s no “source” listed or included with the image, how do I know it’s really who the picture purports it to be?

Of course, this is the problem with any digital image. Actually it’s a problem with any photograph. How do I know the picture is who someone says it is? It all boils down to how reliable consider that source to be.

I’ve blogged about this before, but I believe that including some provenance on the actual digital image is a good idea. Not just in the “metafiles” or the filename, but as a part of the actual image. That makes it easier for those who “copy and paste” to have the opportunity to copy and paste the provenance as well.

That’s what I’ve tried to do in this photograph. I’ve included:

  • Names of individuals
  • When and where photograph was taken
  • Who made the image
  • Who had the original photograph–someone vague in this online post, but my digital image has more specifics
  • Who made the digital image
  • How identification was done

Just something to think about.

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They Have to Be Related: They Have the Same Last Name

Just because two individuals have the same last name does not mean that they are related. Researchers working on a Smith family know that two people with this common last name are not related, but what about a more unusual surname?

Well it depends on the origination of the name (and that even is not a guarantee) and jumping to conclusions makes for bad research.

One of my ancestral surnames is Habben–a somewhat unusual name. In Ostfriesland, Germany, where many of these families originate the surname is somewhat more common. However, the name is a patronym actually meaning “child of Habbe.” While patronymics was practiced, two men with the first name Habbe would have children with the last name of Habben–though there might have been no relationship.

Sweden is full of Larsons, Carlsons, etc. for exactly the same reason–patronymics.

Even surnames that are not patronymical in origin may be shared by two unrelated individuals. This is especially true with surnames such as Baker, Farmer, Lake and other names that may have been derived from occupations or nearby geographical features.

There may be cases where all individuals with the same surname are related, but let research, not your gut, be your guide. My tentative hypothesis is that all or most individuals with the last name of Trautvetter are related. However, research is not complete and just because the name is concentrated in a certain area of Germany does not mean there was one common ancestor.

Last names can be used as clues to relationships. But a last name only means it was that person’s last name, not that he (or she) had to be related to someone else.

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Receipts are Great Places to get Signatures

Receipts from estate settlements are also great places to get signatures. This one comes from Hancock County, Illinois, in 1871, when Barbara Trautfetter/Trautvetter is signing for her share in the state of Michael Trautvetter–her brother-in-law.She made her mark on this one, but all the others signed their name. Remember that making a mark does not mean the person was illiterate. It just means that they made their mark. In some cases, the person was literate, but unable to write due to infirmity or age. I have seen individuals sign and make their marks on different documents at different points in their life.

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