An 1862 Separation Agreement from Kentucky

trautvetter-michael-separtaesDeed records are not always just about the land. There’s often something that precipitates the creation of a deed. The owners want to move or may need the cash. The owners may be transferring property before their death in order to avoid probate. The surviving spouse may have died and the property needs to be transferred by the heirs to one of them or out of the family. The transaction may have been the result of a tax sale or court action. Frequently the real cause is not spelled out in the document–court action being the major exception. All we have left is the record copy of the deed detailing the transaction.

We often do not know if the cause was benign or dramatic.

The reasons are not really germane to the record after all. The deed only needs to confirm that the grantor is assigning his (or her) title to the real property to someone else.

Then we have the deed that was signed on 22 June 1862 in Campbell County, Kentucky. Most likely that was the result of at least some drama–if not on 22 June 1862 then before.

Michael and Margaret Trautvetter were separating and no longer going to be living as husband and wife. And there were property rights to be concerned with.

Michael agreed to pay Margaret $300 for her interest in their property. He also agreed to give her a cow worth $20 or $20 in cash. Michael agreed to give Margaret half the wheat, half the meat, half the poultry, and half the corn on hand.

In return Margaret gave up her dower in all the real estate Michael owned and in all rights to his estate.

But they weren’t getting divorced. They had decided to “separate as husband and wife.” Margaret agreed to move off the premises that day and give him “peaceable and quiet possession of same.”

They also agreed that if either of them filed for divorce that the other one would not contest it. The separation agreement for the Trautvetters is filed in Campbell County, Kentucky, Deed Book 33, page 221.

At this point it is not known whether or not the Trautvetters actually divorced. No children were mentioned in the agreement, but that’s not surprising as Michael did not leave any descendants.

Michael is known to have lived in St. Louis, Missouri, with a niece a few years later. He eventually moved to Hancock County, Illinois, where he died in 1869. That’s also where his estate was settled and where most of his siblings and his nieces and nephews lived. That estate mentions no wife.

Land records are not always about the land.

In fact many times the land is tangential to the real issues at hand.





6 thoughts on “An 1862 Separation Agreement from Kentucky

  1. Janet Wright says:

    While looking through deeds, I found a pre-nuptial agreement from 1868 between my gg grandfather and his third wife, a late-in-life marriage. In it, if he dies first, she receives $400 and will have no claim to dower rights. If she dies first, he receives $300 and will make no claim to her property. Both had land and children from previous marriages. He died two years later. The estate papers, no will, include a receipt signed by her for the $400. She is also listed as purchasing a clock, a kettle, and a few other items from the sale. In these papers I found listed the family Bible so now I know which line received that.

    As an interesting aside, ten years later she married a gg grandfather on the other side of my family!

  2. My introduction to genealogy was by a cousin who had been employed as a title searcher in her younger life. I always begin with deed records when researching a new family line. I encourage others to do so, but am usually told, “I know where they lived; I don’t need to see that!”

    • mjnrootdig says:

      I get resistance to using deed records from people as well. I was always interested in knowing when the purchased land and how much they paid for it. I knew approximately where many of my “local” (1850 and after ancestors), but the earlier ones I didn’t. Often times deeds reveal financial struggles, relationships, and other details that are not necessarily suggested by other records.

  3. Recently, as executor of my mother’s estate, I came across some old deeds banded together with a note ‘deeds of no real value’. Interesting that regardless of the note, they were kept. (The note is not in either of my parents hand.) When I read the note I immediately placed them in the tote to be shipped to my home in KS. I can’t wait until the day I can sit down with them and analyze them for myself.

  4. Suzanne Brayer says:

    Michael, what a great find! May I use your example in the talk I give on land records?I would, of course, give you credit for the research. I mainly give talks around Arizona and teach classes at local libraries. Thank you, Suzanne

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