Milling Around for Leads

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Milling Around for Leads

I thought I knew quite a bit about my ancestor Johann Ufkes, a German immigrant to Illinois in the late 1860s. 
Family information and initial research were consistent and allowed me to create the following abbreviated 
chronology for the first fifteen years of his life in the United States:

1869—arrived in United States, settling in Adams County, Illinois
1874—married Noentje Grass in Hancock County, Illinois
ca. 1880—moved to Adams County, Illinois
1882—moved back to Hancock County, Illinois

Family members knew where Johann lived in Adams County after his marriage. The farm he purchased after 
he moved back to Hancock County is still in the family. It is his residences before his marriage that are not 
precisely known. Johann's residence in Hancock County the first time (from at least the time of his marriage 
until his move to Adams County) is not known, although he was likely to have lived in or near the German 
community in the southern part of the county. 

I knew Johann had purchased what is known as the "homeplace" in 1882 in Hancock County. The potential 
research pitfall was that his purchase of the "homeplace" in 1882 was not his first land transaction in 
Hancock County. If I had only focused on searching for that specific record, I would have missed some 
excellent information.

My search for Johann in Hancock County, Illinois, land records started with his arrival in the United States 
in 1869. This might have been a tad bit too early, but I wanted all my bases covered. In this case, my search 
was rewarded and the deed I located told me more than I expected to find out.

Johann Sells Property ---Image of actual record
Source: Hancock County, Illinois, Recorder, Deed Book 108, page 146, an abstract of the pertinent details 

Grantors: John Ufkes and Noentje Lena Ufkes his wife late of Hancock County, Illinois, now of Adams 
County, Illinois

Consideration: $325.00

Grantee: Sidney L Hobert, of Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois

Property: Block Number Eight in the town of Basco, also the mill with the engine machinery and fixtures 

Date: 5 Oct 1880

Signed by: John Ufkes, Noentje Lina Ufkes

Witnesses: None

Acknowledged: 6 October 1880 before William Hanna, a Notary Public in Adams County, Illinois.

Recorded: 8 October 1880

First Things First
The grantor is the seller. The grantee is the buyer. These terms can be easily confused and a mix-up will 
waste research time. It helps to write these kinds of terms and their definitions on a sheet of paper or an 
index card and take them with you when you go to research. Then you have a ready reference. Land records
will not use the term buyer and seller just to make it easier for the genealogist.

Where Did I Access The Records?
These records were obtained in Hancock County Recorder's Office at the county courthouse. Normally the 
county courthouse is the first place to look for land transactions among private individuals (very early records 
may be in a state or regional archives). See the additional references at the end of this week's column for 
additional information on locating specific locations of records.

Are The Ufkeses Late?
The Ufkeses are listed as being "late." They signed the deed, so the reference is not indicating Johann and 
Noentje were deceased at the time the deed was signed. The word "late" in this sense does not mean they 
were running behind schedule either. In this case "late" indicates a former place of residence and nothing 
more. Researchers should take care when interpreting the word "late" in any legal document. "Late" does 
not always mean what we currently think it does. While not used in this document, "deceased" usually 
means dead!

In this document, the dates of execution, acknowledgement, and recording are fairly close together. This is 
not always the case. A researcher should always make careful notes of these dates when transcribing a 

Notary A Clue?
Had I been really stuck on this family, the notary's name would have been a significant clue. In this case,
based upon oral family history and local settlement patterns, I had a good idea of where Johann lived in 
Adams County, Illinois. However, if I had not had such information, the notary could have helped me. 
Locating the notary in a census record may have helped me to start my search for the Ufkeses. A search 
of the National 1880 Census Index ( revealed only 
one Hanna (and variants) match in Adams County, Illinois: William Hanna living in Keokuk Junction, Adams 
County. Had I not been able to locate Johann using other 1880 census finding aids (such as the 1880 Illinois 
Soundex or the FamilySearch 1880 National Census Index), this location would have been helpful. My search 
for Johann would have logically started in Keokuk Junction and moved from there. Given that the deed was 
drawn up in Illinois in 1880, it is likely that John did not have to travel a great distance to find a notary. The 
situation would have been different if the research problem were in Illinois in 1815 when the state's settlement 
was sparse. It turns out that Johann lived a few miles from Keokuk Junction and a manual search of census 
records starting in that area would have located him in relatively short order.

How Did I Find These Records?
To find this record on Johann, I used the grantor index to land records starting approximately in 1869. Even
though two grantors are listed on the deed (Johann and Noentje) the deed only appears in the grantor index 

How Did Johann Get The Land?
Finding one deed always brings to mind another question: where's the other one? This deed I located involved 
John as a grantor. I now needed to find where he obtained the property and was hoping he purchased it 
directly (resulting in a deed), instead of inheriting the property (which might not have necessitated a deed). In 
this case, a search for Johann was conducted in the grantee's index beginning ca. 1880 and working 
backwards. After some time, a reference was located.

Johann Buys The Property ---Image of actual record
Hancock County, Illinois, Recorder, Deed Book 98, page 598 
(a summary)

Lubbe U. Albers and Ehe M. Albers, husband and wife, of Kansas City, Missouri (late of Adams County, 
Illinois) sell to John Ufkes of Hancock County, Illinois, the mill in Basco [same legal description as previous 
reference]. The consideration is $566.33. The deed was drawn up and signed by both the Albers on 23 
September 1879 after Ufkes had paid a mortgage to the Albers for the same property that was dated 23 
January 1879. The deed was acknowledged in front of F. M. Harrison, a notary public in Jackson County, 
Missouri, on 7 Oct 1879 and recorded in Hancock County, Illinois on 13 October 1879.

Why No Noentje?
Noentje appears on the deed where Johann sells the property in order to give up her dower interest in the 
property. Noentje's release of dower is necessary even though she does not appear as a grantee on the 
deed where Johann obtains the property. She had a dower interest in the property as she was married to 
Johann at the time he acquired the property.

Owned A Mill?
This was the only reference that I had to the fact that Johann owned a mill early in his marriage. This piece 
of information had not been passed down in the family. Apparently he did not own the mill for long and sold 
it for less than he paid for it. According to the records he sold the property for $241.33 less than he paid for 
it and only owned it from January of 1879 to October of 1880. This would amount to an approximately 43 
percent loss on the property.

Are there possibly clues in your background lingering in the pages of old deed books?

Lots of Leads from A Little Lot
other land record articles

The property is a small city lot and the deed record takes up only half a page in the deed book. Yet this 
one document provides a great deal of genealogical information, both directly and as suggestions for follow-up 
work. A short abstract follows this 1894 deed for a Davenport, Iowa, city lot. 

Scott County, Iowa, Town Lot Book 50, p. 608 

Date of document: 1 Nov 1894 Date of recording: 5 December 1894 

Grantors (sellers): 
John Cawiezell and Elizabeth Cawiezell (his wife), Catherine Freund and George A. Freund (her husband), 
Louis Cawiezell and Lenora (his wife), Lizzie Thelken and Joseph Thelken (her husband), Julius Cawiezell 
(single) and Ida Cawiezell (single) 

Grantee (buyer): 
Mary Hamann of Scott County, Iowa 

Consideration: $800 

Property: Lot No. 4 in Block Number 14 in G. C. R. Mitchell's Third Addition to the City of Davenport.

" . . . the said grantors . . . and grantee herein Mary Cawiezell being all the heirs at law of their mother Marie 
Cawiezell (deceased)."

Those wishing to view a complete copy of the document can do so at:
We have not included a complete transcription in the Daily News due to space limitations. However, our 
abstract contains all the essential clues as well as sufficient documentation, should the document need to 
be relocated. 
All of the grantors (except Louis and Lenora Cawiezell) acknowledged the deed in November of 1894 before a 
Scott County, Iowa, Notary Public. Louis and Lenora Cawiezell acknowledged the deed before a Muscatine 
County, Iowa, Justice of the Peace. The location of these signings and acknowledgements provide a clue as 
to the residences of the grantors. Some deeds will spell out these locations for the grantors and grantees in 
the actual text of the deed. Others will not. Consequently the residence of the notary or the judge before 
whom the deed was acknowledged may be significant when other clues are lacking. 

The Clerk Will Squeeze It In Whenever
In this case, some of the notary's information had to be "squeezed" in the margin of the record. It is 
imperative the researcher make certain they have seen the "entire" record and that such marginal comments 
not be ignored as unnecessary legalese. In some cases, the notary information does not provide significant 
information. However, there are times when any marginal comment is genealogically relevant. 

Reading the entire document is also important. Initial references to individuals or situations may be 
unintentionally vague. Subsequent references may provide additional detail. In this deed, the individual 
initially listed as "Jos. Thelken" is later referenced as "Joseph Thelken." 

What Happened Here?
This deed pretty much spells it out when it states that the grantors and the grantee are all heirs at law of the 
deceased Marie Cawiezell. The transfer of this property is being done to partially settle Maria's estate.
"Estate deeds" are not always so specific in disclosing their intent as this document is. Many may simply 
use the phrase "heirs of so-and-so" or not provide any clue as to what caused the property to be transferred. 
Some deeds may simply list numerous grantees, with no indication as to relationship. In future columns, 
we'll discuss documents where the intent is not as clear as it is in this case. 

It is important to not read more into a document than is there. Analyzing and interpreting a record and perhaps 
extrapolating clues from it may be necessary, but the line of reasoning should be clear and logical. Instead of 
simply stating a conclusion as a fact, it is an excellent idea to show the line of argument leading to that 
conclusion. This will reduce the chance that upon later analysis you are unable to "reproduce" that initial 
conclusion and make it easier to explain yourself to other researchers. 

What Does This Deed Tell Us?
This deed does tell us that: 

The grantors listed are the children of Maria Cawiezell-this is somewhat unusual and not to be expected in a 
typical "estate deed," although later records may be more specific than earlier ones. 

Some of the grantors are married to other grantors---in this example these relationships are spelled out. 

Various grantors are likely living in Scott or Muscatine Counties in Iowa, based upon the counties in which the 
deeds were acknowledged. 

Some of the children are married, allowing the researcher to approximate dates to assist in locating marriage 

Deeds where there are multiple grantors (sellers) with the same surname tend to be "estate settlement" 
deeds. Earlier records are less likely to bluntly state that all the grantors are siblings, but may simply 
indicate the grantors are "heirs." Of course, in some situations, heirs could easily be children and 
grandchildren combined.

How Should I Follow Up?
There are several things I could do based upon the information in this land record. 

Get the Address
Obtain the street address of the property described in the deed. There are several ways this could be done. 
The county recorder of deeds might be able to provide me with a residential address given the legal description 
of the property. 

A map of the city of Davenport showing the various subdivisions might also allow me to determine the street 
address. I should find out if there have been changes in the house numbers since the time this will was 
written. If there have been changes, I will have to make certain that I use pre-change and post-change 
addresses appropriately. 

Visiting the USGenWeb page for Scott County, Iowa, (starting at and working my way to 
Iowa) will be an excellent place to start locating these potential sources of information. Those researching in 
other urban areas should check appropriate county and state GenWeb pages and may wish to post queries 
to appropriate mailing lists after having read the pages for information. 

Fire Insurance Maps
Locate appropriate Sanborn fire insurance maps to provide me with an idea of the structure that was on the 
lot in the 1890s. These maps will be easiest to use once I have a street address as the Sanborn maps do 
not always show subdivision boundaries. Those with urban ancestors during this time period are fortunate to 
have the fire insurance maps. Rural platbooks during the same time period do not provide the same amount 
of structural detail. 

Probate Settlement
Look for a probate or an estate settlement on Maria Cawiezell in Scott County, Iowa. Appropriate indexes 
should be searched beginning at approximately 1890 and continuing through at least 1900. The deed 
transferring Marie's property was done in 1894, probably within a few years of her death. In this case, the 
probate settlement includes Marie's residential address. 

Death Record and Obituaries
Search for a death record and an obituary for Marie should also be located. In this case, it may be easier to 
locate a death record first as these records are typically indexed better than are obituaries. When searching 
death indexes, I would start with 1894 and work my way back. A search of probate records may also be 
more effective with a death date, if a death record can be located. One should determine if there are any 
indexes to obituaries in Davenport, Iowa newspapers for the time period. If not, it would be best to wait for an 
obituary search until a death date has been located using other means. An obituary or a death certificate 
may also provide Marie's residential address. Of course, city directories may also provide this information.

Where Did Maria Get This Property?
Land records should be further researched in order to determine how the property was acquired. Since Maria 
owned the property at the time of her death, it should be listed in her estate inventory. This might provide a 
clue as to ownership. Otherwise, I'll have to try and locate the deed by which either she or the husband who 
predeceased her purchased the property. 

Did Maria Have A Husband?
Most likely. While one could easily construct a variety of soap operas to fit this land record, it seems very 
likely that Maria's husband, Mr. Cawiezell died before she did. If I did not already have his name, I would 
wait to research him until I had done more work on Maria. Likely one of the records suggested by this deed 
will contain her husband's first name. 
The End Result?
One little piece of paper transferring a lot has given me a lot of research leads to follow.

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