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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill   3/30/1999


The Search for the Parents of Franciska Trautvetter, Part I

Editor's Note: This article is the first in a two-part series. Read Part II.


Last week's article on genealogy soap operas generated quite a response. I appreciate all those who took the time to write. My story on Barbara actually started with a search for information on her daughter, Franciska Trautvetter.

I was looking for the death record of George Trautvetter, my great-grandfather. An obituary stated that George died on 8 August 1934 at his home in rural Adams County, Illinois. I wrote to the vital records office for Adams County to obtain his death certificate. The office indicated that they did not have the record. The records in adjacent Hancock County were also searched with no success. I then wrote the Illinois State Archives and had them search their Death Certificate Index, since I was certain George died in Illinois. They located the record several counties away in a hospital. The record lists George's parents as Mike Trautvetter(born in Germany) Francis Pecksen (born in Tioga, Illinois).

George's sister, Ida Henerhoff was supposed to have died during the 1918 flu outbreak and the Illinois Death Certificate Index was searched for her. Ida's death certificate indicated her mother was Franciska Beiger, born in Illinois. One more surname to search.

I obtained a copy of the marriage license for George and his wife Ida Mae Sargent at the Recorder's Office in Carthage, Illinois, the county seat of Hancock County. George and Ida were married at Tioga, Hancock, Illinois, on 3 March 1898. George listed his parents as Michael Trautvetter and Francis Biger. This appeared to be a variant of the Beiger surname.

To gain more information on Francis, I checked the marriage applications for three of her other children. Daughter Louise married James Mundy in Warsaw, Hancock, Illinois, in 1892, listing her mother as Francis Bickert. Also in 1892, daughter Lena married Ralph Ensminger in Tioga and listed her mother as Frances Beger. Daughter Ettie married Louie Henerhoff in 1905 in Tioga and listed her mother as Franciska B&uumlt;cher. One more variation and I began to wonder if Francis was of German parentage.

The surname problem soon became worse. I decided to search for John and Francis' marriage record in Hancock County, where oldest son George was born in 1869. A marriage was located between a John M. Trautvetter and a Francis Haase. Enclosed in this marriage application was a letter dated 17 February 1868, in which Conrad and Barbara Haase gave permission for "their daughter" Francis Haase to marry John Michael Trautvetter. The Haases signed their name in German script, giving a clue as to their origin. The letter seemed fairly good proof that Barbara and Conrad Haase were the parents of Francis Trautvetter. However, I still needed to find a connection with the Biger or Peckson family, as Haase did not seem a likely spelling variant. No other marriage record for John could be located and family tradition did not indicate he was married more than once. Since the spouse on the marriage license was also named Francis, I felt that this was the correct marriage.

Francis' death certificate was the next item I decided to locate. She died in 1888 in Walker Township, Hancock County (I had seen her tombstone already had the death date). The death certificate indicated that Francis died on 15 January 1888, listing only "Illinois" as her birthplace. There is no other birth information on the record. An obituary for Francis was the next item located.

    Warsaw Bulletin 20 January 1888

    Tioga. Died Sunday, Jan. 15, Mrs. Francis Troutvetter[sic], in her 38th year. Mrs. Troutvetter was born in Warsaw where her mother yet resides. Her maiden name was Pickar[sic]. She was then married to Michael Trautvetter about 20 years ago. Eight children were born to them, seven of whom are living—three boys and four girls. Mrs. Troutvetter was a true wife and a kind mother. She was a member of the Evangelical church, and Rev. Kerns officiated at the funeral, Jan. 18th. The bereaved family have the sympathy of the community.

    Conrad Haas and Anna Haas of near Nauvoo, and Henry Meyers and wife, and Mrs. Haas of Warsaw, were in attendance at the funeral of Mrs. Troutvetter Jan. 18th.

Another variation of the Bieger/Pecksen surname! The several Haas(e) relatives attending the funeral made me more certain that I had the correct marriage record for John. I still needed to rectify the different maiden names.

John's obituary was located next, hoping it might provide some additional information. It only stated that John married "Miss Francisca Bieger." At least it was not a new surname and it confirmed in my mind the one marriage for John.

Luckily, I next obtained a typed manuscript of a Trautvetter family genealogy that apparently had been written in the 1950s. This genealogy (which listed no author) indicated that John Michael Trautvetter had married "a Bickert." This again coincided with the Bieger/Pecksen surname. The family history was circumstantial, but it backed up the connection with the Bieger/Pecksen family.

I next checked county histories for any mention of the Trautvetter, Haase, or Biger families. The only mention relevant to Francis was a biography of Herman Haase that appeared in the Biographical Record of Hancock County. This Herman Haase, per the biography, was born 21 June 1862, and was the son of Conrad and Barbara (Siphery) Haase, both natives of Germany. It also stated that the parents were married at Tioga, in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1859. The biography stated that Conrad was born 2 December 1817 and died 28 March 1904, and that Barbara died 8 April 1903. Children of Conrad and Barbara Haase were listed as Lena, Conrad, Herman, and Annie. No mention was made of Francis. I thought this odd, but attributed it to the fact that Francis was dead at the time of the book's publication.

The obituary of Francis Trautvetter indicated that several Haas relatives came to Francis' funeral. However, Conrad (presumably the father) and Anna are listed as coming from Nauvoo and Mrs. Haas is listed as of Warsaw. It would seem that "Anna" is the daughter and that "Mrs. Haas" is the mother.

But why are they living in different towns?

The marriage date of Conrad and Barbara seemed inconsistent with the year of Francis' birth. Her tombstone, listed her birth as being in 1851. This year was consistent with her obituary and her death record. Something did not quite make sense. She was born eight years before her parents married. Having Conrad's death date and marriage date, I decided that I should locate probate and marriage information. The probate file for Conrad Haase did not mention Francis Trautvetter (or her heirs) at all. The order probating the will in May of 1904 lists the following heirs:

    Herman Haase (son) of Niota, Illinois
    Conrod[sic] Haase (son) of Stratton, Nebraska
    Anna Haase (daughter) of Niota, Illinois
    Helena Baker (daughter) of Stratton, Nebraska
Francis' heirs should have been listed. I was starting to wonder just exactly how Conrad was related to Francis.

While in the Hancock County Clerk's office, I decided to see if there was any naturalization information on Conrad. Luckily, I located Conrad's declaration of intent to become a citizen. It stated that Conrad was born on 2 December 1817 in Ferna, Germany, and that he had landed in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 27 December 1853, having sailed from Bremen on 11 October of that year. Whoa…he was not even in the United States when Francis was born.

Every document had indicated Francis was born in the United States and had been consistent with 1851. Something was amiss.

I located the Haase's marriage record in the Recorder's Office. Information in their marriage application indicated that Conrad Haase and Mrs. Barbara Pickert were issued a license on 20 April 1859 in Hancock County, Illinois. Geo. Ensminger certified that on 25 April 1859 that he married Conrad Hase[sic] and Barbara Pickert.

A letter dated 20 April 1859 and signed by Conrad was found in the marriage application. The letter stated that Conrad was 41 years of age and had never been married. Mrs. Barbara Pickert was 33 years of age and had "no lawful husband living."

The marriage record for Conrad Haase and Barbara confirmed the date that had been listed in the biography of their son Herman. The marriage record also explained the Pickert/Bieger surname. It now appeared that Conrad Haase was not Barbara's first husband. Given the fact that Francis' children kept listing their mother's maiden name as any one of a number of variations of this Pickert/Bieger surname and that fact that Francis was born before Barbara's marriage to Conrad Haase, I decided Mr. Pickert probably was Francis' father. Now to locate information on Mr. Pickert.

I left the County Recorder's Office and returned to the Circuit Clerk's Office, hoping to locate a probate record on a Mr. Pickert/Beger. I began searching in 1865 and worked my way back (just in case something was filed late). Sure enough, there was a probate file for a Peter Bieger along with a guardianship case for his children. The guardianship listed two children: Franciska Bieger born 27 January 1851, and Louise Bieger, born 27 May 1854. Apparently, Peter had died by 23 Feb 1856, when an inventory of his estate was filed. This inventory included a large amount of liquor and goods that would be found in a general store (pepper, matches, coffee, apples, and sugar). The fact that a counter scale was also included convinced me that Peter ran a store of some kind. Real property was not mentioned in the inventory of the estate. I now had the father of my Franciska!

While the probate indicated what Peter probably did for a living, the guardianship also gave details about Barbara's marital status. On 12 May 1856, George Fennan, Conrad Bomm, and Elam Hopsom were named guardians for the children of Peter Bieger. During the June term of the Court on 2 June 1856, there is more mention of the estate of Peter Bieger and in this notation, George Fennan is listed as the husband of Barbara Fennan, widow of Peter Bieger.

In a letter dated 16 May 1856, George Fennan, "administrator and guardian" indicates to the county judge that he was planning to leave the state of Illinois and wished to be relieved of his duties. By 2 June, he had "abandoned his family & departed without the limits of this state." Barbara Fennan (listed as "wife of said George Fennan and the late widow of said Peter Bieger") and Conrad Bomm were then appointed guardians for the children.

The estate settlement and guardianship case cleared up many questions. It appeared that Barbara had taken back the Bieger/Bickert surname before her marriage to Conrad Haase in 1859. No mention of a divorce, annulment, or similar action could be found for Barbara and George Fennan.

Some time after this, I was fortunate enough to get a piece of family history that had been written for my great-aunt by a granddaughter of Conrad and Barbara. This family history stated that Barbara had been married to a Mr. "Beger" and that they had lived in Warsaw, Illinois, where he drowned. Barbara and Mr. Beger had two children, Francis Trautvetter and Louisa Meyers.

Since Peter apparently died under unusual circumstances, I decided to see if there was any mention of his death in local papers.

In next week's article, we'll discover what really happened to Peter and find out what Barbara did to make ends meet in between husbands . . .

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can hvisit his Web site at: www.rootdig.com/.

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