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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill   4/7/1999

The Search for the Parents of Franciska Trautvetter, Part II

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

We now continue with our ongoing saga of the "Dead and the Genealogist" as I continue my search for the parents of Franciska Trautvetter.

The Warsaw newspaper was searched for a possible death notice for Peter. I started with the earliest date in his probate file and began working backwards. I was rewarded for my effort with the following notice:

    Warsaw [IL] Express Journal
    22 November 1855

    "Fatal Accident—On last Saturday, a German citizen of our place named Peter Bieger met with an accident which proved fatal in the following manner. A cow, which had been rather troublesome for some time by breaking into the lot in which his haystack was situated, affected her entrance on Saturday which being perceived by Mr. B., he siezed [sic.] his gun, and ran out of the house, declaring his intention of shooting her, but on coming up to the cow he evidently changed his mind, as he reversed his gun, and struck her with the butt end which caused it to go off, the contents lodgeing [sic] in his breast. He was carried into his house where he expired immediately."

The notice did provide me with Peter's country of birth. I next wondered when he and Barbara arrived in Hancock County. There is no marriage record for them in Hancock County and the couple is not listed in the 1850 Census for Hancock County. While the estate settlement did not mention any real estate, I decided to see if Peter had either purchased or mortgaged any property. There was a mortgage from H. T. Wilson to Peter Bieger dated 4 October 1850, for part of block 10 in Wilson's Addition to the City of Warsaw. In 1852, Peter paid off the mortgage and a release of mortgage property deed was recorded. This 4 Oct 1850 reference to Peter is his first in Hancock County.

Peter is listed in the 1855 Illinois State census for the city of Warsaw. At the time there was one male aged twenty to thirty (presumably Peter), two females under 10 (Francis and Louisa) and one female between thirty and forty (presumably Barbara). Conrad Bomm (listed as Conrad Bum) appears on the same page as Peter, and is between thirty and forty years of age.

The 1853 Tax List for Hancock County, Illinois was used in order to determine some individuals who were neighbors of the Biegers. Peter is listed in the tax list as "Peter Bigger, W 1/2 of S 1/2 of E ½ of block 10 in Wilson's addition to Warsaw." The value was of his property was $300 and the tax was $3.00.

Other individuals listed in this addition were: Margaret Aldrich, W. A. Katz, C. Boon (probably Conrad Baum of the guardianship), Christian Wiseman, Adam Schultz, H. Segelkie, W. Bowder, Phillip Baum, H. Segelkie, J. H. Spitz, and W. Houswright. This apparently was the "German section" of town and when I search for Peter's origins these individuals may give me some clues.

I naively thought that this was the end of Barbara's mention in the courthouse records of Hancock County. I could not have been further from the truth. A query in a local genealogical magazine resulted in a correspondent who, while not related to the family, indicated that Conrad Haase and Barbara Haase had been divorced.

Checking the circuit clerk's office for a divorce was the next thing on my agenda. Since Barbara died in 1903, I starting checking for divorces in that year and worked my way back. I located an 1884 divorce in the Hancock County Circuit Clerk's Office Chancery Index. The testimony of Conrad and Herman Haase was most informative. The case indicated that the couple was married on 7 July 1882 and that they had been married and divorced before.

I continued a search of the index to locate the first divorce. In 1872, there was another Haase divorce. This time Barbara was the plaintiff.

The first divorce case packet is larger and contains more information than the second case (unfortunately, no testimony). Barbara's Bill of Complaint was introduced during the March term of the court and stated that Barbara had not lived with Conrad since about 1 January 1872.

Hoping that a later marriage record would yield more information, I had the records searched for Barbara and Conrad's 1882 marriage in Ft. Madison, Iowa. These records gave the date of the marriage as 7 June (the divorce records list 7 July). The marriage record did not yield any birth or parental information on Conrad or Barbara.

When Barbara left Conrad after their second marriage, she returned to Warsaw and stayed there until she died on 8 April 1903. It appears that Conrad stayed in Appanoose Township, Hancock County after the second divorce.

The 1900 Census for Barbara was checked to see if it offered further information. There was an entry for Barbara in the city of Warsaw. Barbara is listed as a widow (obviously incorrect) and as having given birth to five children, five of whom were living. The error here is probably due to the fact that Barbara's daughter Francis was dead. She lists her year of emigration to America as 1846. Barbara's entry in the census is directly after her daughter Louisa Meyers.

From the Executor's Notice for Final Settlement of Barbara's estate, I obtained a list of heirs and parties interested in Barbara's estate. This provided me with approximate residences of her heirs as of 1903. This document was helpful in tracking down the children by her second marriage.

Barbara's obituary from the Warsaw newspaper provided some details about her life that I had not yet obtained.

    Warsaw Bulletin
    10 Apr 1903

    "Died—At home in this city Wednesday, April 8, 1903, at 2:30 p.m. Mrs. Barbara Haas, aged 76 years, 10 months, and 28 days. The deceased was born in Darmstadt Germany, May 11, 1826, and came to this country as a young girl, first locating in Cincinnati. A little later she came to Warsaw, which was thereafter her home, save a few years which were spent near Tioga. She is survived by five children, namely; Herman and Annie Haas, of Niota; Conrad Haas and Mrs. Lena Becker, of Nebraska; Mrs. Louisa Meyer, of this city. One daughter, Mrs. Frances Troutvetter, preceded her mother in death.

    "Mrs. Haas had been an invalid for 14 years. A few days ago she fell down the cellar stairs, and while not apparently injured the shock proved serious. Then an attack of the grip followed and this was too much for her weakened condition to withstand.

    "The funeral will occur at the residence this afternoon at 2 o'clock, Rev. H. W. Rabe officiating."

I decided to locate a death record for Barbara. It did not contain any "new" information. A summary of the death certificate follows:

    Barbara Haas, female, aged 77, born in Darmstadt, Germany. Had been in Illinois 55 years. Died 8 April 1903, in Warsaw, and buried in the German Cemetery on 10 April 1903.

This did indicate Barbara's place of burial and I checked the cemetery records, hoping to locate new information. A transcriptions of stones on file at the Hancock County Historical Society turned up the following entry from the German (also known as the Lutheran) Cemetery in Warsaw:

    In the northeast section, 3rd row:
    Barbara Haase d. April 8, 1903 age 76 y

This indicated a church affiliation and I was lucky enough to locate records of this church. Barbara appeared as entry #146 on page 282. Barbara "died 8 April 1903, interred 10 April 1903 Lutheran Cemet. Death attributed to flu & weakness of old age—age 76 yrs, 10 mo. 26 days Survivors 2 sons, 3 daughters and grandchildren. Pastor was Rev. Rabe"

At this point, I thought that I had searched the records of Hancock County fairly thoroughly. After all, I had searched newspapers, probate records, land records, court records, local historical society files, compiled genealogies, and census records. It seemed that there would be little more mention of Barbara in the records of Hancock County, Illinois. I was wrong.

I put my search for Barbara on the "back burner" and began to search for other ancestors in the southern part of Hancock County. As I was reading through Warsaw newspapers for a 1912 obituary on another family I came upon an item in the "Days Beyond Recall column." The item mentioned a Mrs. Bieger's involvement in a Warsaw murder in the 1850s. I quickly located the original newspaper on microfilm to learn more.

The Warsaw Signal of 11 March 1858 outlines the scenario. After selling barrels in Warsaw, William Donehue "stopped at Mrs. Beger's, a notorious character," to get some liquor. He drank "rather freely," and then argued with Mrs. Bieger. Pulling out a pistol, she forced him to leave. Donehue then went to another door of the building, which opened into where Lawrence Knaeble and his wife lived. After Donehue kicked in the door, Knaeble's wife appeared with a stick of stovewood and hit him. Mr. Knaeble then came to the door with his gun, promptly shooting Donehue. Donehue died a short time later, in the front yard. The Carthage Republican in a short article refers to "establishment" as a "house of rather bad repute."

A coroner's jury was convened and found cause for arraignment. Knaeble was formally charged. Unable to pay his $2500 bond, he was jailed in Carthage until his trial. Barbara was subpoenaed, but her testimony (nor that of any of the women subpoenaed) was not included in the court files. Knaeble claimed that he shot Donehue in self defense. Henry Nies was the only one who could testify to that fact, and since Nies could not be located, Knaebke was without a defense. Knaeble was found guilty by a 12-man jury in October of 1858. A request for a new trial was denied and Knaeble was sentenced to seven years in the state penitentiary.

A letter to the Illinois State Archives about the incarceration of Mr. Knaeble resulted in more information. He was received at the Joliet prison on 26 October 1858, and was a German shoemaker. He had a relative in the United States, but no parents or children. He was pardoned on 10 Oct 1860. There is still more to learn about this family. While the parents of Francis are now known, further research is necessary to learn more about the Germanic origins of her parents. Will the search ever end?

Good luck—maybe I need it!

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 visit his Web site at:

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