Ancestor Search:
Enter as much information as you know about your ancestor and click search:

  First Name: Last Name: Location:   


From the Ancestry Daily News   Michael John Neill – 4/18/2002

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: 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 records

    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.

    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 e-mail him at: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

    Copyright 2002,

  • This article used by the Author on his website with permission.

    Other genealogy articles by Michael John Neill
        Given Name(s) Last Name