Ancestry Daily News
Michael John Neill – 10/2/2002
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
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 follow:
Grantors: John Ufkes and Noentje Lena Ufkes his wife late of Hancock County,
Illinois, now of Adams County, Illinois
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 thereof.
Date: 5 Oct 1880
Signed by: John Ufkes, Noentje Lina Ufkes
Acknowledged: 6 October 1880 before William Hanna, a Notary Public in Adams
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 document.
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
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 once.
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
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
Are there possibly clues in your background lingering in the pages of old
Bureau of Land Management
Look in the "background" section for information on how land is described
and measuring systems.
"Where Did the Farm Go?"
This article provides a discussion of land record indexing and record
searching techniques in federal land states.
This article provides additional discussion of land records and a general
overview of determining where a family lived in a federal land state.
"Lots of Leads from a Little Lot"
An analysis of a post-death sale of a lot and house in Davenport, Iowa.
For a detailed reference on land and property records in the United States:
Land & Property Research in the United States,
by E. Wade Hone.
For a more general overview of land records in the United States:
Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy , edited by Lou Szucs and
For more information on county record offices and locations:
Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources,
edited by Alice Eichholz
by the author on his web site with permission.
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:
visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/,
but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2002, MyFamily.com.