Given Name(s) Last Name

From the 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 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 follow:

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 thereof.

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 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 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 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
(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?

Online References:
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.

Printed References
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:

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy , edited by Lou Szucs and Sandra Luebking.

For more information on county record offices and locations:

Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, edited by Alice Eichholz


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,

 Used by the author on his web site with permission.

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