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Friday, February 21, 2014

Old Probate Papers from Illinois Ancestors

Two things that are certain, death and they say.

And along with death comes the final papers of each deceased person, be it a will and/or probate records.

I have found two probate records belonging to two ancestors in my husband's family.  Because of modern technology, we can now see digitized copies of these papers.

22 October 1867, Ogle County, IL
Probate Record of Ernst C. Reif, deceased 19 October 1867, of Forreston, IL

The father-in-law of Ernst Reif appeared before the Judge, Sheriff and County Clerk.  Ernst Reif had died intestate....he did not have a will.  The petitioner, Ludwig Foy, knows that Ernst, owned a home and a lot, a set of carpenter's tools, and household of furniture.  His heirs were Catherine (Foy), his  wife and Mary M. Reif, a child.  Ludwig identifies himself as the father-in-law of the deceased.

Ludwig posted a Three Hundred Dollar bond, as required by the law, when he acted as administrator for his son-in-law, as his daughter waived her right to act as such, and probably was too distraught to do so, seeing she had a small child to care for.

At the top of the second page, entitled Estate of Ernest C. Reif, Administrator's Bond, there is a notation that the petitioner swears that the estate is worth less than $1,000.

At the end of the Letters of Administration, Ludwig Foy, as administrator, agrees that the third Monday of December will be set aside for settling all adjustments and claims against the estate.

So that is what a probate assignment record looks like from Ogle County, Illinois in 1867.

Next, we have a record from a neighboring Illinois county....Whiteside

9 September 1883, Whiteside County, IL
Probate Record of Louis W. Reif, deceased 13 February 1883, of Sterling, IL

The widow, Ellen Reif, appears before the Judge of Whiteside County, Illinois, stating that her deceased husband, Louis W. Reif, had owned real estate and household furnishings at the time of his death.  His two heirs, being herself as the widow Ellen Reif, and their daughter, Florence Mary Reif, were in her sworn statement.  She also mentioned that she estimated the total worth of Louis' belongings were about Seventy-five dollars.

Ellen asks that administrator duties be bestowed upon Christian Eisele.  And, Christian signs that he has taken the oath as administrator of the estate of Louis Reif.  On the second page, the Administrator's Bond is posted as Two Hundred Dollars.  But another person has been added as an administrator....Jacob Eisele.  So who are Christian and Jacob Eisele?  These administrator's assignments do not identify them as family members.  Let's check the family tree....

Louis W. Reif had several siblings, one of which was Ernestine Juliane Reif.  She married Chrisian Eisele in Whiteside County.  So, Christian Eisele was Ellen Reif's brother-in-law.  And, after further searching, Jacob appears to be Christian's brother.  Nice to have a brother-in-law to step up and help out in a time of despair.  

Is this the end of the story?  No.  There are more papers, I am sure, that had to be filed to make sure that the creditors were paid, property was sold or transferred and any monies due to both Ernst and Louis Reif were transferred to the heirs, before the cases could be considered closed.   In this case, both sets of heirs were the widows and daughters of the deceased men.  BTW....Ernest and Louis were brothers.  

So, if you are interested in looking at probate/wills in your family research, check your county records. And, some are digitized and can be downloaded right to your computer.  Check FamilySearch for some of these at .

Friday, February 14, 2014

Old World War I Photos From The Collection of a Soldier Who Served Well

The suitcase, full of papers and photos, contains some history that may not have been told by any other source....well, maybe.  To me, these are one of a kind.

 The suitcase, handed over to my husband from his mother on Thanksgiving on 2013, is filled with wonderful images of the War To End All Wars....World War I.  LeRoy Hessler Reif, grandfather of my husband, served as a medic in the U.S.Army during this conflict in Europe.  He saved many of the photos that he had snapped, and others that were acquired through other means, during his service to our nation in Europe.

LeRoy Hessler Reif in France 1918

My late father-in-law, Ken Reif, wrote an article in 1967 for the Veterans Day issue of a company newsletter.  He outlined the duties and experiences of his father's participation in the War.  As a medic, he saw unspeakable injuries inflicted on his fellow servicemen.  So many suffered.  So many perished.

U.S. Army ambulance used to transport the injured

U.S. Army hospital ward in France 1918

Nurses who diligently cared for the sick and injured during the War

Perhaps we always think that wounds heal  after time, but with injuries that were sustained on both sides, I can only imagine that they never truly heal.  Here is a man who did survive, but only after a new jaw was constructed from silver to replace the one that he no longer had......

And, then there were those who did not survive, but were buried with dignity and grace in a foreign land where they gave the ultimate sacrifice.  A freshly laid cemetery for those who did not return....

It is Valentines Day.  I hope that the Valentines of these servicemen were comforted in a way that helped them to carry on their lives.  What sorrow they must have experienced.  How proud they should be of those laid to rest in foreign lands.  Happy Valentines Day to all those who served, are serving and who will serve and sacrifice.  May God and St. Valentine watch over you.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Civil War Account Leads to Missing Family Tree Data

 There was an old typed account of one Corp. Gilmer Young, along with many family papers found in an old suitcase at the home of my husband's parents. The page was entitled : Corp. Gilmer Young of Company F. First Regiment Kansas Vol. Infantry -- taken from An Early Kansas History and Atlas by A. T. A.   In a handwritten note at the top of the page, the following was scribed : "Mother's Brother Killed at Battle of Wilson's Creek". Who penned this?  Why would this paper be important to my husband's family?

I jumped on to look at my Reif-Fuston Family Tree data.  Gilmer Young did not sound familiar to me, but the Young surname did.  Doing a quick search of individuals on the tree, I found Gilmer listed.  Apparently I had placed him on the tree, along with the birth year of 1834.  Referring to the handwritten note, I found that he was a sibling of several persons listed, but one in particular....Amanda Young.  Amanda Young Tipton was the mother of Anna Tipton.  Anna married Dr. Joseph H. Downing, who was the great grandfather of my husband.  The note must have been written by Anna, my husband's great grandmother.  Wow.  How cool is that.  Apparently Anna Tipton Downing was interested in family history.  Thank goodness.  I decided that this paper did indeed have some worth.  Time to read further....

"An account of the Battle of Wilson's Creek in which Gilmer Young was killed on August 10, 1861."
Well, now I know the date of his death, which I did not know before today.  And I had heard about the battle of Wilson's Creek, previously.  According to the National Park Service website (, Wilson's Creek was the first major Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The first Union general was killed there, and the Confederate victory over the Union army made the nation pay closer attention to this war between the States.

In the second paragraph, noted as from page 181, the soldiers of Company F killed at Wilson's Creek are mentioned.  There, Corp. Gilmer Young of Lawrence, Kansas is mentioned.  Another handwritten notation at the side of the page notes "Mother's Brother" next to the name, with a bracket drawn at the location of his name.

The third, and last lengthy paragraph, taken from page 180 of the referenced text, introduces the First Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry.  The names of the Kansas Governor and the Regiment officers are mentioned after a brief history of the unit, which began in 1861.  Corporal Gilmer Young is mentioned with these men.  They left Fort Leavenworth on to Kansas City and then to Springfield, Missouri. They met the enemy at Wilson's Creek, just 12 miles outside of Springfield.  The rebels were entrenched and waiting to
rout the Union army.  After 6 hours of battle, the First Kansas lost 77 men...Gilmer Young was one of them. It goes on to say that 333  men were wounded.

To further my research on Corporal Young, I will search various websites to find his mention.  He must have been a brave soul to participate in such a horrible battle and lose his life after being in the service of our country for just a few short months.  At least he is at rest... and I have another person on the family tree with a conclusion to the story of his life.

Thanks to the research completed by Anna Tipton Downing (1859-1945), a sincere patriot has been uncovered. We honor him today, and always.

The last notation states that the lost members of the First Kansas Volunteers are buried at the National Cemetery in Springfield.  A handwritten note follows, " No names on markers at cemetery".  Really?  I need to check this out.  Where would I look?  Let's see...  I looked at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website,, and here's what I found :

Many men who died at the Battle of Wilson Creek would eventually be buried at Springfield National Cemetery, established in 1867 when the city purchased five acres for a burial plot. In 1911, the Confederate Cemetery Association (CCA) donated six acres, two of which were enclosed by a stone wall. Along with the land came the provision that burials would be restricted to men who died serving the Confederacy. Through a series of amendments to this provision in 1948, 1957 and 1984, all eligible veterans are now permitted in this portion of the cemetery. An 1871 cemetery inspection report recorded 832 known and 689 unknown interments in the cemetery. It continued, “A very worthless superintendent was in charge last year, and the cemetery was sadly neglected. This year it has been put in good order.”