Saturday, August 6, 2016

Where Did Martin Nufer Die?

This is not the subject I thought I would be penning for this post.  My original plan was an article about the search for my great great grandmother, Rose Nufer Loescher’s sisters.  That will now be done in another post.  But as part of my document review for that original post I decided I needed to transcribe the probate files for Rose’s parents, Martin Nufer and Maria Nufer.  I acquired these documents from the Illinois Regional Archive Depository in Macomb, Illinois about a decade ago.  So I decided that I needed to refresh my memory of what was included in them and what pieces of information they contained.

Now, transcription is not something I have previously found to be interesting or worth my limited research time.  I had convinced myself that a “careful” reading of the document and in many cases multiple readings was good enough.  What else could transcription possibly identify?  My answer to that question up to this point has been “not much”.

Well….turns out possibly a great deal in the case of the probate records for my third great grandfather, Martin Nufer.

Because I have not heretofore done much transcription I did a review of the principles of transcription from the book “Professional Genealogy” edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. (1)  I then spent some time creating a transcription of Martin’s probate file.

No problem, right?  Not so fast!  As I was reading the document through while creating the transcription I found myself reading a section that was quite surprising.

In the Petition for Letters of Administration is where I found myself questioning whether what I was seeing was really what was written.  This particular Letters of Administration was for Martin’s wife Maria Nufer going to the Peoria County Court on 1 May 1877 requesting that the court grant her the right to administer the estate of her deceased husband who she said died in March 1873 without a “Will and Testament”. (2)

Fig. 1 - Petition for Letters of Administration - Martin Nufer

But it was the location of death that caught my attention.  All of the boiler-plate language indicating a death location in Peoria County was deliberately crossed out.  Handwritten in the location of death are two words – “in Texas”.  This can’t be.  What?  Texas?  I seriously questioned my need for stronger glasses when reading this.  My belief was that he had lived his life in the US in Central Illinois.

I had recorded in my database management program that he died in Peoria County, Illinois.  According to this document that information item was very wrong.  Not only was I wrong about the location of death but now I was finding that my views on transcription needed to change dramatically also.  Wow.

Now the Martin and Maria Nufer family has to this point been quite elusive to me.  There are several important questions about their lives that have eluded me so far and now I find that the questions I have about this family have grown.  Where in Texas did he die?  What day in March 1873 did he die?  What was he doing in Texas to begin with?  Was he there alone or was his family with him?  Oh My Gosh!

I will just add these questions to the list I already have for Martin and Maria.  What is the city name that they came from in Baden Germany?  When did they emigrate from Baden?  When did they take up residence in Peoria, Illinois where I finally pick up their trail around 1860.

Martin’s death has been a mystery also.  I had been unable to find any record of a funeral at any of the Catholic churches in Peoria, Illinois.  He also was not listed in the burial records for St Joseph’s Cemetery in West Peoria, Illinois even though there is a cemetery marker there. 

Maybe now I know why!!!  One possibility is that if he really died in Texas then maybe he was not brought back to Peoria for burial.  I don’t know.  All I have to go on is what is in this probate record – he died in March 1873 in Texas.

Because of all of the previous questions I have about this family I knew that I really needed to spend some serious time in Peoria looking for information in any extant newspapers, especially any Germany language publications.  That activity seems to be even more important now.

Well…I have learned many things in this transcription effort.  First, I am not infallible.  My belief that I have been reviewing and reading these documents carefully and completely, especially those complicated and long probate files, is just plain wrong.  I need to start spending more time reading and transcribing.  It is in this process that I will no doubt find inaccuracies I have documented previously and new information that I had missed.

Secondly, transcription is VERY important and very much worth my time and effort.  That means my to-do list has grown substantially but the results I know now are worth it.

Lessons learned!

(1) Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor, “Professional Genealogy,” (Maryland, Baltimore:  Genealogical Publishing Company, 2001).

(2) Peoria County, Illinois, probate case files, no. 2097, Martin Nufer (1877);  Illinois Regional Archives Depository System, Western Illinois University, Macomb.

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