Monday, February 22, 2010

Madness Monday: When did Jacob Hoffman die? Where was he buried?

It is frustrating (maddening?) to be unable to locate death or burial information for one of the last surviving members of the immigrant Hoffman family.

Jacob Hoffman was the first born of the Hoffman family. As with all of the older family members, I do not know his birthplace, but the date is recorded in Oberglatt, their community (or gemeinde) of citizenship, as 16 December 1825. In the 1840s records show them residing in the community of Maur in Canton Zurich. There he married Elizabeth Zollinger on 6 October 1851. Their daughter Maria or Mary was baptized when they lived in Uessikon, a village in Maur. Her birth date was recorded as 5 December 1851.

Jacob’s brother Henry left Switzerland and took up residence in northwestern Illinois in early 1854. Jacob applied for a passport in August and followed on a long, arduous, journey to New York arriving 24 November 1854. With his occupation of carpenter, Jacob must have had plenty of work opportunities in the growing rural area of Derinda Township, Jo Daviess County, Illinois, where they settled.

Jacob’s wife and daughter followed him to Illinois in 1856 and they lived close to Henry for many years. Daughter Mary married another Swiss immigrant, Ambrose Benz, 6 December 1870. Two grandsons were born, Jacob in 1871 and Henry in 1873. Sadly Mary died 17 January 1875. In the 1880 U.S. census Jacob and his wife were enumerated with his niece Louiza, orphaned daughter of Caspar Hoffman, as well as son-in-law Ambrose Benz and the grandsons. They then lived in Woodland Township, Carroll County, which is adjacent to Derinda Township. The close family connection is illustrated by the fact that Jacob and Elizabeth stood witness to Ambrose’s second marriage in 1882.

Jacob experienced another loss when he wife died 29 December 1892. His next residence I’ve located is in the 1900 U.S. census when he was enumerated in Woodland Township as a boarder in the household of David Burk. David Burk (or Bork) has another family connection as the person in the process of purchasing land from Henry Hoffman at the time of Henry’s death in 1897.

When we visited the Carroll County courthouse in 2002 we were happy to find that the county has land record books that list all property transactions for each quarter section. Following the land Jacob owned, we learned that after his wife’s death he began selling his holdings in the NE quarter of Section 8, T25N, R4E (Woodland Township). He had some problems with it as one purchaser defaulted on his mortgage and on 2 June 1900 Jacob accepted a transfer of the mortgage to his grandsons Jacob and Henry Benz. A blank line was left for the money conveyed in the transfer. On 16 June 1900 the original mortgage holder, Samuel Larsen, and his wife signed a quitclaim deed to the Benz brothers. They, however, did not file the transfer until 25 June 1903. The transfer is recorded in Carroll County Miscellaneous Record Book 5 on page 123.

We have found no later record of Jacob Hoffman. We searched probate indexes in the Carroll County Circuit Court and found nothing. A book of funeral home records for Savanna does have a record for his wife’s burial, but not of his. The cemetery where she and their daughter are buried does not have a marker with his name. No cemetery transcriptions for either Carroll County or Jo Daviess County have his gravestone listed. Carroll County kept death records during this time period, but none could be found for him by a researcher at the Illinois Regional Archives Depository that holds microfilm of them.

Without any record of Jacob Hoffman’s death or burial, we can only approximate the date of his death. He was alive in June of 1900, but the land transactions seem to point to his demise sometime prior to 25 June 1903. We can only guess at reasons why his death and burial are not recorded, but the date seems to be in those three years.

Youngest brother John Hoffman of Savanna in Carroll County, Illinois was then the only surviving sibling in the family.

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