Michelle and I both enjoy the history of things, and a house that’s survived since the 1880s has plenty of
tales to tell. When we bought our property, we wanted to know who was here before us, when they
were here, and why they came. The "who" and "when" would prove to be much easier to discover than
the "why". And even when we knew who owned the property, sometimes we didn't know who actually
lived here. So what we've pieced together is a history of our property using mostly old maps, land
ownership records, historical books, our current neighbors, and sometimes the society pages of old
Freeport Journal-Standard newspapers. Sometimes we knew why people came here and other times we
knew why they left, but we're still speculating on certain parts of our home's history. As we discover
more, we will continue to update this page.
Below are links to the individuals who have owned or staked claims on the land where our house is
located, dating back to just before the United States began selling land to private individuals in our
|Editor's Note: These pages will be updated as we do more research and discover new information.
Dave and Madeline
Where did we find all this information?
If you are one of the approximately 3 people on the planet who are currently enjoying this treasure
trove of obscure history, you might ask where it all came from. With a couple of exceptions, the answer
is simple: Google. Specifically, Google led me to Newspapers.com, which happened to have many years
of the Freeport Journal-Standard newspaper in its digital archives. The old newspapers published many
real estate transactions over the years, which helped link up our property's chain of ownership. The
society pages of these newspapers also helped tell the stories of some of the owners and their families.
Newspapers.com can be searched by words, which is a huge help in tracking down names and places.
Not all newspapers are included in these online archives, however. For example, the Rockford
Register-Star maintains its own subscription-only archives, which are not available anywhere else. Some
of the information we found in the Rockford newspaper was important in tracing certain facts and
U.S. Census records also helped trace who lived in our house and when they were here. Most census
records from 1940 and earlier have been digitized, which meant the original pages that each
enumerator filled out as they counted the population could be viewed without leaving my house. It
does take a little understanding of how the population was counted, but the information is there. The
only exception is the 1890 census, of which very few records remain because of a fire in the building
where the records were housed. Although the original records cannot be digitally word-searched,
online services such as Ancestry.com and familysearch.org have converted census info into a database
that can be searched. The Family Search website was the best for locating names of people, and for
providing enough census information to be able to find digital images of the actual census enumeration
pages. The census website maintained by Stephen Morse was excellent for matching up the Family
Search information to the U.S. Census information stored at the National Archives.
Findagrave.com was also valuable in linking family members, as well as dates of birth and death. With
the help of genealogists like Richard Hufford, I was able to find pictures of the Hufford family on the
I also bought a few Stephenson County plat books on eBay, which helped establish a general outline of
who owned our property. These books are fairly accurate in mapping out land ownership, but they are
not always 100% correct. Which brings me to a type of very accurate information that (so far) is not
available online: the Stephenson County recorder's office. I searched the real estate records, which was
a bit time consuming, but extremely interesting. My time in the recorder's office confirmed some of the
information I had gathered from online sources, and it filled in some gaps in ownership. And the nice
people in the recorder's office were very helpful and courteous.
There are some limitations to the information sources, however. Some of the digitized newspaper print
is fuzzy enough that the search technology won't detect the right words you're searching for. Also,
certain time periods weren't available on the newspaper archive website. The recorder's office had a
few pages out of place in some of their index books, which would have been unfortunate if those were
the pages we were looking for. The census information is mostly free, but takes some time to navigate if
you don't subscribe to one of the services that has indexed the records. Also, census information is only
as good as the enumerator who took down the information. For example, Samuel Warn was listed as
Samuel Warren in the 1900 census. And you may find the information you're looking for on a census
page that looks like this:
|Was a nicely dressed Muppet in charge of the scanning?
Rick and Rachel