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 county.
|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.
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 findagrave.com website.
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