Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cook County Records of Foreign Wills

Franziska Lux entry, Cook County Probate Court,
"Record of Foreign Wills," v. 1, p. 619.
I can think of a number of times when I've sat, looking at a newly-discovered set of genealogy records, thinking, "Oh, wow!" but I had no idea that this morning would be one of them.

I've spent the month of April working hard to update the pages on chicagogenealogy.com and in the process, I had reason to examine the Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999 collection on Ancestry.com. Earlier this week, I noticed it included some "Records of Foreign Wills." I was intrigued, so I took a quick look.

A 1901 legal guide defines "foreign will" as  “…executed in a state or country by a testator there domiciled, admitted to probate there upon the death of such testator, and subsequently offered for probate or registry in another state.”1

That seems to fit. Simply put, the books appear to have been used to record wills that had a tie to Cook County but were part of probate cases handled elsewhere.

That doesn't seem very exciting, does it? But read on.

Let's use the entry for Franziska Lux, from "Strehlen in Silesia," who died 15 November 1904, as an example.2 (View image on Ancestry)

First off, the record begins with a translation of a document created in Strehlen on 18 Febuary [sic] 1905. From it, we learn that "the butcher Heinrich Lux" lived on Muensterberger Street and that Franziska Lux nee Schaefer, "the shoe makers widow," died on November 15, 1904. Franziska's brother Joseph Schaefer's estate was yet to be settled in America--he died in Chicago--but she was due to inherit from it. The document, signed by Heinrich, states, "The brother of my mother Joseph Schaefer, died in America before my mother, about 1903," suggesting that he, Heinrich, was Franziska's son.

We also learn that Joseph had two sons, Paul and Richard, who lived in America and another individual, Anna Lux, about 18 years old, was living with "the butter trades woman Raschdorf at Schildberg" and was "probably under the guardianship of the County Court of Muensterberg.

Imagine if you were a descendant of Joseph Schaefer, looking for a tie to Germany. Names. Relationships. Addresses. Death dates. Where else could you find that information so easily? And in English?

But that's not all. From another page we learn that Franziska's deceased son, Joseph Lux, had three children: Paul, Richard, and Anna, possibly the one mentioned above. Franziska had four children: Paul, a music teacher in Crefeld, Anna Hottermann, in America, Martha Hergesell of Brelau, and Heinrich, the butcher, who was taking care of his mother.

Obviously all of the records are not as information-rich as this one, and for most of the wills, "foreign" means out of state. But, if you have Chicago ancestors who were in the city during the early 1900s—the collection begins in 1904 with Volume 1 and ends in 1922 with Volume 18—it's worth taking a quick look.

The key would be to try to discover entries for relatives who lived outside Chicago so my best advice would be to look for specific people or search for family surnames and browse the matches.

I haven't tested to see if all of the volumes are included in the searchable index, but Franziska's name comes up, both for the index page at the front of Volume 1 and for the page where the actual will is recorded, so they may be. (Hint: The index entry with a date is the one that leads to the actual record.)

If you give the collection a try and finding something of interest, please post a comment and let me know!

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1William Herbert Page, A Concise Treatise on the Law of Wills (Cincinnati, Ohio: W. H. Anderson & Co., 1901), 423; digital image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=ClYaAAAAYAAJ : accessed 26 April 2017).

2 "Illinois, Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 April 2017), "Record of Foreign Wills 1," 619-623, entry for Franziska Lux, 18 Feb 1905, ; citing "Record of foreign wills; Author: Illinois. Probate Court (Cook County); Probate Place: Cook, Illinois."

1 comment:

Aileen said...

What an intriguing thing! I will definitely keep this source in mind. Thanks for writing about it!

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