Monday, May 20, 2013

Mappy Monday -- Location Counts

When researching an ancestor, knowing where they lived can be important to identifying both them and other family members. Maps are a wonderful tool for location, when they can be found. I had a find in a series of 1875 newspaper articles, but needed to use a map to see if my ancestor was the man identified.

Was George Fostler, an old German tenant farmer who found gold, my ancestor, George Vossler? Combing through three newspaper articles, here are the clues:

  • Published July, 1875
  • Old German tenant on farm
  • 3.5 miles west of Decatur, IL
  • Has boys
  • Lives on the Springfield Road
    • Lives on 88 acres purchased by Kepler from Martin Forstmyer
    • Limited ability to speak English
    •  Mention of John Hostetler

    Where did George Vossler live during the 1870 census, five years previously? We see that George Fossler is living next door to John Hostetler, both in Decatur Township, Macon County, Illinois. He has several young boys in his household and he was born in Wuerttemberg. Already, without a map, it seems like the same man. Having all these clues, I needed a map, which fortunately I already had collected. The newspaper told me where to look, something I had never known before.

    This Decatur Township map is from 1874, about four years after the census and one year before the newspaper article. This map was available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Centers and recently showed up on an old map website, also.

    The regular layout of square miles in Illinois makes it easy to see that 3 and a half miles west of downtown (the black area) is near the west edge of Decatur Township. Working with the full-sized map, I looked along the road to Springfield and was easily able to find M. Forstmeyer, with 87 acres next to J. Hostetler. Israel Gring was above Hostetler on the 1870 census and the map shows some of his property on the other side of Hostetler.

    All clues taken together led me to the conclusion that George Vossler had indeed been misspelled as Fostler, similar to the misspelling on the 1870 census. The map validated that my assumption was correct.

    These old landowner maps are a wonderful resource. Be sure to look for them as you research farmers and landowners in your family.

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