Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Will of William and Margaret Hoffman

These were the grandparents of S. C. Hoffman, my great-grandfather. They lived most of their lives in Greene County, Illinois, on land about 5 miles southeast of Carrollton. William was the son of Benjamin Hoffman, and Margaret's maiden name was Margaret Goforth.

This document is not actually a Will, but it accomplishes most of what a Will would. I will use a series of posts to show why this document is SO important to tracing our Hoffman roots. A copy can still be found in the Court House in Carrollton, Illinois.

Deed Book S S of Greene County Illinois p. 383-384

Filed June 13, 1870

This indenture made the eleventh day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand and eight hundred and seventy, between William Hoffman and Margaret Hoffman his wife, party of the first part, and William A. Hoffman party of the second part.... the following described parcel of land...: the north half of the northeast quarter and the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section one township nine north of range twelve Greene County State of Illinois.

William A. Hoffman (the youngest son) was to inherit the land with the condition that he would ... on the death of the said William and Margaret ... the sum of one hundred dollars to each of the following named persons to wit: John Hoffman, Harriett Witt, Sarah Perry, Eliza Wright, Carolina Gano. Also the like sum of one hundred dollars to the heirs at law of Mary Skeen, and the like sum of one hundred dollars to the heirs of Mariah Jane Davis...

William and Margaret were to retain possession of the land during their 'natural life', after which the son was to proceed with the payments and inherit the land. The reason this is such an important document, is the way in which the son disposed of the land.

After both of the parents died (William in 1871 and Margaret in 1881) William A. Hoffman sold the land to Michael C. McMahon for three thousand dollars. The tricky part was that the 'one hundred dollars' had to be paid to each of his brothers and sisters, or - in 3 cases - their descendants, because theses three children had died before their parents. This had to be done before Mr. McMahon could get a clear title, and these payments had to be documented at the Greene county courthouse.

It took about 7 years for all of this to happen - remember there were no telephones, or email. It was possible to send a letter, but it could only travel as fast a horse!

In my next post I will show what information is in these documents and give an example of one of them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hoffman or Huffman

My Aunt Bonnie tells a story about her father, our Grandpa Joe. When he was trying to gather his family (such as, when he was ready to leave church or a party) he would say to his wife, Versie "Come on Huffman" and he would say to Bonnie "Come on little Huffman".

Although our branch of the family used 'Hoffman' throughout the 1900s, it isn't hard to imagine that Joe had heard this phrase as a youngster, because we now know that his father definitely used the 'Huffman' spelling as a child.

Anyone who has spent much time looking at history knows that spelling just was not that important in the past. Most of our family names have several variations. It is important to keep in mind that spelling differences are usually meaningless. For example, Roe and Rowe could be the same family. Beesly and Beasley could be the same family. Bagley and Bagly could be the same family. Many times these differences were just the way the official happened to spell it. The census taker might spell it one way one year, and ten years later use another variation.

Our ancestor, Hans Henrich Hoffman, spelled his name exactly this way when he signed the book in Philadelphia upon his arrival to America in 1734. By 1747, when he began buying land in Virginia, he is known as Henry Huffman, and this is the way it remained the rest of his life.

By the mid 1800s the family's name is again spelled both ways. William bought land in Greene County, Illinois as William Hoffman in the late 1830s, and is listed as such in 1840. The Huffman spelling is again used in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census. When William and Margaret gave their land to the youngest son, William A. Hoffman, the 'Hoffman' spelling was use, but when William A. sold the land he used the name William A Huffman. The graves of William and Margaret have the Hoffman spelling. So you can see that during the mid 1800s, we may find either spelling at any given time. There is even one census in the early 1800s in which the spelling is 'Hoofman'.

The family in which our S. C. Hoffman grew up, used both Hoffman and Huffman. But after the move to Texas in the late 1800s, the only variation we find is Hoffman.

In this blog we will generally use the modern day spellings for our family names. In cases where a specific historical document is referenced, the variation in the document may be used.