We find our ancestors in a variety of court records such as; wills, probate, criminal and civil cases, divorces, and naturalization records to name as few. Through the years, I have found several court records that have helped me establish a relationship, and some that have given me a glimpse into my ancestor’s life.
One such court record is the probate file for my 2nd great-grandfather, John Desens. I was looking for proof that he was my 2nd great-grandfather. I was pretty sure I had the right person, but needed positive proof and I did find it in the probate file.
Above it states that Carl Desens who resides at 111 Washington Street, Forest Park, Illinois is the son of John Desens, the deceased. Carl Desens is my great-grandfather.1 This was the proof that I needed for my family tree.
Also, it states in the probate file that John Desens suffered a violent death.2 I already knew about the circumstances of his death by newspaper accounts and a court transcript of criminal case against his neighbor.3
What I did not know was that his neighbor, Fred Zell tried suing John Desens’ estate for $5000 because he was permanently disabled from the fight he had with John Desens’. But John’s estate counter sued and below is the statement from the probate file that gives the reason they are suing Fred Zell.4
Above is a description of what Fred Zell did to John Desens. Since it may be hard to read I am going to transcribe that part. “Fred Zell did at said time and place unlawfully, willfully, wrongfully, and feloniously assault, strike, beat, bruise, cut, stab, kick, choke, throw down to ground with great violence and while so down cut, kick choke, stab, beat and bruise the said John Desens and put him greatly in fear of his life. That therefore the said John Desens (now deceased) was made sick, sore, bruised and disabled from attending to his business and to care for himself in any manner what ever from the 26th day of June A.D. 1907 to the time of his death.” John’s estate tried to sue Fred for $5,900. It was settled with John’s estate paying Fred $1.00.5 In the criminal case against Fred Zell for killing John Desens it was found that there was not enough evidence to convict Fred.6
In this probate file was the legal description of his farm and a list of all his belongings. The legal description helped me find John’s Farm. The list of belongings gave me a glimpse into his life.7
I have other wills and probate files that help me understand my ancestors life and their surroundings as well as prove heirs.
Week 8 Courting 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks.
Copyright © 2022 Gail Grunst
1Probate file for John Desens filed in the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 103 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701.
3Criminal file for Fred Zell, Clerk of the Court, 517 Court Street, Room 405, Neillsville, Wisconsin 54456. Sent by Elizabeth Frost, Deputy Clerk to Abigail Grunst
4Probate file for John Desens filed in the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 103 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701.
6Criminal file for Fred Zell, Clerk of the Court, 517 Court Street, Room 405, Neillsville, Wisconsin 54456. Sent by Elizabeth Frost, Deputy Clerk to Abigail Grunst
7Probate file for John Desens filed in the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 103 Garfield Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54701.