My Research Trip to Neillsville Wisconsin

John Desens Tombstone


Last week I took a genealogy trip to the middle of Wisconsin in search of a man that I believe could be my great-great grandfather.  Let’s put it this way, I am 95% sure that this man is my great-great grandfather.  What I need is a document that proves it.  I believe this man to be my great-great grandfather because he has the same name and his wife has the same name as my great-great grandmother.  His son that lived nearby has the same name as my great grandfather’s brother.  My father told me way back in 1979 that we had ancestors who lived in Wisconsin and were killed by Indians.  Well the man I think is my great-great grandfather was killed by his neighbor and his son was killed by an accident with his shot gun.  This is a lot of circumstantial evidence.  So to Wisconsin I went with hopes of getting the documentation that I need.

My ancestor lived on a farm near Greenwood Wisconsin.  Since he owned land, I figured that there should be a probate file.  So my first stop at the Court House in Neillsville, Wisconsin was the Probate Office.  I was told that the old probate files had been transferred to the Wisconsin State Archives in Madison, but she was able to tell me that there is a file and gave me the number.  Then I went to the Circuit Clerk to see if there was a criminal file for the neighbor that killed him.  I was not allowed to search, they will search for me at their convenience.  I filled out a form and paid $5.00 for the search.  I will see if anything comes of it.  My next stop was the land office since he owned land.  The lady in this office was great!  She showed me to the Grantor and Grantee books and let me search.  I knew his death date so I started with the Grantor books for 1907 and found the sale of the farm in Sept of 1907.  I did not recognize the name of the man who purchased it.  Next I wanted to see the title and get a legal description.  So I copied down the information and went back to clerk with the information of the book and page number the title should be in.  She had to take to the basement of the court house. In the basement the book shelves were covered with plastic tarps.  She pulls a tarp back, pulls out the book and opens to the page.  I was able to write down the legal description.  Then next to that title was one for his son.  I wrote down that legal description too.  It appeared that they each owned 40 acres next to one another.  The clerk asked me if I would like to know where the farms were today.  She anticipated my next question!  We went back upstairs to look at the current plot book. By the legal description we were able to find the farms and the roads that they are on today.

My husband and I drove out to the farm, and I was able to get some pictures and see what it looks like today.  Then we went to find the cemetery where he is buried.  I had this information from the Internet.  I was hoping he had a headstone so I could find his grave and he did, but his son who is buried right next to him did not.  The church he went to is close by the cemetery.   Both Church and Cemetery are close to his farm.

I should say that before I went I had sent for his death certificate which said he died of multiple stab wounds to the chest.  This peaked my curiosity about his death and contacted a library in the area to see if they had obits.  They found a newspaper article about his death.  I still don’t have the proof I need, but I’m still working on it.  It looks like my next trip is to the Wisconsin State Archives in Madison.

Note: When I have all the information I need, I intend to write his story.  That is why I am not including too many details here.  This is intended to be more about my research trip.


Copyright © 2014 Gail Grunst