Monday, August 21, 2017

Amanuensis Monday-A Will but …Whose Signature is That?

Kate Hamman is my maternal great-great-grandmother. (See post What’s the Correct Information?)  Based on census records, obituaries and Kate’s death certificates I believe she was born in Luxembourg/Germany about 1845.  Her parents names are unknown except that her maiden name was Hein.  Kate married Jacob Hamman,  I believe, in Luxembourg before heading to America about 1880 and settling in Iowa.  Kate and Jacob had 12 children.  At the time of Kate’s death, I believe, there were 9 children living:  Nick, Peter, Michael, Joseph, John, Lena, Margaretha, Francessa and Henry (my Great-Grandfather).  Her husband Jacob died in 1900 in Fredonia, Iowa.

Kate died 21 June 1908 in Remsen, Iowa.  The following is her Will:
Hamman Kate Hein 1908 will


I, Katie Hamman, widow, of Remsen, in Plymouth County, Iowa, being of full age, and of sound and disposing mind and memory, but realizing the uncertainties of life, do hereby make, publish, and declare my last will and testament, first revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore made, in the manner following, that is to say:
First.  It is my will, and I so direct my executor hereinafter nominated, to pay, as soon as he has sufficient funds in his hands so to do, all my just and lawful debts, including the expenses of my last sickness and burial, and the administration of my estate.  My executor shall also pay, as soon as he has sufficient funds in his hand so to do, to my daughter Frances Hamman, or to her guardian, the amount owing by me to her as her guardian, amounting to approximately the sum of Sixteen Hundred Dollars.
Second.  I give, will and bequeath unto Rev. F. X. Schulte, or the priest who may be pastor of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church at Remsen, Iowa, when this will shall be executed, the sum of Fifty Dollars, and ask that masses may be read for the peaceful repose of my soul.  The receipt of said priest in writing shall be sufficient evidence of the execution and payment of this bequest.
Third.  I will, give and devise unto my daughter Frances Hamman my house and lot, described as Lot Numbered Nine, in Block Numbered Five, in the town of Remsen, in Plymouth County, Iowa, subject to and upon payment of the sum of One Hundred Dollars to each of my following named children: Henry Hamman, John Hamman, Joseph Hamman and Maggie Hamman, and which said sum of one hundred dollars to each of my said children, shall be paid by my said daughter Frances Hamman within one year from the date and age of her majority, without interest; and if my said daughter Frances shall have arrived at the age of majority before my death, then said payments shall be made within one year from the date of my death.
Fourth.  I give, will and bequeath unto my daughter Frances Hamman my organ, personal ornaments and wearing apparel.
Fifth.  I give, will and bequeath all my household and kitchen furniture and fixtures to my daughter Frances and to my son Joseph Hamman, in equal share.
Sixth,  I give, will and bequeath to my following named children, Henry Hamman, John Hamman, Joseph Hamman and Maggie Frank, each the sum of Two Hundred Dollars; the same to be paid by my executor out of the funds of my estate.
Seventh.  All the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, of whatever nature, kind or description, I give, will and bequeath in equal share, share and share alike to my following named children: Nick Hamman, Peter Hamman, Henry Hamman, John Hamman, Joseph Hamman, and Maggie Frank.
Eighth.  I do hereby nominate and appoint W. J. Kass, of Remsen, Iowa, the sole executor of this my last will and testament.
Dated at Remsen, Iowa this 18th day of January, 1908.
Witnesses:    N.B. Miller  and F. G. Meinart

At the time of Kate’s death:
  • Frances was the youngest child at 16 years old.
  • Henry was married with 6 children under the age of 9.  His wife Suza had died of cervical cancer 1 month before Kate on 21 May 1908.
  • Nick was a farmer in the neighborhood and married with 5 children.
  • Peter was a farmer in the neighborhood and married with 5 children.
  • Lena was living in Wilmont, Minnesota with her husband and 9 children of her own.
  • Frances (16 yo), John (33 yo), Joseph (30 yo) and Maggie (22 yo) still lived at home.
  • Michael was married and living ??
So, when I read Kate’s Will I saw her name listed at Kate Hamman.  Then I noticed the line with her signature and I thought…how strange.  The signature sure doesn’t look like it says ‘Kate Hamman’.


I looked at the pages in the ledger before and after this one to be sure that the person who’s Will it is should be on the line and yes, that’s the way it should be.  So, who’s signature is that??????  The first letter of the last name looks like an ‘L’ not an ‘H’.  This just doesn’t make sense.  I know Kate could read and write based on the 1900 census and there is no mention that anyone else is signing for her…hmm.  I wasn’t sure what to think so I searched out help on the internet.  I know that Kate was from Germany/Luxembourg and probably spoke German or French.

I copied Kate’s signature and put it on the Facebook pages for the San Diego Genealogical Society and the Luxembourg Genealogy site.  Dona at SDGS thought it was an old German shrift (handwriting) and then Cathy Meder-Dempsey (who writes the Blog- Opening Doors in Brick Walls) had the answer.  She let me know that the above handwriting does say ‘Katin Hamman’ in an old German script and see included a link to a Family Search Wiki on German Handwriting and here is the alphabet:
In the article it states that the Old German Gothic handwriting is very different from the old Roman script most of us English speakers are used to seeing.  How interesting!  You just never know how a simple ‘Will’ can become a History lesson.  Gretchen also said that the first name is a Germanic variation of Katie.  It is so wonderful to have such knowledgeable and willing people to help us on our searches.  Thank-you to everyone who was so quick to answer and offer assistance!  This also demonstrates the value of the group Facebook pages.  Find some groups that do similar research to you and join them.  Without them it would have taken me a long time and a lot of research to find the answer.  There is so much I have to learn on Luxembourg and German Genealogy but I know that when I get stuck there are people out there willing to share their knowledge.
From Kate’s Will I learned that:
  • her religion was important to her since she left money to St. Mary’s for the Priest to say masses for her.  My grandfather James Hammond was baptized in the same church 4 years earlier.  Strong family ties to St. Mary’s in Remsen, Iowa.
  • she owned an organ.  How amazing was that!  Her husband Jacob who died 8 years earlier was a farmer but she owned an organ. 
  • she owned her home.
  • she must have lived comfortably in 1908 since she was able to leave $1600 for Frances’ care, $100 each to 4 children, then $200 each to 4 children.
  • she chose someone outside the family as Executor.  I wonder why not one of her sons?
  • she must have learned to write in the old Gothic script growing up in Luxembourg but even though she lived in America for 30-40 years she still maintained that handwriting, at least for her signature.

I wish I could find a picture of Kate or the home she lived in. 
I hope one day I can figure out who Kate’s parents are and where in Luxembourg they came from.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. Debby, thank you for the mention. Facebook groups are a good place to find people who can point you in the right direction. However, as I read your post I realized the person who is trying to help may not see the "big picture" when you are making your query. I did not realize the will you found was typewritten and in a register. This is only a copy of Kate's will and the signature is likely a facsimile. The clue is the Certificate of Probate which includes (((Seal))). This tells me it is not the original. If the source is still available to you, check to see the dates on the wills prior to hers and the probate date. Look at the signatures on the wills. They may look alike or the person may have tried to copy the signature on the original document.

  2. Good point Cathy. No, I do not have a copy of the original Will. On a lot of the pages of Wills there were no signatures just the typewritten names. I thought it interesting that Kate's page did have a signature. Hope to one day get to Remsen, Iowa and check out what I can in person.

  3. My great-great grandmother was Dora Hamman, (1876-1914 abouts), and she was the daughter of Carl Hamman (1844-1915)and Theresa Seils (1850-1880) I wonder if they are related. I am just now attempting to figure out the sibling lines to my ancestors. I do not know Carl Hamman's parents names. The best I can tell he was born in Germany. I don't know Carl Hamman's sibling or cousin lines either.

    1. Sounds interesting. Please let me know what you find out about your Hamman's. Everything I have points me to Luxembourg but I believe they were German speaking and perhaps culturally German.