Sunday, December 6, 2020

Searching for the Will and the Land of Jacob Hamman

On my recent Genealogy Road Trip 2020 I wanted to find the land that my Great-Great Grandfather Jacob owned in Plymouth County, Iowa so I could go and see it. In my previous post Finding Jacob Hamman’s Land-First Understanding Iowa Land I learned about Iowa land and that I needed the township, section and range numbers in order to see where the land was located today. Would I be able to find these mentioned in Jacob’s Will perhaps?

In several previous posts I learned a great deal about the life of my maternal Great-Great Grandfather Jacob Hamman who immigrated from Luxembourg in the mid 1800s. (See previous posts: Immigration, Naturalization and Ship Travel Presentation, My First Naturalization Papers-Jacob Hamman, and Sunday Obituary-Jacob Hamman.) I also thought I had found a Will for Jacob and talked about that in the post The San Diego Genealogical Society Presents Laurice Johnson. As I transcribed the Will I realized it was not for ‘my’ Jacob Hamman who lived in Plymouth County, Iowa. Bummer! Back to square one.

I went back to his obituary and remembered that Jacob had died suddenly from an asthma attack. Did he already have a Will or did he die intestate, not having made a will before he died?

Already having been to the Plymouth County Courthouse the day before I returned the following day to see if I could find Jacob’s Will. Traveling to sites during Covid was an adventure. Would sites be open? Would I be able to search? What might I find? Traveling with a dog in the Summer added another obstacle I was dealing with. It meant leaving Harley in my Camper. The day was not too very hot and I did find a tree right outside the Courthouse to park under. Windows open, water available and I told Harley I wouldn’t be long. LOL! How many times have you said that exact same thing to a family member or friend that was with you while you were doing research?

I was VERY fortunate to have found a clerk ready to help and there was no one else there searching for records. She helped me search and sure enough there was a Probate Record for Jacob Hamman who died…intestate as I had guessed. No Will but the record of his estate was there. Would these documents help me locate his land?

I looked through the file and decided which records I should get copies of. I handed over my rather lengthy list to the clerk and asked if she’d mind if I left the room to go check on my dog outside in my vehicle while she made copies. She surprised me by saying, “Only if you bring him up here for us to see and, oh, can we pet him?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! People often help us because it’s their job, sometimes very grudgingly, but never before has anyone asked me to bring my dog into a records room so I wouldn’t have to worry about him getting hot.

You never know how helpful others will be when you are looking for records. Sometimes you meet the nicest people who go out of their way to help you. A very special thank-you to all the people I met with at the Plymouth County Courthouse! What a wonderful group of people who went out of their way to help me.

What could I learn from the pages and pages of records? The numerous documents about Jacob’s Estate were in no particular order. I continued to scan documents, records of what Jacob owned from plows to livestock and what he owed at the time of his death. (More on the contents of Jacob’s Estate in a later post.) As I looked through the pages … there it was! On the last page of the Final Report In the matter of the estate of Jacob Hamman, deceased presented to the District Court of the State of Iowa, In and for Plymouth County at the October Term 1902:

…the west half of section 11, township 93, range 44 west of 5 P.M. [prime meridian] …YES!! I found it!!!

Now back to the Plymouth County Recorder’s office one floor below. Once I knew the township, section and range numbers I could find the right ledger for the names. This is what I found on page 375:

(click on photos to enlarge)

Wow! Jacob was listed as the first buyer (Grantee) of the land. He purchased the land from the Western Land Company who was working on behalf of the State of Iowa to sell the land. Jacob filed his claim on 31 October 1895. Now I can find a copy of the land deed in Book 5 on page 280 in the Auditor’s Office. Luckily, the Auditor’s Office is just across the hall on the same floor in the Plymouth County Courthouse.

The Clerk in the Auditor’s Office was also able to look at a current map of this land in Fredonia township, Plymouth County and tell me that today if I drove from the Courthouse (Le Mars, Iowa) on Route 3 out to Polk Avenue (before the town of Remsen) and then drove out to 120th Street Jacob’s land would be on the right hand side of Polk north of 120th street. OK, Harley and I are off.

As I turned off Route 3 Polk Avenue was paved for a bit. The first numbered street I came to was 160th Street. I had a way to go. I was in the middle of huge fields of corn and now the road turned to dirt. I drove and drove and drove on a bumpy dirt road past 

Deep Creek, which didn't seem too deep right now, and drove 

until ... there it was! I came to the cross street … 120th. Finally, I had arrived!

This was once Jacob's land.

WOW!! How amazing! What a feeling of success! I was able to shout (there was no one around) “Jacob, I found your land!” One hundred and twenty years after your death in 1900 your great-great-granddaughter came to see the land that you farmed and where you raised your family. You came all the way from Luxembourg to start a new life here in Iowa. I only drove from San Diego. I can’t help but wonder how the actual land and life you built here in Iowa compared to the dreams of that young man of 25 years who came across the Atlantic Ocean on the ship Atlantic in 1859 and landed first in New York City before your journey to Iowa?

Now, can I find a copy of the actual land deed and will it tell me more about Jacob and this land?

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

Enjoy the journey,


  1. Hi Debby. I saw this posted on fb. I too have great relatives that were settled in Plymouth County. If you havent used it before, the BLM/GLO website is an amazing tool for helping in tjis very type of research. Ive utilized this for years, but this past summer while doing reasearch in Colorado, discovered I was neglecting "to push all the buttons" available and ended up finding out so much more info. Our journeys are very similar when I found and stood on my grandfaters homestead and saw my greatgrandfathers land...soulfully amazing! If you have any questions I would be willing to help assit however I can with BLM. SINCERELY, Shellie Vascik

    1. Thank-you so much Shellie for the information. I have tried BLM records for Jacob and never could locate anything. Perhaps you could walk me through one of your searches? I have used BLM before but always welcome a refresher! I would enjoy hearing more of your family story as well if you'd like to contact me. Hearing other people's stories always helps me find a new lead or way to research.

  2. What an excellent story of your find. It’s so heart warming when people are nice enough to go that extra step and help you out. I’ve encountered the same thing in my genealogy journeys. Can’t wait to hear more about Jacob.

    1. Thank-you Diane! I also find that by being there I frequently get new ideas for searching that I hadn't previously thought of.

  3. Enjoyed reading the article above , really explains everything in detail, the article is very interesting and effective. Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles. Benefits of Traveling With a Small Dog

    1. Thank-you so much! I am so glad you enjoyed this article. Sorry I missed this earlier.