52 Documents in 52 Weeks #25: Another “Dead” Person Turns Up Among the Living

I’ve mentioned in the past that sometimes just a handful of words says it all. Here is my latest example:


Quit Claim Deed, Peoria, Illinois, 5 June 1883

The important words:

This Fifth 5th day of June 1883
Mrs. Mary (X) Sturgell
her mark
Also Known as Mrs. Mary Cookman

I had long thought that Mary, wife of Isaac Sturgell, had died between 1860, when she was in the census, and 1867, when Isaac married widow Susannah Alberty.

I stumbled on this quit claim, filed in 1883, by Mary Sturgell of Peoria, Illinois. This opened a can of worms, of sorts. Mary and Isaac obviously split and each had remarried, although no divorce record has been found. They didn’t divorce in Barry County, Missouri, as I’ve looked at those records.

Neither Isaac nor Mary were literate, but someone was and knew that Mary had taken her daughters and moved to Peoria, where she had family living.

It must have stuck in Isaac’s craw (he wasn’t a nice person, based on an account of a grandchild who knew him) that he had to pay Mary $25.00 to file the quit claim deed.

Apparently, he tried to sell some land in Barry County and the purchaser was aware that Mary was alive. This buyer likely wanted to protect his rights to the property and didn’t want her to come back and claim that the land was fraudulently sold by Isaac.

This deed was filed 23 years after Mary’s appearance in the 1860 census. It presented several new facts:

  1. Mary hadn’t died.
  2. She and Isaac either divorced or just went their separate ways and became bigamists.
  3. Mary was currently living in Peoria County, Illinois.
  4. Mary was currently married to a man named Cookman or else was the widow of a man named Cookman.

This land deed completely cracked open the brick wall of what had happened to Isaac’s and Mary’s daughters, none of whom could be found in Barry County, Missouri.

TIP: Be sure to check land deeds well into the future past the lifetimes of your ancestors. Heirs aren’t the only ones who might appear. “Dead” people sometimes appear, too!

2 thoughts on “52 Documents in 52 Weeks #25: Another “Dead” Person Turns Up Among the Living”

  1. Great find, Linda. I sometimes wonder how long after an event to keep searching records. Experiences like this tell me to keep searching for years! Thanks.

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