Finding Clues in’s New Probate Collection

By Diane Haddad

Yesterday I noted that the new will and probate collection on held a clue to the mysterious death of my third-great-grandmother Elizabeth (Teipel) Thoss. Elizabeth disappeared sometime between her son Henry’s birth in 1894 and the 1900 census, but I couldn’t find a death or burial record.

The very first will I looked for was that of Elizabeth’s mother, Gertrude Meiners, who died in 1919. Awhile ago I found the index entry in a digitized index volume on, but that site didn’t have the book with the will.

Sure enough, Gertrude named Elizabeth in her will, dated April 24, 1910 (her husband had died the previous year):

Gertrude, who was about 80 when she penned her will, left $5 to each of the five children of her “deceased daughter Elizabeth Thors.” She also declared null and void a note Elizabeth’s deceased husband “Edward E. Thors” (who died in 1908) executed to Gertrude on Aug. 14, 1895.

Finally, Gertrude forgave the balance of $100, “due me for the funeral bill of their deceased mother, which I advanced to their deceased father.”

This is the first reference I’ve found to Elizabeth’s death in any record, but the date and circumstances are still a mystery. I haven’t found any more information even by browsing death record collections and newspapers around that date. The rest of the probate packet (which isn’t on may shed more light on things, as might the probate records of Elizabeth’s husband.

Wills and probate records are full of names, relationships and other information. Relatively few are searchable online, but it’s worth a microfilm search or courthouse visit. Our Make the Most of Probate Records online course from Family Tree University can help you understand the records generated by the probate process and how to find them.

Gertrude’s will also confirmed the names of her other children (including the married daughters) and grandchildren, indicated whether they were living, and gave the name of her church and the address where she lived when she wrote the will.

It does have a couple of details out of sync with my tree: Elizabeth’s married name was Thoss, not Thors, and her husband’s name was Louis E., not Edward E.