Casefile Clues

29 July 2013

1915 Victory School Picture, District Boundaries, Ancestry.com Problems, and Do You Know Any of These People?

School pictures. Kids hate them--genealogists love them.

The picture below was taken in 1915 near the Victory Schoolhouse in rural Stillwell, Illinois (that's a redundant phrase if ever there was one...)

It is a neat picture and I was desirous to learn a little more about the school and where it was located. It is one of the few pictures I have of my grandfather when he was a child.
Students at Victory School, District 227, Section 27, St.Albans Township, Hancock County,Illinois, 1915. Student with two dots above his head is Cecil Neill. Student with one dot above his head is Ralph Neill. Original copy in private personal collection. Digital image made by Michael John Neill, July 2013. Please email Michael at mjnrootdig@gmail.com if you are able to identify any individuals in this photo.
I knew I had seen maps that showed the school district boundaries and I went and reviewed all maps I had for the time period until I found the one with the schools shown.

District 227 was in the southern portion of St. Albans Township, bordering the county line with Adams County and entirely containing the village of Stillwell. It is believed by the author that Charles Neill (father of Cecil and Ralph, shown above) was renting property somewhere within the confines of District 227.

portion of St. Albans Township, Hancock County, Illinois showing school district 227. Digital image made from apparent 1908 "Plat Book of Hancock County, Illinois by Townships" available on Ancestry.com.

More about the map


The map shown above was obtained on Ancestry.com. As mentioned in earlier posts, this map is (at the time of this writing) classified as being from Iroquois County. It is not despite what the image below indicates.


The University of Illinois bibliography of county plat maps and ownership maps indicates that there are three publications of this type for Hancock County during 1900-1920. If Ancestry.com's year is right for the map they have--the 1904 book would be the one shown in the images above. But since Ancestry.com has the county wrong, one must be additionally skeptical about the year in which they claim the atlas was published. However, it seems reasonable that the map showing district 227 is from one of these three publications indicated in the bibliography of county atlases obtained from the University of Illinois website.

Map of Hancock County, Illinois [map].1904See State Library Catalog
20th century atlas of Hancock County, Illinois [cartographic material] : containing maps of villages, cities and townships of the county.1904F. 912.77343 M58TLink to CatalogIllinois History & Lincoln Coll. [non-circulating]
Plat book of Hancock County by townships. [cartographic material]1908?F. 912.77343 H36PLink to CatalogIllinois History & Lincoln Coll. [non-circulating]

But which one?

As usual, it pays to look at the entire image. In the bottom right hand corner of map for St. Albans Township from the atlas above is the apparent year and month in which the map was drawn "06/08."

Also above the map is the phrase "Plat Book of Hancock County by Townships." This is the same phrase used to describe the item in the bibliography from the University of Illinois website. Using the date and the title as evidence, it seems reasonable to conclude that the map is from the 1908 plat book. The only way to know for certain will be to view an actual copy of the book since the images at Ancestry.com are currently linked incorrectly.