Casefile Clues

04 March 2014

Learning to Read at 60 and Not Against Wilson

This is one of my favorite newspaper clippings that I have ever located for an ancestor, even if it does refer to John H. Ufkes as a "good old German." We've mentioned this item before several years ago, but it makes a few lessons that are worth making mention of again.


The account indicated that Ufkes learned to read English at the age of sixty. It's worth noting that I am as certain as I can be that Ufkes was literate in German to begin with as he wrote letters to various family members in the 1880s. It is easier to learn to read a foreign language when you can already read one language in the first place.

I've never taken time to completely understand the comment about Ufkes being a Republican but that he "did not express himself against Woodrow Wilson, or the present administration." There may be a political history lesson there as well.

Genealogy Lesson: Is there a chance your ancestor signed documents that he could not read? I will have to look, but I'm reasonably certain that there is at least one English language document that Ufkes signed in the United States before he reached the age of sixty. Always keep your mind open to the possibility that your ancestor signed something he could not read.

Note: Ufkes is my great-great-grandfather.