Who Murdered Irene? – Irene VanBrocklin Story

When you are building your family tree and find an item in a newspaper, look around for other items about the same person. That is what I wrote in my last blog but I should have written “other items about the same person or subject matter” because today I ran into just this situation.

In November I saw a story in the Decorah Public Opinion Newspaper dated Nov. 15, 1922 which I thought should be part of someone’s family tree. The item was about the mother of the murdered daughter going to visit her convicted killer. The story had some names and dates which I used to find family trees and sent them the information.

Irene VanBrocklin
Irene VanBrocklin

But that was not the end of the story, as in so many other items it would have been. In other items my work stops when I find a family tree. In this item I was intrigued with the story about a murder and wanted more information. A simple Google search gave me lots of web sites that had information about the case but the one web site that had the most ”good” information was Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases hosted by Nancy Bowers.

Nancy web site
Nancy web site

In her web site Nancy had the whole story about the murder and about the accused killer by the name of “Kneeskern”. I sent Nancy the link to the item I had found and she replied with some more information. “…Recently, I received an invitation to visit the scenes of the VanBrocklin and Kneeskern homicides from the man who owns the land where they occurred…”

But again that was not the end of the story. Today or was it yesterday I received an e-mail from a Cheryl who thanked me for the item I had sent her back in November about Irene’s murder. Cheryl said that she knew about the case and “…Irene was my great-grandfathers niece…”. I replied to her message and told her about Nancy having done extensive research on the case. I then sent Nancy, Cheryl’s message so that she would be aware that Cheryl had a family connection to the case.

Again I thought I was done with the story, but once again the genealogy newspaper gods interceded.

When I got the message from Cheryl I went back into my files and found the link to the newspaper item. I then did a screen print of the item and started thinking about putting into my blog. I thought I would reread the item in the original newspaper just to make sure I had all the fact straight. As I was ready to get off of the newspaper page my eye caught a few letters from a head line a couple of columns over from where I was reading. The thing that caught my eye was this ”Took Kneeskern Out To Vote”. I quickly scrolled over to that column and sure enough it was about the convicted killer of Irene. In the write up it mentioned that the sheriff had a response to the item in another part of the newspaper. I looked through the newspaper page by page column by column looking for the sheriff’s response and on page three (3), I found it. It was an open letter to the public telling them about his actions. I did a screen print of the two new items and put them in the growing “Irene VanBrocklin Murder 1921” file. When I had thought about doing a blog it was about one item, well now I had two other items to include in the blog.

To Vote
To Vote
open letter
open letter

Genealogy can be fun and educational
So you see, one newspaper item can lead to a whole bunch of other stuff; you can have fun and you can learn. By finding that item in November it lead me to find a web site about unsolved murders in Iowa and to connect with two people who were researching a murder case (Nancy and Cheryl). Not only that, I learned a valuable lesson which is to follow what I preach. I wrote in another blog to look around for other item, yet I had not done so myself. It was only by accident that I saw the sheriff’s item and if I had not read the whole sheriff item I would have missed the part where they say there is another item in the same newspaper.

And that is the end of the story.

Thank You.

To View the Original items,
Select Decorah Public Opinion in box below:

Decorah, Winneshiek County, Iowa
Decorah Public Opinion
Oct 28, 1882

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