The Johann Michael Mueller, now Miller, family began in the Germanic area of Europe long before the advent of written records.
With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Elbe Germani moved south into Southern Germany and Austria. The Alemannians lived in what are now Bavaria and the Baden areas, but was then called Swabia. Around 500 AD, or 2500 years ago, the Burgundians (French speaking) moved into western Switzerland. The Allemannians (German speaking) moved into what is the Middleland area of Switzerland. The Alemannians were an agricultural people, but pagan and barbarian. The Franks who lived in central Germany and who also moved into Switzerland conquered the Alemanni tribe and after a struggle, “Christianized” the people and set the moral code for the next generations. They also introduced feudalism to the area.
Thus a roaming Germanic tribe was given a moral and religious structure as they resided in and farmed the area later known as the Canton of Berne, where our German speaking Miller family is first found.
These ancestors lived in small villages and small inter-related family groups called clans. This organization was similar to that which was seen later on the American frontier. Many family surnames associated early in this part of Switzerland are seen later in Pennsylvania and Ohio among the Pietist religions. Hence the family associations that are seen in relationship to the Millers on the American frontier were linkages that go back many, many generations into Europe.
For many generations these people farmed the land in Switzerland and most likely were faithful Catholics.
When the Protestant Reformation came to the Canton of Berne, Switzerland, some of these rural families followed the teachings of Zwingli and became part of the Reformed Church. Others followed the teachings of Conrad Grebel and became part of the Anabaptist movement in Switzerland. These became known as the Swiss Brethren. The map below shows Berne as a fortified city in 1638. Perhaps our ancestors walked those very ramparts, entered through the city gate, conducted business and sold their wares.
Here’s an aerial view of the old part of the city today.
In the later part of the 17th century, the Swiss Pietists split into two groups; the Swiss Mennonites under the leadership of Hans Reist and the Amish who derived their name from Jacob Ammann of Erlenbach.
Thus the small clans and inter-related family groups who were farmers in the valleys of Switzerland now become members of three separate religious movements, namely the Reformed, Mennonite and the Amish. This is why years later on the frontier in America, the Reformed (now transformed into German Baptists known as Brethren or Dunkards), the Mennonites and the Amish have similar and seemingly related surnames and practices.
Switzerland to Germany
Our Miller family line begins in Switzerland with Johann Michael Mueller, born in 1655 in Zollikofen, Switzerland.
Zollikofen is just outside of Bern.
During the first half of the seventeenth century, Switzerland was relatively untouched by the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War, (1618-1648), a Catholic-Protestant conflict, fought principally on German soil. Switzerland enjoyed peace and prosperity and had a good market for its excess products. During the second half of the same century a social reaction set in, which was made acute by political and religious confusion. In 1653, the peasants of the Cantons of Bern, Lucerne, Solothurn and Basel revolted against the authorities, chiefly for social reasons. Since there were good opportunities for new settlers in depopulated Germany, many people left the Canton of Bern during this period and journeyed northward into foreign parts, specifically Germany.
The Rhine River was the way out of Switzerland and these families settled wherever it led. Beyond Germany, emigration into the “lowlands” (Netherlands) as the destination of the emigrants used to be called, lasted into the eighteenth century and was much more numerous than emigration to America – although many did eventually emigrate. The Millers, (then spelled Mueller), came from a village about 10 miles north of Bern Switzerland, called Zollikofen and were a part of the Reformed church there.
The earliest ancestor that has been documented is Johann Michael Mueller, who is believed to have been born in 1655, in the City of Zollikofen, Canton of Bern, Switzerland.
The Zollikofen church, above, shown inside today, built in 1306, still stands. Our cousin, the Reverend Richard Miller is, appropriately, standing in the pulpit.
Above, a view of the beautiful church from a distance and below, a street view thanks to Google maps street view.
It is likely that in the late 1680’s the Miller family along with perhaps other friends and relatives moved north along the Rhine River and settled in the Rhineland-Pfaltz area of southern Germany. They became part of the Steinwenden and Konken (Germany) Reformed parish churches and records of their respective families are recorded in the church records. The Steinwenden records began in 1684 and Konken in 1653, but the churches reach further back in time. There are other churches in the area whose records to not exist and those may have held other family records as well.
The Konken records include those of the Berchtoll family, including Hans Berchtol, whose daughter would marry the son of Johann Michael Miller (the first.)
Johann Michael Mueller married Irene Charitas, whose last name is unknown. That’s right, Charitas is NOT her last name, as is reflected universally on internet trees, but her middle name as recorded in church records, as was the custom of the time.
Cousin Reverend Richard Miller visited Zollikofen and provided the following information.
“On Friday, 04 October 1996, I was in Steinwenden and was entertained by the Burgermeister of Steinwenden. A television crew from Mainz came and interviewed me for a personal interest story of me coming back to the home of my ancestors, i.e., Johan Michael Mueller. Also present was genealogist Roland Paul of the Institue für Pfälzische Geschichte und Volkskünde located in Kaiserlautern. The Burgermeister of Steinwenden and the television station had asked Roland to research Johan Michael Müller, born 1692 in Steinwenden. The attached are two records which Roland gave me. He asserted that Michael’s mother’s maiden name is unknown, and that Irene Charitas is her first and middle name rather than first and maiden name.”
Irene may have been related to the Schlosser family, as there was a 1689 confirmation of Irene Charitas Schloser, daughter of Conrad Schlosser, of Steinwenden, if I’m reading this correctly.
At this time however, Irene Charitas was already married to Michael Mueller as they had their first child’s birth recorded in the church records in June of 1685, or earlier. They likely married in 1684. Their children were baptized in the Reformed church in Steinwenden, Germany, near Mannheim.
The bell tower of the original Steinwenden church is all that is left standing (1996) and is shown here.
Johann Michael Mueller and Irene Charitas Mueller had 6 children. Sadly, all of their children died other than Johann Michael Mueller who was the youngest, born October 5th, 1692. I can’t imagine the depth Irene’s grief at the deaths of her first 5 children – and her joy at the one that lived.
We don’t know where those children are buried, but my best guess would be the churchyard.
The village of Steinwenden is shown below, photography courtesy of Richard Miller during his visit to the Miller homeland.
Irene may have been joyful about her son that lived, but her husband, Johann Michael, their father, died three years later on January 31, 1695, still a young man, at age 40.
Some genealogical records show that Irene died and Michael remarried to Anna Loysa Regina, but the church records indicate that all of Johann Michael Mueller’s children were born to Irene Charitas. The summary record, below, provided to Richard Miller when he visited Steinwenden in 1996 lists Irene Charitas (with no last name listed) as the mother for all 6 children born between 1685 and 1692.
Many times the people who were designated as Godparents were relatives of the father or mother of the children. Godparents at that time were extremely important, and the children were generally named after the Godparents. In the case of the death of the parents, which happened all too often, it was the Godparents who would raise the children. The Godparents of these children were Hans George Shoemaker and his wife, Mich. Stahl – I can’t tell if this is two people or three. The second is Abraham, Hans Berchtol, Hoffman. Third was Samuel Hoffman. Fourth is Maria Catherine. Fifth is Eva ?, Catherine, Samuel Shoemaker. Finally, the sixth child’s Godparents standing up with Johann Michael Mueller born on October 5, 1692 were Johann Michael Shoemaker, Hans Berchtol and wife.
Little did they know that Hans Berchtol’s daughter, then 4 years old, would one day marry this baby boy.
After Johann Michael’s death, his widow reportedly married Jacob Stutzman whose wife had died. However, there exists a great deal of confusion about who Jacob Stutzman married. In the Gene Miller book, he attributes Jacob Stutzman’s wife, Anna Loysa Regina as the widow of Johann Michael Mueller – but as we’ve seen – based on the church records, Johann Michael Miller’s wife was one Irene Charitas, not Anna Loysa Regina, at least as late as 1692. Perhaps Irene died and Johann Michael Miller remarried to Anna Loysa Regina before his death in 1695. This conflicting information may never be entirely resolved, at least not until the entire set of church records is transcribed and translated, in full, such that the various families can be reassembled. However, there were many little villages in this area and people didn’t always stay in one place.
Johann Michael Mueller, born in Switzerland in 1655, died in the Steinwenden German Reformed congregation on January 31, 1695, at the age of 40 years. His reported widow, Anna Loysa Regina Mueller remarried a Hans Jacob Stutsman of the Konken German Reformed Congregation on September 29, 1695. If this is accurate, and Anna Loysa Regina was the widow of Johann Michael Mueller, that would indicate that Irene Charitas died between January 1692 when her only child to survive was born and 1695 when her husband died – and with enough time for him to remarry. That could explain why they didn’t have another child in 1694 – perhaps she was dead or perhaps she and the child both died during childbirth. If this is the case, the only mother Johann Michael Mueller would have known was Anna Regina and the only father, her second husband Jacob Stutzman. No children are attributed to Johann Michael Mueller and Anna Loysa Regina in church records, although she did have children with Johann Jacob Stutzman..
The Pietist Movement
The Stutzman family was originally from the Lake Thun area in Switzerland, according to the book, “Jacob Stutzman, His Children and Grandchildren” by John Hale Stutesman, Jr. who reports that they fled from religious persecution to the welcoming Palatinate in Germany before 1700. Of course, this is also the area where the Mueller family originated as well.
Ironically, this is less than an hour away from where I lived in the summer of 1970 – one of the most stunningly beautiful areas I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing.
This drawing of Thun isn’t far from Zollikofen where the Miller family is first found. So it appears that the Mueller and Stutzman families were located in the same area of Switzerland. One might surmise that they were part of a group that migrated together to Germany.
A beautiful view of Lake Thun today.
In Germany, later, the combined Miller/Stutzman family is found near Bad Durkheim where Johann Jacob Stutzmann was born on January 1, 1706, on the Weilacher Hof, near Hardenburg, son of the tenant farmer on the Weilacher Hof, Johann Jacob Stutzmann and his wife Regina Elisabetha.
Given that Johann Jacob Stutzman married Regina Elisabetha Mueller after the death of Johann Michael Mueller (the first), and in 1706 Jacob Stutzman’s wife’s name was recorded as Regina Elisabetha – it’s likely that Irene Charitas had died before 1695 when Johann Jacob Mueller died given that Johann Jacob Stutzman apparently married his widow. This makes Johann Jacob Stutzman (the second) born in 1706 a “step-brother” to Johann Michael Mueller (the second.) Said differently, Johann Michael Mueller’s step mother remarried after his father’s death and his step-mother and her new husband had a son, Johann Jacob Stutzman (the second.) This son and his “step-brother” Johann Michael Mueller were lifelong friends and companions – eventually immigrating to America together and moving in tandem across the frontier.
Many of the Swiss families had Pietist leanings. Some were Mennonite and eventually became Brethren, as did Johann Jacob Mueller (the second) and Johann Jacob Stutzman (the second.)
The Brethren sect itself began in 1708 in the village of Schwarzenau, in Wittgenstein, Germany with the rebaptism of eight people. The Brethren faith spread rapidly and it was only 11 years later that the first group of Brethren landed in Philadelphia.
It’s certainly possible that an entire group of Anabaptist leaning families relocated from Switzerland to the Bad Durkheim area in Germany. In 1714, the Miller family was in Krottelback, not far from Hardenburg.
The next step for these families, of course, was to safety in Holland, then on the ship Adventure in 1727 to America. Justin Replogle states that the Brethren in Holland had been in exile since 1720. It’s unlikely that Michael was among this group, because his son Philip Jacob was born in Germany in about 1726.
I surely would like to know the individual stories of the families involved and what prompted these decisions. What kinds of factors were involved? Did they know they would be kindly received when they relocated from Switzerland to Germany, then from Germany to Rotterdam and then from Rotterdam to Philadelphia, or was the future entirely unknown? Were they joining families who had already departed and were doing well in the new lands? What prompted the entire group of Brethren to depart – in fact causing the sect to die out in Europe? Were these families Brethren before they left, or did they convert after arriving in the US? We know the Bechtol family was Mennonite.
The 30 Years War may have had a lot to do with the decision to leave Switzerland. Germany was depopulated after the 30 Years War which ended in 1648, with some areas being entirely devastated. Overall, the population loss was from 25-40% with the Palatinate being particularly hard hit, losing 75 to 80% of the population. After the war, settlers from other part of Germany and Switzerland were invited to repopulate the area which included both Catholic and Lutheran (Protestant) churches.
According to the book, “Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York,” (pages 12-14), misery in this area wasn’t over yet. From 1688-1697, the War of the Palatine Succession brought French armies overrunning the German southwest, laying waste to vineyards, farmland and the regions cities and smaller towns. Mannheim was destroyed and Speyer stood uninhabited for 10 years. Farmland stood abandoned and German rulers sought to attract new settlers by offering tax concessions and religious toleration which specifically included Catholics, Lutherans, Mennonites and Jews.
This may have been part of the reason these Protestant families selected this area.
Colonies of religious dissidents moved to Germany from neighboring counties, in particular, Switzerland. In 1656 and 1657, more than 1000 Swiss moved to the Palatinate. In 1671, over 1600 Mennonites arrived from Bern. Portuguese Jews attracted by the elector’s concessions settled in Mannheim. Huguenot refugees followed as well.
Migration became a fact of life in this part of Germany. In one study, it was found that between 1593 and 1780, about half of one town’s citizens were not born there.
This area of Germany became extremely religiously diverse. In 1705, an edict called the Religionsdeklaration clarified the religious situation, unquestionably giving religious freedom to all individuals. Lutherans fell under the Reformed, as did other Protestant sects, which may be why we find both the Miller and Stutzman children baptized in Reformed or Lutheran churches. By this time, the pietists, an offshoot of the Lutherans, were calling for a more inward-looking and emotional faith than the established churches but were meeting privately, not able to establish open churches.
In 1675, Philipp Jacob Spener, a Lutheran pastor in Frankfurt encouraged his followers to create small, private groups to read and discuss the Bible. He didn’t intend for those groups to leave the established churches, but they formed what they called conventicles which further split the already fractured religious communities in Germany. Pietists become very closely bound within their own group, and the pietist groups throughout Germany tended to bind together tightly as well, between villages which weren’t spaced very far apart, forming a network.
What were these early Brethren people like?
To begin with, they didn’t care much about official clergy and buildings. They preferred to hear their neighbor farmer preach who farmed the other 6 days a week, gathered in his barn. The word congregation did not necessarily mean a stand-alone church building, it may have meant only a gathering of like-minded people.
Pietists did not stress the intellectual side of Christianity. They emphasized the literal text of the Bible and didn’t worry about theory. The community stressed humility, work and service to others. The Brethren were plain people, pacifists, remaining aloof during the worldliness of political office, military service, oaths, litigation and filing anything in court or at the courthouse, unfortunately including deeds and marriages.
The Brethren practiced shunning of church members and even their children who did things they did not approve of. Alexander Mack Jr., the son of the founder of the Brethren church shunned both of his daughters. One for marrying outside the faith and because the marriage “was performed with a license.” The second, who was shunned to the point where the family would not even eat with her, was shunned for doing something we’ll have to surmise, but it was said that the “sin was not so great because they had been engaged never to leave each other.” An entire Brethren congregation shunned another young woman because she sat in the lap of a man who was trying to force her into immorality, for an hour, pretending to be asleep.” Her father argued that she had not actually committed fornication, and left the congregation, taking several members with him.
Church historian Morgan Edwards summarized Brethren like this in 1770: “They use great plainness of language and dress, like the Quakers; and like them will neither swear nor fight. The will not go to law; nor take interest for the money they lend. They commonly wear their beards…They have the Lord’s supper…love feasts, washing of feet, kiss of charity…use the trine immersion…as the party kneels down to be baptized…” (Replogle)
We see this same culture in the Brethren, Mennonite and Amish, then as now.
The area where I grew up in Indiana had a well-established Amish, Mennonite and Brethren community. They tended to live in the same area, but they did not intermix, or at least not much. As much as they looked “alike” to those of us who were not members of those religions, their differences, to them, were chasms, especially the adoption of modern technology and conveniences like electricity, farm equipment and automobiles.
The Amish, typically called the “Old Order” were the most restrictive, not embracing any modern technology at all. These were and are the horse and buggy families.
The Mennonites were in the middle. They would ride in or drive cars, but they had to be very plain – always black, nothing shiny, no hubcaps or radios. The local car dealership always had to special order a group of Mennonite cars.
The Brethren were the least restrictive. Their men dressed almost normally, although some still had beards. Their women often still wore prayer bonnets, but their clothes weren’t always black. Their homes were plain, but did include modern conveniences. However, in our family, one will includes instructions for the man’s gravestone not to be highly polished. They were known as highly conservative “plain people.”
This photo is of my mother’s Brethren grandparents, Hiram Bauke Ferverda and Evaline Louise Miller, and their family taken about 1918. Other than their relatively “plain” dress, you would never know they were Brethren. Their son, third from right in the front row is also wearing a uniform, having served in WWI – something VERY un-Brethren. In this photo, the women are not wearing prayer bonnets, but mother said that she distinctly remembers this woman, her grandmother, wearing a prayer cap. My mother’s father, John Whitney Ferverda (b1882) is the second from right, back row.
This photo taken about 18 years earlier, around 1900, of Evaline Louise Miller, middle, and her parents, Margaret Lentz Whitehead and John David Miller looks much more typically Brethren. The men have beards and the women are wearing darker colors and prayer bonnets, covering their hair.
My mother’s family was Brethren until my grandfather, gasp, married a Lutheran woman and because there was no Brethren or Lutheran church in the small town where they lived, they chose to become Methodist! Oh, the scandal! With that religiously “mixed” marriage ended at least a 7 generations long line of Pietists who became Brethren, reaching back hundreds of years into Germany and Switzerland – back into the mists of time so far that we no longer have records, only the knowledge of how strongly those people must have felt about their religion to willingly suffer the persecution and displacement that they withstood.
I’m suspecting they literally rolled over in their graves to know that one of their descendants married outside the faith and became something un-Pietist.
The Miller DNA
One of our Miller participants has tested to 111 markers and taken the Big Y test. Although our haplogroup is a subgroup of typically European R1b, we have only Miller matches at 12 through 111 markers, except at 25 and 37 markers where we have a match to a Morgan man whose ancestor, Morgan Morgan, hails from Wales and was born in 1688.
The Big Y DNA results, a test which not only checks for all known SNPs, but scans for new and unknown mutations as well, shows that our Miller participant most closely matches a man from Bulgaria. In this case, the word close does not mean in a genealogical timeframe. This match reaches back before the advent of surnames, as there are 3 known SNP differences and only 58 of 100 novel variants or previously unknown SNPs. This means that our common ancestor with this man is probably someplace around 3,000 or 4,000 years ago. Our next closest match is from Austria and from about as long ago. These are followed closely by three English surnames and a Spanish surname.
The Miller terminal SNP, which defines our haplogroup, is called R-Z2106.
The Y haplotree looks like a branching tree or a pedigree chart on steroids. Our twig, R-Z2106 is a part of a larger stick which is a part of a larger branch, etc.
Each of these branches becomes increasingly smaller and more granular. The 100 or so novel variants found in the Miller DNA will also become branches someday, so there may be several more. As DNA mutates, new novel variants, which are unnamed SNPs because they have just been discovered, continue to occur every few generations in each line. This means that our own personal branch of the tree may have several SNPs or mutations that no one else has. Whatever valley our ancestors may have been isolated in hundreds or thousands of years ago, perhaps during the last glacial maximum, may hold many men with the same mutations that today will become a small subgroup of a haplogroup – like Z2106. We don’t know the history, but by looking at groups of men with these same mutations, and estimating when the mutation happened, and pairing that with what we know historically and geologically was happening in the world at that time, we can piece some semblance of our own deep personal history together.
This is a map of the distribution of haplogroup L23. It’s estimated that L23 occurred in the first male about 7000 years ago.
Generally, the darker or most saturated regions are the origins of the haplogroup. L23 is interesting because it is typically not found in high frequencies in Europe, typically less than 5% or haplogroup R, except in Switzerland’s Upper Rhone Valley where it is found at 27%. That could be a clue for us.
This same paper, “Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe” by Haak et al, 2015, states that there is virtually no haplogroup R1b found in Europe before the period beginning about 4500 years ago in the Late Neolithic and Bronze Ages, and that this R1b found in these Russian burials appears to be mixed with Near East (Anatolian) DNA as well. This implies, of course, that one of the migration routes to Europe was north through Russia, and one was crossing at present day Istanbul and going through the Baltic.
Subgroup Z2103 is referred to as the Balkan and Asian branch of the L23 tree. Z2103 is found in a high percentage of Armenian men today.
Armenia is, of course, dead center in the middle of the migration path from the Near East to the Russian steppes, shown on the map above with a red balloon.
Referencing the Armenian DNA project, two men within that project carry the R-Z2106 SNP – the same one the Miller men carry. SNP Z2106 is exceedingly rare. I’ve been able to locate less than a dozen samples.
However, there are 21 men who carry the Z2103 SNP and 14 men who carry the Z2109 SNP in the Armenian project. Another 2109 SNP is found in Iraq and one in Germany.
This map shows what was occurring in the Balkan region about 4500 years ago.
In 2015, six graves were excavated near Samara, Russia, shown on the map below, that represent the Yamna culture and of those, four carried the mutation Z2103 which is estimated to have been born about 6000 years ago, as are SNPs Z2109 and Z2106.
SNPs Z2106 and Z2109 were not reported in the ancient burials, but we don’t know if they were tested for or not.
These men of the Yamna culture lived between 2700 and 3300 years ago (BCE). We share a common ancestor with these men. Where and when is the question that remains.
It is in the history of these maps, these peoples and our DNA that the story of our ancestry is told. We’re still trying to put the pieces together, but looking at these maps, and our SNPs and novel variants, we know that our ancestors were first found in Switzerland in contemporary records, but their history extends back into Eastern Europe and back to Anatolia before that. They may have moved into Europe with the waves of farmers from that region, or they may have arrived from the Russian steppes. Given where our other SNPS, Z2103 and Z2109 are (and aren’t) found, I’m betting that they migrated from Anatolia across the Balkan region into eastern Europe as part of the migration of the European Neolithic farmer culture.
None of this is cast exactly in concrete – more like in jello molds. We continue to make discoveries and learn every day in this emerging field. However, what we do know is exciting and tantalizing and every puzzle piece we find adds to the story of our Mueller family.
Wouldn’t Johann Michael Mueller be surprised to know the secrets his DNA shared with his irreverent Methodist descendants! But Johann Michael, take heart, because there are still many Miller Brethren families. In fact, we even have a Miller-Brethren DNA project to help sort and reconstruct those families!
If you descend from a Brethren Miller family, you are most welcome to join.