Top 10 Most Popular Articles of 2015

Wordpress 2015

WordPress, the blogging software I use, provides a year-end summary that is quite interesting.

I really like this report, as I tend to be very focused on what I’m researching and writing, not on stats – so this is a refreshing break and summary. I thought you might be interested too.

The top 10 most viewed posts in 2015 were, in order from least to most:

10thPromethease – Genetic Health Information Alternative – From December 2013

People are beginning to ask about how they can obtain some of the health information that they were previously receiving from 23andMe.  For $5, at Promethease,  you can upload any of the autosomal files from either Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or  They will process your raw data and provide you with a report that is available to download from their server for 45 days.  They also e-mail you a copy.

9thX Marks the Spot – From September 2012

When using autosomal DNA, the X chromosome is a powerful tool with special inheritance properties.  Many people think that mitochondrial DNA is the same as the X chromosome.  It’s not.

8thThick Hair, Small Boobs, Shovel Shaped Teeth and More – From February 2013

Yep, there’s a gene for these traits, and more.  The same gene, named EDAR (short for Ectodysplasin receptor EDARV370A), it turns out, also confers more sweat glands and distinctive teeth and is found in the majority of East Asian people.

7thMythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA – From June 2013

I’m sometimes amazed at what people believe – and not just a few people – but a lot of people.

Recently, I ran across a situation where someone was just adamant that autosomal DNA could not help a female find or identify her father.  That’s simply wrong. Incorrect.  Nada!  This isn’t, I repeat, IS NOT, true of autosomal testing.

6th4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy – from October 2012 – This is probably the article I refer people to most often.  It’s the basics, just the basics.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the different “kinds” of DNA and how they can be used for genetic genealogy.

It used to be simple.  When this “industry” first started, in the year 2000, you could test two kinds of DNA and it was straightforward.  Now we’ve added more DNA, more tools and more testing companies and it’s not quite so straightforward anymore.

5thIs History Repeating Itself at Ancestry? – from August 2012

Is history repeating itself at Ancestry?

I’ve been thinking about whether or not I should publish this posting.  As I write and rewrite it, I still haven’t made up my mind.  It’s one of those sticky wickets, as they are called.  One of the reasons I hesitate is that I have far more questions than answers.

4thWhat is a Haplogroup? – From January 2013

Sometimes we’ve been doing genetic genealogy for so long we forget what it’s like to be new.  I’m reminded, sometimes humorously, by some of the questions I receive.

3rdAutosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best? – From February 2015

This now obsolete article compared the autosomal tests from Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe.  23andMe, as of year end (2015), is in the midst of rewriting their platform, which obsoletes some of the tools they offered previously.   As soon as the 23andMe transition to their new platform is complete, I’ll be writing an updated version of this article for 2016.  Until then, suffice it to say I am recommending Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, in that order.

2ndEthnicity Results – True or Not? – from October 2013

I can’t even begin to tell you how many questions I receive that go something like this:

“I received my ethnicity results from XYZ.  I’m confused.  The results don’t seem to align with my research and I don’t know what to make of them?”

1stProving Native American Ancestry Using DNA – From December 2012 – this has been the most popular article every year since 2012. This doesn’t surprise me, as it’s also the most common question I receive.

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one.

“My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.”


I was surprised, at first, to see so many older posts, but then I realized they have had more time to accumulate hits.

Of these all-time Top 10, three of them, including the most popular, which is most popular by far, have to do with Native American ancestry, directly or indirectly. The most common questions I receive about ethnicity also relate to the discovery of Native American ancestry.

Thank you everyone for coming along with me on this on this wonderful journey.  It will be exciting to see what 2016 has to offer.  I already have some exciting research planned that I’ll be sharing with you.

Happy New Year everyone!  I’m wishing you new ancestors!



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23andMe, Ancestry and Selling Your DNA Information

Update: May 25, 2018 – Please note that with the advent of the GDPR legislation in Europe, this article is no longer current. Please read each company’s current statements about privacy and terms of service to understand their policies.
Are you aware that when you purchase a DNA kit for genealogy testing through either 23andMe or Ancestry that you are literally giving these companies carte blanche to your DNA, the rights to your DNA information, including for medical utilization meaning sales to Big Pharm, and there is absolutely no opt-out, meaning they can in essence do anything they want with your anonymized data?

Both companies also have a higher research participation level that you can choose to participate in, or opt out of, that grants them permission to sell or otherwise utilize your non-anonymized data, meaning your identity is attached to that information.

However, opting out of his higher level DOES NOT stop the company from utilizing, sharing or selling your anonymized DNA and data.  Anonymized data means your identity and what they consider identifying information has been removed.

Many people think that if you opt-out, your DNA and data is never shared or sold, but according to 23andMe and Ancestry’s own documentation, that’s not true. Opt-out is not truly opt-out.  It’s only opting out of them sharing your non-anonymized data – meaning just the higher level of participation only.  They still share your anonymized data in aggregated fashion.

Some people are fine with this. Some aren’t.  Many people don’t really understand the situation.  I didn’t initially.  I’m very uncomfortable with this situation, and here’s why.

First, let me say very clearly that I’m not opposed to WHAT either 23andMe or Ancestry is doing, I’m very concerned with HOW, meaning their methodology for obtaining consent.

I feel like a consumer should receive what they pay for and not have their DNA data co-opted, often without their knowledge, explicit permission or full situational understanding, for other purposes.

There should also be no coercion involved – meaning the customer should not be required to participate in medical research as a condition of obtaining a genealogy test.  Most people have no idea this is happening.  I certainly didn’t.

How could a consumer not know, you ask?

Because these companies don’t make their policies and intentions clear.  Their language, in multiple documents that refer back and forth to each other, is extremely confusing.

Neither company explains what they are going to (or can) do with your DNA in plain English, before the end of the purchase process, so that the customer clearly understands what they are doing (or authorizing) IN ADDITION to what they intended to do. Obtaining customer permission in this fashion is hardly “informed consent” which is a prerequisite for a subject’s participation in research.

The University of Southern California has prepared this document describing the different aspects of informed consent for research.  If you read this document, then look at the consent, privacy and terms and conditions documents of both Ancestry and 23andMe, you will notice significant differences.

While 23andMe has clearly been affiliated with the medical community for some time, Ancestry historically has not and there is absolutely no reason for an Ancestry customer to suspect that Ancestry is doing something else with their DNA. After all, Ancestry is a genealogy company, not a medical genetics company.  Aren’t they???

Let’s look at each of these two companies Individually.


At 23andMe, when you purchase a kit, you see the following final purchase screen.

23andMe Terms of Service

On the very last review page, after the “order total” is the tiny “I accept the terms of service” checkbox, just above the large grey “submit order” box. That’s the first and only time this box appears.  By this time, the consumer has already made their purchase decision, has already entered their credit card number and is simply doing a final review and approval.

In the 23andMe Terms of Service, we find this:

Waiver of Property Rights: You understand that by providing any sample, having your Genetic Information processed, accessing your Genetic Information, or providing Self-Reported Information, you acquire no rights in any research or commercial products that may be developed by 23andMe or its collaborating partners. You specifically understand that you will not receive compensation for any research or commercial products that include or result from your Genetic Information or Self-Reported Information.

You understand that you should not expect any financial benefit from 23andMe as a result of having your Genetic Information processed; made available to you; or, as provided in our Privacy Statement and Terms of Service, shared with or included in Aggregated Genetic and Self-Reported Information shared with research partners, including commercial partners.

Clicking on the privacy policy showed me the following information in their privacy highlights document:

  1. We may share anonymized and aggregate information with third parties; anonymized and aggregate information is any information that has been stripped of your name and contact information and aggregated with information of others or anonymized so that you cannot reasonably be identified as an individual.

In their full Privacy statement, we find this:

By using our Services, you agree to all of the policies and procedures described in the foregoing documents.

Under the Withdrawing Consent paragraph:

If you withdraw your consent for research your Genetic Information and Self-Reported Information may still be used by us and shared with our third-party service providers to provide and improve our Services (as described in Section 4.a), and shared as Aggregate Information that does not identify you as an individual (as described in Section 4.d).

And in their “What Happens if you do NOT consent to 23andMe Research” section:

If you do not complete a Consent Document or any additional consent agreement with 23andMe, your information will not be used for 23andMe Research. However, your Genetic Information and Self-Reported Information may still be used by us and shared with our third-party service providers to provide and improve our Services (as described in Section 4.a), and shared as Aggregate or Anonymous Information that does not reasonably identify you as an individual (as described in Section 4.d).

If you don’t like these terms, here’s what you can do about it:

If you want to terminate your legal agreement with 23andMe, you may do so by notifying 23andMe at any time in writing, which will entail closing your accounts for all of the Services that you use.

You can read the 23andMe full privacy statement here.

You can read the 23andMe Terms of Service here.

You can read the Consent document here.


Ancestry recently jumped into the medical research arena, forming an alliance with Calico to provide them with DNA information – that would be Ancestry’s customer DNA information – meaning your DNA if you’re an AncestryDNA customer. You can read about this here, here and here.

When you purchase an AncestryDNA kit, you are asked the following, also at the very end of the purchase process.  If you don’t click, you receive an error message, shown below.

Ancestry Terms and Conditions crop

Here are the Ancestry Terms and Conditions.

Here is the Ancestry Privacy Statement.

From Ancestry’s Terms and Conditions, here’s what you are authorizing:

By submitting DNA to AncestryDNA, you grant AncestryDNA and the Ancestry Group Companies a perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide, transferable license to use your DNA, and any DNA you submit for any person from whom you obtained legal authorization as described in this Agreement, and to use, host, sublicense and distribute the resulting analysis to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered. You hereby release AncestryDNA from any and all claims, liens, demands, actions or suits in connection with the DNA sample, the test or results thereof, including, without limitation, errors, omissions, claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, right of publicity, emotional distress or economic loss. This license continues even if you stop using the Website or the Service.

From their Privacy Statement, here’s what Ancestry says they are doing with your DNA:

vi) To perform research: AncestryDNA will internally analyze Users’ results to make discoveries in the study of genealogy, anthropology, evolution, languages, cultures, medicine, and other topics.

The is no complete opt-out at Ancestry either.

Now What?

So, how many of you read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statements at either 23andMe or Ancestry and understood that you were in essence giving them carte blanche with your anonymized data when you purchased your tests from them?

Is this what you intended to do?

How many of you understood that the ONLY way to obtain your genealogy information, ethnicity and matching is to grant 23andMe and Ancestry authorization to use your DNA for other purposes?

How many of you understood you could never entirely opt-out?

Where is your DNA?

Who has it?

What are they doing with it?

How much did or will Ancestry or 23andMe, or Big Pharm make from it?

Why would they want to obtain your DNA in this manner, instead of being entirely transparent and forthright and obtaining a typical informed consent?

Are they or their partners utilizing your DNA to design high end drugs and services that you as a consumer will never be able to afford?

Are they using your DNA to design gene manipulation techniques that you might personally be opposed to?

Do you care?

Personally, I was done participating in research when 23andMe patented their Designer Baby technology, and I’ve never changed my mind since.  There is a vast difference between research to cure Parkinson’s and cancer and focusing your research efforts on creating designer children.

People who do want medical information (such as from 23andMe) should be allowed to receive that, personally, for their own use – but no one’s DNA should be co-opted for something other than what they had intended when they made the purchase without a very explicit, separate, opt-in for any other usage of their DNA, including anonymized data.


People who purchase these services for genealogy information shouldn’t have to worry about their DNA being utilized for anything else if that’s not their specific and direct choice.

I shouldn’t have to opt-out of something I didn’t want and didn’t know I was signing up for in the first place – a type of usage that wouldn’t be something one would normally expect when purchasing a genealogy product. Furthermore, if I opt out, I should be able to opt out entirely.  You only discover opt-out isn’t truly opt-out by reading lots of fine print, or asking an attorney.  And yes, I still had to ask an attorney, to be certain, even after reading all the fine print.

Why did I ask a legal expert?  Because I was just sure I was wrong – that I was missing something in the confusing spaghetti verbiage.  I couldn’t believe these companies could actually do this.  I couldn’t believe I had been that naïve and gullible, or didn’t read thoroughly enough.  Well, guess what – I was naïve and gullible and the companies can and do utilize our DNA in this manner.

Besides that, “everyone knows” that companies can’t just do what they want with your DNA without an informed consent.  Right?  Anyone dealing with medicine knows that – and it’s widely believed within the genetic genealogy community.  And it’s wrong.

It seems that 23andMe and Ancestry have borrowed a page from the side of medical research where “discarded” tissues are used routinely for research without informed consent of the person from whom they originated.  This article in the New York Times details the practice, an excerpt given below:

Tissues from millions of Americans are used in research without their knowledge. These “clinical biospecimens” are leftovers from blood tests, biopsies and surgeries. If your identity is removed, scientists don’t have to ask your permission to use them. How people feel about this varies depending on everything from their relationship to their DNA to how they define life and death. Many bioethicists aren’t bothered by the research being done with those samples — without it we wouldn’t have some of our most important medical advances. What concerns them is that people don’t know they’re participating, or have a choice. This may be about to change.

Change is Needed

The 23andMe and Ancestry process of consent needs to change too.

I would feel a lot better about the 23andMe and Ancestry practices if both companies simply said, before purchase, in plain transparent normal-human-without-a-law-degree understandable language, the following type of statement:

“If you purchase this product, you cannot opt out of research and we will sell or utilize your anonymized results, including any information submitted to us (trees, surveys, etc.) for unspecified medical and pharmaceutical research of our choosing from which we and our partners intend to profit financially.”

If I am wrong and there is a way to opt out of research entirely, including anonymized aggregated data, while still retaining all of the genealogy services paid for from the vendor, I’ll be more than happy to publish that verbiage and clarification.

Today, the details are buried in layers of verbiage and the bottom-line meaning certainly is not clear. And it’s very easy to just “click through” because you have no choice if you want to order the test for your genealogy. You cannot place an order without agreeing and clicking the box.

This less-than-forthright technique of obtaining “consent” may be legal, and it’s certainly effective for the companies, guaranteeing them 100% participation, but it just isn’t morally or ethically right.

Shame on us, the consumers, for not reading the fine print, assuming everyone could understand it.

But shame on both companies for burying that verbiage and taking advantage of the genealogists’ zeal, knowing full well, under the current setup, we must authorize, without fully informed consent, their use of our DNA in order to test in their systems to obtain our genealogy information.  They know full well that people will simply click through without understanding the fine print, which is why the “I accept” box is positioned where it is in the sales process, and the companies are likely depending on that “click through” behavior.

Shame on them for being less than forthright, providing no entire opt-out, or better yet, requiring a fully informed-consent intentional opt-in.

Furthermore, these two large companies are likely only the tip of the iceberg – leading the charge as it were. I don’t know of any other DNA testing companies that are selling your DNA data today – at least not yet.  And just because I don’t know about it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Other Companies

Family Tree DNA, the third of the three big autosomal DNA testing companies, has not and is not participating in selling or otherwise providing customer DNA or data for medical or third party research or utilization.  I confirmed this with the owners, this week.

Surely, if Ancestry and 23andMe continue to get away with this less than forthright technique, more companies will follow suit.  It’s clearly very profitable.

Today, DNA.Land, a new site, offers genetic genealogists “value” in exchange for the use of their DNA data.  However, DNA.Land is not charging the consumer for testing services nor obtaining consent in a surreptitious way.  They do utilize your DNA, but that is the entire purpose of this organization.  (This is not an endorsement of their organization or services – just a comment.)

GedMatch, a third party site utilized heavily by genetic genealogists states their data sharing or selling policy clearly.

It is our policy to never provide your genealogy, DNA information, or email address to 3rd parties, except as noted above.

They further state:

We may use your data in our own research, to develop or improve applications.

Using data internally for application improvement for the intended use of the test is fully legitimate, can and should be expected of every vendor.

Bottom line – before you participate in DNA testing or usage of a third party site, read the fine print fully and understand that no matter how a vendor tries, your DNA can never be fully anonymized.

Call to Action

I would call on both 23andMe and Ancestry to make what they are doing, and intend to do, with their customers DNA much more transparent. Consumers have the right to clearly know before they purchase the product if they are required to sign an authorization such as this and what it actually means to them.

Furthermore, I would call on both companies to implement a plan whereby our DNA can never be used for anything other than to deliver to us, the consumers, the product(s) and services for which we’ve paid unless we sign, separately, and without coercion, a fully informed consent opt-in waiver that explains very specifically and clearly what will occur with our DNA.

These companies clearly don’t want to do this, because it would likely reduce their participation rate dramatically – from 100% today for anonymized aggregated data, because there is no opt-out at that level, to a rate significantly lower.

I’m reminded of when my children were teenagers.  One of them took the car someplace they knew they didn’t have permission to go.  I asked them why they didn’t ask permission first, and they rolled their eyes, looked at me like I was entirely stupid and said, “Because you would have said no.  At least I got to go this way.”  Yes, car privileges were removed and they were grounded.

Currently 23andMe reports an amazing 85-90% participation rate, which has to reflect their higher non-anonymized level of participation because their participation rate in the anonymized aggregated level is 100%, because it’s mandatory.  Their “consent” techniques have come under question by others in the field as well, according to this article.  Many people who do consent believe their participation is altruistic, meaning that only nonprofit organizations like the Michael J. Fox Foundation will benefit, not realizing the full scope of how their DNA data can be utilized.  That’s what I initially thought at 23andMe.  Did I ever feel stupid, and duped, when that designer baby patent was issued.

Lastly, I would call on both companies to obtain a fully informed consent for every person in their system today who has already purchased their product, and to discontinue using any of the data in any way for anyone who does not sign that fully informed consent. This includes internal use (aside from product improvement), not just third party data sharing or sales, given that 23andMe is planning on developing their own drugs.

If you support this call to action, let both companies know. Furthermore, vote with your money and consumer voice. I will be making sure that anyone who asks about testing firms is fully aware of this issue.  You can do the same thing by linking to this article.

Call them:

23andMe – 1-800-239-5230
Ancestry – 1-800-401-3193 or 1-800-262-3787 in the US. For other locations click here

Write them:

23andMe –
Ancestry –

I genuinely hope these vendors make this change, and soon.

For additional information, Judy Russell and I have both written about this topic recently:

And Now Ancestry Health

Opting Out

Ancestry Terms of Use Updated

AncestryDNA Doings

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Johann Michael Miller (Mueller) the Second (1692-1771), Brethren Immigrant, 52 Ancestors #104

Johann Michael Mueller, written Miller here in the US, has so much myth and mystery surrounding him. It has been difficult to sort out which is which and what is truth.  In part, this is due to the fact that several books have been published with varying levels of accuracy, and once in print, each one is treated as gospel.  It also has to do with the fact that Michael Miller was not exactly an uncommon name, and scrutiny has proven that there were often two or three in the same location.  Lastly, he lived on several frontiers, left no will and like many Brethren, eschewed anything to do with government, including registering marriages and deeds.  Yep, a genealogist’s nightmare.

In order to sort through all of the pieces, I made a timeline that encompasses all of the events and alleged events of Michael Miller’s life. I also included the people around him, like his wife’s family and anything else I could find that seemed relevant.  For example, the Miller family is consistently found with the Cripe/Greib, Ullery/Ullrich, Stutzman and Berchtol/Bechtol families.  Sometimes tracking those and other known Brethren families is the only way to track Michael.

Michael’s timeline reached 64 pages and it’s really not complete.  However, at some point, one must put the stake in the ground and decide that it’s either now or never.  And, it’s now.  So here we go!

Steinwenden blue door

Johann Michael Mueller (the second,) the son of Johann Michael Mueller (the first) and Irene Charitas whose surname is unknown, was born October 5, 1692 in Steinwenden, Germany.  In 1996, our cousin, the Reverend Richard Miller visited Steinwenden where he took the photo of the old house and door, above, surely a familiar sight to Johann Michael during his lifetime.  Buildings that we consider quite old here are still in their prime in the old country.  Richard was given several documents, including a copy of Johann Michael Mueller’s birth entry in the Reformed church book, second from bottom, below.

Miller 1792 birth steinwenden

I had this original document retranslated recently by a professional German genealogist to be sure there wasn’t some wonderful tidbit that had been omitted. Johann Michael’s parents were Michael and Irene from Steinwend.  The godparents were Johann Michael Schuhmacher, Balthasar Jolage, Christina, Hans Berchtold’s (?) wife from Schrodback or berg.  The translator noted that she could not find a village by that name.  As you can see, this translation was difficult at best.  The word is likely Crottelback or Krottelback, where the Berchtol’s were known to live.

On January 4, 1714 in Krottelbach, Germany, Johann Michael Mueller (the second) married Susanna Agnes Berchtol, “a Swiss,” who was born May 3, 1688, the daughter of Hans Berchtol who died in 1711 and Anna Christina whose last name is unknown. Their first child was baptized in 1715 in the same church where they were married.

The Steinwenden Reformed records begin in 1684, but the Konken records begin in 1654, so perhaps more information awaits in those records, once they are translated and indexed in some location so that you can find entries without reading the entire church book – or better stated – paying someone else to read the entire church book.

Were these families already interrelated before they moved from Switzerland to Germany in the 1680s? The families were living in relatively close proximity by 1686 when Hans Bechtol witnessed the baptism of Johnann Michael Mueller’s child in Steinwenden.  In 1711, Hans Berchtol’s death is recorded in Konken, but indicates that he lives in Krottelbach.  Krottelbach, shown below, isn’t terribly distant from Konken and Steinwenden.

Krottelbach Germany

The next record we find for Michael indicates a much more substantial move, if this record is for our Michael Mueller.

Michael Muller born in Steinweiler, Oberamt Lautern became a citizen at Lambsheim on June 4, 1721, according to Heinrich Rembe, a well-known German genealogist.

If this is our Michael, then clearly Susanna would have been with him. They would have been married 7 years by this time and probably had about 3 children.

Krottelbach Lambshein

I do question if this Michael is ours, because Steinwenden, Konken and Krottelbach are in close proximity, but Lambsheim is not and is about 131 km from Krottelbach where they married a few years earlier.

In any event, by 1727, Johann Michael Miller and his wife and children were indeed moving again, boarding a ship in Rotterdam. They arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Adventure on October 2 where Michael, along with the rest of the men from the Palatine had to sign an oath of allegiance.

The Brethren

The beginnings of the Brethren faith as we know it today began with 8 people who formed prayer groups in 1708. Led by Alexander Mack, they adopted the doctrine that infant baptism does not save your soul, and that adults must be re-baptized when they are old enough to accept Christianity.  This stood in opposition to the established religions of Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed, and caused the Brethren to become persecuted as their teachings became more in conflict with the established churches.  Furthermore, they adopted the “peace at all costs” doctrine that prevented the men from fighting, even to protect themselves or their families.

Eventually they fled both Switzerland and Germany and joined the Mennonites in Holland, but the Mennonites wanted the Brethren to adopt their beliefs, and instead, the fledgling Brethren immigrated to America beginning in 1719 with more arriving in 1727. Having been exiled in Friesland for 9 years, 59 more families, 126 people total, arrived in 1729.  After that, the sect died out in Europe.

Rotterdam canal

It is unclear whether Johann Michael Miller was Brethren at this time, as his first child born in 1715 was baptized Reformed in Konken. However, he was indeed involved in some capacity, as he was among the Brethren immigrants who arrived in Philadelphia on October 2, 1727 on the ship Adventure from Rotterdam (shown above), last from Plymouth, England. Several books claim that Johann Michael Mueller was accompanied by Jacob Berchtol, his wife’s brother, Jacob Stutzman, his step-brother, and Hans Jacob Stutzman, his step-mother’s second husband.  However, Ralph Beaver Strassburger, in 1892, transcribed the lists of Pennsylvania German Pioneers who arrived and took the oath of allegiance between 1727 and 1775.  These books were later edited and republished by William John Hinke.  Taking the oath of allegiance wasn’t an option.  If you wanted to live in Pennsylvania and you were a German male 16 or over, you took the oath.  Period.

oathOath 2

I checked in Volume I of their book, Pennsylvania German Pioneers and on page 10, the only name given is Mich’ Miller.

Strassberger p 10

Neither is there any Stutzman or similarly spelled surname listed in the index. However, Johann Jacob Stutzman surely did immigrate, because we do find him here.  He could have immigrated before 1727 when the oaths were required.

Ancestry oath

However, referencing this same book on shows us a different list.

Ancestry 1727 list

As you can see, the list above does not include Johann Jacob Stutzman, but the list below, on the following page, does. What this does tell us is that there appear to be multiple Michael Mueller/Miller immigrants.  But then, that’s consistent with finding multiple Michael Millers in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Ancestry 1727 list 2

This book has clearly been changed in its multiple printings. Furthermore, the original Volume II had original signatures, but the current Volume II has only the lists from 1785-1808.  Today, a third volume exists titled “Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Facsimile Signatures, 1727-1775 that complements volumes I and II.

The older references still refer to page numbers in Volume II as holding the actual signatures, resulting in me ordering the wrong book and having a devil of a time trying to figure out what I really needed to order. Extremely frustrating, to say the least, not to mention wasted money as well.  I could have bought a DNA test for what this actual scan of Michael’s signature cost me.  However, this is the only copy of Michael’s signature known to exist, with one possible exception I have not been able to track down.

1727 adventure passenger list

Michael’s name is first on the list, but there is also another Miller, two Ullerich or Ulrick’s and Johann Jacob Stutzman, near the bottom of the list. This list is noted as List 4B where the earlier list without Jacob Stutzman is noted as 4A.  Why there were two lists for the same ship is unexplained.  Michael’s signature is shown below.

Michael Mueller signature

Miller, of course, is a very common name, but Ullerich and Stutzman, much less so.

Some descendants report that Johann Michael Miller and his wife, Susanna Berchtol brought either 7 or 10 children with them. Again, there is no direct evidence of this.  We know based on indirect birth years that they brought at least three, and there certainly could have been more,  but it would be unusual for all of a couple’s children to survive infancy.  I would like to see whatever documentation exists for these claims.

Jacob Stutzman turns out to be an important milestone when tracking Michael Miller. While there are multiple Michael Millers, Jacob Stutzman is rather a unique name.  Jacob was younger than Michael by 14 years, being born in 1706.  Jacob Stutzman was the son of Johann Michael Mueller’s step-mother and her second husband whom she married after the death of Johann Michael Mueller’s father.  Despite their difference in age, these two men were obviously close.

Jacob Stutzman was a charter member of the Little Conewago Church along with Jacob Cripe and Stephen Ulrich. Michael Miller, as he was called in Pennsylvania, is not among the founding members listed, but his association with these families and the fact that he lived in the area is what has prompted speculation that Michael was indeed a member at Little Conewago.

Jacob Stutzman died in 1773, two years after Michael Miller’s death, and Jacob’s widow married Stephen Ulrich (the second.) Michael Miller’s grandson would marry Elizabeth Ulrich, daughter of Stephen Ulrich (the second) and his first wife, Elizabeth Cripe.  These families formed a bond that lasts into the current generations.

Ironically, sailing on the same ship with Johann Michael Mueller was one Johannas Ulrich and a Christo Ulrick. The Ullrich/Ullery family was also Brethren and settled first in York Co, PA and then in Frederick Co., MD.

It’s unclear when Johann Michael Mueller and his wife “converted,” to the Brethren faith per se. The only thing we know for sure is that in 1715, their first child was baptized Reformed.  The next we know, Johann Michael Mueller is found among the Brethren in Pennsylvania.  In 1744 he is mentioned in letters written by Brethren leaders.  It’s likely that he had at least developed some Anabaptist sympathies prior to arrival, given the families origins in Switzerland.

In the Pennsylvania Archives Second Series, Vol II reprinted under the directionof Charles Warren Stone and edited by John B. Linn and William H. Egle, MD, we find an undated record wherein “the persons hereafter named, called Quakers and other Protestants who conscientiously scruple to take an oath….took the affirmation and made and repeated the Declaration… act for naturalizing such foreign Protestants and others”….that includes the names of both Michael Miller and Philip Jacob Miller along with Jacob Stutzman and Stephen Ulrick as a bonus.  Obviously a group of men from Frederick County went to Philadelphia together.

Miller Naturalization

This would have been after 1747 when Philip Jacob would have turned 21.  Obviously there were clearly Pietist by this time, either Brethren or Mennonite.  Michael Miller’s wife’s family, the Berchtols were Mennonites in the US and Michael co-owned land with Samuel Bechtol in York County.

We may find a further hint as to how or why Michael Miller became Brethren in a letter written by Johann Philip Boehn, the founder of the Reformed faith in Pennsylvania. In a letter dated March 27, 1744 he says “since the founding of our churches here, there have been many people who though they were of Reformed antecedents, kept aloof, because there were no Reformed church services here, and they joined no religion or sect, because they were of the opinion that our cause could not be maintained in this country, principally because of our inability to support ministers.  They are now, within the last few years, scattered here and there, mostly among Mennonites, Tumplers (Dunkers), 7th Day as well as 8th Day (German Baptists) and such like.”

As one minister phrased religion on the frontier, “They joined the church of opportunity.” Perhaps it wasn’t exactly what they wanted, but they preferred worshipping to not worshipping.

The Brethren at this time were an open, inviting faith, so it would not be unusual for non-Brethren families to convert.

York County, Pennsylvania

The family settled, at least temporarily, in Chester County, PA, possibly the portion that became Lancaster in 1729.  Michael moved to near Hanover in York Co, PA in 1744, then to Frederick Co., MD about 1752.  York County was taken from Lancaster in 1749, so in reality, Michael may not have moved as much as it appears.  The borders may have, to some extent, moved over him, although the land he inhabited in York County was not settled in the early 1730s, so he would have clearly had to have moved to settle there.  We can’t tell for sure where he moved from, or how far, because we don’t know where he lived in Chester County which was originally a very large founding county.

It would be in York County, PA that Johann Michael Mueller and Susanna Bechtol would raise their family, at least for a while. The battles of boundaries in that part of the country drove the entire group of Brethren south into Maryland.  It appears that Susanna most likely died before the group moved to Maryland.  Michael moved on alone and married a Brethren widow, Elizabeth Garber.  But first, in York County, Michael would find himself smack dab in the middle of a war – something very uncomfortable for a Brethren.

The Pennsylvania-Maryland Border War

PA-MD boundary issue

“Cresapwarmap” by Kmusser – self-made, based primarily on the description at Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons

The earliest records of what is now Adams County, PA are found in what was then Chester Co., PA. which successively changed to Lancaster Co. (14 Oct. 1728), to York Co. (on 14 Oct.1748) and to Adams Co., PA in 1800.

And it wasn’t just counties that changed, but the state line itself was in dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland, as was the actual land ownership – meaning that the Indians still felt they owned at least the frontier and borderlands, exactly where the Brethren families were living.

Ironically, the Brethren and Mennonite pietists who eschewed all forms of conflict wound up in the center of a heated battle.

Both Maryland and Pennsylvania claimed the land where Hanover in York County lay. Initially the Pennsylvania government complained when Marylanders settled this area, but since no one else except the Indians were complaining, nothing was done until 1728 when Pennsylvania ran the settlers off and burned their homes.  By 1732, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia were all three competing for settlers on the frontier to stabilize the region and provide a buffer between the settled portions and the “savages.”

In 1732, Pennsylvania began giving out “licenses” to settle west of the Susquehanna with the idea that the licenses could later be turned into warrants when the colony actually bought the land from the Indians. In essence, they were encouraging people to become squatters.  No wonder the Indians were unhappy.

Between 1733 and 1736, 52 licenses were issued, mostly to German families. Presumably some went to the group who settled in the Conewego area in York County where the Ulrich and Cripe families were living at that time.

Maryland still claimed this land and by 1730, things were getting ugly. Maryland granted the same land, much of it to Thomas Cresap, a very early pioneer and Indian trader. Some paint him as an aggressive villain who terrorized the region, some as a hero who saved the day.  One thing is for sure, he became the spokesperson for the German community, joined the Brethren Church, and ultimately bought the land Michael Miller would purchase from him called Miller’s Choice on Antietam Creek near Hagerstown, MD.  This is probably a good indication about how Michael felt about Cresap.

However in the 1730s, local warfare ensued with both Maryland and Pennsylvania jailing people. At one point, Cresap got thrown off of his own ferry mid-river, but survived.  In 1734, Cresap shot a Pennsylvania sheriff’s ranger who came to arrest him.  Some settlers returned back east at this point, having had enough – but turning back never seemed to be an option for the Brethren who also wouldn’t fight.  I struggle to understand these choices and their logic.  Maybe it was a very simple faith in God.

As militias on both sides became involved, the frustrated Brethren and German settlers must have become quite desperate because in 1736 they sent a resolution to the Governors of both states pledging their loyalty. However, when the duplicate loyalty was discovered, Governor Oglethorpe of Maryland offered rewards for the apprehension and arrest of nearly 40 men.  John Wright was apparently the ringleader, because the bounty on his head was 40 pounds.  However, Michael Miller was included but his bounty, and that of most of the other men, was only 2 pounds.  We don’t know if this was the Michael Miller of the Ulrich, Cripe group, but it could have been.  Cripe and Ulrich were certainly there by 1738, but Michael may have still been living in Chester Co., PA.  His tax records don’t begin in the York County area until 1744.  However, he could have had an adult son, Michael (the third,) by this time.

Pennsylvania did purchase the land from the Indians in 1736, land warrants were issued in 1738 – but given the uncertainty about who owned what and which state the land would actually fall into, it was no wonder nothing much was done.

Eventually, we find our Brethren families in the records, but things really didn’t improve. In fact, this battle wasn’t settled for another 30 years with the running of the Mason-Dixon line, which, ironically cut right through Brethren land – even after they had finally had enough and left York County in Pennsylvania for Frederick County across the border in Maryland.

On February 16, 1742, Lancaster County, PA issued land warrants 7-U and 8-U for Stephen Ulrick, Junr. to take up lands west of the Susquehanna. He staked out adjoining tracts in what was then a dense wilderness on Little Conewago Creek on land adjoining that of his father. We know that Stephen lived there as early as 1738 when he is listed as a founder of Little Conewago Church.  This land later became York County which later became Adams County.

These families had been embroiled in this entire mess the whole time.

Ulrich land York Co.

The outlines of tracts A and B are based on an official survey, patent and deed records. Stephen’s land was described as adjoining his father’s tract.

Stephen Ulrich (the second) was a German Baptist minister, and believed to be the son of the immigrant Stephan Ulrich (the first.) About 1740, Stephen the second married Elizabeth Cripe.

It is believed that during the time Stephen Ulrich lived in what was Lancaster, then York County, he and his friend Jacob Stutzman organized the Conewago Congregation of the German Baptist in Conewago Twp. near Hanover PA, now in Adams County, probably on or near his land.

Hanover PA

Stephen Ulrich sold the above-mentioned land to his friend Jacob Stutzman. This transaction is described in John Hale Stutzman’s book, “Jacob Stutzman, His Children and Grandchildren”. Unhappily for us, these two devout Dunkers, under the strictures of their church doctrine, avoided engagement with government authorities and did not record the deed of sale. Heaven perhaps for the Dunkers but Hell for the genealogist.

We only know about this sale because of the subsequent sale by Jacob Stutzman to George Wine.

Yes, Stephen Ulrich the first and Stephen Ulrich the second both had warrants for land near Digges Choice in Lancaster, then York, now Adams County. Hanover, York County, PA was at the center of Digges Choice, which was laid out about 1739 the first time. John Digges owned the land that eventually became Hanover, PA.

See Lancaster Co, PA Land Warrant #7, February 16, 1742 for 100 acres for Stephen Ulrick Junior; also Lancaster Warrant # 10, November 21, 1743, to Stephen Ulrich Senior, land adjacent to George Wagoner. There is also a Lancaster Co. Warrant to Ansted Ulrick on November 4, 1743 for 200 acres in Lebanon Twp, Lancaster County.

In 1743, another battle broke out and Stephen Ulrich was certainly in the middle of it, although his name is not specifically recorded. We know he was, though, because of John Digges and an unnamed Mathias Ulrich, possibly his brother.

In 1743, the Germans send one Martin Updegraf to Annapolis to check on John Digges grant. It was found that Digges had sold some land he didn’t own, so he got a new grant from Maryland which included farms of 14 Germans whose land had been granted under warrant from Pennsylvania.  Both sides tried to intimidate the farmers.  The Pennsylvania surveyor warned them against violating royal orders.  Mathias Ulrich apparently told the sheriff “to go to the devil,” an action very out of character for a Brethren and remarkable enough that it was recorded.  Eventually, the situation escalated further and Digges son was killed but Pennsylvania would not surrender the killers to Maryland to be tried.  It was clearly one hot mess on the frontier, and petitions and requests for help went unheard and unanswered by those back east who cared little if a bunch of Germans killed each other.

The Brethren tried to stick it out for a few more years, but in 1745, Michael Miller began buying land in Frederick County, MD, near present day Hagerstown and not long thereafter, the entire group would sell out and remove themselves to what they hoped would be a more peaceful and secure, undisputed area.

The final straw, perhaps, came in 1748 when the sheriffs from both states insisted on collecting quit rent, which in this case, was in essence extortion money for being left alone. A 1748 deposition complaining to the governor said that “a great number of the Germans and some others were so much alarmed by the sheriffs’ proceedings that several of them have already left the province and others have declaired they would go.”  The German families held land authorized by Pennsylvania, but they would leave and go to Maryland.

“Stephen Ullery” appears in the official records of York Co. in 1749 in the Little Conewago area. But in the early 1750’s after selling their land to Jacob Stutzman, Stephen and his wife migrated southwest to the Conococheaque Valley and by 1754 had acquired a large tract of land in the present Washington Co. Maryland, where they spent the rest of their lives.

However all was not tranquil on Conococheaque. Within three years of their assuming this new property, the French and Indians smashed General Braddock’s column a few miles to the west and set the frontier aflame. In 1756 Gov. Sharpe of Maryland wrote “The fine settlement of Conococheaque is quite deserted.”

I have to wonder. Did they long for the days back in Germany?

Moving On

Lancaster and York County seemed perfect, but these families could not live with constant warfare. As much as they loved their new home, they began to cast their eyes elsewhere.

A typical farm in York County, below, looks much like Lancaster County. Soft, rolling, beautiful and fertile.

York farm

“York County PA” by I, Skabat169. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Common

Today, many Amish and Mennonite families are found in this area, still using horse-drawn implements, much as their ancestors did.

Lancaster farm

“Lancaster County Field and Farm Implement 3264px” by Photo by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons

To put things in perspective, the first road in Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Lancaster, was authorized in 1731 in answer to a petition from settlers, and it took ten years to complete. It’s very likely that Michael Miller traversed this road, or at least parts of it.  In 1739, a second road, to Monocacy in what is now Frederick Co., Maryland was begun.  It’s certain that Michael Miller would have used this road in 1745 and access to the frontier via the road may be part of the reason the Brethren wound up in Frederick County.  In 1745, the road didn’t extend to what would one day be Hagerstown, so Michael Miller would have made his way by Indian trails to the remote homestead of John Hager, an Indian trader who patented 100 acres in 1729, and then Michael would have gone a bit further, perhaps with John as his guide, to find land.

John Hager’s home, built about 1740, is a museum in Hagerstown today. Michael Miller was assuredly in this homestead.  It’s actually incredible that it still exists.

Frederick County, Maryland

It appears that the entire Brethren congregation from Hanover moved in 1752 to Frederick County, MD, en masse. Michael Miller had apparently been doing reconnaissance work, because he began buying land there in 1745.  It was also in 1752 that he gave two of his sons a significant piece of land in Frederick County, and it was likely then that everyone moved, together.  There would have been a convoy of Conestoga wagons, if the road was finished and wide enough for a wagon to pass, with livestock and people walking.  Wagons of that timeframe did not have brakes and the wheels were chained going down slopes.  Rivers and creeks had to be forded or ferries taken.  These pioneers were pressing the frontier, forging a new way – not taking the road well-traveled.


The part of Frederick County, MD that became Washington County, near present day Hagerstown, is a beautiful land of rolling, fertile farmland, punctuated by curving roads and distant hills.

Frederick Co, MD

After the wanderings of this sect in Europe, this land must have seemed like Heaven. They Brethren believed they were in Maryland, safely away from the border warfare.  This idyllic land is where Michael finally settled and amassed quite a bit of property.

Unfortunately, Johann Michael Mueller did not leave a will, and we have to deduce the names of his children from other transactions in his life. Specifically, he deeded land to 3 men believed to be his sons.  There are at least 4 other Miller males in the right place at the right time to be his sons, plus several females as well who may be daughters.  With the advent of DNA testing for genealogy, we may one day resolve the question of sons, but we may never know which women, if any, were his daughters.

maugans cabin

The Maugans family lived nearby in the cabin (above) from the same time period. They would intermarry with the Millers in the following generations.  The original Miller cabin was from the same place and time and was probably very similar.  Both the Maugan’s cabin and John Hager’s cabin were built directly over springs, probably as a security precaution relative to fetching water and not having to leave the house if it was under attack.

Johann Michael Mueller suffered through the French and Indian war, likely vacating his land at least once if not twice. He died not long before the Revolutionary War began, which also introduced a dark period for the Brethren who were torn between their love for their new county and their religious beliefs.

Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller would eventually leave the beautiful valley in Frederick County and join the westward movement.  Michael’s son Lodowick would join the flow of settlers into Appalachia and settle in Rockingham County, Virginia.  Son Michael Jr., we lose entirely, and son John stayed in Maryland and died on his father’s original land.  This is such a typical story of the American immigrant’s children.  Some stayed, some left in different directions, and some are lost to time.


Let’s take a look at the timeline of events in Johann Michael Mueller’s life and see what tidbits we can recover. Before we start, there were several sources for this information and I have listed each one with the surname of the source.  Other sources are noted individually.

Replogle – “Ancestors on the Frontier: Miller, Cripe, Ulrich, Replogle, Shively, Metzger” by Justin Replogle, self-published in 1998

Mason – “The Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol Family Record” compiled in 1993 by Floyd R. and Catherine Mason, now deceased

Miller – “A History and Genealogy of David Y. Miller 1809-1898” by Gene Edwin Miller, self-published

Stutesman – “Jacob Stutzman (?-1775); His Children and Grandchildren” by John Hale Stutesman, Jr.

These 4 books plus two websites, Troy Goss’s Miller home page and Tom and Kathleen Miller’s pages are the primary resources for Johann Michael Mueller.

Suffice it to say that they don’t all agree – and in fact some contradict each other. So I’ve gone through each and compiled the information I found credible by evaluating the sources, where possible.  Where doubt remains or work needs to be done, I have said so.


Michael arrived in Philadelphia in 1727 and the first actual record we find of him after that is in 1732 in Chester County, PA where he is paying taxes. Other Brethren are there as well.

Note that a second record shows another Michael Mueller arriving on a ship in 1732, and we really have nothing at all to determine whether our Michael was the Michael arriving in 1727 or 1732. Based on the information that his step-brother was along on the 1727 ship, the assumption has always been that the 1727 Michael is ours, but we don’t positively know.  I compared the 1727 and 1732 signatures, and they are not the same, so it’s not a matter of Michael going back to Germany and returning in 1732.  Regardless, Michael was here, in Chester County, by 1732. It’s unlikely that the Michael who arrived in Philadelphia on a ship on September 23, 1732 managed to travel to Chester County, settle and pay taxes before the end of the year. It looks like there were at least two Michael Mueller’s who immigrated.  Given Jacob Stutzman’s presence and the 1732 tax list, I would say that our Michael is the 1727 immigrant.

However, the ambiguity between multiple Michael Millers in the colonies begins almost immediately.

In the 1730s, Maryland and Pennsylvania fight over the Hanover area of Lancaster County, current York County, with both volleying for position, the confrontation escalating and becoming increasingly violent. In 1736 the governor of Maryland offered a reward for the apprehension of about 40 people.  On that list, with the reward at the low end at 2 pounds, was one Michael Miller.  Other Brethren were in York County by 1734, but there is the matter of the tax records in Chester County, PA from 1732 to 1740 where Michael is listed.  Michael could have been an absentee taxpayer in Chester Co., although it’s more likely that we have two Michael Millers involved.  One of the Michael’s could be the son of the immigrant.  It’s unlikely that a Brethren would be involved in a political dispute.  They were more inclined to avoid trouble if possible, at all costs, than to participate.

Pennsylvania did not purchase the disputed land from the Indians until 1736 and did not issue any land grants until 1738. This dispute and boundary was not settled until the Mason-Dixon line of 1767.

1732-1740 – Michael Miller pays taxes in Coventry Township, Chester Co, PA. There were German Baptist Brethren (ChB) churches in Coventry Township, Chester Co., PA and in Manheim Twp., York Co, PA. Miller p 12

1737 – In Coventry Twp. in Chester Co, PA, Feb 15, 1737, warrant #50, vacated in 1748, Michael Miller obtains the warrant next to Thomas Miller and Thomas Perry for 200 acres. In 1748 the warrant was vacated in favor of Adam Harkman and John Wyatt.  Miller P 23

miller page 13

1737 – Michael Miller on the Coventry Twp tax list, Chester Co PA. Miller p 13

1737 – Nicholas Carver (Garber) on the Coventry Twp tax list, Chester Co, Pa. Miller p 14

1737 – If the following is “our” Michael Miller, he was having this Chester Co. land surveyed in 1737 according to this 1758 document.

Land Transaction Caveats (1748-61): Chester County, PA

Feb 17, 1758

John Wells enters a caveat against Thomas Miller, or any person claiming under him, obtaining any survey or confirmation of land adjoining northward by land of said Miller, eastward by land of s’d Wells & southward by land of Christian Perry, in Coventry Township, Chester County, which Thomas Miller pretends to claim under an old warrant of 500 as. granted to him about the year 1717 which has been executed and the land regularly return’d into the Survey’r General’s Office, the above-mentioned land has been since surveyed to Mich’l Miller by warr’t of the 15th Feb’y, 1737, which is now vested in s’d J. Wells.  Page 222.

It would be very interesting if Miller descendants of this Thomas Miller took the Y DNA test to see if Thomas Miller was related to Michael Miller. Based on these land transactions, these men seem to be somehow connected – although this may not be our Michael Miller.  The name Thomas never appears in our Michael’s line.

1738 – Jacob Stutzman, Jacob Cripe and Stephen Ulrich listed as charter members of the Little Conewago Church in York Co, PA, indicating they were Brethren by this time. Replogle p 19 and 31

Some think that Michael Miller and some of his sons were members at Little Conewago and the Antietam congregations. Elder Nicholas Martin, the elder of the churches in the area where they lived, reports on the health of Michael Miller and Jacob Stutsman in his letters to Alexander Mack, Jr.  We understand when Nicholas Martin was naturalized in 1762 that Michael Miller and Jacob Miller were witnesses.  It was this Nicholas Martin who gave the year of death for Michael Miller as 1771.  Mason p 10

If Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman were not Brethren, Alexander Mack would not be discussing them in such familiar terms.

1739 – Michael Miller on the Coventry Twp. tax list, Chester Co, Pa. Miller p 14

1740 – Michael Miller on the Coventry Twp. tax list, Chester Co., Pa.   There is no record of him on the tax lists there after 1740.  It is believed that Michael Miller moved west from Chester Co, PA in the early 1740s.

Monocacy road

1743 – Travel west would have been on a route called the Monocacy Road which was established in 1733. The road was the major route passing through Lancaster County, York County and crossing the Susquehanna River at Wright’s Ferry or Wrightsville, traveling along what is now US Hwy 30.  After leaving Wright’s Ferry, it headed southwest through what is now York County, through Hanover and down into Maryland to the Hagerstown area. Miller P 14

Monocacy old map

Before the road, the other side of the Susquehanna River was only Indian trails. Replogle page 82

Monocacy map 3

1744 – Nicholas Martin comments on Michael Miller’s health in a letter to Alexander Mack Jr. Replogle p 31

This probably establishes Michael Miller as a Brethren by this point in time.

1744 – On Feb 7th Michael Miller, Nicholas Garber and Samuel Bechtol, Hans Jacob and Elizabeth Bechtol, who also lived in Chester Co, PA purchased a tract of land consisting of 400 aces northeast of Hanover, PA in York Co.  See circle #12 on the PA map, below, in the upper right hand corner.  Today this land is near Bair’s Mennonite Church, perhaps lying south from the church.  Mason p 14 and 20

Mason circle 12

This land, shown in circle 12, above, was near Little Conewago Chuch.

Floyd Mason included this legend to his maps with circles.

Mason map legend

Gene Miller overlaid the York County land on an 1876 map.

Miller page 15

Today, the York Road Cemetery also known as the Bair’s Meeting House Cemetery is located on the York County land owned by these three men. Bair’s Meeting House wasn’t established until in 1774, but burials could have been taking place on this land earlier.  I have noted the location of the cemetery and meeting house on the map above with the red arrow.

Note that both the Bechtel and Miller names are found in this region on the 1876 Heidelberg Township map, more than 140 years later. However, the Miller surname is extremely common and there may be no connection with the earlier Michael Miller family.

York Road Cemetery map

Samuel Bechtol and Michael Miller obtained 150 acres, leaving 100 acres for Nicholas Garber. Michael sold his 150 acres to Samuel Bechtol in 1752 and we cannot identify what happened to the 100 acres of Nicholas Garber.  It was after Nicholas Garbers’ death in 1748 that Michael Miller sold his land to Samuel Bechtol.  Michael Miller married Nicholas Garber’s widow.  We suspect that he also sold Nicholas Garber’s 100 acres of land to Samuel Bechtol.  Samuel Bechtol was one of the administrators of the will of Nicholas Garber and Susanna Bechtol was (reportedly) Samuel’s aunt.  Mason p 12, Replogle 91

Miller only shows three people bought the land, Michael Miller, Nicholas Carver and Samuel Backall, omitting Hans Jacob and Elizabeth Bechtol.  Batchelors Choice consisted of 400 acres which had been owned by John Stinchcomb. The property was rectangular and was located about 2 miles east of Hanover and was bounded on the west by Gitts Run, on the south by portions of route 116 and on the north by the Pigeon Hills.  The land was located on the outside of the east edge of Digges Tract.  This could have been some of the disputed land in question.

Batchelor Choice

Here’s is a satellite view of this same area today, with the red balloon marking Jacob’s Mills, shown on the map above.

York Co land satellite

It is believed that these three families were related in some way. Nicholas Garber/Carver has been theorized to be a son-in-law of Michael Miller.  Others have suggested that some of Michael’s daughters married some of Nicholas’s sons.  Obviously, both of these scenarios can’t be true, or Michael’s younger children would have been marrying the children of their older sibling.

Other settlers associated with these three families also lived in the area. Jacob Stutsman and Stephen Ulrich lived to the southwest of Hanover.  Peter and John Welty, Michael Bigler, lived to the south of Hanover: Catharine the daughter of Michael Bigler became the second wife of the Dunker leader Daniel Leatherman. To the north of Hanover near East Berlin was the immigrant Jacob Cripe (1743), Hans Ulrich Wagner (1743) and George Adam Martin (1749).  Miller p 14

Cripe to Miller map

This map shows the proximity of the Cripe family to the Miller, Bechtol and Garber families.

1745 – On May 14, 1745, Michael Miller buys a land warrant for either 150 or 200 acres (reported as both in two different sources) acres called Ash Swamp in Frederick Co MD for 200 pounds from John George Arnold. Replogle p 31, Miller page 20

It was then in Prince George County and now is Washington Co., PA. Liber BB 362-363.  Miller P 20

This is the land that in 1752 Michael has resurveyed and deeds it to 3 his sons John, Philip Jacob and Lodowick. See circle 3, below, drawn by Floyd Mason, P 14 and 32.

Miller circle 3

The map below shows the migration pattern beginning in Chester County, PA, through York County, PA and then to Frederick Co., MD.

Chester Co to Maugansville

1748 – The land dispute in York County, PA got much worse. In a letter to the governor asking for assistance it says that “many of the Germans have gone already and the rest say they will.”  Replogle 92

1748 – Frederick Co. Maryland comes into existence.

1748 – Nicholas Garber dies and his will is probated in Lancaster Co, PA, Book Y, Vol 2, p 123. This part of Lancaster becomes York the following year.  By 1754 Michael Miller has married his widow.  Mason P 12

1749 – Michael Miller buys 36 acres in Frederick Co, MD called “Miller’s Fancy.”  Both pieces of his land are very close to present day Hagerstown, which wasn’t there at the time.  Replogle p 31

Replogle suggests that perhaps Michael didn’t actually move, but stayed back in Hanover and eventually gave the land to his sons John and Philip Jacob.

Michael had Miller’s Fancy resurveyed. He lived there until his death in 1771.  In 1765 it was deeded to John Riffe, husband of Michael’s step-daughter.  See Circle 4 – Mason P 14

I’m not at all certain Mason’s circle 4 is in the correct location. I believe Miller’s Fancy is located south of Hagerstown on the convergence of Antietam and Little Antietam Creeks.  Other researchers believe that Miller’s Fancy, Skipton on Craven and Well Taught are near Leitersburg, 5 or 6 miles due east of Maugansville.  Following the deeds forward (or backward from current) in time would resolve this question.

1749 – Land surveyed in 1749 and granted in 1754 located between Skipton on Craven and Resurvey of Well Taught, containing 36 acres called Miller’s Fancy. Mason P 20

Skipton on Craven is 280 acres, purchased in June 1749 for 220 pounds. Wash Co., MD. Miller p 23

1749 – York Co, PA is formed from Lancaster. Hanover is located in York County.  Part of the Hanover area was split off in 1800 to Adams Co.  There are two Michael Millers and no Rochette family. Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller supposedly married a Magdalena Rochette about 1751, but you can’t marry someone if their family isn’t present in the community.

There are two Michael Miller wills in York County in both 1784 and in 1796, so this means that there were at least 3 Michael Millers in York County, if all three were there at the same time. Headache!!!

1749 – Most land at this time was not improved, but Stephen Ulrich’s may be the exception. The 235 acre piece he bought from Hans Waggoner in Frederick County may have been improved.  The other 200 went to Walter Fonderbag.   One of these men received “One dwelling house 20 feet by 16 made of hew’d logs and covered with lap shingles, a stone chimney, one dwelling house 27 feet by 22 of hwe’d logs and covered with lapp shingles, planked above and below, a stone chimney, a new barn of hew’d logs covered with lapp shingles, 49 feet by 27, 69 apple trees, 72 peach trees and 6 acres of cultivated land well fenced.”  Replogle p 100 from the Stutesman book p 10-11

Replogle contrasts this land to Hager’s “2 sorry houses” and then mentions that by 1756, the Indians had probably burned these wooden structures.

True to form, in the faming community where I grew up, the barn was twice as big as the house.

1750 – Several Brethren families felt it necessary to move further west where it was safer, including the Shively, Ulrich and Cripe families. Replogle p 19

1750s – Around this time in the development of Maryland, tobacco had been the crop of importance followed by Indian corn. This usually was cultivated by the plantation’s negroes. However, in the newly developing western Maryland, the German settlers profited from the rich deep soil to raise large quantities of flax and other grains, disdaining the tobacco culture as well as slavery.  The flax was hackled and the women would spin and weave it at home into very stout linen, making also threads of different colors that found a ready market.  The seed was packed in the huge country wagons of the day and sent to Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Trade for the settlers of this day was in Baltimore. The western Maryland settlers produced goods that were needed in the eastern part of the province.  The Germans learned to make linen goods, tow (rope), thread; they knitted long yarn stockings; they tanned their leather and made horse-collars and harness; they prepared honey, firkined butter, dried apples and applebutter.  These were marketed in Baltimore which depended on the interior for their supplies.  In return, the settler purchased materials essential to survival on the frontier, namely salt, lead and gunpowder.

The early settlers typically lived for a number of years in a “log cabin.” It had large garret roots (attic) and generally a deep cellar.  The bedrooms were simply furnished.  The painted bedsteads were supplied with straw beds and ‘feather decks” for covering.  There were the barrels of sauerkraut and salt lead and apple butter in the cellar.  Each farm usually had an abundant apple orchard and rows of cherry trees, and there were plenty of home-brewed drinks in the cellar besides cider.  The frontier settlers had a diet that included pone and milk (cornbread usually made without milk or eggs), mush and milk, in wooden dishes, hominy and “cider-pap” (small hominy boiled in cider) with fat bacon fried, and “calcified” with molasses. Miller p 21

When I grew up, 200+ years later, many of those items were still being eaten by the descendants of these same German families, in particular, fried mush with molasses or maple syrup.

1751 – On October 26, 1751, Michael’s son Philip Jacob had taken over the warrant and enlarged the tract Ash Swamp to 290 acres. It was surveyed on April 25, 1752 and a patent issued on November 17, 1753.  His brother John also farmed a portion of the property or about 140 acres.

Miller page 27

This land is very near Maugansville. These resurveys were key to finding these properties today.  Gene Miller went to a great deal of trouble to fit the pieces of the Miller and neighboring surveys together.

Miller page 26

1751 – Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller marries Magdalena whose last name is said to be Rochette, but is unproven. The marriage year is based on the year of first child’s birth.  If this is the case, then Philip may have married her in Hanover, York Co., PA, not Frederick Co., MD.  This marriage could be why Michael gave Philip Jacob land when he did.

Replogle states from two sources that the early Brethren were very strict about not marrying outside of the faith. If this is true, then surely someplace there is a Rochette as a Brethren or Magdalena is not a Rochette.  She is more likely from within the Brethren church.  What I wouldn’t give for a membership list of Little Conewago Church in 1750.

1751 – Michael’s son, Lodowich Miller buys Tom’s Chance and sells it in 1755 to Peter Tysher, located today in what is Washington Co., MD, located adjacent to Ash Swamp, including the Salem Reformed Church on Salem Church road.  Land books B p 429 and E p 945

1752 – Road from Wrightsville to Monocacy, near Frederick, MD today. Likely the road Michael Miller took when he moved from PA to MD.  This road went right through Conewago country.  In 1752, the entire Brethren community went down this road to Frederick Co., MD.  Conestoga wagons were used on this road.  The road from Frederick to Antietam Creek was very rudimentary, later becoming the National Road.  Replogle 56-57

1752 – It is believed that Michael Miller moved to the Hagerstown area about 1752 because on March 7, 1752 he sold his portion of Batchelor’s Choice in York County, purchased in 1744, 150 acres, to Samuel Becktel for 220 pounds (York Co. Deed Bk C 445-446). Samuel Becktel probably continued to live on his farm until his death, sometime prior to March 31, 1767.  Miller p 4, 20 and 23

In 1876, on the Heidelberg Township map, there are still two listings of S. Bechtel living on this land.

1752 – About this time Michael Miller moved to Frederick Co., living on Miller’s Fancy at the junction of Antietam Creek and Little Antietam Creek and lived there the rest of his life.  His wife Susan Bechtol had recently died and he sold his Hanover land to his late wife’s relative John Bechtol.  Replogle p 31

We have no evidence to suggest that when Susan actually died, other than it was prior to 1754 when Michael has remarried.

1752 – Michael Miller deeds Philip Jacob and John Miller half of Ash Swamp each. Philip Jacob lives there most of his life. Replogle p 33

This is believed to be the first record of Philip Jacob Miller – although there was an undated records that could have been earlier. By 1752 he would have been 26 years old.

Michael Miller bought the plantation Ash Swamp from John George Arnold in 1745, had it resurveyed to his 3 sons, John, Philip Jacob and Lodowich in 1752. They conveyed it to each other so that soon thereafter John owned the portion to the north and Philip Jacob the part to the south.  Lodowich bought an adjoining farm to the southwest, “Tom’s Chance.”  Miller P 15

1752 – Tired of the Maryland/Pennsylvania border feud that had lasted for 15 years, the entire Brethren community sold their land in Hanover Co., PA (today current Adams Co.) and moved to Frederick Co., MD. Where they established 4 new churches. Replogle 97

This area is still heavily Brethren and Mennonite today.

1753 – Michael Miller bought 409 acres. Replogle

1753 or 1754 – Johann Michael Miller marries Elizabeth Garber, the widow of his neighbor Nicholas Garber. Replogle p 31

1754 – We have no death date for Susanna Bechtol, the first wife of Michael Miller, but an administrative record in the orphan’s court of York Co., PA states that in 1754 Elizabeth Garber, the widow of Nicholas is now the wife of Michael Miller and that he is administrating the accounts for the will. (Book A – 1749-1762, page 47, York Co, Pa Dec. 10, 1754)

We believe Susanna died about 1752 at the time that Michael had land “Ash Swamp” in Maryland resurveyed for the 3 sons, John, Philip Jacob and Lodowich. This explains why there was no wife’s signature and perhaps why the land was divided at that time. Mason p 12

1755 – 676-677 – Michael Miller recorded a deed March 20, 1755 made March 17, 1755 between George Pow of Frederick Co. and Michael Miller for 36 pounds current money, confirms unto him, 2 tracts called part of the “Resurvey on Well Taught, in Frederick County; 1st parcel containing 292 acres and the other tract, containing 117 acres.  Signed George Pow, before William Webb and Thomas Prather.  Catherine wife of the said George Pow, released dower right.

Frederick County Maryland Land Records Liber B Abstracts 1748-1752 by Patricia Abelard Andersen, p 59.

1755 – Michael Miller obtains a grant for Miller’s Fancy in March, 36 ac. Washington Co. MD,  Miller P 23

For the next ten years, Michael filed no deeds. It’s likely the area was abandoned for part of this time given the Indian uprisings.

1754 – All of the Indians disappear from Frederick County. French negotiators have been wooing them.  This is the beginning of the French and Indian War.

1755 – General Braddock’s expedition leaves Cumberland County, MD on May 29th.  Braddock met with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in Frederick County, Maryland.  Braddock had recently arrived from England and had just begun his march toward Fort Duquesne.

At the end of their conference, half of Braddock’s army moved west on the north side of the Potomac and somewhere crossed Antietam Creek. It’s not known just where, but it could not have been far from “Miller’s Fancy” and may been right across it.  Replogle 32

Johann Michael Miller lived near the Upper Antietam bridge, which would have been a ford at that point.

Justin Replogle, on page 104 and 105 gives significant detail, but in summary, the troops pass, if you draw a straight line between Frederick and Conococheague, no more than a mile or so from Michael Miller’s farm. Miller’s Fancy is only about 2 miles north of the Potomac and the troops had to pass between the river and the farm.  With 2000-3000 men or more, you know that the Miller family was not unaffected by this.  Watching a British Army in red coats in June march through the woods and on Indian trails must have been quite a spectacle.

I wonder if Michael realized he was watching history unfold.

Braddock’s men may have camped in this area as well because they took a day to build a bridge over Antietam Creek. The photo below shows a portion of Braddock’s road still visible today near Fort Necessity.  Braddock’s troops often opened or expanded the road as they went to a width that allowed wagons to pass.

Braddock's road

Imagine seeing all of those red coats in the woods on or near your land, and wondering what the future would bring.

Michael had to wonder how this was any different than what happened in the 30 Years War in Europe that devastated the countryside. Did he ever question his decision to leave Germany?

Michael Miller wasn’t the only person to see the redcoats. Braddock’s troops also crossed the Potomac at Conochocheague, so Stephen Ulrich and Jacob Stutzman probably saw them as well.  These men watched history unfold, having absolutely no idea of the dire consequences that would follow.

Braddock had been warned about the Indian’s ambush style of warfare Benjamin Franklin called “ambuscade,” but Braddock poopooed that information, stating that they would make no impression upon his finely trained troops. He was wrong, in fact, he was dead wrong.

Braddock was defeated, badly, as the Indians on further up the trail ambushed the brigade. Braddock himself was killed.  Raids on settlements and settlers began immediately and within days reports say that upwards of 100 settlers had fled their homes, 50 had been killed or captured and 27 houses had been burned.  On the Maryland-Pennsylvania border in the “two coves”, just west of Hagerstown, 47 people had been killed or captured.  Now the entire western frontier lay unprotected.  Replogle 105-106

Braddock’s disastrous defeat in November set off Indian attacks along the whole frontier and Stephen Ulrich almost certainly abandoned his farm and fled east, along with the entire community. He apparently came back. Replogle p 17

From 1755 to 1757, Alfred James writes, “Raid after raid from Fort Duquesne hit pioneer settlements along the Susquehanna and the Potomac.” It was unending and relentless.  Another reports that “Frederick, Winchester and Carlisle became the new frontiers of the colony” and “Many even fled to Baltimore,” and “some to Virginia.”  Arthur Quinn writes that families went as far east as Bethlehem “where there was no more room in the inns, or the shops or even the cellars.”  Nead writes, “Terror and desolation reigned everywhere.” Repogle 106

Where was Johann Michael Miller and his family during this time? His children would likely all have been adults, with families of their own.  Given Susanna Bechtol’s birth in 1688, their last child was probably born no later than 1733, so clearly an adult by 1754 or 1755.  Susanna had died by this time, so Michael had his new wife and both sets of their children to worry about.  Did they all escape or remove to locations further east?  Together?  Separately?  In an orderly fashion?  In a panic?  What happened?

In April of 1756, Elisha Shaltor wrote, “I found the people in the greatest confusion, the troops abandoning the forts and the country people in the greatest consternation.”

The year 1756 seems to have been the worst for the Conococheague community.

Conococheague river

On April 25, 1756, “Forty-one persons deserted their cabins and clearing near Conococheague and came to Baltimore. Their houses were destroyed and their cattle killed.”  Two days earlier, Thomas Cresap, Jr. had been killed and fighting had occurred between Hanover and Bedford.  No place was safe.  Not where they moved from.  Not where they moved to.  Apparently no place except the eastern seaboard cities.  Worse yet, in those cities, no one seemed to care.

Hanover to Bedford map

Maryland and Pennsylvania legislatures were reluctant to do anything. The frontier was far from the cities and the Quakers hesitated to advocate violence.

Finally, in 1756, Maryland authorized a fort in the Conocheague area which would become Fort Frederick, about 15 miles away. That was far too little and way too late.  If anything it incensed the Indians.  The Indians easily captured this small isolated fort and killed all the settlers they encountered along the way, for good measure.

Maugansville to Fort Frederick

On October 25 Indians arrived with 20 scalps from the town of Conococheague. The list of the dead hints at the constant terror.


October 25 – John Loomis, wife and 3 small children
October 28 – Jacob Miller wife and 6 children
October 30 – George Falke, house, mill, barn, 20 cattle, 4 horses, wife, 9 children cut into pieces and fed to the pigs. A trader scalped, roasted alive, eaten.

The Conococheague residents tried to protect themselves at first, but then, they gave up and fled back east. The only Brethren name on the militia lists was George Butterbaugh, and Replogle suggests that he may not have been Brethren yet at that time.  All of this was taking place in the area where the Ulrichs, Cripes and Millers lived.

Those who were willing to fight must have been terribly frustrated and felt endangered by the Brethren who were not. They were surely looked upon as a burden to the rest of the community.  Did the Brethren truly watch their families slaughtered and do nothing?  It’s difficult to believe that basic human instincts didn’t kick in.

Most settlers fled east from Monocacy. George Washington received a report in the summer of 1756 that “350 wagons had passed that place to avoid the enemy within the space of 3 days” and by August the report was that “The whole settlement of Conococheague in Maryland is fled, and there now remain only two families from thence to Fredericktown…..”

Conococheague to Frederick

Surely that included Michael Miller and the rest of the Brethren families. The Indians were reported within 30 miles of Baltimore.  Frederick is 47 miles from Baltimore.

Furthermore Washington said, “That the Maryland settlements are all abandoned…is a certain fact.”

Where did the Brethren families go? Who did they stay with?  What did they do?  And for how long?

In July 1756, the commander at Fort Duquesne said that he had “succeeded in ruining the three adjacent provinces, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, driving off the inhabitants and totally destroying the settlements over a tract of country over 30 leagues wide…the Indian villages are full of prisoners of every age and sex.”

In 1757, “the frontier settlements were abandoned over a wide area.”

And so life continued, land abandoned, the residents living who knows where, but assuredly with Brethren families or congregations back east, throughout 1756, 1757 and into 1758.

1758 – General Harris extends a road from Harrisburg, PA to Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River (Pittsburg.) Highway 30 follows this road most of the way today. Replogle 55

Forbes went from Cumberland to Bedford and had hundreds of men working on the road. By August 1758, 1400 men had extended the road to Bedford, just wide enough to get a wagon through.  A contemporary writer said it took 8 days to travel from Bedford to Ligonier, a distance of about 45 miles.  This tactic succeeded.  General John Forbes took Fort Duquesne, now Pittsburg, the French abandoned it, and ended the French and Indian War on November 25, 1758.  Indian attacks diminished and by 1762, the French had given up Canada.  Replogle 107-108, 110

Forbes Road

The area was never really in jeopardy of Indians regaining control, but it was in real jeopardy of French control. The French, like the English, were using the Indians by making promises.  Were it not for Forbes, we might all be speaking French today.

When did the settlers return to this area? They likely had to rebuild from scratch.  As difficult as this must have been, they obviously did and we have absolutely nothing in our family history reflecting this extremely difficult time.  You would think there would be stories…something…but there is nothing.

We don’t know where our Brethren families lived during this time, what happened, who died, when they returned, how, or what they faced. Were their homes all burned?  Was anything left?  Did they start over again?  What happened?

There is no hint.  Brethren were never whiners.  There are no tales of woe.  The only hint is when transactions resume.  For Michael Miller, that was in 1761 when he again began purchasing land, if that Michael was our Michael, or in 1762 when taxes were again being paid in Frederick County.

Michael, by this time, was an old man, 69 years old, and assuredly tired. In particular, tired of conflict and warfare.  I’m sure he simply wanted to sit on the porch of his children’s home and look over a peaceful vista – one with no Indians, soldiers or war-like sheriffs.

One small item of significance – during the war, a small fort was built at Raystown, which would eventually become Bedford, a location that would, in 1770, become quite important to the Brethren. It was indeed the next frontier and two of Michael Miller’s grandsons through his son Philip Jacob would find themselves in Bedford County, PA.

1760 – One Michael Miller was Constable of Upper Antietam Hundred. This causes me to wonder how a Brethren can be a constable if they won’t take an oath.

The Brethren shunned anything legal. They did not marry by obtaining a license.  I don’t think they would have registered their deeds if there was any way they could have avoided it.  Many times, they simply didn’t.

For instance, on February 14, 1776, Alexander Mack Jr., the son of the founder of the Brethren faith writes in a letter that he is shunning his daughter, Sarah, because “she married outside of the brotherhood” and secondly “because the marriage was performed with a license and third because her husband had not quite completed his apprenticeship.” Shunning in the Brethren world was ostrification and the results of that could be far more severe then than now.  Protection and assistance, for example, came from the group, generally a family group, that you were a member of.  Sarah must have been one very brave young lady or blindly in love.

1761 – Michael Miller purchases Deceit in May, 108 ac for 50 lbs. Washington Co. MD  Miller p 23

1761 – Michael Miller recorded a mortgage on May 6, 1761 made March 26, 1761 between Joseph Perry of Frederick Co. for 50 pcm (Pennyslvania Current Money) mortgaging a tract called “Deceit” on a branch of Antietam near the place that George Fairbush formerly lived on, containing 108 acres. Signed Jos Perry before Mos Chapline, Peter Bainbridge.  Receipt ack, AF and duty pd.  Frederick Co. Maryland Land Records, Liber F Abstracts, 1756-1761 p 124 by Patricia Abelard Anderson (Note – I did not extract all Miller records, just first names in which we are interested.)

Given that none of the other names are Brethren, I wonder if this is a different Michael Miller, perhaps the one that was a constable.

1762 – When Nicholas Martin was naturalized in Pennsylvania in 1762,  Michael Miller and Jacob Miller were witnesses. It was this Nicholas Martin who gave the year of death for Michael Miller as 1771.  Mason p 10 (Note that Michael’s signature would be on this document if the original still exists.)

This might suggest to us that Michael spent his time in exile in Pennsylvania and not in Maryland. Of course, he might simply have traveled to Maryland to testify for Nicholas Martin.

1762-1763 – In Frederick Co., MD, Michael Miller paid taxes on more than 700 acres, Michael Miller Jr. on 80 acres and Hans Michael Miller on more than 2000 acres. Replogle 117 quoting from Mason


To separate the three Michael Millers, Michael Miller Sr., Michael Miller Jr. and Hans Michael Miller, we use the information that is recorded in the Land Tax records at Annapolis MD in the archives. This is what was found:

Michael Miller Sr. 1762 and 1763
Skipton of Craven – 100 ac
Miller’s Fancy – 36 ac
Skipton of Craven – 180 ac
Resurvey of Well Taught – 409 ac

Michael Miller Jr. 1762 and 1763
Miller’s Chance – 50 ac – 1762 the same land
Blindman’s Choice – 50 ac – 1763 to 1772
(Most years Miller’s Choice was called Blindman’s Choice)

Hans Michael Miller – 1772
In addition to land in Antrim Twp, Franklin Co, Pa and New Creek, now Mineral Co, WV as given in his will, he paid taxes in 1772 in Frederick Co., MD on the following:
Resurvey of Nicholas Mistake – 1025 ac
Garden’s delight – 146 ac
Add Garden’s delight – 28 ac
Plunket’s Doubt – 133 ac
Maiden’s Walk – 35 ac
Tonas Lott – 16 ac
Small Hope – 20 ac
Small Hope – 43 ac
Rocky Creek – 150 ac

For anyone tracking Hans Michael Miller, Franklin County, PA and Mineral County, WV would be good places to start.

Gene Miller found that Hans Michael Miller was given 1000 pounds by his father Michael Miller Sr. (died 1771) to purchase Pleasant Gardens. What he purchased may have been an earlier name for what he called Gardens Delight and Add Gardens Delight.  If it was this land, it was land that his 2 sons sold to Jacob Good and was located near the land, “Huckleberry Hall”, that Jacob Good bought from John Schnebly in 1787.  It was located near Maugansville, MD.  This land would go to the son-in-law and grandchildren of Elizabeth Garber, the step-mother of Hans Michael Miller, assuming he is the son of Michael Miller who died in 1771.  Jacob Good had remarried.  This is a connection between the 1st set of Michael Millers Sr.’s children and his step-children.  Mason P 13

We did not follow the land records of Hans Michael Miller, but did follow the land records of Michael Miller Sr. (died 1771) and Jr., his presumed son.

We found that Michael Miller Sr. (the second, died 1771) paid taxes on his land and in his name for 1762 and 1763. He deeded all the land to his step-children in 1765.  After that he continued to pay taxes on 36 acres of Miller’s Fancy and 8 acres of Resurvey on Well Taught.  It’s this fact that causes researchers to believe this is where Michael actually lived.

1762 – John Hager began to lay out what would one day become Hagerstown, Maryland.

1763 – The surveyors started laying out the Mason-Dixon line and they got as far as Dunkard’s Creek where Indians stopped them. Replogle 114

A historical marker is located at Dunkard’s Creek in the Mason Dixon Historical Park where the creek crosses the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border about 150 miles west of Hagerstown.

Hagerstown to Mason-Dixon

1763 – In reference to Pontiac’s War (the Pontiac Conspiracy – which lasted until 1765) and the attacks on Fort Pitt, its inhabitants, and the destruction of Ligonier – David McClure says “the greater part of the Indian traders keep a squaw and some of them a white woman as a temporary wife. The people of Virginia…are different from those of the Presbyterians and the Germans.  They are much addicted to drinking parties, gambling, horse racing and fighting.”  These people were all residents of Fort Pitt, a total of 322 people.  Most people fled east once again and the Indians attacked as far west as Carlisle.

The Maryland Gazette, written at Frederick on July 19, 1763 said, “The melancholy scene of poor distressed families driving downwards through this town with their effects…enemies…now daily seen in the woods….panic of the back inhabitants, whose terrors at this time exceed what followed on the defeat of General Braddock.” Ironically it also reported that the season had been remarkably fine and the harvest the best for many years.  Once again, Frederick County put together two companies of militia and once again, no Brethren names appeared on the list.  Replogle 113 – 114

By 1763, Michael Miller was an old man, almost 72 years of age. Again, relations with the Indians deteriorated and they attacked in waves.  “The Cumberland Valley and frontier regions are deserted,” came the reports.  “Bands of raiding Indians spread over western Maryland” Nead says and on August 13, 1763 George Washington writes that once again, “no families remain above the Conococheague road, and many are gone from below it.  The harvests are, in a manner lost, and the distresses of the settlements are evident and manifold.”  Replogle 113/114

Two Brethren, Nicholas Martin and Stephen Ulrich are found attending the Great Council of the Brethren in Conestoga in 1763. Would they have left their family in Frederick County among the massacres, or does this imply that the group had once again moved back east, and this where in the east they had moved?

Looking at the map, this seems to be an important clue. It would appear that they had been evacuating in reverse settlement order.  Perhaps they first went to join the congregants of the church in Hanover, and finding that location unsafe, went on further back to their home church, Conewago, further east.

Conewago, in the book, “A History of the Church of the Brethren in Southern District Pennsylvania” is noted as being near current Ephrata, PA and also as being the current congregation of White Oak in Lancaster, County.

Ephrata to Hagerstown

1765 – The 4 children of Nicholas and Elizabeth Garber were living in Frederick Co. MD before 1765. Nicholas’s will gives the names of two of them, Elizabeth and Samuel, and researchers have determined that the other two were Anna and Martin.

In 1765, Michael Miller is selling land, just like nothing happened, or perhaps the recent unrest is part of why he transferred the land when he did. In essence, he went on a huge deeding spree, deeding all of the land he owned, mostly to his step-children and their spouses.

1765 – Jacob Good recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765, made Oct. 25, 1765, between Michael Miller of Frederick Co. for 100 pounds current money, a parcel called Hamburgh, part of a Resurvey on Well Taught, metes and bounds given, containing 81 acres. Signed Michael Miller by mark M before Joseph Smith, James Smith, Elizabeth Miller wife of Michael released dower.  P 140-142  Frederick Co. MD Land Records Liber K Abstracts, 1765-1768 abstracted by Patricia Abelard Andersen p 15-16

Please note that this means that Elizabeth Garber, Michael’s second wife is still alive in 1765. There is significant confusion about Michael Miller administering the estate of her former husband, Nicholas Garber, and some researchers have construed that administration in 1754 to be the estate of Elizabeth, which it clearly is not.

1765 – Michael Miller sold the 409 acres of Well Taught to Jacob Good and John Riffe. He paid taxes on 8 acres of this 409 acres along with the 36 acres called Miller’s Fancy which has what has led some researchers to surmise that is where Michael actually lived.  Mason p 14

1765 – John Rife recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765, made Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller of Frederick County for 200 pounds current money, a tract of land called Quarry, part of a resurvey on Well Taught patented to George Jacob Pow, metes & bounds given, 179 acres signed Michael Miller by mark M. Witnesses Joseph Smith, James Smith, receipt ack.  Elizabeth Miller released Dower.  P 166-167

1765 – Michael Miller sold in October 1765, 36 acres of Miller’s Fancy and 5 acres of Resurvey of Well Taught for 50 pounds. Wash Co., MD. Miller p 23.

This appears to be the 5 acres he paid tax on until he died, but he had already transferred the entire 36 acres to John Riffe, so this is somewhat confusing.

1765 – John Rife recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765, made Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller for 50 pounds, a tract called Miller’s Fancy, metes and bounds given, 5 acres, signed Michael Miller by mark M. Witness Joseph Smith, James Smith.  Receipt ack.  Elizabeth wife of Michael released dower. P 175-176

1765 – Jacob Good recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765 made on Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller of Frederick County for 300 pounds, a tract called Good’s Choice, part of Skipton and Craven, land whereon the said Jacob Good now lives, metes and bounds given, 163 acres, signed Michael Miller by mark M.  Wit Joseph Smith and James Smith, receipt acknowledged and dower released by Elizabeth Miller wife of Michael Miller. P 177-178 Wash Co Md.  Miller p 23

1765 – Jacob Good recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765 made on Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller for 60 pounds tract called Luck, part of resurvey on Well Taught entered to George Pie. Metes and bounds given, 100 acres.  Signed Michael Miller by mark M.  Witnesses Joseph Smith, James Smith and Elizabeth Miller releases dower. P 179-180 Wash Co MD  Miller p 23

1765 – John Rife recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765 made on Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller for 200 pounds, a tract called Rife’s Lot, part of Skipton and Craven whereon John Rife now lives, metes and bounds given, 117 acres. Witnesses Joseph Smith, James Smith and Elizabeth Miller release dower. P 185-186

Jacob Good and John Riffe were Michael Miller’s step-daughter’s husbands. Mason P 14

1765 – Michael Miller sold Michael Tanner 50 acres of “Miller’s Choice”.

1765 – Michael Miller had “Range” surveyed – 50 acres – grant. We believe that this is the 50 acres on Piney Creek that he sold in 1765 to Michael and Eve Tanner who deeded it to a son-in-law, John Storm. See circle 9.  Was Eve one of Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol’s daughters that we have not discovered?  Mason P 14

Frederick Co. MD Land Records Liber K Abstracts, 1765-1768 abstracted by Patricia Abelard Andersen, p 18-19

1768 – The defeat of Pontiac triggers mass migration westward over the mountains. Replogle 20

1768 – November – the British government bought large tracts of land from the Iroquois and Pennsylvania now owns all the land west of the Alleghenies to the Ohio River except for the northernmost part of the colony, opening the doors for a huge migration. However, the Delaware and Shawnee were left out and the raids continued.  Replogle 115

1768-1769 – List of persons who stand charged with land on Frederick County rent rolls which are under such circumstances as renders it out of the power of George Scott Farmer to collect the rents and there claims allowance under his articles for the same from March 1768 to March 1769: (Note there are several pages of these, so much so that it looks like a tax list, not a roll of uncollectibles.)

No Cripe, Greib, Ullrich, Ullery or Stutzman
Conrad Miller
Isaac Miller
Jacob Miller Jr
John Miller
Lodwick Miller
Michael Miller heirs
Oliver Miller, Balt Co.
Oliver Miller, Balt Co additional
Thomas Miller

Inhabitants of Frederick Co. MD, Vol 1, 1750-1790 by Stefanie R. Shaffer, p 45

1770 – Michael Miller recorded on June 21, 1770 a deed made on the same date between he and Peter Apple/Apel for 50 pounds, a 20 acre tract of Small Hope. Signed in German script, Peter Apel before Charles Beatty, William Richey Receipt ack.  Alienation fine paid.  Please note that in 1772 Hans Michael Miller is paying tax on this land. P 154-155

Also note that in 1765 Johann Michael Miller was signing with an M, and this Michael Miller signs five years later in German script.

As best I can tell, the alienation fine was connected with selling the land privately away from the proprietor of Maryland. This is discussed on pages 33-35 of “The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Centuries, Volume 2” by Herbert Levi Osgood.

Frederick County Maryland Land Records Liber N Abstracts 1770-1772 Abstracted by Patricia Ableard Andersen p 24

1770 – Richard Richardson recorded June 25, 1770 made June 22 between Michael Miller for 40 pounds, sells 10 acres of tract called Small Hopes. Signed Michael Miller receipt acknowledged Pages 171-173

Frederick County Maryland Land Records Liber N Abstracts 1770-1772 Abstracted by Patricia Ableard Andersen, p 25

1771 – Michael Miller’s death is recorded by Nicholas Martin in a letter to Alexander Mack Jr. wherein he references the death of Michael Miller as a “year ago” which would be approximately May of 1771.

On May 24, 1772, when Nicholas Martin was presiding at Conecocheague, he wrote a lengthy letter to Alexander Mack, Jr., of which one paragraph reads:

“You will perhaps know that the dear Brother Michael Miller died a year ago. Brother Jacob Stutzman is again quite improved; he was very feeble this past winter.”

Michael Miller is references as “Brother” so there is absolutely no question that he died Brethren.

Elder Nicholas Martin was the ruling Church of the Brethren elder for this section of MD and PA and a friend of Alexander Mack Jr.  Alexander Mack Sr. was the founder of the Brethren Church and his son the leader after his father’s death.  In other letters he comments about the health of Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman.  When Nicholas was naturalized in 1762, Michael Miller Sr. and his son Philip Jacob Miller were witnesses for him.  Nicholas’s farm called “Swamp of Experience” was adjoining Tom’s Chance and Ash Swamp.  Mason P 19

These men were clearly very close neighbors and friends. Nicholas Martin probably preached the funeral of his friend Michael Miller, in German of course.

1771 – Justin Replogle believes that Michael is probably buried on Miller’s Fancy. Replogle p 32

Floyd Mason believes Michael is buried on Ash Swamp.

We believe that Michael Miller was buried on his plantation where he lived or in the family cemetery on John Miller’s section of Ash Swamp. We believe he remained Lutheran or Reformed.  However he may have attended or joined the German Baptist Brethren.  Some records say that they lived and were buried at Conococheaque, Washington Co., MD near Hagerstown, MD.    Mason P 20

Gene Miller believes he is buried in the now-lost cemetery on John Miller’s part of Ash Swamp.

It is believed that Michael Miller is most likely buried in the private cemetery that was located on the John Miller portion of the Ash Swamp property. The 50 by 50 foot cemetery plot is apparently lost to history today as there is no record of it.  Miller 31

I don’t have a clue where he is buried, but if I had to guess, and I do, I would suggest it is more likely to be on his son’s property than elsewhere simply because that land is more likely to ‘remain in the family’ where the land of step-children is already outside of the blood-line family. It’s also likely that a cemetery on John Miller’s land had already been established as the “Miller cemetery” for this family.  It’s unlikely that there were no deaths between 1752 when Michael deeded this land to his sons and 1771 when Michael died.

1771 – Michael Miller dies and Ash Swamp is divided between Philip Jacob, John and Lodowich. 1000 pounds is given to Hans Michael to purchase Pleasant Gardens, Michael Jr. is given Blindman’s Choice.  Miller p 24

Note: I don’t find a deed giving Blindman’s Choice to Michael Jr.

From 1769 thru 1772 the tax on Michael’s land was paid by the heirs as seen on this tax books. There are some records that show that the tax was owed for several years and we believe that they did not get around to paying the tax until after Michael’s death in 1771.  Michael Miller Sr. (the second died in 1771) lived for years at the mouth of Little Antietam where it flows into the Antietam Creek.  Mason p 13

We found that after the death of Michael Miller Sr. (the second), in 1771, both Michael Miller Jr. (the third) and Hans Michael Miller were paying the tax in 1772 and succeeding years. Philip Jacob Miller was paying taxes on “Ash Swamp,” 290 acres and Lodowich Miller was paying taxes on land that he had bought near Taneyown, Md.  See Circle #7.  Mason P 14

The names of Michael Miller Jr. (the third) and Hans Michael Miller are confusing. Given that Michael Miller Sr.’s (d 1771) actual name was Johann Michael Mueller (Miller), and Hans is short for Johann, you would think that Michael Miller Jr. would be Hans Michael Miller Jr.  Both of these men cannot be sons of the Michael Miller who died in 1771.  However, one could be a son and one his grandson.  Further research into both Michael Miller Jr. (the third) and Hans Michael Miller would hopefully reveal additional information and in particular, about their age.  We know, for example, that Johann Michael Miller (the second’s) first child, a son, Johann Peter, was born in 1715.  If Johann Peter married when he was 20 and had a son when he was 21, whom he named after his father, that birth would have occurred about 1736.  That child, Johann Michael Miller, would have come of age about 1757.  Given that several grandchildren of Michael Miller could have been coming of age anytime after 1757, Hans Michael Miller could have belonged to any of the living or perhaps deceased male children of Johann Michael Miller the second who died in 1771.

I assembled the various land transactions of Michael Miller as shown below.

Miller land chart 1Miller land chart 2

*Troy Goss refers to the John who was involved with the Ash Swamp land as John Peter. This is the only source I have seen referring to this John as John Peter Miller.  It would be very unusual for Johann Peter to be called John instead of Peter, since Johann was the first given name of most German male children.  The only person called Johann or John would be someone whose full name was Johannes Mueller.

In 1783, these men conveyed land back and forth. Troy shows deeds on Dec. 9, 1783 for 220 acres from Lodowich to Philip Jacob Miller for 5 shillings (Washington Co., Land records, Book C, pages 563-47).  On December 26, 1783, Philip Jacob Miller conveys 144 acres to John Peter Miller for 5 shillings “and brotherly affection.” Book C, pages 260-262.

To finish the story of Michael’s land in Frederick County, when John died in 1794, Frederick County had become Washington County. The family sold all of Michael’s land that both John and Philip Jacob had inherited to one John Schnebley.

Philips Jacob’s land, sold on September 25, 1795, included Keller’s Discovery for 11 acres, Prickley Ash Bottom for 11 acres and his part of the Resurvey of Ash Swamp for 143.5 acres, for 2,175 pounds. Liber I, page 360.

John’s land included his 143.5 acres of the Resurvey of Ash Swamp for 2,044 pounds. Liber I FF page 584.

It’s interesting to note that Michael paid 243 pounds for this land in 1745 that sold for a total of 4219 pounds in 1795, about 50 years later, for a profit of 576%. He was indeed an astute investor.

Philip Jacob Miller left and went to Kentucky in about 1796, a couple of years after his brother John died. Philip had witnessed his brother John’s will.  He likely sorely missed his brother who had been his neighbor and farming companion his entire life.  While we don’t have a will in Maryland for Philip Jacob, we do have John’s will which gives us a peek into their life on Ash Swamp.

The land was referenced as both meadow and swamp. It seems there was about 100 acres of woodland and the rest was swamp, meadow and cultivated land.  The woods are entirely gone today.

In John Miller’s estate inventory, we find

  • A Bible – I have to wonder if this was his father’s Bible. If he was Johann Peter born in 1715, he was the eldest son, and this could well have been his father’s Bible if it survived all of the moves, warfare and indian raids.  I wonder what happened to this Bible.
  • Hand tools such as saws, hammers, trowels, branding irons, knives, pinchers, shovels, chains, broad axes, a grubbing hoe, a rifle, a scythe, an anvil and a corn hoe. Obviously, the rifle was for hunting, not defense.
  • Farm implements such as a tar bucket, a bushel basket, a wagon whip, a dutch oven, old flour barrels, a chisel, a compass, a dung fork, an auger, a barking iron, a shot gun, a wool wheel, tanners knives, stelyards, a harrow, a hay fork, plows, draw knives, mall rings, wedges, a windmill and sausage horn.
  • Produce such as flower, a barrel of vinegar, stacks of hay, wheat, oats, rye, corn, flax, potatoes. Some produce was still in the field such as 8 acres of barley and wheat that was seeded.
  • Farm animals including geese, turkeys, ducks, horses, cows, calves, bulls, sheep and hogs along with cured pork.
  • Household items such as chairs, a tub, a bedstead, a table, dressers, chests, a dough tray, lamps, baskets, a kettle, a stove, weaving loom and spooling wheel, wool cards, knives and forks, pewter spoons, a kitchen cabinet and shelves. It’s interesting that there is only one bedstead.

Philip Jacob’s farm would probably have been quite similar, as would Michael’s before them at his death in 1771, although Michael may have had significantly less because he had to start over so many times when war drove him out and the Indians likely burned his homes. I wonder how many homes he lost in that manner.  I’m betting at least two.

Michael and his son’s lives were filled with uncertainty in a way we find difficult to relate to today.

“For the first fifty years the Brethren suffered many privations on account of the French war in 1755, the Revolution 20 years later, and subsequent Indian wars together with many inconveniences incident to a newly settled country, as our part of the state was at that time. The dread of the Indian’s tomahawk and scalping knife, was everywhere felt. In the morning before going to the fields to work, the farmer and his sons often bid good-bye to the balance of the family, fearing they might not return, or if permitted to do so, would find their loved ones murdered by the Indians.” (From The Brethren Almanac 1879.)

That simple paragraph probably pretty much sums up the daily life of Johann Michael Miller’s life. Always wary, always on the frontier, always in some amount of jeopardy.  However, his faith sustained him and he managed to survive, as did many of his children, either because of or in spite of his Brethren faith and non-violent ways.

The Brethren Almanac goes on to report, “Under the guiding hand of their first resident Elder, Wm. Stover, the congregation worshipped in houses. Brother Jacob Miller was elected to the ministry, and in 1765 moved to Virginia.”

This is the genesis of the legend that Jacob Miller is the son of Michael Miller – a legend we will disprove.

Visiting Michael’s Land in Frederick (now Washington) County, MD

In October of 2015, I was able to visit Hagerstown, Maryland, located in Washington, County, the part formerly Frederick County. More specifically, I was able to locate Johann Michael Miller’s land, Ash Swamp, that he may have lived on and that he left to his sons, in particular, John and Philip Jacob, my ancestor.

Johann Michael Miller owned land just outside of and now partly within Maugansville, Maryland.

Gene Miller, in his book, assembled the surveys into a conglomerate. If Gene is right about where the cemetery was located, it may well be under the subdivision today, and if not, perhaps our ancestors are sleeping peacefully under some corn.

Resurvey of Ash Swamp

On this map, Michael’s land encompasses most of the land between Cearfoss Pike (58), Gardenville Road and Maugansville Road including Rush Run.

Ash Swamp map crop

Here is the satellite view of that area.

Ash Swamp satellite

The grey balloon is the old working farm that remains.

Arriving in the area from Cearfoss, approaching Michael’s farm, you notice the lovely clean farms. As I’ve been working my way north this week from Richmond, VA, I’ve noticed how much these farms resemble the Pennsylvania, Lancaster County, type of farms and buildings.  That makes sense, since the people who settled here were a group of Germans that had previously lived in that area.

The land to the south of Cearfoss Pike was also Michaels. His son, Lodowick also bought a significant amount of land here.

Lodowick's land

There is a more contemporary home very near to the road. This structure is not old enough to have been here when Michael owned this land.

Miller land current house

However, this farm that sits back could have been the original farm and house, or at least the location of the original buildings. This would have been John’s portion of the farm.

Miller land farm house

The house sits quite a ways back from the road, and I did not want to disturb the current day owners, so I took photos from a distance.

Miller land farm close

Based on the maps of this region from the 1850s through about 1900, this farm does not appear to have existed at that time, so it’s not the original farm house, as I had hoped.

Fortunately, Grace Academy purchased Michael’s land and built in the middle of the field, behind the homes on 58 and also behind the homes in the development off of Garden View and Maugansville Road.

Miller with arrows

The map above shows the original farm to the upper left, Grace Academy to the lower left, the property today owned by the car collector is to the far right and the arrow just slightly left of that is Ashton Hall. Johann Michael Mueller owned most of this land.

You can see the land overlayed on this scan from page 30 of the Miller book.

Miller book overlay crop

This 1859 Taggert plat map of Washington County shows homestead locations.

Washington 1859

It appears that the old farmhouse on Cearfoss Pike is on the Daniel Zeter land but it’s not showing as a homestead. Daniel Zeter’s actual homestead is north of Michael Miller’s property, although it looks like there was a road leading to his house over Michael’s property.  It could also have changed in the years since the 1770s or even the 1790s.  It appears that the M. Horst and John Horst properties are the car collector perhaps and Ashton Hall.

washington 1877

The 1877 atlas, above clearly shows the Zeller residence. If that is where John’s farm was located, it’s likely under the subdivision today.  Philip Jacob’s land is likely where the Horst farms were located.

The 1879 map is very similar.

Washington 1879

The Ashton Hall history confirms we have the correct land with the following:

In 1838, the farm was sold to John Horst, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to settle the estate of John Schnebly. In 1865, Horst sold part of the farm to his son Samuel, …reserving that part of the dwelling house on the north side of the passage from the cellar to the garrett with privilege of using the entries and stairs for passing and repassing with free access to any of the springs and one third part of the garden… according to the deed. Samuel and his bride resided in the upstairs ballroom area, and an enclosed stairway was added just inside the kitchen door for access. In 1885, Lesher Horst, son of Samuel and Lydia Horst, built his own brick home on their portion of Ashton Hall. This property was later to become known as the Miller Asparagus Farm. Fanny Horst married Michael Martin and in 1899, the Martin family purchased the farm and continued their lineage at Ashton Hall. These were Mennonite families who continued to farm the land until 1989, 183 years. Orville Martin was the last steward of Schnebley’s fertile lands.

Ashton Hall has evolved into a community. John Schnebley’s estate has been subdivided with single-family dwellings converging over half the designated meadow, at this time. A church, a private school (kindergarten through twelfth grade), two smaller farms, and a soccer complex are on the perimeter acreage. In the midst of this, sits a quiet reminder of another way of life altogether.

The Grace Academy location, the private school mentioned above, provided wonderful access to photograph Michael’s land and the farm to the west. Most of this land was Michael’s.  You can see what wonderful farming land it would have been, especially given the reminder of the mountains within sight to the west.  These are the Blue Ridge and are maybe 8 or 10 miles distant.

Miller farm west

My husband and I had a picnic lunch of bagels with cream cheese and left over pizza in the Grace Academy parking lot. It was fun to break bread on Michael’s land, some 244 years after he passed from this earth.  He probably took food from his knapsack and did the same thing in 1745 when he scouted this land.  I’m sure it looks dramatically different, 275 years later, but still, I returned and ate where Michael assuredly did as well.  None of this land would have been cleared at that time, so Michael would not have been able to see the mountains in the distance.  We’re looking at the results of Michael’s work and that of his sons John and Philip Jacob Miller.

Miller farm west 2

Michael’s land to the left of the photo above.

Miller farm west 3

Michael’s land to the right of the farm before the subdivision.  The subdivision was his land too.

Miller farm west 4

A closer look at the farm.

Miller farm mountains

And the mountains.  Did Michael ever dream of crossing these mountains?  Or was Michael done with dreaming of new frontiers?  His son, Philip Jacob not only dreamed of crossing these mountains, he did, at age 70 or so.

Miller farm sky

The farm from Garden View Road, from the back side, across the north part of Michael’s land. This sky is stunning.

Miller farm sky 2

Thankfully Michael had his land resurveyed, because this is the only record we actually have of who received the land and where it lay.

There are however, two other properties of significant interest. On the map, below the grey balloon marks the location of 13318 Maugansville Road.

Miller Maugansville road

Just below this location we find 13220 Maugansville Road, which is Ashton Hall. These two locations are quite historic.

Here is a closer view of the two together.

Miller Ashton Hall

Michael’s son, Philip Jacob would have built a house on this land. These two properties are candidates for that home.  Ashton Hall is actually on Rush Run, which would have been the water source for both.  However, we know that the current building at this location was built in 1801 because the history of Ashton Hall has been researched.  We don’t know if Ashton Hall was built on the location where Philip Jacob’s house had been.

In 1795, John Schnebly purchased 146 and 1/2 acres of land, parts of land grants Keller’s Discovery, Prickly Ash Bottom and Resurvey on Ash Swamp for the sum of …two thousand one hundred and seventy-five pounds five shillings current money. John Schnebly named his property Ashton Hall and, in 1801, built the stone house near Maugansville.

This does, however, confirm that part of this land was indeed Resurvey on Ash Swamp, Michael’s land.

Miller Ashton Hall 2

This property, below, just north of Ashton Hall was visited in the 1970s by other Miller researchers when it was Miller Farm Market. The owners at that time believed that while the house was probably not old enough to be from that timeframe, some of the other buildings were.

Miller car collector

There didn’t seem to be anyone home, so I pulled into the driveway, snapped a few quick shots and left.

Miller car collector 2

An automobile collector lives here today. This could have been the location of the original Philip Jacob Miller homestead.

Miller car collector 3

Miller car collector 4

This begs the question of where Michael and his first wife, Susan Berchtol, are buried. The answer is that we don’t know.

Susan could have died near Hanover, PA before Michael migrated to Maryland, but it is uncertain.

However, it’s a safe bet is that Michael is buried either here or on his land on the Antietam, Miller’s Fancy. We know that someplace here on his own property is a 50 foot by 50 foot cemetery, found on John Miller’s portion, lost to time and probably being plowed or under houses.  Michael’s son John owned this land when he died as well, so he is probably buried here too.  If one of the houses in the subdivision is haunted, well, I guess we know why!

In the Mason book, Floyd mentions that they visited the Hagerstown area in 1990. He includes a photograph of a property he believes may be one of the old Miller locations.  I originally thought it was the car collector’s property above, but after looking again, I don’t think it is.

Mason pix Maugansville Road

I “drove” this area again using Google maps street view, and I saw nothing at all similar, so I’m presuming that this property is gone today, in October 2015, or it really is the same property I visited owned by the car collector. It has been 25 years since Floyd Mason took these photos, and it was an old property at that time.  If it was as old as Mason thought, it would be very difficult to maintain.  There are several new structures in the area and the couple that owns Ashton Halls has reported a lot of development.

The balance of Michael’s Resurvey of Ash Swamp is either a contemporary subdivision, or farmland surrounding Ashton Hall, which you can’t see from the road. Rush Creek crosses this property and by driving into the entrance of the soccer club, beside the Academy, you can see somewhat of the land east of the Academy, west of Maugansville Road and north of Cearfoss Pike.  This is on the western part of Philip Jacob Miller’s portion of Ash Swamp.

Miller soccer complex

The picture above is looking north. The one below looking east.  Ashton Hall would be behind those trees about half a mile as the crow flies.  The car collector’s property may be slightly visible in the distance just beyond the row of trees.

Miller Ashton Hall 3

I find it very vexing, after all of the real estate transactions Michael Miller was involved with that we still don’t really know where he lived when he died. We know that he deeded all of his land before his death, so he was clearly living with one of his children (or step-children) or at least on land owned by them.

When visiting, I didn’t make the side trip to Antietam and Little Antietam Creek because with all of Michael Miller’s activities on or near Cearfoss Pike, I really didn’t think that he would be living south of Hagerstown. I was probably wrong, and of course, now I wish I had taken that side trip.

Michael did own that land and he could have been living on Miller’s Fancy. In the deed where he conveys the Skipton on Craven land to his step children’s spouses, Jacob Good and John Rife, the deeds say “the land where they now live” indicating that it’s where they live, not where Michael lives.  But Michael continues to pay the taxes on part of the land he sold to his step-children’s spouses.  He had to live someplace.  Is that tax money his “rent” for the rest of his life?

Mason believes that Michael lived on 36 acres of Miller’s Fancy and 8 acres of Well Taught. That doesn’t seem like enough land to support a family, but then again, maybe Michael didn’t need to support a family anymore.

In general terms, the area where Michael Miller’s land lay on the Antietam Creeks was near Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Miller Antietam map

One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War was fought here. This iconic image of the Battle of Antietam where the Confederate and Union dead lie together in front of the Brethren Church has become symbolic of the war itself. This battle was found on the land of the descendants of Michael Miller.

Miller Brethen church Antietam

The intersection of Antietam and Little Antietam Creek is on Keedysville Road.

Antietam and Little Antietam

A closer look at the intersection of Antietam and Little Antietam

Intersection Antietam and Little Antietam

This is the bridge over Little Antietam Creek.

Bridge Little Antietam

Looking at Little Antietam from the bridge.

Curve Little Antietam

If the description of where Michael Miller lived is accurate, he lived on the curve where Antietam Creek intersects with Little Antietam, below.

Antietam curve

This is the curve where Little Antietam intersects with Antietam. Antietam is on the left.

Barn Little Antietam

This barn is actually on the curve with the river slightly visible behind the barn. Was this where Michael’s barn stood?  Was this Michael’s barn?  It’s certainly in the right location.

Bridge Antietam

This is the bridge over Antietam Creek.

Of course, Floyd Miller believes that Michael’s land was northeast of Hagerstown and Maugansville, as shown on his map with circle #4. Perhaps one day a future generation of Miller researchers will run the deeds backwards and forward in time and resolve this mystery once and for all.  If we’re extremely lucky, an old cemetery will be discovered on one of these parcels.

Michael’s Children

Because Michael did not have a will, we only know of three or four children positively, and a possible fifth. The rest of the individuals attributed to Michael elsewhere are speculation.  If someone does have other children and documentation for such, I would love to add that child.  I have not included any speculative children below.

  • Hans (probably Johann) Peter Mueller, baptized on January 19, 1715, at Konken, Germany. We don’t know if this child lived to adulthood. If so, he would probably have married when the family was living in Chester Co, PA. He may be John Miller below.
  • Lodowich Miller born 1724 or earlier in Germany. Migrated with his parents and lived in or near Hanover, PA and Hagerstown, MD before marrying Barbara, surname unknown, and migrating to Rockingham Co., VA about 1782 where he likely died in 1792.
  • Philip Jacob Miller born about 1726 in Germany. Migrated with his parents and lived near Hanover, York Co., PA. Inherited land from his father in present day Washington County, MD near Maugensville. Married Magdalena, probably in York County, who was reported to be a Rochette. He remained in Frederick County until 1796 when he, along with his children, migrated to Campbell County, KY where he died in 1799.
  • John Miller inherits part of Ash Swamp from Michael in 1765 and lived there until he died in 1795, likely being buried on his own land on a 50 by 50 foot cemetery plot, now lost to time. He may be Hans Peter Mueller born in 1715.
  • Hans Michael Miller is given money to purchase land.
  • Michael Miller Junior is given land.

There exists some confusion between John Miller and Johann Peter Miller. In some cases, John, who inherited part of Ash Swamp is referenced as Johann Peter.  If this is the case, then we know that Johann Peter did live and what happened to him.  However, it also means that it reduces the number of children we know about.

Various researchers attribute Michael and Susanna with anyplace from 7 to 12 children. Given that they were married for 17 childbearing years, they would probably have had between 9 and 12 children.  It’s unlikely that their children all lived.

It seems that any male with the surname Miller living in the region gets attached as a son. Miller is an extremely common occupation name in Germany.  After all, every village had at least one miller, so there are lots of German Millers.

It’s certainly possible that the Jacob Miller and family who were massacred were Michael’s son and grandchildren, but we don’t know and we have no real evidence to suspect – other than the surname in the same place and time.

There is a Barbara who marries a Garber who is often credited with being Johann Michael Mueller’s daughter – and while she might be – there is no evidence that she is – not even land transactions. It would be interesting to see if any of Barbara’s descendants match any of Michael’s descendants utilizing autosomal DNA – assuming they share no other lines.  Given the level of endogamy in the Brethren community, that’s a tough criteria to meet – assuming you do know the surnames of all of the females.  Since the Brethren didn’t register their marriages in the counties where they lived, females surnames are particularly troublesome and elusive.

It’s almost assured that Johann Michael Miller and Susanna Agnes Bechtol had additional children. Whether those children lived to adulthood is uncertain.  It’s even uncertain that Hans Michael Miller, above is Michael’s child, especially given the fact that we also have a Michael Miller Jr. involved.  One of these men is probably a grandchild.

It’s ironic that we know more about Michael’s step-children through land transactions where he sells them land than we know about his own children, aside from Philip Jacob, Lodowich and John.

But there is one thing we do know, and it solves a very long and somewhat contentious mystery.

Jacob is Not Michael’s Child

Jacob Miller has been quite a conundrum. Jacob was born about 1735 in Pennsylvania, was a Brethren minister, lived in Frederick County and then moved to Virginia in about 1765.  He eventually moved on to Kentucky.  Eventually, Jacob is found in Montgomery County, Ohio, outside Dayton, when the county was first forming, again with our Miller family.  In fact, Daniel, Michael Miller’s grandson through Philip Jacob Miller buys land from Jacob Miller when Daniel first arrives in Montgomery County.  It has been assumed or postulated for a very long time that Jacob Miller is a son of Michael Miller, but he isn’t. Y DNA testing has shown that these Miller families do not share a common male ancestor.

One of the goals of establishing the Miller-Brethren project in 2009 was to sort through the various Miller individuals associated with the Brethren church as it expanded across America.

It took quite some time to establish the Y DNA signature of Johann Michael Miller. The first two men who believed they were descended from him did not match each other, so we needed to proceed with individuals with well documented genealogy.  Fortunately, we managed to recruit several Miller men and today, we have a total of 6 Miller males who descend from Michael.

Brethren Miller Jacob

In the screen shot above, the Jacob Miller line is lavender.  You can see that it differs significantly from the Johann Michael Miller line, in yellow, below. You can click to enlarge both graphics.

Brethren Miller Michael

You may also have noticed that one the men who descends from the Elder Jacob Miller line thought that he descended from the Johann Michael Miller line. This certainly is not an uncommon occurrence and sorting through situations like this was indeed part of the project goals.  It’s very difficult to tell the difference between people of the same name in the same county at the same time subscribing to the same religion.  Thank goodness for the tool of Y DNA.

One of the surprising aspects of this project is that there were so many different Miller lines associated with the Brethren or found in the counties where the Brethren Millers were known to be living – including a second and third Johann Michael Miller. We have 15 groups in total, plus a few people who remain in the “non-Brethren” or ungrouped groups for various reasons.

We invite all male Millers who have Brethren heritage in their Miller line or who think they might descend from Johann Michael Mueller to test at Family Tree DNA.  Please purchase the Y DNA 37 or 67 marker test and the Family Finder autosomal test as well, if the budget will allow both tests.

As more people test, hopefully Miller males who descend from “possible sons” of Johann Michael Miller, we should be able to either confirm more of his sons or put those rumors to rest once and for all.



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Giving the Gift of Memories

The holiday season is so chocked full of memories. We don’t realize as we celebrate these seasons, as children and young adults, that we’re making memories, but we are.  They will come back to warm us as we age.  In the end, the memories of those early years will be all we have – so cherish every shred of them.

A few years ago, after my mother passed away, I took all of the old family photos I could find and sorted them into categories. I have since written several “books,” but I don’t think of them as books because the idea of writing a book is too daunting.

So, what I did instead, is grouped the pictures into logical assemblages and then wrote the family stories about them.  I then printed these and gave them as gifts.

What “books” do I have now?

The Family Christmas Book

I bought this book for Mom in 1987.  It’s a “blank” book that you fill in every year.  Mom did more than answer the questions, she included photos and clippings of interest for that year, mostly about her grandchildren.  She kept this faithfully, in her own handwriting, until she couldn’t any more.

This book is incredibly valuable, an heirloom, and makes me cry every time I see it. I scanned this book and gave it as a Christmas gift to her grandchildren after her passing.

christmas book page 2

What a year this was.  Two trips, awards, ribbons, a tornado, my Dad shot himself……and then a hilarious episode wherein my daughter, Mother and I rescued a baby bird.  I won’t bore you with this, but I guarantee you, my daughter will burst out laughing at the mere mention.

I must admit, some of these are exceptionally difficult for me to read, still.  I must be my mother’s daughter, because I cry more at Christmas time than any other time of the year. I don’t want to paint the Christmas memory book as negative though, because as I look through the book, I smile at the good memories she recorded from her perspective.  And I am exceedingly, exceedingly grateful to have her stories in her words and in her own penmanship.

Mom included lots of things that happened during the years.  For example, when her grandkids hit home runs, or even just managed to hit the t-ball, were on the honor roll, or won a ribbon at the local 4H fair.  She even recorded which grandchild came over and helped her decorate her Christmas tree, the weather at Christmas, which made a huge difference in who visited when, and everyone who came by to visit.

In the photo below, Mom and I are at an awards banquet together.  Someone must have taken this photo with her camera, because I never saw it until I opened this book after her passing.

Mom Me Awards 1988

Mom’s Recipe Box

Everyone’s all-time favorite book is Mom’s recipe box. I used it just this morning.  There was only one “recipe box” and Mom had two children.  Those recipes are so full of memories.  I scanned each one and then wrote about my memories of that recipe.  Of all the gifts I’ve ever given, I think this one, from me and Mom, is the most utilized.

Mom's recipe box

One of our favorite recipes – gingerbread of course.

gingerbread original

This recipe card may look dirty and messy to you – but to me, it’s the spice of my mother’s life as she made this recipe repeatedly over the years. It even reaches back to my grandmother’s generation with Mom’s note about what her mother did.  Yes, there is a second copy on a newer, cleaner card – but I love this vintage one.

Later this weekend, we’re making new memories by having a holiday “taste-off” between Mom’s traditional gingerbread recipe and a newer one. Both, however, will be topped with home-made whipped cream – so everyone wins!

Family Christmas Ornaments

I photographed every single Christmas ornament and wrote what I know about its history. I also assembled the various heritage tree photos. This picture, from 1956 is only one of two photos in existence of my grandparents 4 grandchildren together.

Grandmother's tree grandkids

This ornament was one of those on my grandmother’s tree, above.

grandmother's tree ornament

I have photos of it on Mom’s trees and now of course, on my own as well. My new family tradition is that I let each of my grandchildren select an ornament from my tree each year and I tell them the story behind that ornament.  They have a special ornament box to hold all of the “grandma ornaments.”

The Dancing Years

Mom Dancing slick crop

My mother was a professional tap and ballet dancer. Her early years were spent in Chicago and touring with a professional company.

My mother and grandmother both kept scrapbooks of this time, full of newspaper articles, reviews, ads, theater billboards and photos.

My Mom, especially in later years, was a bit embarrassed by all of the attention and few people really knew about her early dancing career.  Not what one really expects from a Baptist church Deacon with Brethren grandparents.  She was truly one of a kind.

Mom was a dance student for years, then taught, then was a professional dancer. This book isn’t just about her dancing, but intersperses the rest of her life during that time, like church camps and high school events.  It was interesting to discover that one of her dance “reviews” was the same day she graduated – and she performed – probably going from her graduation directly to Fort Wayne to the Masonic Theater.

One of my favorite stories from this timeframe was when my uncle painted my mother’s face. He was supposed to be painting the screens on the front porch with black paint to keep them from rusting.  Mom and her cat were in the way, so he dobbed the cat’s nose with paint.  Mom was furious, cleaned up the cat and started yelling at him – which of course was the entire point of his actions – to upset his sister.

He finally slapped her across the face with the paint brush, full of black paint – and thought it was hilarious.

However, later that afternoon, Mom was supposed to perform on the courthouse lawn for some event in Wabash, Indiana.

Mom ran screaming to her mother, who got the turpentine and started scrubbing Mom’s face. Needless to say, her brother was in a heap of trouble and by the time my grandmother got done with him, no longer thought it was funny.

And yes, Mom did perform, but she said she had never worn more stage makeup for any event – ever.

I wish we had a picture of that.

Kirsch early gen

My mother’s grandfather was Jacob Kirsch, a German immigrant and founder of the Kirsch House, a tavern and hotel in Aurora, Indiana on the Ohio River. This book documents that side of my mother’s family with history and photographs.

Mom went along for much of this research, although I published it after her departure.

Kirsch House 2008

Mom and I found the original building, and at the time we visited, the original bar was still there.

Kirsch House Bar

During that visit, we found a local man, Telford Walker, then in his 80s, who knew Jacob Kirsch when he was an old man, in the 19-teens. Jacob, it turns out, had a glass eye.  He used to pop it out and show it to the local children, including Telford, making them all scream and run away.  Of course, they all came back and he did it all over again.

Mom and I stared at each other dumbstruck. We had no idea. Amazing what you discover about your ancestors!!!!

The Lore of the Lore Family

My grandmother’s maiden name was Lore. Her father, Curtis Benjamin Lore, married Nora, the daughter of Jacob Kirsch.  When I started researching genealogy, Curtis, known as CB, was a mysterious handsome man with no history.  But we found his story, and what a story it is.

Lore of the Lore

CB, shown above at the bottom beside Nora, was a bit of a scoundrel it seems, a rogue – two wives, at the same time, children showing up on his wife’s doorstep after he died, and a family history of Acadians and French voyageurs that would make a soap opera producer jealous. Ewww-la la.  My daughter-in-law just loved this book for the story line.  And I suspect my grandchildren won’t be allowed to read it until they are adults.

I brought this to the current generation, although perhaps I should have split this into two books. There didn’t seem to be a good stopping point.

3 gen quilt crop

My mother’s grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore, was an extraordinary quilter. My mother, my daughter and I are standing in front of her quilt that represented the State of Indiana in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

I included lots of family stories in these books, like the story about when the family visited this quilt at the World’s Fair. It was during the Great Depression, so they could not afford an overnight nor to buy food along the way.  They packed picnics and ate in the car or at roadside tables, which were common then.

My grandparents, Mom, her brother and Nora left in the middle of the night, in an old Model T Ford, and drove from Silver Lake, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois, visited the fair, saw the quilt, and drove back home.  In all, a 24 hour round trip.  Exhausting, yes, but the experience of a lifetime and something none of them would ever forget.  Mom talked about seeing her grandmother’s quilt in the Sears Pavilion for years.

Mom dna report

Of course I wrote a Personalized DNA Report for my mother before she passed.  I’ve updated this a couple of times since, with new discoveries as more people tested.  I have given copies to all of her grandchildren.

Mom absolutely loved this report, written in an understandable story fashion and including our family photos.  Her last Christmas letter was all about what her DNA told her about her ancestors.  And yes, these reports are available as Personalized DNA Reports today either through my website or through Family Tree DNA, although I only accept a very limited number of orders, which is why I seldom mention them.  One of Mom’s extremely prophetic comments after she read her report was, “You should do these for people.”  Well, Mom, thanks, and I do.

Holiday Giving

No matter what faith you practice, and no matter when you celebrate – the gift of memories is the best gift you can ever give. Make good ones, memorable ones – and then document the ones your ancestors left behind.  If you don’t, no one will ever know that your great-grandfather had two wives at the same time, that your German great-great grandfather tortured young children by removing his glass eye, or that your great-grandmother was a world class quilter.

And don’t forget those DNA tests either, because they can reach further back in time than stories ever can.

What family stories and legends are waiting for you to document and pass them on in your family?

Have a wonderful and joyous holiday!!!



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Roy Eastes – A Shining Example

Some things….they’re just hard….really hard.

My cousin, Roy Eastes has been such an inspiration to me and others for decades now, and he passed over this week, just two days after his 94th birthday.

Yep, earned his wings. Finally free from pain.  Gets to see his beloved wife again.  Meeting the ancestors.  Good for him.  Sad for those of us left behind.

Roy 2004

Roy was my very first DNA project co-administrator on my first DNA project.  And he was a very, very unlikely candidate.  I kind of thought of us as Mutt and Jeff, but we were indeed a dynamic duo and he made every escapade fun.  I loved working with Roy and just having someone who was as excited as I was about every little discovery made sharing the journey wonderful.  We had a special kind of camaraderie, even though he was clearly old enough to be my father – and he was somewhat of a character.

Why was Roy such an unlikely project administrator candidate? Well, because he was too old, too set in his ways, too unhealthy and too uneducated in the science of genetic genealogy.  At least, that’s what he told me.

I am 81 and have been in bad health for the past 10 years. I am pretty much confined and can’t get out but very little.  My wife Berniece is 80 an has had two light strokes but gets around real well with a walker. We joke and say that we get up in the mornings and flip a coin to see who takes care of who!! I can only piddle with this stuff a little bit each day but like to keep up with what’s going on!

But he wasn’t too old or too disabled, and he made up for all of those things with tenacity and sheer, utter commitment and perseverance. He was a pit bull, not a piddler…except I don’t want to offend any pit bulls out there.

I first came to know Roy in the Estes family research community over the years. We all lurked on Rootsweb and posting questions and finds back and forth beginning in the early 1990s.

In 2003, Roy told me that he had been researching Estes family history for 55 years and he had made it his top retirement objective in 1983. I hate to tell you this, but Roy started with his genealogy significantly before I was born.  I don’t think my Dad’s eyes were even twinkling yet or that he had met my Mom.

But Roy had a problem. He was stuck on his Estes line with an Elisha who died in Roane County, TN in 1819.


Really stuck.

As in brick wall stuck.

Roy knew that there were several Estes men who were candidates to be Elisha’s father, but who was? And did these men all descend from the immigrant Abraham Estes, or did some of the Estes men in the late 1700s descend from other, perhaps unrelated immigrants?

When you’ve been through all the records, there just isn’t anyplace more to go unless you can find a record in a different location that connects the two families together – family history becomes impossible and you have reached a dead end.

The other alternative, at least today, is DNA testing.

In 2003 when I first really began recruiting for the Estes surname project, Roy jumped at the chance to participate. He didn’t know what he’d find, but he knew he stood a better chance of finding something and anything was more than he already knew.

Roy ordered kit number 11,727 in July of 2003.

He told me he was too old to understand “any of this,” but after I explained it to him, he began explaining it to others. So, Roy, at a mere 81 years of age wasn’t too old at all.

Roy wanted to know who else was participating in DNA testing from the Estes community, because he understood the success of his own goals depended on other male Estes’s with proven genealogical descent from Abraham taking the Y DNA test. So, he began recruiting people himself.

After Roy’s initial recruiting drive which included calling every other Estes male researcher he knew AND writing letters, he told me that he had, after he retired, entered every Estes family he could find into his genealogy software. Most of these lines had been documented somewhat in at least one earlier published book, but that was only the beginning for Roy.  He added his own research and that of anyone who would send him sourced information.

In 2003, I asked Roy to be my Estes DNA project co-administrator. He assured me he could not do that, for the same list of reasons he always gave me…too this or too that…but I knew better.  I wasn’t sure exactly how everything would work out.  After all, this was my first project and I was learning too.  But I knew for sure that Roy had one invaluable asset – enthusiasm and a willingness to reach out to people and to learn.  Plus, Roy was extremely motivated by his own brick wall interests.

I suggested that Roy and I split the tasks and that I’d take the genetics and he could help people with the genealogy part. We agreed, but that was before all of the DNA results began coming in.

A few weeks later, Roy, who was “too old” to understand the genetics, was sending me spreadsheets comparing the various Estes lines, their mutations and trying to figure out which of Abraham’s sons he descended from. We knew by that time that Roy’s line did indeed match the DNA of Abraham the immigrant, so either Abraham was his ancestor or they shared a common ancestor.

It’s amazing what a little motivation can do – Roy could and did understand Y DNA just fine.

Roy asked me about doing a webpage. I told him that was not my area of expertise.  Then, he told me he was unable at his age to learn anything like web programming.

About two weeks later, he mentioned that he was learning html, a web programming language, so he could write his own web page. I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought to myself, “Good luck with that.”

Another few weeks later, I received a link to something that looked a lot like this:

Roy home page

He had taught himself html at age 82 or 83 and constructed a genealogy webpage that still exists today. This man puts me to shame!

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a bit of a turning point in Roy’s life, the beginning of a final set of chapters. Not only was it devastating, Roy refused to evacuate.  I begged him to come, family, wife, wheelchairs, pets, everyone and whatever he wanted to bring to stay with us indefinitely.  He told me he would live or die, but it would be right there – and he stayed in Gulfport, Mississippi.  We couldn’t contact Roy for days and days.  I never told him that another cousin died in that hurricane and how desperately worried we were. His mortality became crystal clear to him, his priorities shifted, and he began to work fervently on his bucket list.

Shortly thereafter, Roy told me he was too unhealthy to continue his website, and while I fervently hoped he was wrong, I did accept the gift of Roy’s website which Estes family archivist, David Powell has graciously incorporated as part of his website today, where you can visit it at

Over the next few years, now entirely wheelchair bound, Roy authored several books, the last of which was published in 2009. Roy wrote a large and beautifully detailed book about his Estes family history, but that book didn’t sell one single copy.  Know why?  Roy gave it away, to anyone and everyone who wanted it.

Roy was a true historian, questioning everything, driving us all to distraction sometimes requesting documentation, and digging up not only the improbable but seemingly, the impossible. His stringent military training and just under four decades of service never left him and served us all very well.  In fact, Roy poked around until he discovered the Bobbitt family whose Bible page included a record that Abraham Estes had sailed with their family immigrant on the same ship, the Martha, arriving in January 1674 at City Point, Virginia.

Bobbit Bible

As Roy and his wife’s health both deteriorated, he did have to give up his DNA project co-administrator duties and he was preparing for the inevitable day when he would no longer be here. He signed an affadivit, for example, allowing me access to his DNA forever.  That was before Family Tree DNA had their Beneficiary page for you to designate a beneficiary for your DNA.  Roy was absolutely committed to genealogy and genetic genealogy, both today and in the future when he just knew all of the answers would be unraveled.

After Roy’s wife passed away, he began living in an assisted living facility and gave up his research “cave” for a laptop. He was still involved, gladly shared his work, and encouraged anyone and everyone who would listen for half a minute…that was…until the beast called Alzheimer’s began to steal his life away.

These last few months have been exceedingly difficult, watching the once vibrant and outstanding researcher descend into the darkness of confusion. We still loved Roy of course, and we still wrote to him and shared finds with him, but his answers often no longer made sense.  But Roy knew we cared about him and sometimes a cognizant e-mail would slip in among the rest.  Those were doubly sad, because he clearly knew what he was losing as he slipped beneath the waves.  Those were heart-wrenching moments of terrifying clarity.

As I’ve looked back through Roy’s e-mails and letters these past few days, one of his e-mails really stands out in terms of clarity and prophecy.

I think when the dust clears with the DNA project we will find some fantastic information. I don’t expect this in my life time but you have really started a great thing in the project!

I will say this – My predictions are future research will show that:

  1. Nicholas Ewstas was not connected to The House of Este.
  2. Nicholas will be found connected to the Eustice line.
  3. The basic line will be traced back to the Flanders area.

Other predictions that will be proven :

  1. The spouse of Abraham Sr, was not Barbara Brock.
  2. Abraham was not an indentured servant as such.
  3. There are errors in the list of children of Abraham and Barbara that we now accept.

I only wish I knew 30 years ago what we know now! Then I would have had the time and resources to check into these things!

To date, we have evidence that indeed, Nicholas Ewstas was most likely not connected to the House of Este. The connection to the Eustice line depends on which line and who is spelling the surname.  And yes, the Estes line, first found in Kent, did come from mainland Europe – but apparently not Italy.  Big Y testing on a group of Estes men with known and proven descent helped to sort this out.  Roy didn’t get to participate in that testing, because his line is not proven genealogically beyond Elisha.  DNA can do a lot, but it can’t make up for generational genealogically connected records.

Indeed, Roy is right and there is no evidence to suggest that Abraham’s wife, Barbara, was a Brock.  You can’t prove a negative using DNA, at least not in this case.  I am hopeful that in years to come as we develop tools like ancestor libraries where haplotypes are associated with certain ancestors and lines that we can one day unravel Barbara’s surname.  It may not be in my lifetime either – but it will happen one day.

However, until then, we just don’t know, the county records we need have burned and there is just no way to discover her surname.

Unless, unless….Roy can figure out a way to tell us her name. I know, for a fact, that the first thing Roy did after greeting Berniece and his dog was to find Abraham and Barbara and ask about her surname.

Roy wasn’t too old, too disabled, too uneducated in genetic genealogy or too anything else.  He was just the opposite, extremely capable.  Roy jumped right in, in his 80s and made an unparalleled contribution on several fronts, including genetic genealogy.  And now that he is actually ON the other side, WITH those ancestors… I’m hoping against hope that Roy isn’t too far away.  I know that if there is any way for Roy to get us that surname information, he will.  And I’m counting on him.

Just so you know, Roy, I’m leaving a pad of paper out with a pen, right by the Christmas tree:)

Roy has served as a personal inspiration for me now, for years. I used to think of Roy and say to myself, thinking of him confined to his wheelchair and always working through some level of chronic pain, “If Roy can do THAT, I can surely do this.”  Roy leaves a huge legacy behind.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that you are never “too” anything, unless you decide you are.  However, if you don’t DO something, eventually, you will be too late. Roy wasn’t too late, he just left too soon.  I miss you partner.

Rest in peace Roy, right after you send me that surname:)



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Charlemagne (742/748-814), Holy Roman Emperor, 52 Ancestors #103

Charlemagne statue

“Charlemagne Agostino Cornacchini Vatican 2” by Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Above, a 1725 statue representing Charlemagne housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Wow, do I ever have a lot of cousins.  According to Graham Coop, everyone in Europe today is descended from Charlemagne.  Which either means I’m special and so is everyone else, or we’re all just normal.  National Geographic wrote an article about the results of the Coop study in more easily readable verbiage, here.  The Coop team also wrote a nontechnical FAQ, here.

In 2002, Steven Olson wrote this verbiage in the Atlantic magazine about the work of statistician Joseph Chang:

The most recent common ancestor of every European today (except for recent immigrants to the Continent) was someone who lived in Europe in the surprisingly recent past—only about 600 years ago. In other words, all Europeans alive today have among their ancestors the same man or woman who lived around 1400. Before that date, according to Chang’s model, the number of ancestors common to all Europeans today increased, until, about a thousand years ago, a peculiar situation prevailed: 20 percent of the adult Europeans alive in 1000 would turn out to be the ancestors of no one living today (that is, they had no children or all their descendants eventually died childless); each of the remaining 80 percent would turn out to be a direct ancestor of every European living today.

Now, granted, Charlemagne was indeed prolific, siring 18 known children.  I guess I’m just lucky in that I descend from two known children, one who was the King of Italy and one who was the King of France.  I must tell you, all this king stuff sounds very surreal to me.

Charlemagne chart crop

Now, the bad news.  In spite of all of these children, it appears that none of Charlemagne’s male lines survived more than a dozen or so generations.  In generation 8, only two descendants produced a male child, so that severely limited the possibilities for his Y DNA to reproduce – and it didn’t.  It apparently died out in 1122 with the death of the last male in an illegitimate line through Charlemagne’s son, Pepin of Italy.  This means that today, we don’t know what Charlemagne’s Y DNA looked like.  That’s very disappointing.

By the same token, Charlemagne could not pass on his own mtDNA.  To find that information, we’d have to find a female sibling or someone from his mother’s line who descends from a matrilineal female through all females to the current generation.  We don’t have that either.

And as for autosomal DNA…well, we have two problems.  The first is that Charlemagne is so far back in my or anyone else’s lineage – between 40 and 49 generations roughly – that we would carry very little if any of his DNA today…and there is no way to assure that we don’t have other common lines too.  In fact, at that distant point, it far more likely that we do share other common lines that we don’t, especially given what Graham Coop’s paper indicates.

So, Charlemagne’s autosomal DNA hasn’t been identified either.  Short of digging him up, I’m doubting we’ll know much more.  Actually, poor Charlemagne has been dug up, several times in fact, and parts of him given away as religious relics.  In 1988 scientists tried to reassemble him, and their report was delivered 26 years later, without DNA unfortunately, but confirming as best they can that the remains they have, shown in the photo below, are indeed Charlemagne.  I must say, it’s a very odd feeling to look at the bones of my ancestor, reassembled during the study.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the bones or even one bone of any of my ancestors before now.  I’m not exactly sure what I think of this.

Charlemagne bones

I’m striking out here genetically, although I’m hopeful for the future since his bones are already exhumed.  To begin with, DNA could tell us if all of those bones are really from the same person.  If they are, or most of them are from the same person, it’s more likely to be Charlemagne.  We could potentially tell when and where this skeletal person lived from isotope testing as well, which could help us confirm or eliminate the possibility that these skeletal remains are Charlemagne.  Y and mitochondrial DNA would tell us a lot about his ancestors, and therefore, ours too.  I hope this avenue is being pursued.

Let’s see what we can discover about Charlemagne outside of genetic genealogy.

Charlemagne’s Birth and Ascent to Power

Charlemagne was born on April 2, in either 742, 747 or 748 and died on January 28, 814.  No, those aren’t typos, they are genuinely three digit years.  It’s hard for me to come to grips with the fact that I have ancestors that I can identify that were born 1270 years ago.

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short and his mother, Bertrada of Laon.  He was of the Carolingian dynasty and was, of course, Catholic. In fact, Charlemagne was DEVOUTLY Catholic, which plays a big part in the decisions he made in his lifetime.  Either that, or he used his religious fervor as an excuse for his invasions of other non-Christian domains.  It’s much easier to track the history of what he did rather than to discern his motivations.

The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD.

Charlemagne Carolingian chart

This Carolingian family tree, above, dates from the Chronicon Universale of Ekkehard of Aura from the 12th century, but reflects earlier generations.  The Carolingian empire came to a close not long after after Charlemagne’s rule, about 888.

The name “Carolingian” was in Medieval Latin, karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German karling or kerling, meaning “descendant of Charles.”

Charlemagne’s birth year remains uncertain.  The most likely year of Charlemagne’s birth is reconstructed from several sources. The date of 742, calculated from Einhard’s date of death of January 814 at age 72, predates the marriage of his parents in 744.  Einhard was a Frankish scholar and servant of Charlemagne (and his son) who also served as Charlemagne’s biographer – thankfully.

The year given in the Annales Petaviani, a year by year history of the Carolingina empire, 747, would be more likely, except that it contradicts Einhard and a few other sources in making Charlemagne seventy years old at his death. The month and day of April 2 is established by a calendar from Lorsch Abbey.

In 747, that day fell on Easter, a coincidence that likely would have been remarked upon by chroniclers but was not. If Easter was being used as the beginning of the calendar year, then April 2, 747 could have been, by modern reckoning, April 2, 748 (not on Easter). The date favored by the preponderance of evidence is April 2, 742, based on Charlemagne’s being a septuagenarian at the time of his death. This date would appear to suggest that Charlemagne was born illegitimately, which is not mentioned by Einhard.

Einhard said the following:

It would be folly, I think, to write a word concerning Charles’ birth and infancy, or even his boyhood, for nothing has ever been written on the subject, and there is no one alive now who can give information on it. Accordingly, I determined to pass that by as unknown, and to proceed at once to treat of his character, his deeds, and such other facts of his life as are worth telling and setting forth, and shall first give an account of his deeds at home and abroad, then of his character and pursuits, and lastly of his administration and death, omitting nothing worth knowing or necessary to know.

We also don’t know where Charlemagne was born, but Aachen in today’s Germany has been suggested.

Charlemagne became king in 768 following the death of his father. He was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. Carloman’s sudden death in 771 under unexplained circumstances, left Charlemagne as the undisputed ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. Charlemagne continued his father’s policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain. He also campaigned against the Saxons to his east, Christianizing them upon penalty of death, leading to events such as the Massacre of Verden in which 4500 captive Saxons were slaughtered.  Charlemagne was not always a kind man – but history remembers him as an exceedingly effective ruler.

Charlemagne and Pipin the Hunchback

Above, Charlemagne on the left and his son, Pepin the Hunchback, who revolted against his father.  Pepin the Hunchback was subsequently censured and exiled to a monastery instead of put to death after his father commuted his death sentence.

We don’t know how much this drawing actually looks like Charlemagne since it is a 10th century copy of a lost original from about 830.

In this next drawing, Charlemagne instructs his son, Louis the Pious.

Charlemagne and Louis the Pious

Charlemagne was also known as both Charles the Great (Carolus Magnus) or Charles the First.  He became the King of the Franks beginning in 768 with the death of his father and King of Italy beginning in 774.  He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor (Imperator Augustus) in the now demolished Old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (shown sketched below between 1483-1506) on Christmas Day in the year 800 and he ruled in that position until his death.

Charlemagne Old St. Peters

This fresco below shows a cutaway view of the Old St. Peter’s from the 4th century, so it looked much like it would have to Charlemagne.  This basilica is built over the location believed to be the burial site of St. Peter.

Charlemagne St Peters cutaway

Today, a new St. Peter’s Basilica stands on this site, the dome visible from the Ponte Umberto I on the Tiber River, below.

"Vatican City at Large" by Sébastien Bertrand from Paris, France - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

“Vatican City at Large” by Sébastien Bertrand from Paris, France – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

Although he already ruled both Italy and France, becoming the Holy Roman Emperor bestowed upon him divine grace and a Godly legitimacy sanctioned by the Pope.

This painting from 1516-1517 by Raphael by depicts Charlemagne’s coronation.

"Raphael Charlemagne" by Raphael - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“Raphael Charlemagne” by Raphael – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Charlemagne’s Rule

Charlemagne map 800

Called the “Father of Europe” (pater Europae), Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire and laid the foundations for both modern France and Germany. His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of energetic cultural and intellectual activity within the Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.

Charlemagne didn’t seem to stay home much.  In fact, this military and political history reads like a soap opera, with intrigue, betrayals, a brother who died in unexplained circumstances, but apparently of natural causes, invasions, rebellions and saving an injured Pope.  His life was assuredly interesting and it’s nothing short of amazing that he managed to live past 70 and did not die on the battlefield.

Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant warfare throughout his reign, often at the head of his elite scara bodyguard squadrons, with his legendary sword Joyeuse in hand.

Charlemagne sword

“Épée de charlemagne” by Chatsam – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Joyeuse is stunningly beautiful and is on display in the Louvre today.

"Epée Joyeuse" by Siren-Com - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Epée Joyeuse” by Siren-Com – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

It just kills me that I have been in this building with this sword but didn’t know at that time that Charlemagne was my ancestor.

The 11th century “Song of Roland” describes the sword:

[Charlemagne] was wearing his fine white coat of mail and his helmet with gold-studded stones; by his side hung Joyeuse, and never was there a sword to match it; its colour changed thirty times a day.

Some seven hundred years later, Bulfinch’s Mythology described Charlemagne using Joyeuse to behead the Saracen commander Corsuble as well as to knight his comrade Ogier the Dane.

The town of Joyeuse, in Ardèche, is supposedly named after the sword.  Joyeuse was allegedly lost in a battle and retrieved by one of the knights of Charlemagne; to thank him, Charlemagne granted him an appanage (estate) named Joyeuse.

Today, Joyeuse is used as the French coronation sword.

Charlemagne’s Additions to His Empire

Charlemagne spent his entire life increasing the size and power of his empire, some of which was done under the banner of expanding Christianity to the Muslim world and to the pagan Saxons as well.

The map below shows the land that Charlemagne added to the Frankish Kingdom.

"Frankish Empire 481 to 814-en" by Sémhur - Own work, from Image:Frankish empire.jpg, itself from File:Growth of Frankish Power, 481-814.jpg, from the Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd (Shepherd, William. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911.). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Frankish Empire 481 to 814-en” by Sémhur – Own work, from Image:Frankish empire.jpg, itself from File:Growth of Frankish Power, 481-814.jpg, from the Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd (Shepherd, William. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911.). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s reign of Aquitaine began in 768 with the death of his father, although it was initially a joint reign with his brother, Carloman, with whom he had, at best, lukewarm relations fostered by his mother.

It didn’t take long after Charlemagne’s father death for trouble to brew.

In 769, a small uprising in the Basque region was subdued, but that region was unstable for years, a constant thorn in Charlemagne’s side.  Finally, in 781, Charlemagne proclaimed his son, Louis the Pious, then a young child, the first Frankish king of the area, assuring loyalty and displacing those whose loyalty he had reason to doubt.

In 770 Charlemagne married the daughter, Desiderada, of a Lombard King as a political move to form an alliance with her father and in doing so, surround  brother Carloman with Charlemagne’s allies.  However, by the end of 771, Carloman was dead and Charlemagne no longer needed the marriage with Desiderada, so he repudiated her and set her aside to marry 13 year old Hildegard.

In rejecting Desiderada, Charlemagne incurred the wrath of her father, the Italian King Desiderius.  Carloman’s widow and children took refuge in King Desiderius’ court at Pavia for protection.

This drawing is of the Carolingian cavalry from that timeframe.

"Karolingische-reiterei-st-gallen-stiftsbibliothek 1-330x400". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“Karolingische-reiterei-st-gallen-stiftsbibliothek 1-330×400”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Sometimes Charlemagne’s military campaigns overlapped each other.  In the Saxon Wars, spanning thirty years and eighteen battles, Charlemagne eventually conquered and subdued Saxonia.  The conquering part wasn’t terribly difficult, most of the time, but the subdueing part proved nearly impossible.  Charlemagne proceeded to convert the conquered to Christianity, beginning in 773 with his campaign against the Engrians where he cut down the Saxon pagan pillar of Irminsul.  However, trouble in Italy caused that campaign to be cut short.

In 773, Charlemagne and his uncle crossed the Alps, chasing the Lombards back to Pavia which he then besieged.

Charlemagne met the Lombards at the pass in Susa Valley, shown below.

Charlemagne Susa Valley

“Susatal” by Fotogian from it. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

By 774, the siege of Pavia was over and Charlemagne had himself declared King of the Franks and Lombards and crowned with the traditional “Iron Crown of the Lombards.”

"Iron Crown" by James Steakley - photographed in the Theodelinda Chapel of the cathedral of Monza. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Iron Crown” by James Steakley – photographed in the Theodelinda Chapel of the cathedral of Monza. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

This crown is called “The Iron Crown” because of the narrow band of iron within the crown said to have been beaten out of the nail used at the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

In 776, Charlemagne was back in Saxony, having subdued the Saxons and causing their leader, Widukind, to seek refuge in Denmark.  Many Saxons were baptized as Christians.

Although the Lombards surrendered, all was not quiet on that front.  In 776, Charlemagne rushed back from Saxony to squelch a rebellion in Lombardy.

In 778, Charlemagne turned back southwards and tried to overpower the Muslim Saracen rulers of Barcelona and nearby areas.  He marched to face them, meeting them at Saragossa.  He received homage from them, but their cities did not fall.

Charlemagne was facing the toughest battle of his career where the Muslims had the upper hand and forced him to retreat. He decided to go home, since he could not trust the Basques, whom he had subdued by conquering Pamplona. He turned to leave Iberia, but as he was passing through the Pass of Roncesvalles (shown below) one of the most famous events of his long reign occurred.

Charlemagne Roncesvalles

The Basques fell on his rearguard and baggage train, utterly destroying it. The Battle of Roncevaux Pass, though less a battle than a mere skirmish, left many famous dead, including the seneschal Eggihard, the count of the palace Anselm, and the warden of the Breton March, Roland, inspiring the subsequent creation of the Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland).

Charlemagne battle tapestry

This tapestry portraying the Battle of Roncevaux Pass was woven between 1475 and 1500.

In 779, while Charlemagne was focused elsewhere, Saxony again revolted and he again invaded and reconquered.  I’m sure by now he wondered how many times he had to do this.  He divided the land into missionary districts and personally assisted with the baptisms of masses at Lippe.

From 780-782, Saxony was quiet.  Charlemagne was back in Italy during this time.

In 782, Charlemagne returned to Saxony and was not pleased that the majority of the population was still pagan.  He implemented draconian laws prescribing death to Saxon pagans who refused to convert to Christianity.  This spurred the return of their leader, Widukind, and was followed by three years of bloody battles precipitated by the Massacre of Verden wherein Charlemagne executed 4500 trapped Saxon soldiers.  Three long years later, Widukind, defeated, accepted baptism.  At this time, the Frisians were also brought to heel.

In 787, Charlemagne focused on bringing southern Italy into the fold.  He besieged Salerno where Arechis who reigned independently submitted to vassalage.  However, upon his death in 792, Arechis’ son proclaimed independence and Charlemagne never personally returned, and was never able to bring this region fully under his control.

In 788, Charlemagne was back in Gascony trying to once again reign in a rebellion.  He had appointed his son “King” in that region and replaced Gascon individuals in power with his Frankish officers.

In 788, the pagan Asian Avars (Einhard called them Huns) had settled in Hungary and invaded Fruili and Bavaria.  Charlemagne was busy elsewhere until 790, but at the time he marched down the Danube and ravaged Avar territory.  A Lombard army did the same to Pannonia.

In 789, Charlemagne seeing an opportunity, marched into the Slavic Obotrite territory north of the Elbe, encountered little resistance, and subdued the Obotrites, sending in missionaries to convert them.  They became loyal allies, fighting alongside Charlemagne in 795 when the Saxons broke the peace.

In 792, the Saxons rebelled again in Westphalia, breaking several years of peace and distracted Charlemagne from the Avars, occupying him instead with those relentless Saxons.

However, Charlemagne’s troops continued to assault the Avars’ ring-shaped strongholds.  The great Ring of the Avars, their capital fortress, was taken twice. The booty was sent to Charlemagne at his capital, Aachen, and redistributed to all his followers and even to foreign rulers, including King Offa of Mercia. Soon the Avars had lost the will to fight and traveled to Aachen to subject themselves to Charlemagne as vassals and Christians. Charlemagne accepted their surrender and sent one native chief, baptized as Abraham, back to Avaria with the ancient title of khagan, meaning someone who rules an empire. Abraham kept his people in line, but in 800, the Bulgarians under Khan Krum also attacked the remains of Avar state.

Charlemagne Ring of Avars

From time to time, rebellions would flare up in the conquered Saxon territory.  In 793 a rebellion erupted in Eastplania and Bordalbingia, but that uprising was over by 794.  In 796, an Engrian rebellion followed.

In 794, Charlemagne set his eye upon Bavaria and was shortly thereafter dividing the land into Frankish counties, as he had done with Saxony.

From 791 to 806, Charlemagne was focused on taking the County of Toulouse for a power base and asserting his authority over the Pyrenees, making those counties vassals.

In 797, Barcelona, the greatest city of the region, previously held by the Moors, fell to Charlemagne, but was retaken in 799.  However, Louis of Aquitaine marched the entire army of his kingdom over the Pyrenees and besieged it for two years, wintering there from 800 to 801, when it capitulated.  Today, the Moorish influence can be seen in Barcelona in the architecture of the buildings.

Barcelona building

The Medieval influence can be felt in any portion of the old city and in the plazas.

barcelona plaza

I absolutely loved Barcelona when I visited in 2011, having no idea that I had ancestral history here.

Barcelona 2011

Charlemagne viewed his battle with the Muslim Moors as the battle of and for Christianity.  He wanted to convert the Muslims to Christianity.

In 799, Charlemagne conquered the Balaeric Islands, often attacked by Saracen (Moorish and Muladi) pirates.

In either 797 or 801, Charlemagne send a delegation to Baghdad where the caliph of Baghdad presented Charlemagne with an Asian elephant and a clock.  The elephant, Abul-Abbas, was transported to Charlemagne’s headquarters in Aachen where his life was chronicled.  He died in 810, possibly a war elephant, although others report that the elephant was more than 40 years old, had rheumatism, developed pneumonia while on campaign with Charlemagne, and died suddenly.  I don’t think any of my other ancestors had a pet elephant.

In 799, Pope Leo III had been mistreated by the Romans, who tried to put out his eyes and tear out his tongue.  Pope Leo escaped and fled to Charlemagne at Paderborn, asking Charlemagne to intervene in Rome and restore him. Charlemagne, advised by scholar Alcuin of York, agreed to travel to Rome, doing so in November 800 and holding a council on December 1.  On December 23, Leo swore an oath of innocence relative to the charges brought against him, and his accusers were exiled.  Two days later, at Mass, on Christmas Day, December 25th, when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum, “Emperor of the Romans,” in Saint Peter’s Basilica.  It is unclear whether Charlemagne knew this was going to happen or if the coronation was unexpected, a point debated by historians for hundreds of years.

Charlemagne coronation

Miniature of Charlemagne crowned emperor by Pope Leo III, from Chroniques de France ou de Saint Denis, vol. 1; France, second quarter of 14th century.

In 803, Charlemagne sent a Bavarian army into Pannonia ending the Avar confederation.

In 804, one last rebellion occurred in Saxony, but by this time, 30 years after being conquered, most of the original inhabitants were dead and the rest had never known anything but Charlemagne’s rule and warfare.  They were tired of fighting in their homeland.

Einhard tells us:

The war that had lasted so many years was at length ended by their acceding to the terms offered by the King; which were renunciation of their national religious customs and the worship of devils, acceptance of the sacraments of the Christian faith and religion, and union with the Franks to form one people.

In 808, an attack arrived from an unexpected source, the pagan Danes, “a race almost unknown to his ancestors, but destined to be only too well known to his sons,” as Charles Oman described them.  Wikukind, whose wife was Danish, and his allies had taken refuge among the Danes.  The king of the Danes, Godfred, built the vast Danevirke (shown below) across the isthmus of Schleswig. This defense was at its beginning a 30 km (19 mi) long defensive earthenwork rampart. The Danevirke protected Danish land and gave Godfred the opportunity to harass Frisia and Flanders with pirate raids.

Charlemagne danevirke

Godfred invaded Frisia, joked of visiting Aachen, but was murdered before he could do any more, either by a Frankish assassin or by one of his own men. Godfred was succeeded by his nephew Hemming, who concluded the Treaty of Heiligen with Charlemagne in late 811.

Europe at the end of Charlemagne’s rein looked a lot different than it did at the beginning.  The balance of power had shifted dramatically.

"Europe in 814, Charlemagne, Krum, Nicephorus I" by Stolichanin - Europe_plain_rivers.pngThe map is made according to:"World Atlas", part 3: Europe in Middle Ages, Larrouse, Paris, 2002, O. RenieAtlas "History of Bulgaria", Sofia, 1988, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, V. Kamburova"World Atlas", N. Ostrovski, Rome, 1992, p.55Атлас "История на средните векове", Sofia, 1982, G. Gavrilov"History in maps", Johannes Herder, Berlin, 1999, p. 20"European Historical Globus", R. Rusev, 2006, p.117. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Europe in 814, Charlemagne, Krum, Nicephorus I” by Stolichanin – Europe_plain_rivers.pngThe map is made according to:”World Atlas”, part 3: Europe in Middle Ages, Larrouse, Paris, 2002, O. RenieAtlas “History of Bulgaria”, Sofia, 1988, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, V. Kamburova”World Atlas”, N. Ostrovski, Rome, 1992, p.55Атлас “История на средните векове”, Sofia, 1982, G. Gavrilov”History in maps”, Johannes Herder, Berlin, 1999, p. 20″European Historical Globus”, R. Rusev, 2006, p.117. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons


Charlemagne was determined to have his children educated, including his daughters, as he himself was not. Below, we see Charlemagne’s monogram from the subscription of a royal diploma.  Signum Karolvs Karoli gloriosissimi regis.

Charlemagne signum

For an uneducated man, he made amazing changes, including the standardization of the monetary system and instituting principles of accounting practice.

Charlemagne’s children were taught all the arts, and his daughters were learned in the “ways of being a woman.” whatever that meant at the time. His sons participated in archery, horsemanship, and other outdoor activities.  This renaissance of education was referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because it ushered in a new cultural era in which scholarship, literature and art thrived.

Charlemagne was brought into contact with the culture and learning of other countries (especially Moorish Spain, Anglo-Saxon England, and Lombard Italy) as a result of his vast conquests.  He greatly increased the provision of monastic schools and scriptoria (centres for book-copying) in Francia.

Most of the presently surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars. Indeed, the earliest manuscripts available for many ancient texts are Carolingian. It is almost certain that a text which survived to the Carolingian age survives still, thanks to Charlemagne.

Charlemagne took a serious interest in scholarship, promoting the liberal arts at the court, ordering that his children and grandchildren be well-educated.  In a time when even leaders who promoted education did not take time to learn, Charlemagne studied.  Under the tutelage of Peter of Pisa, Charlemagne learned grammar; with Alcuin, he studied rhetoric, dialectic (logic), and astronomy (he was particularly interested in the movements of the stars); and Einhard assisted him in his studies of arithmetic.

Charlemagne’s great scholarly failure, as Einhard relates, was his inability to write: when in his old age he began attempts to learn – practicing the formation of letters in his bed during his free time on books and wax tablets he hid under his pillow – “his effort came too late in life and achieved little success.”  Charlemagne’s ability to read – which Einhard is silent about, and which no contemporary source supports – has also been called into question.

It appears that the man who was personally responsible for the salvation of so much literature was, himself, illiterate.  Charlemagne was however very foresighted and progressive.  What an amazing legacy.

Children and Heirs

Charlemagne had eighteen children over the course of his life with eight of his ten known wives or concubines.  Nonetheless, he only had four legitimate grandsons, the four sons of his fourth son, Louis. In addition, he had a grandson (Bernard of Italy, the only son of his third son, Pippin of Italy), who was born illegitimate, but included in the line of inheritance. So, despite eighteen children, the claimants to his inheritance were few.

Charlemagne’s personal life is somewhat colorful for a devout Catholic, although maybe the cultural aspect of the church at that time was different.  Then again, being the protector of the Pope may have gained Charlemagne special favors or caused some behaviors to be overlooked.Charlemagne children

As I look at the dates, I have to wonder if these women and children all lived in one place and knew each other.  Did the wife and concubine glare at each other when they met in the hallway, or were they more like compatriot sisters?  Did they live in different locations?  Did they consider themselves sucky to be Charlemagne’s partner, or did they wish things were different and that he was monogamous, as they had surely be raised in the Catholic church to expect of a husband.

I found the many references to Charlemagne’s concubines confusing, given his Catholicism and marriages at the same time, so I turned to the Catholic encyclopedia for clarification:

The Council of Toledo, held in 400, in its seventeenth canon legislates as follows for laymen (for ecclesiastical regulations on this head with regard to clerics see Celibacy): after pronouncing sentence of excommunication against any who in addition to a wife keep a concubine, it says: “But if a man has no wife, but a concubine instead of a wife, let him not be refused communion; only let him be content to be united with one woman, whether wife or concubine” (Can. “Is qui”, dist. xxxiv; Mansi, III, col. 1001). The refractory are to be excommunicated until such time as they shall obey and do penance.

It would appear, based on that edict, that Charlemagne’s concubines and extra-curricular activities were overlooked by the church, although many of his children were very active within the church as abbots and abbesses.  Charlemagne recognized and provided in some way for all of his children, legitimate or otherwise.

Charlemagne’s sons fought many wars on behalf of their father when they came of age.

Charles was mostly preoccupied with the Bretons, whose border he shared and who insurrected on at least two occasions and were easily put down, but he was also sent against the Saxons on multiple occasions. In 805 and 806, he was sent into the Böhmerwald (modern Bohemia) to deal with the Slavs living there (Bohemian tribes, ancestors of the modern Czechs). He subjected them to Frankish authority and devastated the valley of the Elbe, forcing a tribute on them.

Pippin had to hold the Avar and Beneventan borders but also fought the Slavs to his north. He was uniquely poised to fight the Byzantine Empire when finally that conflict arose after Charlemagne’s imperial coronation and a Venetian rebellion.

Finally, Louis was in charge of the Spanish March and also went to southern Italy to fight the duke of Benevento on at least one occasion. He took Barcelona in a great siege in 797.

Charlemagne’s attitude toward his daughters has been the subject of much discussion. He kept them at home with him and refused to allow them to contract sacramental marriages – possibly to prevent the creation of cadet branches of the family to challenge the main line, as had been the case with Tassilo of Bavaria – yet he tolerated their extramarital relationships, even rewarding their common-law husbands, and treasured the illegitimate grandchildren they produced for him.  At least one of them, Bertha, had a recognized relationship, if not a marriage, with Angilbert, a member of Charlemagne’s court circle.

Charlemagne also refused to believe stories of their wild behavior. He’s certainly not the first father to do that!

After Charlemagne’s death the surviving daughters were banished from the court by their brother, Louis, to take up residence in the convents they had been bequeathed by their father.  That’s what happens when you are a bit rowdy and your brother who is known as Louis the Pious becomes king.

Charlemagne’s Death

In 806, Charlemagne first made provision for the traditional division of the empire on his death. For Charles the Younger he designated Austrasia and Neustria, Saxony, Burgundy, and Thuringia. To Pippin he gave Italy, Bavaria, and Swabia. Louis received Aquitaine, the Spanish March, and Provence. There was no mention of the imperial title however, which has led to the suggestion that, at that particular time, Charlemagne regarded the title as an honorary achievement which held no hereditary significance.

This division might have worked, but it was never to be tested. Pippin died in 810 and Charles in 811. Charlemagne then reconsidered the matter, and in 813, called Louis the Pious, king of Aquitaine, his only surviving legitimate son, to his court. There Charlemagne crowned his son with his own hands as co-emperor, granting him a half-share of the empire with the rest to follow up on Charlemagne’s death.  Louis the Pious then returned to Aquitaine.  The only part of the Empire which Louis was not promised was Italy, which Charlemagne specifically bestowed upon Pippin’s illegitimate son Bernard.

Charlemagne then spent the autumn hunting before returning to Aachen on November 1st.  In January, he fell ill with pleurisy.  In a deep depression (mostly because many of his plans were not yet realized), he took to his bed on January 21st.  With all Charlemagne did achieve, I can’t imagine what he yet wanted that was severe enough to induce a depression of that magnitude.  Historians attribute his depression to his plans not being realized, but I have to wonder if the deaths of his three sons and two daughters in two years (810-811) didn’t contribute to his depression.  Another daughter had died in 808.  That’s a lot of death in a short time.

Einhard tells us:

He died January twenty-eighth, the seventh day from the time that he took to his bed, at nine o’clock in the morning, after partaking of the Holy Communion, in the seventy-second year of his age and the forty-seventh of his reign.

Charlemagne was buried the same day as his death, in Aachen Cathedral, although the cold weather and the nature of his illness made such a hurried burial unnecessary.  This causes me to wonder why he was buried so quickly.

Charlemagne Aachen Cathedral

Above, the Aachen Cathedral today.

Charlemagne is buried in the Palatine Chapel.  He commissioned its construction in 792 and it was consecrated in 805 by Pope Leo III in honor of the Virgin Mary.

"Aachener Dom Pfalzkapelle vom Münsterplatz 2014" by CaS2000 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aachener Dom Pfalzkapelle vom Münsterplatz 2014” by CaS2000 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s floor plan, below, includes a sixteen-sided ambulatory with a gallery overhead encircling the central octagonal dome.

Charlemagne Aachen floor plan

The plan and decoration owe much to the sixth-century Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. Indeed, Charlemagne visited Ravenna three times, the first in 787. In that year he wrote to Pope Hadrian I and requested “mosaic, marbles, and other materials from floors and walls” in Rome and Ravenna, for his palace.

"Aix dom int vue cote" by Velvet - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aix dom int vue cote” by Velvet – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Interior view of the chapel.  Charlemagne was buried someplace here, although the exact location evades detection.  Theories abound and I have to believe that Charlemagne enjoys every minute of this mystery that his bones visit upon his descendants – which remember, includes all or most of Europe today.

"Königsthron Aachener Dom" by ​German Wikipedia user Holger Weinandt. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Königsthron Aachener Dom” by ​German Wikipedia user Holger Weinandt. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s throne, above, resides in the chapel as well.

Charlemagne shroud Aachen

This piece of fabric is part of Charlemagne’s death shroud, manufactured in Constantinople (present day Istanbul), and represents a quadriga, a cart or chariot that was drawn by 4 horses abreast.  Typically Gods were depicted in this manner.

A later story, told by Otho of Lomello, Count of the Palace at Aachen in the time of Otto III, about the year 1000, would claim that he and Emperor Otto had discovered Charlemagne’s tomb.  They claimed that Charlemagne was seated upon a throne, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre, his flesh almost entirely incorrupt.

In 1165, Frederick I re-opened the tomb again and placed the emperor in a sarcophagus beneath the floor of the cathedral.

Charlemagne sarcophagus

Sarcophagus, above and below.

"Karl Martell" by J. Patrick Fischer - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons

“Karl Martell” by J. Patrick Fischer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons

In 1215 Frederick II re-interred him in a casket made of gold and silver.

Charlemagne casket

Charlemagne’s death greatly affected many of his subjects, particularly those of the literary clique who had surrounded him at Aachen.  An anonymous monk of Bobbio lamented:

From the lands where the sun rises to western shores, people are crying and wailing … the Franks, the Romans, all Christians, are stung with mourning and great worry … the young and old, glorious nobles, all lament the loss of their Caesar … the world laments the death of Charles … O Christ, you who govern the heavenly host, grant a peaceful place to Charles in your kingdom. Alas for miserable me.

Charlemagne was succeeded by his surviving son, Louis, who had been crowned the previous year.  Charlemagne’s empire lasted only another generation in its entirety; its division, according to custom, between Louis’s own sons after their father’s death laid the foundation for the modern states of Germany and France.

Below, the mask reliquary of Charlemagne.  If this is a death mask of the man, he was in wonderful shape for 72 years of age and the battles he had been through.

"Aachen Domschatz Bueste1" by Beckstet - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aachen Domschatz Bueste1” by Beckstet – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Reliquary’s were and remain very popular in the Catholic Church.  Below, Charlemagne’s arm reliquary.

"Charlemagne arm at Cathedral Treasury Aachen Germany" by Prof-Declercq - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

“Charlemagne arm at Cathedral Treasury Aachen Germany” by Prof-Declercq – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s throne remains today in the Achen Cathedral as well.

Charlemagne throne

“AachenerDomKarlsthron 1661a” by Bojin. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Below, the interior of Charlemagne’s chapel in the Aachen Cathedral.

"Aachen-cathedral-inside". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aachen-cathedral-inside”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

What Was Charlemagne Like?

We’re exceedingly lucky that Einhard was Charlemagne’s biographer.  Otherwise we would know very little about him.

Charlemagne spoke French and German in addition to Latin and understood some Greek but spoke it very poorly.  He mandated that sermons be preached in either “Romance” (French) or “Theotiscan” (German) and not in Latin so that the common person could understand the lessons being imparted.

How Did He Look?

Charlemagne’s personal appearance is known from a description by Einhard in his biography of Charlemagne titled “Vita Karoli Magni.” Einhard describes in his twenty-second chapter:

He was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature, although not exceptionally so, since his height was seven times the length of his own foot. He had a round head, large and lively eyes, a slightly larger nose than usual, white but still attractive hair, a bright and cheerful expression, a short and fat neck, and he enjoyed good health, except for the fevers that affected him in the last few years of his life. Toward the end, he dragged one leg. Even then, he stubbornly did what he wanted and refused to listen to doctors, indeed he detested them, because they wanted to persuade him to stop eating roast meat, as was his wont, and to be content with boiled meat.

The physical portrait provided by Einhard is confirmed by contemporary depictions of the emperor, such as coins and his 8-inch (20 cm) bronze statue kept in the Louvre.

"Charlemagne denier Mayence 812 814" by PHGCOM - Own work by uploader, photographed at Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Charlemagne denier Mayence 812 814” by PHGCOM – Own work by uploader, photographed at Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

It’s uncertain whether this bronze statue from the Louvre depicts Charlemagne or his grandson, Charles the Bald, who reportedly favored his grandfather, Charlemagne.

Charlemagne at Louvre

Photographs credited © RMN, Musée du Louvre / [etc.] are the property of the RMN. Non-commercial re-use is authorized, provided the source and author are acknowledged. Photo by Jean-Giles Berizzi

In 1861, Charlemagne’s tomb was opened by scientists who reconstructed his skeleton and estimated it to be measured 1.95 metres (6 ft 5 in).  A later estimate of his height from a X-ray and CT scan of his tibia performed in 2010 is 1.84 metres (6 ft 0 in). This puts him in the 99th percentile of tall people of his period, given that average male height of his time was 1.69 metres (5 ft 7 in). The width of the bone suggested he was gracile but not robust in body build.

Charlemagne wore the traditional costume of the Frankish people, described by Einhard thus:

He used to wear the national, that is to say, the Frank, dress—next his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk; while hose fastened by bands covered his lower limbs, and shoes his feet, and he protected his shoulders and chest in winter by a close-fitting coat of otter or marten skins.

He wore a blue cloak and always carried a sword with him. The typical sword was of a golden or silver hilt. He wore fancy jeweled swords to banquets or ambassadorial receptions.  To Charlemagne, a sword was his ever-present and indispensable weapon, just in case, and sometimes a fine piece of jewelry too.

Charlemagne robes


He despised foreign costumes, however handsome, and never allowed himself to be robed in them, except twice in Rome, when he donned the Roman tunic, chlamys, and shoes; the first time at the request of Pope Hadrian, the second to gratify Leo, Hadrian’s successor.

He could rise to the occasion when necessary. On great feast days, he wore embroidery and jewels on his clothing and shoes. He had a golden buckle for his cloak on such occasions and would appear with his great diadem, but he despised such apparel, according to Einhard, and usually dressed like the common people.

The Beautification of the Blessed Charles Augustus

Charlemagne was accorded sainthood inside the Holy Roman Empire after the twelfth century. His canonization by Antipope Paschal III, to gain the favor of Frederick Barbarossa in 1165, was never recognized by the Holy See, which annulled all of Paschal’s ordinances at the Third Lateran Council in 1179. Charlemagne’s name does not appear among the 28 saints named Charles who are listed in the Roman Martyrology. However, his beatification has been acknowledged as cultus confirmed and is celebrated on 28 January.  Even in death, Charlemagne was contentious and deeply involved in the politics of religion.

Ummmm…so how does one act appropriately if one is twice descended from a King who was also a Saint???  Do I need to learn how to curtsey or do that Queen wave maybe?  No one prepared me for this when I was learning proper manners.  I had no idea how proper “proper” was!


Charlemagne, being a model knight as one of the Nine Worthies, enjoyed an important afterlife in European culture.

The Nine Worthies are nine historical, scriptural and legendary personages who personify the ideals of chivalry as were established in the Middle Ages.

The Nine Worthies include three good pagans: Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, three good Jews: Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus, and three good Christians: King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon.

Gateway Ancestors

If you’d like to see if you too are descended from Charlemagne through known gateway ancestors, please click here for a list.  But beware, you just might have to learn how to behave “properly.”  If you figure out exactly what that means, let me know.



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Visiting Mom at Family Tree DNA

Mom swabbed for me, several times in fact.  She wasn’t terribly interested in DOING genealogy, but she was quite interested in the outcome of the process, and she loved to go along with me on our “larks,” as she would call them, where we would go and find our family land, or house…or something interesting…like the original bar in the Kirsch House, below.

Kirsch house 1990s

On the Kirsch House adventure, above, Mom and my daughter and I went back to Aurora, Indiana to find the location of “The Kirsch House,” the hotel and tavern owned by Mom’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel, below.

Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch

Mom didn’t know Jacob, who died the year before she was born in 1922, but Barbara didn’t pass away until 1930, so Mom knew Barbara.

Mom loved those adventures.  She just wasn’t interested in doing genealogy by herself.  I didn’t understand then, but I think genealogy made her sad.  Probably because the easiest places to visit were where she had lived, had grown up, and had personal memories of those who had passed on.  I remember visiting the graves of her mother, her grandmother and the day we found the tombstone of her great-grandmother, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, who had died when Mom was 8.  Mom was Barbara’s namesake.

Kirsch Riverview

The Kirsch family immigrated from Germany to Aurora, so going further back in time from Aurora meant jumping the pond.  When we did get back to Germany in the records…we couldn’t visit that location in person.

It’s not that I didn’t want to take a trip to Mutterstadt, Germany to visit the Kirsch homelands, it’s that I couldn’t pry Mom away from her work long enough to take a trip like that.  Mom worked as an Avon lady, her third career, until she was 83 years old.  And she didn’t retire then because she wanted to, but because her health was failing due to dementia and other factors.

And…truthfully…she only retired then because we stole her car.  Well, we didn’t EXACTLY steal it…it’s just that after she had another of those accidents that she didn’t know how occurred…it so happened that it took months for her car to be repaired.  She forgot that she even owned a car until the insurance bill came…and was she ever hot then when she remembered about her car.  I blamed my brother who blamed the car repair place who claimed the part would be there any day now!

Do you know how difficult it is to hide a bright red sports car?  Yes, she bought a red sports car with mag wheels, dual exhaust, front and rear spoilers and a loud engine that made rumbling sounds as her last hurrah.  She had always wanted one.


It’s pretty humorous now, but at that time my brother and I were 50 and 60 year old kids who had gotten caught with our hands in the proverbial cookie jar!  She was not a happy camper when she remembered that she had a red sports car, and she let us know about it in no uncertain terms!

I asked Mom to swab, again, in the spring of 2003.  She simply asked what this one was for and swabbed in a resigned sort of way.  I know she had to be thinking to herself, “the things we do for our children.”  Had she lived long enough, she would have been both “spittin’ and swabbin’.”  Sounds like a dance doesn’t it!

It was at that point in time that I was suspecting that perhaps one of her ancestral lines held Native ancestry – but it wouldn’t be until after her death that I was able to prove such…not by her DNA at that time, but by breaking through a brick wall and proving those lines via plain old genealogy and the DNA of direct paternal and matrilineal DNA descendants of those Acadian lines.  Oh, how I wish she could have been here to hear about that!  We would have been on our way to Nova Scotia tout suite, guaranteed.

In 2003, when Mom first tested, autosomal DNA testing had yet to be introduced, so Mom’s DNA was archived at Family Tree DNA for 25 years.  Now Family Tree DNA wasn’t started until in 2000, so they aren’t going to have to figure out what to do with archived DNA until about 2025.  Mom’s DNA has only been there for 12 years.

Mom passed away in the spring of 2006.  She was 84 years old and her health had failed.  One is never ready for the death of a parent, but one does know sometimes that it needs to happen.  Death was a release.

I took at this photo of Mom in the window of the church in Aurora, Indiana where her grandmother was baptized, as was her great-grandmother and where her great-great-grandmother attended church after arriving from Germany, probably extremely thankful that weeks-long miserable boat trip was over and everyone survived.  This reflective image is how I think of Mom.

Mom church window

Not really gone, but kind of ethereal and slightly out of reach.  But not all of Mom is physically gone.

When autosomal DNA testing became available, I ordered an upgrade for Mom in August of 2011.  Bennett Greenspan called me and told me that they had been having limited success with older samples, especially those older than 5 years.  Just because they can archive the DNA, and just because they can amplify the DNA to increase their probability of success, doesn’t mean there is enough quantity or the quality of the DNA is adequate for the kinds of tests that require a significant amount of DNA – those tests being the Family Finder and Big Y tests, although Mom obviously would never be a candidate for the Big Y (because women don’t have a Y chromosome.)  Amplifying the good DNA also amplifies any contaminant DNA as well, like from bacteria.

I told Bennett I had to try, so he agreed.  The wait seemed much longer than it was, but the day her results arrived, I cringed and clicked to open the link to find her actual results and matches, not a message saying that the test had failed.  I surely held my breath, because at that time we were at the 8 year mark since she had swabbed, and 5 years since her death, so there was no opportunity to get another DNA sample.

Mom hadn’t failed me, and neither had Bennett, luck nor technology.

A couple of years ago, I visited Family Tree DNA after the 2013 conference.  I received a lab tour in a small group, but it was pretty quick and the space was small and tight.

This fall, I visited again and was afforded a private tour.  (Thank you Bennett.)  It was much quieter and more personal.  The lab looked a lot like the tour of a couple years ago, except for some new equipment, but this time, I actually got close to the freezer.

Mom wore a ring that her parents gave her when she was 16.  She wore it every day for 68 years.  Now I wear it on a chain around my neck because I don’t want to have it sized.  The band is too thin, and although I know I can have it built back up, I wanted to wear it as she had.  The fact that the band is hair thin speaks of her lifetime and all the activities that wore the metal away, and I don’t want to change that memory.

I wore the ring to Houston, taking Mom along with me.  She goes with me on many journeys now.  We’ve been to places Mom could never have imagined and assuredly wouldn’t like.  For example, evacuating during a hurricane on Hatteras Island…but I digress.

Standing in front of the freezer, touching her ring, I told Bennett that I was visiting Mom, that she was in there and there was more of “her” in there now than any other place in the world, except maybe in me.  But then again, I only carry half of her DNA.  Bennett just kind of paused for a minute, smiled, and opened the freezer door for me.  I could see the robotic arm moving back and forth and of course, I have no idea where Mom was in this little mini-freezer-cemetery.  But she was there just the same, and I visited her.

FTDNA freezer

I stood there for a long minute peering inside, said a little private prayer and tried to hide the tears welling up in my eyes.

I know Bennett probably had no idea just how important it would be to people, like me, to be able to resurrect a little bit of Mom, and along with her, our ancestors’ history, after someone’s death.  Had it not been for his foresightedness to archive the DNA for 25 years, and his willingness to purchase a custom $600,000 (choke) freezer to do it, I would never have been able to recover Mom’s autosomal DNA, and along with it, that half of her autosomal DNA that I didn’t inherit.  Not only that, when someone matches both mother and I, it’s a sure fire way to know that match is from her side of the family.

I thank mother for swabbing and giving me the eternal gift of her DNA, the gift that truly does keep on giving, every single day.

So, when you’re wondering where to test your DNA, strongly consider the fact that Family Tree DNA archives your DNA.  You may not care, but your family just might.  Transferring your results from another company is not the same as having your DNA at Family Tree DNA.

Mom is not the only case I’ve come across.  There are many, including Bennett’s own father – and the DNA archival service is included in the cost of the test.  Of the three primary testing companies, Family Tree DNA is the only company that offers more than one test – so even if the other companies did or do archive your DNA, if there is nothing more to order, that archived DNA can’t be of benefit to you.

I wanted to take flowers when I visited Mom, but flowers aren’t allowed in the lab due to contamination concerns, so I guess Mom will just have to make do with this rose from my garden.

rose for mom

I surely do miss Mom, but at least I didn’t have to miss out on everything!  There’s no bringing Mom back, but at least we were able to salvage a bit of her.

And now that I think of it, she’s not at all alone in that freezer-cemetery.  I’m in there with her, as are some 610 of her cousins who match her autosomal DNA as well as her mitochondrial matches. I hope she’s getting to know them.  Knowing Mom, she has organized a mini-freezer-reunion and has rearranged everyone so her cousins can be in the same tray with her.  I surely hope she is getting all those connections straightened out and will find a way to share that information with me!  I’m dying (pardon the pun) to know how her matrilineal ancestors got from Scandinavia to Germany, for example.

I guess I should be telling Mom to rest in peace, but that isn’t really what I want.  I want her to help out from the other side.  She can rest in peace when I get there.  We’ll have a lot of catching up to do about these great adventures, and I can’t wait to sit down and have a cup of tea with her.

I’m betting I’ll have some “splaining” to do about her red car too.  I’m just sure that my brother, my accomplice…who, by the way, wound up with that car after Mom’s passing and is already “there,” has implicated me as the guilty party!



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Confusion: Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA and

ftdna ftm

I wish very much that the names of Family Tree DNA and Family Tree Maker weren’t so similar, because it has created a lot of confusion over the years and that confusion has intensified this past week with’s announcement that they are discontinuing support of their genealogy software package, Family Tree Maker.

Let’s clear up that confusion right now.

  • Family Tree Maker is a genealogy software package to track your genealogy information and it is owned by
  • also offers a DNA testing product called AncestryDNA that tests your autosomal DNA and provides you with a list of DNA matches.
  •’s DNA product offering, AncestryDNA, and their genealogy software program, Family Tree Maker, are in no way connected to each other. They don’t share any functionality and their only commonality is that Ancestry owns them both.
  • Family Tree DNA is a DNA testing company that does NOT provide genealogy software and DOES provide an extensive array of DNA testing products and tools, such as autosomal DNA through their Family Finder product, similar to the AncestryDNA product. Family Tree DNA also provides additional DNA testing such as Y and Mitochondrial DNA, which does not offer. Family Tree DNA’s only products are DNA tests.
  • There is no connection whatsoever between Family Tree DNA and Family Tree Maker.
  • There is no connection whatsoever between Family Tree DNA and

Ancestry Retires Family Tree Maker Software

On December 5, 2015, announced that it would no longer be selling their genealogy program, Family Tree Maker and will be retiring the product.  You can read their announcement here.

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with Ancestry’s DNA testing product, AncestryDNA and nothing whatsoever to do with Family Tree DNA, an entirely different company.

  1. If you are an AncestryDNA customer, you are entirely unaffected by this announcement.
  2. If you are a Family Tree DNA customer, you are entirely unaffected by this announcement.
  3. If you are a Family Tree Maker genealogy software user, you’ll be needing to find a new genealogy program in the next year or so.  Ancestry will be supporting the current Family Tree Maker software through January 1, 2017 and it will likely continue to function after that, at least until you purchase a new computer or update your operating system software – but you’ll be on your own at that point.  I would not recommend using the software beyond when Ancestry terminates support.  So, you have time – a full year.  There is no reason to panic.

Selecting New Genealogy Software

You can easily convert to a new genealogy package by exporting a GEDCOM file from Family Tree Maker into your new software package of choice.

There has been a lot of online discussion about the pros and cons of various software packages for both the PC and MAC platforms since Ancestry’s announcement.

Judy Russell covered the topic here and Shannon Christmas covered it here.

Here’s a wiki page of genealogy software programs, but I found it a bit overwhelming.  Here’s another review site by feature.

On the ISOGG Facebook group, we’ve been discussing this very topic as well.  To distill this conversation for you, I would suggest considering either Legacy or RootsMagic software if you are a PC user and either Rootsmagic or Reunion if you are a MAC user.

My understanding is that all of these programs support Y and mitochondrial DNA information in some fashion, although I’m sure exactly how varies by program.  Personally, I just record the haplogroup as a “second middle name” so I can see the haplogroup lineage on pedigree charts. So while DNA support is important, there are multiple ways to achieve this and I don’t think it’s a make-it or break-it criteria when choosing your new software.  My biggest concern is that all of my images and notes transfer, regardless of size/length.

The good news is that most of the genealogy software packages are taking advantage of Ancestry’s retirement of Family Tree Maker with sales to entice you and even step by step instructions and videos of how to convert and use their software.

So, take a deep breath.  Family Tree DNA is totally unaffected by this.  DNA results at either company are entirely unaffected by this.  And if you are a Family Tree Maker user, you have plenty of time to evaluate alternatives and make your decision.



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Anna Christina Berchtol (c1666-c1696), Pietist Rabble Rouser, 52 Ancestors #102

Anna Christina Berchtol, with Berchtol (Bechtol, Bechtel, Berchtel, etc.) being her married name, was born sometime before 1666, probably in Switzerland.  We don’t know for sure when, or where, but we can infer her birth year as 20 years or more before the birth of her first known child, born in Konken, Germany, shown below, in 1686.

Konken Germany

Could Anna Christina have been older?  Certainly.

We actually first find a record of Anna Christina in Konken when her children’s births were recorded at the local Reformed protestant church.

  • Hans Jacob Berchtol born in 1686 who married Anna Marie Glosselos
  • Susanna Agnes Berchtol born on May 3, 1688 and married Michael Mueller (1692-1771) (One source reports her birth in Ohmbach, a nearby village.)
  • Hans Peter Berchtol born on May 1, 1690 and married Maria Elizabeth Zimmer
  • Hans Heinrich Berchtol born on May 1, 1690
  • Barbel (Barbara) Berchtol born about 1693
  • Ursula Berchtol born about 1696

Unfortunately, in none of these church records is a surname recorded for Anna Christina.

We believe she was born in Switzerland for two reasons.  First, the family group which includes Johann Michael Mueller seems to have migrated together from Switzerland.  Johann Michael Mueller was born in Zollikoffen just outside of Bern in 1655.  This entire group appears by 1685 in the Konken, Krottelback and Steinwenden area of Germany.

Konken Steinwenden map

Another Berchtol family, Hans Simon Berchtol, lived in Steinwenden and they were also involved with the Johann Michael Mueller family.

Hans Berchtol witnessed the baptisms of two of Johann Michael Mueller’s children in Steinwenden, about 15 miles distant from Konken.

Anna Christina had her last child, recorded in the Konken church records, in 1696.

We don’t know why there were no children noted after 1696.  Was Anna Christina of an age where she was no longer having children?  If so, that would put her birth at about 1653.  Did she die?  Possibly.  There is no further record of her, but then again, there is also no death record.  Are those records complete?  Again, we don’t know.

What we do know is that her husband, Hans Berchtol died in Konken on June 15, 1711.  His death record in the church tells us that he resided in Krottelbach, just a couple of miles away.  I will have his death record retranslated, because it may indicate whether or not his wife was dead or living.

Krottelbach Germany

Just three years after Hens Berchtol’s death in 1711, Susanna Agnes Berchtol, Hans and Anna Christina’s daughter, would marry Johann Michael Mueller.

In a twist of irony, Johann Michael Miller was the child born in Steinwenden in 1692 that Hans Berchtol and Anna Christina stood up with as godparents when he was baptized on October 5th.

Anna Christina could not have had any idea in 1692 that her daughter, Susanna Agnes, born in 1688, would in 1714 marry Johann Michael Mueller.  Does this sound like a fairy tale or Disney princess story to you?  All we need now are some really cute little woodland critters.

Given that Anna Christina was Johann Michael’s godmother, and that his mother and father had both died by 1695, it’s certainly possible that Anna Christina and Hans Berchtol raised Johann Michael Mueller.  In essence, that means Susanna and Michael could have been raised together.  That certainly would have made courting much easier.

Johann Michael Mueller would have been 19 years old when Hans Berchtol died in 1711.  We don’t know if Anna Christina had already died, or if she was left as a widow.  Regardless, Anna’s youngest child would have been 15 and not yet an adult.  Perhaps when Hans Berchtol died, Johann Michael Mueller stepped in to help the family, assuming an adult male role, and three years later, married the eldest daughter.

The record from Konken Reformed Church shows that Michael Muller, son of Johann Michael Muller, from Steinweiler in Churpfalz, married Susanna Agnes Berchtel, a Swiss, at Crottelbach on January 4, 1714.  “A Swiss,” in fact confirms that indeed, the Berchtel family too immigrated from Switzerland.  This bit of evidence is what suggests that Anna Christina was likely born in Switzerland.

We don’t have a lot of information about Anna Christina, aside from scanty information from church records that includes her children’s births and the Mueller births that she witnessed as well.

What we do know is that she was part of the pietist group that left Switzerland and settled in Germany.  These pietists became both Brethren and Mennonites after their descendants, specifically, Johann Michael Miller and Susanna Agnes Berchtol, moved to Pennsylvania in the 1720s.  One Samuel Berchtol also migrated to the US and is found closely associated with Johann Michael Mueller, jointly owning land, and was Mennonite in Hanover Co, PA.  Johann Michael Mueller (Miller) was Brethren.

The early pietist movement in Switzerland led to the founding of several religions that had the same core values, although they did develop some differences that led to different sects.

The original pietist believers in Switzerland tried to avoid religious labels.  They had become convinced that the established church was thoroughly corrupt and sought to meet quietly and privately among themselves, studying and adhering strictly to the written word of the Bible and avoiding anything political in nature, including conflict.  Most families kept a loose association with the Reformed protestant churches.  Attempting to establish a new religion would have been illegal at that time.

At one point, the pietists and Anabaptists would suffer a difference of opinion, being that the Anabaptists did not believe in infant baptism.  In fact, they did not believe in baptism until the individual was old enough to make their own commitment based on a personal understanding of the Bible.  However, the pietists and Anabaptists shared many convictions and were more alike than different, especially in the eyes of the government.  They found the state-church squaring up against them, viewing them as one group and attempting to squash what was viewed as a dissident religion.  Oftentimes, other church members who weren’t pietist or Anabaptist felt sorry for the aggrieved patrons and joined them, ashamed of and put off by the actions of the official church.

What role did women, like Anna Christina play in this emerging religion?  The book, “Sisters: Myth and Reality of Anabaptist, Mennonite and Doopsgezind Women, ca 1525-1900” discusses female pietists in a quite surprising light.

Like many religious movements, the “born again” movement had a sense of urgency fueled by the belief that the end of mortal time was near.  It’s easy to understand why they might have felt this way, given that war had ravaged the European landscape for decades, plagues had run rampant, killing one third of the European population and as a result of those disasters, economic and social upheaval was at hand.  Pietism offered spiritual comfort and the promise of a heavenly afterlife.  And comfort was something in short supply at that time.

Chiliasm was one of the widespread concepts of pietism.  The more radical Anabaptists believed that they would help usher in a new economy, meaning a new phase of history in which God’s order, not a corrupt world order would dominate.  I think we’re still waiting for that.

Chiliasm contributed to the prominence of women leaders in Pietism since women were able to claim an authority that the Bible reserved for women prophets at the end of time.

Joel 2,28:  “I shall pour out my spirit on all mankind; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams and your young men see visions; I shall pour out my spirit in those days even on slaves and slave-girls.”

Pietist women justified speaking out directly by claiming that God inspired them.  And who was to argue?  Not only that, but this direct inspiration by God gave them more authority than theologians with university degrees because God spoke to these women personally and directly.

Pietist women claimed that the old traditions of shutting women out were no longer valid and that all Christians needed to act boldly to save as many souls as possible before the coming apocalypse.

Other pietists pointed out that Christ appeared first to women after he was risen and that women were prominent in the early church.

These newly founded groups met in homes, in the domestic domain, so to speak, where women often interpreted the scripture.  That would not have been allowed in churches.  While these “conventicles” were not intended to replace churches, in time, they did indeed become the foundation for a new religion.

In the 16th century, women were still barred from formal education, but they were taught to read by private tutors.  They could then read the Bible for themselves, and anything else they wanted to read too.  Their justification was that they were the primary educators of children.

Women’s roles went further than just hosting conventicles.  They acted as enthusiastic prophets, lay preachers and in some cases, as aristocratic patrons funding institutions such as missions and schools.  In general, it was considered “unseemly” for women to act in a public way, and women were not believed to be intellectually capable of understanding complex ideas and certainly incapable of writing, so books written by women were published under pseudonyms.

This movement was not popular with either the established church or the government, and in 1704 the German historian Johann Feustking published a book attributing the formation and leadership of pietism to female agitators, arguing in the book that women had to be limited to the home if traditional society was to be preserved.  This seems to be a case of wanting to close the barn door a bit too late.

Another author from the 1700s characterized the pietist movement as led by foolish and naïve women who had been hoodwinked by smarter, unscrupulous men.  Ironically, that author was herself a woman and had to publish her book, “Pietism in Petticoats” anonymously.

The area around Bern, Switzerland, where the Johann Michael Mueller family originated, had its own set of problems.  Political and military threats surrounded Bern; a recent war with the Turks, a war of succession in the Pfalz and the Swiss-French struggle in the Piemont.  The economy was floundering.  To help address these problems, the Swiss had opened their doors to the Huguenot and Waldensian refugees, but those groups, along with the pietists were monitored closely.  Both were forbidden to recruit new members.  The last thing Bern wanted was more threats to stability – and women involved in anything, let alone in a prominent religious role, shook their very foundation and confirmed the potential for social upheaval.

One Anabaptist women, Elizabeth Tscharner died and her son eulogized her life.  He said that she spent several hours each day on her knees in prayer, a style of praying associated with Anabaptists.  Combining personal devotion with practical Christianity, Elizabeth translated written tracts, had them published and handed them out to the poor.  Ironically, the poor probably couldn’t read them.  Elizabeth knitted and sewed clothes for the needy.  She concerned herself with the welfare of Anabaptists in Bern’s prisons…jailed for their Anabaptist activities.  Often too weak to even sit up, she brought them food and fed them.

One group of Anabaptists was being sent on a ship to the Pfalz to join their spiritual kin, not exactly by choice.  Elizabeth took up a collection of clothes, food and money for provisions for their trip.  This story also illustrates that perhaps not everyone who settled in the Swiss villages of Germany did so by direct choice.  Some may have arrived with absolutely nothing.

Near her death, Elizabeth asked her son to wash her feet, an activity still performed in Brethren churches today, viewed by Elizabeth as “the foot washing of the apostles.”

 Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Meister des Hausbuches, 1475

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Meister des Hausbuches, 1475

One of Elizabeth’s female Anabaptist friends wrote a book at the age of 76, sharing with us an eternal bit of wisdom about the roles we play on the stage of this world, “No matter whether our mortal lives are comedy or tragedy, at the end of our lives we all look alike.”

Bern’s records show that authorities were particularly concerned about situations where women were involved in pietist religious activities and their men were not, leaving the women “unsupervised and uncontrolled.”  These, women, tsk, tsk, tsk, left the house at night and went to meetings where men and boys were attending, returning home late at night.  They tried to equate women’s religious activity with promiscuity and played on their husband’s fears.  Council protocol addressed activities of “willful wives” as well as “disobedient housemaids.”

While focused on the women, they weren’t above trying to control men either.  Knowing that pietists refused to take oaths, they required a yearly oath of allegiance from all men.  Men who wouldn’t swear allegiance were arrested and assumed to be pietist.  No wonder women had so many men to visit in the prisons.

It’s no surprise, in light of this oppressive environment, that so many removed to much more accommodating and welcoming Germany, whose lands had been depopulated in the wars and needed settlers to work the farms.  In return, Germany offered religious tolerance, at least to a degree.

By 1699, when Bern officials began enacting even stricter measures and interrogating those suspected of pietist leanings, most of the pietists were dead, gone to Germany either willingly or in exile, or very quietly living underground.

It’s ironic that we think of the Brethren and Mennonites today as extremely conservative and the women as very obedient, subservient and compliant, when, in Europe, they were considered quite the opposite – uncontrollable rabble rousers.  Imagine…..women believing they had a legitimate voice and expressing an opinion – and possessing a God given right to do so no less.  For shame!

Anna Christina …you rabble rouser you…..

You know, I’m pretty sure I inherited some of her DNA!!!

Unfortunately, unless one day we can identify some of her autosomal segments, her DNA is unavailable to us.

She had three daughters, but there is only one, Susanna Agnes, that we know anything about.  She married Johann Michael Mueller and had several children, but there are no documented daughters.  There are rumored and inferred daughters, but none with any suggestive evidence that they were in fact the daughter of Susanna Agnes Berchtol Mueller.  Since mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to daughter to daughter, down the line to the current generation, intact, if we could find someone who descended from Anna Christina through all females, we could obtain her mitochondrial DNA signature today which would tell us about her deep ancestry.

Unless something is discovered of Barbara and Ursula, her two youngest daughters, or a daughter is confirmed from Susanna Agnes, Anna Christina’s mitochondrial DNA line is dead to us.  However, her rabble rousing spirit is not and survives quite intact today!



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Hans Berchtol (1641/1653-1711), Twice a Godfather, 52 Ancestors #101

We know that Hans Berchtol’s death was recorded in the church in Konken, Germany, the beautiful hamlet shown below, on June 15, 1711.  His death record in the church records tells us that he resided in Krottelbach, just a few miles away.

Konken Germany

Hans Berchtoll and his wife, Anna Christina reportedly had the following children:

  • Hans Jacob born in 1686 who married Anna Marie Glosselos
  • Susanna Agnes born on May 3, 1688 and married Michael Mueller (1692-1771) (One source reports her birth in Ohmbach, a nearby village.)
  • Hans Peter born on May 1, 1690 and married Maria Elizabeth Zimmer
  • Hans Heinrich born on May 1, 1690
  • Barbel (Barbara) born about 1693
  • Ursula born about 1696

Konken Steinwenden map

In 1686, in Steinwenden (shown below,) not terribly far from Konken, we find mention of Hans Berchtol in the baptismal record of Johann Abraham Mueller, the son of Johann Michael Mueller and his wife, Irene Charitas whose last name is unknown.

Steinwenden Germany

Hans Berchtol’s wife was not with him in the baptismal records of this child, likely because she was herself quite pregnant or had recently given birth.  The first child born to Hans Berchtol and his wife, Anna Christina was born in 1686 as well.

The infant, Johann Abraham Mueller, would die shortly after his birth, but again, in 1692, Hans Berchtol would be called upon to attend another baptism of a child of Johann Michael Mueller and his wife.  These two couples were obviously close, even though they didn’t live nearby.  Why?  Were they in some way related?  What was their common bond – a bond strong enough to survive a 15 mile distance in the mountains over several years.

The child born in 1692, Johann Michael Mueller (Jr.) would one day marry the daughter of Hans Berchtol and Anna Christina.  How strange is that?  Michael’s in-laws-to-be were his godparents.  That doesn’t happen often.  Hans Berchtol’s daughter, Susanna Agnes Berchtol was born on May 3, 1688 in Konken (or Ohmbach).  Whether this family was previously related in some fashion or not, their descendants were destined to be.  I wonder if Johann Michael Mueller grew up playing with Susanna Berchtol, his future wife.  Did they sit beside each other in Sunday School from time to time? She was more than 4 years his senior, so maybe she wasn’t terribly interested in him until they were teenagers or young adults. And they did live 15 miles apart.

Then another thought struck me.  Konken and Steinwenden are really too distant for easy accessibility.  Since Hans Berchtol and his wife had stood up with Johann Michael Mueller at his baptism, they would have been his godparents.  Godparents were technically responsible for the religious education of the child, and were the people who would have taken the child to raise if their parents died.  It has always been assumed because of the close relationship of Johann Michael Mueller (the second) and Johann Jacob Stutzman (born 1706), son of Michael’s father’s second wife, that Michael’s step- mother, Anna Loysa Regina, and her second husband, Jacob Stutzman raised Michael.  I know this is confusing, so I’ve created a little chart representing the relationships.

Miller Stutzman chart

But maybe that wasn’t true, and Anna Loysa Regina and Jacob Stutzman didn’t raise Johann Michael Mueller (the second), or maybe not for the entire time.  Maybe Michael was raised by Hans Berchtol and his wife, his godparents.  That would explain how the 15 mile difference between Steinwenden and Konken was overcome for courting purposes.

I don’t have the Konken church records or their direct translations, but it would be very interesting to see if Johann Michael Mueller (the first) and his wife, Irene Charitas Mueller, witnessed the baptisms of any of Hans Berchtol’s children.  It would also be interesting to check the neighboring church records to see if we can find any additional children for Hans baptized in neighboring churches.  I don’t know if the family moved, or if they simply went to the closest church for baptisms, or they changed churches occasionally.  Why didn’t they attend the church in Krottelbach where they lived?

As it turns out, Krottelbach historically formed the boundary between the parishes of Ohmbach and Konken, so Krottelbach didn’t have its own church.

Konken Krottelbach map

This caused some difficulty in ascertaining what the village’s population was in the so-called Konker Protokollen of 1609 in which the 12 hearths (“households”) with 65 inhabitants listed for Krottelbach were actually only the ones on the north side of the brook, in the parish of Konken. Corresponding statistics for the part of the village on the south bank are not available. All in all, though, the village as a whole may have been rather large for the circumstances of that time.  However, that wasn’t to last.

Like all villages in the region around Kusel, Krottelbach suffered heavily under the twin blows of the Plague and the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  After that war, there were only four people living in the village.  The populace was devastated.  This area of Germany was barren and desperate for settlers who were willing to work and farm, and actively sought people from Switzerland and other regions.

The newcomers welcomed the opportunity and settled, but more lives were lost towards the end of the 1600s in French King Louis XIV’s wars of conquest.  It seemed that there was no end to wars and violence.

Krottelbach belonged to the village church in Ohmbach, which Count Gerlach V of Veldenz had bequeathed to the Werschweiler Monastery after 1258. During the Reformation, the monastery was dissolved, whereafter some of the then Lutheran villagers still belonged to the parish of Ohmbach, while others belonged to the parish of Konken.  Until 1817, the village of Krottelbach remained solidly Reformed, a faith that in 1817 united with the Lutherans.  At that point, the whole village once again belonged to the parish of Ohmbach.

What this history of Krottelback, along with the Konken church records, tells us is that Hans Berchtol lived on the north side of the brook in Krottelbach.

Krottelbach creek map

Perhaps Hans farmed one of these beautiful fields or maybe he lived on Krottelback Creek, meaning “Toadbrook.”  At this time, farmers did not live on farms in the countryside, but they actually lived in the villages clustered together and then went to farm their fields that surrounded the village.

Krottelbach fields

A second Berchtol male was having children in Steinwenden where Johann Michael Mueller lived.  Hans Simon Berchtol and his wife Catherine had the following children according to Steinwenden church records:

  • Hans Samuel born 1685, godparent Hans Michael ?
  • Maria Magdalena born 1686, godparents Hans Michael Muller of Steinwenden and Anna Catherine
  • Maria Elizabeth born 1691
  • Anna Catherine born 1696, godparents Anna Catharine, Johannes Lampon, frau, Jacob ??
  • Johannes Theobold born 1697, godparent Maria Elizabeth
  • Johannes born 1698, godparents Johannes Berchtol and Anna Maria

Hans Samuel Berchtol, born in 1685 above is believed to be an immigrant and possibly the Samuel Berchtol found in records in Pennsylvania with Johann Michael Mueller born in 1696.  One Samuel Becktel arrived on the ship Robert and Alice on September 30, 1743.

Were Hans Berchtol of Krottelbach and Hans Samuel Berchtol of Steinwenden brothers?  These families were surely related, but how?

These villages, Krottelbach and Steinwenden were nearly as far apart as Konken and Steinwenden, being a distance of about 18 km.

Krottelbach Steinwenden map

The fact that both families were of Pietist leanings and settled in this part of Germany, traveling a non-trivial distance between locations, suggests that perhaps they had a pre-existing connection before settling here, other than their obvious religious leanings and refugee status.  Remember, we don’t know the maiden name of either man’s wife, Hans Berchtol’s Anna Christina or Johann Michael Mueller’s Irene Charitas.

We know that the Mueller family was originally found in the Canton of Berne, Switzerland where Johann Michael Mueller, the elder, was born in 1655 in Zollikofen.  Many Pietist families from this region removed to this same part of Germany in the 1680s.  So it’s not unlikely that the Berchtol family did the same thing, which would explain why Hans Berchtoll was willing to travel 18km, each way, twice to stand up with the Mueller family for the baptism of babies.

The record from Konken Reformed Church shows that Michael Muller, son of Johann Michael Muller from Steinweiler in Churpfalz, married Susanna Agnes Berchtel, a Swiss, at Crottelbach (sic) on January 4, 1714.  “A Swiss,” in fact confirms that indeed, the Berchtel family too immigrated from Switzerland.

The Steinwenden records begin in 1684, but the Konken records begin in 1654, so perhaps more information awaits in those records, once they are translated and indexed in some location so that you can find entries without reading the entire church book – or more accurately stated – paying someone else to read the entire church book.

Just three years after Hens Berchtol’s death in 1711, his daughter would marry Johann Michael Mueller Jr., that baby born in 1692.  Maybe when Hans died, Johann Michael Mueller stepped in to help the family.

Krottelbach Germany

Krottelbach, shown above, is about 5 miles from Konken.

So, by piecing scant records together, we know that Hans Bechtol, Bechtel or Berchtol was “Swiss,” lived in Konken or more likely Krottelbach by 1686, but traveled that same year to Steinwenden, without his wife, for the baptism of the child of Johann Michael Mueller and his wife, Irene Charitas, whose last name is unknown.

During this same time period, a Hans Simon Berchtol was living in Steinwenden and having children there.  Johann Michael Mueller was a godparent to one of Hans Simon’s children as well.  These three families were likely related in some fashion.

Hans Berchtol and his wife continued to have children in Konken until about 1696.  We don’t know if this was when his wife died, or whether she had reached the age where children were no longer forthcoming.  If that was the case, it would put their birth year at about 1653 or so. It would be worth checking Hans actual death record to see if his wife is mentioned as either living or dead.

Hans died in 1711 where the Konken church records reflect that he lived in Krottelbach.  He was born probably before 1653, which means he would have been at least 57 when he died.  Another source states that he was born on June 15, 1641 in Germany, but they do not provide the source of this information.  Regardless, Hans was not a young man when he died.

We know that two of Hans sons lived to marry, although I have no information about their children, or if they immigrated.

I noticed that in the Biddle/Bechtel project at Family Tree DNA, there are several Bechtel and Bechtol males who have Y DNA tested.  Unfortunately, there are eight different groupings, and none of them reach back to Hans Bechtol in Germany.  Several are found in Germantown, Delaware Co., Huntington Co., York and Berks Counties in PA.  These would, of course, be the exact locations where these German families would have settled.  Bechtel immigrants are documented here and none of these seem to be candidates for sons of our Hans.

Many of the Bechtol/Bechtel families were Mennonites and one group arrived in 1729.  These men don’t look to be Hans sons, but we don’t really know, apart from the fact that we are looking for a Jacob, a Peter or a Heinrich.

However, we know positively that there were Bechtol men with the Brethren families in Chester and York Counties in PA.

On February 7, 1744, Michael Miller, Nicholas Garber, Samuel Bechtol and Hans Jacob Bechtol, who all lived in Chester Co, PA, purchased a tract of land consisting of 400 acres northeast of Hanover, PA in York County.

Chester Co Hanover Co

Today this land is near Bair’s Mennonite Church, probably lying south from the church, shown below.

Bair's mennonite cemetery

Today, that land has a cemetery on both sides of the road.  It’s possible that the church is on the original land owned by these 4 men.

Let’s see if we have a participant from this line in the Bechtel DNA project.

Bechtel dna project

The last group of Bechtel men in the DNA project track back to one Samuel Bechtel, reportedly born in 1700, died in 1785, and is buried in the York Road Cemetery in York County, PA.  A little bit of digging shows us that indeed, the church shown in Samuel’s Find-A-Grave picture is Bair’s Mennonite Church, shown below from Google maps, street view.

Bair's mennonite church

Is this the same family line of Samuel Bechtol who purchased land there in 1744? Assuredly.  Additional deed work would likely confirm the land history.  Is the Samuel Bechtol of Chester County, PA the same Bechtol family as was found in Konken and Steinwenden, Germany.  Most likely, but we don’t know for certain.  The dates don’t align exactly.  Hans Simon Berchtol of Steinwenden had son Hans Samuel in 1685.  It’s hard to imagine the continued connection with the Mueller/Miller family if it is not the same Berchtol family line, but we need more than circumstantial evidence.

If any Bechtol, Bechtel or Berchtol male, meaning any of Hans Bechtol’s or Hans Simon Berchtol’s descendants who are males and still carry the surname, by any spelling, are discovered, I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first individual.  Let’s find out more about our ancestors.  I’m betting that Samuel Berchtol and Hans Berchtol from Germany are related, one way or another, and so is the Samuel buried in the Mennonite cemetery at Bair’s Mennonite Church.

Various kinds of DNA testing could help unravel this puzzle.

It’s possible that autosomal DNA testing can solve this puzzle as well, even though there are several generations between Hans and descendants today.  If we don’t look, we’ll never find that connection.  If you descend from these lines, let me know.

It’s amazing that DNA has the potential to answer these questions that have been burning for decades – and questions that our ancestors knew the answers to and thought nothing of.  They are probably chuckling at our inquisitiveness today, given that they still know those answers, and we still don’t.



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