Susanna Agnes Berchtol was born on May 3, 1688, probably in Krottelbach, Germany, shown below, to Hans Berchtol and his wife Anna Christina, whose last name is unknown.
I say probably, because the church that the family attended and where her birth was recorded was in Konken, but since her father’s residence at the time of his death is stated in the Konken Church records as being Krottelback, just a few miles away, that’s likely where the family resided when Susanna was born as well. There was no church in Krottelbach at that time.
Another researcher shows that Susanna was born in a neighboring small town, Ohmbach, but since I don’t have the original church records of either, I’ll withhold final judgement until the records are retranslated by a professional genealogist in Germany.
The name was written as both Berchtol, Bechtol and Bechtel at various times and locations, but was primarily Berchtol in Germany and Bechtol in the US with it morphing to Bechtel in the later 1800s.
The Berchtols were one of several Swiss pietist refugee families who settled in this part of Germany. Other Swiss families included the Johann Michael Mueller family. This Johann Michael Mueller would be “the first” or at least the first that we know of. His son, Johann Michael Mueller (the second) would be born in 1692. Ironically, Susanna’s parents, Hans Berchtol and his wife Christina were the godparents at the baptism of Johann Michael Mueller (the second) in 1692, in Steinwenden, about 15 miles distant. Susanna Agnes Berchtol was four years and five months old when Michael was born.
These two families were previously acquainted, because in 1686, Hans Berchtol was also the Godfather to another child of Johann Michael Mueller (the first) and his wife. That child died. Many times, the families tried to spread the godparent responsibility out among several adults and relatives in their village. Along with being the godparent at birth, and carrying the responsibility for the child’s religious education (which was often their only education), the godparents also were the acknowledged “foster parents” should something happen to the child’s biological parents. All too often, that unfortunate eventuality did happen before the child was of age – and having foster parents already designated removed any doubt about intention or who was raising the children.
In the case of Johann Michael Mueller (the second), that’s exactly what happened. His parents were both dead by the time he was three years of age, which may have played a very large role in his future marriage to Susanna Agnes Berchtol. Since Michael’s parents lived several miles distant from the Berchtols, had he been raised in Steinwenden where he was born, he would have had very limited exposure to the Berchtol family.
Susanna Agnes Berchtol’s father died on June 15, 1711, according to the Reformed church records.
We don’t know if, Anna Christina, Susanna’s mother was still living in 1711 when Han’s Berchtol died, but in either case, the family would have needed help to survive. Susanna’s youngest sibling that we know of was born in 1698, so there would have been young children still at home.
Susanna was the oldest daughter and the second oldest child, according to the church records. Of course, there could have been other children born to Susanna’s parents before they arrived in Germany in the mid-1680s.
Johann Michael Mueller, age 19 in 1711, would have been a strapping youth with a debt to repay. Not an official debt, but a debt of gratitude to his godparents who could well have raised him after his parents’ death. Hence, Johann Michael Mueller’s presence in Krottelbach and in the Berchtol household. Michael likely knew Susanna his entire life and may have been raised in the same household, at least for part of that time.
After her birth, the first record we find of Susanna is her marriage to Johann Michael Mueller on January 4, 1714 in Krottelbach.
Their first child was baptized in that same church a year and 15 days later on January 19, 1715. That must have been a radiant year for Susanna – her marriage and her first child.
After that, the official records that include Susanna go silent, but we can infer a lot based on what we know about Michael.
There is a possibility that Susanna and Michael moved to Lambshein in 1721. There is a record of a Michael Mueller becoming a resident there, but we have no further records. It would be interesting to see if the Reformed Church records exist for Lambshein, and if Johann Michael Mueller with wife Susanna Agnes are present. Those two names, in combination, are fairly unique.
Typically, German children were called by their middle names. We know that Johann Michael was called Michael. Most male children’s first name was Johann, a saint’s name. Using this same tradition, Susanna Agnes would have been called Agnes, not Susanna, but for some reason I’ve always thought of her as Susanna – which of course makes absolutely no logical sense.
Regardless of how she was called, either name, Susanna or Agnes was fairly rare and that in combination with Johann Michael Mueller or just Michael Mueller would certainly identify this couple.
We believe that son Lodowich was born about 1724 and son Philip Jacob Mueller was born about 1726, someplace in Germany. We have the naturalization record for Philip Jacob, so there is no question about where he was born. We have an undated naturalization record for Lodowich as well as one for a John Miller. Lodowich is fairly unique, especially living in Frederick County, Maryland and being naturalized in Pennsylvania. John is a much more common name, although he too lived in Frederick County, Maryland and was naturalized in Pennsylvania, so I’m betting it’s the same family.
Michael and Susanna and however many children they had at the time sailed for the American colonies in the summer of 1727, arriving in Philadelphia on October 2, 1727 on the ship Adventure from Rotterdam, last from Plymouth, England.
We don’t know how long the Miller family was in Holland before departing. Some Brethren lived with the Mennonites in Holland for years before departing.
The records don’t say how the immigrants arrived in Rotterdam, but since the Rhine River was the primary “road” in Medieval times, it’s most likely they arrived by boat to Rotterdam and at Rotterdam camped outside the city, then transferred to a sea-worthy vessel. Rotterdam was “the” embarkation point for both the British Isles and the land that would one day become America.
This map shows the path of the Rhine in Europe.
Steinwenden is about equidistant between Mannheim and Bingen on the Rhine River in the yellow section. Konken is probably slightly closer to Bingen. In either case, Susanna Berchtol and Michael Miller needed to connect with a ship on the Rhine River so they could reach their destination of Rotterdam.
The trip from Krottelbach to Rotterdam is not an easy trip. It’s more than 450 miles overland. They surely would have taken river boats if they could. Today a canal covers most of this distance, but then, the Meuse river winds its way towards Rotterdam as does the Rhine River which they could have connected with in several nearby cities.
I visited Rotterdam in 2014 via the Rhine River. That’s Rotterdam on the horizon, below. Susanna and her family likely traversed this same path.
The old part of the city as seen from the water.
Except for modern buildings and ships, the approach to Rotterdam probably hasn’t changed much from when Susanna would have seen it in the 1720s and now.
This etching shows Rotterdam in 1665. That looks a lot like the same church above and below.
Rotterdam was very much a canal city, shown below in this 1652 map.
The pietists of the 1720s didn’t follow far behind the heels of the 1709 Palatinates who swamped the city of Rotterdam and camped, by the tens of thousands, in makeshift shacks on dikes outside the city walls waiting for transportation to England and the colonies. Did the Brethren find themselves in the same location, or did they stay with people who lived inside the city? How did Rotterdam cope with being the last stop on the European continent for Germans trying to leave for better opportunities across the sea? How did these people eat? Where did they obtain food? What about bathroom facilities and hygiene? They surely only had the barest necessities with them, anticipating a long and crowded journey in a ship.
After leaving Rotterdam, their vessel would have stopped in Plymouth, in Devon England, a regular stopping point, a port city and the last possible location to take on food, clean water, beer (for drinking as the water was often very foul), cargo and sometimes passengers if there was any space left.
Sometimes passengers got to disembark one more time in Plymouth, and sometimes not. This map was from the siege of 1643, but Plymouth probably hadn’t grown a great deal in the following 75 years and the old part of the city would remain the same.
This house, now the oldest house in Plymouth built in 1498, stood at the time that Susanna would have stopped in Plymouth on the way to America. In fact, by that time, this house would have been more than 200 years old, still young by European standards. If Susanna got a few minutes to stroll along the quay in Plymouth, she surely would have seen this house that we still can see today.
What did she think as she looked at these houses, knowing she would not set foot on terra firma or see houses for several weeks, if ever, again? Or was Susanna simply too busy with small children to take a walk?
How did Susanna feel on these boats as she left everything and everyone she had ever known behind, with the exception of her husband, his step-brother and their children? Did she know anyone else on the boat? Was she frightened, excited or maybe some of each? What were her thoughts as land disappeared from sight? Was she looking forward or backward? Did she know anyone at all in the new land, or were they simply following rumors of a better life and opportunity?
Transatlantic crossings were not without risk, and most ships buried at least someone at sea. Some ships buried many. Children were especially vulnerable. Not only was the ship itself in danger of sinking or passengers washing overboard in bad weather, but the passengers were always in danger due to poor health and illness, often induced by rotten food and bad water. And then, of course, there was the ever-present issue of sea-sickness. While it won’t kill you, at least not directly, it will make you incredibly and unrelentingly miserable.
How many children did Susanna have along with her? Did the journey end with as many children as it began, or were they “up” or “down” a child or two. Was Susanna pregnant on the boat, or God forbid, giving birth? Those trips typically took from 4 weeks to 3 months, depending on the winds, weather and luck. The average was about 6 weeks.
Given that their first child was born in 1715, Susanna could have had about 8 children, if all babies born survived. We do know that at least three sons had been born who did survive, and possibly four.
Were Michael and Susanna joining people already established in the colonies, which would certainly lessen the fear, or were they simply arriving in Philadelphia and would figure it out from there? Was someone meeting them at the docks? Did they have instructions about where to go and who to ask for? They spoke German in a country that spoke English.
Did they stay in Philadelphia or did they leave immediately for Chester County, where they were first found in 1732? Where were they from 1727 to 1732? If they couldn’t pay for their own passage, they would have been indentured to someone for up to 7 years, which would have been 1734, unless their indenture was for a shorter amount of time. If they weren’t indentured, how did they pay for their passage for a family of at least five, if not more?
Their arrival in Philadelphia in 1727 probably looked something like this. I would bet that when Susanna set foot on dry ground, she never wanted to see another ship again. If she had survived the voyages and lost no children, she was truly fortunate. Susanna would have turned 39 years old in May as they were preparing for this trip.
This oil painting by Matthew Birth in 1820 shows the Philadelphia waterfront with a shipyard in the foreground. This harbour view probably looked something like what greeted Susanna and Michael when they arrived nearly 100 years earlier.
Only the adult males were listed on the passenger list, so we don’t know positively that Susanna was with Michael, but it’s the most likely scenario. The pietists brought their families and did not tend to leave them behind with the idea they would join them later. There was no way for families left behind to survive. In many cases, these families had little or nothing when they left.
At that time, Germans were vassals and did not personally own land. Generally, they owned some livestock, which could be quickly sold, and some farm implements, and that’s it. Not difficult to pick up and leave.
We know that Samuel Bechtol arrived, at some point, and given the joint land ownership between Johann Michael Mueller and Samuel Bechtol, it’s very likely that Susanna was related to him. Some people indicate they were siblings, but I haven’t seen any documentation stating such. Susanna did have a brother, Hans Jacob Berchtol, born in 1686 who married Anna Marie Glosselos, but I found no record of a Samuel as Susanna’s sibling. Of course, it’s entirely possible that we don’t have all of the birth records. Some children could have been born in Switzerland before the family came to Germany.
There is a Hans Simon Berchtol family in Steinwenden where the Mueller family lived who did have a son named Hans Samuel born in 1685 with a Hans Michael (surname illegible) as godfather. Clearly these families were interconnected in some fashion, both in Germany and in Pennsylvania. There is one immigration record from September 1743 for Samuel Bechtol, but that might be somewhat late. There is a 1737 record for Jacob (IB) Bechtel. Estimates are that only about one third of the immigration records from this time frame have been preserved, and none before 1727 when the oath of allegiance began to be required.
We don’t know where Susanna was living from 1727 to 1732 but they were assuredly in or nearby Philadelphia in one of the German communities. It’s unclear when this family became Brethren as opposed to either Mennonite or Reformed.
There were congregations of both in Chester County.
I asked Merle Rummel, a long-time Brethren minister who is also a historian about the differences between Mennonites and Brethren in that timeframe. He was kind enough to send me some information, including his publication, “The Pietists,” which I’m trying to distill here. I wanted to understand the differences between the Brethren and Mennonites, which, to me, an outsider and from a perspective of nearly 300 years later, look an awful lot alike.
|Issue or Belief||Brethren||Mennonite|
|Pietism, Radical Pietism – separated from Protestant churches, specifically Lutheranism||Anabaptist – delays baptism until adult confession of faith, rebaptizes those baptized as infants|
|Pacifist (against war)||Yes||Yes|
|Celibacy||In some cases||No|
|Worship Day||Generally Sunday, some groups on Saturday, being the 7th day||Sunday|
|Churches||Initially in homes or barns. Sometimes walls were moveable for services. Eventually built churches where men and women sat of opposite sides of the church. Loud services and singing.|
|Also Known as||Baptizing Brethren, Baptist Brethren, Dunkers, Tunkers|
|Method of Baptism||Adult trine (triple) immersion in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost||Adult baptism, but not trine immersion and sometimes not immersion at all|
|Communion service||Feet washing, agape, love feast, holy kiss||Traditional communion|
|Focus||Faith, Biblical studies, cultivation of personal piety||Obedience|
|Divisions||Moravians, Brethren, Ephrata Brethren, from the Moravians – the Methodists||Mennonite, Amish, Hutterites, River Brethren|
|Formation||Brethren – 1708 Schwarzenau, Germany, Pietist movement – 1680 in Germany||1500s|
|Beliefs||Obedience to Christ as opposed to a church, nonviolence, nonswearing, nonconformity, refusal to take oaths, charity, Bible study, refusal to go to court or sue, simplicity of life and dress, temperance but not abstinence towards alcohol||No taking of oaths, no participation in military action, no participation in civil government, simplicity of life and dress.|
|Affiliation||Closely affiliated and lived with Mennonites in exile in Holland between 1719-1729, but became distinct and separate religion in Pennsylvania. Died out in Europe.||Survived and widespread in Europe today.|
|Goals||To establish a personal relationship with Jesus, within or outside of any religion, or for people with no religion, not to change churches. Initially did not intend to become a separate religion, just a way of worship. Inclusive of all initially, eventually excluded many.|
I can see that the differences in the ways the two religious groups approached both baptism and communion would be enough to cause them to become or remain two different groups. Those beliefs are fundamental to the Brethren and they would not be willing to compromise on those tenets.
By 1738, three of the families that Susanna Bechtol and Michael Miller are found with throughout their lives are founding the Little Conewago Church, 80 miles west of Philadelphia in Hanover Township, York County. These are the Ulrichs, Cripes and Jacob Stutzman, Michael Miller’s step-brother who arrived on the boat with Michael and Susanna and their children. Jacob Stutzman was born in 1706, so was significantly younger than Michael and Susan and they may have felt very parental towards him. He was not quite young enough to be their eldest child, but he was close.
The lack of Michael Miller’s name as a founding member of Little Conewago could mean that the records are lacking or that he was Mennonite at this time. However, by 1744, Alexander Mack’s letters mention Michael, so it’s likely he was Brethren by this time. By 1754, Michael had married a Brethren widow, so he was assuredly Brethren by that time.
On the map below, the path from Chester County to the Black Rock Church, the main Brethren church in the area where Little Conewago was located is shown, a distance of about 75 miles.
We know Susanna and Michael were living in York County in 1744 when on February 7th, Michael bought 400 acres of land northeast of Hanover with Nicholas Garber and Samuel Bechtol. These families had also lived in Chester County.
The Bechtol family never left York County, PA. Johann Michael Mueller sold his portion of that land to Samuel Bechtol in 1752. As administrator of the estate of Nicholas Garber, Michael likely sold Nicholas’s portion to Samuel Bechtol as well. By 1754, Michael Miller had married Elizabeth, the widow of Nicholas Garber.
The Johann Michael Mueller family was likely Brethren by this time, because their resistance to filing documents with the county had manifested itself. Not all deeds were filed, and neither was the marriage between Johann Michael Miller and Nicholas Garber’s widow. We only know of this because it says in a 1754 court record that Johann Michael Mueller is now married to Elizabeth, the widow of Nicholas Garber and administering his estate.
So, this also tells us that Susanna had assuredly died by 1754. Some researchers feel she had died by 1752 when Johann Michael Mueller sold his land to Samuel Bechtol. Michael Mueller had purchased land in Frederick County, MD in 1745 and was preparing to move to that area. Susanna did not sign off on her dower rights on the 1752 deed, but then again, if the deed was to her brother or other family member, maybe they didn’t feel the need. Some researchers feel that the lack of her signature indicate that she had died by this time.
In 1752, Susanna would have been 64 years of age. She probably had her last child at least 20 years prior, so there would have been no small children left at home.
It’s believed that Michael Miller actually moved to Frederick County, MD after the 1752 sale of his land in York County, PA. He wouldn’t have had any place to live otherwise.
The trip from Hanover to Maugansville was only about 60 miles, right down the new Monocacy Road.
So, Michael sold his land to a man who was possibly his deceased wife’s brother, almost certainly a relative, remarried to the widow of the other one-third property owner, sold that land as well, and removed to Maryland. It certainly appears that Susanna Agnes had died by 1752 and assuredly had by 1754..
In that time and place, widows and widowers did not remain single for long – mostly as a matter of survival, not a social or cultural preference. Life on the frontier was safer and easier with two people, you had a helpmate and a partner. Pure and simple.
So, it’s likely that Susanna died something between 1748 when Nicholas Garber died and 1752 when Michael sold his land to Samuel Bechtol.
Since we don’t know when Susanna died, we don’t know where she is buried, but we do have a hint – such that it is.
In 1748, a land dispute that had been unfolding in York County, PA became 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.” This dispute turned into a war, and indeed, most of the Germans, at least the pietist ones, did leave for Maryland just over the border with Pennsylvania. This dispute turned violent and several people were killed. We don’t know if Susanna was perhaps an undocumented victim of these activities. The date of Nicholas Garber’s death calls this into question for him as well.
We do know the location of the land in York County, thanks to Gene Miller’s work. The Miller/Bechtol/Garber land was dead center in the middle of the disputed land area. These pacifist people must have wondered if God had a perverse sense of humor – all things considered. What we do know is that Susanna’s husband was on a list of wanted men (if it was her Michael Miller) and another member of the Brethren family group, an Ullery, told the sheriff to “go to the devil” – something VERY un-pietist like and so unusual that it was recorded. These people had been pushed to the breaking point.
The land owned by the three men, Johann Michael Mueller, Samuel Berchtol/Bechtol and Nicholas Garber is shown above overlayed with dotted lines onto an 1886 map created by Gene Miller. In the lower corner with the red arrow, you can see the notation Mennonite Church Cemetery on the land owned by these joint landowners. You can also see that Bechtols by the surname spelling of Bechtel still live on this very land in 1886, 130+ years later. Today that cemetery is known as the York Road Cemetery and also as Bair’s Mennonite Church Cemetery.
This cemetery is where Samuel Bechtol who died in 1785 is buried. The Berchtol/Bechtol family was known to be Mennonite. It’s certainly possible that Susanna Agnes Berchtol was Mennonite as well before shifting slightly to the Brethren faith, which is very similar. It’s also possible that both Susanna and Michael were Mennonite until after Susanna’s passing when Michael could have become Brethren to marry Elizabeth Garber. One thing is evident – these three families were of somewhat different faiths, Brethren and Mennonite, and it didn’t seem to cause any problems between them. The Brethren and Mennonite faiths were very similar except for their forms of baptism and communion.
Regardless, Susanna had to be buried someplace. The fact that Berchtols were buried here some time later might suggest that earlier burials occurred here as well. Perhaps Susanna isn’t buried far from Samuel. The church itself was not established until 1774 but a family or community cemetery certainly could have pre-dated the church in this location.
If Susanna did make it to Frederick County, Maryland, she may have been one of the first Brethren to be buried there.
Beginning in the 1760s, Michael began to distribute his remaining land to his children and his step-children. By the time of his death, he owned no land and had no estate probate – unfortunately. Therefore, the only way we have to connect the dots with his children is via land transactions.
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 and Susanna are speculation, and there is a lot of speculation online. 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. 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 probably 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. We have an undated naturalization record for Lodowich.
- 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 formerly Frederick, present day Washington County, MD near Maugensville. Married Magdalena, probably in York County, who was reported to be a Rochette, although I have never found any documentation or that surname. Philip Jacob 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. There is an undated naturalization record in Pennsylvania for a John Miller in Maryland, although we can’t tell if this is the same man for sure.
- Hans Michael Miller is given money to purchase land.
- Michael Miller Junior is given land.
Sadly, we know of no daughters, although they almost certainly existed. There are numerous people who have suggested individuals in the community as Michael’s daughters, but so far, none have produced any evidence whatsoever.
Susanna lived in several places during her childbearing years and the rest of her marriage years. In other words, if she had other children who died, they could have been baptized and buried in a number of places. If this happened, it must have been exceedingly difficult for Susanna to move on, leaving her children’s graves behind, and alone. As a mother, I can tell you that there is always a part of you that remains with those children.
- 1714-1715 – Krottelback
- 1716-1721 – Unknown location in Germany
- 1721 – Possibly Lambshein
- 1721-1727 – Unknown location in Germany
- 1727 – Rotterdam, then ship to America
- 1727-1732 – Unknown location in Pennsylvania
- 1732-1740 – Coventry Township, Chester County, PA
- 1740-1744 – Unknown location in Pennsylvania
- 1744-1752 – Near Hanover, York County, PA
- 1752+ – Frederick County, MD
If Susanna did not pass away before 1752 when Michael sold his York County land, she could have moved with him to Frederick County, Maryland in 1752, but she was assuredly departed by 1754.
Most women of this timeframe in history never ventured more than ten miles distant from their European home. Susanna Agnes Berchtol was no stereotypical woman and saw a great deal of adventure in her life. I wonder if she chose this path or if it was chosen for her. Did she even get to vote on the matter? Did she look ahead in anticipation, or did she cry every time she left her familiar home? She did a lot of leaving in her lifetime. A lot of climbing onto boats, into wagons and probably walking.
Unfortunately, because we don’t have the mitochondrial DNA line of Susanna, we can’t use the unbroken female line mitochondrial DNA to prove a daughter relationship. To do that, we would need to have two individuals who both believe they descend from Susanna through all females – and their mtDNA would need to match at the full sequence level. Then, we could probably be fairly sure they both do indeed descend from Susanna (or at least a common matrilineal ancestor) – but not Susanna positively without proven genealogical descent. Of course, finding someone who descends through all females from any of Susanna’s sisters would provide Susanna’s mtDNA as well, since mitochondrial DNA is passed from females to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on. If you have proven descent from Susanna’s sisters, Barbel (Barbara) born about 1693 or Ursula born about 1696, through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.
There’s another kind of test for anyone who descends from Johann Michael Mueller and Susanna Agnes Berchtol through any children, male or female, and through any combination of male and female children down that line. It’s an autosomal test called Family Finder at Family Tree DNA. Several people known to descend from this couple through male children have already tested. If people who believe they descend through female children also test, and match, that’s evidence to suggest that Michael and Susanna Agnes did have female children – and to identify who they are.
If anyone believes they descend from Susanna Agnes Bechtol and Johann Michael Mueller through a female child, they can take the autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA and join the Miller Brethren project. In this project, we have gathered together many of the descendants of Johann Michael Mueller and Susanna Agnes Berchtol and we can compare autosomal DNA against these descendants as well. Yes, that connection would be several generations back in time. One could not expect to match all of their descendants, but they could certainly match some of their descendants. In this situation, the most difficult caveat would be that none of those individuals being compared share any other surname lines. Of course, in the Brethren community, that’s a difficult goal to achieve.
Still, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility and I encourage everyone who descends from this line to test autosomally and join the Miller Brethren project. I also encourage participants to upload their results to GedMatch where we can adjust match thresholds individually. In the cases of people matching distantly, this can make quite a difference in terms of whom matches whom.
I have to wonder what Susanna Agnes Berchtol would think of us discussing her DNA. Of course, Susanna would have had no idea what DNA was, although she certainly didn’t seem to be dissuaded by new frontiers. These small pieces of her DNA are the ties that bind her descendants to her in an unbroken chain of life.