If you watched the Katey Sagal episode of Who Do You Think You Are that aired on TLC on April 14th, you’ll recall that Katey made a couple of discoveries leading to the unveiling of her Amish heritage. First, her ancestor in Iowa was buried in a “Dunkard” Cemetery. Dunkard was the colloquial name for the religious denomination known as the Brethren.
I have Brethren ancestors too, an entire quarter tree full of them – my mother’s father, John Whitney Ferverda was Brethren. His mother Evaline Miller married Hiram B. Ferverda, a converted Mennonite.
The Brethren, Amish and Mennonite churches were all German based, lived in German communities, and were notorious for swapping members back and forth. All three were pietist religions, eschewing any type of violence or warfare, even for protection of yourself or your family. In other words, those three sects were in many ways far more alike than different.
In other words, finding someone who was a Dunkard in one generation and their parents as Mennonite in the earlier generation was not a surprise. According to Amish historian, J. M. Byler, intermarriage between Amish and Brethren or Mennonite was acceptable until 1809 when it was forbidden.
So, I knew I was going to enjoy this episode.
But then, the episode got much, MUCH more interesting.
Here are two screen grabs from the episode, thanks to TLC and Shedd Media. Katey’s line, going back in time, was found in Somerset, PA, then in Berk’s County, PA. an area highly known for their Amish population.
Even more interesting, Peter Miller married Mary Stutzman.
That just about doubled my heart rate right there, because my Miller line, also German, also Brethren, was very closely associated with a Brethren Stutzman line.
My Miller Line
My immigrant Johann Michael Miller Jr., born in 1692, immigrated from Germany in 1727 with his sort-of step-brother Johann Jacob Stutzman, known as Jacob Stutzman.
What is a sort-of step-brother?
Johann Michael Miller’s mother died, and his father, also Johann Michael Miller, married a second time to Anna Loysa Regina. Johann Michael Miller Sr. then died, and Anna then married to Hans Jacob Stutzman in 1695. Johann Michael Miller Jr. was only three years old at this time, so Anna was probably the only mother he had ever known.
Anna and her husband Hans Jacob Stutzman then had a son by the name of Johann Jacob Stutzman on January 1, 1706. So, technically, these two boys were not biologically related, but given that they immigrated together and were found together throughout their lives, it’s very likely that Anna Loysa Regina Miller Stutzman simply continued to raise Johann Michael Miller Jr., her step-son, after his father’s death and the boys were raised as brothers, even though they were 14 years apart.
Johann Michael Miller Jr. married Suzanna Berchtol in Germany, and in 1727, immigrated with his family, which included at least son Philip Jacob Miller, to the colonies – along with his sort-of step-brother Johann Jacob Stutzman
Johann Michael Miller and Suzanna Berchtol had a son the year after their marriage, Hans (probably Johann) Peter Mueller, baptized January 19, 1715 in Konken, Germany. We don’t know much about Peter except that on at least one occasion, Philip Jacob Miller’s brother, John, who died in Washington County, MD in 1794 was referred to as Johann Peter Miller in one document, but only one document of many.
Was that John the same Hans Peter that was born in 1715? It seems rather unlikely since he was never otherwise called Peter, but it’s possible.
So, we have a (possible) lost brother, Johann Peter Miller who was associated with the Stutzman family. Now, in Berks County, we find a Peter Miller married to a Stutzman wife.
What are the chances of this being all circumstantial?
Slim to none, right? Stutzman is not a common name, even though Miller is. And the two families being found together again, and intermarried is certainly suggestive of some continuity. Right?
Clearly, the Peter Miller on Katey’s chart born in 1756 is not the SAME Peter Miller born in 1715 in Germany, but he could clearly be a descendent, either a son or possibly a grandson.
The program did not follow Peter Miller any further, but instead switched to the Stutzman line because it led to the Hochstetler line which was the focus of the rest of the program.
Mary Stutzman was the daughter of Christian Stutzman, born about 1732, and Barbara Hochstetler. Christian Stutzman could have been the son of Jacob Stutzman or perhaps even a younger half-sibling or uncle.
Had I by any chance found my missing Peter Miller, or at least his descendant, associated with the Stutzman family? It would make perfect sense.
With two family connections in Pennsylvania, plus the pacifist religion – and a very unusual name like Stutzman – how could this NOT be the same family group?
Well, hold tight, because we’re going to find out!
I was so very excited!
Let’s Start Digging
Since Stutzman isn’t my direct line, I do have some references, but not a lot, so I began on the internet where I discovered that Christian, at least by some, is attributed to be the brother of Johann Jacob Stutzman, the “step-brother” of Johann Michael Miller Jr..
If Anna was 20 in 1695 when she married Jacob Stutzman, as her second marriage, she would have been 57 in 1732 when Christian Stutzman was born. Well, there’s the first big red flag.
The next problem is that Peter Miller is attributed to John Miller and Magdalena Lehman, and that John Miller would have been the age to be a sibling to my Johann Michael Miller Jr. This John Miller, known as “Indian John” was also wounded in the same raid where Katey Sagal’s Hochstetler family was taken captive.
The next problem is that Indian John is attributed to Christian Daniel Miller, born in Bern Switzerland. Hmm….if this is accurate, this is clearly not my Miller family – although my Miller’s did come from near Bern – so they could be the same family, just a generation or two further back in time. But regardless, not my lost Hans Peter Miller’s son.
I’m always skeptical of trees, anyplace, so I wanted more proof than this.
I decided to take a look at the Miller DNA project at Family Tree DNA and see if there was any enlightenment there. At the top of the project page, my Johann Michael Miller line is shown. At the bottom of the page, the John Miller who married Magdalena Lehman is shown. You can click to enlarge.
While they do share the same halogroup, they are definately not matches to each other, as you can see below, so they are definitely NOT the same Miller line.
Ok, well, maybe the Stutzman line is the same. While it’s not my direct line, it’s still an interesting part of my Johann Michael Miller’s life, so let’s take a look at what we find.
Stutzman was more difficult.
Ancestry trees showed a plethora of information, with some trees showing Jacob and Christian as full brothers, but we’ve already shown that’s nigh on impossible due to the age of Anna.
They could, however, be paternal half brothers or otherwise related.
The Stutzman project at Family Tree DNA seems to be abandoned and shows no project results. Harumph. (If there is someone who would like to adopt the Stutzman DNA project at Family Tree DNA, which is quite small (4 members), it needs an administrator.)
So I turned to YSearch, with the hope that some of the Stutzman clan had uploaded results there.
Indeed they had. Three entries – and two of those entries appear to be the lines we’re seeking. I checked the compare box to view their results.
First of all, none of the three match to each other, so these lines are definitely different. I checked my own Stutzman resource books, and the Jacob Stutzman line that Anna Regina married into is reported to be from Erlenbach, Switzerland. In this case, that would be equivalent to the first entry, user ID V85YJ.
Sure enough, they had uploaded a Gedcom file and I verified that indeed, this is the Jacob line that was the sort-of step-brother to Johann Michael Miller.
The other entry, VZJYF is the is the Christian Stutzman line from Berks County, PA, whose daughter married Peter Miller.
By running the Genetic Distance report, I verify that at 12 markers, which is all the further kit V85YJ tested, they have a genetic distance of 6, which very clearly indicates they are NOT a match.
Well, triple crumb.
Now, you could also say we need another sample from each of these two Stutzman lines, through a different son to assure that no undocumented adoptions have occurred – and you would be right of course.
However, without that additional information, it looks like these are different lines, just like the Miller line was.
I’m sure that it was assumptions just like this, before DNA testing was available, that caused people to jump to incorrect conclusions.
After all, what ARE the chances that both a Miller and a Stutzman would be found in a close family situation, not terribly distant, in a minority Pietist German religion in colonial America, and not be related? I don’t know the mathematical odds, but I can tell you that DNA confirms that whatever those odds are, they don’t matter. Of course, this is also why definitive proof of a relationship between the two families could never be found – it wasn’t there to BE found. The only facts we have are the DNA tests.
The DNA facts confirm that neither the Peter Miller nor the Christian Stutzman family from Berks and Somerset County, PA are the same family as the Johann Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman family from York and Cumberland County, PA and then Frederick/Washiongton County, Maryland.
Three strikes and I’m out, but I am actually very glad to put this decades long question for both of these family groups to rest once and for all. Bravo DNA testers, projects at Family Tree DNA and YSearch – all three critical to answering this question.
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
- Family Tree DNA
- MyHeritage DNA only
- MyHeritage DNA plus Health
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload
- 23andMe Ancestry
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
- Legacy Tree Genealogists for genealogy research
It’s funny how surnames can evoke different reactions from family researchers. It’s also interesting how certain surnames are concentrated in a given geographic area. My Miller ancestors are all from Suffolk County, New York, so I’m slightly disappointed every time I review a Miller match and it’s from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Millers must have been very prolific for me to discover so many descendants.
They were quite prolific and they names all the kids the same darned names too.
Fascinating. I must get more and more into DNA Genealogy
I haven’t really ever tried DNA genealogy in a serious way, but maybe I should be taking it into account more often…
There is little doubt that Peter Miller h/o Magdalena Stutzman was the son of ‘Indian’ John or ‘Wounded’ John Miller. This Miller family was and still is a prominent Amish family, documented in a number of Amish resources including “Amish & Amish-Mennonite Genealogies”, “Anniversary History of John ‘Hannes’ Miller, Sr.”, “Both Sides of the Ocean”, “Mifflin County Amish and Mennonite Story” and “Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler” as well as several Mennonite Family History articles. During the 19th Century, much of the family remained Amish, with a couple exceptions who became Dunkers, well after John’s death. Some of these resources also talk about the Christian Stutzman family. The “Anniversary History” is an in depth study on John’s children including Peter (written by the late Amish historian Virgil Miller). Virgil covers the Miller family in Europe, and discusses the origins of the Stutzman family in “Both Sides of the Ocean”. I live up the street from the homestead of Henry Miller the last Amishman in Cambria County, PA, who was a descendent of John Miller. He died in the early 1900’s, and my house sits on his old farm stead.
I am descended via John Miller/Magdalena Lehman via John ‘Hannes’ Miller. This is a very interesting article as well as the replies. I haven’t done too much research yet that far back in my ancestry but John ‘Hannes’ Miller who married Veronica Yoder are my 5th great-grandparents.
Wendy, I would like to contact you to share information as I also believe that John “Hannes” Miller and Veronica (?) are my 5th great grandparents. I would like to discuss who you have established Veronica’s last name. I don’t have any documentation as to who she was.
I have encountered a man named Johann Jacob Stutzman, said to have been born 1727, Pennsylvania, who was on the 1768, Early Tax List, in Rowan County, North Carolina. He was most likely not my direct ancestor, but one never knows for sure, as my direct mother’s line was maybe in that area.. His daughter, Anna, b. abt 1754, married in North Carolina to Philip Harmon, b abt 1752. I am interested in the Harmon family because there were multiple relationships with my more direct family. Many of my lines converge to Rowan County, and that area, and it is difficult to find out exactly who married whom, and the religion of the different lines, which made a difference in researching backwards the next generation.
I am aware Dunkards, as a general term, migrated south from Pennsylvania to that general area of North Carolina. I am assuming Johann Jacob did likewise. Anna Harmon was likely also a Dunkard, which may say something about my closer family, although many became early Baptists, probably while in North Carolina. Religious edicts forbidding self-protection, fighting in wars, and marrying out of the faith seems to have provoked the religious change.
I am wondering if Johann Jacob Stutzman, said to have been born about 1727, could have been a son of the Johann Jacob in your article? There are timeline problems with information I have seen for this person.
Miller is also in my tree, as a direct line from North Carolina.
The Jacob Stutzman of Rowen County, is Dunker Elder Jacob Stutzman, who died in Indiana in 1813. There is comprehensive article on him in the July 1982 Mennonite Family History Magazine, written by John Scott Davenport. The article also talks about the Amish Stutzman’s (no apparent connection). There is another Dunker Jacob Stutzman from this time period as well, who has no connection to either, who is also referred to in the article. The article also discussed the Jacob born in 1727.
Once again, a great story! Having seen that episode I really like how you grabbed on to it to help your studies.
I have been following you for some time. Once in a while you mention “giving a scholarship” or a FF kit to a relative. I am at that place now. I have a kit in my possesion and have the kit number. I am the registered payer for it. How do I get the password? Will it be sent to me or my relative?
When the kit is ordered, the password is sent to the email that was used. I always use my own email because I want the credit card receipt and notification when results come back. You can add the recipients email as a secondary email. If this is not what happened, perhaps you need to do a password reset.
Hi Roberta! I love the Miller research stories! I have a Joseph Miller b 1829 OH/d 1883 KS, parents born PA, family legend they were German Millers. I have DNA on Ancestery and a male cousin YDNA on FTDNA. How would I compare my YDNA to yours to see if indeed we are related??
Thank you so much for considering my question! We just might be Cousins 🙂
On Family Tree DNA, you can join the Miller Brethren project and then we can see if your Miller matches any Miller males in that project. If not, you can withdraw your cousin’s DNA from that project, but if he does match, then we’ve found a connection. Let me know when you join your cousin.
I’ve joined the Miller Brethern project and it looks like I match kit 188486 and N41606!! This is SUPER exciting. I’m such a newbie at this and struggle a bit with the FTDNA UI. Do I upload my kit to the project? What are next steps to connect with my new found cousins!!!
My answer assumed you ordered through Family Tree DNA.
I am seeing the same family names moving in the same circles for generations in both Zeeland and in the Bingen area of Germany. So it is not surprising to me, although your wonderful scientific explanations are, as usual, beyond my ken.
Thanks Roberta. Yes, it was through Family Tree DNA.
The Indian John Miller line is getting messy with DNA results. I’m seeing two unrelated sets of results with overlapping paper trails back to the immigrants but have not gotten around to rooting out the issues that are present in the documentation of the lineages. Indian John Miller is in my tree.
We have the same issues in the Johann Michael Miller line. One person who is actually from the Elder Jacob Miller line has an inaccurate tree and assigns Elder Jacob as a descendant of Johann Michael Miller, which he is not. I did sort through that because it is my line.
Wayne, I would like to compare family information as I also believe that I am a descendant of Indian John Miller but would like more evidence.
Puzzled by this paragraph: ” Johann Michael Miller Jr.’s parents had another son too, Hans (probably Johann) Peter Mueller, baptized January 19, 1715 in Konken, Germany. We don’t know much about Peter except that on at least one occasion, Johann Michael Miller Jr.’s brother, John, who died in Washington County, MD in 1794 was referred to as Johann Peter Miller. ”
What am I missing? I thought that Johann Michael Miller Jr was the only surviving child of Johann Michael Miller and Irene Charitas “unknown.” Am a direct Miller descendant via Lodowich, David and Nancy of the subsequent generations. And like you am a Church of the Brethern by ancestry. Thanks in advance.
Here’s the article. https://dna-explained.com/2016/01/03/susanna-agnes-berchtol-or-bechtol-1688-17481754-wife-of-johann-michael-mueller-52-ancestors-105/
It was Johann Michael Miller Jr. and Suzanna Berchtol who had the son Hans Peter I Konken. He would have been the brother of Philip Jacob Miller. I will change the article. Too many men by the same name. Thanks for the good eye.
Got it now. Thanks.
Do You have any indication that these MILLERS are ancestors of Mark Miller, b 1818/19, D 1904 Clay County Kansas? Mark’s birth was in Chester, Pennsylvania.
I have no idea. Sorry.
Stutzman is my direct line. I haven’t finished reading your post yet, but I am sure to learn a lot from your line. I have been working on my direct line a lot over the past few years as I am working on a DAR application. It warms my heart to learn so much about what my ancestors had to endure for things like freedom. It makes me appreciate it that much more.
Pingback: Stephen Ulrich Sr., (born c1690), The Conewago Settlement and the Border War, 52 Ancestors #136 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy
I like that I found this after randomly googling my known ancestors. I mean I knew we were Mennonites, but I didn’t realize until today that Peter Miller was my 7th-great uncle!
I am a newbie to the genealogy world. Back in the 1990’s, my late LDS mother-in-law was a preofessional geneologist and she taught me quite a few things. Fast forward to 2020 and a pandemic, and I decided it’s finally time to join Ancestry.com and get busy researching. I also have used Family Search. I also took a DNA autosomal test and received my results about one month ago.
In regards to this article, I find I am truly related to Christian Sears, b. 1742, and Barbara Stutzman, b. 1759. They are my 5th great grandparents, and my DNA proves it.
My dilemma is… I can’t make sense of the complicated, almost comical and slightly mind boggling lineage, going back from Barbara Stutzman. I’ve read and re-read all the information, and then I go back to my tree, with Ancestry.com giving me lots of hints, but some don’t match the, what I would call, thoroughly researched names here.
I would absolutely LOVE it if someone could offer some advice or help on where to start with Barbara Stutzmann. Right now my poor Stuzmann branch looks a mess and I could really use some help, if available.
I definitely admire the hard work that has gone into all this research and the light-hearted banter on this topic.
If anyone wants to reach out to me regarding this Stutzman branch, I would be most appreciative and delighted!!
Cheryl Kanke Judge