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