Sometimes, truth is so much stranger than fiction. I just couldn’t make these things up!
If you haven’t been keeping track – and believe me, I understand why you wouldn’t be – let me give you a brief update before I tell you about this amazing turn of events. My own version of that Christmas genealogy miracle.
The Legend of Johann Michael Muller (1692-1771) and Jacob Stutzman (1705-1773)
In the US, Johann Michael Muller 1692-1771 (the second) and Jacob Stutzman 1705-1773 were originally believed to have been “not blood related,” but functionally brothers.
By this, I mean that the original story was that Johann Michael Muller (spelled Miller here) the second was born to Johann Michael Muller the first, and his wife, Irene Charitas <some last name, although sometimes Charitas was listed as her surname>.
As the story went, Irene died and Johann Michael Muller the first remarried to Regina Loysa <some surname, and sometimes the surname was listed as Loysa>.
Then Johann Michael Muller the first died in 1795, leaving the young child Johann Michael Muller the second at age 3 to be raised by his step-mother, Regina, who subsequently married Johann Jacob Stutzman.
Are you following this? Because lots of previous researchers didn’t, believe me – and I had to draw pictures myself. It was flat out confusing!
Regina then had a son, Johann Jacob Stutzman (Jr.) with her second husband, Johann Jacob Stutzman. Her son was always known simply as Jacob Stutzman. In the US, Johann Michael Muller was known as Michael Miller.
That’s what we thought happened. But it wasn’t!
What Actually Happened
What actually happened was this:
That person with the long red name is really one person. I know, I know, that just doesn’t sound realistic – but that’s actually what happened and records proved it.
Jacob Stutzman and Michael Miller were half-brothers through their mother. Even though they were about 15 years apart in age, they were clearly very close and immigrated to America together on the same ship in 1727.
Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman were never far apart during their lifetimes, both converting at some point to the Brethren religion. In the US, they only had each other – although it’s certainly possible that at least a few cousins immigrated as well.
The sun truly set on that original story, because once we unraveled all the unforeseen twists and turns, there were several factual errors. However, there were valid reasons those earlier mistakes had originally been made. The records were extremely confusing, with multiple people sharing the same names, people whose names morphed into something else during their lifetimes and people who moved across not one, not two, but three countries and the ocean.
What else could go wrong?
It’s no wonder everyone was confused, me included.
Here’s what we know, along with the relevant articles providing documentation:
- Johann Michael Muller, the first, was indeed the father of Johann Michael Muller, the second born in 1692, who immigrated to Pennsylvania.
- Charitas was not the surname of Irene Charitas. Neither was Schlosser. My bad on this one.
- Irene Charitas was actually a Heitz, daughter of Conrad Heitz.
Yea, that retraction article was particularly ugly and embarrassing. I like to think of it as a teachable moment. If I was a cat, I’d lick my paw and claim I meant to fall of the couch backwards😊
However, it was the marriage record of Johann Michael Muller to Irene Lisabetha Heitz that gave us the name and location of Johann Michael Muller’s father – Heinsmann Muller of Schwarzenmatt, Canton Bern, Switzerland. What a gift that record was, twice over.
- Irene’s first and middle names morphed several times. She must have answered to anything and everything.
As it turned out, Irene Lisabetha’s name became Irene Charitas and even that name managed to morph over time, as she changed churches and moved from Steinwenden to more distant locations. She was called Irene Elisabetha, then Irene Charitas, then Regina Loysa, then Regina Elisabetha. She was identified as the mother of Johann Michael Muller, the second, when he was baptized in Steinwenden and then years later when she stood up at the baptism of his children. All I can say is God bless those Germans and their records.
- Johann Michael Muller and Jacob Stutzman shared a mother.
Those church records confirmed that Irene/Regina by whatever name was the mother of both Jacob Stutzman and Johann Michael Muller. Johann Michael Muller the second was actually the half brother of Jacob Stutzman, through their mother.
Chris and Tom, my trusty friends, had tracked the Stutzman family through the records. I thought they were going to an awful lot of work for pretty much nothing since I wasn’t related to the Stutzman line, but they continued just the same. I sure am glad they knew what they were doing. Tom has so much more experience with old German records that I do or ever will have.
- The Stutzmans and Mullers came from the same Swiss valley.
In those records, Tom and Chris tracked the earliest known Stutzman ancestor to Erlenbach, another village in the Simmental valley in Switzerland, about 10 miles from Schwarzenmatt.
In the late 1660s, brothers Hans and Hans Jacob Stutzman, sons of Peter Stutzman had migrated from Erlenbach to Geislartern in the Saar Region of Germany.
- Jacob Ringeisen is Johann Michael Muller’s cousin.
In the Steinwenden church records, a cousin of Michael Muller, Jacob Ringeisen is identified as being from Erlenbach as well. Erlenbach is about 10 miles from Schwarzenmatt, but Steinwenden is about 275 miles, so the chances of both Michael and Jacob accidentally winding up in the same locations is pretty remote. A group of Swiss settled in Steinwenden and clearly, Michael and Jacob were among those early immigrants.
- The Boltigen church burned.
As far as the Muller records in Schwarzenmatt, the records had run out. The church was actually a mile or two down the valley, in Boltigen, and it burned, along with all the records in 1840.
That’s where we are in the story today.
Done, finit, right?
Not so fast!
In the Heinsmann Muller article, I introduced you to Peter Mosimann whose wife’s ancestors lived in the house descended from the Muller family in Schwarzenmatt.
Peter authored a historical book about the area, including the Muller family, which much to my chagrin is out of print. Writing to his publisher and asking for the e-mail to be forwarded was not fruitful.
After waiting a respectable amount of time, Chris graciously wrote a snail mail letter to Peter Mosimann, who kindly replied.
In Peter’s reply, he mentioned a 1653 house inventory of Schwarzenmatt.
Johann Michael Muller, the first, was born about 1655 in Schwarzenmatt to Heinsmann Muller. 1653 is only two years before Michael’s birth, so surely Heinsmann was living there then.
Chris and I reasoned that if there was one Heinsmann Muller in Schwarzenmatt in 1653, he had to be the father of Johann Michael Muller.
Keep in mind how small this village is today.
The original village is the area encircled in purple. Peter Mosimann’s wife’s Muller family home is located there – house number 409, right at the bottom right of the encircled area, at the intersection of the roads where the red arrow is pointing.
A Stutzman Researcher
Earlier this month, after discovering the work Chris had done with the Stutzman records, another researcher contacted him stating the following:
Just to keep you updated, I have found out that Stutzmanns living in Boltigen and Erlenbach are connected through Bettler family. Namely, Hans Stutzmann born in Erlenbach in 1625 married Magdalena Bettler, while another Magdalena Bettler who deceased in Boltigen in 1687 was also a wife of Hans Stutzman (see page 71: https://www.query.sta.be.ch/Dateien/18/D94449.pdf). The Hans Stutzmann who deceased in Boltigen in 1693 (see page 78) may be the husband of this Magdalena and might be the father of Hans who emigrated to Mönsheim.
I was excited. Chris and Tom were both more reserved.
They discussed this finding, and although it was interesting, this researcher also faced the same problem of the Boltigen records having burned, so they were rightly skeptical of this connection.
Then, the researcher sent another comment:
It is indeed intriguing as I have spotted one Stutzmann living in the very Schwarzenmatt hamlet, see here on page 44 (in pdf file, page 87 in the document): https://www.query.sta.be.ch/Dateien/18/D94449.pdf
You can bet that I jumped on that link right away which led to a book in the Canton Bern archives, from Boltigen. (Hmmm, apparently ALL the records didn’t burn after all.)
The dates on the book spine look like the records are from 1669 to 1720 or 1728. Of course, I can’t actually read this book, but I can do limited pattern matching and I do see a Muller on page 19 under 1682. I also found the record on page 87 that the researcher above referring to, along with several Muller names. It appears that the two Muller families in 1653 probably had several descendants by the early 1700s.
Ok, I’ve decided – what I want most for Christmas this year is for someone at the archives to transcribe this book into German that I can then enter into a translator. That would be just dandy. Santa, are you listening?
Really, what I need most is a name index. These old records written in German script are difficult for even the most seasoned translator, so all kidding aside, it’s no small feat. Let’s hope that Peter Mosimann has already transcribed these records. Will I be that lucky?
The House List
Peter Mosimann’s letter mentioned the 1653 house inventory in addition to saying that he would copy and send the relevant chapter of his book to Chris for translation. Peter does not speak English.
Patiently waiting apparently isn’t a trait that either Chris or I possess, so Chris found the Schwarzenmatt 1653 house list showing 43 houses in total. I’ve also learned that this isn’t actually a house register, but a hearth or chimney register and it’s possible that two families could be living in the same actual “house” but be listed separately because the house was large enough to have two chimneys.
Nine lines up from the bottom on the left page, we find Heintsman Muller. So it really is Heintzman or Heintsman, not Heinrich misspelled. This is me, doing a happy dance!!!
If my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me, we also find a Wolfgang Muller four from the bottom, just 5 below Heintzman Muller. Is Wolfgang perhaps Heintzmann’s brother or maybe even his father?
Then, at the top of the right hand page we find Hans Stutzman.
Yes, one Hans Stutzman lived right in the tiny village of Schwarzenmatt in 1653. Is it possible that he is the progenitor of the Stutzman line, and that both Hans and Hans Jacob found in the late 1600s in Erlenbach descended from Jacob in Schwarzenmatt or Jacob’s ancestor? If so, it’s certainly possible, if not probable, that Michael Muller born in 1655 and Hans Jacob Stutzman born in 1645 were already related. In fact, one would expect no less in a small mountain village in the Swiss Alps. Who else was available to marry except your neighbors, who had probably been neighbors in that same village or valley for generations. I wonder when surnames were adopted in this region.
It’s feasible that Jacob Stutzman and Michael Muller might well have been related, perhaps several times, on their respective father’s lines, in addition to sharing the same mother. They could have been second cousins paternally, or more distant. Or cousins several times over.
Further down on the right-hand page, below the heading for what appears to be a different village, it looks like there might be two more Mullers, but I can’t tell for sure. Eight rows below the heading it looks like Mulford Muller followed by two other words, and 4 below that might be Jacob Muller.
Although I can’t read the surnames on the list today, it’s also likely that Heintzmann Muller’s wife’s family is also from this village. Her parents may be listed as well. We just don’t know who, and probably never will, barring a new miracle of course.
Let’s do Math!
If 43 houses existed in 1653, and each couple had 10 children total, with half living in each generation, and half of the survivors being males, how many generations working backward until the first person settled in Schwarzenmatt. We are assuming no new people settled in the village which probably is not a legitimate assumption – but hey, how many people travel up a valley into the high mountains looking for a small village to live in.
For this exercise, we divide each generation by two. Two surviving male children and one child gets the existing house. The surviving females marry males in other families.
- 43/2= 21 houses 1622
- 21/2 = 11 houses in 1590
- 11/2 = 5 houses in 1560
Using this example, in 1530, only 2 or 3 houses would have existed in Scharzenmatt, except settlement wasn’t exactly that linear or predictable. For example, in 1396 when the Canton of Bern acquired the land, the villages of Boltigen, Eschi, Schwarzenmatt and Weissenback were all listed, so clearly someone lived there long before 1530.
The local Boltigen church of St. Mauritius was first mentioned in 1228, so people were living there then, and enough people to organize and attend church. This also suggests that these families were probably all interrelated and had been in 1653 for at least the previous 4 generations and probably much longer.
We know from the Ringeisen church records in Steinwenden that people living in the village of Erlenbach, 10 miles distant, are recorded as being cousins of Johann Michael Muller.
First cousins would share grandparents.
Of course, we don’t know if the church records in Steinwenden meant first cousins, or cousins more broadly.
It’s very difficult to discern more, but two of the possibilities are that Johann Michael Muller’s mother was a Ringeisen or a Seiler, sister to Jacob Ringeisen’s father or mother, or that Jacob Ringeisen’s mother or father was a sibling to Heintzman Muller’s unknown wife.
At this point, I’d like to say that we’ll probably never know, but this family, with the help of Chris, Tom and other researchers continues to surprise me. Maybe Peter Mosimann’s letter will contain additional information!
The Stutzman/Miller line is greatly confused, not just by the fact that the two men are actually interrelated through their mother, but also by the fact that the Miller and Stutzman families subsequently intermarried in the US as they progressively migrated across the country together in Brethren communities, generation by generation.
I decided to see what I could find utilizing Ringiesen/Ringeisen, even though Ringeisen is very likely to be misspelled in the US. The Miller-Ringeisen connection, if it pertains to my line, is at least 10 generations back in time. A segment could persist, but it’s more likely NOT to. On the other hand, if endogamy is in play, that might help because many people in that population will carrying the same segments of DNA from a few founding ancestors.
Endogamy may have started in Schwarzenmatt and the Simmental Valley, but it continues to this day in Brethren communities.
At Family Tree DNA, I found no matches using Ringeisen or Ringiesen.
At MyHeritage, Mother does match an individual who has Ringeisen ancestors in Thurnen, Switzerland, not terribly far from Erlenbach. Is this a match from a common line, and in particular, this common line? I don’t know. I don’t recognize any of the other people that they match in common.
I decided to paint that matching segment at DNAPainter to see if I could rule it out as a possibility or determine if it matches my Miller line which would lend the match some credibility. An 11.8 cM match is significant.
That gray-green segment overlaps with Mom’s nephew (burgundy), but so far, no other matches on that particular segment. The lavender colored band below the burgundy segment is Mom’s European ethnicity estimate from 23andMe. Both the lavender and burgundy are mostly obstructed by the black information box.
While Mother does triangulate with several people on this segment at MyHeritage, I don’t recognize any of them. Their trees, if they exist, don’t provide hints. I’ll need to be patient until Mom has a match on that segment from a known relative or someone who descends from a common ancestor to make more progress.
At GedMatch, by searching the pedigree charts for Ringeisen, I found one person who listed Hans Jacob Ringeisen born July 13, 1653 in Erlenbach who died on June 1, 1691 in Steinwenden. I then checked my mother’s kit and there was no match to the person’s email address listed as the Gedcom owner. They did have parents for Jacob listed as Christen Ringeisen who married Cathrina Seiler on December 23, 1629 in Erlenbach.
I checked my two first cousins for matches as well as a few another Miller cousins, all with no luck.
I’m striking out here.
At Ancestry, I have one Ringeisen DNA match of 15.6 cM on 1 segment to a man with 3 people in his tree. His mother’s birth surname was Ringeisen. I was able to track his Ringeisen line back to John H. Ringeisen born in 1812 in Germany. His first 4 children were born in Germany before he migrated to Ohio between 1844 and 1852. A private tree shows Johann Henrich Ringeisen born in 1812 in Waldmohr, Kusel, Germany, about 15 miles from Steinwenden.
We may have found a segment of Miller/Ringeisen DNA. Of course, without knowing more about other potential common ancestors in that gentleman’s tree and without being able to utilize a chromosome browser, I won’t be able to confirm. Perhaps I’ll ask if my Ancestry match will transfer to either Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage or GedMatch where I can confirm that segment.
We made an amazing find on the 1653 house list among those 21 families living in Schwarzenmatt, positioning Hans Stutzman and Heintzman Muller as near neighbors. This opens the very real possibility that perhaps the Miller and Stutzman lines were related in the Simmental Valley, prior to immigrating to Germany, given that the families in Schwarzenmatt were few and located in a fairly remote alpine region.
Solving the mystery of how the Muller and Ringeisen families are related will have to wait for another day, if ever. I suspect that the Muller roots run deep in that beautiful alpine valley and Michael may have literally been related to everyone.
My heart reaches back in time to Heintzmann Muller and before, to countless generations of my ancestors whose dust and DNA grace the majestic mountains and lush valleys of Switzerland. Johann Michael Muller may have left, but my soul found its way home.
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