About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.

Owed to Mrs. Alsup: Be Undeniable – 52 Ancestors #203

One of the comments I hear regularly is that I’m lucky to be involved with genetic genealogy and the opportunities it offers. I agree, I am very fortunate, but luck, per se, has little to do with it. Luck is buying the winning lottery ticket. I haven’t managed to do that yet, although I’m still trying.

In the mean time, while I waited for Lady Luck to smile on me, I prepared, just in case I’m never “lucky.”

Everyone needs at least one really great teacher in their life. I was fortunate to have three, the first of which was Mrs. Alsup, followed by my step-father, Dean Long, who told me that “Luck favors the prepared and elbow grease,” and then with Joe Caruso.

Mrs. Alsup

Mrs. Inez Alsup was my English teacher in high school who taught me an extremely valuable lesson, one I really didn’t understand that I had learned or the depth of its value until nearly 25 years later.

I’ll add that she was a black woman, but in saying that, I also want to say that to me, she was just Mrs. Alsup and black or white mattered not one iota. I never thought of her in those terms. It’s just that looking back, I realize what a pioneer she really was and have a much greater respect for what she had to overcome to achieve what she did. It was from the depths of those experiences that she spoke to me.

She was a black woman, born in 1938 in the deep south, in Georgia, who obtained both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, became a teacher, then an administrator and assistant principal before retiring.

But Mrs. Alsup was tough, really tough. She was tougher on me than on anyone else and I felt she was extremely unfair.

As an adult, I fully understand why, and I appreciate it beyond expression. But I wasn’t an adult back then.

Mrs. Alsup saw my potential, and she comprehended something I didn’t. Women, in that day and age, had to be better to be equal. They had to excel, and excellence had to be absolutely unquestionable. Good wasn’t good enough.

On top of being a female, I was a mixed race female, and she understood all too well what that meant. I did not. Consequently, I was extremely unhappy with Mrs. Alsup.

“Next Time, Earn It”

Mrs. Alsup refused to give me an A that I fully believed I deserved. I was one-thirty-second of a point away from that A.

One. Thirty. Second. Of. A. Point.

1/32

Using math to average and round up, I could fully justify why I should have that A, but Mrs. Alsup was completely unswayed. Other teachers do this as standard practice, I argued. She patiently heard me out, and then she looked at me, dead straight in the eye, leaning forward over her desk until her face was just inches from mine, squinted her eyes at me and said, or rather kind of hissed, “Next time, earn it.”

I was furious, utterly furious. Mrs. Alsup was entirely unfazed as I stormed out of that room with an attitude and a half.

I did earn it, damn it, I did!

But, I really hadn’t. I had been almost good enough. Not good enough. Not better. Just almost. Not quite. Almost isn’t good enough.

But guess what…the next semester, and the next, I earned that A, and then I earned an A+ followed by what was called an A5, which was a 5 point A, as compared to a “regular” 4 point A.

Mrs. Alsup was right – if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well, completely and unquestionably. I learned to be undeniable and it served me very well from that time forward in my life, but it wasn’t until I met Joe Caruso that I fully internalized the lesson Mrs. Alsup had taught me.

Until I truly understood the value of undeniability, and could put words to the phenomenon, I was unable to leverage it effectively.

Joe Caruso

Joe Caruso, founder of Caruso Leadership Institute, is a cancer survivor (as a teenager) with a high school education. Yet, he consults with and to America’s largest corporations. Joe is an unprecedented teacher and leader and he does not know the meaning of the word “can’t.” If you ever have the opportunity to hear Joe speak, just do it.

In 1997, I attended a seminar, (quite by accident actually), taught by Joe which turned out to be a clarifying, life-changing event. You can download, for free, Joe Caruso’s Success Strategies, one of which is to “Be Undeniable.” Indeed. Joe’s Success Strategies poster has remained on the wall by my desk through three moves and more than two decades.

Yes, I’m lucky, fortunate and blessed to have had Inez Alsup, my step-father AND Joe Caruso enter my life at the moments I needed a lesson.

Being Undeniable

On that fateful day that I was infuriated by Mrs. Alsup, I learned what it meant to be undeniable, although at that time I didn’t understand undeniability as a strategy.

A year later, I put that lesson to use when I attended a school board meeting, refusing to be excluded from a college prep class because the school wasn’t going to “waste the seat on a girl who’s just going to get married anyway.” They were going to “give it to a boy who would make something of himself.” I made my case and refused to leave. I obtained that seat in the class. I didn’t realize at the time that I had internalized Mrs. Alsup’s lesson.

Some two decades later, Joe Caruso would verbalize this golden rule of opportunity and made me realize the important life lesson that Mrs. Alsup had taught – far more important, at least to me, than the English class or the grade itself.

I wish I could personally thank Mrs. Alsup, but she passed away in 2010. My Dad’s gone too, but I can still thank Joe Caruso. In their honor, I would like to convey these very simple messages:

  • Luck favors the prepared and elbow grease. (Thanks Dad.)
  • Earn it. (Thanks Mrs. Alsup.)
  • Be undeniable. (Thanks Joe Caruso.)

And in case you’re wondering just how this applies to genetic genealogy, this is exactly the strategy I used to make the risky move of switching careers in the early/mid 2000s to genetic genealogy which was at that time a brand new field. It’s not luck, it’s thanks to Mrs. Alsup, Dad, Joe and a whole lot of continuing elbow grease. 😊

However, I am still buying lottery tickets. It never hurts to be both prepared AND lucky. Fingers crossed!

New Family Tree DNA Blog

Family Tree DNA launched a new blog when no one was looking! The first article is dated June 1st.

You can take a look here.

The other three major testing companies also publish blogs, although Family Tree DNA is the only one of the three that doesn’t have a business interest elsewhere. In other words, both Ancestry and MyHeritage would like to sell you a subscription to go along with your DNA test, and 23andMe’s primary focus is and has always been medical research.

I highly recommend those genealogy subscriptions though, because genetics is only one half of genetic genealogy. However, that also means that those blogs cover much broader topics than just incorporating DNA into your research.

  • Ancestry’s blog is here.
  • The MyHeritage blog is here. Coincidentally, imagine my surprise to discover that  today’s article is about my friend and cousin, Marie Rundquist, who recently broke through a huge brick wall utilizing DNA, her ingenuity, plus records. Small world, indeed!
  • 23andMe’s blog is here.

Blogs are a great way to keep current with the latest news from vendors and learn how to best utilize their tools.

Join me in my next few articles where I’ll be talking about each vendor’s best feature, the biggest vendor differences and transferring autosomal raw DNA files between vendors.

If you haven’t already subscribed to this blog, you can do so easily by clicking on the little grey “follow” box, near the top right of your computer screen. Subscribers receive articles in their e-mail every time a new article is published.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

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I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

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Philip Jacob Miller (1723/1727-1799), The Reluctant Patriot, 52 Ancestrors #202

Philip Jacob Miller was a Brethren man, also called Dunkers because their faith called for fully immersing, or dunking, those being baptized. Baptism took place as adults, not as infants, with the belief that one could only adhere to the tenets of the church if one was old enough to comprehend the teachings. Hence, converts were rebaptized, invalidating infant baptisms performed in other Protestant sects, causing the Brethren to sometimes be referred to by the derogatory term, “rebaptizers” by their Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed contemporaries. The Brethren were perceived as fanatical and sometimes seditious in their beliefs, but they found strength and comfort among their Brethren families and communities. This history explains the tight-knit sect that became both accustomed and immune to public outrage and pressure from outside of the Brethren church. Pressure to confirm from inside the Brethren church was another matter.

Philip Jacob’s father, Michael Muller/Miller, was Brethren as were his children, grandchildren and on down through a total of 5 generations until the first non-Brethren emerged in my line. John Whitney Ferverda, my grandfather, was raised Brethren, married a Lutheran woman and their compromise was the Methodist church. Philip Jacob was probably rolling over in his grave, wherever that is.

Brethren adhere to the “three negatives.” According to “A Centennial Statement,” published in 1981 by the Brethren Church:

Obedience to Christ is the center of Brethren life. This conviction has led the Brethren historically to practice non-conformity, non-resistance, and non-swearing.

  • In non-conformity, Brethren have sought to follow the way of Christ in contrast to the way of the world.
  • In non-resistance, Brethren have renounced the Christian’s use of violence in combating evil, striving, as far as possible, to be reconciled to all persons.
  • In non-swearing, Brethren have sought to lead such trustworthy Christian lives that oath-taking becomes unnecessary.

Every Brethren believer must live in a way that exhibits to the world the truth and love of Christ.

Historically, this means that Brethren did not believe in any particpation in government, to the point that they would not obtain a marriage license and those who did were shunned.

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.”

Brethren seldom registered deeds and often did not file wills. Worse yet, at least for the genealogist, they didn’t keep church records of births, baptisms, marriages or deaths.

Tracking Brethren families is difficult because of these beliefs. Sometimes tax lists, land surveys and purchases from or sales to non-Brethren community members are the only documents that confirm where our Brethren families were living at a given time, at least before the census began. You might escape a death record, but not even Brethren could escape the tax man.

If a Brethren was called to court, or wanted to become naturalized, they would not take an oath, but asked to be allowed to “affirm” instead. Hence, the Brethren men from Maryland traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where they were allowed affirmations as opposed to “swearing an oath.” Several Brethren men, including the minister Nicholas Martin, Philip Jacob Miller, Michael Miller, Jacob Stutzman and Stephen Ulrich made that journey for naturalization in either 1762 or 1767, or both.

Some Brethren felt that they had betrayed their faith by becoming naturalized, even under those circumstances, as minister Nicholas Martin reported to Alexander Mack Jr. in a letter in 1772 about Stephen Ulrich’s remorse and feelings of estrangement within the Brethren community.

The Brethren were peaceloving pietists. In essence, they would not participate in violence. They would literally not defend their families in a time of danger or warfare because violence was fundamentally opposed within their religion.

This wasn’t just a conceptual belief, as there are many examples over the years of Indian raids and families who died, and allowed their children to die rather than to defend themselves. I can’t imagine a faith so strong that someone would let a family member, particularly a child, be injured, tortured and perish.

I have to marvel at the people who lived by these beliefs. I respect them for the strength of their convictions, but I would never last.

Therefore, understanding that Philip Jacob Miller was indeed a devout member of this church, in a strong Brethren community where his entire extended family was Brethren as well, it never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that Philip Jacob Miller was a Revolutionary War Patriot.

That’s about as “un-Brethren” as you can get, especially for a man who went all the way to Philadelphia to avoid taking an oath in Maryland, not once, but twice.

I published the story of Philip Jacob Miller and there are surely some hints that, as I read back over the article, now seem obvious. Cousin Marian, a former DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) chapter rep sent me an e-mail and told me that several people had joined the DAR based on Philip Jacob Miller’s service. Imagine my shock!

Marian discovered that Philip Jacob Miller’s service was based on the 1783 tax list. I had found that list previously, but I didn’t realize the significance, especially when combined with other information.

The Maryland State Archives indicate that the tax list was bound into a book with the title of “Copy of Assessors Certificates of Valuation of Property in Washington County in Pursuance of the Act of Assembly for Raising the Supplies for the year 1783.” (Underscore mine.) The important part, relative to Philip Jacob Miller’s Revolutionary War service are those underlined words. In other words, these taxes, at least in part, went to fund the Revolutionary War effort.

The tax list shows several Miller men on page 46 and 47, including Philip Jacob Miller, his brother John and his son, Daniel.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image.

From the article about Philip Jacob Miller, I’ve excerpted the portions relevant to his Revolutionary War service, and added information, as follows:

The Revolutionary War

Philip Jacob Miller lived through the Revolutionary War in Washington County, Maryland, taken from Frederick County in 1776. This would have been Philip Jacob’s third war in 30 years, or fourth war in 40 years, depending on how you were counting.

Floyd Mason, in his book, “The Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol Family Record,” tells us what he discovered about the Brethren in Frederick County during the Revolutionary War.

During the Revolution, the colonists held their national conventions and appointed certain committees of local leaders to carry out local responsibilities. In PA and MD, the main committee was the Committee of Observation who had the responsibility for raising funds to promote the war, select its leaders and furnish themselves with one committee member for each 100 families.  This committee had full power to act as it saw fit, answered to no one and there was no appeal of their decisions.

The militia groups were called Associations, later called Militia Companies. The Committee of Observation made lists of those not participating, whether Loyalist or members of the “Peace churches,” and they were called non-enrollers or Non-Associators.

The war issues divided the people’s loyalty. About one third favored the revolution, one third were Loyalists or Tories who favored the English and one third were neutral or did not believe in this manner of settling the issues. This threw the Quakers, Mennonites and Dunkers (Brethren) in with the Tories or Loyalists and in opposition to the efforts of the Committee of Observation, at least as the committee saw it.

The churches were bringing discipline to bear on members who did not follow the historic peace teachings of the church. Annual Conferences were held each year and members were asked to remain true to the Church’s nonviolent principles, to refrain from participating in the war, to not voluntarily pay the War taxes and not to allow their sons to participate in the war. This caused a lot of problems for the church members who wanted to be loyal to the church, loyal to the Loyalists who had brought them to the new country and loyal to the new government which was emerging.

As the war wore on and it looked as if the patriot’s efforts might lose, emotions raged. Non-Associators found themselves having to pay double and triple taxes. Their barns were burned, livestock stolen or slaughtered and their crops destroyed.  They were often beaten and “tarred and feathered.”  Church members came to the aid of those who endured the losses.

Some members chose not to pay the war taxes or participate in the war activities and chose to wait until the authorities came and presented their papers to have taxes forced from them. This was in compliance with the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Action. The Committee of Observation provided that non-Associators could take as much of their possessions with them as they could and then they would seize the property and remaining possessions and sell them to fill their war chests.

During this time, the Revolutionary War was taking place and the Brethren were known as non-Associators, those who would take an oath of loyalty, but would not belong to a militia unit nor fight. Many non-Brethren residents suspected them of secretly being allied with the Tories and resented their refusal to protect themselves and others.  Laws of the time allowed for the confiscation of property of anyone thought to be disloyal.  Records of this type of event have survived in the oral and written histories of some of the Brethren families, in particular some who migrated on down into the Shenandoah Valley.  Perhaps others thought it wise to move on about this time as well.

Taken from several sources, these are some of the names of non-Associators and others who were processed by the Committee of Observance that are descendants of Johann Michael Mueller (Jr., Philip Jacob Miller’s father) who died in 1771.

  • Samuel Garber who may have married one of Michael Miller’s daughters, and their sons Martin and Samuel Garber
  • Jacob Good, Michael Miller’s step-daughter’s husband
  • John Rife, Michael Miller’s step-daughter’s husband
  • David Miller, the son of Philip Jacob Miller
  • Michael Wine, married Susannah, the daughter of Lodowich Miller, son of Michael Miller
  • Jacob Miller, son of Lodowich Miller
  • Abraham Miller, relationship uncertain
  • Another source lists Elder Daniel Miller, stated as Lodowick’s son, as being fined 4.5 pounds.

Susannah Miller Wine told her children and grandchildren that Michael Wine, Jacob Miller, Martin Garber and Samuel Garber had their property confiscated by the authorities for remaining true to the non-violent principles of their church.

Lodowich Miller’s family group removed to Rockingham County, VA about 1782 or 1783.

We know that in 1783, Philip Jacob Miller, John Miller and Lodowick Miller were signing deeds back and forth in Frederick County. These activities may well have been in preparation for Lodowick’s departure. He was not on the 1783 tax list, and at least part of his land was clearly in Washington County, so he was apparently gone by that time.

William Thomas, on the Brethren Rootsweb list in 2011 tells us:

I have a copy of the 1776 non-enrollers list for Washington County, MD, that lists “Dunkars & Menonist” fines. The list includes Abraham Miller, David Miller, and David Miller son of Philip.  It goes on to list an appraisal of guns (whatever that means) in 1777 and includes a Henry Miller.

Point being there were several Miller’s in Washington County, some of who were Dunkers or Mennonites, a name common to both denominations.

If you move to the 1776 non-enroller list for Frederick County, MD, you have even more Millers. You have Jacob Miller, Jacob Miller s/o Adam, Abraham Miller, Peter Miller, Stephen Miller, Solomon Miller, Robert Miller, Henry Miller, Philip Miller, David Miller and Daniel Miller, all fined, and implying a Dunker/Mennonite/Quaker religious affiliation.

Washington County, Maryland was formed in September 1776 from the portion of Frederick County where Philip Jacob Miller lived. Note that while David Miller, son of Philip is listed, Philip Jacob is not listed but he could be listed as Philip, although we’ll see on the 1783 list that another Philip Miller is also residing in the area. So, Philip on the tax list could be another Philip, Jacob could be the Jacob Miller who left for Virginia, and Philip Jacob’s name could be legitimately absent from the “Dunkars and Menonist” list.

There is other evidence that Philip Jacob Miller did participate at some level. Men 16-60 were required to participate in the local militia. Philip Jacob was born between 1722 and 1727, so he would have been about 50 years old in 1776, clearly not 60 where he would be exempt until 1782 at the very earliest.

From the book, “Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732-1774” by Murtie June Clark:

Capt. John White’s Company Maryland Militia, 6 days, undated:

  • Michael Miller
  • Jacob Miller

Note that there were multiple Michael and Jacob Millers in the area, and not all of them appear to be Brethren. This alone is not conclusive.

List of Militia 1732-1763 now before the Committee of Accounts lists John White’s militia as from Frederick County as well as that of Jonathan Hager.

Capt. Jonathan Hager’s Company, Maryland Militia 6 days service, undated:

  • Jacob Miller
  • Conrod Miller
  • John Miller Jr.
  • John Miller
  • Jacob Miller Jr.
  • Zachariah Miller
  • Philip Jacob Miller
  • Jacob Miller (son of Conrad)

Perhaps Philip Jacob Miller was trying, rather unsuccessfully it seems, to find a middle ground.

It’s difficult to understand how to interpret this information that seems to be conflicting. To try to resolve or better understand the situation, I turned to the 1790 census where I found 2 Philips in Washington County, 5 Jacobs, 7 Johns and an Abraham in both Washington and Frederick County.  Unfortunately, the 1790 census did not add clarity.

One thing we do know is that Philip Jacob Miller always used both names. A second Jacob Miller, also Brethren, also found early in Frederick County, Maryland, moved to Virginia about this time and then later to the Brethren community in Montgomery County, Ohio where Philip Jacob Miller’s sons, Daniel and David settled. This Jacob Miller has been proven to be unrelated on the Michael Miller line via Y DNA testing through the Miller-Brethren DNA Project.

If you descend from any Brethren Miller line, and have either Miller paternal Y or autosomal DNA tests, please join this project at Family Tree DNA to help us identify the various Miller Brethren lines. If you haven’t yet tested, Miller men can order the Y DNA test here and everyone can take the autosomal Family Finder test.

Philip’s Land

We can tell based on Philip Jacob Miller’s land records that he did indeed pay his taxes. In the 1750s, he had a 290 acre tract and a 50 acre tract surveyed.

The 1783 tax list provides us with the following information:

Philip Jacob Miller owned “sundry tracts” meaning more than one, which included:

  • Acres of wood – 98
  • Acres of meadow – 14
  • Acres of arable – 55
  • Total #acres – 167
  • Value – 250
  • Value of improvements – 110
  • Horses – 2
  • Black Cattle – 4
  • Value of livestock – 21
  • Value other property – 3
  • Total amount of property – 384

We don’t know what happened to the total of 340 acres that Philip Jacob had surveyed in the 1750s, but it’s entirely possible that he sold or gave portions to other Brethren, in particular, his children. We haven’t found deeds. It’s also possible that some of the land lay in Frederick County, the part that did not become Washington, although given the locations that we know, I don’t think that’s likely.

We also know that in 1796, when Philip Jacob sold his land to move to Kentucky, he sold 290 acres which is consistent with his survey.

While I can’t confirm exactly how and when Philip Jacob Miller obtained and disposed of land, one thing is clear. Philip Jacob Miller did not lose his land that he purchased from his father in 1751 and had surveyed in 1755. He sold the largest portion of that land in 1796. I don’t know why the 1783 tax list shows less land, unless he gave some of it to his children, who gave it back when they left, not long after this tax list was prepared. In fact, perhaps this 1783 forced payment of taxes to support the war was the last straw that convinced his sons, Daniel and David to move to Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

His son, “Daniel Miller of Philip” is shown on the 1783 list as well with no land, but a David Miller has 142 acres. Since there is only one David Miller, he isn’t listed by noting his father.

Military Evidence

Hagerstown, Maryland fell into Washington County in 1776, so we know that the militia list that showed Philip Jacob Miller in Capt. Jonathan Hager’s Company with 6 days service in Frederick County was prior to the county split in 1776. While Philip Jacob may have served for 6 days, that unit was never called to duty, so he never had to make that decision.

The 1783 Washington County tax list is clearly to raise funds for supplies to support the war effort. Philip Jacob is listed and obviously paid the tax, because he did not lose his land. Not only that, he had paid previous taxes as well, because he owned land in 1783 and he sold his original land surveyed in 1755, 41 years later, in 1796.

Philip Jacob is never found listed on the non-Associator’s lists of those who protested silently by refusing to participate unless either the “Philip” or “Jacob,” listed separately, is actually Philip Jacob. We know from the 1783 tax list, combined with other information, that there is another Phillip Miller and another Jacob Miller in the county at that time.

While Philip Jacob Miller may have broken with the Brethren at least somewhat on the topic of war, taxes and resulting land confiscation, he traveled all the way to Philadelphia with his elderly father and other Brethren in 1767 to be naturalized – a location where they were allowed to affirm and did not have to swear an oath. He also traveled there in 1762 to witness Nicholas Martin’s naturalization. He obviously took his Brethren faith seriously.

It appears that Philip Jacob Miller may well have walked somewhat of a tightrope, trying to preserve what he had worked so hard to accumulate for the future, for his family, and for his descendants while not acting in opposition to his religion. He wanted to leave his children in the best circumstances possible. At the age of between 70 and 75 in 1796, he sold his 192 acres of land and underwent a treacherous journey cross country and down the Ohio river to settle on yet another frontier on the Ohio River bordering Kentucky and Ohio where he bought 2000 acres of land that he left to his heirs.

Honoring Philip Jacob Miller’s Service

Philip Jacob Miller might well be appalled by this article and my recognition of him as a Revolutionary War Patriot – but he’s dead and can’t protest now. I want his legacy, his truth, to live. Brethren did not call attention to themselves and led very humble lives. His great-grandson’s gravestone was ordered “without too much polish,” in an effort to respect the Brethren way of life.

Honoring Philip Jacob for anything would be embarrassing, and assuredly, to honor him for his military service, no matter how reluctantly he served, would be mortifying to the man – especially if he really didn’t intentionally serve and tried not to. I’m sure he had a great deal of remorse about however he served and it probably panged his Brethren conscience for the rest of his life. It was clearly a slippery slope to find just the right balance of “service” that would fulfill the requirement well enough to prevent the confiscation of his land and farm, yet not alienate the Brethren community entirely.

I wouldn’t be quite so sure that Philip “served” at all if the only evidence was the 1783 tax list, because many other Brethren men are listed there including Nicholas Martin, the minister. All men who owned land would have been on that list of taxes owed, which is not the same as taxes paid. The only question remaining would be if they paid the bill or allowed their land to be confiscated. Given the Brethren directive, I’d guess that we he waited until the very last minute possible before paying, literally staring confiscation in the eye. Perhaps that much resistance was enough to preserve his membership within the church.

However, the 1783 tax list and the fact that he paid those taxes, combined with the earlier list of Hager’s men who served in the militia for 6 days is quite convincing, even without Philip Jacob’s apparent absence on the list of non-enrollers.

I can’t exactly put this bronze marker on Philip Jacob Miller’s grave since his burial location is either on an island that washed away in the Ohio River, or an unmarked grave in the Twelve Mile Regular Baptist Church Island Cemetery, depending on which version of the story you like.

So, I’ll just say thank you Philip Jacob Miller, for your service despite the tough decisions you had to make in the turmoil and uncertainty of the time in which you lived, your practical nature and your love for your family. The rights you and others secured for your descendants continue to protect Americans today, almost 250 years later.

Notes to 40 Year Old Me


Sometimes milestones make us think. Life is seldom what we expect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t influence the outcome. In fact, life is an amazing journey that takes us to incredible places we never expected. When I was 40, genetic genealogy hadn’t yet been born – yet here we are today!

One of my beloved family members is having a 40th today, and I’d like to share some “accumulated wisdom” for her and also for my genealogy friends.

Looking back, here are the things I would tell my 40 year old self.

1. It’s not too late. You’re just now ripe.

2. Someday isn’t a day on the calendar.

3. Risk is not a 4 letter word. Fear is.

4. Love undeniably.

5. Remove toxic people, and jobs, from your life. You’re worth it!

6. Listen to your gut. It’s seldom wrong.

7. Life’s too short to drink bad wine or eat bad food.

8. Dark chocolate is not bad for you. Excesses of anything are.

9. Unpursued dreams will kill you, slowly and painfully.

10. Life is about the long game. In 10 years, if you’re lucky, you’ll be 50 – so investment in your own life so that you’re 50th will be perfect, because you’ll be 50 whether it’s perfect or not and you have 10 years to make it happen.

11. You are your greatest barrier.

12. You are your greatest asset.

13. A positive attitude makes most of the difference between being happy and miserable.

14. If you’re unhappy, fix the problem whether it’s external or internal.

15. If you can’t bloom where you are planted, uproot yourself and move on.

16. Always entertain the possibility of new opportunities.

17. When looking at employment, think about opportunities to make a difference.

18. Most regrets are born of what we didn’t do. Just do it!!

 Relative to genealogy:

19. Write it down. Yes, you will forget it otherwise.

20. Back up your computer, religiously, and store a backup outside your home.

21. Share. Post your tree. Be kind. It’s good for everyone.

22. Pay it forward. Someday you will be the beneficiary – in spades.

23. DNA test every relative you can find, because you’ll lose the opportunity if you don’t.

24. Be prepared. Carry a DNA kit with you at all times. Learn how to beg effectively:)

In Summary

Give some thought about how you’d like to be remembered. Write your own “dream obituary.” Then, do what’s needed to grow into that legacy.

Those of you past this birthday, what would you add?

Ancestors: What Constitutes Proof?

All genealogists should be asking this question for every single relationship between people in their trees – or at least for every person that they claim as an ancestor. The answer differs a bit when you introduce DNA into the equation, so let’s discuss this topic.

It’s easier to begin by telling you what proof IS NOT, rather than what proof is.

What is Proof, Anyway?

First of all, what exactly do we mean by proof? Proof means proof of a relationship, which has to be proven before you can prove a specific ancestor is yours. It’s a two-step process.

If you’re asking whether those two things are one and the same, the answer is no, they are not. Let me give you a quick example.

You can have proof that you descend from the family of a specific couple, but you may not know which child of that couple you descend from. In one case, my ancestor is listed as an heir, being a grandchild, but the suit doesn’t say which of the man’s children is the parent of my ancestor. So frustrating!

Conversely, you may know that you descend from a specific ancestor, but not which of his multiple wives you descend from.

You may know that your ancestor descends from one of multiple sons of a particular man, but not know which son.

Therefore, proof of a relationship is not necessarily proof that a particular person is your ancestor.

Not Proof of an Ancestor

OK, so what’s NOT proof? Here are a dozen of the most common items – and there are surely more!

  1. Proof is not a DNA match alone. You can match as a result of ancestors on any number of lines, known or unknown.
  2. Proof is not an oral history, no matter how much you want to believe it or who said it. Oral history is a good starting point, not an end point.
  3. Proof is not, not, 1000 times NOT someone else’s tree. A tree should be considered a hint, nothing more.
  4. Proof is not a book without corresponding evidence that can be independently corroborated. Being in print does not make it so, people make mistakes and new information surfaces.
  5. Proof is not a man by the name of Jr., meaning that he is the son of a man by the same name with the suffix of Sr. Sr. often means older and Jr. means younger, but not necessarily related. Yes, this has bitten me.
  6. Proof of a father/son relationship is not two men with the same name in the same location.
  7. Proof is not a Y DNA match, at least not without additional information or evidence, although it’s a great hint!
  8. Proof is not an autosomal DNA match, unless it is an extremely close match and even then you (probably) need additional information. For example, if you have a half-sibling match, you need additional information to determine which parent’s side.
  9. Proof is not an Ancestry Circle, at least not without additional information.
  10. Proof is not similar or even identical ethnicity, or lack thereof.
  11. Proof is not a “DNA Proven” icon, anyplace.
  12. Proof is not a will or other document, at least not alone, and not without evidence that a person by the same name as the child is the RIGHT person.

I learned many of these NOTS or KNOTS as I prefer to call them, because that’s what they tie me in, by ugly experience. I began genealogy before there were proof standards, let along the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard). DNA adds yet another dimension to existing paper standards and is an important aspect of the requirement for a “reasonably exhaustive search.” In fact, there is no reason NOT to include DNA and I would suggest that any genealogical search is not complete without including genetic evidence.

Proof Is a Two-Way Street

Using traditional genealogy, genealogists must be able to prove not only that an ancestor had a child by a specific name, but that the person you believe is the child, is indeed the child of that ancestor.

Let me use an example of Daniel, the son of one Philip Jacob Miller in Washington County, Maryland in 1783.

The tax list shows Philip J. Miller, 15 entries from the bottom of the page, shown below. It also shows “Daniel Miller of Philip” 6 entries from the bottom, and it’s our lucky day because the tax list says that Daniel is Philip’s son.

But wait, there’s another Daniel, the bottom entry. If you were to look on the next page, you would also notice that there’s a Philip Miller who does not own any land.

What we have here is:

  • Philip J. Miller, with land
  • Daniel, son of Philip, no land
  • Daniel, no father listed, land
  • Philip, no land

This just got complex. We need to know which Philip is Daniel’s father and which Daniel is which Philip’s son.

Establishing proof requires more than this one resource.

The great news about this tax list is that it tells us how much land Philip J. Miller owned, and utilizing other resources such as deeds and surveys, we can establish which Philip J. Miller owned this land, and that his name was indeed Philip Jacob Miller. This is important because not only is there another Philip, who, by the way, is NOT the son of Philip Jacob Miller (knot #6 above), there is also another Jacob Miller, who is NOT Philip Jacob Miller and who isn’t even related to him on the Miller line, according to the Y DNA of both men’s descendants.

How would we prove that Philip Jacob Miller is the father of Daniel Miller? We’d have to follow both men backward and forward in time, together. We have great clues – land ownership or lack thereof.

In this case, Philip Jacob Miller eventually sells his land. Philip Jacob Miller also has a Bible, which is how we know that there is no son named Philip. Philip Jacob’s son, Daniel leaves with his brother David, also on this tax list, travels to another location before the family is reunited after moving to Kentucky years later, where Philip Jacob Miller dies with a will. All of his heirs sign property deeds during probate, including heirs back in Frederick and Washington County, Maryland. There is enough evidence from multiple sources to tie these various family members from multiple locations conclusively together, providing two way proof.

We must be able to prove that not only did Philip Jacob Miller have a son Daniel, but that a specific Daniel is the son of that particular Philip Jacob Miller. Then, we must repeat that exact step every generation to the present to prove that Philip Jacob Miller is our ancestor.

In other words, we have a chain of progressive evidence that taken together provides conclusive proof that these two men are BELIEVED to be related. What? Believed? Don’t we have proof now?

I say believed, because we still have issues like unknown parentage, by whatever term you wish to call it, NPE (nonpaternal event, nonparental event,) or MP (misattributed parentage,) MPE (misattributed paternal or parental event) or either traditional or undocumented adoptions. Some NPEs weren’t unknown at the time and are results of situations like a child taking a step-parent’s surname – but generations later – having been forgotten or undocumented for descendants, the result is the same. They aren’t related biologically in the way we think they are.

The Big Maybe

At this point, we believe we have the Philips, Philip Jacobs and Daniels sorted correctly relative to my specific line. We know, according to documentation, that Daniel is the son of Philip Jacob, but what if MY ancestor Daniel ISN’T the son of Philip Jacob Miller?

  • What if MY ancestor Daniel just happens to have the name Daniel Miller and lives in the same geography as Philip Jacob Miller, or his actual son Daniel, and I’ve gotten them confused?
  • What if MY ancestor Daniel Miller isn’t actually my ancestor after all, for any number of reasons that happened between when he lived and died (1755-1822) and my birth.

If you think I’m being facetious about this, I’m not. Not long after I wrote the article about my ancestor Daniel Miller, we discovered another Daniel Miller, living in the same location, also descended from the same family as evidenced by BOTH Y and autosomal DNA. In fact, there were 12 Daniel Millers I had to sort through in addition to the second Daniel on the 1783 tax list. Yes, apparently Daniel was a very popular name in the Miller family and yes, there were several male sons of immigrant Johann Michael Muller/Miller who procreated quite successfully.

Enter DNA

If DNA evidence wasn’t already a factor in this equation, it now must come into play.

In order to prove that Philip Jacob Miller is my ancestor, I must prove that I’m actually related to him. Of course, the methodology to do that can be approached in multiple ways – and sometimes MUST be approached using different tools.

Let’s use an example that actually occurred in another line. Two males, Thomas and Marcus Younger, were found together in Halifax County, Virginia, right after the Revolutionary War. They both had moved from Essex County, and they consistently were involved in each other’s lives as long as they both lived. They lived just a couple miles apart, witnessed documents for each other, and until DNA testing it was believed that Marcus was the younger brother of Thomas.

We know that Marcus was not Thomas’s son, because he was not in Thomas’s will, but Marcus and his son John both witnessed Thomas’s will. In that time and place, a family member did not witness a will unless it was a will hastily constructed as a person was dying. Thomas wrote his will 2 years before it was probated.

However, with the advent of DNA testing, we learned that the two men’s descendants did not carry the same Y DNA – not even the same haplogroup – so they do not share a common paternal ancestor.

Needless to say, this really threw a monkey wrench into our neat and tidy family story.

Later, the will of Thomas’s father, Alexander, was discovered, in which Marcus was not listed (not to mention that Alexander died before Marcus was born,) and, Thomas became the guardian of his three sisters.

Eventually, via autosomal DNA, we proved that indeed, Marcus’s descendants are related to Thomas’s descendants as well as other descendants of Thomas’s parents. We have a proven relationship, but not a specifically proven ancestor. In other words, we know that Marcus is related to both Thomas and Alexander, we just don’t know exactly how.

Unfortunately, Marcus only had one son, so we can’t confirm Marcus’s Y DNA through a second line. We also have some wives missing from the equation, so there is a possibility that either Marcus’s wife, or his unknown biological father’s family was otherwise related to Alexander’s line.

So, here’s the bottom line – we believe, based on various pieces of compelling but not conclusive evidence that Marcus is the illegitimate child of one of Thomas’s unmarried sisters, who died, which is why Marcus is clearly close to Thomas, shares the same surname, but not the Y DNA. In fact, it’s likely that Marcus was raised in Thomas’s household.

  • It’s entirely possible that if I incorrectly listed Thomas as Marcus’s father on Ancestry, as many have, that I would be placed in a Thomas circle, because Ancestry forms circles if your autosomal DNA matches and you show a common ancestor in your trees. This is why inclusion in a circle doesn’t genetically confirm an ancestor without additional information. It confirms a genetic relationship, but not how a person is related.
  • It’s entirely possible that even though Marcus’s Y DNA doesn’t match the proven Y DNA of Thomas, that Marcus is still closely related to Thomas – such as Marcus’s uncle. That’s why Marcus’s descendants match both Thomas’s and Alexander’s descendants through autosomal testing. However, without Y DNA testing, we would never know that they don’t share a paternal line.
  • It’s entirely possible that if Marcus was supposed, on paper, to be Thomas’s child, but was fathered by another man, such as his wife’s first husband, I would still be in the circle attributed to both Thomas and his wife, by virtue of the fact that I match DNA of Thomas’s descendants through Thomas’s wife. This is your classic step-father situation.

Paper is Not Proof

As genealogists, we became so used to paper documentation constituting proof that it’s a blow when that paper proves to be irrelevant, especially when we’ve hung our genealogical hat on that “proof” for years, sometimes decades.

The perfect example is an adoption. Today, most adoptions are through a court of law, but in the past, a functional adoption happened when someone, for whatever reason, took another child to raise.

The history of that “adoption” although not secret when it happened, became lost in time, and the child is believed to be the child of the couple who raised them. The adoption can actually be a step-parent situation, and the child may carry the step-father’s surname but his own father’s Y DNA, or it can be a situation where a relative or unrelated couple raised the child for some unknown reason.

Today, all paper genealogy needs to be corroborated by DNA evidence.

DNA evidence can be some combination of:

  • Y DNA
  • Autosomal DNA
  • Mitochondrial DNA

How Much Proof is Enough?

One of my favorite saying is “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

People often ask:

  1. If they match someone autosomally who shares the same ancestor, do they really need to prove that line through Y or mitochondrial DNA?
  2. Do they really need to match multiple people?
  3. Do they really need to compare segments?

The answers to these is a resounding, “it depends.”

It depends on the circumstances, the length of time back to the common ancestor, and how comfortable you are not knowing.

Relative to question 1 about autosomal plus Y DNA, think about Marcus Younger.  Without the Y DNA, we would have no idea that his descendant’s Y DNA didn’t match the Thomas Younger line. Suddenly, Marcus not being included in either Thomas nor Alexander’s will makes sense.

Relative to question 2 about matching multiple people, the first cousin we tested to determine whether it was me or my brother that was not the child of our father turned out to have different Y DNA than expected. Thank goodness we tested multiple people, including autosomal when it became available.

Relative to question 3 about comparing segments, every matching segment has its own unique history. I’ve encountered several situations where I match someone on one segment from one ancestor, and another segment from an entirely different line. The only way to determine this is by comparing and triangulating individual segments.

I’ve been bitten so many times by thinking I knew something that turned out to be incorrect that I want every single proof point that I can obtain to eliminate the possibility of error – especially multiple kinds of DNA proof. There are some things that ONLY DNA can reveal.

I want:

  • Traditional documentary evidence for every generation to establish the actual paper trail that proves that the child descends from the proper parents.
  • Y DNA to prove the son is the son of the father and to learn about the deeper family history. For example, my Lentz line descends from the Yamnaya culture, something I would never have known without the Big Y DNA test.
  • Mitochondrial DNA to prove that the mother is the actual mother of the child, if possible, not an unknown earlier or later wife, and to learn about the deeper family history. Elizabeth Mehlheimer’s mitochondrial DNA is Scandinavian – before her ancestors are found in Germany.
  • Autosomal DNA to prove that the paper lineage connecting me to the ancestor is correct and the line is not disrupted by a previously unknown adoption of some description.

I attempt to gather the Y and mitochondrial DNA haplogroup of every ancestor in my direct line if possible and confirm using autosomal DNA.

Yes, my personal proof standard is tough, but I suggest that you at least ask these questions when you evaluate documentation or see someone claim that they are “DNA proven” to an ancestor. What, exactly, does that mean and what do they believe constitutes proof? Do they have that proof, and are they willing to share it with you?

Genealogical Proofs Table

The example table below is designed to be used to document the sources of proof that the individual listed under the name column is in fact the child of the father and mother shown. Proofs may vary and could be personal knowledge (someone you knew within your lifetime), a Bible, a will, a deed, an obituary, death certificate, a church baptismal document, a pension application, census records, etc. DNA confirmation is needed in addition to paper documentation. The two types of proof go hand in hand.  

Name Birth Death Spouse Father Mother Proofs – Sources DNA Confirmed
William Sterling Estes Oct. 1, 1902, Claiborne Co., TN Aug. 27, 1963, Jay Co., IN Barbara Ferverda William George Estes 1873-1971 Ollie Bolton 1874-1955 Personal knowledge – William is my father and William George is my grandfather. Autosomal triangulated to multiple Estes cousins
William George Estes March 30, 1873, Claiborne Co., TN Nov. 29, 1971, Harlan Co., KY 1. Ollie Bolton

2.  Joyce Hatfield

3. Crocia Brewer

Lazarus Estes 1845-1918 Elizabeth Vannoy 1846-1918 1.  Will of Lazarus Estes Claiborne Co., Tn. Will Book 8, page 42

2.  Deed where Lazarus states William George is his son.  Claiborne Co., Deed Book M2, page 371.

3. My father’s personal knowledge and birth certificate

Autosomal triangulated to multiple descendants of both Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy.
Lazarus Estes May 1845, Claiborne Co., TN 1916-1918, Claiborne Co., TN Elizabeth Vannoy John Y. Estes 1818-1895 Rutha Dodson 1820-1903 1. Personal knowledge of George Estes, now decd

2.  Deed here John Y. deeds all his possessions to his eldest son, Lazarus when he goes to Texas, Claiborne Co., Deed book B1, page 37.

Y DNA confirmed to haplotype of Abraham Estes, autosomal triangulated to descendants of Lazarus and Elizabeth and upstream ancestors through multiple matches on both sides.
John Y. Estes December 29, 1818, Halifax Co., VA Sept. 19, 1895, Montague Co., TX Rutha Dodson John R. Estes 1785/88-1885 Nancy Ann Moore c 1785-1860/1870 1. Family visits of his children in Tennessee

2. Census records, 1850, 1860, Claiborne Co., Tn. shows families in same household

Y DNA confirmed through multiple sons. Autosomal triangulates to several descendants through multiple lines of other children.
John R. Estes 1785-1788, Halifax Co. VA May 1885, Claiborne Co., TN Nancy Ann Moore George Estes 1763-1869 Mary Younger bef 1775-1820/1830 1. Halifax County 1812 personal property tax list where John R. Estes is listed as the son of George Estes and lives next to him.  Only 1 George in the county. Later chancery suit lists John R.’s wife’s name and location in Tennessee Y DNA confirmed through multiple lines.  Autosomal confirmed triangulation of multiple lines of his children and his ancestors on both sides.

If you’d like to read more about the difference between evidence and proof, and how to get from evidence to proof, check out this article, What is proof of family history? by my cousin, retired attorney, Robin Rankin Willis.

Proof is a Pain!

So now that we’ve discussed what proof is not, and what types of records constitute proof, you may be thinking to yourself that proof is a pain in the behind. Indeed, it is, but without sufficient proof, you may literally be doing someone else’s genealogy or the genealogy of an ancestor that’s not your own. Trust me, that’s infinitely more painful.

I hate sawing branches off of my own tree. If I have to do it, the sooner I make the discovery and get it over with, the better.

Been there, done that, and really, I don’t want the t-shirt.

There is never such a thing as “too much” proof, but there is certainly too little. We are fortunate to live in a time when not only are historical records available, but the record passed by our ancestors inside our very cells tells their story. Use every tool and every type of DNA at your disposal! Otherwise, you get the t-shirt:)

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Johann Adam Ruhle/Reuhl (1764-after 1817), Shipwrecked Refugee, 52 Ancestors #201

My Mom always used to say that “good things come to those who wait.” That always irritated me, because waiting was something I did, and still do, very poorly.

These past few months, I’ve gotten a lot of practice in waiting, but my friend who was visiting Salt Lake City for a conference did me a HUGE favor and put me out of my wait-induced misery by retrieving an obscure German journal article for me, solving the a huge mystery in the life of Johann Adam Ruhle (Reuhl). Literally, a life and death matter – did he live or did he die.

This is my friend Jen, at the Family History Library – smiling in spite of being incredibly sleep deprived, in class all day and in the library in the evening. What a good sport. I can’t thank you enough, Jen!!!

This is some story – one WHALE of a story, pardon the pun. And no, his name was not Jonas.

Life Begins in Schnait and Beutelsbach

We all start out in life the same way, wet, cold and complaining loudly about that combination of factors.

Johann Adam Ruhle was born January 30, 1764 in the village of Schnait in Wurttemberg, Germany to Michael Ruhle and Barbara Lenz.

Schnait is an ancient village, first mentioned in 1238 as Snait. Today, there is a museum in Schnait with some photos of the beautiful vineyard region.

Schnait is just down the road, literally, a mile or so from Beutelsbach where the Lentz (Lenz) family lived, or at least part of the Lenz family lived. After all, Johann Adam’s mother was a Lenz (which is also alternatively spelled Lentz) and she was living in Schnait, so perhaps the Lenz family lived all along the ancient road between the two villages.

The village of Schnait today is still relatively small, but has expanded some from the old center along the road. It’s surrounded by the beautifully symmetrical wine fields, where the men of both Beutelsbach and Schnait worked, for generations.

The church records for Schnait still exist, according to the FamilySearch site, although they apparently have not been translated and indexed at Ancestry or at FamilySearch. Baptisms begin in 1562, marriages in 1574 and death records in 1616. Once these records become available online, the possibility of reaching back another 200 years, or more, is dangling like a ripe fruit. Darn, another episode of waiting without an end in sight!!!

Fortunately, Beutelsbach, where Johann Adam Reuhl had the foresight to marry and live is a bit different.

The local Beutelsbach heritage book has a wonderful web page that provides information about family members.

The heritage book page tells us, among other things (using an automated German to English translator) that Johann Adam Reuhle:

Has been trained to Schnait and has been drawn up. If 4 years have served in Schnait. Occupation: Vinedresser

Johann Adam Reuhle was a vinedresser, or one who tends the vines in the vineyards. Many if not most of the men in Schnait and Beutelsbach worked in the beautiful vineyards that surrounded both villages, located just a couple miles apart. I think these fields would make a beautiful quilt!

It’s likely that these families had tended these same vineyards, father’s teaching sons the vinedresser craft, for more generations than anyone could remember – and far more than are recorded in the oldest church books.

This satellite closeup shows the fields, just outside the village, which are probably some of the exact same vineyards, and perhaps even the same vines, that Johann Adam, who we’ll call Adam, his middle name, as his family would have done, tended.

Marriage and Instant Parenthood

Johann Adam Reuhle married Dorothea Katharina Wolflin on June 5, 1787 in the Lutheran Church in Beutelsbach. Dorothea Katharina was born on August 10, 1755 in Beutelsbach to Johann Ludwig Wolflin and Dorothea Heubach.

This marriage was a bit unusual, in that Adam was of typical marriage age, 23, but Katharina was almost 9 years older than Adam, aged 32 when they married.

Katharina was a widow whose first husband had died on October 31, 1786. She had two living children when he died, the baby having her first birthday just 6 days after her father died. Widows didn’t wait long to remarry, because their very survival depended on forging an alliance and a new family unit. Adam and Katharina didn’t “court” long, because they married less than 9 months after her previous husband died. Nine months was probably plenty long enough. After all, Beutelsbach was a small village and everyone knew everyone else, so they had probably known each other since they were children.

However, when Adam married Katharina, he instantly became a parent. Her children, aged 4 and 1 when they married, were young enough that they would never have known any other father.

The next several years were normal for this family. They began the rhythmic ebb and flow of childbirth, springtimes sewing crops and preparing vines, summer tending fields, fall harvests with winemaking and food preservation, and then winter survival.

  • Their first child, Fridrica Ruhle, arrived and was baptized on March 14, 1788, literally 9 months and 9 days after their wedding. The young couple must have been joyful.

Fredericka was my ancestor, so obviously their firstborn child survived.

  • On January 5, 1790, Katharina’s daughter from her first marriage died and was buried. Katharina would have been 3 or 4 months pregnant at the time. The visage of the pregnant mother burying her child in the dead of winter is heartbreaking.
  • In 1790, a son, Johann Ludwig Ruhle, was born on June 3rd. He too survived, married and spent his life working the vineyards as a vinedresser in Beutelsbach. He died of a stroke in 1847 when he was 57 years old. Johann Ludwig had one son, Johann Ludwig Ruhle that was born in 1846 in Beutelsbach and died in 1893 in Stuttgart.
  • On March 5, 1793, Johanna Dorothea Ruhle was born, but she died just 3 days later and was probably buried in the churchyard. She was named after Katharina’s daughter who had died in 1790.
  • On April 25, 1794, Johann Georg Ruhle joined the family. He too lived, at least long enough to leave Germany.
  • On March 20, 1797, Catharine Margaretha Ruhle was born, but she too joined her sister in the cemetery on October 23, 1797, just 3 days beyond her 7 month birthday. There is no cause of death given, but I always wonder when I see these infant deaths.
  • The last child in the family, Johanna Margaretha Ruhle, named after the sister that died in 1797 was born on January 20, 1800.

There were no further deaths in the family, at least not among their children.

However, the climate was not cooperating. The world was undergoing what came to be known as a mini ice age. The problem is, of course, that once the grape vines are damaged or die, there is no quick recovery. If the vines fail to produce, an entire year is lost – both economically and in terms of food production as well. In 1816, crops failed in the fields.

After massive crop failures followed by riots for food, many people didn’t want to wait for a repeat performance the following year and applied to leave Germany.

Permission to Leave

Johann Adam Ruhle and his family arranged to immigrate to America, settling their debts and selling everything they had to pay for passage.

I don’t know if they were thrilled or terrified. Maybe they weren’t either, but just felt it was something they had little choice to do if they wanted to survive.

Leaving Germany wasn’t just a matter of packing up. Germans are extremely orderly people. There was a process that had to be followed to insure, among other things, that those who were leaving did not leave unpaid debts or unfinished business, had permission to leave, and understood there was no coming back.

By this time, Adam’s oldest daughter, Fredericka, had married to Jacob Lenz, also spelled Lentz. You can read about Jacob here and here. Jacob could have been related to Fredericka’s Lenz grandmother, and most likely was, but we don’t know if or how – and won’t until those Schnait records become available.

We find the legal notifications for emigration for Jacob Lentz and Johann Adam Reuhle side by side.

This book, “Königlich-Württembergisches Staats- und Regierungsblatt: vom Jahr … 1817,” in English, the “Royal Württemberg State and Official Gazette: by the year… 1817,” copied at Google, contains the actual German records of who was authorized to leave.

The following named persons have received the gracious permission to emigrate to America, namely:…….followed by the names.

Listed beside Jacob Lenz we find Johann Adam Ruhle, his father-in-law.

It also states:

  • Jung Jakob Lenz unter Vertretung des Alt Jakob Lenz.
  • Johann Adam Ruhle unter Vertretung des schumachers, Wilhelm Schweizer.

Translated:

  • Young Jakob Lenz under representation of the old Jakob Lenz.
  • Johann Adam Rühle under representation of the shoemakers, Wilhelm Swiss.

Typically only the male head of household was recorded, with the assumption that his wife and children, if any, would be traveling with him.

The emigrants would make their way to the sea, typically down the Rhine River to the port of Rotterdam where they would arrange for their passage, pay their way, and board the ship for America. Transatlantic crossings during that time generally took 6-8 weeks, depending on the winds and weather. Some took as few as 3, and some took considerably longer, especially if the ship encountered trouble of some sort. All were risky.

And of course, some, a few, never made it at all.

This decision to leave could not have been easy for Johann Adam Reuhle to make, especially not at age 53 years of age with his wife being 62. The rule of thumb was that you would lose one child per family in a crossing. Sanitation was poor, at best and often the food was rotten. Disease was rampant.

Church Records

The local pastor in Beutelsbach took special care to record who immigrated, including the date and year in many cases. I am so grateful to that unknown man.

Based on the church records, we know that the following family members left together. Conversely, perhaps the saddest part was that of Adam’s children, a son, and only one son, did not join the rest of the family. That must have been one sad farewell.

From the church records:

  • Johann Adam Reuhle and wife Dorothea Katharina Wolfin went to America.
  • Johann Georg Ruhle born April 25, 1794 in Beutelsbach and went to America with his parents.
  • Johanna Margaretha Ruhle born January 20, 1800 in Beutelsbach and went to America with her parents.
  • Jacob Christian Breuming (Dorothea Katharina’s child from her first marriage) born June 8, 1783 in Beutelsbach, went to America on Feb. 12, 1817.
  • Johanna Fredericka Reuhle born March 14, 1788 in Beutelsbach, married Jakob Lenz May 25, 1808, went to America.
  • Jacob Lenz, born March 15, 1783 in Beutelsbach, went to America.
  • Jacob Frederick (Ruhle) Lenz, son of Fredericka and Jacob, born November 28, 1806 in Beutelsbach, went to America.
  • Fredericka Lenz, daughter of Fredericka and Jacob, born July 13, 1809 Beutelsback, went to America.
  • Elizabeth Katharina Lentz, daughter of Fredericka and Jacob, born March 28, 1814 in Beutelsbach, went to America (reportedly died during the voyage.)
  • Maria Barbara Lenz, daughter of Fredericka and Jacob, born August 22, 1816 in Beutelsbach, went to America.

Thanks to the minister, we have the actual date they left Beutelsbach, February 12th, 1817. The weather would have been cold, hovering around freezing or below – perhaps significantly below. There was probably snow in the vineyards, blanketing the vines as they slept. Adam wouldn’t be there to welcome them after their slumber in the spring, for the first time in his life. The family probably huddled on the horse-drawn wagon for warmth as they passed the vineyards for the last time. The boat on the Rems River that would connect with the Neckar that would converge with the Rhine which would take them to the seaport of Rotterdam awaited. A long, permanent journey began. Did they look back?

If everything went according to plan, the family group should step off the ship in America in June or later that same summer. But that’s not at all what happened.

In total, 11 people from 3 generations left for America. Not everyone would arrive, and not one of them arrived quite in the way they expected. In fact, I’d wager that every single one of them regretted their choice. But by the time regret set in, it was much, MUCH too late.

The family information handed down in the Jacob Lentz family tells us that, “Elizabeth died on the ocean, and Barbery was a baby when they left.”

I managed to track Jacob Lentz and Fredericka’s children, except for Elizabeth, so it must be presumed that the oral history was accurate, because everyone else was accounted for. Elizabeth was buried at sea.

The oral history also tells us that Fredericka’s sister came along on the voyage from Germany. It doesn’t mention that Fredericka’s entire family immigrated, with the exception of one brother who stayed behind. Perhaps that was because Fredericka’s family didn’t survive?

Did they survive?

The Shipwreck

From this point forward, this story becomes a bit surreal. If it’s surreal from the distance of 300 years, exactly, this month, as I sit here safely and write, it must have seemed like they were living in an incomprehensible nightmare at the time. The fact that at least some of them escaped alive is nothing short of a miracle.

Thankfully, Jacob Lentz’s family members recorded some of the history as reported by Jacob. His story was recorded separately by two different lines and partially by a third. Some of the information, in Ohio, was accurate, and some was not.

The early history in one version stated that Jacob had been shipwrecked on the way to the US and another family line stated that they were in a hospital in Bergen, Norway and spent nearly a year there. Neither of these seems plausible.

You might note that ships typically departed from Holland, sailed south catching the Atlantic gulf stream, an ocean current that took them past the Caribbean islands where the ships would stop for fresh water and supplies. Then they would carry on north with the trade winds along the Atlantic seaboard. Norway is notably north of Holland and no place on this projected path.

That story seemed far too fanciful to be true. It sounded more like a tall tale that grandpa might tell his awestruck grandchildren sitting at his feet.

Truthfully, I figured that since some of the later information from the 1860s and 1870s was incorrect, that this early information in the 18-teens was likely incorrect as well. Besides that, Norway was just so unlikely – so I initially discounted this part of the story.

My bad.

As it turns out, the story was true, and what a story it was.

This “Tribute to Jacob Lentz” was written by his grandson as told to him by Jacob. I try to hear Jacob’s voice, as he would have told this story to his grandchildren by the fireplace on cold winter evenings, to be recalled and preserved for posterity decades later. I have combined the nearly identical first two versions, with differences in parenthesis.

Finally all arrangements were completed and bidding farewell to all their relations he and his family with his wife’s sister began their journey in 1817 (the words “in 1817” are omitted in the second version) to the land of his dreams. Thus they left Wuertemburg, Germany to return no more.

Ships were very different then than what they are now, and as their finances were limited. They did not have the best accommodations that were furnished to the more favored, even in that early day. But they were willing to endure the hardships of an ocean voyage that they might come to the land about which they had heard so much. Strange as it may seem to us now, they were to spend about 3 months on the ocean before landing on American soil (the words “on American soil” are omitted from the second version). But now comes a very strange and trying part of their experience.

They experienced much of the ocean storm and the time seemed long. As the time came that they could reasonably expect to end their journey and set foot on the new world, everyone was making preparation to quit their ocean home.

But many days passed by and no land came in sight. Everyone became restless and there were many misgivings. They sought explanations from the captain of the ship but his explanations were not satisfactory. One part of their diet was a large kettle of soup or hash of which they all partook. Some actions on the part of the captain as he was about where this food was being prepared at a certain time aroused suspicions of those in charge of preparing the food and instead of serving this food it caused the arrest of the captain of the ship.

A sample of the food was preserved and found to contain poison enough to kill many more than were on board this vessel. The captain’s purpose was to poison the crew and turn the ship over to pirates. He was later executed for this.

The ship without a captain wandered around in the northern waters for some time and finally landed (shipwrecked) way up on (the western coast of) Norway where they have six months of day and six months of night; thus were your (my) early ancestors brought to a disappointment in life that they were never able to find words to express. Landing in Norway where conditions were very unfavorable and where but few people live, instead of in America. Their money all gone, strangers in a strange land, unable to speak the language, without (a) home (and) friends or prospects (“or prospects” omitted from second copy), a sad condition.

Fishing and weaving were the only things in sight and this they did, thus managing to get along for a few months. It was not possible for them to save anything out of the meager rewards for their work, but they still kept their steadfast purpose, to finally in some way reach America. (Second copy says, “It was not possible for them to kept their steadfast purpose, to finally in some way, reach America.”)

After 6 months of weary waiting in that northern climate, an opportunity came their way. A certain ship was to leave their port for the new world and proposed to enter (so they entered) into a contract, stipulating that they should be bound out to services to anyone that would pay their passage and food expense. The time of service was to be determined by the bidding of interested employers after landing in America. They would be indentured servants. (Previous sentence not in second copy.) It was stipulated that the family was not to be separated.

With this contract they set sail the second time for the land beyond the sea, not knowing what would befall them or how they would be dealt with in the future (rest of sentence not in second copy) that was veiled with clouds that seemed to be very dark. All they knew was to commit their all into the hands of the overruling Providence “That doeth all things well, patiently labor, and wait for the future to unroll whatever was in store for them.”

(The passage was $30 each for mother and father and $15 each for Jacob and Fredericka. Elizabeth died on the ocean and Barberry was a baby.)

They landed in New York on the 1st day of January 1819 (rest of sentence omitted in second copy) some 18 months or more after leaving Germany.

Separately, another family line said that Jacob and family wound up in Bergen, Norway and that they were in the hospital there for several weeks.

Truthfully, I discounted the hospital part, figuring there were no such things at that time, and I questioned the Bergen information. However, who would just pull the town of Bergen, Norway out of their hat? That was so specific that it seemed there might be grains of truth hidden there.

The Story Was True

My cousin and friend, Tom, a retired German genealogist, was enthralled by this story too, and kicked into overdrive. Thankfully, he had a few tricks up his sleeve, and he was able to confirm that the shipwreck had actually happened by googling in German and found documents in the Norwegian archives.

He found a list of burials for the Germans from the ship Zee Ploeg that died during or after arrival in Bergen and were buried in the churchyard. That list included 3 people from Beutelsback and 4 from Schnait, but none of our names were among those listed.

Then, googling in both German and Norwegian, Thomas found the Norwegian Wikipedia page about the Zee Ploeg.

The Zee Ploeg

According to Wikipedia: The Zee Ploeg (Sea Plow) was a Dutch emigrant ship which sank off Bergen in the autumn of 1817 on its way from Amsterdam to Philadelphia with around 560 emigrants from Württemberg onboard. The passengers were farmers and craftsmen who were members of a religious movement (separatists) inspired by Württembergeren Johann George Rapp (1757-1847). He had established the society “Harmony” in Pennsylvania in 1805.

Even though the Wikipedia page says that the ship sank, it didn’t, but was disabled when its masts broke.

The year 1816 had been difficult, with poor harvests and a very cold winter. At this time over seventeen thousand emigrated from Wurttemberg.

The Zee Ploeg was 136 feet long, 32 feet wide and almost 16 feet tall, with 3 masts. A trial voyage was conducted In September 1815 to Suriname with Jan Poul Manzelmann as captain and they returned on July 4, 1816.

On behalf of the Handelshuis Zwichler & Company, the ship was authorized to leave with 560 emigrants to the United States.

Boarding was scheduled for March, 30 1817, but was first carried out a month later, but didn’t sail until late in August from Amsterdam with Hendrich Christopher Manzelmann from Lübeck as Captain with his 21-man crew. The ship had to return after 11 to 12 days due to the storm in the English Channel, and a minor casualty. At the next attempt the Captain went up North to High North Scotland, but fell again in a storm. This time the masts broke and the ship ended after a time by Skjellanger, northwest of Bergen, on September 25. The ship was towed to the port of Bergen on September 29, and was anchored.

Before the accident 100 passengers died of famine and disease, including all of the thirty who were born aboard. The passengers were not allowed to disembark due to concerns about contagious disease, and while the ship lay at anchor at Sandvik Flaket, a marine channel in the far north of Norway, an additional sixteen died.

How did they ever fit 560 people on a ship 136 by 32? I’m sure there was an area below deck, but still, that wouldn’t have doubled the space.

Bergen

The ship was then towed to Elsesro, near Bergen, shown below in a painting about 1807, and a few days later, towed on to Bergen where the passengers were finally allowed to disembark. Truthfully, I’m amazed that any of them ever set foot on a ship again.

Documentation sometimes comes from the strangest places.

Bishop Claus Pavels (1769-1822) expressed concern about how the penniless town of Bergen would be able to accept these refugees. Many of the sick were eventually lodged in a farm in Kong Oscars gate 22 (St. Jorgen’s Hospital, now the Leprosy Museum, shown below), which was at that time a military hospital.

Another 40 passengers died, bringing the total to 156 deaths of 560 who began the journey – 28% had died, if you don’t count all the children who were born and died. If you do, the death rate is approaching one third of the passengers.

Who Died?

Who, among our family members died?

In October 1817, the Norwegian government compiled one of two lists of the names of the surviving passengers. This list was published in an article by Dr. W. Weintraud.

It was this article by Weintraud that I spent so many months attempting to obtain. I tried the Norwegian archives. I tried Germany. I tried locations in the US that claimed to have copies of the journal, all to no avail, until Jennifer found it for me in Salt Lake City.

All I can say is bless Jennifer for finding this book, because our answers are buried here.

In the Jacob Lentz Tribute, Jacob stated that his daughter Elizabeth died at sea. But did she die at sea during the shipwreck, or perhaps on the next part of their journey – because yes, they eventually set out once again for America.

These people were determined, with an unflappable iron will.

This page shows the portion of the list of survivors from the Zee Ploeg that includes L and R.

  • Lintz, Jacob, vintner, wife, 3 children.
  • Rijle (Ruhle), Adam, vintner, wife, 3 children.

On the previous page, I found:

  • Christian Breming, baker, (2)

Jacob Lentz is listed with his wife, Fredericka Reuhle. We already know they both survived along with three of their children. They had left with four children, so indeed, little Elizabeth just 2 years old, was one of the deaths who would have been buried at sea before arriving in Bergen. I can’t even bear to think of the sorrow her death would have entailed as the crew threw the newly dead for that day overboard, as her grief-stricken and probably terribly ill parents, grandparents and siblings looked on.

Did Elizabeth die of starvation?

Adam Ruhle and his wife, Katharine, both survived, along with the 3 children in their care. They left Germany with Johann George Reuhl, born in 1794 and Margaretha Reuhl born in 1800, along with Katharina’s son from her first marriage, Christian Breuning, born in 1783. There is no record in Beutelsbach that Christian Breuning had married, although he was 33 and should probably have been married by that time. It’s likely that he is the third person listed as a child because he is unmarried with his parents.

A Christian Breming, baker, is listed with no wife and 2 individuals. Given the 3 children noted with Adam, I suspect this is someone else, but we’ll likely never know for sure. If this Christian the baker is Katharina’s son, it’s likely that his wife perished as well. It would be highly unusual for a man to leave for a foreign country with 2 small children without a wife.

It seems a miracle that on a ship where nearly one third of the people died, 10 of 11 of our family members survived.

What Happened in Norway?

By Espt123 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9776642

In Norway Jacob and Fredericka Lentz, according to the letter, worked, fishing and weaving fishing nets, until they could arrange passage again, except the second time, they had no funds and had to agree to become indentured servants upon arrival to pay for their passage.

We don’t know what happened to the Reuhl/Ruhle family, but there is no reason to believe that they didn’t accompany Jacob and Fredericka Lentz on to America. Even though they were in their 50s and 60s, they too would have been indentured to pay their passage. They may not have lived long enough to work off that amount of money.

During this time, while the German families were stranded in Bergen, some Norwegian families of a similar religious persuasion (Rappites) began to consider emigration as well, and were soundly discouraged from that line of thinking. A Norwegian government official said about a visit when he went to speak with Norwegians considering the possibility: “I advised them against the thought. I recounted the misfortunes the Germany emigrants had been exposed to and explained that the easy and inactive life the emigrants were leading at the moment – it was perhaps this which had misled these peasants – would come to an end as soon as the season allowed us to send them back to their homeland.” The Norwegians did immigrate beginning in the 1820s, despite being soundly discouraged from doing so.

Few Options

As badly as the Norwegians wanted to the Germans to depart, and as badly as the Germans wanted the same, there were several barriers.

The Germans from Wurttemberg could not go back. That was one of the stipulations of leaving Germany. The Duke of Wurttemberg had officially warned his subjects before departing that the door operated only in one direction. Other parts of Germany did allow a return, but only after posting a bond, something few of these people could do. Ultimately, around 100 Germans returned to Germany.

The stranded Germans also couldn’t stay in Bergen where they were unable to support themselves and unwelcome, so finding a way to America was their only option. Life must have seemed very bleak at that time for Jacob and Fredericka, with no good options. And bleaker yet for Fredericka’ parents, who were aging. I wonder if they second-guessed their decision to leave.

After a few months many of the passengers departed for Philadelphia. Around 80 of the people who still had money rented the ship “Susanne Cathrine” which sailed August 13, 1818. Clearly Jacob the Lentz/Ruhle family didn’t have money, because they weren’t on that ship.

The rest, 273 Germans, departed on the ship “Prima” of Larvik, owned by H. Falkenberg and Captained by Jacob Woxvold. Prima was hired by the Norwegian government, and arrived after a redirect to Baltimore in January 1819. Some of the passengers filed lawsuit afterwards against Captain Mantzelmann of the Zee Ploeg to recover freight and other costs.

I would surely love to know the outcome of those lawsuits, and if the Lentz (Lenz), Reuhl or Breuming families were involved.

Who Was Johann George Rapp?

Have we perhaps discovered the reason behind the Reuhle and Lentz family emigration? Was religion behind this exodus, rather than weather or economic conditions?

In the article titled, “George Rapp’s Harmonists and the beginnings of Norwegian Migration to America,” Karl Arndt tells us more about George Rapp, his son Frederick and his religious sect called the Harmonists and also known as Rappites. At the time of the sailing, George and Frederick Rapp had established the town of New Harmony, Indiana, land on the frontier of a newly formed state. The Rapps recruited heavily in Wurttemberg, holding out the lure of free land from the government and paid passage for those who would come and settle.

For Germans who spent their entire lives, for generations, tending vines on someone else’s lands, the allure of owning their own land was irresistible. In addition, the Rapps ordered a large selection of grape vines and fruit trees. The families who came along knew just how to tend those vines. In one of the letters to Germany, the Rapps stated:

There are no poor people here who must suffer need or who could not feed themselves. Much less would they have to worry that their sons would be taken away as soldiers, the laws of the land here are exactly the opposite of a monarchy. Everyone has the freedom to express himself freely. Also complete freedom of conscience is introduced in all America so that every person according to the conviction of his own conscience can perform unhindered his Divine service.

Those are powerful words to families who have just suffered famine in Germany in 1816.

In order to encourage immigration and migration to New Harmony, Indiana, the Harmonites invested in money to pay passage for many Germans, several of whom disappeared after they disembarked here in the US after their passage was paid. The Harmonites continued to try. Initially, about 150 people of the nearly 600 who embarked on the Sea Plow were believed to be Harmonites. About 60 wanted to take them up on their offer of paid passage from Norway after the shipwreck. In the end, about 15 wound up in New Harmony, Indiana. Not a very good investment for the Harmonites. The supreme irony is that the Harmonites eventually said of these Germans that, “they are too wild for our community.”

Of course, “wild” is very much a matter of perspective. I’m betting the Germans liked beer, wine and not celibacy. In fact, beer and wine and not conducive to celibacy.

There was one that detrimental factor that many people just couldn’t get past, relative to the Harmonites or Rappites as they were known. As Arndt stated, “George Rapp’s most effective substitute of self-disciplined celibacy lacked the essential mass appeal.” I do wonder, if George Rapp was celibate, how was his son Frederick Rapp was born. But, I digress.

The Harmonites had trouble recruiting and keeping people. Few want to commit to a life of celibacy. Eventually they were so successful with that there was no one left in future generations to perpetuate their cause. Recruiting for a celibate religion is a difficult task indeed.

It’s very doubtful that Jacob Lenz and Fredericka were Harmonites. It’s very clear from looking at the births of their children that they were not celibate. They are also not noted by name, nor are her parents or siblings, in any Harmonite correspondence.

Fortunately, some of the Harmonite letters still exist and contain valuable information about what happened.

On February 24, 1818 Christian Friedrich Schnable wrote from Bergen stating that the emigrants had already sacrificed their worldly estate and they found themselves in a land where they could not remain. He states:

“On September 5th, we lost all masts, also we were very badly treated by our disloyal captain. He did not give us the food which he was obligated to give us according to contract. This brought about great sickness so that over 200 souls died.”

Based on this verbiage, we know that the time from mast break in the Atlantic after the Captain tried to poison the passengers to docking in Bergen was 24 days.

The reconstructed timeline looks like this:

  • February 12, 1817 – leave Beutelsbach
  • March 1817 – anticipate boarding ship
  • Late April 1817 – board ship
  • Late August – leave Amsterdam
  • Return 10-11 days later after severe English Channel storm and a minor casualty
  • Sail again, storm near Scotland, Captain tries to poison passengers
  • September 5 – mast(s) breaks
  • Flounder at sea after captain arrested
  • September 25 – run around at Skjellanged
  • September 29 – towed to Bergen where allowed to disembark
  • October 1817 – list of living and dead compiled

We know that a total of 353 Germans sailed for America in 1818, and we know that between 560 and 600 people sailed initially in 1817 on the Sea Plow, so the difference would indeed be between 207 and 247 people. Starving and watching others die of starvation intentionally at the hands of the cruel captain must have been a horrific ordeal.

And then…the mast or all masts broke.

Ironically, while viewed initially as a tragedy, the broken mast was eventually what saved them – because the captain could no longer control the ship and they drifted into the Norwegian shore.

On To America

In the summer of 1818, 80 of the more well-to-do passengers chartered the ship Susannah Catharina and arrived in Philadelphia two months later, on October 23rd.

Arndt tells us that once in port, the Germans were not allowed to go ashore unless they could prove they would not be a public burden. “Since most of them could not show proof, they were sold or had to permit themselves to be sold at public auction.” The Harmonite offer of redemption was only valid of course for those who would follow their ways and join them in New Harmony. Even so, the Harmonites had problems converting “Indiana” money and debts into something a ship captain from Europe docked in Philadelphia would accept as payment to allow the passengers with unpaid passage to depart.

Arndt reported that Rapp had suggested that the passengers with unpaid passage be indentured with a special clause stating that the liberated person should be free again within 6 to 9 months in return for the repayment of the money for their passage. This would buy Rapp time to deal with his monetary conversion issues and not obligate the passengers after their debt was paid. Typical indentures lasted roughly 5-7 years. Jacob Lentz’s story indicates their indenture was for 3+ years.

Clearly Jacob and Fredericka were not on the ship Susanna Catharina, as they didn’t have any money and they report their arrival in January of 1819, but Rapp’s suggestion for the October passengers, still on board that ship in mid-November, may well have applied to the next group that arrived in January as well. It’s known that the ship Susanna Catharina was still anchored in the harbor well into the spring of 1819, likely with Germans still aboard who could not pay their passage and who were waiting for Rapp to redeem them.

Furthermore, the information above regarding a reduced period of indenture correlates with another part of the Jacob Lentz tribute story, as follows:

A certain ship was to leave their port for the new world and proposed to enter (so they entered) into a contract, stipulating that they should be bound out to services to anyone that would pay their passage and food expense. The time of service was to be determined by the bidding of interested employers after landing in America. They would be indentured servants. (Previous sentence not in second copy.) It was stipulated that the family was not to be separated.

With this contract they set sail the second time for the land beyond the sea, not knowing what would befall them or how they would be dealt with in the future (rest of sentence not in second copy) that was veiled with clouds that seemed to be very dark. All they knew was to commit their all into the hands of the overruling Providence “That doeth all things well, patiently labor, and wait for the future to unroll whatever was in store for them.”

(The passage was $30 each for mother and father and $15 each for Jacob and Fredericka. Elizabeth died on the ocean and Barbery was a baby.)

They landed in New York on the 1st day of January 1819 (rest of sentence omitted in second copy) some 18 months or more after leaving Germany. Very soon after landing advertisements were sent out giving contract notice, description of the family, amount of money to be paid and setting the date when they would be bound out to the one that would pay the money for the least period of service.

The momentous day soon came. They were placed on a platform before the crowd, the contract read, the amount of money to be paid was stated and the bidding began. Of course anyone had the privilege to talk with them beforehand. The bidding was in time of service. One bidder would offer to pay their fare for 10 years services, another for nine, another for 8, another for 7, and so the bidding continued until finally their service was declared to the successful bidder for 3 years and 6 months. They went with him to his home at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, wondering, wondering, wondering what it all meant to them.

They worked with a will and did their best to please their employer so he would have no just cause to hold them for service longer than the specified time.

They soon found that their employer and his wife were very good people asking reasonable work and supplying them with a comfortable home and an abundance of food. Contrasting this kindness with what they had to meet in the two preceding years, they were content and the future looked brighter to them, as they were now sure that in a few years of time they would be free to start life over again in this land where they had longed (long hoped) to be.

After they had worked about 8 months their employer invited them into his parlor one morning and kindly explained to them that according to customary wages, they had earned enough to pay their fare across the ocean and that was all he wanted, that he appreciated very much their faithful service. There were at the liberty to do for themselves and to work for who or where they would and their wages would be theirs to do with as they wished.

Freeing them of over two and a half years of service was so unthought-of on their part that they could never thank those people enough for their great kindness. So he often told it to his children and asked them to tell it to their children – that they might know and appreciate this kindness that was shown to them at the time it meant so much.

The great irony here is that there is no record of who this kind family was. Had Jacob mentioned the name of that family, I might be able to find their descendants, learn more about Jacob’s first decade in the US, and I just might be able to find Johann Adam Ruhle/Reuhl.

Was the Ruhle/ Reuhl family indentured as well?

The Ship Prima

The last ship to leave Norway with the shipwrecked Germans was the Prima. On May 4th, 1819, a few months after the Prima’s arrival earlier that year in January, another Harmonite letter tells of the near catastrophy. These ships carrying our family seem jinxed. I can only imagine their utter terror as they once again were endangered on the sea, seemingly sure to perish.

This letter reports that the group passed through a violent hurricane that threatened to capsize their ship.

We find additional information about this journey in a paper written by Ingrid Semmingsen titled “Haugeans, Rappites and the Immigration of 1825,” published in “Norwegian-American Studies, Volume 29” in 1983. This immigration is referring to the Norwegian immigration to the US.

Semmingsen states that aboard the Zee Ploeg were:

About 500 emigrants – all from Wurttemberg, petty farmers and craftsmen who had resolved after the unusually severe winter of 1816 to leave for America. 1816 was the year “when summer never came.” Some of the immigrants, probably about 150, called themselves separatists. They were religious dissenters and political malcontents who stoutly resisted any attempts by the Norwegian authorities to induce them to return to Germany. They maintained they would be subject to persecution there. They were followers of Johann George Rapp, gone to America in 1803.

Some of the Germans had paid all or part of the passage due the Dutch shipping company and they brought legal action against the skipper in an attempt to regain their money. Several of the emigrants still had some funds left, but most of them were poor. A certain percentage were “nonpaying passengers” who had entered into an agreement with the skipper that they would raise the necessary funds on arrival in America by enlisting as indentured servants or laborers.

The whole group of emigrants was in miserable condition after floundering in the North Sea storm for nearly 2 months, during which time a number of them had perished. As a result, there were orphans among them and some 40 of the passenger were so feeble that they were sent to a hospital.

Fortunately the Norwegian doctor who was put in charge of them found nothing contagious. Nevertheless some deaths did occur after arrival in Bergen.

As events would have it, the entire group had to spend the whole winter in Bergen. The sailing season was past and the city authorities in cooperation with the Norwegian government had to take measures to provide them with housing and other necessities. The years 1817-1818 were the worst Norway had to endure after gaining independence in 1814. Crown Prince Carl Johann who would become king in 1818 even gave assistance from his own private funds. Finances were desperate and political unrest was smoldering.

Even under more normal circumstances, it would have been a formidable task for a city with fewer than 15,000 inhabitants to improvise charitable organizations to assume responsibility for 500 practically helpless foreigners, many of them political refugees. In 1817 it must have seemed an event of catastrophic proportions. Not until the summer and fall of 1818 did the immigrants leave Bergen. The first group left in August and docked in Philadelphia in late October and the second on the vessel Prima did not arrive in Baltimore until shortly after New Year’s, 1819.

Semmingsen goes on to say a few pages later that:

The Norwegian government had advanced 1,300 pounds toward their transportation which it hoped would be refunded when the ship reached an American port. The full cost of transportation ran to 2,200 pounds and the difference was arranged for by a naturalized German in Kristiana named Grunning. More is known about this second crossing.

One of the crew of the Prima, presumably one of the officers if not the captain himself, wrote an account of the journey which was published in a Norwegian newspaper in 1826. He reported that there were two Catholic families among the passengers and the rest were Lutherans.

The people were described as religiously-minded, virtuous, and, considering their social class, well-bred. All of them had prayer books. Every morning and evening they prayed to God in a solemn and touching manner and sang hymns in clear, pure voices.

Before retiring they entertained themselves with song, dance, music, and games. On occasion they also passed the cup of friendship among themselves.

Skipper Woxland chose the southern route. This was undoubtedly wise considering the lateness of the season when he set sail. He took the Prima south to the coast of Portugal so as to utilize the trade winds, and it paid off “With the never-failing dominance of this wind” they reached the West Indies, but there they ran into trouble. They had to fight a raging storm, the shipowner reported to the government, and they had to dock in Baltimore instead of in Philadelphia, which was their real destination.

But according to the report the ship, crew, and passengers were well received. A committee was appointed by the citizens, which consisted partly of fellow-countrymen of the newcomers. They brought food aboard the ship and also raised money to help defray travel expenses.

Furthermore, arrangements were made to secure employment or land for the emigrants. Everything was managed “in the best of order” to everyone’s satisfaction.

Only the leave-taking with the skipper and the crew was a sad experience for the emigrants. Many of them had learned to speak Norwegian during the long stay in Bergen, and they promised that they would never forget dear Norway or “the kindly disposed citizens of Bergen.”

Not all the passengers were as favorably impressed by their reception in America as this report would imply — at least not four persons who were bound for Harmony and who, a few months later, sent a letter from Philadelphia to “Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in God’s congregation in Bergen.”

To be sure, they praised the skipper and crew who, with God’s help, exerted themselves to the uttermost in order to save ship and passengers when a “terrible storm” almost caused the ship to capsize; but they were dissatisfied with Harmony, which had not “given orders to redeem us.” They also had encountered trouble with getting their passage paid for, and they were forced to seek release from paying the big bill “charged against us for the care we received in Bergen.” Clearly, the emigrants also had to work as indentured servants. “Then we were sold for the passage money: one down south, another up north; only four of us are here together, the others are scattered.”

However, they continue, “America is a good country. Poor people live better here than the wealthy ones in Bergen and Germany. Wages are good. While we are in service, we are given good food and clothing and we have many free periods. We hope that we will soon earn our freedom and then be gathered together as one congregation.

The Lawsuit

Apparently, there was indeed a lawsuit filed against the Zee Ploeg Captain in Norway, although the outcome is questionable. The Jacob Lentz tribute says that the Captain was hung.

According to this information from the Norwegian archives website, and auto-translated, it looks like the Captain may have been in jail and the suit may have been dismissed. However, look who filed the suit.

Carl O Gram Gjesdal mention proceedings against Zee Plogs captain in jail in the new year 1818. The occasion will, according to Gjesdal, have been that two passengers, Jacob Lentz and John Fiedler, had appealed to the authorities and received a licence to ‘ on ustemplet paper for the person in question under the law that let make the cases that they find themselves occasioned that grow toward the bemeldte captain, kapt. Poul Jan Manzelmann ‘. Do you know where this thing is located? It should have been accusations of drunkenness, poor seamanship, embezzlement, brutality, abuse, and murderer tampering attempts. He was also of some of the responsibility for that small children died during the crossing due to malnutrition. It was difficult with the evidence, and DOM’s formulation, according to have been Gjesdal,: ‘ the captain should replace them to citanterne for erholdt forlite provisions after unwilling men’s discretion … By the way he should as far as compensation is concerned, is considered to be free. Iøvrig rejected the case. ‘ Mvh Arnfrid

This lawsuit tells us a couple very interesting things. First, Jacob, according to the earlier discussion, would have been one of the passengers that originally paid his way and that of his family.

Second, this begs the question of why Jacob would have been the one to file the suit. Was it burning anger over his daughter’s death? Or had Jacob assumed something of a leadership position among the immigrants? Why Jacob?

Arrival and Indenture

In America, I lose the trail of the Reuhl/Ruhle family completely, but Jacob and Fredericka Lentz and their remaining three children were indentured to a family, supposedly in Shippensburg, PA, for 8 months. They reportedly stayed in Pennsylvania for the next decade or so, became Brethren at some point, and in 1828 or 1829 moved to Montgomery County, Ohio. I have not been able to confirm this. In fact, I can’t find Jacob and Fredericka until their daughter, Mary’s birth in Ohio in 1829. There is no sign of Adam Ruhle in Ohio, but by 1829, he would have been 65 years old, and his wife 74.

I have not had any success finding Johann Adam Ruhle or family members after arrival. He would have been 56 years old in 1820, the first possible census where he could have appeared, and his wife would have been 65. They could well have been indentured at that time. If they weren’t, who knows how their surname would have been recorded, or where.

Adam’s son, Johann George Ruhle/Reuhl, would have been 26 and would only have been individually recorded in the census if he were not indentured and were a head of household. The sister, Johanna Margaretha at age 20 could have already married, and if not, she would be listed with her parents or the people to whom she was indentured.

Did Adam and his wife survive the second crossing? Did they somehow stay in Norway? What happened to their son and daughter?

Ironically, the one person I might have found is Christian Brining who is recorded as dying in 1829 in Hagerstown, Maryland. However, he is also shown has having had a son in 1810 and one in 1811 in Wurttemberg, so this might not be our man. However, that does match the 2 individuals on the survivor list. This Christian was naturalized in Maryland and arrived between 1818 and 1821.

There is so much we just don’t know.

DNA

Without knowing what happened to Adam’s son, Johann George Reuhl, it’s almost impossible to discover the Reuhl Y DNA. The Reuhl son, Johann Ludwig, who stayed behind in Beutelsbach Germany appears to have had one son, also named Johann Ludwig, who died in Stuttgart in1893, and we lose that line there.

Checking the Germany DNA project at Family Tree DNA, there are no Reuhl males of any similar spelling.

In one last ditch effort, I checked my mother’s Family Finder matches to see if she has anyone with a Reuhl or similar surname. She didn’t.

I tried Ancestry. Nothing.

I even tried Genforum and the Rootweb lists and boards, hoping for Reuhl. Nada.

One problem of course, is knowing how the name might be spelled. It isn’t even spelled the consistently in German church records, so Heaven only knows how it was spelled in the US. Reuhl, Ruhle, Reuhle, Rule or maybe something else.

So, if you find a Johann Adam or Johann George of about the right age with a surname that sounds something like Reuhl, or if your ancestor married a Johanna Margaretha Reuhl or similar, please, PLEASE let me know.

Why Different Haplogroup Results?

“Why do vendors give me different haplogroups?”

This questions often comes up when people test with different vendors and receive different haplogroup results for both Y and mitochondrial DNA.

If you need a quick refresher on who carries which types of DNA, read 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

You’re the same person, right, so why would you receive different answers from different testing companies, and which answer is actually right?

The answer is pretty straightforward, conceptually – having to do with how vendors test and interpret your DNA.

Different companies test different pieces of your DNA, depending on:

  • The type of chip the company is using for testing
  • The way they have programmed the chip
  • The version of the reference “tree” they are using to assign haplogroups
  • The level they have decided to report

Therefore, their haplogroups reported may vary, and some may be more exact than others. Occasionally, a vendor outside the major testers is simply wrong.

Not All Tests are Created Equal

All haplogroups carry interesting information and can be at least somewhat genealogically useful. For example, haplogroups alone can tell you if your direct line DNA (paternal or matrilineal) is probably European, Asian, African or Native American. Note the word probably. This too may be subject to interpretation.

A basic haplogroup can rule out a genealogical match through a specific branch, but can’t confirm a genealogical match. You need to compare specific DNA locations not provided with haplogroup testing alone for genealogical matching. Plus you’ll need to add genealogical records where possible.

Let’s look at two examples.

Mitochondrial DNA

Your mitochondrial DNA is inherited from your mother’s direct line, on up you tree until you run out of mothers.  So, you, your mother, her mother, her mother…etc.

The red circles show the mitochondrial lineage in the pedigree chart, below.

If your mitochondrial haplogroup is H1a, for example, then your base haplogroup is “H”, the first branch is “1” and the next smaller branch is “a.”

Therefore, if you don’t match at H, your base haplogroup, you aren’t a possible match on that genealogical line. In other words, if you are H1a, or H plus anything, you can’t match on the direct matrilineal line of someone who is J1a, or J plus anything. H and J are different base haplogroups who haven’t shared a common ancestor in tens of thousands of years.

You can, however, potentially be related on any other line – just not on this specific line.

If your haplogroup does match, even exactly, that doesn’t mean you are related in a genealogically relevant timeframe. It means you share an ancestor, but that common ancestor may be back hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of years.

The further downstream, the younger the branches.  “H” is the oldest, then “1,” then “a” is the youngest.

Some companies might just test the locations for H, some for H1 and some for H1a.  Of course, there are even more haplogroups, like H1a2a. New, more refined haplogroups are discovered with each new version of the mitochondrial reference tree.

The only company that tests your haplogroup all the way to the end, meaning the most refined test possible to give you your complete haplogroup and all mutations, is Family Tree DNA with their mtFull Sequence test.

A quick comparison of my mitochondrial DNA at the following three vendors shows the following:

23andMe Living DNA Family Tree DNA Full Seqence
J1c2 J1c J1c2f

With Family Tree DNA’s full sequence test, you’ll receive your full haplogroup along with matching to other people who have taken mitochondrial DNA tests. They are the only vendor to offer Y and mitochondrial matching, because they are the only vendor that tests at that level.

Y DNA

Y DNA operates on the same principle. Specific locations called SNPs are tested by companies like 23andMe and Living DNA to provide customers with a branch level haplogroup. You don’t receive matching with these types of tests.

Just like with mitochondrial DNA, a basic branch level test can eliminate a match on the direct paternal (surname) branch but can’t confirm the genealogical match.

If your haplogroup branch is E-M2 and someone else’s is R-M269, you can’t share a common paternal ancestor because your base haplogroups don’t match, meaning E and R.

You can share an ancestor on any other line, just not on the direct Y line.

The blue squares show the Y DNA lineage on the pedigree chart below.

Family Tree DNA predicts your haplogroup for free if you take the 37, 67 or 111 marker Y-DNA STR test, but if you take the Big Y-500, your Y chromosome is completely tested and your haplogroup defined to the most refined level possible (often called your terminal SNP) – including mutations that may exist in only very few people. You also receive matching to other testers (with any Y test) which can be very genealogically relevant, plus bonus Y STR markers with the Y-500.

OK, But Why Do Different Companies Give Me Different Haplogroup Results?

Great question.

For this example, let’s say your haplogroup is H1a2a.

Let’s say that Company 1 uses a chip that they’ve programmed to test to the H1a level of haplogroup H1a2a.

Let’s say that Company 2 uses a chip that they’ve programmed to test to the H1 level of haplogroup H1a2a.

Let’s say that you take the full sequence test with Family Tree DNA and they fully test all 15,659 locations of your mitochondria and determine that you are H1a2a.

Company 1 will report your mitochondrial haplogroup as H1a, Company 2 as H1 and Family Tree DNA as H1a2a.

With mitochondrial DNA, you can at least see some consist pathway in naming practices, meaning H, H1, H1a, etc., so you can tell that you’re on the same branch.

With Y DNA, the only consistent part is the base haplogroup.

With Y DNA, let’s say that Company 1 programs their chip to test for specific SNP  locations, and they return a Y DNA haplogroup of R-L21.

Company 2 programs their chip to test for fewer or different locations and they return a Y DNA haplogroup of R-M269.

You purchase a Big Y-500 test at Family Tree DNA, and they return your haplogroup as R-CTS3386.

All three haplogroups can be correct, as far as they go. It’s just that they don’t test the same distance down the Y chromosome tree.

R-M269, R-L21 and R-CTS3386 are all increasingly smaller branches on the Y haplotree.

Furthermore, for both Y and mitochondrial DNA, there is always a remote possibility that a critical location won’t be able to be read in your DNA sample that might affect your haplogroup.

Obtaining Your Haplogroup

I strongly encourage people to test with and upload to only well-known major companies or organizations. Some companies provide haplogroup information that is simply wrong.

Companies that I am comfortable with relative to haplogroups include:

Neither MyHeritage nor Ancestry provide Y or mitochondrial haplogroups.

The chart below shows the various vendor offerings, including Y and mitochondrial DNA matching.

Company Offerings Matching
Family Tree DNA – Y DNA Y haplogroup is estimated with STR test. Haplogroup provided to most refined level possible with Big Y-500 test. Individual SNP tests also available. Yes
Family Tree DNA – mitochondrial At least base haplogroup provided with mtPlus test, plus more if possible, but full haplogroup plus additional mutations provided with mtFull Sequence test. Yes
Genographic Project More than base haplogroup for both Y and mitochondrial, but not full haplogroup on either. No
23andMe More than base haplogroup for both Y and mitochondrial, but not full haplogroup on either. No
Living DNA More than base haplogroup for both Y and mitochondrial, but not full haplogroup on either. No

Want More Detail?

If you’d like to read a more detailed answer about how haplogroups are determined, take a look at the article, Haplogroup Comparisons Between Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.

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