Backpedaling: Irene Charitas is a Heitz, not a Schlosser – 52 Ancestors #191

You have no idea how much it pains me to write a – dare I say the ugly word – retraction.  Ugh☹

However, when I’ve reached an incorrect conclusion, no matter what the reason, I feel morally obligated to set the record straight. In addition to this article, I’m also posting links to this article in the previous Irene Charitas articles, along with the articles about Conrad Schlosser and his wife, Anna Ursula. Those articles can be found here, here, here and here.

Why am I doing that instead of removing the articles?  Simple enough. That erroneous information about Schlosser existed “in the wild” before I came along. My articles haven’t been out long, but they made that situation at least somewhat worse, AND, if I don’t leave the original articles, when new researchers come across the same information themselves, they’ll fall into the very same tar pits that I fell into.

So, I guess you could say I’m leaving them in place as a skull and crossbones warning, or more charitably (to me), to use as a learning experience. Yes, I’m really irritated with myself.

Remember what your Mom used to say: “Well, at least “they” can serve as a bad example!”

Well, this time, “they” is me.

You know, if you can’t laugh at yourself, after you get done crying over the spilt milk, then you’ve missed a great deal of life’s available humor!

And so it goes…

The Bad Example

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

Tom and I determined months ago that Irene Charitas is a very rare name. Not only is Irene rare individually, but so is Charitas. Combine Irene and Charitas into one name together and its chicken’s teeth rare.

Need proof?

Using the Family Search “Search Records” function from 1550-1800, we find exactly one listed.

There are Anna Charitas, Maria Charitas, Joanna Charitas and plain Charitas, but no other Irene Charitas, at least not that have been indexed to date.

Based on that information, and knowing the Johann Michael Mueller and his wife, Irene Charitas <some surname> began having children in Steinwenden, Germany in 1685, it made sense when we discovered the confirmation records of Conrad Schlosser’s two daughters, Irene Charitas and Anna Ursula in the same small town that we would put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4. We concluded that Irene Charitas Schlosser is the wife of Johann Michael Mueller.

Except we were wrong. And by the way, I’m taking full credit for the wrongness. I would be entirely lost without Tom then and now the dynamic duo of Tom and Chris together.

Three Heads are Better than One or Two

Sometimes two heads are better than one and three are better yet.

Remember my German friend Chris?  He is newer to research about this family than either Tom or me who have been working with these records for years.

Chris and Tom make a great pair. Tom has years of experience with German records and script, and Chris is a Native German speaker and sniffs out the most wonderful rabbits in obtuse rabbit holes.

That’s an amazing attribute, because recently Chris e-mailed and asked how we had determined that Irene Charitas was a Schlosser.

I pointed Chris to the article about Irene Charitas wherein I was ecstatic to identify her as the daughter of Conrad Schlosser through a 1689 christening records for Conrad Schlosser’s two daughters, Irene Charitas and Anna Ursula.

Bingo, we had it! We had found Johann Michael Muller’s wife who was named Irene Charitas.

Except we hadn’t.

What Went Wrong?

One thing bugged me, but sometimes old records are “weird” for a variety of reasons.

The thing that bothered me was that Irene Charitas, wife of Johann Michael Muller, was married and having children by 1685. This 1689 Schlosser confirmation record, 4 years later, doesn’t’ say anything about Muller.

In fact, Irene Charitas’ age is the reason we originally thought that Irene was simply standing up with her sister, Anna Ursula Schlosser, not being confirmed herself. An adult confirmation would be highly unusual. However, given that records are often incomplete, and that many of the settlers were Swiss and could have been on the road or otherwise displaced when Irene should have been confirmed – this adult confirmation didn’t seem so unusual after all. We took it at face value.

Given the rarity of the combined names of Irene with Charitas, the chances of finding another Irene Charitas in the same small village was miniscule. I mean, the chances of lightning striking twice or winning the lottery are much better.

I should have bought a lottery ticket!

As it turns out, based on further information from Chris about the typical German confirmation at about age 13 or 14, Irene Charitas Schlosser who actually WAS being confirmed would have been born about 1676, far too young to have been married and having a child by 1685. We now know that Conrad Schlosser was living in close proximity by 1660, so there is no possibility that Irene’s confirmation was delayed because they were in transit at the time. However, we didn’t yet know that at the time.

Therefore, the only reasonable conclusion available with the additional information is that Irene Charitas Schlosser was not married in the 1689 confirmation record and was far too young.

Meaning that the Irene Charitas married to Johann Michael Muller by sometime in 1684 when she conceived a child had to be someone else!

Oh, Come On!!!

I can hear you saying out loud to yourself, “Right, Roberta, you’re going to try to convince me that there were two Irene Charitas’ in a population of 6 households and 25 people?”

No, I’m not actually.

I’m going to tell you that there were 3.

Yes, seriously.

How on earth can that be?

Let me explain.

Enter Samuel Hoffman

A few years earlier, Samuel Hoffman, probably the first minister of the church in Steinwenden, had a wife named Irene Charitas Buether.

According to a Geneanet site by R. K. Morgenthaler, Samuel Hofmann, husband of Irene Charitas born Beuther, was a priest in Weilersbach, close to Steinwenden, from 1657 onwards. We also know that Samuel Hofmann and Irene Charitas Beuther married in 1657 in Weilersbach, since this is stated in the 1684 burial record of Irene Charitas Buether Hofmann.

In addition, we have the 1684 Steinwenden tax list that includes Samuel Hofmann residing in Steinwenden as well. In conclusion, we may assume that Samuel Hofmann was a minister in Steinwenden in at least 1683-1684, and perhaps earlier. He may thus have been the first minister in Steinwenden after the war.

Furthermore, Irene Charitas Beuther was important in her own right.

Irene Charitas Hoffmann born Beuther had a father who was not just anybody. Her father Dr. theol. Michael Philipp Beuther was superintendent of Palatinate-Zweibrücken, that is, he was responsible for the church of the entire district. In this function, he was an important person in the so-called “second Zweibrücken reformation,” which was the change from Lutheran to Calvinist belief.

Irene Charitas Beuther Hoffman died in of July 1684, as recorded in the church book.  Given her husband’s position in the church, she probably stood up as a godparent for a lot of babies that were baptized.  As it turns out, it appears that at least two of those children were named for her.

Irene Charitas Schlosser and Irene Heitz, also called Irene Charitas in later records were probably both named for Irene Charitas Beuther – making a total of at least 3.

Yea, I know.  What are the chances? Now multiple Irene Charitas’ make sense.

The New Record

Chris, through his meticulously detailed research, threw a grenade into my nice neat story.

Chris happened across this Muller-Familien site in German by Dr. Hermann Muller, and followed a reference to the unindexed church records in nearby Miesau which began in 1681, 4 years before the Steinwenden church records began.

This is the website that drew Chris to the Muller-Heitz marriage.  A hearty thank you to Dr. Hermann Muller for the records and Chris for finding this important item.

Two things stand out as important about these records.

First, apparently Miesau is the church where people living in Steinwenden before 1684 attended, because that’s where Chris found the records for Bernhardt/Gerhardt Schlosser, believed to be either the father or brother of Conrad Schlosser.

Secondly, the Miseau records are not yet indexed, which is why we don’t find them at Family Search or elsewhere, nor have they been transcribed and translated. You have to read through the book page by page.

I use the term “read” quietly loosely here, because ”reading” German script is much more of a pattern matching exercize than reading in the context that we read today, and exponentially more difficult.

However, Chris found the following record for Johann Michael Mueller of Steinwenden marrying an Irene in 1684.

Michael Muller, widower, son of Heinsmann Muller, resident in “Schwartz Matt in the Bern area” (Switzerland), married 17 April 1684 in Steinwenden to Irene Liesabetha Heitz, daughter of Conrad Heitz.”

This is the record that rocked the Irene Charitas Schlosser boat – badly.  You might say that Schlosser boat hit an iceberg, capsized and sunk like the Titanic.

Thrilled or Mortified?

I was utterly shocked, and I didn’t know whether to be thrilled or mortified.

I was in disbelief for a few days, as was Tom, and it took Tom a bit of “proving” to convince himself, and therefore me, that indeed there is enough evidence that Irene Liesabetha Heitz is indeed the same person who married Johann Michael Muller and was later referred to as Irene Charitas.

Was it possible that there were two Johann Michael Mullers in the small village?

Ok, two different Irenes married to two different Michael Mullers from Switzerland in a village with a population of 6 families and 25 people?

Sorry, but I’m just not believing that.

Nope, nada, not going to happen.

But what additional evidence do we have?


Remember the FAN club.  Friends and neighbors.  People didn’t live in a vacuum.

Another thing about Irene Charitas and Johann Michael Muller is that the Schlosser family does not appear with them in any records in the church. This is highly unusual, especially with so few families to choose from.

Looking through the records, we find the following additional pieces of evidence.

Tax Records

It sure seems to me, looking at the church records, like there were more people in Steinwenden than the 6 families consisting of 25 people recorded on the tax records.

I voiced my frustration and the seeming inconsistencies, and Chris found answers to that too.

It seems that in order to entice people to immigrate from Switzerland and settle in depopulated Germany after the 30 Years War, the Germans, consummately realistic, promised the Swiss land and made them tax exempt.

From Chris:

Roberta, you wondered why the families Müller, Stutzmann and so on of Swiss origin are not listed in the tax lists of 1684. I think it does not necessarily mean they had not been there yet and it is not the only possible explanation that Michael Müller stayed in with somebody else in Steinwenden. My assumption is that the Swiss immigrants were exempted from the tax during their first years in Germany.

I own the book “Schweizer im Odenwald” from 2017 and therein lies the source of my assumption:

The Odenwald region is located in the South of Hesse in Germany. Since my ancestors come mainly from Hesse including the Odenwald and I have some Swiss immigrants among them as well, I was interested in the topic. Of course, I know that Hesse is not the region we are searching for here. But nonetheless, the book contains some interesting general chapters on Swiss immigration to Germany after the 30 Years War, including about the Palatinate region next to the Odenwald.

On page 25 of the book, there is the following translated note:
“Elector Karl Ludwig of Palatinate (1617-1689), the son of “Winterkönig” Friedrich V., who had returned to Heidelberg, after the 30 Years War invited with a call people from the protestant countries spared by the war, to come to his devastated land. These people were assured land and tax exemption.”

Therefore, the only people listed on the early tax lists were non-Swiss immigrants. That is EXTREMELY useful information to know. We would not expect to find the Swiss settlers on the tax lists, but we would expect them to be found in the church records.

Therefore, if you extracted and translated all of the 1684 and 1685 records and compared them with the tax lists, I’d wager the list of families and surnames would be at least double what shows on the tax lists.

This explains an awful lot.

Conrad Heitz was missing from the 1684/1685 tax list, so this suggests that he was indeed Swiss.

But What About Irene?

The emergence of this new information held in a never-before-found record is exciting and unexpected, but it’s also very frustrating because it adds to the list of confusing items about Irene, the wife of Johann Michael Muller.

For example, her actual name is elusive too. What?

Given what I just old you, I know you’re left wondering if I’ve evaluated too much DNA and I’ve gone off my rocker entirely.

Turns out, I haven’t. The following records detail all of the occurrences of Irene in the Steinwenden area records beginning with Irene’s marriage and then the baptisms of Irene’s children. If Irene occurred in other records as a godmother, we’d have to translate all of the records for everyone to find those records. Turns out, Tom did just that. The following compilation is what was found:

Marriage record:

  • Michael MÜLLER, widower, son of Heinsmann MÜLLER, resident in “Schwartz Matt in the Bern area” (Switzerland), married 17 April 1684 in Steinwenden to Irene Liesabetha Heitz, daughter of Conrad Heitz.”

Followed by the baptisms of their children:

  • June 5, 1685 – Johann Nicholas, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene from Steinwenden”, Godparents: Hanns Georg Scheimocher; Nickel Stahl; Hans Georg ?, wife.
  • July 9, 1686 – Johann Abraham, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene from Steinwenden”, Godparents: Abraham Wochner, tailor; Hans Bergter from Krotelbach; Mar. Magd., H.
  • April 30, 1687 – Samuel Müller, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene from Steinwenden”, H Samuel Hoffman and his wife. (Irene Charitas Hoffman died in 1684.)
  • June 7, 1688 – Catharina Barbara, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene Charitas from Steinwenden”, Godparents: Maria Catharina, wife of Jonas Schror ………..Samuel Lo.., the tailor
  • April 24, 1691 – Eva Catharina, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene Charitas from Steinwenden”, Godparents: Eva, wife of Hans Ulrich? Berny, Catharina, wife of Hans Georg Dreysinger; Kilian ?, Michael Frey.
  • October 5, 1692 – Johann Michael, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene from Steinwenden”, Godparents: Johann Michael Schumacher; Balthasar Jolage; Christina, wife of Hans Bergter (Bergtol) from Krodelbach (Krottelbach).

The next record is not Irene’s child, but Irene was a godparent.

  • On January 25, 1690, the child Irene Elisabeth born to Tobias Scholl & Catharina from Miersbach was baptized in Steinwenden. Godparents: Irene Charitas, wife of Michael Muller; ? from Miersbach

At this point, the records become somewhat “odd” again, but extremely important.

There is no death record for Irene any time after the birth of Johann Michael in 1692.  There are also no missing sections or pages of death records from the church books. Tom checked specifically. We don’t need any more surprises.  One retraction is bad enough.

Johann Michael Muller died in January of 1695.

  • Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Steinwenden, Bavaria Church records: 31 January 1695: From Steinwenden buried Michael Muller, born in Switzerland, his age 40 years.

In November of 1696, a year and 10 months later, Hanss Jacob Stutzman married Johann Michael Muller’s widow.

  • In Konken, the couple being from Krotelbach, Hanss Jacob Stützman, surviving son of Jacob Stützman from Switzerland with Loysa Regina, surviving widow of Michael Müller from Stenweil (Steinwenden)…. Married on the 29th of November 1696 in Ohmbach.

Michael Muller’s widow of course would be Irene Charitas. Right?

You’d think so. So where did Loysa Regina come from?

Therefore, one must conclude that Irene had died and Michael had remarried sometime between October 1692 and January 1695 to Loysa Regina, at which point, Michael died.

Makes sense.

Except, where is Irene’s death and where is Michael’s second marriage to Regina?

Ok, somehow two pieces of vital information didn’t get recorded – and they both had to do with the same family.

Getting stranger and stranger.

The next records that involve Jacob Stutzman’s wife, the former widow of Michael Muller, are as follows:

  • February 3,1697, Irene Elisabeth baptized, Parents: H. Samuel Hoffmann, Maria Magdalena from Steinwenden, Godparents: Irene, Jacob Stutzman’s wife from Krodelbach (Krottelbach); Elisabetha, Balthasar Jolage wife and Dominicus Stutzman, unmarried.

Three months after they are married, Jacob Stutzman’s wife is called Irene, not Regina Loysa, AND she is for the third time paired with Samuel Hoffman in some way.

Note that this couple has moved by this time to Krottelbach, so a different minister is recording events. Is Regina Loysa Muller Stutzman really Irene Elizabetha Heitz?

Let’s look at the evidence.

  • October 22, 1697, Hanss Peter baptized, Parents Hanss Jacob Stutzman & Regina Loysa, his lawfully wed wife from Crottelbach. Godparents were: Pet. Mellinger, censor, Hans Pfauer, a Swiss, and Anna Elisabetha, surviving legitimate daughter of Jacob Stutzman of Switzerland.

Again, she is called Regina Loysa, the reverse of Loysa Regina earlier. The next records are found in 1699, in Kallstadt.

  • Page 136 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: Tuesday, the 21st of November, Hanss Jacob Sturtzmann, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his legitimately wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young daughter came into the world and on the following 25th Sunday after Trinity, the 26th of November (1699) received Holy Baptism. The Godparents were Maria Catharina, wife of Peter Clonstt??, co-farm administrator for the Manor in Weilach; Maria Eva, wife of Johannes Rauscher?, citizen in Turckh(eim) (Bad Durkheim);Hanss Jacob Bernhard, citizen of Asselheim. The child received the name: Maria Catharina.
  • Baptism: page 146 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: Monday, the 12th of June (1702), Hanss Jacob Stotzmann, farm administrator (steward) at Weilach and Regina Elisabetha, his lawfully wed wife, was born to them a young son who was baptized on the 1st Sunday post Trinity, the 18th of June (1702). The godparents were: Joh. Michael Be…(margin), citizen from Asselheim, Samuel H..(Heitz?)(margin) from Stenweiler (Steinwenden) im Westrich; Elisabeth, wife of Hanss Michael Schum..(margin) from Ramsen. The Christian name of Johann Samuel was given.
  • Baptism: page 150 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: Thursday evening, the 31st of January 1704, Hanss Jacob Stotzmannen, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) and his lawfully wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young son was born and was baptized on Sunday Estomihi (Quinquagesima Sunday), the 3rd of February 1704 at Weilach. Godparents were: Johann Christian Stotzmann and Matthaeus Krauss from Ungstein and Joh. Daniel Schumacher, citizen from Ungstein and wife, Anna Margretha. The Christian name given was Johann Matthaeus.
  • Baptism: page 156 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: Friday, the 1st of January in the year 1706 of the new year, Johann Jacob Stotzmannen, farm administrator (steward) of the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weylach and his lawfully wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young son was born which on Tuesday, the 5th of January 1706 was baptized. The godparents were: Johann Jacob Schick; son of the honorable master, Johann Georg Schicken, butcher and citizen in Durckheim; Anna Elisabeth Beerin, legitimate daughter of the late Johann Martin Beer.  The Christian name given was Johannes Jacobus.
  • Anna Regina Stutzmann. Christened, 27 Feb 1706/7, in Asselheim, Grunstadt. Godparents of Anna: Anna Catharina, wife of Johann Nicolaus Trommer; Regina, wife of Johann Jacob Stutzmann, “Hofmann at Weylach”; Zacharias Stein, inhabitant in Albsheim, “married since 1702 to Margaretha Jacobea Bernhardt,”
  • Baptism: page 189; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: Friday morning the 17th of January 1716, Nicolaus Schumacher, cow herder at the Weilach Farm and from his lawfully wed wife, Catharina, a young daughter was born which on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, the 19th of January was baptized at Weilach. The godparents were: Regina Elisabetha, legitimate wife of the farm administrator (steward) of the most esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor), Jacob Stozmann; Susanna, wife of Hans Michael Muller, the farm administrator (steward) (refers to Jacob Stozmann above mentioned), son in Weilach; the master Johann Daniel ?, citizen and tailor in Callstadt (Kallstadt). The Christian name of Susanna Elisabetha was given.
  • Baptism: page 190; 26 May 1716; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: On Wednesday, the 20th of May 1716 was born a young son to Johann Michael M(uller), the co-steward at Weilach and his legitimate wife, Susanna. The son was baptized on Exaudi Sunday (24th May) at Weilach. Godparents: Johann Ja(cob) Stotzmann, steward for the gracious Lord of the Manor at Weilach, the child’s grandfather; Nicolaus Leist from Wachenheim an der Hardt; Catharina, legitimate wife of Andreas Neuer.burger? from Callstadt (Kallstadt). The child was named: Johann Jacob.

This may be important, because in this record, Jacob Stutzman is referred to as the grandfather of the child.  Clearly, that’s his social position, but technically, there is absolutely no question that he is not the biological grandfather, he is the step-grandfather.

  • Baptism: page 198 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: Monday, the 24th of April 1719, Michal Muller, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his lawfully wed wife, Susanna Agnesa, a son was born and baptized on the 27th of April. The Godparents were: Regina (margin), legitimate wife of Jacob Stotzmann, Sr., the old steward and the fathers mother(!); Johannes Schumacher, cow herder; Anna Eva, legitimate wife of Daniel ?, smith in Callstadt (Kallstadt); and Johannes (Christian) Stotzmann from Asselheim. The child was given the Christian name of Johannes Michael.

In this record, Regina is referred to as the father’s mother, meaning the father is Michael Muller (the second).  If Irene Charitas had actually died between 1692 and 1695 and for some reason, Jacob Stutzman and his wife took the child in 1696 to raise, this would make some level of sense. However, if Jacob married Michael’s mother, then this would maker perfect since.  Michael Muller’s mother is actually his biological mother and his step-father, Jacob Stutzman, who raised him from the age of about 4 is the only father he ever knew.

  • Baptism: page 204 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria: Saturday, the 5th of April 1721, Johann Michal Muller, farm administrator (steward) for the most esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his lawfully wed wife, Susanna Agnesa, a young son was born and on the following Thursday, the 10th of April 1721 was baptized. Godparents: Johann Samuel Stozmann, legitimate son of Johann Jacob Stozmann, farm administrator (steward) for the most esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weilach; Ludwich Stozmann, legitimate son of Philip Stozmann, farm administrator (steward) on the Kohlhoffin, Nassau; Eva Catharina, legitimate daughter of Samuel Heitzen, citizen in Stannweiler.  The child was given the name: Johann Ludwig.

Heitzen is another form of Heitz. Chris mentions that the adding of en on the end of a name is very common, and this record connects the Heitz family with the Muller family once again.

  • Baptism: page 206; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria:Thursday evening, the 15th of January 1722, J(ohann) Schumacher, cow herder for the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) estate in W(eilach) and from his legitimately married wife, Anna Catharina, a young son was born and which on the 20th of January at Weilach was baptized. The godparents were: Hans Michael Muller, b(….) at Lam(b)sheim, son of Joh(ann) Jac(ob) Stozmann, Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) farm administrator (steward) at Weilach; Justina Margreth, legitimately wed wife of Master Joh(ann) Ja(cob) Schmiddt, citizen and shoemaker from here; Eva Barbara, legitimate daughter of Joh(ann) Conr(ad) Brül, laborer, and the local ziegelscheder? here, a Catholic. The child was given the name: Johann Mich(ael).

Again, Jacob Stutzman is referred to as the father of Johann Michael Muller who has now moved to Lambsheim.

Anna Regina’s Death

  • Laetare Sunday, the 27th of March 1729 died in Weilach as a result of consumption, Anna Regina, lawfully wed wife of Johann Jacob Stotzmann, farm administrator (steward) of the esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor). Aged 75 years and was buried at Callstadt (Kallstadt) with the ringing of (church bells); hymns and a funeral sermon.

I just love these details, “with the ringing of church bells.” I can almost hear them, chiming so that all in the village could hear their somber musical message. Of course, most of those people would have been in the church attending Irene/Regina’s funeral anyway, because everyone knew everyone and was probably related in one way or another, either by blood, marriage or by heart.

Those bells – filled with sadness for her passing, but also celebrating her life.  Her heart filled with sorrow as she buried her first 5 children, then with trepidation as she delivered Johann Michael Muller (the second.) Would he live, or would he lay as the sixth grave in that cemetery row? Baby Michael lived, but death would follow just a few months later, snatching not the baby, but Irene’s husband instead.

Her one surviving child, my ancestor, Johann Michael Muller (the second) must have been her only source of joy during that horrifically dark time.  After Irene, or Regina, or whatever her name really was, remarried to Jacob Stutzman, it would appear from what few hints we have that her life might have become somewhat easier as the wife of the farm administrator. And of course, her she bore children that lived long enough to hear those church bells themselves, adding grandchildren as sources of joy for the woman born as Irene and buried as Anna Regina.

This does cause me to wonder, though, how she felt when Johann Michael Muller (the second) and his wife left in 1727 for America.  Did she encourage him to go, knowing full well that would be the last time that she ever set eyes on him – her eldest’s and only surviving child of her first 6 pregnancies and her first marriage? Or was she devastated.  Torn perhaps, between the two?

In July 1730, Jacob remarried to a Louysa and lived for several more years.

What was Irene/Regina’s Name?

In these records, in order, we have Irene’s name or identification shown as:

The only time that Irene Liesabetha was used was in the Miesau church records.  In Steinwenden it was always Irene or Irene Charitas. However, I’m often inclined to give more weight to the earliest records, especially if the parents are present as well as others who knew the person. Due to illiteracy, however, it’s impossible to know if what the priest or minister heard was what was meant to be conveyed. If the person was married in the same church where they were baptized, the person recording the marriage could check with earlier records.  However, the Miesau records, today, don’t extend back that far, nor do we know where Irene Liesabetha was born or baptized.

We do know that there is a consistent link to Heitz and Hoffman family members through all records, across her life.

I notice that her name changed from Irene or Irene Charitas to Loysa Regina, Regina Elisabetha or simply Regina when the family moved to Krottelbach.  However, there was one Irene record after she married Stutzman, and it was in the Steinwenden church records, not the Krottelbach/Konken church records. So, it would certainly appear that Irene and Regina are the same person, given that they are married at the same time to Johann Jacob Stutzman.

This name change is what threw me, and every other researcher in this line before Chris and Tom.  It’s unlikely that a name would “change” entirely, but in this case, the evidence is very convincing when combined in total that indeed, Irene Liesabetha is Irene Charitas is Regina Loysa, Loysa Regina, Regina Elisabetha and finally, Anna Regina.

Was Charitas only a “pet name” used about the time that the Elder Irene Charitas Hofmann born Beuther passed away? Was Irene Charitas Schlosser named after Irene Charitas Hofmann born Beuther as well?

If you thought you were confused before, you’re probably even more so now. I was, until we looked at every single record and weighed evidence including when the names changes, with moves, when and where she stood up as a godmother – and the fact that she was still called Irene in her home church of Steinwende as Jacob Stutzman’s wife after “Regina,” identified as Michael Muller’s widow had married Jacob Stutzman.  And then, of course, she is identified in the margin, no less, as the mother of Johann Michael Muller the second, “the father’s mother” many years later when Michael’s child was baptized.

Of course, Jacob Stutzman is also referred to Johann Michael Muller’s father, and he wasn’t. Jacob was Michael’s step-father, but the only father he had ever known.

So many twists and turns in this labyrinth.

I’ve given up entirely identifying Michael’s mother’s “actual” name, but I’m satisfied that I’ve determined that this woman of many names is actually the same person.

Will the Real Irene Charitas or Regina Loysa or Whomever, Please Stand Up?

How can the same woman’s name vacillate back and forth so much?

And just when I had come to the conclusion (which I’ve changed my mind about umpteen times now) that Irene, the mother of Johann Michael Mueller (the second) had clearly died between 1692 and 1696 – Jacob Stutzman’s wife is referred to as the MOTHER of Johann Michael Muller in 1719.


The one thing we do know beyond any doubt is who Michael’s mother actually is – and she’s Irene as recorded his 1692 birth record.

So, if the woman in 1719 was Michael’s mother, then she had to have been Irene and none other.

So, why is Irene’s name changing, in some cases, entirely?

My only possible explanation for this might be that Irene’s name was actually heavily concatenated. Something like Irene Charitas Elisabetha Regina Loysa with Anna thrown in there someplace too. Yes, that’s bizarre, but no more bizarre than any other explanation.

Furthermore, if she had several sponsors at her baptism, including Samuel Hoffman’s wife, Irene Charitas, and other important patrons, the family may simply have included all names. In that case, the subsequent minister selected the name or names that he wanted to use.

One other possibility is that “Irena,” if said that way, and “Regina” sounded somewhat similar.

Chris suggests that there was some kind of mis-hearing involved here.

“Peasants were often illiterate at that time and more so, women. I would assume Irene Liesabetha was, too. So the minister at her new parish in Konken asked her for her name, which she could not write. Hence, the minister could only refer to what he heard from her. The sound of “Irene” and “Regina” is not too far from each other – especially if you have not ever heard the name “Irene” many times before. Along similar lines “Liesabetha” à “Loysa” could be explained. Yes, it is a vague hypothesis. But I think one that could be added here.”

Having looked at the order of these records, I think the most probable explanation for her name change is that it occurred when she changed churches. I now believe that Irene is really Regina and that she did live as first Michael Muller’s and then Jacob Stutzman’s wife until her death in 1729.

One last sanity check is related to her age in her death record – 75.  This would give us an approximate birth year of 1654 if she had already had her birthday in March when she died.  If not, then she would have been born in 1653.

That means she would have been age 52 when she gave birth to Johann Jacob Stutzman (the second) in 1706.  Not impossible, but also not terribly likely.  Ages were often fluid in death records, unless a very specific age is recorded, like 75 years, 11 months and 2 days. That tells us that the family actually knew a birth date.

Irene Lisabetha married in 1684 to Michael Muller. He was born about 1655, so it’s conceivable that she was about the same age, although 30 would have been older than normal for a female to marry at that time. If she were 20 instead of 30 when she married, that would put her last child born at age 42 instead of 52, and would fit much more reasonably.

Regardless of which year she was actually born, her birth was right after the end of the 30 years war when much of Europe, and in particular Germany, was ravaged and abandoned. Her parents would have lived through at last part of this horrible event. I have to wonder at the circumstances surrounding Irene/Regina’s early life. Was her family burned out of their home? Where did they live? Did they have to move multiple times? Were they essentially vagabonds, subsisting? And where?

Did she have siblings? The only hint we find to answer that question is her continued interaction with Samuel Heitz who was married to Catharina Appollonia and lived in Steinwenden. Records show at least one child, Eva Catharina born in 1721 to this couple.  If Irene had additional siblings, which she surely did, the records stand stubbornly mute.

Questions that we will never likely have answers to.

Mitochondrial DNA

Now that we know that Regina is Michael Muller’s mother, not his step-mother as originally thought, her mitochondrial DNA becomes important in Michael Muller’s genealogy.  She contributed her mitochondrial DNA to her son, but since mitochondrial DNA is only passed on by females, Michael would not have passed this to his children.  Therefore, to find Irene or Regina’s mitochondrial DNA, we have to find someone living today that descends through all females from one of her daughters.

We know that all of her children by Michael Muller (the first) died, but she did have one daughter by Jacob Stutzman; Anna Catharina born in 1699 and who married Johann Adam Schmidt in Konken in 1721.

We know that Maria Catharina Stutzman and Johann Adam Schmidt had a daughter, Johanna Regina, probably not long after their marriage, although the year is obscured in the Kallstadt church book. My “educated guess” would be in 1722 or so. Our Regina was her godmother.

I find no additional records for this family, but if Maria Catharina lived, it’s certainly likely that she had more children, and hopefully, more daughters.

If you descend from Maria Catharina Stutzman Schmidt through all females, I have a mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship for you. Just leave a comment on the blog or drop me an e-mail. Your mitochondrial DNA could provide us with even more insight into the ancestors of Regina that we can obtain in no other way!

Final Thoughts

We finally (I think) have proper parents for Irene Charitas, or at least her father – Conrad Heitz. Her mother is entirely unknown.

I’m so eternally grateful to Chris for finding that record and raising these difficult questions, even if they did cost me and Tom several nights sleep. Working with those two is literally a dream team!

And while this article has been anything BUT fun to write, keep in mind that it was the fact that the record for Bernhardt Schlosser was first found on the tax list, then in the church in Miesau. Had it not been for the combination of events, meaning the tax list with the Schlosser record, the Miller family site and that pointer to Miesau, Chris might never have hunted for, and found, the marriage records for Irene Heitz and Johann Michael Muller. Indeed, this has been a trail of very convoluted bread crumbs! And the birds ate a few along the way.

So, in essence, further digging in the incorrect records (in the same geography) for the wrong family led us to the right family. Genealogical synchronicity, a meaningful or meant to be coincidence? Sometimes, I think the ancestors “help us” as much as they can from the other side. Other times, I think they have a wicked sense of humor and torture us!

I don’t have any regrets about publishing either, even though I was wrong. (Small caveat – there had been A LOT of original work done AND the name had changed, so I didn’t publish rumors.) If I hadn’t published, Chris would never have asked those difficult questions and we would not have found the puzzle pieces we didn’t even know were missing.

Besides that, if you wait until absolutely every rock has been turned, you’ll suffer from analysis paralysis and do nothing. Of course, I’m not advocating the copy/paste type of genealogy – but I am advocating for reasonable research, documentation of the research path, sources and stating why you came to the conclusions you did. That way, there are breadcrumbs for someone in the future, or God forbid, if you have to backtrack on your own work.

Yes, I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons – but sometimes, other than serving as a learning experience, that’s all there is left to do!

Enjoy some lemonade…on me😊

Baptized in Nicholas Speak’s Church – 52 Ancestors #190

It was a beautiful fall day in the mountains of Lee County, Virginia that October 10th in 2009. Basket sized fall Mums were in bloom, it was still warm and the leaves hadn’t yet begun to turn paintbrush hues that would soon cover the mountainsides.

Descendants of Nicholas Speak, founding minister of the Speak Methodist Church almost 190 years earlier gathered in Middlesboro, Kentucky, a few miles away, for a family reunion.

The highlight would be returning to worship together in the small nearly-abandoned country church NIcholas founded about 1822, as it always was when the reunion was held near the the home of our family. The humble white church sits nestled in the hollow across Speaks Branch Road from the cemetery where our Nicholas is buried with his wife, Sarah Faires, along with many of their children and grandchildren.

The Speak Cemetery isn’t much to speak of, graves marked mostly with field stones of humble settlers who probably had all they could do to clear enough land for a “burying ground.” Tombstones weren’t for poor frontier folk in the wilderness.

Field stones stand eternal sentry over beloved family members; parents, husbands, wives, children, babies – all departed too soon. They would be sorely grieved – for the rest of the lives of the people who now lay in adjacent graves. Joined together forever in the now-anonymous field of stones.

Back then, everyone knew where each person was buried. They had all dug the graves, gathered round as the final sermon was preached, first by Nicholas, and then one day – for Nicholas. Tears streaming down their faces as they sang the song that was sung for every occasion – Amazing Grace – then lowering the casket into the ground and closing the grave. Each person symbolically dropping one handful of dirt onto the coffin, full well knowing that hollow thud meant forever gone.

No one would ever forget that day. No marker with a name was needed.

Want to visit with Nicholas? Just walk across the road after church and sit a spell.

The Speak cousins, more than 100 years after Nicholas’s death in 1852 and Sarah’s in 1865, bought a memorial stone for Nicholas and Sarah, although by this time no one knew where in the cemetery they were actually buried. Their blood and that of generations of family members was scattered everyplace here.

Nicholas and Sarah’s cabin remained across the road until in the 1970s, when it was disassembled, before it fell completely down, and combined with another log cabin into a lovely log home near Middlesboro.

Nicholas and family would have walked a short distance to the church every Sunday morning for Nicholas to preach to his ever-expanding congregation of family, friends and neighbors, some of whom came quite some distance from the northern part of then-Claiborne, now-Hancock County, Tennessee.

How do we know this? Nicholas deeded the land where the church was built to church trustees, some of whom were neighbors in Claiborne County to the family of the young man, Samuel Claxton, who would marry Nicholas’s granddaughter in 1832. You can’t marry who you don’t see. In fact, Nicholas probably married the couple right in this very church, about 78 years before the picture below was taken around 1910. This building is believed to be the third church building which doubled as a school, but the first two were in the same location.

Our church service was held on Saturday during the reunion, because the volunteer minister, Tracy McPherson, worked full-time in the coal mines during the week as well as volunteered to preach in two other small churches. Speaks Chapel only had a preacher every third Sunday. With a whopping attendance of 6 people, the pews in this quaint country church were mostly empty.

They wouldn’t be today!

We filled the pews and breathed joy-filled life back into that church so cherished by our family!

The cousins who so graciously organized the reunion assembled a keepsake program.

How many remember the fans from before churches had air conditioning?  When I was a kid, they were wedged in the back of every pew, along with the hymnals. Most of us didn’t need the hymnals, but everyone needed fans!

All southern church services MUST have a program, so ours did too. Not only that, our lovely cousin, Dolores, prepared a history. Others assembled a worship service song book too. Most of us knew the words by heart anyway.

Led by Bill Hall, we began with Church in the Wildwood and ended with Amazing Grace, all sung without musical accompaniment. Our melded voices, echoing off the mountains in the distance, drifting up the hollers, were music enough. I hope Nicholas could hear the choir of his descendants, come home one last time.

Indeed, we raised our voices and made a joyful noise, well…at least noise.

How fitting this hymn, given where Nicholas decided to settle.

My wonderful cousin, Lola-Margaret Hall, twice descended from Nicholas and his wife, Sarah Faires Speaks paid us a visit in the persona of Sarah. “Sarah” mesmerized us that day with the story of her life; married to Nicholas, settling in the wilderness, carving out a home and founding the church. Her voice, transporting us all back to the early 1800s as she rocked, reminisced and read from the Bible, sitting near the pulpit where Nicholas would have preached his version of Salvation. We rode along in the wagon with “Sarah” as she and Nicholas left Washington County, crossing mountains, headed into an uncertain future and untamed frontier in Lee County, transcending time into the misty past, sharing experiences.

Although most of us were “returning home,” not all of Nicholas’s descendants left for greener pastures. Jewell Davis, now deceased, and her family lived next door and cared for the church and cemetery for many decades – including preparing a lunch for the reunion that day.

Dolores Hamm, on behalf of the family presented Jewel with a plaque and a Bible of course, what else? Jewel now rests with Nicholas.

Preacher Tracy, Bible in hand, delivered a special message.

Then, it seems that Preacher Tracy had a few questions for me.

Anyone know what the pitcher and bowl are for?

For those who aren’t aware, Methodists don’t practice full immersion baptisms. We fondly call them “sprinklings.” Or maybe that’s the Baptists that call Methodist baptisms sprinklings.

Regardless, somehow as a child I think I managed to escape being baptized, but I’m not entirely sure. For some reason, I always thought I was baptized as a child in the Methodist church my mother and grandmother attended. If so, I have no memory of the baptism, just fond memories of belting out “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of my pre-school lungs.

I always presumed that I had been baptized as an infant or young child, because I wasn’t baptized when I was older in a subsequent Methodist church we attended, and by the time we moved again and I attended a Baptist church, I think there was an assumption that I had previously been baptized because I was allowed to take communion.

Then, one day, many years later, someone asked me when I had been baptized? It occurred to me that I really didn’t know. It wasn’t written in mother’s Bible, or in either of the Bibles that I had received from the church, and by that time, there was no one left to ask.

Regardless of the circumstances, I felt that there was no better time or place on this earth, literally, than in the very church where Nicholas would have baptized so many, and in the embrace of my loving family. I had more relatives gathered that day with me in this small country church that I’ve had any time or place since.

Thank you to one of my wonderful cousins for this photo collage of an incredibly emotional event, for all kinds of reasons, to Preacher McPherson, and to Nicholas. Little did Nicholas know his legacy would reach 6 generations and almost 200 years into the future, and still counting.

What better way to honor Nicholas than to be baptized in his church and to share the story with you this Easter Sunday.

I have yet in my lifetime to get through Amazing Grace dry-eyed. Literally, it is the universal hymn played for every emotional event of my lifetime, including the funerals of my mother, step-father and siblings.

Mom’s Joyous Springtime “Mistake” – 52 Ancestors #189

This is that week.

There’s one day every fall where I feel like I’ll never be warm again. I know that the earth is becoming dormant, gradually descending into what feels like eternal darkness, and I hate it. For months, when there is some semblance of light, it’s either snow or grey. Because I can’t hibernate, I just have to suck it up and dress like the Michelin man until the equivalent day arrives in the spring.

The spring equivalent day generally arrives sometime around the vernal equinox, generally around March 20th, when I actually FEEL hope in my soul. The days are getting longer, there’s light and blue replaces grey in the sky. The sun feels warm again instead of mocking me by peeking out for about 30 seconds per day, and part of the snow has melted. My cousins down south are already posting pictures of tulips on Facebook.

If I look hard in the garden, in polka dot areas where the snow had already melted, I can find something resembling spouts from a plant peeking up.

A robin is staring down at me from a tree branch, and the Sandhill Cranes with their squeaky-gate-hinge cries are complaining loudly because they can’t get to the grasses through the snow in the field behind the house.

Groggy raccoons, skunks and possums are waking up, VERY HUNGRY and staggering around like drunken sailors on their first shore leave. Squirrels are excitedly scampering across the porch, tails held high, retrieving last fall’s nuts.

Hope is in the air.

My body aches less and I cherish any tiny spot of color.

Yesterday, tiny red succulents, above, just an eighth of an inch across poked their heads out, and today, my daughter messaged me early crocus photos from bulbs newly planted last fall. At least there are a few that didn’t serve as chipmunk food. I’m hopeful that my bulbs will emerge shortly.

I am desperate for color and flowers like the most addicted junkie.

Yesterday’s Springs

It’s also this time of year that I harken back to my childhood and recall those long-ago springs of yesteryear. Life just seemed so much simpler and happier then.

Some of my fondest memories are of pink Easter dresses and white patent leather shoes with lacy anklets. I had to wear white gloves to church, but I didn’t care because Easter Sunday, new dresses and wearing gloves made me feel special. Sometimes, I had an Easter hat too, and a new spring coat, if it was a good year. Springtime rituals connected to the re-emergence of Mother Earth.

It was so liberating to shed those old depressing winter clothes and skip along the sidewalk once again, relishing spring green, cherry blossoms and warm breezes.

To me, spring is the most joyful time of year – when my soul sings out loud because nature is exhilaratingly beautiful and fresh. Everything comes alive in a chaotic rush of optimism. Even dandelions are welcome, because they are alive, bright and yellow. Yes, I’m just that desperate, waiting like a kid at Christmas for the first dandelion of the season.

For some reason, this time of year, I always think about spring traditions when I was a child. Perhaps spring elicits these feelings because we didn’t visit much in the winter. Roads were slick and treacherous, and the time between Christmas and warm seemed interminable and difficult.

As winter began to yield its icy grasp, I vividly remember Sunday rides to purchase maple syrup and visit my grandparents. At grandmother’s house, birds began chirping as I listened through freshly opened windows at the drip drip of melting snow splashing around the house, before houses had eavestroughs and downspouts. 

My grandparents’ house had a magical quality, and I always looked forward to some special activity with my grandmother.

Sometimes we baked cinnamon sugar pie dough in the bottom of a pie pan.

Sometimes she “let” me dust her dining room shelves. It’s amazing what you can convince a child to do if you tell them it’s a special honor. I’ve tried that tactic with my husband and kids, and it never worked!

Today, the salt shakers that I used to dust on her shelf are in my display case, chosen by my grief-stricken 4-year-old self as a memento when she suddenly died in the depths of winter-hell.

Sometimes we walked around the yard and looked for the first daffodil and the Easter Bunny. I always knew right where to look for the daffodils, but that Easter Bunny always managed to elude me! However, I did often find a basket he somehow left behind, hidden beneath the Spirea bush, along with some telltale colored eggs! I never did understand how a male rabbit could lay colored eggs, but I digress…

The best times were when my grandmother and Mom and I retrieved the old box of pictures from the attic. Sure, we had sorted through them many times before, but it was always just so much fun.

I asked questions, often the same questions I had asked before. I loved hearing the tales that made the pictures come alive. Mom or my grandmother would tell me the same story over again, sometimes each interleaving sentences with the other – often injecting some new twist or wrinkle. Of course, it was up to me to catch the change and ask a million or so questions.

One particular picture was always sure to cause peals of laughter. We all anticipated it and looked forward to it peeking out from under the pile.

Mom, with a wink, always made up a new story to go with the picture.

I couldn’t wait to find that photo under the others, but it would have been cheating to rifle through, so I tried to wait patiently until it appeared.

Early Photography

When my Mom was young, cameras had film rolls that you loaded onto a spindle. After you took a picture, you had to advance the film using a lever or knob, or you would take a second picture right over the first one. That’s called a double exposure, and it wasn’t a good thing. First, you’d ruin both photos, and you wouldn’t know until you paid to have them processed and printed, often weeks or months later.

By comparison, digital photos today are wonderful.

Mother danced – tap and ballet with some gymnastics thrown in. I think today that’s called expressive dance, and she was always practicing. Everyplace, all the time.

Even in the yard. She and a friend named Mary Lu lived in the same small town and danced together. Both eventually turned professional, as in the American Ballet Company, not exotic, in case you were wondering.

In the spring, they too felt released because they could free themselves by practicing outside.

My grandmother alleged as how spring freed her too. Incessant dance practice wasn’t exactly quiet. My grandfather spent a lot of time in the barn with the chickens.

In 1933, the family acquired their first (used) camera, in trade for chickens from someone who had nothing else to pay with. My grandfather took almost anything in trade during the Depression. In fact, if you couldn’t pay, he would give you what you needed anyway, which is why his hardware store went bankrupt.

A few years later, my mother was allowed to very occasionally use the camera. After all, film and processing was an expensive luxury, and the Great Depression was still in full swing. In fact, it never ended in their minds. Everything was always an unnecessary expense. That terrible dozen years of hardship and fear left an indelible mark on both generations.

Just the same, Mother and Mary Lu commenced taking pictures, but the number of photos they were allowed was strictly rationed.

Pictures had to be planned very carefully! There were no autofocus tools like today and any small movement caused a blurry picture.

Some weren’t entirely in focus.

While Mom had to practice the traditional tap and ballet routines, her joy came from “custom” rather “outrageous” dance routines that combined the two, plus moves and steps of her own not choreographed by either dance style. 

Mother said she and Mary Lu danced in the yard and on the sidewalks of the tiny crossroads village of Silver Lake, as well as on the porch – desperate to be released from the winter confines of a house. The Spirea is blooming in this picture, so I know it’s spring.

Much sought after dancers for their unique performances, they often practiced dual or difficult routines in the grass, because falling outside was softer than on hardwood floors. No one had carpet then and gymnastic pads simply didn’t exist.

The first photos went pretty well.

Until they forgot entirely about winding the film.

I’m not sure exactly why we thought this picture was so funny. Perhaps it was the way that Mom whispered about her doing handstands on her own “behind,” much to my amazement. Like we girls were sharing something super-secret.

Today, this photo belongs to me, and I still can’t look at it without laughing, along with bittersweet memories.

I can hear Mom’s voice in a far-away room. I can see the three of us at the table and hear the rustling of photos in that old cardboard box. I can eavesdrop on the various stories about what this picture was, and how it happened.

Maybe it was Mary Lu who had to walk on her hands, standing on Mom’s behind. Maybe it was when they performed for the circus. Maybe the story didn’t matter, just the fact that we were having so much fun together – three generations at the old wooden table with the rickety chairs, now in my attic.

Maybe it was because I lost my cherished grandmother soon after, and suddenly, there were no more days at the table, sitting in her lap.

I can hear, distantly, over the span of half a century, my grandmother admonishing mother with a smile, “Now Barbara Jean…” when mother made up a particularly good story. Then we laughed, all over again!

I think, in truth, my Mom and grandmother were just amazed at how well this silly mistake turned out. Lemonade out of a lemon. 

When I saw this picture, I always imagined my Mom daydreaming in the springtime about dancing on the big stage – which she went on to do, professionally.

Somehow seeing my beautiful mother’s dreamy young face gave me permission as well, along with the courage to risk making mistakes. I had no idea then how courageous mother actually was.

Afterwards, I would always run outside and dance in the yard. Spinning, doing pirouettes, falling down. I was terrible, but it didn’t matter, because I was doing it with all of my heart and inspiration, unafraid and entirely unphased by potential failure. Failure was only in not dancing.

I still approach life that way today.

We got so much mileage out of that “mistake.”

Whoever would have thought that it would transcend 5 generations.

I’ll be sharing this picture and story with my granddaughters this weekend. Hope and inspiration in this season of renewal seem appropriate attributes to infuse into future generations. One could even argue that perhaps this is the most important legacy my mother could have left – all through a “mistake.”

Clearly, it was no mistake. I’d rather call it divine inspiration or unrecognized potential. Mistakes are often only a matter of perception.

What is your favorite joyful family photo that makes you laugh or inspires you, and why?

Ollie Bolton’s Inferred Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup – 52 Ancestors #188

Try as I might, I’ve never been able to find a second DNA tester to discern my paternal grandmother, Ollie Bolton’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup.

Why do I need a second person tested, you might wonder?

My aunt Minnie, my father’s sister, tested back in 2004 when full sequence mitochondrial DNA testing was not yet available. She had been estimated to be haplogroup H at that time, based only on the HVR1 region.

Minnie was 96 at that time and passed away just 8 months shy of her 100th birthday. Yes, this family seems to have a longevity gene. Minnie’s sister died at 99 and her father, William George Estes, at age 98. Her great-great grandfather, John R. Estes at 98 and his father, George, at 96. Now, if I could just figure out which gene it is that confers longevity, maybe I could figure out if I have it and more effectively plan the rest of my life😊

Later, when I ordered an upgrade to the Full Mitochondrial Sequence, my aunt’s DNA was no longer viable.

Ever since, I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, descended appropriately from this line to do a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test – without luck.

A few days ago, I received a notification from Family Tree DNA that my aunt has another HVR1 match. Normally, I don’t even bother to look anymore, but for some reason, I did that day.

What I saw amazed me, for two reasons.

First, apparently her originally estimated haplogroup H was incorrect and has since been updated. She is now haplogroup J. This happened during the upgrade to mitochondrial version 17 where many new haplogroups were introduced, including J1c1e, shown repeatedly on her match list above.

It’s very difficult to estimate a haplogroup based on just HVR1 mutations. As it turns out, haplogourp defining location T16368C is also found in haplogroup H3x. My aunt has additional mutations that aren’t haplogroup defining, but that do match people in haplogroup J1c1e, but not H3x.

Second, Minnie matches a total of 72 people at the HVR1 level. Many haven’t tested beyond that level, but a good number have taken the full sequence test. Based on the fact that she matches the following people with full sequence haplogroups, I’d say she is very probably a haplogroup J1c1e, based on this alone:

  • Haplogroup J1c1e – 28
  • Haplogroup J1c3b -1

Haplogroup “J only” matches don’t count, because they did not test at the full sequence level.

What’s the Difference?

This begs the question of the difference between haplogroup J1c1e and J1c3b. These two haplogroups have the same haplogroup defining mutations through the J1c portion, but the 1e and 3b portions of the haplogroup names signal different branches.

In the chart below, J1c1e and J1c3b both have all of the mutations listed for J1c, plus the additional mutations listed for their own individual branches.

Haplogroup HVR1 HVR2 Coding Region
J1c C16069T, C295T, T489C, C462T, A10398G!, A12612G, G13708A, G3010A,  T14798C
J1c1e T16368C T10454C T482C, T3394C
J1c3b C13934T,  C15367T

There’s a hidden gem here.

Since haplogroup J1c1e includes a haplogroup defining mutation in the HVR1 region, and haplogroup J1c3b does not, we can easily check my aunt’s results to see if she carries the mutation at location T16368C.

Look, she does.

Furthermore, the only other subgroup of haplogroup J that my aunt matches that includes this mutation is haplogroup J1c2m1 which also carried a mutation at A16235G, which she does not have. This eliminates the possibility that she is haplogroup J1c2m1.

Given the information we do have, and given that it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll ever find a tester, I’m good with inferring that Ollie Bolton’s haplogroup is J1c1e.


What can we learn about the origins of haplogroup J1c1e?

My aunt’s matches map shows the following European cluster.

The top 3 matches have taken the full sequence test.

The pattern is quite interesting. Looks like someone crossed the English Channel at some point in time, probably hundreds to thousands of years ago.

The haplogroup J project at Family Tree DNA has not yet been regrouped since the conversion to mitochondrial V17, so the J1c1e individuals are included in the J1c1 group.

Of course J1c1 is the mother haplogroup of haplogroup J1c1e, so the map above shows the distribution of people who are haplogroup J1c1. There are other subgroups of J1c1 that have their own map and would be included in this map if they didn’t have their own subgroup. I’m sure haplogroup J1c1e will have its own group as soon as the admins readjust people’s groupings based on the new haplogroup divisions.

According to the paper, A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root, by Behar et al, published in 2012, the age of the birth of haplogroup J1c1 is approximately 10,090 years ago, with a standard deviation of 2228 years, so a range of 7863-12319 years ago.

Of course, haplogroup J1c1e was born some time later. Unfortunately, the mitochondrial tree aging has not been updated to incorporate the new information included in the V17 migration which includes the definition of haplogroup J1c1e.

Where was haplogroup J1c1 born 7863-12319 years ago? Probably the Middle East, but we really don’t know positively.

Not Just Ollie’s Haplogroup

The great thing about mitochondrial (and Y DNA) testing is that it’s not just the haplogroup of the person who tested.  For mitochondrial DNA, it’s the haplogroup of their mother and their mother on up the mother’s direct matrilineal line.

In Ollie’s case, all of these people carry haplogroup J1c1e.  It descended to Ollie, and then to all of her children, including her son. Only her female children passed it on.


It’s amazing what we can learn from a mitochondrial DNA match – and in this case, someone who only had the HVR1 region tested. Minnie was fortunate to have a  haplogroup defining mutation in the HVR1 region along with other mutations that match J1c1e individuals. Luck of the genetic draw.

Some of those additional mutations may also be haplogroup defining in the future.

I never thought I’d unearth this information about my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, especially since I only started out with a shred of information. I’m so glad I checked one last time.

Never give up.

Never stop checking!

Note to self: Patience is a virtue! Probably even a more critical virtue if you also inherited that longevity gene.

Finding George McNiel’s Brother, Thomas, Using DNA – 52 Ancestors #187

The story of the Reverend George McNiel includes the oft-repeated 3 brothers story, and one of the three brothers in this version was named Thomas, or so the legend goes.

I’m used to 3 brothers stories, sometimes used to explain men of the same surname but with no paper trail connection, and I had rather discounted this particular version. I’ve just heard this same story about different families too many times.

That is, I discounted it until droplets of doubt arrived, served up by records in Spotsylvania County where George McNiel lived. In 1754 records included Thomas McNial, then again in 1761, followed by records of one Thomas McNiel in Caswell County, NC about the same time that the Reverend George McNiel migrated from Spotsylvania County to Wilkes County, NC.

From the book, Apprentices of Virginia, 1723-1800:

James Cartwright, a white male, son of Thomas Cartwright decd, was to be apprenticed to Thomas McNial on October 1, 1754 to learn the occupation of a tailor. This is from the Spotsylvania County court order books, 1749-1755, pages 62 and 497.

James Pey, a white male, to be apprenticed to George McNeil on March 1, 1757 to learn the occupation of tailor. From Spotsylvania will book B 1749-1759, page 307.

Robert Mitchell, a white male, was apprenticed to Thomas McNeil on Sept 7, 1761 to learn the occupation of tailor. Spotsylvania County will book B, 1749- 1859, page 540.

I discovered that both George and Thomas were tailors, or at least had tailors on their plantations. Was this possibly an indicator that these men might have both been tailors themselves. With the same surname and same occupation, perhaps that they were related in some way? Was this just a coincidence, or could the “brothers” story be true?

Generally, tailors weren’t needed in the farming countryside, so that tidbit might well mean these men worked either in cities or in wealthy households before immigration. If they were tailors, they themselves would have been apprentices someplace.

More than a decade ago, I worked with another researcher who descended from Thomas McNeil who lived in Caswell Co. He made his will dated April 20, 1781 in which Thomas named his three sons; Thomas, John and Benjamin.

Thomas McNeil’s will:

In the name of God Amen I Thomas McNeil of Caswell Co NC being weak of body but sound of mind and memory do April 20th 1781make this my last will and testament in the manner following. I give unto my living wife Ann the use of all my personal estate during her life or widowhood. I give unto my son Thomas a tract of land lying on Sanderses Creek containing 200 acres which land I bought of my son John and my desire is that my said son John do make a right of said land to my son Thomas. I give unto my son Benjamin 150 acres joining the lines of Andrew Caddell and my son John Land to him and his heirs forever. I give to my daughter Mary 100 acres of land lying on Henley’s Creek joining Wilson Vermillions line to her and her heirs forever. At the death of my loving wife that my sons Thomas and Benjamin have each of them a horse and saddle and a bed which horses to be of the value of 10 pounds in specie also the plantation working tools I desire may be equally devided between them. I further give unto my daughter Mary one feather bed and furniture and two cows and calves after the death of my loving wife. All of my negroes and their increase after the death or marriage of my loving wife be by three honest men equally divided amongst my 8 children, or the survivors of them, to wit John, Thomas, Benjamin, Elizabeth Roberts, Nancy Vermilion, Mary, Patsey Hubbert and Lois to them and their heirs forever. Lastly I nominate and appoint my wife Ann , my son John and my son-in-law Wilson Vermillion and George Lea (son of William) executors of this my last will and testament revoking all other wills by me made in witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seal…signed. Witnessed George Lea, Lucy Lea, John Clixby. Proved Dec court 1781.

At that time, no relationship had been established between this Thomas and the McNeil’s of other counties.

That McNeil researcher was unable to recruit a male McNeil family member to DNA test, so for more than a decade, this research languished with no way to answer the question of whether George McNiel and Thomas McNeil were indeed brothers.


Beginning in Spotsylvania County, the journey to Wilkes County is about 337 miles, and the old rutted wagon road passed through Caswell County on the way. At about 10 miles per day, that’s a total of about 34 days, assuming nothing went wrong. It makes you wonder if Thomas just got tired of the wagon lurching and bumping along the trail and said, “I’m done, drop me off here” about 3 weeks into the trip.

It’s about 135 miles from Caswell County to Wilkes County, with Wilkes being in the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At that time, this was the frontier, and the mountains, the barrier to the next one.

Were Thomas and George Brothers?

Today, we have an answer, or at least a probable answer, thanks to Y DNA testing.

Aside from paper documentation, which we don’t have, the only way to obtain relationship evidence is by DNA testing, specifically the Y chromosome passed from father to son in every generation and not mixed with any DNA from the mother. This means that the Y chromosome is passed intact from father to son for many generations, except for an occasional mutation. The Y DNA of men who were brothers in the 1700s should match very closely.

The Rev. George McNiel’s Y DNA line is represented by two known descendants from different sons’ lines, so we know the haplotype of his DNA, meaning the STR value numbers that cumulatively read like a DNA fingerprint.

I hadn’t checked the Y DNA results of my cousin who tested to represent the Reverend George McNiel’s line in some time, so I decided to take a quick look. What a welcome surprise was waiting.

At 67 markers, our George McNiel’s descendant’s best match is to a descendant of Thomas McNeill of Caswell County. Wooohoooo!

Unfortunately, the match has not taken the Family Finder test, which might show how closely he matches to the descendants of George utilizing autosomal DNA. Of course, given how many generations back in time those men lived, their descendants might not match autosomally. But then again, some might!

Not only that, but George’s descendant matches more closely to Thomas’s descendant than to another descendant of George. Just the way the DNA dice rolled in terms of when mutations happened.

Looking at the public McNiel project display, there are several McNeil men along with other spelling variants that fall into the Niall of the 9 Hostages grouping characterized by haplogroup R1b>L21>M222.

Please note: You can click to enlarge any graphic.

These men look to have descended from a common ancestor far back in time. You can easily see that there are specific clusters of men who match each other on particular allele values. My cousin who tested to represent George McNiel’s line is highlighted in blue.

Unfortunately, not one man in this group has taken the Big Y test for further haplogroup refinement. Hmmm, we might have to do something about this.

Matches Happen

But, there’s more information on my cousin’s McNiel match page that wasn’t there before. Much more. Each match provides clues that I’ve compiled into the following table:

GD* Ancestor Location Comments
1 – 50th percentile at 3 generations Thomas McNiell 1724-1781 Caswell Co., NC Probably George’s brother
3 – 50th percentile at 4 generations Thomas MccNiell married in 1750 Rombout, NY Ancestry shows Thomas married to Rachel Hoff, English christening records shows a Thomas Macneil born to Gilbert MacNeil in Witton Le Wear, Durham, England in 1699.
5 – 50th percentile at 6 generations Hugh Neel b 1750 Ireland Ancestry shows born Ireland, lived in Camden Co., SC, died after 1792 in KY
7 – 50th percentile at 12 generations Edward McNellis 1816-1888 Died Glennageeragh, Tyrone, Ireland Father may have been Frank who died in Glenncull, Ballygawley, County Tyrone

*GD=Genetic Distance. The percentile was calculated by using the TIP calculator which estimates the average number of years to a common ancestor. I used the 50th percentile number of generations.

The information gleaned from these matches, in closest to furthest match order, above, can yield clues to where our McNiel line was before immigration in addition to further back in time.

The oral story says that George came from Edinburg, Scotland after studying for the Presbyterian ministry which tells us that he might have traveled to Edinburgh from elsewhere. There is no evidence to either confirm or refute this historical nugget. If George left from Edinburgh, it stand to reason that Thomas probably did too.

At a genetic distance of 3, a second Thomas McNiell, was reportedly born in Witton Le Wear, which is found about 95 miles south of Coldstream, which sits right on the border of England and Scotland. As you can see on the map below, Coldstream isn’t far from Edinburgh.

This does assume the Thomas born in Witton Le Wear is the same Thomas subsequently found in New York. I have not verified that information.

The Neel line with a genetic distance of 5 was born in Ireland, but they don’t know where.

The match with a genetic distance of 7 hails from Glennageeragh. On the map below, at the blue dot, we find the location of Glennageeragh Townland in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

County Tyrone was one of the seated plantation regions, meaning that many Scots immigrated here. However, there is much more history involving the McNiel family in County Tyrone from before the Plantation Era when displaced Scots were settled in Ireland.

The picturesque townland of Glenncull, near Glennageeragh, where Edward McNellis’s father may have died is shown in the photo below.

Interestingly, the town of Ballygawley is also known as “Errigal-Kerogue” or “Errigal-Kieran”, supposedly from the dedication of an ancient church to St. Kieran (Ciarán of Clonmacnoise). It was in the Clogher (barony), along the River Blackwater, Northern Ireland. Some of the remains of the old church were known, and an ancient Franciscan friary, founded by Conn O’Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone. In the churchyard was a large stone cross, and a holy well.

Conn O’Neill was born in 1480 and died in 1559, both in Ireland. In 1541 he travelled to England to submit to the Henry VIII as part of the surrender and regrant that coincided with the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland and was subsequently made Earl of Tyrone.

Conn Bacach O’Neill was the son of Conn Mór O’Neill, King of Tír Eógain (Tyrone), and Lady Eleanor Fitzgerald. Con Mor O’Neill was the son of Henry Ó Néill, King of Tír Eógain. Eleanor Fitzgerald was the daughter of Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare. Con Bacach O’Neill was the first of the Ó Néills whom the English, in their attempts to subjugate Ireland in the 16th century, brought to the front as leaders of the native Irish. His father, the King of Tír Eógan, was murdered in 1493 by his brother.

Conn’s grandson, Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, was born in 1550 and came to the throne in 1587, crowned in 1595, and died in 1607.

George and Thomas McNiel were born sometime around 1720. Based on oral history, it’s suggested that they came to Maryland from Scotland sometime around 1750, as adults. The story further reveals that George had studied at the University of Edinburgh for the Presbyterian ministry and that the brothers argued about religion on the ship, during the long Atlantic crossing. George reportedly “saw the light” and became Baptist, but one of the brothers was so upset about the religious discussions during this adventure that he changed the spelling of his name to McNeill.

If that’s true, then the unhappy brother must be the third missing one, possibly named John, because Thomas and George lived in the same vicinity from about 1750 to at least 1761.

My observation is that names were spelled every-which-way in records during that time, with very little consistency – so a name change without other evidence would not indicate a dispute.

So, Is Thomas George’s Brother or Not?

Unfortunately, we can’t draw an entirely 100% firm conclusion.

The first piece of evidence is that the Y DNA clearly did not rule out a relationship. In fact, it confirmed a close relationship, but we can’t say how close from Y DNA alone.

We already know that George’s descendant matches Thomas’s descendant more closely that George’s second descendant.

So, yes, it’s very, very likely that these two men were brothers or closely related.

Autosomal tests could potentially help. I’ve e-mailed and asked the McNeil matches if they would consider upgrading to a Family Finder test. However, in a situation like his, without some paper documentation, given the number of generations between now and then, there is no way to prove absolutely that George and Thomas were brothers, as opposed to cousins, or uncle/nephew, etc.

While we can’t positively prove that George and Thomas were siblings, we can potentially look a bit further back in time by determining the terminal SNP of our McNiel line. Perhaps it’s time for me to order a Big Y test for George’s descendant.

I’m hopeful that looking back in time through the lens of the Big Y test will unwrap even more about the early history of the McNiel men, before the adoption of surnames or where these men lived when surnames were adopted. From that surname-adoption location, whereever it was, it appears that the McNeil men by whatever spelling spread throughout Ireland, Scotland and to parts of England.

Perhaps George and Thomas McNiel descended from a long line of adventurers.

And to think all of this information emerged from George’s descendant’s Y DNA matches. Amazing!

The Ferverda Bible – 52 Ancestors #186

Hiram B. (probably Bauke, “Baker” in English) Ferverda (1854-1925) married Evaline Louise Miller (1857-1939) on March 10, 1876 in Goshen. Indiana. At least, that’s where their marriage license was filed.

Beyond that, and knowing that they were both Brethren, until 2010, we knew absolutely nothing more about their wedding, except that Brethren weddings, like Brethren anything, tended to be very humble and austere. No color, no decorations, and maybe even no ceremony at all. Just you, your parents perhaps, the minister, a couple of required witnesses (dang those manmade laws anyway) and the Lord.

In October 2010, my cousin, Cheryl, arranged to have a family reunion in a church in northern Indiana, not far from where the Ferverda and Miller families lived.  Cheryl’s father was Roscoe Ferverda, brother to my grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda.

I was looking forward the reunion because I had never met any Ferverda cousins except for Cheryl, her sons and her brother Don. My mother had moved away from the area as a young adult.

Upon arrival at the church that beautiful fall day, Cheryl said, rather nonchalantly, that she hoped that the person with the Ferverda Bible attended.


Had Cheryl been holding out on me?

No, Cheryl said, when she called some of the distant cousins to invite them, someone mentioned that someone had a family Bible.

Notice the number of “someones” in that sentence. I had been down this road before on other family lines. If in fact “someone” did have a Bible, it almost was never the right family line. It was almost always someone’s wife’s second cousin’s half sister’s Bible that was purchased at an estate sale.

Never, almost never, my line.

So when I heard Cheryl’s comment, I didn’t have much hope and went back to covering tables with white plastic lace covers and placing edible center pieces.  This was, after all, the “sweet-tooth” Ferverda family, and “edible” is important.

People began arriving and chattering. I felt rather like a stranger in my own family, because while everyone else greeted people they recognized, I knew absolutely no one.

I introduced myself and told people who I was. Everyone was kind and cordial, but there was no spark of even remote recognition.

After all, it was 2010 and my mother had died 4 years earlier and moved away some 70 years before that. 

Nonetheless, people brought photos with them and told stories, and we had a wonderful time eating and (no drinking) and sharing family stories. The Ferverda family certainly doesn’t lack in that capacity, either eating or storytelling. They may have been Brethren, but they were neither dead nor boring. In fact, they weren’t always terribly compliant, it turns out.

About half way through the reunion, I asked Cheryl who was supposed to bring the Bible. She found the person, and asked if they had remembered.

“Oh,” they said, “I forgot.  Would you like me to run home and get it?” 

“Well, no, you don’t need to do that…” Cheryl began, “but I quickly interrupted her with, “Oh, would you please?????”

The gentleman was perfectly willing, and off he went, returning a few minutes later with said Bible in hand. It was far more beautiful than I had expected. Given their Brethren faith, I was prepared for plain black and no decoration except for the words, “Holy Bible” in small gold letters. That’s certainly not what appeared.

Let me share with you the way we the story unfold that day. Cheryl and I, sitting side by side at the table after clearing the plates, on a beautiful fall day in Indiana, not far from where Hiram and Eva lived their entire lives, opened the cover and began turning the pages, one by one.

Hiram and Eva were Cheryl’s grandparents and my great-grandparents.

I’d wager Hiram and Eva were never more than an hour or so from home, maybe 2 hours on a long trip. Transportation was by horse and buggy.

Look at that beautiful leather tooling. Cheryl opened the cover of the Bible, not knowing what to expect.

Opening their Bible transported me to another time and place. But, was it actually their Bible?  We held our breath!

Glory be!  It IS!  How did we never know this Bible existed?

What a lovely gift from Hiram to his wife. I surely wish he, or she had added a date. Was this gift for a birthday, Easter, Christmas perhaps? Is this his writing, or hers? Looking at the shape of the letters, in particular, after 1925 when he died, I believe that this is Eva’s writing, not Hiram’s.

Genealogists always look for the Bible’s copyright date because you know the Bible wasn’t in use before that date.

This page is interesting, because we always thought her name was Evaline Louise Miller. Imagine that…all these years we’ve all had ner name backwards!

This writing is clearly Eva’s, based on the shape of the Ms, compared to the entries after Hiram died.

Furthermore, they were married at 6 in the evening. Their witnesses were Mrs. Bigler and Miss Bigler, and the minister was Reverend Bigler of Goshen, Indiana.

According to the History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, there were two early churches, one called Union Center (which is where Hiram’s father is buried,) and the other in Elkhart, founded in 1830 as the first Brethren Church in Indiana. 

The Elkhart church later became known as “West Goshen.”  The Bigler name appears in both churches as deacons, but the Goshen Church also shows Andrew Bigler as an elder, serving with Daniel Stutsman who died in 1887. The book indicates that Andrew served as elder during the later years of Elder Stutsman. The Stutzman and Miller families immigrated from Switzerland to Germany together in the 1600s, and then from Germany to Pennsylvania in the 1720s, then on to Maryland before 1750, then to Ohio around 1800 and Indiana about 1830. 

It’s very likely that the marrying minister was indeed Andrew Bigler, shown in the 1880 census with his wife Lydia and daughter Elizabeth. The Bigler family had been migrating with this same family group since they were first noted together in 1738 in the Little Conewago Church in Pennsylvania.

The church today probably incorporates the original building.

Eva and Hiram would have traveled about 5 miles from where Eva’s parents lived, together in the buggy. Was it cold that early of March day, or was it a glorious spring day? Where did the newlywed couple go from there? Were they married in the actual church building, or in the pastor’s home?

I do wonder why they were married in this church, because we know that there once stood a church in the cemetery on the land where Eva’s Miller grandparents lived, although her grandfather, David Miller, died in 1851.

Perhaps that church was too small to have a minister licensed to marry. Brethren ministers were generally farmers who preached “on the side.”

We know from the deed of Edward Clark who bought the land where the cemetery now stands from the estate of David Miller that the church existed in 1877 when he executed a deed to “Trustees, German Baptist Church” and stated that when the property was no longer needed for that purpose, that it be turned over to the cemetery trustees. By 1931, the Miller church was no longer in existence.   

The next page in the Bible is a record of marriages, apparently overflowed from the marriage page of the Bible. When you have 11 children who all lived to adulthood, there are lots of marriages to record. 

Next, we find births.

This Bible was given to Eva in 1895, so either she was pregnant for her 9th child, or she had an infant, plus children ages 18, 16, 14, 13, 11, 9, 4 and 2.  This list makes me wonder what happened between 1886 and 1891.  Did Eva have a couple of miscarriages, or did they bury a baby whose birth is not recorded?

Eva would have recopied her children’s births from an earlier Bible, pages probably worn thin and now long gone.

With 11 children, not to mention siblings and their children, Eva probably did a lot of praying.

This page is indeed sad, but all things considered, it’s actually amazing that it’s the shortest page. Although I have noticed that Eva did not record grandchildrens’ information. 

I’m glad the deaths page was blank for 30 years, but I can see Eva saddened and tearful, slumped and slowly writing Hiram’s name into the book. Did she pause as she wrote the word, died? Did she sit and recall the day he had given her the Bible, those three decades before? How long after his death did it take until she was able to bring herself to write those words.

Was she with Hiram as he died from a heat stroke.  His death certificate says he also had chronic bronchitis, so his end would have been quite difficult, that 3rd of June on a hot Indiana day.

The deaths of two of Eva’s children would follow, before her own.

Irvin, a farmer, died at age 52 of cardio-renal disease, according to his death certificate. He was buried just down the road in the Salem cemetery, probably close to his father.

Donald, a bank cashier, died at age 37 of cancer of the kidney and lung.  Two months before his death, surgery had removed his cancerous kidney, but without chemo, there was no chance and it was too late. He too was buried in the Salem Cemetery, beside the Brethren Church.

Finally, in the early fall of 1939, Eva joined her family in the Salem cemetery, succumbing to what would earlier have been called old age. Her death certificate says she died at 82 of acute myocarditis nephritis and hypertension, along with arteriosclerosis. We all have to die of something. I wonder who recorded her death in the Bible, closing that final door after Eva took up residence on the other side. 

Eva lived a long and full life. My mother remembers her arriving, in someone else’s car, as she never drove, to take care of her grandchildren when they were ill. Eva had enough grandchildren that she was busy all of the time. 

The fact that no further deaths were recorded after Eva herself died confirms that indeed, this was her Bible, and it was probably retired and kept as a keepsake after this. Her children and grandchildren would have wanted her record of life events recorded in this Bible in her own hand for almost 45 years. Nearly half a century.

Eva recorded the deaths of her parents, John David Miller and Margaret Elizabeth Lentz here as well. I’m sure she visited their graves often in the little cemetery where her grandfather’s church used to be. This also tells us that her mother’s middle name was Elizabeth, another tidbit we never knew.

What Eva didn’t tell us is that her mother was also married to Valentine Whitehead who died before Margaret Elizabeth Lentz Whitehead married John David Miller almost 5 years later, on March 30, 1856 and had 3 more children.


Next, we find a paper enclosed in the Bible noted as “Mother’s half sisters.”  

What? One of Grandpa Miller’s sons was in the Civil War? Say what? A Brethren man fighting in the Civil War?

Ok, who is whom where? Mother Miller would be Eva, so Grandpa Miller was John David Miller, and his sons by his second wife were born in 1859 and 1862, so it’s clearly not them in the Civil War. John David Miller’s sons by his first wife, Mary Baker who were old enough to serve were:

  •  John N. Miller, in the cemetery, but not in the 1850 or 1860 census
  • Samuel Miller in the cemetery, but not in the 1850 or 1860 census)
  • David B. Miller born in 1838 and died in 1922 (probably not him because nothing is stated about him serving in the Civil War the local history) age 12 in the 1850 census, was clearly Brethren
  • Aaron B. Miller born in 1843 and died in 1923 (Chicago, Illinois), age 7 in the 1850 census, 18 in 1860 census, moved to Chicago later in life

No Millers by these names are shown as having enlisted in Elkhart County. 

I’m unable to find any record of either David or Aaron serving in the Civil War. That doesn’t mean they didn’t serve. It only means I can’t find the record.  Perhaps as pensions are eventually scanned, indexed and brought online through the National Archives, this mystery will be solved.

That said, I can only imagine the dissention a son serving in the Civil War would have sewn among the family and the Brethren church family as well. Perhaps this is a clue as to why Eva and Hiram were married in the Elkhart church instead of Union Center church.

A Secret Family Tragedy

The family had another secret, however. A hint was found in Ira Ferverda’s obituary, obviously tucked into the Bible after his death in 1950. 

It’s interesting that Ira wasn’t Brethren. Of Eva’s children, I know John was Methodist and I don’t think Roscoe was Brethren either.  

Ira’s obituary states that he had been ill for 20 years and died in an institution, not at home. Why would that be?

Well, this is a bit delicate.

I wonder if the family knew why Ira was ill. Death certificates are now online, and Ira’s reveals what I suspect was a family secret. Ira died of gangrene of the left foot…caused by untreated syphilis. Obviously, this document wasn’t found in the Bible.

Neurosyphilis is an infection of the brain or spinal cord caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum. It usually occurs in people who have had chronic, untreated syphilis, usually about 10 to 20 years after first infection and develops in about 25%–40% of persons who are not treated. Syphilis can be dormant for 10-20 years. Given that Ira married in June of 1904, it was either dormant at that time, or he hadn’t yet contracted the disease.

My suspicion is that Ira probably contracted the disease while serving in the Philippines during Spanish American War where he rescued General John Pershing from drowning, according to newspaper accounts. Ira was subsequently promoted to the rank of quarter-master-sergeant by Pershing, but his military career ended in March 1904 after he suffered a broken leg. Ira enlisted in the Spanish American War in March of 1901 and didn’t die until 1950.

If that’s when Ira contracted the disease, he lived with syphilis for half a century, and miserably, I’m sure. Ira married in June 1904, three months after he was discharged from the service, and by 1910, had moved with his wife and 3 year old child to Wyoming. 

However, by 1918, Ira and family were back in Kosciusko County where be both signed up for the draft and filed for an invalid pension based on his prior service.

In 1920, a child born to Ira and his wife died of toxemia a few hours after birth as a result of “Bright’s disease of the mother.” Bright’s disease was a polite name used in some earlier records for syphilis. By 1920, according to the census, Ira was a salesman selling “home products” and in 1930, had a chicken hatchery.

I can’t find the family in the 1940 census, but in 1938, the Lafayette Courier reports in an article that Mr. and Mrs. Ferverda were among 5 persons from the “Soldiers Home” that were injured in an automobile accident. In 1940, “Mrs. Ira Ferverda received word that her brother died suddenly and she has gone to Leesburg,” followed in 1944 by an article indicating that Mr. and Mrs. Ira Ferverda were on furlough. In 1945, the same newspaper reported that they had gone home to Leesburg for the summer. Of course, Ira died in 1950 and the death certificate gave his wife’s address as Leesburg. For all the world, it looks like both Ira and his wife were resident at the “camp” at the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home in Lafayette for many years.

Ira’s wife’s death in 1972 at age 89 indicates that she had chronic nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, but says nothing about syphilis. Perhaps she was treated after the introduction of penicillin in the 1930s, but Ira was not. Or perhaps his disease had progressed too far by that time.

Eva may or may not have known that her son had contracted syphilis. Given the death of Ira’s daughter in 1920, I’m guessing that Eva knew something, or perhaps the cause of his illness and the cause of the child’s death was carefully hidden from her.

Regardless, I’m sure Ira, along with the rest of the family, had many regrets and a great deal of shame, pain and sorrow.  Today, I have only compassion for Ira and this family, no shame necessary. People are human, after all. Ira paid a terribly dear price for his humanness. 

It’s amazing the history that this detour caused by an interesting sentence in an obituary revealed. 

Pictures in the Bible

Next, Cheryl and I find photographs tucked safely into the Bible pages. 

Thank goodness there’s a name on the back!

Robert Dean Ferverda, son of Gerald Dean Ferverda (Ira’s son born in 1907) and Dorothy E. Lloyd was born on April 6, 1932. Love these first baby pictures.

The next photo of Eva at left is both charming and mystifying.

Imagine my disappointment to turn this photo over and discover….nothing.  I suspect, but don’t know, that this was Eva’s sister. Two of her half-sisters lived into the 1930s. Matilda “Tillie” Miller married John Dubbs and died in 1939, just a few months before Eva. Martha Jane Miller married David Blough and died in 1935. Eva’s half sister, Mary Jane Whitehead married John D. Ulery and died in 1930.

I love the wheel to wench the bucket up from the well on this farm, along with what looks like a school bell behind Eva. I do wonder where this was taken. The stone on the ground beside the bell looks like a millstone.

If I could read the city of the photographer, on the back below, I might be able to at least find a hint of who might be in the photo. I bet the photographer never dreamed someone 85 years in the future would be trying to find them!


Below, Eva on the porch of the home in Leesburg, on the farm, with the three crosses in the window indicating three sons serving in WWI.  Extremely unusual for a Brethren family.

Eva’s sons who served in WWI were George, Donald and Roscoe.  Eva was clearly proud of her sons and their service.

The article in the Fort Wayne paper, above, identifies the 3 Ferverda sons. 

This photograph was taken during WWI. One son is in uniform, in the back row.  Eva is standing at left, with Hiram behind her.  Their children are identified in this photo, but neither their children nor grandchildren are identified in the photo  (above) in the Bible, and the spouses are absent as well. My mother’s brother was born in 1915, so he could have been one of the small boys, but I don’t recognize him, and he’s not with my grandfather in the back row, third from right. 

Again, nothing on the back of the photo.

There were a few items in the Bible at the reunion that weren’t scanned at the library.

Who is Henry P. Lentz?

Not one person at the reunion had any idea who Henry P. Lentz was, but a little sleuthing tells the story. 

Henry P. Lentz died on January 3, 1915 in Adrian, Bates Co., MO. Clearly, Eva’s mother, Elizabeth Lentz Miller had kept in touch with family members, because there would be no other way for this obituary to have been in Eva’s Bible. Henry’s FindAGrave Memorial is here.

Henry’s father was Johann Adam Lentz, born on August 30, 1819 in Cumberland Co., PA and died on August 4, 1906 in Bates County, MO.  Adam was Elizabeth Lentz’s brother, so Eva’s uncle. Henry would have been Eva’s first cousin.

According to FindAGrave, Adam married Margaret Whitehead, the sister of Valentine Whitehead. Margaret Elizabeth Lentz’s first husband was Valentine Whitehead, Margaret Whitehead’s brother. Adam Lentz, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz’s brother, migrated with the Whitehead/Miller group to Elkhart County, Indiana. Adam’s wife, Margaret Whitehead, died the following year, probably in the “malarial fevers” outbreak that also killed Elizabeth Miller, David Miller’s wife.  Adam Lentz remarried and then migrated to Illinois and on to Missouri, the next frontier.

Mystery solved – and according to FindAGrave, one more piece of information as to where in Pennsylvania Margaret Lentz may have been born.

More Reunion Pictures

Other goodies from the reunion include photos and items that Cheryl and I had never seen before.

Photo of George Miller Ferverda with daughter Peg at the gas station where he worked.

No one had any idea whatsoever who this is and true to form, nothing on the back. The family does not look Brethren. The man has no beard and the woman no prayer bonnet. If you know who this family is, please let me know. I would think they are somehow connected.  

Death of Ira’s daughter, Mary Evelyn. I can only imagine the words that passed between Ira and his wife on this terrible day.

Three Ferverda brothers serving in WWI.

Eva in an out-of-focus photo in 1936 with her daughter, Margaret Ferverda Glant.

And with that, we leave the reunion and close Eva’s Bible, with much gratitude to Eva for preserving these memories and those family members who have been stewards of her Bible for the past 79 years.

Eva’s Mitochondrial DNA Legacy  

It’s somehow ironic that while we have Eva’s Bible, one single item with no copies, often very difficult to find, we don’t have her mitochondrial DNA, passed by mothers to all of their children, but only passed on my daughters. In order to find Eva’s mitochondrial DNA, we need to look to Eva’s daughters and those of her sister’s on her mother’s side, or, her mother’s sister’s offspring.

Eva’s mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz had three sisters:

  • Mary Lentz (1829-1918) who married Henry Overlease
  • Fredericka “Fanny” Lentz (1809-1897) who married Daniel Brusman
  • Maria Barbara Lentz (1816-1899) who married Henry Yost  

Eva had only one half-sister by her mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz, who had a daughter:

  • Mary Jane Whitehead  (1852-1930) married John D. Ulery and had daughter Margaret Elizabeth Ulery.

Eva had 4 daughters:

  • Edith Estella Ferverda (1879-1955) who married Tom Dye
  • Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda (1884-1966) who married Louis Hartman
  • Chloe Evaline Ferverda (1886-1984) who married Rolland Robinson
  • Margaret Ferverda (1902-1984) who married Chester Glant

If you descend from any of these women through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female, I have a free DNA test for you. 


I was thrilled to discover that Eva’s Bible still existed, to be allowed to touch it, open and lovingly caress the very pages she turned, garnering the gems of family history she recorded for the future there. We are that future. 

A debt of gratitude to the Ferverda family member who allowed this Bible to be borrowed, scanned and repaired.

Thanks to Cheryl Ferverda, now retired from the Allen County Public Library, and the Allen County Public Library for scanning the Bible before returning it to the family.

Dear Dave: Meet Your Family – 52 Ancestors #185

For three days and nights, the tears rained like a defective faucet that I couldn’t turn off. A combination of nerves, excitement and sadness, all tossed together in a salad-spinner. That DNA match set off a tear tsunami. Finding your family meant, of course, that I got to revisit your final departure, on the anniversary of your funeral. No irony here. 

Yep, allergies in full bloom!

Sleep, however, eluded me successfully.

Would Helen read her messages about your DNA match?

Would she reply to me?

Would she answer my questions?

Would she tell me who her grandparents were? I didn’t want to seem too nosey at first. What I really wanted to ask was, “where was your father in July of 1954?”

Would she sense the fear and trepidation in my e-mail and become wary?

Would crossing my fingers help?

And then, suddenly, ding, there it was. An e-mail from Helen. Then one from another cousin with the same surname.

Helen apparently hadn’t held it against me that I had to correct my original e-mail, not once, but twice. I shouldn’t type when I’m nervous and somewhat overwrought – but had I waited for that to subside, I’d still be waiting.

We had come this far and reaching out was the only way to end the agony – regardless of the outcome.

Then the next step in the worry-chain began. If this sounds like “over the top” anxiety, all I have to say is that you’ve never stood in the shoes of someone during the discovery process of long-lost immediate family. I thought I understood it before, but empathy is no substitute for the proverbial mile in the moccasins. 

Would I ever hear back from Helen again?

Would she tell me who her father was. 

Did she have uncles?

Where did they live in 1954?

I did (mostly) resist checking my phone every hour during the night to see if Helen had replied.  I admit, I checked twice. Ok, maybe three times.

Was it only yesterday morning that Helen sent her phone number and invited me to call? Surely, it was at least a year ago. 

I feel like I’m living in an alternate universe right now, or maybe a parallel reality.  Of course, sleep deprivation doesn’t help any. Like Helen said, it’s like we’ve stepped over some transformational line in the sand that we didn’t even see – and now we’re suddenly on the other side wondering what the heck just happened.

This just happened so fast. We’ve been run over by a bus whose passengers are every emotion on the planet.

Life changed in the blink of an eye. Helen has a new sibling – her family just expanded. DNA did in an instant what 60 years failed to do. I’m just so grateful that she is welcoming of this news and not upset. 

Yesterday, after I finally composed myself enough to call Helen, sitting at my desk in my jammies because I just couldn’t wait any longer, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Of course, I did.

Thankfully, Helen is a lovely person.

Then Helen called me back again. Then I called her. Then we laughed, and cried, and talked and did it all over again. Several times.

Helen told me how she and her sisters had longed for a brother.

She told me how her father had moved north from Georgia in 1952, after her mother’s horrific death, and how the rumors swirled of a half-brother someplace, born about 1955.

You were conceived in July 1954.

Helen DNA tested to make genealogical discoveries. It never occurred to her that she might find her long-rumored half-brother.

Well, Dave, meet your half-sister, Helen.

No, not me, the other one. And yes, we are truly as joyfully happy as we look.

Rest assured, we’re trouble-makers together!  You have no idea what you’ve done by introducing us😊

Of course, because our lives cannot EVER be simple, Helen’s results are low for a half-sibling match, so there’s a possibility you’re first cousins. Helen’s other sister is DNA testing as well, just to confirm. 

Would taking a look at Helen’s father help?

Dave, meet the man we believe is your father!

He is positively either your father or your uncle.  Helen and her sisters say that you don’t look anything like the one other Priest brother that may have been in a northern state about the time you were conceived. The rest of the Priest brothers never left the deep south – and let’s face it, proximity is kinda critical in this situation.

When I saw that photo of Helen’s father, my breath caught. Could this really be the man you sought for so long? Let’s look at the two of you together.

What do you think, Dave?  Is this your father? I think he’s a dead-ringer for you. Of course, those pictures of you simply don’t do you justice. (No, I am NOT biased either!)

Because yesterday was Valentine’s Day, Helen and I decided to delay our meeting until this evening. Another 24 hours of torture!

In an amazing stroke of good fortune, Helen and I live about an hour apart. So I left two hours early, just in case. 

I prepared to gift Helen with what small things I have of you. I have nothing tangible from your lifetime on earth, except for a few photos and the prayer Jim wrote for your funeral. I put the prayer in an envelope, made Helen a thumb drive of your photos to keep and took my laptop so that we could look at your pictures together. 

I told Helen about our fun times together. Your determination to climb that wall at the fair and how you succeeded, in spite of how ill you were from your treatments. You and Helen are remarkably alike – unstoppable once you set your mind to something. I was awestruck by the unmistakable similarities.

Helen and I met at a lovely restaurant whose patient staff was incredibly tolerant of our long dinner. She brought me a white rose. I brought her a brother.

We ate. We laughed. We talked about you. Were your ears burning? They should have been.

We cried. Ok, I cried.

We exchanged meaningful looks and shocking stories. We swore, in your honor, of course! And we hugged.

We discovered that somehow we had known each other forever – just like you and I did. Deja vu.

We share the same regret – that you didn’t live long enough to meet Helen and your other sisters – who are now welcoming you posthumously with open arms.  Helen had experienced exactly the same longing I felt when I searched so long for you. 

They were looking for you Dave, while you criss-crossed the country feeling so alone in the world.


They wanted to meet you, to love you. They wanted to have with you what I had with you.

So, via me as the intermediary, today you finally met your sister. What are the odds? Your non-half-sister helping you to find your real one.  No one could make this stuff up!

I felt so honored to tell her about the beautiful man I knew so that in some small way, she can come to know you too. Through me, you two connected, across time and space. A long-distance hand-hold with me as the human extension cord..

It’s the best we can do now.

But you know the most amazing thing, Dave?

You gave us something too. A surprise Valentine. Something precious that neither of us expected.

You united us in sisterhood. Yea, I know that sounds really corny – and you would probably guffaw a bit.

Perhaps the final gift of your life is to both of us, your two sisters who both love you now. Bringing us together so we can love each other too. A beautiful new beginning.

I certainly didn’t expect to receive that gift today. I thought I was gifting Helen with you. Ending a chapter. I never expected to recognize so much of what I love in you – in her. Perhaps by finding your family, I found a piece of mine too, a new beginning. I went to give, but instead we both received. For this gift from beyond, I love you all the more  

Two sisters through another brother. Sewn together from broken hearts. Best Valentine’s Day, ever. An amazing happy ending to an incredibly sad story.  

Thank you.

Love you, now from both of us. 

Bobbi and Helen