We Match…But Are We Related?

Last week, I received this question from a reader, we’ll call him Jim:

“I match Susie on the HVR1 and HVR2 regions of our mitochondrial DNA….but I was just wondering….are we related?’

Well, the answer is yes…and maybe.

You see, the answer hinges on the definition of the word “related.”

If Jim means related at any point in time, the answer is yes.  If Jim and Susie share the same haplogroup, at any level, then they did indeed share an ancestor at some point in the past. The question is – how long ago?  And that part of the answer isn’t easy.

Now, if what Jim means is related in the sense of “in a genealogically meaningful timeframe,” which is generally anytime from the present back in time roughly 500 or maybe as long as 800 years….the answer is a resounding maybe.

And of course, the answer differs a bit, depending on whether you’re talking about mitochondrial DNA, Y DNA or autosomal DNA.

Let’s look at all 3 types of DNA tests.

Mitochondrial DNA

First, Jim doesn’t have enough information to make that “genealogically meaningful” determination. To do that, he and his match both need to test at the full sequence level for mitochondrial DNA.  The full sequence test tests all 16,569 locations of the mitochondria, where the HVR1+HVR2 tests only 1135 locations.  Family Tree DNA is the only testing company to provide this level of testing.

Jim needs more information.

If Jim and Susie match at the full sequence level too, then the genealogical timeframe becomes possible. If they match with no mutations, meaning a genetic distance of zero, it becomes even more likely, but it’s certainly not a given – nor is figuring out who the common ancestor might be.  For example, below are my closest full sequence matches and my most distant matrilineal ancestor was from Germany.  Most of these matches are Scandinavian.

match mito

However, exact full sequence matches are where you start to look for a common ancestor. No common ancestor found?  Then at least look for common geography.

One of the easiest ways to do that, for both mitochondrial DNA and Y DNA, at Family Tree DNA, is by utilizing the Matches Map, available on your toolbar.

match matches map'

Assuming your matches have completed their most distant ancestor’s location (which is not always the case,) it’s easy to look for match groups and clusters on the map. Your most distant ancestor’s balloon will be white, with your matches color coded.  You can click on any of the balloons to see the match, their ancestor and location.  These are my full sequence matches.  Surprisingly, my closest matches aren’t in Germany at all!!!  Hmmm….time to start looking at what happened in history that might account for this population movement.

In many cases, people will match at the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, but not match at higher levels. In fact, they may both be haplogroup H (for example) at the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, but the full sequence testing refines their haplogroups and their extended haplogroups may no longer match each other.  For example Jim’s refined haplogroup could be H2 and Susie’s ’s H6.  Both are subgroups of H, who was born roughly 12,800 years ago, according to “A ‘Copernican’ Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root” by Behar et al, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics 90, 675–684, April 6, 2012.

So, yes, Jim and Susie are definitely related in the past 12,000 years – but I’m not thinking this is what Jim was really asking. I refer to this as “haplogroup cousins.”

However, a lot has happened in 12,000 years. As in, mutations happened, and subgroups emerged.  So while Jim and Susie might both be members of haplogroup H, they are not both members of the same subgroup, so their ancestors both developed mutations which classify them into subgroups H2, born not long after H was born, and H6, born about 11,000 years ago.

So, the bottom line is if you don’t match at the full sequence level, you’re not related in a genealogically meaningful time frame. If you do match at the full sequence level, you might be related in a genealogically meaningful timeframe.

A couple years ago, I set about looking at mitochondrial DNA mutation rates and discovered that the only academic paper published that addressed this in the HVR1, HVR2 and coding regions was written about penguins. Not exactly what I was looking for, but it does explain why there is no TIP type calculator for mitochondrial DNA.

Family Tree DNA does provide some guidelines in their learning center.

    • Matching at the HVR1 level means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last fifty-two generations. That is about 1,300 years.
    • Matching on HVR1 and HVR2 means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last twenty-eight generations. That is about 700 years.
    • Matching exactly on the Mitochondrial DNA Full Sequence test brings your matches into more recent times. It means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last 5 generations. That is about 125 years.

I personally think that the 5 generation estimate of a 100% match for the full sequence is overly optimistic. In fact, a lot overly optimistic.  I do find people who do share common ancestors at the full sequence level, but it’s the exception and not the rule – although part of that may be because the surname changes every generation so it’s genealogically difficult to track.  However, genealogical matches would be much more common if more people tested their mitochondrial DNA.

You can see a good example in this article of how mitochondrial DNA told me a story I didn’t know about my matrilineal line – and would never have known without full sequence testing.

What I didn’t include in this article is that many of my mitochondrial DNA matches shared their mutation information with me, and I created a “tree” that showed exactly where each mutation happened and who shared a common ancestor with whom.

I obviously can’t share that chart publicly, but the chart below conveys the methodology. The oldest known ancestors of these matches lived in the locations listed at the bottom of the chart.

match 1

In the above case, you can clearly see that it’s very likely that the founder lived in Scandinavia because at least some of the descendants of all three unique mutation groups, A, B and C live in Scandinavia today. However, Mutation J is found in Germany.  This suggests that sometime after the common mutation, F, an individual migrated from Scandinavia to Germany.  Mutation K, who also shares mutation F, is still in Scandinavia today.


It’s a bit easier to answer the “are we related” question for Y DNA because the surnames are often the same. So yes, if you match on STR markers (those are panels for 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 markers) and you carry the same surname, you’re likely related in a genealogically relevant timeframe.  Don’t you hate it when you see those weasel words like “likely?”

However, if your surname is Smith, or something else very common, and you only match at 12 markers, and you don’t match at higher levels, then again, you’re probably a haplogroup cousin. Names like Smith and Miller are occupation names and every village across continental Europe had at least one at all times.  So, there are lots of Smiths and Millers that have the same base haplogroup and aren’t related in a genealogically meaningful timeframe.

You can see an example of this in my Miller-Brethren project. These are Miller families, German in origin, who belonged to the small German Brethren religious group.

Match Miller 1

Match Miller 2

I thought this would be a relatively small, easy project, but not so much. There were a lot more genetically different Miller surname groups even within the small Brethren church than I expected.

As you can see, many of these groups share haplogroups, especially major haplogroups like R-M269.

In some groups, some individuals have tested additional SNPs by taking either individual SNP tests, the Big Y or SNP panel tests, offered on their individual pages.

So, for example, you may see the haplogroup designations of R-M269 and R-CTS7822 in the same family grouping where the STR markers match exactly or nearly. Confusing?  Yes, but that means that one individual had taken additional testing.  If you look at the haplogroup trees, you would see that CTS7822 is downstream of M269 in haplogroup R.

The important thing for finding genealogically relevant matches is matching high numbers of STR markers. I encourage everyone to test at 67 markers, and I like to see 111 if the budget allows.

If you match someone at 67 markers, exactly, there’s a very good chance you’re very closely related.

For example, cousin Rex matches cousin Richard at 67 markers with only 3 differences. I happen to have their genealogy, and I know when these two men’s lines diverge.  They descend from two different sons of Michael Miller (Mueller) who was born in 1692.  Three cumulative Y STR mutations have happened since that time in these men’s two lines.

Match Miller 3

Rex’s haplogroup is R-M269, but Richard took the Big Y test, so his haplogroup is shown as R-CTS7822 and he now sits as proxy for the rest of the Michael Miller descendant group.

Y matches have access to the TIP calculator, that little orange box shown on the match page above to the right of each matches name.  The TIP calculator provides generational estimates to a common ancestor, weighted by haplogroup marker mutation frequency.

The TIP calculator shows us that, based on their mutations at 67 markers, these two men are most likely to be related between 6 and 7 generations. At the 50th percentile, they are as likely to be related sooner as later, so the 50th percentile is the number I tend to use for an estimate of the distance to the most recent common ancestor.

Match tip

In fact, their common ancestor is 7 generations ago, counting their parents as generation 1.

The more markers tested, the more data you, and the TIP calculator, have to work with. I’ve found the TIP calculator to be quite accurate at 67 and 111 markers when using the 50th percentile as a predictor.

What? You say you don’t match anyone with your surname?

That’s more common than you think.

One of two things could have happened.

First, your paternal surname line may simply have not tested yet.

You may be able to search in the appropriate surname project and find a group of people who descend from “your” ancestor with different DNA. That’s a pretty big hint too, assuming the genealogy is accurate.  If the genealogy is accurate, and your line is the “odd man out,” the next question is always “when did the genetic break occur,” and why.  That leads us to the second scenario.

Second, there could be an undocumented adoption in your line. I’m using undocumented adoption in the most general sense here, meaning anything from a child taking a step father’s name to a true adoption.  The surname does not match the biological line and we don’t know why – so some “adoption” of some sort took place someplace.

The question is, one or two?

I first ask people if they really want to know the answer, because once you pursue this avenue, you can’t close Pandora’s box.

If the answer is yes, they are sure, then I suggest they find a male with their surname that they know should be related and test him.

The answer will become obvious at that point, and the test plan from there forward should reflect the discovery from that test.


The question of “are we related” can be more obtuse when discussing autosomal DNA.

On the other hand, like with Y DNA, the answer can be very evident.

In fact, there is an entire spectrum of autosomal DNA matches and I wrote about how much confidence you should put in each type.

But let’s get down to the very basic brass tacks.

There are only two ways you can match someone’s autosomal DNA.

Either you share a common ancestor or you are matching by chance.

When you receive DNA from your parents, that DNA came from their ancestors as well. All of the DNA you receive from your parents came from some ancestor.

Then, how can you match someone by chance?

You have two strands of autosomal DNA. Think of two lanes of a street.  However, the houses on both sides of that street have the same address.  Your Mom’s DNA value goes in front of one house, in one lane, and your Dad’s goes in front of the house with the same address in the other lane, but we don’t know whose DNA is whose and there is no consistency in whose DNA goes in which lane.

So, it looks like this.

match autosomal strands

You can see in this example that you received As in all positions from Mom and Cs in all positions from Dad. However, these alleles can be positioned in either your strand 1 or 2, so the entire roughly 700,000+ locations typically tested for genealogy is mixed between Mom and Dad.  So, there is no way to tell, just by looking at your DNA, which DNA in any position (strand 1 or 2 at any address) came from whom.

You can also see, looking at the chart above, that if someone matches you on all As, they match you on your Mom’s side, and if they match you on all Cs, they match you on your Dad’s side. This is called identical by descent.  This means, yes, you are related.

But what happens if someone has ACA? They match you too, by zigzagging back and forth between your Mom and Dad’s DNA.  That’s called identical by chance, and it’s not a valid genealogical match. This means, no, you’re not related, at least not on this segment.

I wrote more about this phenomenon and tools to work with your DNA in “One Chromosome, Two Sides, No Zipper.”

How can you tell the difference between identical by descent (related) and identical by chance (not related)? Therein lies the big question.

If you match someone who also matches one of your parents, then you match them through that side of your family – identical by descent from a common ancestor.

Don’t have parents to test?  Then how about your parents siblings, aunts, uncles, first cousins….etc.  Often the best way to tell if a match is a legitimate match is by who else they match that also matches you.  This is why we encourage people to test all of their relatives!

And that, of course, leads to identifying the common ancestor. For example, if you match someone who also matches your first cousin on the same segment, your common ancestor has to be in that same genealogical line shared by you and your first cousin.  This technique is called triangulation.

I wrote more about cousin matching too, in “Just One Cousin.”

You can read more on this general topic here and here, as well.

I wrote a primer for folks just getting autosomal results back called “Autosomal DNA Testing 101 – Now What?”

Combination Tools

There are several ways to match people. Sometimes looking at combinations of tools is quite helpful as well.

One of my favorite and little known methodologies is to combine two tools together.  This is only available at Family Tree DNA, because they are the only vendor who also performs the mitochondrial and Y DNA tests in addition to the autosomal testing.

For example, if you match someone on the Y or mitochondrial DNA, notice if they have taken the Family Finder test as well. If they have, the little icon by their name on your match list will say “FF.”

If so, by using the Advanced Matching tool, available under “Tools and Apps” on your personal page Toolbar at Family Tree DNA, you can query to see who matches you utilizing multiple tools.

match toolbar

For example, for cousin Rex, I wanted to know who he matched on BOTH his Y 12 marker test and the Family Finder test. Sure enough, two individuals match him on both.

match combo

Please note that I could also have performed this same search within any project by utilizing the “show matches for” drop down box.


I hope this quick broad-brush survey of the various DNA testing tools and what your matches mean for each type has helped you to take some of those matches from the “maybe” to the “yes” or “no” category.

After all, the fun in all of this is to discover as much as we can about our ancestors by who we are related to. Guilt by genetic association.  There is something to be learned from every match or group of matches if we’re listening…even if it is that your German 4Xgreat-grandmother’s lineage was likely originally Scandinavian.  I don’t know about you, but that tidbit of knowledge and the doors it opens was well worth the price of admission, all by itself.

And just think, you’ll never have the opportunity to find out if you’re related if you don’t test and work with your results!  There is so much waiting to be discovered.

Susanna Agnes Berchtol or Bechtol (1688-1748/1754), Wife of Johann Michael Mueller, 52 Ancestors #105

Susanna Agnes Berchtol was born on May 3, 1688, probably in Krottelbach, Germany, shown below, to Hans Berchtol and his wife Anna Christina, whose last name is unknown.

Krottelbach Germany

I say probably, because the church that the family attended and where her birth was recorded was in Konken, but since her father’s residence at the time of his death is stated in the Konken Church records as being Krottelback, just a few miles away, that’s likely where the family resided when Susanna was born as well. There was no church in Krottelbach at that time.

Another researcher shows that Susanna was born in a neighboring small town, Ohmbach, but since I don’t have the original church records of either, I’ll withhold final judgement until the records are retranslated by a professional genealogist in Germany.

The name was written as both Berchtol, Bechtol and Bechtel at various times and locations, but was primarily Berchtol in Germany and Bechtol in the US with it morphing to Bechtel in the later 1800s.

The Berchtols were one of several Swiss pietist refugee families who settled in this part of Germany. Other Swiss families included the Johann Michael Mueller family.  This Johann Michael Mueller would be “the first” or at least the first that we know of.  His son, Johann Michael Mueller (the second) would be born in 1692. Ironically, Susanna’s parents, Hans Berchtol and his wife Christina were the godparents at the baptism of Johann Michael Mueller (the second) in 1692, in Steinwenden, about 15 miles distant.  Susanna Agnes Berchtol was four years and five months old when Michael was born.

These two families were previously acquainted, because in 1786, Hans Berchtol was also the Godfather to another child of Johann Michael Mueller (the first) and his wife. That child died.  Many times, the families tried to spread the godparent responsibility out among several adults and relatives in their village.  Along with being the godparent at birth, and carrying the responsibility for the child’s religious education (which was often their only education), the godparents also were the acknowledged “foster parents” should something happen to the child’s biological parents.  All too often, that unfortunate eventuality did happen before the child was of age – and having foster parents already designated removed any doubt about intention or who was raising the children.

In the case of Johann Michael Mueller (the second), that’s exactly what happened. His parents were both dead by the time he was three years of age, which may have played a very large role in his future marriage to Susanna Agnes Berchtol.  Since Michael’s parents lived several miles distant from the Berchtols, had he been raised in Steinwenden where he was born, he would have had very limited exposure to the Berchtol family.

Susanna Agnes Berchtol’s father died on June 15, 1711, according to the Reformed church records.

We don’t know if, Anna Christina, Susanna’s mother was still living in 1711 when Han’s Berchtol died, but in either case, the family would have needed help to survive. Susanna’s youngest sibling that we know of was born in 1698, so there would have been young children still at home.

Susanna was the oldest daughter and the second oldest child, according to the church records. Of course, there could have been other children born to Susanna’s parents before they arrived in Germany in the mid-1680s.

Johann Michael Mueller, age 19 in 1711, would have been a strapping youth with a debt to repay. Not an official debt, but a debt of gratitude to his godparents who could well have raised him after his parents’ death.  Hence, Johann Michael Mueller’s presence in Krottelbach and in the Berchtol household.  Michael likely knew Susanna his entire life and may have been raised in the same household, at least for part of that time.

After her birth, the first record we find of Susanna is her marriage to Johann Michael Mueller on January 4, 1714 in Krottelbach.

Their first child was baptized in that same church a year and 15 days later on January 19, 1715.  That must have been a radiant year for Susanna – her marriage and her first child.

After that, the official records that include Susanna go silent, but we can infer a lot based on what we know about Michael.

There is a possibility that Susanna and Michael moved to Lambshein in 1721. There is a record of a Michael Mueller becoming a resident there, but we have no further records.  It would be interesting to see if the Reformed Church records exist for Lambshein, and if Johann Michael Mueller with wife Susanna Agnes are present.  Those two names, in combination, are fairly unique.

Typically, German children were called by their middle names. We know that Johann Michael was called Michael.  Most male children’s first name was Johann, a saint’s name.  Using this same tradition, Susanna Agnes would have been called Agnes, not Susanna, but for some reason I’ve always thought of her as Susanna – which of course makes absolutely no logical sense.

Regardless of how she was called, either name, Susanna or Agnes was fairly rare and that in combination with Johann Michael Mueller or just Michael Mueller would certainly identify this couple.

We believe that son Lodowich was born about 1724 and son Philip Jacob Mueller was born about 1726, someplace in Germany. We have the naturalization record for Philip Jacob, so there is no question about where he was born.  We have an undated naturalization record for Lodowich as well as one for a John Miller.  Lodowich is fairly unique, especially living in Frederick County, Maryland and being naturalized in Pennsylvania.  John is a much more common name, although he too lived in Frederick County, Maryland and was naturalized in Pennsylvania, so I’m betting it’s the same family.

Michael and Susanna and however many children they had at the time sailed for the American colonies in the summer of 1727, arriving in Philadelphia on October 2, 1727 on the ship Adventure from Rotterdam, last from Plymouth, England.

We don’t know how long the Miller family was in Holland before departing.  Some Brethren lived with the Mennonites in Holland for years before departing.

The records don’t say how the immigrants arrived in Rotterdam, but since the Rhine River was the primary “road” in Medieval times, it’s most likely they arrived by boat to Rotterdam and at Rotterdam camped outside the city, then transferred to a sea-worthy vessel. Rotterdam was “the” embarkation point for both the British Isles and the land that would one day become America.

This map shows the path of the Rhine in Europe.

Rhine map

“Rhein-Karte2” by Ulamm (talk) 02:45, 13 May 2014 (UTC) – File:Rhein-Karte.png by Daniel Ullrich (Threedots). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Steinwenden is about equidistant between Mannheim and Bingen on the Rhine River in the yellow section. Konken is probably slightly closer to Bingen.  In either case, Susanna Berchtol and Michael Miller needed to connect with a ship on the Rhine River so they could reach their destination of Rotterdam.

The trip from Krottelbach to Rotterdam is not an easy trip. It’s more than 450 miles overland.  They surely would have taken river boats if they could.  Today a canal covers most of this distance, but then, the Meuse river winds its way towards Rotterdam as does the Rhine River which they could have connected with in several nearby cities.

Krottelback to Rotterdam crop

I visited Rotterdam in 2014 via the Rhine River. That’s Rotterdam on the horizon, below.  Susanna and her family likely traversed this same path.

Rotterdam approach

The old part of the city as seen from the water.

Rotterdam from Rhine

Except for modern buildings and ships, the approach to Rotterdam probably hasn’t changed much from when Susanna would have seen it in the 1720s and now.

Rotterdam from Rhine 2

This etching shows Rotterdam in 1665.  That looks a lot like the same church above and below.

Rotterdam 1665

Rotterdam was very much a canal city, shown below in this 1652 map.

Rotterdam map

The pietists of the 1720s didn’t follow far behind the heels of the 1709 Palatinates who swamped the city of Rotterdam and camped, by the tens of thousands, in makeshift shacks on dikes outside the city walls waiting for transportation to England and the colonies. Did the Brethren find themselves in the same location, or did they stay with people who lived inside the city?  How did Rotterdam cope with being the last stop on the European continent for Germans trying to leave for better opportunities across the sea?  How did these people eat?  Where did they obtain food?  What about bathroom facilities and hygiene?  They surely only had the barest necessities with them, anticipating a long and crowded journey in a ship.

After leaving Rotterdam, their vessel would have stopped in Plymouth, in Devon England, a regular stopping point, a port city and the last possible location to take on food, clean water, beer (for drinking as the water was often very foul), cargo and sometimes passengers if there was any space left.

Sometimes passengers got to disembark one more time in Plymouth, and sometimes not. This map was from the siege of 1643, but Plymouth probably hadn’t grown a great deal in the following 75 years and the old part of the city would remain the same.

Plymouth map

This house, now the oldest house in Plymouth built in 1498, stood at the time that Susanna would have stopped in Plymouth on the way to America. In fact, by that time, this house would have been more than 200 years old, still young by European standards.  If Susanna got a few minutes to stroll along the quay in Plymouth, she surely would have seen this house that we still can see today.

What did she think as she looked at these houses, knowing she would not set foot on terra firma or see houses for several weeks, if ever, again? Or was Susanna simply too busy with small children to take a walk?

Plymouth house

How did Susanna feel on these boats as she left everything and everyone she had ever known behind, with the exception of her husband, his step-brother and their children?  Did she know anyone else on the boat?  Was she frightened, excited or maybe some of each?  What were her thoughts as land disappeared from sight?  Was she looking forward or backward?  Did she know anyone at all in the new land, or were they simply following rumors of a better life and opportunity?

Transatlantic crossings were not without risk, and most ships buried at least someone at sea. Some ships buried many.  Children were especially vulnerable.  Not only was the ship itself in danger of sinking or passengers washing overboard in bad weather, but the passengers were always in danger due to poor health and illness, often induced by rotten food and bad water.  And then, of course, there was the ever-present issue of sea-sickness.  While it won’t kill you, at least not directly, it will make you incredibly and unrelentingly miserable.

How many children did Susanna have along with her? Did the journey end with as many children as it began, or were they “up” or “down” a child or two.  Was Susanna pregnant on the boat, or God forbid, giving birth?  Those trips typically took from 4 weeks to 3 months, depending on the winds, weather and luck.  The average was about 6 weeks.

Given that their first child was born in 1715, Susanna could have had about 8 children, if all babies born survived. We do know that at least three sons had been born who did survive, and possibly four.

Were Michael and Susanna joining people already established in the colonies, which would certainly lessen the fear, or were they simply arriving in Philadelphia and would figure it out from there? Was someone meeting them at the docks?  Did they have instructions about where to go and who to ask for?  They spoke German in a country that spoke English.

Did they stay in Philadelphia or did they leave immediately for Chester County, where they were first found in 1732?  Where were they from 1727 to 1732?  If they couldn’t pay for their own passage, they would have been indentured to someone for up to 7 years, which would have been 1734, unless their indenture was for a shorter amount of time.  If they weren’t indentured, how did they pay for their passage for a family of at least five, if not more?

Their arrival in Philadelphia in 1727 probably looked something like this. I would bet that when Susanna set foot on dry ground, she never wanted to see another ship again.  If she had survived the voyages and lost no children, she was truly fortunate.  Susanna would have turned 39 years old in May as they were preparing for this trip.

Philadelphia waterfront

This oil painting by Matthew Birth in 1820 shows the Philadelphia waterfront with a shipyard in the foreground. This harbour view probably looked something like what greeted Susanna and Michael when they arrived nearly 100 years earlier.

Philadelphia waterfront 1820

Only the adult males were listed on the passenger list, so we don’t know positively that Susanna was with Michael, but it’s the most likely scenario. The pietists brought their families and did not tend to leave them behind with the idea they would join them later.  There was no way for families left behind to survive.  In many cases, these families had little or nothing when they left.

At that time, Germans were vassals and did not personally own land. Generally, they owned some livestock, which could be quickly sold, and some farm implements, and that’s it.  Not difficult to pick up and leave.

We know that Samuel Bechtol arrived, at some point, and given the joint land ownership between Johann Michael Mueller and Samuel Bechtol, it’s very likely that Susanna was related to him. Some people indicate they were siblings, but I haven’t seen any documentation stating such.  Susanna did have a brother, Hans Jacob Berchtol, born in 1686 who married Anna Marie Glosselos, but I found no record of a Samuel as Susanna’s sibling.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that we don’t have all of the birth records.  Some children could have been born in Switzerland before the family came to Germany.

There is a Hans Simon Berchtol family in Steinwenden where the Mueller family lived who did have a son named Hans Samuel born in 1685 with a Hans Michael (surname illegible) as godfather. Clearly these families were interconnected in some fashion, both in Germany and in Pennsylvania.  There is one immigration record from September 1743 for Samuel Bechtol, but that might be somewhat late.  There is a 1737 record for Jacob (IB) Bechtel.  Estimates are that only about one third of the immigration records from this time frame have been preserved, and none before 1727 when the oath of allegiance began to be required.

We don’t know where Susanna was living from 1727 to 1732 but they were assuredly in or nearby Philadelphia in one of the German communities. It’s unclear when this family became Brethren as opposed to either Mennonite or Reformed.

There were congregations of both in Chester County.

I asked Merle Rummel, a long-time Brethren minister who is also a historian about the differences between Mennonites and Brethren in that timeframe. He was kind enough to send me some information, including his publication, “The Pietists,” which I’m trying to distill here.  I wanted to understand the differences between the Brethren and Mennonites, which, to me, an outsider and from a perspective of nearly 300 years later, look an awful lot alike.

Issue or Belief Brethren Mennonite
Pietism, Radical Pietism – separated from Protestant churches, specifically Lutheranism Anabaptist – delays baptism until adult confession of faith, rebaptizes those baptized as infants
Pacifist (against war) Yes Yes
Celibacy In some cases No
Worship Day Generally Sunday, some groups on Saturday, being the 7th day Sunday
Churches Initially in homes or barns. Sometimes walls were moveable for services.  Eventually built churches where men and women sat of opposite sides of the church.  Loud services and singing.
Also Known as Baptizing Brethren, Baptist Brethren, Dunkers, Tunkers
Method of Baptism Adult trine (triple) immersion in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost Adult baptism, but not trine immersion and sometimes not immersion at all
Communion service Feet washing, agape, love feast, holy kiss Traditional communion
Focus Faith, Biblical studies, cultivation of personal piety Obedience
Divisions Moravians, Brethren, Ephrata Brethren, from the Moravians – the Methodists Mennonite, Amish, Hutterites, River Brethren
Formation Brethren – 1708 Schwarzenau, Germany, Pietist movement – 1680 in Germany 1500s
Beliefs Obedience to Christ as opposed to a church, nonviolence, nonswearing, nonconformity, refusal to take oaths, charity, Bible study, refusal to go to court or sue, simplicity of life and dress, temperance but not abstinence towards alcohol No taking of oaths, no participation in military action, no participation in civil government, simplicity of life and dress.
Affiliation Closely affiliated and lived with Mennonites in exile in Holland between 1719-1729, but became distinct and separate religion in Pennsylvania. Died out in Europe. Survived and widespread in Europe today.
Goals To establish a personal relationship with Jesus, within or outside of any religion, or for people with no religion, not to change churches. Initially did not intend to become a separate religion, just a way of worship.  Inclusive of all initially, eventually excluded many.

I can see that the differences in the ways the two religious groups approached both baptism and communion would be enough to cause them to become or remain two different groups.  Those beliefs are fundamental to the Brethren and they would not be willing to compromise on those tenets.

By 1738, three of the families that Susanna Bechtol and Michael Miller are found with throughout their lives are founding the Little Conewago Church, 80 miles west of Philadelphia in Hanover Township, York County. These are the Ulrichs, Cripes and Jacob Stutzman, Michael Miller’s step-brother who arrived on the boat with Michael and Susanna and their children.  Jacob Stutzman was born in 1706, so was significantly younger than Michael and Susan and they may have felt very parental towards him.  He was not quite young enough to be their eldest child, but he was close.

The lack of Michael Miller’s name as a founding member of Little Conewago could mean that the records are lacking or that he was Mennonite at this time. However, by 1744, Alexander Mack’s letters mention Michael, so it’s likely he was Brethren by this time.  By 1754, Michael had married a Brethren widow, so he was assuredly Brethren by that time.

On the map below, the path from Chester County to the Black Rock Church, the main Brethren church in the area where Little Conewago was located is shown, a distance of about 75 miles.

Chester Co to Little Conewago

We know Susanna and Michael were living in York County in 1744 when on February 7th, Michael bought 400 acres of land northeast of Hanover with Nicholas Garber and Samuel Bechtol.  These families had also lived in Chester County.

The Bechtol family never left York County, PA. Johann Michael Mueller sold his portion of that land to Samuel Bechtol in 1752.  As administrator of the estate of Nicholas Garber, Michael likely sold Nicholas’s portion to Samuel Bechtol as well.  By 1754, Michael Miller had married Elizabeth, the widow of Nicholas Garber.

The Johann Michael Mueller family was likely Brethren by this time, because their resistance to filing documents with the county had manifested itself. Not all deeds were filed, and neither was the marriage between Johann Michael Miller and Nicholas Garber’s widow.  We only know of this because it says in a 1754 court record that Johann Michael Mueller is now married to Elizabeth, the widow of Nicholas Garber and administering his estate.

So, this also tells us that Susanna had assuredly died by 1754. Some researchers feel she had died by 1752 when Johann Michael Mueller sold his land to Samuel Bechtol.  Michael Mueller had purchased land in Frederick County, MD in 1745 and was preparing to move to that area.  Susanna did not sign off on her dower rights on the 1752 deed, but then again, if the deed was to her brother or other family member, maybe they didn’t feel the need.  Some researchers feel that the lack of her signature indicate that she had died by this time.

In 1752, Susanna would have been 64 years of age. She probably had her last child at least 20 years prior, so there would have been no small children left at home.

It’s believed that Michael Miller actually moved to Frederick County, MD after the 1752 sale of his land in York County, PA. He wouldn’t have had any place to live otherwise.

Chester Co to Maugansville

The trip from Hanover to Maugansville was only about 60 miles, right down the new Monocacy Road.

So, Michael sold his land to a man who was possibly his deceased wife’s brother, almost certainly a relative, remarried to the widow of the other one-third property owner, sold that land as well, and removed to Maryland. It certainly appears that Susanna Agnes had died by 1752 and assuredly had by 1754..

In that time and place, widows and widowers did not remain single for long – mostly as a matter of survival, not a social or cultural preference. Life on the frontier was safer and easier with two people, you had a helpmate and a partner.  Pure and simple.

So, it’s likely that Susanna died something between 1748 when Nicholas Garber died and 1752 when Michael sold his land to Samuel Bechtol.

Since we don’t know when Susanna died, we don’t know where she is buried, but we do have a hint – such that it is.

In 1748, a land dispute that had been unfolding in York County, PA became much worse. In a letter to the governor asking for assistance it says that many of the Germans have “gone already and the rest say they will.”  This dispute turned into a war, and indeed, most of the Germans, at least the pietist ones, did leave for Maryland just over the border with Pennsylvania.  This dispute turned violent and several people were killed.  We don’t know if Susanna was perhaps an undocumented victim of these activities.  The date of Nicholas Garber’s death calls this into question for him as well.

We do know the location of the land in York County, thanks to Gene Miller’s work. The Miller/Bechtol/Garber land was dead center in the middle of the disputed land area.  These pacifist people must have wondered if God had a perverse sense of humor – all things considered.  What we do know is that Susanna’s husband was on a list of wanted men (if it was her Michael Miller) and another member of the Brethren family group, an Ullery, told the sheriff to “go to the devil” – something VERY un-pietist like and so unusual that it was recorded.  These people had been pushed to the breaking point.

Miller page 15

The land owned by the three men, Johann Michael Mueller, Samuel Berchtol/Bechtol and Nicholas Garber is shown above overlayed with dotted lines onto an 1886 map created by Gene Miller.  In the lower corner with the red arrow, you can see the notation Mennonite Church Cemetery on the land owned by these joint landowners.  You can also see that Bechtols by the surname spelling of Bechtel still live on this very land in 1886, 130+ years later.  Today that cemetery is known as the York Road Cemetery and also as Bair’s Mennonite Church Cemetery.

Bair's mennonite church

This cemetery is where Samuel Bechtol who died in 1785 is buried. The Berchtol/Bechtol family was known to be Mennonite.  It’s certainly possible that Susanna Agnes Berchtol was Mennonite as well before shifting slightly to the Brethren faith, which is very similar.  It’s also possible that both Susanna and Michael were Mennonite until after Susanna’s passing when Michael could have become Brethren to marry Elizabeth Garber.  One thing is evident – these three families were of somewhat different faiths, Brethren and Mennonite, and it didn’t seem to cause any problems between them.  The Brethren and Mennonite faiths were very similar except for their forms of baptism and communion.

Regardless, Susanna had to be buried someplace. The fact that Berchtols were buried here some time later might suggest that earlier burials occurred here as well.  Perhaps Susanna isn’t buried far from Samuel.  The church itself was not established until 1774 but a family or community cemetery certainly could have pre-dated the church in this location.

If Susanna did make it to Frederick County, Maryland, she may have been one of the first Brethren to be buried there.


Beginning in the 1760s, Michael began to distribute his remaining land to his children and his step-children. By the time of his death, he owned no land and had no estate probate – unfortunately.  Therefore, the only way we have to connect the dots with his children is via land transactions.

Because Michael did not have a will, we only know of three or four children positively, and a possible fifth. The rest of the individuals attributed to Michael and Susanna are speculation, and there is a lot of speculation online.  If someone does have other children and documentation for such, I would love to add that child.  I have not included any speculative children below.

  • Hans (probably Johann) Peter Mueller, baptized on January 19, 1715, at Konken. We don’t know if this child lived to adulthood. If so, he would probably have married when the family was living in Chester Co, PA. He may be John Miller below.
  • Lodowich Miller probably born 1724 or earlier in Germany. Migrated with his parents and lived in or near Hanover, PA and Hagerstown, MD before marrying Barbara, surname unknown, and migrating to Rockingham Co., VA about 1782 where he likely died in 1792. We have an undated naturalization record for Lodowich.
  • Philip Jacob Miller born about 1726 in Germany. Migrated with his parents and lived near Hanover, York Co., PA. Inherited land from his father in formerly Frederick, present day Washington County, MD near Maugensville. Married Magdalena, probably in York County, who was reported to be a Rochette, although I have never found any documentation or that surname. Philip Jacob remained in Frederick County until 1796 when he, along with his children, migrated to Campbell County, KY where he died in 1799.
  • John Miller inherits part of Ash Swamp from Michael in 1765 and lived there until he died in 1795, likely being buried on his own land on a 50 by 50 foot cemetery plot, now lost to time. He may be Hans Peter Mueller born in 1715. There is an undated naturalization record in Pennsylvania for a John Miller in Maryland, although we can’t tell if this is the same man for sure.
  • Hans Michael Miller is given money to purchase land.
  • Michael Miller Junior is given land.

Sadly, we know of no daughters, although they almost certainly existed. There are numerous people who have suggested individuals in the community as Michael’s daughters, but so far, none have produced any evidence whatsoever.

Susanna lived in several places during her childbearing years and the rest of her marriage years. In other words, if she had other children who died, they could have been baptized and buried in a number of places.  If this happened, it must have been exceedingly difficult for Susanna to move on, leaving her children’s graves behind, and alone.  As a mother, I can tell you that there is always a part of you that remains with those children.

  • 1714-1715 – Krottelback
  • 1716-1721 – Unknown location in Germany
  • 1721 – Possibly Lambshein
  • 1721-1727 – Unknown location in Germany
  • 1727 – Rotterdam, then ship to America
  • 1727-1732 – Unknown location in Pennsylvania
  • 1732-1740 – Coventry Township, Chester County, PA
  • 1740-1744 – Unknown location in Pennsylvania
  • 1744-1752 – Near Hanover, York County, PA
  • 1752+ – Frederick County, MD

If Susanna did not pass away before 1752 when Michael sold his York County land, she could have moved with him to Frederick County, Maryland in 1752, but she was assuredly departed by 1754.

Most women of this timeframe in history never ventured more than ten miles distant from their European home. Susanna Agnes Berchtol was no stereotypical woman and saw a great deal of adventure in her life.  I wonder if she chose this path or if it was chosen for her.  Did she even get to vote on the matter?  Did she look ahead in anticipation, or did she cry every time she left her familiar home?  She did a lot of leaving in her lifetime.  A lot of climbing onto boats, into wagons and probably walking.


Unfortunately, because we don’t have the mitochondrial DNA line of Susanna, we can’t use the unbroken female line mitochondrial DNA to prove a daughter relationship. To do that, we would need to have two individuals who both believe they descend from Susanna through all females – and their mtDNA would need to match at the full sequence level.  Then, we could probably be fairly sure they both do indeed descend from Susanna (or at least a common matrilineal ancestor) – but not Susanna positively without proven genealogical descent.  Of course, finding someone who descends through all females from any of Susanna’s sisters would provide Susanna’s mtDNA as well, since mitochondrial DNA is passed from females to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.  If you have proven descent from Susanna’s sisters, Barbel (Barbara) born about 1693 or Ursula born about 1696, through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

There’s another kind of test for anyone who descends from Johann Michael Mueller and Susanna Agnes Berchtol through any children, male or female, and through any combination of male and female children down that line. It’s an autosomal test called Family Finder at Family Tree DNA. Several people known to descend from this couple through male children have already tested.  If people who believe they descend through female children also test, and match, that’s evidence to suggest that Michael and Susanna Agnes did have female children – and to identify who they are.

If anyone believes they descend from Susanna Agnes Bechtol and Johann Michael Mueller through a female child, they can take the autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA and join the Miller Brethren project. In this project, we have gathered together many of the descendants of Johann Michael Mueller and Susanna Agnes Berchtol and we can compare autosomal DNA against these descendants as well.  Yes, that connection would be several generations back in time.  One could not expect to match all of their descendants, but they could certainly match some of their descendants.  In this situation, the most difficult caveat would be that none of those individuals being compared share any other surname lines.  Of course, in the Brethren community, that’s a difficult goal to achieve.

Still, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility and I encourage everyone who descends from this line to test autosomally and join the Miller Brethren project. I also encourage participants to upload their results to GedMatch where we can adjust match thresholds individually.  In the cases of people matching distantly, this can make quite a difference in terms of whom matches whom.

I have to wonder what Susanna Agnes Berchtol would think of us discussing her DNA. Of course, Susanna would have had no idea what DNA was, although she certainly didn’t seem to be dissuaded by new frontiers.  These small pieces of her DNA are the ties that bind her descendants to her in an unbroken chain of life.

Scattering Breadcrumbs – Your 2016 Genetic Genealogy Goal


Consider this an invitation to be messy.

Yep, I’m asking you to scatter some bread crumbs.

As I look at each new year, I try to focus on something I can finish or at least make progress with.

I’m inviting you to do the same.

In 2016, what is your most pressing genetic genealogy goal? Or maybe your most important genealogy goal that DNA might be able to help you with?

Limit yourself to one ancestor or couple, please, and list their name first so it’s easy for people to see. Be specific so that someone who sees the breadcrumbs can follow them and can determine whether or not they are from the right family line to help you.

Here’s my example.

My 2016 Brick Wall That Needs to Fall

I am brick walled on my Moore line.

James Moore, born about 1721, was first found in Amelia County, Virginia in 1742 on the tax lists. That part of Amelia would later become Prince Edward County, Virginia.  He was a neighbor to Joseph and Rachel Rice and married their daughter, Mary, around 1745.  James Moore is mentioned in Joseph Rice’s will in 1766 as his son-in-law.  By 1770, James and Mary Rice Moore are living in Halifax County, VA, where they live for the rest of their lives.  James and Mary’s death dates are uncertain and there is no will.  Their children are:

  • James (marries Susanna and believed moved to Stokes Co., NC)
  • William (Methodist minister, marries Lucy, stays in Halifax Co.)
  • Lydia (unproven, marries Edward Henderson, stays in Halifax Co.)
  • Mackness (marries Sarah Thompson, moves to Grainger Co., TN)
  • Rice (Methodist minister, marries Elizabeth Madison, moves to Grainger Co., TN)
  • Thomas (unproven, married Polly Baker, dead by 1804 in Halifax leaving 2 orphans)
  • Sally (marries Martin Stubblefield, moves to Grainger/Hawkins Co., TN)
  • Mary (marries Richard Thompson)

We do have Y DNA samples from three of James’ sons’ lines, so we know what his Y DNA looks like. But we cannot find any matches to any Moores other than the Moore men that we know and love as cousins or who are also disconnected at a later date.

My shout-out is this. If you’re a Moore male whose early lineage comes from Virginia or even Pennsylvania, and your line hasn’t been Y DNA tested, please, PLEASE Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA. The only way we’re ever going to connect James with an ancestral line is through Y DNA testing.  I’ve already combed the records of relevant and even just potential feeder counties with no luck.  Many records have burned.

There is a wonderful Moore DNA project that helps people connect with their Moore line.  So whether you connect to my Moore line or not, you’ll likely connect to some line.

Also, if anyone is descended from James Moore’s children’s lines, please take the autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA or contact me if you already have tested at Family Tree DNA or elsewhere.

Your Turn

Please feel free to list your 2016 genetic genealogy goal in the comments section. You don’t know who is going to read your goal and be or know the right person to solve your problem.  People Google 24X7, and yes, my blog shows up in google search results.  As I used to tell my kids, “If you don’t ask, the answer is no.”

So….ask away and scatter a few breadcrumbs. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  You just never know what wonderful discovery may be waiting in the shadows, or who is going to find your breadcrumbs.  As you can see, someone already found mine and it didn’t take long at all!


The Best and Worst of 2015 – Genetic Genealogy Year in Review

2015 Best and Worst

For the past three years I’ve written a year-in-review article. You can see just how much the landscape has changed in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 versions.

This year, I’ve added a few specific “award” categories for people or firms that I feel need to be specially recognized as outstanding in one direction or the other.

In past years, some news items, announcements and innovations turned out to be very important like the Genographic Project and GedMatch, and others, well, not so much. Who among us has tested their full genome today, for example, or even their exome?  And would you do with that information if you did?

And then there are the deaths, like the Sorenson database and Ancestry’s own Y and mitochondrial data base. I still shudder to think how much we’ve lost at the corporate hands of Ancestry.

In past years, there have often been big new announcements facilitated by new technology. In many ways, the big fish have been caught in a technology sense.  Those big fish are autosomal DNA and the Big Y types of tests.  Both of these have created an avalanche of data and we, personally and as a community, are still trying to sort through what all of this means genealogically and how to best utilize the information.  Now we need tools.

This is probably illustrated most aptly by the expansion of the Y tree.

The SNP Tsunami Growing Pains Continue

2015 snp tsunami

Going from 800+ SNPs in 2012 to more than 35,000 SNPs today has introduced its own set of problems. First, there are multiple trees in existence, completely or partially maintained by different organizations for different purposes.  Needless to say, these trees are not in sync with each other.  The criteria for adding a SNP to the tree is decided by the owner or steward of that tree, and there is no agreement as to the definition of a valid SNP or how many instances of that SNP need to be in existence to be added to the tree.

This angst has been taking place for the most part outside of the public view, but it exists just the same.

For example, 23andMe still uses the old haplogroup names like R1b which have not been used in years elsewhere. Family Tree DNA is catching up with updating their tree, working with haplogroup administrators to be sure only high quality, proven SNPs are added to branches.  ISOGG maintains another tree (one branch shown above) that’s publicly available, utilizing volunteers per haplogroup and sometimes per subgroup.  Other individuals and organizations maintain other trees, or branches of trees, some very accurate and some adding a new “branch” with as little as one result.

The good news is that this will shake itself out. Personally, I’m voting for the more conservative approach for public reference trees to avoid “pollution” and a lot of shifting and changing downstream when it’s discovered that the single instance of a SNP is either invalid or in a different branch location.  However, you have to start with an experimental or speculative tree before you can prove that a SNP is where it belongs or needs to be moved, so each of the trees has its own purpose.

The full trees I utilize are the Family Tree DNA tree, available for customers, the ISOGG tree and Ray Banks’ tree which includes locations where the SNPs are found when the geographic location is localized. Within haplogroup projects, I tend to use a speculative tree assembled by the administrators, if one is available.  The haplogroup admins generally know more about their haplogroup or branch than anyone else.

The bad news is that this situation hasn’t shaken itself out yet, and due to the magnitude of the elephant at hand, I don’t think it will anytime soon. As this shuffling and shaking occurs, we learn more about where the SNPs are found today in the world, where they aren’t found, which SNPs are “family” or “clan” SNPs and the timeframes in which they were born.

In other words, this is a learning process for all involved – albeit a slow and frustrating one. However, we are making progress and the tree becomes more robust and accurate every year.

We may be having growing pains, but growing pains aren’t necessarily a bad thing and are necessary for growth.

Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who work on these trees, and in particular, to Alice Fairhurst who has spearheaded the ISOGG tree for the past nine years. Alice retired from that volunteer position this year and is shown below after receiving two much-deserved awards for her service at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November.

2015 ftdna fairhurst 2

Best Innovative Use of Integrated Data

2015 smileDr. Maurice Gleeson receives an award this year for the best genealogical use of integrated types of data. He has utilized just about every tool he can find to wring as much information as possible out of Y DNA results.  Not only that, but he has taken great pains to share that information with us in presentations in the US and overseas, and by creating a video, noted in the article below.  Thanks so much Maurice.

Making Sense of Y Data

Estes pedigree

The advent of massive amounts of Y DNA data has been both wonderful and perplexing. We as genetic genealogists want to know as much about our family as possible, including what the combination of STR and SNP markers means to us.  In other words, we don’t want two separate “test results” but a genealogical marriage of the two.

I took a look at this from the perspective of the Estes DNA project. Of course, everyone else will view those results through the lens of their own surname or haplogroup project.

Estes Big Y DNA Results

At the Family Tree DNA Conference in November, James Irvine and Maurice Gleeson both presented sessions on utilizing a combination of STR and SNP data and various tools in analyzing their individual projects.

Maurice’s presentation was titled “Combining SNPs, STRs and Genealogy to build a Surname Origins Tree.”

Maurice created a wonderful video that includes a lot of information about working with Y DNA results. I would consider this one of the very best Y DNA presentations I’ve ever seen, and thanks to Maurice, it’s available as a video here:

You can view more of Maurice’s work at:

James Irvine’s presentation was titled “Surname Projects – Some Fresh Ideas.” http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/y-dna-surname-projects-some-fresh-ideas

Another excellent presentation discussing Y DNA results was “YDNA maps Scandinavian Family Trees from Medieval Times and the Viking Age” by Peter Sjolund.

Peter’s session at the genealogy conference in Sweden this year was packed. This photo, compliments of Katherine Borges, shows the room and the level of interest in Y-DNA and the messages it holds for genetic genealogists.

sweden 2015

This type of work is the wave of the future, although hopefully it won’t be so manually intensive. However, the process of discovery is by definition laborious.  From this early work will one day emerge reproducible methodologies, the fruits of which we will all enjoy.

Haplogroup Definitions and Discoveries Continue

A4 mutations

Often, haplogroup work flies under the radar today and gets dwarfed by some of the larger citizen science projects, but this work is fundamentally important. In 2015, we made discoveries about haplogroups A4 and C, for example.

Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American

New Haplogroup C Native American Subgroups

Native American Haplogroup C Update – Progress

These aren’t the only discoveries, by any stretch of the imagination. For example, Mike Wadna, administrator for the Haplogroup R1b Project reports that there are now over 1500 SNPs on the R1b tree at Family Tree DNA – which is just about twice as many as were known in total for the entire Y tree in 2012 before the Genographic project was introduced.

The new Y DNA SNP Packs being introduced by Family Tree DNA which test more than 100 SNPs for about $100 will go a very long way in helping participants obtain haplogroup assignments further down the tree without doing the significantly more expensive Big Y test. For example, the R1b-DF49XM222 SNP Pack tests 157 SNPs for $109.  Of course, if you want to discover your own private line of SNPs, you’ll have to take the Big Y.  SNP Packs can only test what is already known and the Big Y is a test of discovery.

                       Best Blog2015 smile

Jim Bartlett, hands down, receives this award for his new and wonderful blog, Segmentology.

                             Making Sense of Autosomal DNA


Our autosomal DNA results provide us with matches at each of the vendors and at GedMatch, but what do we DO with all those matches and how to we utilize the genetic match information? How to we translate those matches into ancestral information.  And once we’ve assigned a common ancestor to a match with an individual, how does that match affect other matches on that same segment?

2015 has been the year of sorting through the pieces and defining terms like IBS (identical by state, which covers both identical by population and identical by chance) and IBD (identical by descent). There has been a lot written this year.

Jim Bartlett, a long-time autosomal researcher has introduced his new blog, Segmentology, to discuss his journey through mapping ancestors to his DNA segments. To the best of my knowledge, Jim has mapped more of his chromosomes than any other researcher, more than 80% to specific ancestors – and all of us can leverage Jim’s lessons learned.

Segmentology.org by Jim Bartlett

When you visit Jim’s site, please take a look at all of his articles. He and I and others may differ slightly in the details our approach, but the basics are the same and his examples are wonderful.

Autosomal DNA Testing – What Now?

Autosomal DNA Testing 101 – Tips and Tricks for Contact Success

How Phasing Works and Determining IBS vs IBD Matches

Just One Cousin

Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching

A Study Using Small Segment Matching

Finally, A How-To Class for Working with Autosomal Results

Parent-Child Non-Matching Autosomal DNA Segments

A Match List Does Not an Ancestor Make

4 Generation Inheritance Study

Phasing Yourself

Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum

Earlier in the year, there was a lot of discussion and dissention about the definition of and use of small segments. I utilize them, carefully, generally in conjunction with larger segments.  Others don’t.  Here’s my advice.  Don’t get yourself hung up on this.  You probably won’t need or use small segments until you get done with the larger segments, meaning low-hanging fruit, or unless you are doing a very specific research project.  By the time you get to that point, you’ll understand this topic and you’ll realize that the various researchers agree about far more than they disagree, and you can make your own decision based on your individual circumstances. If you’re entirely endogamous, small segments may just make you crazy.  However, if you’re chasing a colonial American ancestor, then you may need those small segments to identify or confirm that ancestor.

It is unfortunate, however, that all of the relevant articles are not represented in the ISOGG wiki, allowing people to fully educate themselves. Hopefully this can be updated shortly with the additional articles, listed above and from Jim Bartlett’s blog, published during this past year.

Recreating the Dead

James Crumley overlapping segments

James and Catherne Crumley segments above, compliments of Kitty Cooper’s tools

As we learn more about how to use autosomal DNA, we have begun to reconstruct our ancestors from the DNA of their descendants. Not as in cloning, but as in attributing DNA found in multiple descendants that originate from a common ancestor, or ancestral couple.  The first foray into this arena was GedMatch with their Lazarus tool.

Lazarus – Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

I have taken a bit of a different proof approach wherein I recreated an ancestor, James Crumley, born in 1712 from the matching DNA of roughly 30 of his descendants.

I did the same thing, on an experimental smaller scale about a year ago with my ancestor, Henry Bolton.

This is the way of the future in genetic genealogy, and I’ll be writing more about the Crumley project and the reconstruction of James Crumley in 2016.

                         Lump Of Coal Award(s)2015 frown

This category is a “special category” that is exactly what you think it is. Yep, this is the award no one wants.  We have a tie for the Lump of Coal Award this year between Ancestry and 23andMe.

               Ancestry Becomes the J.R. Ewing of the Genealogy World

2015 Larry Hagman

Attribution : © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com

Some of you may remember J.R. Ewing on the television show called Dallas that ran from 1978 through 1991. J.R. Ewing, a greedy and unethical oil tycoon was one of the main characters.  The series was utterly mesmerizing, and literally everyone tuned in.  We all, and I mean universally, hated J.R. Ewing for what he unfeelingly and selfishly did to his family and others.  Finally, in a cliffhanger end of the season episode, someone shot J.R. Ewing.  OMG!!!  We didn’t know who.  We didn’t know if J.R. lived or died.  Speculation was rampant.  “Who shot JR?” was the theme on t-shirts everyplace that summer.  J.R. Ewing, over time, became the man all of America loved to hate.

Ancestry has become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world for the same reasons.

In essence, in the genetic genealogy world, Ancestry introduced a substandard DNA product, which remains substandard years later with no chromosome browser or comparison tools that we need….and they have the unmitigated audacity to try to convince us we really don’t need those tools anyway. Kind of like trying to convince someone with a car that they don’t need tires.

Worse, yet, they’ve introduced “better” tools (New Ancestor Discoveries), as in tools that were going to be better than a chromosome browser.  New Ancestor Discoveries “gives us” ancestors that aren’t ours. Sadly, there are many genealogists being led down the wrong path with no compass available.

Ancestry’s history of corporate stewardship is abysmal and continues with the obsolescence of various products and services including the Sorenson DNA database, their own Y and mtDNA database, MyFamily and most recently, Family Tree Maker. While the Family Tree Maker announcement has been met with great gnashing of teeth and angst among their customers, there are other software programs available.  Ancestry’s choices to obsolete the DNA data bases is irrecoverable and a huge loss to the genetic genealogy community.  That information is lost forever and not available elsewhere – a priceless, irreplaceable international treasure intentionally trashed.

If Ancestry had not bought up nearly all of the competing resources, people would be cancelling their subscriptions in droves to use another company – any other company. But there really is no one else anymore.  Ancestry knows this, so they have become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world – uncaring about the effects of their decisions on their customers or the community as a whole.  It’s hard for me to believe they have knowingly created such wholesale animosity within their own customer base.  I think having a job as a customer service rep at Ancestry would be an extremely undesirable job right now.  Many customers are furious and Ancestry has managed to upset pretty much everyone one way or another in 2015.

AncestryDNA Has Now Thoroughly Lost Its Mind

Kenny, Kenny, Kenny

Dear Kenny – Any Suggestions for our New Ancestor Discoveries?

RIP Sorenson – A Crushing Loss

Of Babies and Bathwater

Facts Matter

Getting the Most Out of AncestryDNA

Ancestry Gave Me a New DNA Ancestor and It’s Wrong

Testing Ancestry’s Amazing New Ancestor DNA Claim

Dissecting AncestryDNA Circles and New Ancestors

Squaring the Circle

Still Waiting for the Holy Grail

A Dozen Ancestors That Aren’t aka Bad NADs

The Logic and Birth of a Bad NAD (New Ancestor Discovery)

Circling the Shews

Naughty Bad NADs Sneak Home Under Cover of Darkness

Ancestry Shared Matches Combined with New Ancestor Discoveries

Ancestry Shakey Leaf Disappearing Matches: Now You See Them – Now You Don’t

Ancestry’s New Amount of Shared DNA – What Does It Really Mean?

The Winds of Change

Confusion – Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.com

DNA: good news, bad news

Check out the Alternatives

GeneAwards 2015

23andMe Betrays Genealogists

2015 broken heart

In October, 23andMe announced that it has reached an agreement with the FDA about reporting some health information such as carrier status and traits to their clients. As a part of or perhaps as a result of that agreement, 23andMe is dramatically changing the user experience.

In some aspects, the process will be simplified for genealogists with a universal opt-in. However, other functions are being removed and the price has doubled.  New advertising says little or nothing about genealogy and is entirely medically focused.  That combined with the move of the trees offsite to MyHeritage seems to signal that 23andMe has lost any commitment they had to the genetic genealogy community, effectively abandoning the group entirely that pulled their collective bacon out of the fire. This is somehow greatly ironic in light of the fact that it was the genetic genealogy community through their testing recommendations that kept 23andMe in business for the two years, from November of 2013 through October of 2015 when the FDA had the health portion of their testing shut down.  This is a mighty fine thank you.

As a result of the changes at 23andMe relative to genealogy, the genetic genealogy community has largely withdrawn their support and recommendations to test at 23andMe in favor of Ancestry and Family Tree DNA.

Kelly Wheaton, writing on the Facebook ISOGG group along with other places has very succinctly summed up the situation:

You can also view Kelly’s related posts from earlier in December and their comments at:

My account at 23andMe has not yet been converted to the new format, so I cannot personally comment on the format changes yet, but I will write about the experience in 2016 after my account is converted.

Furthermore, I will also be writing a new autosomal vendor testing comparison article after their new platform is released.

I Hate 23andMe

23andMe to Get Makeover After Agreement With FDA

23andMe Metamorphosis

The Changes at 23andMe

The 23and Me Transition – The First Step

The Winds of Change

Why Autosomal Response Rate Really Does Matter

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown

Now…and not now

                             Cone of Shame Award 2015 frown

Another award this year is the Cone of Shame award which is also awarded to both Ancestry and 23andMe for their methodology of obtaining “consent” to sell their customers’, meaning our, DNA and associated information.

Genetic Genealogy Data Gets Sold

2015 shame

Unfortunately, 2015 has been the year that the goals of both 23andMe and Ancestry have become clear in terms of our DNA data. While 23andMe has always been at least somewhat focused on health, Ancestry never was previously, but has now hired a health officer and teamed with Calico for medical genetics research.

Now, both Ancestry and 23andMe have made research arrangements and state in their release and privacy verbiage that all customers must electronically sign (or click through) when purchasing their DNA tests that they can sell, at minimum, your anonymized DNA data, without any further consent.  And there is no opt-out at that level.

They can also use our DNA and data internally, meaning that 23andMe’s dream of creating and patenting new drugs can come true based on your DNA that you submitted for genealogical purposes, even if they never sell it to anyone else.

In an interview in November, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki said the following:

23andMe is now looking at expanding beyond the development of DNA testing and exploring the possibility of developing its own medications. In July, the company raised $79 million to partly fund that effort. Additionally, the funding will likely help the company continue with the development of its new therapeutics division. In March, 23andMe began to delve into the therapeutics market, to create a third pillar behind the company’s personal genetics tests and sales of genetic data to pharmaceutical companies.

Given that the future of genetic genealogy at these two companies seems to be tied to the sale of their customer’s genetic and other information, which, based on the above, is very clearly worth big bucks, I feel that the fact that these companies are selling and utilizing their customer’s information in this manner should be fully disclosed. Even more appropriate, the DNA information should not be sold or utilized for research without an informed consent that would traditionally be used for research subjects.

Within the past few days, I wrote an article, providing specifics and calling on both companies to do the following.

  1. To minimally create transparent, understandable verbiage that informs their customers before the end of the purchase process that their DNA will be sold or utilized for unspecified research with the intention of financial gain and that there is no opt-out. However, a preferred plan of action would be a combination of 2 and 3, below.
  2. Implement a plan where customer DNA can never be utilized for anything other than to deliver the services to the consumers that they purchased unless a separate, fully informed consent authorization is signed for each research project, without coercion, meaning that the client does not have to sign the consent to obtain any of the DNA testing or services.
  3. To immediately stop utilizing the DNA information and results from customers who have already tested until they have signed an appropriate informed consent form for each research project in which their DNA or other information will be utilized.

And Now Ancestry Health

Opting Out

Ancestry Terms of Use Updated

AncestryDNA Doings

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown

23andMe and Ancestry and Selling Your DNA Information

                      Citizen Science Leadership Award   2015 smile

The Citizen Science Leadership Award this year goes to Blaine Bettinger for initiating the Shared cM Project, a crowdsourced project which benefits everyone.

Citizen Scientists Continue to Push the Edges of the Envelope with the Shared cM Project

Citizen scientists, in the words of Dr. Doron Behar, “are not amateurs.” In fact, citizen scientists have been contributing mightily and pushing the edge of the genetic genealogy frontier consistently now for 15 years.  This trend continues, with new discoveries and new ways of viewing and utilizing information we already have.

For example, Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project was begun in March and continues today. This important project has provided real life information as to the real matching amounts and ranges between people of different relationships, such as first cousins, for example, as compared to theoretical match amounts.  This wonderful project produced results such as this:

2015 shared cM

I don’t think Blaine initially expected this project to continue, but it has and you can read about it, see the rest of the results, and contribute your own data here. Blaine has written several other articles on this topic as well, available at the same link.

Am I Weird or What?

Jim Owston analyzed fourth cousins and other near distant relationships in his Owston one-name study:

I provided distant cousin information in the Crumley surname study:

I hope more genetic genealogists will compile and contribute this type of real world data as we move forward. If you have compiled something like this, the Surname DNA Journal is peer reviewed and always looking for quality articles for publication.

Privacy, Law Enforcement and DNA

2015 privacy

Unfortunately, in May, a situation by which Y DNA was utilized in a murder investigation was reported in a sensationalist “scare” type fashion.  This action provided cause, ammunition or an excuse for Ancestry to remove the Sorenson data base from public view.

I find this exceedingly, exceedingly unfortunate. Given Ancestry’s history with obsoleting older data bases instead of updating them, I’m suspecting this was an opportune moment for Ancestry to be able to withdraw this database, removing a support or upgrade problem from their plate and blame the problem on either law enforcement or the associated reporting.

I haven’t said much about this situation, in part because I’m not a lawyer and in part because the topic is so controversial and there is no possible benefit since the damage has already been done. Unfortunately, nothing anyone can say or has said will bring back the Sorenson (or Ancestry) data bases and arguments would be for naught.  We already beat this dead horse a year ago when Ancestry obsoleted their own data base.  On this topic, be sure to read Judy Russell’s articles and her sources as well for the “rest of the story.”

Privacy, the Police and DNA

Big Easy DNA Not So Easy

Of Babies and Bathwater

Facts Matter

Genetic genealogy standards from within the community were already in the works prior to the Idaho case, referenced above, and were subsequently published as guidelines.

Announcing Genetic Genealogy Standards

The standards themselves:

Ancient DNA Results Continue to Amass

“Moorleiche3-Schloss-Gottorf” by Commander-pirx at de.wikipedia – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Ancient DNA is difficult to recover and even more difficult to sequence, reassembling tiny little blocks of broken apart DNA into an ancient human genome.

However, each year we see a few more samples and we are beginning to repaint the picture of human population movement, which is different than we thought it would be.

One of the best summaries of the ancient ancestry field was Michael Hammer’s presentation at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November titled “R1B and the Peopling of Europe: an Ancient DNA Update.” His slides are available here:

One of the best ongoing sources for this information is Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog. He covered most of the new articles and there have been several.  That’s the good news and the bad news, all rolled into one. http://dienekes.blogspot.com/

I have covered several that were of particular interest to the evolution of Europeans and Native Americans.

Yamnaya, Light Skinned Brown Eyed….Ancestors?

Kennewick Man is Native American

Botocudo – Ancient Remains from Brazil

Some Native had Oceanic Ancestors

Homo Naledi – A New Species Discovered

Massive Pre-Contact Grave in California Yields Disappointing Results

I know of several projects involving ancient DNA that are in process now, so 2016 promises to be a wonderful ancient DNA year!


2015 education

Many, many new people discover genetic genealogy every day and education continues to be an ongoing and increasing need. It’s a wonderful sign that all major conferences now include genetic genealogy, many with a specific track.

The European conferences have done a great deal to bring genetic genealogy testing to Europeans. European testing benefits those of us whose ancestors were European before immigrating to North America.  This year, ISOGG volunteers staffed booths and gave presentations at genealogy conferences in Birmingham, England, Dublin, Ireland and in Nyköping, Sweden, shown below, photo compliments of Catherine Borges.

ISOGG volunteers

Several great new online educational opportunities arose this year, outside of conferences, for which I’m very grateful.

DNA Lectures YouTube Channel

Allen County Public Library Online Resources

DNA Data Organization Tools and Who’s on First

Genetic Genealogy Educational Resource List

Genetic Genealogy Ireland Videos

DNA Lectures – Who Do You Think You Are

Ongoing and Online Classes in how to utilize both Y and autosomal DNA

Education Award

2015 smile Family Tree DNA receives the Education Award this year along with a huge vote of gratitude for their 11 years of genetic genealogy conferences. They are the only testing or genealogy company to hold a conference of this type and they do a fantastic job.  Furthermore, they sponsor additional educational events by providing the “theater” for DNA presentations at international events such as the Who Do You Think You Are conference in England.  Thank you Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA Conference

ftdna 2015

The Family Tree DNA Conference, held in November, was a hit once again. I’m not a typical genealogy conference person.  My focus is on genetic genealogy, so I want to attend a conference where I can learn something new, something leading edge about the science of genetic genealogy – and that conference is definitely the Family Tree DNA conference.

Furthermore, Family Tree DNA offers tours of their lab on the Monday following the conference for attendees, and actively solicits input on their products and features from conference attendees and project administrators.

2015 FTDNA lab

Family Tree DNA 11th International Conference – The Best Yet

All of the conference presentations that were provided by the presenters have been made available by Family Tree DNA at:

2016 Genetic Genealogy Wish List

2015 wish list

In 2014, I presented a wish list for 2015 and it didn’t do very well.  Will my 2015 list for 2016 fare any better?

  • Ancestry restores Sorenson and their own Y and mtDNA data bases in some format or contributes to an independent organization like ISOGG.
  • Ancestry provides chromosome browser.
  • Ancestry removes or revamps Timber in order to restore legitimate matches removed by Timber algorithm.
  • Fully informed consent (per research project) implemented by 23andMe and Ancestry, and any other vendor who might aspire to sell consumer DNA or related information, without coercion, and not as a prerequisite for purchasing a DNA testing product. DNA and information will not be shared or utilized internally or externally without informed consent and current DNA information will cease being used in this fashion until informed consent is granted by customers who have already tested.
  • Improved ethnicity reporting at all vendors including ancient samples and additional reference samples for Native Americans.
  • Autosomal Triangulation tools at all vendors.
  • Big Y and STR integration and analysis enhancement at Family Tree DNA.
  • Ancestor Reconstruction
  • Mitochondrial and Y DNA search tools by ancestor and ancestral line at Family Tree DNA.
  • Improved tree at Family Tree DNA – along with new search capabilities.
  • 23andMe restores lost capabilities, drops price, makes changes and adds features previously submitted as suggestions by community ambassadors.
  • More tools (This is equivalent to “bring me some surprises” on my Santa list as a kid.)

My own goals haven’t changed much over the years. I still just want to be able to confirm my genealogy, to learn as much as I can about each ancestor, and to break down brick walls and fill in gaps.

I’m very hopeful each year as more tools and methodologies emerge.  More people test, each one providing a unique opportunity to match and to understand our past, individually and collectively.  Every year genetic genealogy gets better!  I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy and Ancestrally Prosperous New Year!

2015 happy new year

Top 10 Most Popular Articles of 2015

Wordpress 2015

WordPress, the blogging software I use, provides a year-end summary that is quite interesting.

I really like this report, as I tend to be very focused on what I’m researching and writing, not on stats – so this is a refreshing break and summary. I thought you might be interested too.

The top 10 most viewed posts in 2015 were, in order from least to most:

10thPromethease – Genetic Health Information Alternative – From December 2013

People are beginning to ask about how they can obtain some of the health information that they were previously receiving from 23andMe.  For $5, at Promethease,  you can upload any of the autosomal files from either Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or Ancestry.com.  They will process your raw data and provide you with a report that is available to download from their server for 45 days.  They also e-mail you a copy.

9thX Marks the Spot – From September 2012

When using autosomal DNA, the X chromosome is a powerful tool with special inheritance properties.  Many people think that mitochondrial DNA is the same as the X chromosome.  It’s not.

8thThick Hair, Small Boobs, Shovel Shaped Teeth and More – From February 2013

Yep, there’s a gene for these traits, and more.  The same gene, named EDAR (short for Ectodysplasin receptor EDARV370A), it turns out, also confers more sweat glands and distinctive teeth and is found in the majority of East Asian people.

7thMythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA – From June 2013

I’m sometimes amazed at what people believe – and not just a few people – but a lot of people.

Recently, I ran across a situation where someone was just adamant that autosomal DNA could not help a female find or identify her father.  That’s simply wrong. Incorrect.  Nada!  This isn’t, I repeat, IS NOT, true of autosomal testing.

6th4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy – from October 2012 – This is probably the article I refer people to most often.  It’s the basics, just the basics.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the different “kinds” of DNA and how they can be used for genetic genealogy.

It used to be simple.  When this “industry” first started, in the year 2000, you could test two kinds of DNA and it was straightforward.  Now we’ve added more DNA, more tools and more testing companies and it’s not quite so straightforward anymore.

5thIs History Repeating Itself at Ancestry? – from August 2012

Is history repeating itself at Ancestry?

I’ve been thinking about whether or not I should publish this posting.  As I write and rewrite it, I still haven’t made up my mind.  It’s one of those sticky wickets, as they are called.  One of the reasons I hesitate is that I have far more questions than answers.

4thWhat is a Haplogroup? – From January 2013

Sometimes we’ve been doing genetic genealogy for so long we forget what it’s like to be new.  I’m reminded, sometimes humorously, by some of the questions I receive.

3rdAutosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best? – From February 2015

This now obsolete article compared the autosomal tests from Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe.  23andMe, as of year end (2015), is in the midst of rewriting their platform, which obsoletes some of the tools they offered previously.   As soon as the 23andMe transition to their new platform is complete, I’ll be writing an updated version of this article for 2016.  Until then, suffice it to say I am recommending Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, in that order.

2ndEthnicity Results – True or Not? – from October 2013

I can’t even begin to tell you how many questions I receive that go something like this:

“I received my ethnicity results from XYZ.  I’m confused.  The results don’t seem to align with my research and I don’t know what to make of them?”

1stProving Native American Ancestry Using DNA – From December 2012 – this has been the most popular article every year since 2012. This doesn’t surprise me, as it’s also the most common question I receive.

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one.

“My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.”


I was surprised, at first, to see so many older posts, but then I realized they have had more time to accumulate hits.

Of these all-time Top 10, three of them, including the most popular, which is most popular by far, have to do with Native American ancestry, directly or indirectly. The most common questions I receive about ethnicity also relate to the discovery of Native American ancestry.

Thank you everyone for coming along with me on this on this wonderful journey.  It will be exciting to see what 2016 has to offer.  I already have some exciting research planned that I’ll be sharing with you.

Happy New Year everyone!  I’m wishing you new ancestors!

23andMe, Ancestry and Selling Your DNA Information

Are you aware that when you purchase a DNA kit for genealogy testing through either 23andMe or Ancestry that you are literally giving these companies carte blanche to your DNA, the rights to your DNA information, including for medical utilization meaning sales to Big Pharm, and there is absolutely no opt-out, meaning they can in essence do anything they want with your anonymized data?

Both companies also have a higher research participation level that you can choose to participate in, or opt out of, that grants them permission to sell or otherwise utilize your non-anonymized data, meaning your identity is attached to that information.

However, opting out of his higher level DOES NOT stop the company from utilizing, sharing or selling your anonymized DNA and data.  Anonymized data means your identity and what they consider identifying information has been removed.

Many people think that if you opt-out, your DNA and data is never shared or sold, but according to 23andMe and Ancestry’s own documentation, that’s not true. Opt-out is not truly opt-out.  It’s only opting out of them sharing your non-anonymized data – meaning just the higher level of participation only.  They still share your anonymized data in aggregated fashion.

Some people are fine with this. Some aren’t.  Many people don’t really understand the situation.  I didn’t initially.  I’m very uncomfortable with this situation, and here’s why.

First, let me say very clearly that I’m not opposed to WHAT either 23andMe or Ancestry is doing, I’m very concerned with HOW, meaning their methodology for obtaining consent.

I feel like a consumer should receive what they pay for and not have their DNA data co-opted, often without their knowledge, explicit permission or full situational understanding, for other purposes.

There should also be no coercion involved – meaning the customer should not be required to participate in medical research as a condition of obtaining a genealogy test.  Most people have no idea this is happening.  I certainly didn’t.

How could a consumer not know, you ask?

Because these companies don’t make their policies and intentions clear.  Their language, in multiple documents that refer back and forth to each other, is extremely confusing.

Neither company explains what they are going to (or can) do with your DNA in plain English, before the end of the purchase process, so that the customer clearly understands what they are doing (or authorizing) IN ADDITION to what they intended to do. Obtaining customer permission in this fashion is hardly “informed consent” which is a prerequisite for a subject’s participation in research.

The University of Southern California has prepared this document describing the different aspects of informed consent for research.  If you read this document, then look at the consent, privacy and terms and conditions documents of both Ancestry and 23andMe, you will notice significant differences.

While 23andMe has clearly been affiliated with the medical community for some time, Ancestry historically has not and there is absolutely no reason for an Ancestry customer to suspect that Ancestry is doing something else with their DNA. After all, Ancestry is a genealogy company, not a medical genetics company.  Aren’t they???

Let’s look at each of these two companies Individually.


At 23andMe, when you purchase a kit, you see the following final purchase screen.

23andMe Terms of Service

On the very last review page, after the “order total” is the tiny “I accept the terms of service” checkbox, just above the large grey “submit order” box. That’s the first and only time this box appears.  By this time, the consumer has already made their purchase decision, has already entered their credit card number and is simply doing a final review and approval.

In the 23andMe Terms of Service, we find this:

Waiver of Property Rights: You understand that by providing any sample, having your Genetic Information processed, accessing your Genetic Information, or providing Self-Reported Information, you acquire no rights in any research or commercial products that may be developed by 23andMe or its collaborating partners. You specifically understand that you will not receive compensation for any research or commercial products that include or result from your Genetic Information or Self-Reported Information.

You understand that you should not expect any financial benefit from 23andMe as a result of having your Genetic Information processed; made available to you; or, as provided in our Privacy Statement and Terms of Service, shared with or included in Aggregated Genetic and Self-Reported Information shared with research partners, including commercial partners.

Clicking on the privacy policy showed me the following information in their privacy highlights document:

  1. We may share anonymized and aggregate information with third parties; anonymized and aggregate information is any information that has been stripped of your name and contact information and aggregated with information of others or anonymized so that you cannot reasonably be identified as an individual.

In their full Privacy statement, we find this:

By using our Services, you agree to all of the policies and procedures described in the foregoing documents.

Under the Withdrawing Consent paragraph:

If you withdraw your consent for research your Genetic Information and Self-Reported Information may still be used by us and shared with our third-party service providers to provide and improve our Services (as described in Section 4.a), and shared as Aggregate Information that does not identify you as an individual (as described in Section 4.d).

And in their “What Happens if you do NOT consent to 23andMe Research” section:

If you do not complete a Consent Document or any additional consent agreement with 23andMe, your information will not be used for 23andMe Research. However, your Genetic Information and Self-Reported Information may still be used by us and shared with our third-party service providers to provide and improve our Services (as described in Section 4.a), and shared as Aggregate or Anonymous Information that does not reasonably identify you as an individual (as described in Section 4.d).

If you don’t like these terms, here’s what you can do about it:

If you want to terminate your legal agreement with 23andMe, you may do so by notifying 23andMe at any time in writing, which will entail closing your accounts for all of the Services that you use.

You can read the 23andMe full privacy statement here.

You can read the 23andMe Terms of Service here.

You can read the Consent document here.


Ancestry recently jumped into the medical research arena, forming an alliance with Calico to provide them with DNA information – that would be Ancestry’s customer DNA information – meaning your DNA if you’re an AncestryDNA customer. You can read about this here, here and here.

When you purchase an AncestryDNA kit, you are asked the following, also at the very end of the purchase process.  If you don’t click, you receive an error message, shown below.

Ancestry Terms and Conditions crop

Here are the Ancestry Terms and Conditions.

Here is the Ancestry Privacy Statement.

From Ancestry’s Terms and Conditions, here’s what you are authorizing:

By submitting DNA to AncestryDNA, you grant AncestryDNA and the Ancestry Group Companies a perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide, transferable license to use your DNA, and any DNA you submit for any person from whom you obtained legal authorization as described in this Agreement, and to use, host, sublicense and distribute the resulting analysis to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered. You hereby release AncestryDNA from any and all claims, liens, demands, actions or suits in connection with the DNA sample, the test or results thereof, including, without limitation, errors, omissions, claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, right of publicity, emotional distress or economic loss. This license continues even if you stop using the Website or the Service.

From their Privacy Statement, here’s what Ancestry says they are doing with your DNA:

vi) To perform research: AncestryDNA will internally analyze Users’ results to make discoveries in the study of genealogy, anthropology, evolution, languages, cultures, medicine, and other topics.

The is no complete opt-out at Ancestry either.

Now What?

So, how many of you read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statements at either 23andMe or Ancestry and understood that you were in essence giving them carte blanche with your anonymized data when you purchased your tests from them?

Is this what you intended to do?

How many of you understood that the ONLY way to obtain your genealogy information, ethnicity and matching is to grant 23andMe and Ancestry authorization to use your DNA for other purposes?

How many of you understood you could never entirely opt-out?

Where is your DNA?

Who has it?

What are they doing with it?

How much did or will Ancestry or 23andMe, or Big Pharm make from it?

Why would they want to obtain your DNA in this manner, instead of being entirely transparent and forthright and obtaining a typical informed consent?

Are they or their partners utilizing your DNA to design high end drugs and services that you as a consumer will never be able to afford?

Are they using your DNA to design gene manipulation techniques that you might personally be opposed to?

Do you care?

Personally, I was done participating in research when 23andMe patented their Designer Baby technology, and I’ve never changed my mind since.  There is a vast difference between research to cure Parkinson’s and cancer and focusing your research efforts on creating designer children.

People who do want medical information (such as from 23andMe) should be allowed to receive that, personally, for their own use – but no one’s DNA should be co-opted for something other than what they had intended when they made the purchase without a very explicit, separate, opt-in for any other usage of their DNA, including anonymized data.


People who purchase these services for genealogy information shouldn’t have to worry about their DNA being utilized for anything else if that’s not their specific and direct choice.

I shouldn’t have to opt-out of something I didn’t want and didn’t know I was signing up for in the first place – a type of usage that wouldn’t be something one would normally expect when purchasing a genealogy product. Furthermore, if I opt out, I should be able to opt out entirely.  You only discover opt-out isn’t truly opt-out by reading lots of fine print, or asking an attorney.  And yes, I still had to ask an attorney, to be certain, even after reading all the fine print.

Why did I ask a legal expert?  Because I was just sure I was wrong – that I was missing something in the confusing spaghetti verbiage.  I couldn’t believe these companies could actually do this.  I couldn’t believe I had been that naïve and gullible, or didn’t read thoroughly enough.  Well, guess what – I was naïve and gullible and the companies can and do utilize our DNA in this manner.

Besides that, “everyone knows” that companies can’t just do what they want with your DNA without an informed consent.  Right?  Anyone dealing with medicine knows that – and it’s widely believed within the genetic genealogy community.  And it’s wrong.

It seems that 23andMe and Ancestry have borrowed a page from the side of medical research where “discarded” tissues are used routinely for research without informed consent of the person from whom they originated.  This article in the New York Times details the practice, an excerpt given below:

Tissues from millions of Americans are used in research without their knowledge. These “clinical biospecimens” are leftovers from blood tests, biopsies and surgeries. If your identity is removed, scientists don’t have to ask your permission to use them. How people feel about this varies depending on everything from their relationship to their DNA to how they define life and death. Many bioethicists aren’t bothered by the research being done with those samples — without it we wouldn’t have some of our most important medical advances. What concerns them is that people don’t know they’re participating, or have a choice. This may be about to change.

Change is Needed

The 23andMe and Ancestry process of consent needs to change too.

I would feel a lot better about the 23andMe and Ancestry practices if both companies simply said, before purchase, in plain transparent normal-human-without-a-law-degree understandable language, the following type of statement:

“If you purchase this product, you cannot opt out of research and we will sell or utilize your anonymized results, including any information submitted to us (trees, surveys, etc.) for unspecified medical and pharmaceutical research of our choosing from which we and our partners intend to profit financially.”

If I am wrong and there is a way to opt out of research entirely, including anonymized aggregated data, while still retaining all of the genealogy services paid for from the vendor, I’ll be more than happy to publish that verbiage and clarification.

Today, the details are buried in layers of verbiage and the bottom-line meaning certainly is not clear. And it’s very easy to just “click through” because you have no choice if you want to order the test for your genealogy. You cannot place an order without agreeing and clicking the box.

This less-than-forthright technique of obtaining “consent” may be legal, and it’s certainly effective for the companies, guaranteeing them 100% participation, but it just isn’t morally or ethically right.

Shame on us, the consumers, for not reading the fine print, assuming everyone could understand it.

But shame on both companies for burying that verbiage and taking advantage of the genealogists’ zeal, knowing full well, under the current setup, we must authorize, without fully informed consent, their use of our DNA in order to test in their systems to obtain our genealogy information.  They know full well that people will simply click through without understanding the fine print, which is why the “I accept” box is positioned where it is in the sales process, and the companies are likely depending on that “click through” behavior.

Shame on them for being less than forthright, providing no entire opt-out, or better yet, requiring a fully informed-consent intentional opt-in.

Furthermore, these two large companies are likely only the tip of the iceberg – leading the charge as it were. I don’t know of any other DNA testing companies that are selling your DNA data today – at least not yet.  And just because I don’t know about it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Other Companies

Family Tree DNA, the third of the three big autosomal DNA testing companies, has not and is not participating in selling or otherwise providing customer DNA or data for medical or third party research or utilization.  I confirmed this with the owners, this week.

Surely, if Ancestry and 23andMe continue to get away with this less than forthright technique, more companies will follow suit.  It’s clearly very profitable.

Today, DNA.Land, a new site, offers genetic genealogists “value” in exchange for the use of their DNA data.  However, DNA.Land is not charging the consumer for testing services nor obtaining consent in a surreptitious way.  They do utilize your DNA, but that is the entire purpose of this organization.  (This is not an endorsement of their organization or services – just a comment.)

GedMatch, a third party site utilized heavily by genetic genealogists states their data sharing or selling policy clearly.

It is our policy to never provide your genealogy, DNA information, or email address to 3rd parties, except as noted above.

They further state:

We may use your data in our own research, to develop or improve applications.

Using data internally for application improvement for the intended use of the test is fully legitimate, can and should be expected of every vendor.

Bottom line – before you participate in DNA testing or usage of a third party site, read the fine print fully and understand that no matter how a vendor tries, your DNA can never be fully anonymized.

Call to Action

I would call on both 23andMe and Ancestry to make what they are doing, and intend to do, with their customers DNA much more transparent. Consumers have the right to clearly know before they purchase the product if they are required to sign an authorization such as this and what it actually means to them.

Furthermore, I would call on both companies to implement a plan whereby our DNA can never be used for anything other than to deliver to us, the consumers, the product(s) and services for which we’ve paid unless we sign, separately, and without coercion, a fully informed consent opt-in waiver that explains very specifically and clearly what will occur with our DNA.

These companies clearly don’t want to do this, because it would likely reduce their participation rate dramatically – from 100% today for anonymized aggregated data, because there is no opt-out at that level, to a rate significantly lower.

I’m reminded of when my children were teenagers.  One of them took the car someplace they knew they didn’t have permission to go.  I asked them why they didn’t ask permission first, and they rolled their eyes, looked at me like I was entirely stupid and said, “Because you would have said no.  At least I got to go this way.”  Yes, car privileges were removed and they were grounded.

Currently 23andMe reports an amazing 85-90% participation rate, which has to reflect their higher non-anonymized level of participation because their participation rate in the anonymized aggregated level is 100%, because it’s mandatory.  Their “consent” techniques have come under question by others in the field as well, according to this article.  Many people who do consent believe their participation is altruistic, meaning that only nonprofit organizations like the Michael J. Fox Foundation will benefit, not realizing the full scope of how their DNA data can be utilized.  That’s what I initially thought at 23andMe.  Did I ever feel stupid, and duped, when that designer baby patent was issued.

Lastly, I would call on both companies to obtain a fully informed consent for every person in their system today who has already purchased their product, and to discontinue using any of the data in any way for anyone who does not sign that fully informed consent. This includes internal use (aside from product improvement), not just third party data sharing or sales, given that 23andMe is planning on developing their own drugs.

If you support this call to action, let both companies know. Furthermore, vote with your money and consumer voice. I will be making sure that anyone who asks about testing firms is fully aware of this issue.  You can do the same thing by linking to this article.

Call them:

23andMe – 1-800-239-5230
Ancestry – 1-800-401-3193 or 1-800-262-3787 in the US. For other locations click here

Write them:

23andMe – customercare@23andme.com
Ancestry – Memberservices@ancestrydna.com

I genuinely hope these vendors make this change, and soon.

For additional information, Judy Russell and I have both written about this topic recently:

And Now Ancestry Health

Opting Out

Ancestry Terms of Use Updated

AncestryDNA Doings

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown

Johann Michael Miller (Mueller) the Second (1692-1771), Brethren Immigrant, 52 Ancestors #104

Johann Michael Mueller, written Miller here in the US, has so much myth and mystery surrounding him. It has been difficult to sort out which is which and what is truth.  In part, this is due to the fact that several books have been published with varying levels of accuracy, and once in print, each one is treated as gospel.  It also has to do with the fact that Michael Miller was not exactly an uncommon name, and scrutiny has proven that there were often two or three in the same location.  Lastly, he lived on several frontiers, left no will and like many Brethren, eschewed anything to do with government, including registering marriages and deeds.  Yep, a genealogist’s nightmare.

In order to sort through all of the pieces, I made a timeline that encompasses all of the events and alleged events of Michael Miller’s life. I also included the people around him, like his wife’s family and anything else I could find that seemed relevant.  For example, the Miller family is consistently found with the Cripe/Greib, Ullery/Ullrich, Stutzman and Berchtol/Bechtol families.  Sometimes tracking those and other known Brethren families is the only way to track Michael.

Michael’s timeline reached 64 pages and it’s really not complete.  However, at some point, one must put the stake in the ground and decide that it’s either now or never.  And, it’s now.  So here we go!

Steinwenden blue door

Johann Michael Mueller (the second,) the son of Johann Michael Mueller (the first) and Irene Charitas whose surname is unknown, was born October 5, 1692 in Steinwenden, Germany.  In 1996, our cousin, the Reverend Richard Miller visited Steinwenden where he took the photo of the old house and door, above, surely a familiar sight to Johann Michael during his lifetime.  Buildings that we consider quite old here are still in their prime in the old country.  Richard was given several documents, including a copy of Johann Michael Mueller’s birth entry in the Reformed church book, second from bottom, below.

Miller 1792 birth steinwenden

I had this original document retranslated recently by a professional German genealogist to be sure there wasn’t some wonderful tidbit that had been omitted. Johann Michael’s parents were Michael and Irene from Steinwend.  The godparents were Johann Michael Schuhmacher, Balthasar Jolage, Christina, Hans Berchtold’s (?) wife from Schrodback or berg.  The translator noted that she could not find a village by that name.  As you can see, this translation was difficult at best.  The word is likely Crottelback or Krottelback, where the Berchtol’s were known to live.

On January 4, 1714 in Krottelbach, Germany, Johann Michael Mueller (the second) married Susanna Agnes Berchtol, “a Swiss,” who was born May 3, 1688, the daughter of Hans Berchtol who died in 1711 and Anna Christina whose last name is unknown. Their first child was baptized in 1715 in the same church where they were married.

The Steinwenden Reformed records begin in 1684, but the Konken records begin in 1654, so perhaps more information awaits in those records, once they are translated and indexed in some location so that you can find entries without reading the entire church book – or better stated – paying someone else to read the entire church book.

Were these families already interrelated before they moved from Switzerland to Germany in the 1680s? The families were living in relatively close proximity by 1686 when Hans Bechtol witnessed the baptism of Johnann Michael Mueller’s child in Steinwenden.  In 1711, Hans Berchtol’s death is recorded in Konken, but indicates that he lives in Krottelbach.  Krottelbach, shown below, isn’t terribly distant from Konken and Steinwenden.

Krottelbach Germany

The next record we find for Michael indicates a much more substantial move, if this record is for our Michael Mueller.

Michael Muller born in Steinweiler, Oberamt Lautern became a citizen at Lambsheim on June 4, 1721, according to Heinrich Rembe, a well-known German genealogist.

If this is our Michael, then clearly Susanna would have been with him. They would have been married 7 years by this time and probably had about 3 children.

Krottelbach Lambshein

I do question if this Michael is ours, because Steinwenden, Konken and Krottelbach are in close proximity, but Lambsheim is not and is about 131 km from Krottelbach where they married a few years earlier.

In any event, by 1727, Johann Michael Miller and his wife and children were indeed moving again, boarding a ship in Rotterdam. They arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Adventure on October 2 where Michael, along with the rest of the men from the Palatine had to sign an oath of allegiance.

The Brethren

The beginnings of the Brethren faith as we know it today began with 8 people who formed prayer groups in 1708. Led by Alexander Mack, they adopted the doctrine that infant baptism does not save your soul, and that adults must be re-baptized when they are old enough to accept Christianity.  This stood in opposition to the established religions of Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed, and caused the Brethren to become persecuted as their teachings became more in conflict with the established churches.  Furthermore, they adopted the “peace at all costs” doctrine that prevented the men from fighting, even to protect themselves or their families.

Eventually they fled both Switzerland and Germany and joined the Mennonites in Holland, but the Mennonites wanted the Brethren to adopt their beliefs, and instead, the fledgling Brethren immigrated to America beginning in 1719 with more arriving in 1727. Having been exiled in Friesland for 9 years, 59 more families, 126 people total, arrived in 1729.  After that, the sect died out in Europe.

Rotterdam canal

It is unclear whether Johann Michael Miller was Brethren at this time, as his first child born in 1715 was baptized Reformed in Konken. However, he was indeed involved in some capacity, as he was among the Brethren immigrants who arrived in Philadelphia on October 2, 1727 on the ship Adventure from Rotterdam (shown above), last from Plymouth, England. Several books claim that Johann Michael Mueller was accompanied by Jacob Berchtol, his wife’s brother, Jacob Stutzman, his step-brother, and Hans Jacob Stutzman, his step-mother’s second husband.  However, Ralph Beaver Strassburger, in 1892, transcribed the lists of Pennsylvania German Pioneers who arrived and took the oath of allegiance between 1727 and 1775.  These books were later edited and republished by William John Hinke.  Taking the oath of allegiance wasn’t an option.  If you wanted to live in Pennsylvania and you were a German male 16 or over, you took the oath.  Period.

oathOath 2

I checked in Volume I of their book, Pennsylvania German Pioneers and on page 10, the only name given is Mich’ Miller.

Strassberger p 10

Neither is there any Stutzman or similarly spelled surname listed in the index. However, Johann Jacob Stutzman surely did immigrate, because we do find him here.  He could have immigrated before 1727 when the oaths were required.

Ancestry oath

However, referencing this same book on Ancestry.com shows us a different list.

Ancestry 1727 list

As you can see, the list above does not include Johann Jacob Stutzman, but the list below, on the following page, does. What this does tell us is that there appear to be multiple Michael Mueller/Miller immigrants.  But then, that’s consistent with finding multiple Michael Millers in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Ancestry 1727 list 2

This book has clearly been changed in its multiple printings. Furthermore, the original Volume II had original signatures, but the current Volume II has only the lists from 1785-1808.  Today, a third volume exists titled “Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Facsimile Signatures, 1727-1775 that complements volumes I and II.

The older references still refer to page numbers in Volume II as holding the actual signatures, resulting in me ordering the wrong book and having a devil of a time trying to figure out what I really needed to order. Extremely frustrating, to say the least, not to mention wasted money as well.  I could have bought a DNA test for what this actual scan of Michael’s signature cost me.  However, this is the only copy of Michael’s signature known to exist, with one possible exception I have not been able to track down.

1727 adventure passenger list

Michael’s name is first on the list, but there is also another Miller, two Ullerich or Ulrick’s and Johann Jacob Stutzman, near the bottom of the list. This list is noted as List 4B where the earlier list without Jacob Stutzman is noted as 4A.  Why there were two lists for the same ship is unexplained.  Michael’s signature is shown below.

Michael Mueller signature

Miller, of course, is a very common name, but Ullerich and Stutzman, much less so.

Some descendants report that Johann Michael Miller and his wife, Susanna Berchtol brought either 7 or 10 children with them. Again, there is no direct evidence of this.  We know based on indirect birth years that they brought at least three, and there certainly could have been more,  but it would be unusual for all of a couple’s children to survive infancy.  I would like to see whatever documentation exists for these claims.

Jacob Stutzman turns out to be an important milestone when tracking Michael Miller. While there are multiple Michael Millers, Jacob Stutzman is rather a unique name.  Jacob was younger than Michael by 14 years, being born in 1706.  Jacob Stutzman was the son of Johann Michael Mueller’s step-mother and her second husband whom she married after the death of Johann Michael Mueller’s father.  Despite their difference in age, these two men were obviously close.

Jacob Stutzman was a charter member of the Little Conewago Church along with Jacob Cripe and Stephen Ulrich. Michael Miller, as he was called in Pennsylvania, is not among the founding members listed, but his association with these families and the fact that he lived in the area is what has prompted speculation that Michael was indeed a member at Little Conewago.

Jacob Stutzman died in 1773, two years after Michael Miller’s death, and Jacob’s widow married Stephen Ulrich (the second.) Michael Miller’s grandson would marry Elizabeth Ulrich, daughter of Stephen Ulrich (the second) and his first wife, Elizabeth Cripe.  These families formed a bond that lasts into the current generations.

Ironically, sailing on the same ship with Johann Michael Mueller was one Johannas Ulrich and a Christo Ulrick. The Ullrich/Ullery family was also Brethren and settled first in York Co, PA and then in Frederick Co., MD.

It’s unclear when Johann Michael Mueller and his wife “converted,” to the Brethren faith per se. The only thing we know for sure is that in 1715, their first child was baptized Reformed.  The next we know, Johann Michael Mueller is found among the Brethren in Pennsylvania.  In 1744 he is mentioned in letters written by Brethren leaders.  It’s likely that he had at least developed some Anabaptist sympathies prior to arrival, given the families origins in Switzerland.

In the Pennsylvania Archives Second Series, Vol II reprinted under the directionof Charles Warren Stone and edited by John B. Linn and William H. Egle, MD, we find an undated record wherein “the persons hereafter named, called Quakers and other Protestants who conscientiously scruple to take an oath….took the affirmation and made and repeated the Declaration…..an act for naturalizing such foreign Protestants and others”….that includes the names of both Michael Miller and Philip Jacob Miller along with Jacob Stutzman and Stephen Ulrick as a bonus.  Obviously a group of men from Frederick County went to Philadelphia together.

Miller Naturalization

This would have been after 1747 when Philip Jacob would have turned 21.  Obviously there were clearly Pietist by this time, either Brethren or Mennonite.  Michael Miller’s wife’s family, the Berchtols were Mennonites in the US and Michael co-owned land with Samuel Bechtol in York County.

We may find a further hint as to how or why Michael Miller became Brethren in a letter written by Johann Philip Boehn, the founder of the Reformed faith in Pennsylvania. In a letter dated March 27, 1744 he says “since the founding of our churches here, there have been many people who though they were of Reformed antecedents, kept aloof, because there were no Reformed church services here, and they joined no religion or sect, because they were of the opinion that our cause could not be maintained in this country, principally because of our inability to support ministers.  They are now, within the last few years, scattered here and there, mostly among Mennonites, Tumplers (Dunkers), 7th Day as well as 8th Day (German Baptists) and such like.”

As one minister phrased religion on the frontier, “They joined the church of opportunity.” Perhaps it wasn’t exactly what they wanted, but they preferred worshipping to not worshipping.

The Brethren at this time were an open, inviting faith, so it would not be unusual for non-Brethren families to convert.

York County, Pennsylvania

The family settled, at least temporarily, in Chester County, PA, possibly the portion that became Lancaster in 1729.  Michael moved to near Hanover in York Co, PA in 1744, then to Frederick Co., MD about 1752.  York County was taken from Lancaster in 1749, so in reality, Michael may not have moved as much as it appears.  The borders may have, to some extent, moved over him, although the land he inhabited in York County was not settled in the early 1730s, so he would have clearly had to have moved to settle there.  We can’t tell for sure where he moved from, or how far, because we don’t know where he lived in Chester County which was originally a very large founding county.

It would be in York County, PA that Johann Michael Mueller and Susanna Bechtol would raise their family, at least for a while. The battles of boundaries in that part of the country drove the entire group of Brethren south into Maryland.  It appears that Susanna most likely died before the group moved to Maryland.  Michael moved on alone and married a Brethren widow, Elizabeth Garber.  But first, in York County, Michael would find himself smack dab in the middle of a war – something very uncomfortable for a Brethren.

The Pennsylvania-Maryland Border War

PA-MD boundary issue

“Cresapwarmap” by Kmusser – self-made, based primarily on the description at http://cip.cornell.edu/DPubS/Repository/1.0/Disseminate/psu.ph/1129771136/body/pdf. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons

The earliest records of what is now Adams County, PA are found in what was then Chester Co., PA. which successively changed to Lancaster Co. (14 Oct. 1728), to York Co. (on 14 Oct.1748) and to Adams Co., PA in 1800.

And it wasn’t just counties that changed, but the state line itself was in dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland, as was the actual land ownership – meaning that the Indians still felt they owned at least the frontier and borderlands, exactly where the Brethren families were living.

Ironically, the Brethren and Mennonite pietists who eschewed all forms of conflict wound up in the center of a heated battle.

Both Maryland and Pennsylvania claimed the land where Hanover in York County lay. Initially the Pennsylvania government complained when Marylanders settled this area, but since no one else except the Indians were complaining, nothing was done until 1728 when Pennsylvania ran the settlers off and burned their homes.  By 1732, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia were all three competing for settlers on the frontier to stabilize the region and provide a buffer between the settled portions and the “savages.”

In 1732, Pennsylvania began giving out “licenses” to settle west of the Susquehanna with the idea that the licenses could later be turned into warrants when the colony actually bought the land from the Indians. In essence, they were encouraging people to become squatters.  No wonder the Indians were unhappy.

Between 1733 and 1736, 52 licenses were issued, mostly to German families. Presumably some went to the group who settled in the Conewego area in York County where the Ulrich and Cripe families were living at that time.

Maryland still claimed this land and by 1730, things were getting ugly. Maryland granted the same land, much of it to Thomas Cresap, a very early pioneer and Indian trader. Some paint him as an aggressive villain who terrorized the region, some as a hero who saved the day.  One thing is for sure, he became the spokesperson for the German community, joined the Brethren Church, and ultimately bought the land Michael Miller would purchase from him called Miller’s Choice on Antietam Creek near Hagerstown, MD.  This is probably a good indication about how Michael felt about Cresap.

However in the 1730s, local warfare ensued with both Maryland and Pennsylvania jailing people. At one point, Cresap got thrown off of his own ferry mid-river, but survived.  In 1734, Cresap shot a Pennsylvania sheriff’s ranger who came to arrest him.  Some settlers returned back east at this point, having had enough – but turning back never seemed to be an option for the Brethren who also wouldn’t fight.  I struggle to understand these choices and their logic.  Maybe it was a very simple faith in God.

As militias on both sides became involved, the frustrated Brethren and German settlers must have become quite desperate because in 1736 they sent a resolution to the Governors of both states pledging their loyalty. However, when the duplicate loyalty was discovered, Governor Oglethorpe of Maryland offered rewards for the apprehension and arrest of nearly 40 men.  John Wright was apparently the ringleader, because the bounty on his head was 40 pounds.  However, Michael Miller was included but his bounty, and that of most of the other men, was only 2 pounds.  We don’t know if this was the Michael Miller of the Ulrich, Cripe group, but it could have been.  Cripe and Ulrich were certainly there by 1738, but Michael may have still been living in Chester Co., PA.  His tax records don’t begin in the York County area until 1744.  However, he could have had an adult son, Michael (the third,) by this time.

Pennsylvania did purchase the land from the Indians in 1736, land warrants were issued in 1738 – but given the uncertainty about who owned what and which state the land would actually fall into, it was no wonder nothing much was done.

Eventually, we find our Brethren families in the records, but things really didn’t improve. In fact, this battle wasn’t settled for another 30 years with the running of the Mason-Dixon line, which, ironically cut right through Brethren land – even after they had finally had enough and left York County in Pennsylvania for Frederick County across the border in Maryland.

On February 16, 1742, Lancaster County, PA issued land warrants 7-U and 8-U for Stephen Ulrick, Junr. to take up lands west of the Susquehanna. He staked out adjoining tracts in what was then a dense wilderness on Little Conewago Creek on land adjoining that of his father. We know that Stephen lived there as early as 1738 when he is listed as a founder of Little Conewago Church.  This land later became York County which later became Adams County.

These families had been embroiled in this entire mess the whole time.

Ulrich land York Co.

The outlines of tracts A and B are based on an official survey, patent and deed records. Stephen’s land was described as adjoining his father’s tract.

Stephen Ulrich (the second) was a German Baptist minister, and believed to be the son of the immigrant Stephan Ulrich (the first.) About 1740, Stephen the second married Elizabeth Cripe.

It is believed that during the time Stephen Ulrich lived in what was Lancaster, then York County, he and his friend Jacob Stutzman organized the Conewago Congregation of the German Baptist in Conewago Twp. near Hanover PA, now in Adams County, probably on or near his land.

Hanover PA

Stephen Ulrich sold the above-mentioned land to his friend Jacob Stutzman. This transaction is described in John Hale Stutzman’s book, “Jacob Stutzman, His Children and Grandchildren”. Unhappily for us, these two devout Dunkers, under the strictures of their church doctrine, avoided engagement with government authorities and did not record the deed of sale. Heaven perhaps for the Dunkers but Hell for the genealogist.

We only know about this sale because of the subsequent sale by Jacob Stutzman to George Wine.

Yes, Stephen Ulrich the first and Stephen Ulrich the second both had warrants for land near Digges Choice in Lancaster, then York, now Adams County. Hanover, York County, PA was at the center of Digges Choice, which was laid out about 1739 the first time. John Digges owned the land that eventually became Hanover, PA.

See Lancaster Co, PA Land Warrant #7, February 16, 1742 for 100 acres for Stephen Ulrick Junior; also Lancaster Warrant # 10, November 21, 1743, to Stephen Ulrich Senior, land adjacent to George Wagoner. There is also a Lancaster Co. Warrant to Ansted Ulrick on November 4, 1743 for 200 acres in Lebanon Twp, Lancaster County.

In 1743, another battle broke out and Stephen Ulrich was certainly in the middle of it, although his name is not specifically recorded. We know he was, though, because of John Digges and an unnamed Mathias Ulrich, possibly his brother.

In 1743, the Germans send one Martin Updegraf to Annapolis to check on John Digges grant. It was found that Digges had sold some land he didn’t own, so he got a new grant from Maryland which included farms of 14 Germans whose land had been granted under warrant from Pennsylvania.  Both sides tried to intimidate the farmers.  The Pennsylvania surveyor warned them against violating royal orders.  Mathias Ulrich apparently told the sheriff “to go to the devil,” an action very out of character for a Brethren and remarkable enough that it was recorded.  Eventually, the situation escalated further and Digges son was killed but Pennsylvania would not surrender the killers to Maryland to be tried.  It was clearly one hot mess on the frontier, and petitions and requests for help went unheard and unanswered by those back east who cared little if a bunch of Germans killed each other.

The Brethren tried to stick it out for a few more years, but in 1745, Michael Miller began buying land in Frederick County, MD, near present day Hagerstown and not long thereafter, the entire group would sell out and remove themselves to what they hoped would be a more peaceful and secure, undisputed area.

The final straw, perhaps, came in 1748 when the sheriffs from both states insisted on collecting quit rent, which in this case, was in essence extortion money for being left alone. A 1748 deposition complaining to the governor said that “a great number of the Germans and some others were so much alarmed by the sheriffs’ proceedings that several of them have already left the province and others have declaired they would go.”  The German families held land authorized by Pennsylvania, but they would leave and go to Maryland.

“Stephen Ullery” appears in the official records of York Co. in 1749 in the Little Conewago area. But in the early 1750’s after selling their land to Jacob Stutzman, Stephen and his wife migrated southwest to the Conococheaque Valley and by 1754 had acquired a large tract of land in the present Washington Co. Maryland, where they spent the rest of their lives.

However all was not tranquil on Conococheaque. Within three years of their assuming this new property, the French and Indians smashed General Braddock’s column a few miles to the west and set the frontier aflame. In 1756 Gov. Sharpe of Maryland wrote “The fine settlement of Conococheaque is quite deserted.”

I have to wonder. Did they long for the days back in Germany?

Moving On

Lancaster and York County seemed perfect, but these families could not live with constant warfare. As much as they loved their new home, they began to cast their eyes elsewhere.

A typical farm in York County, below, looks much like Lancaster County. Soft, rolling, beautiful and fertile.

York farm

“York County PA” by I, Skabat169. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Common

Today, many Amish and Mennonite families are found in this area, still using horse-drawn implements, much as their ancestors did.

Lancaster farm

“Lancaster County Field and Farm Implement 3264px” by Photo by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons

To put things in perspective, the first road in Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Lancaster, was authorized in 1731 in answer to a petition from settlers, and it took ten years to complete. It’s very likely that Michael Miller traversed this road, or at least parts of it.  In 1739, a second road, to Monocacy in what is now Frederick Co., Maryland was begun.  It’s certain that Michael Miller would have used this road in 1745 and access to the frontier via the road may be part of the reason the Brethren wound up in Frederick County.  In 1745, the road didn’t extend to what would one day be Hagerstown, so Michael Miller would have made his way by Indian trails to the remote homestead of John Hager, an Indian trader who patented 100 acres in 1729, and then Michael would have gone a bit further, perhaps with John as his guide, to find land.

John Hager’s home, built about 1740, is a museum in Hagerstown today. Michael Miller was assuredly in this homestead.  It’s actually incredible that it still exists.

Frederick County, Maryland

It appears that the entire Brethren congregation from Hanover moved in 1752 to Frederick County, MD, en masse. Michael Miller had apparently been doing reconnaissance work, because he began buying land there in 1745.  It was also in 1752 that he gave two of his sons a significant piece of land in Frederick County, and it was likely then that everyone moved, together.  There would have been a convoy of Conestoga wagons, if the road was finished and wide enough for a wagon to pass, with livestock and people walking.  Wagons of that timeframe did not have brakes and the wheels were chained going down slopes.  Rivers and creeks had to be forded or ferries taken.  These pioneers were pressing the frontier, forging a new way – not taking the road well-traveled.


The part of Frederick County, MD that became Washington County, near present day Hagerstown, is a beautiful land of rolling, fertile farmland, punctuated by curving roads and distant hills.

Frederick Co, MD

After the wanderings of this sect in Europe, this land must have seemed like Heaven. They Brethren believed they were in Maryland, safely away from the border warfare.  This idyllic land is where Michael finally settled and amassed quite a bit of property.

Unfortunately, Johann Michael Mueller did not leave a will, and we have to deduce the names of his children from other transactions in his life. Specifically, he deeded land to 3 men believed to be his sons.  There are at least 4 other Miller males in the right place at the right time to be his sons, plus several females as well who may be daughters.  With the advent of DNA testing for genealogy, we may one day resolve the question of sons, but we may never know which women, if any, were his daughters.

maugans cabin

The Maugans family lived nearby in the cabin (above) from the same time period. They would intermarry with the Millers in the following generations.  The original Miller cabin was from the same place and time and was probably very similar.  Both the Maugan’s cabin and John Hager’s cabin were built directly over springs, probably as a security precaution relative to fetching water and not having to leave the house if it was under attack.

Johann Michael Mueller suffered through the French and Indian war, likely vacating his land at least once if not twice. He died not long before the Revolutionary War began, which also introduced a dark period for the Brethren who were torn between their love for their new county and their religious beliefs.

Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller would eventually leave the beautiful valley in Frederick County and join the westward movement.  Michael’s son Lodowick would join the flow of settlers into Appalachia and settle in Rockingham County, Virginia.  Son Michael Jr., we lose entirely, and son John stayed in Maryland and died on his father’s original land.  This is such a typical story of the American immigrant’s children.  Some stayed, some left in different directions, and some are lost to time.


Let’s take a look at the timeline of events in Johann Michael Mueller’s life and see what tidbits we can recover. Before we start, there were several sources for this information and I have listed each one with the surname of the source.  Other sources are noted individually.

Replogle – “Ancestors on the Frontier: Miller, Cripe, Ulrich, Replogle, Shively, Metzger” by Justin Replogle, self-published in 1998

Mason – “The Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol Family Record” compiled in 1993 by Floyd R. and Catherine Mason, now deceased

Miller – “A History and Genealogy of David Y. Miller 1809-1898” by Gene Edwin Miller, self-published

Stutesman – “Jacob Stutzman (?-1775); His Children and Grandchildren” by John Hale Stutesman, Jr.

These 4 books plus two websites, Troy Goss’s Miller home page and Tom and Kathleen Miller’s pages are the primary resources for Johann Michael Mueller.

Suffice it to say that they don’t all agree – and in fact some contradict each other. So I’ve gone through each and compiled the information I found credible by evaluating the sources, where possible.  Where doubt remains or work needs to be done, I have said so.


Michael arrived in Philadelphia in 1727 and the first actual record we find of him after that is in 1732 in Chester County, PA where he is paying taxes. Other Brethren are there as well.

Note that a second record shows another Michael Mueller arriving on a ship in 1732, and we really have nothing at all to determine whether our Michael was the Michael arriving in 1727 or 1732. Based on the information that his step-brother was along on the 1727 ship, the assumption has always been that the 1727 Michael is ours, but we don’t positively know.  I compared the 1727 and 1732 signatures, and they are not the same, so it’s not a matter of Michael going back to Germany and returning in 1732.  Regardless, Michael was here, in Chester County, by 1732. It’s unlikely that the Michael who arrived in Philadelphia on a ship on September 23, 1732 managed to travel to Chester County, settle and pay taxes before the end of the year. It looks like there were at least two Michael Mueller’s who immigrated.  Given Jacob Stutzman’s presence and the 1732 tax list, I would say that our Michael is the 1727 immigrant.

However, the ambiguity between multiple Michael Millers in the colonies begins almost immediately.

In the 1730s, Maryland and Pennsylvania fight over the Hanover area of Lancaster County, current York County, with both volleying for position, the confrontation escalating and becoming increasingly violent. In 1736 the governor of Maryland offered a reward for the apprehension of about 40 people.  On that list, with the reward at the low end at 2 pounds, was one Michael Miller.  Other Brethren were in York County by 1734, but there is the matter of the tax records in Chester County, PA from 1732 to 1740 where Michael is listed.  Michael could have been an absentee taxpayer in Chester Co., although it’s more likely that we have two Michael Millers involved.  One of the Michael’s could be the son of the immigrant.  It’s unlikely that a Brethren would be involved in a political dispute.  They were more inclined to avoid trouble if possible, at all costs, than to participate.

Pennsylvania did not purchase the disputed land from the Indians until 1736 and did not issue any land grants until 1738. This dispute and boundary was not settled until the Mason-Dixon line of 1767.

1732-1740 – Michael Miller pays taxes in Coventry Township, Chester Co, PA. There were German Baptist Brethren (ChB) churches in Coventry Township, Chester Co., PA and in Manheim Twp., York Co, PA. Miller p 12

1737 – In Coventry Twp. in Chester Co, PA, Feb 15, 1737, warrant #50, vacated in 1748, Michael Miller obtains the warrant next to Thomas Miller and Thomas Perry for 200 acres. In 1748 the warrant was vacated in favor of Adam Harkman and John Wyatt.  Miller P 23

miller page 13

1737 – Michael Miller on the Coventry Twp tax list, Chester Co PA. Miller p 13

1737 – Nicholas Carver (Garber) on the Coventry Twp tax list, Chester Co, Pa. Miller p 14

1737 – If the following is “our” Michael Miller, he was having this Chester Co. land surveyed in 1737 according to this 1758 document.

Land Transaction Caveats (1748-61): Chester County, PA

Feb 17, 1758

John Wells enters a caveat against Thomas Miller, or any person claiming under him, obtaining any survey or confirmation of land adjoining northward by land of said Miller, eastward by land of s’d Wells & southward by land of Christian Perry, in Coventry Township, Chester County, which Thomas Miller pretends to claim under an old warrant of 500 as. granted to him about the year 1717 which has been executed and the land regularly return’d into the Survey’r General’s Office, the above-mentioned land has been since surveyed to Mich’l Miller by warr’t of the 15th Feb’y, 1737, which is now vested in s’d J. Wells.  Page 222.

It would be very interesting if Miller descendants of this Thomas Miller took the Y DNA test to see if Thomas Miller was related to Michael Miller. Based on these land transactions, these men seem to be somehow connected – although this may not be our Michael Miller.  The name Thomas never appears in our Michael’s line.

1738 – Jacob Stutzman, Jacob Cripe and Stephen Ulrich listed as charter members of the Little Conewago Church in York Co, PA, indicating they were Brethren by this time. Replogle p 19 and 31

Some think that Michael Miller and some of his sons were members at Little Conewago and the Antietam congregations. Elder Nicholas Martin, the elder of the churches in the area where they lived, reports on the health of Michael Miller and Jacob Stutsman in his letters to Alexander Mack, Jr.  We understand when Nicholas Martin was naturalized in 1762 that Michael Miller and Jacob Miller were witnesses.  It was this Nicholas Martin who gave the year of death for Michael Miller as 1771.  Mason p 10

If Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman were not Brethren, Alexander Mack would not be discussing them in such familiar terms.

1739 – Michael Miller on the Coventry Twp. tax list, Chester Co, Pa. Miller p 14

1740 – Michael Miller on the Coventry Twp. tax list, Chester Co., Pa.   There is no record of him on the tax lists there after 1740.  It is believed that Michael Miller moved west from Chester Co, PA in the early 1740s.

Monocacy road

1743 – Travel west would have been on a route called the Monocacy Road which was established in 1733. The road was the major route passing through Lancaster County, York County and crossing the Susquehanna River at Wright’s Ferry or Wrightsville, traveling along what is now US Hwy 30.  After leaving Wright’s Ferry, it headed southwest through what is now York County, through Hanover and down into Maryland to the Hagerstown area. Miller P 14

Monocacy old map

Before the road, the other side of the Susquehanna River was only Indian trails. Replogle page 82

Monocacy map 3

1744 – Nicholas Martin comments on Michael Miller’s health in a letter to Alexander Mack Jr. Replogle p 31

This probably establishes Michael Miller as a Brethren by this point in time.

1744 – On Feb 7th Michael Miller, Nicholas Garber and Samuel Bechtol, Hans Jacob and Elizabeth Bechtol, who also lived in Chester Co, PA purchased a tract of land consisting of 400 aces northeast of Hanover, PA in York Co.  See circle #12 on the PA map, below, in the upper right hand corner.  Today this land is near Bair’s Mennonite Church, perhaps lying south from the church.  Mason p 14 and 20

Mason circle 12

This land, shown in circle 12, above, was near Little Conewago Chuch.

Floyd Mason included this legend to his maps with circles.

Mason map legend

Gene Miller overlaid the York County land on an 1876 map.

Miller page 15

Today, the York Road Cemetery also known as the Bair’s Meeting House Cemetery is located on the York County land owned by these three men. Bair’s Meeting House wasn’t established until in 1774, but burials could have been taking place on this land earlier.  I have noted the location of the cemetery and meeting house on the map above with the red arrow.

Note that both the Bechtel and Miller names are found in this region on the 1876 Heidelberg Township map, more than 140 years later. However, the Miller surname is extremely common and there may be no connection with the earlier Michael Miller family.

York Road Cemetery map

Samuel Bechtol and Michael Miller obtained 150 acres, leaving 100 acres for Nicholas Garber. Michael sold his 150 acres to Samuel Bechtol in 1752 and we cannot identify what happened to the 100 acres of Nicholas Garber.  It was after Nicholas Garbers’ death in 1748 that Michael Miller sold his land to Samuel Bechtol.  Michael Miller married Nicholas Garber’s widow.  We suspect that he also sold Nicholas Garber’s 100 acres of land to Samuel Bechtol.  Samuel Bechtol was one of the administrators of the will of Nicholas Garber and Susanna Bechtol was (reportedly) Samuel’s aunt.  Mason p 12, Replogle 91

Miller only shows three people bought the land, Michael Miller, Nicholas Carver and Samuel Backall, omitting Hans Jacob and Elizabeth Bechtol.  Batchelors Choice consisted of 400 acres which had been owned by John Stinchcomb. The property was rectangular and was located about 2 miles east of Hanover and was bounded on the west by Gitts Run, on the south by portions of route 116 and on the north by the Pigeon Hills.  The land was located on the outside of the east edge of Digges Tract.  This could have been some of the disputed land in question.

Batchelor Choice

Here’s is a satellite view of this same area today, with the red balloon marking Jacob’s Mills, shown on the map above.

York Co land satellite

It is believed that these three families were related in some way. Nicholas Garber/Carver has been theorized to be a son-in-law of Michael Miller.  Others have suggested that some of Michael’s daughters married some of Nicholas’s sons.  Obviously, both of these scenarios can’t be true, or Michael’s younger children would have been marrying the children of their older sibling.

Other settlers associated with these three families also lived in the area. Jacob Stutsman and Stephen Ulrich lived to the southwest of Hanover.  Peter and John Welty, Michael Bigler, lived to the south of Hanover: Catharine the daughter of Michael Bigler became the second wife of the Dunker leader Daniel Leatherman. To the north of Hanover near East Berlin was the immigrant Jacob Cripe (1743), Hans Ulrich Wagner (1743) and George Adam Martin (1749).  Miller p 14

Cripe to Miller map

This map shows the proximity of the Cripe family to the Miller, Bechtol and Garber families.

1745 – On May 14, 1745, Michael Miller buys a land warrant for either 150 or 200 acres (reported as both in two different sources) acres called Ash Swamp in Frederick Co MD for 200 pounds from John George Arnold. Replogle p 31, Miller page 20

It was then in Prince George County and now is Washington Co., PA. Liber BB 362-363.  Miller P 20

This is the land that in 1752 Michael has resurveyed and deeds it to 3 his sons John, Philip Jacob and Lodowick. See circle 3, below, drawn by Floyd Mason, P 14 and 32.

Miller circle 3

The map below shows the migration pattern beginning in Chester County, PA, through York County, PA and then to Frederick Co., MD.

Chester Co to Maugansville

1748 – The land dispute in York County, PA got much worse. In a letter to the governor asking for assistance it says that “many of the Germans have gone already and the rest say they will.”  Replogle 92

1748 – Frederick Co. Maryland comes into existence.

1748 – Nicholas Garber dies and his will is probated in Lancaster Co, PA, Book Y, Vol 2, p 123. This part of Lancaster becomes York the following year.  By 1754 Michael Miller has married his widow.  Mason P 12

1749 – Michael Miller buys 36 acres in Frederick Co, MD called “Miller’s Fancy.”  Both pieces of his land are very close to present day Hagerstown, which wasn’t there at the time.  Replogle p 31

Replogle suggests that perhaps Michael didn’t actually move, but stayed back in Hanover and eventually gave the land to his sons John and Philip Jacob.

Michael had Miller’s Fancy resurveyed. He lived there until his death in 1771.  In 1765 it was deeded to John Riffe, husband of Michael’s step-daughter.  See Circle 4 – Mason P 14

I’m not at all certain Mason’s circle 4 is in the correct location. I believe Miller’s Fancy is located south of Hagerstown on the convergence of Antietam and Little Antietam Creeks.  Other researchers believe that Miller’s Fancy, Skipton on Craven and Well Taught are near Leitersburg, 5 or 6 miles due east of Maugansville.  Following the deeds forward (or backward from current) in time would resolve this question.

1749 – Land surveyed in 1749 and granted in 1754 located between Skipton on Craven and Resurvey of Well Taught, containing 36 acres called Miller’s Fancy. Mason P 20

Skipton on Craven is 280 acres, purchased in June 1749 for 220 pounds. Wash Co., MD. Miller p 23

1749 – York Co, PA is formed from Lancaster. Hanover is located in York County.  Part of the Hanover area was split off in 1800 to Adams Co.  There are two Michael Millers and no Rochette family. Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller supposedly married a Magdalena Rochette about 1751, but you can’t marry someone if their family isn’t present in the community.

There are two Michael Miller wills in York County in both 1784 and in 1796, so this means that there were at least 3 Michael Millers in York County, if all three were there at the same time. Headache!!!

1749 – Most land at this time was not improved, but Stephen Ulrich’s may be the exception. The 235 acre piece he bought from Hans Waggoner in Frederick County may have been improved.  The other 200 went to Walter Fonderbag.   One of these men received “One dwelling house 20 feet by 16 made of hew’d logs and covered with lap shingles, a stone chimney, one dwelling house 27 feet by 22 of hwe’d logs and covered with lapp shingles, planked above and below, a stone chimney, a new barn of hew’d logs covered with lapp shingles, 49 feet by 27, 69 apple trees, 72 peach trees and 6 acres of cultivated land well fenced.”  Replogle p 100 from the Stutesman book p 10-11

Replogle contrasts this land to Hager’s “2 sorry houses” and then mentions that by 1756, the Indians had probably burned these wooden structures.

True to form, in the faming community where I grew up, the barn was twice as big as the house.

1750 – Several Brethren families felt it necessary to move further west where it was safer, including the Shively, Ulrich and Cripe families. Replogle p 19

1750s – Around this time in the development of Maryland, tobacco had been the crop of importance followed by Indian corn. This usually was cultivated by the plantation’s negroes. However, in the newly developing western Maryland, the German settlers profited from the rich deep soil to raise large quantities of flax and other grains, disdaining the tobacco culture as well as slavery.  The flax was hackled and the women would spin and weave it at home into very stout linen, making also threads of different colors that found a ready market.  The seed was packed in the huge country wagons of the day and sent to Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Trade for the settlers of this day was in Baltimore. The western Maryland settlers produced goods that were needed in the eastern part of the province.  The Germans learned to make linen goods, tow (rope), thread; they knitted long yarn stockings; they tanned their leather and made horse-collars and harness; they prepared honey, firkined butter, dried apples and applebutter.  These were marketed in Baltimore which depended on the interior for their supplies.  In return, the settler purchased materials essential to survival on the frontier, namely salt, lead and gunpowder.

The early settlers typically lived for a number of years in a “log cabin.” It had large garret roots (attic) and generally a deep cellar.  The bedrooms were simply furnished.  The painted bedsteads were supplied with straw beds and ‘feather decks” for covering.  There were the barrels of sauerkraut and salt lead and apple butter in the cellar.  Each farm usually had an abundant apple orchard and rows of cherry trees, and there were plenty of home-brewed drinks in the cellar besides cider.  The frontier settlers had a diet that included pone and milk (cornbread usually made without milk or eggs), mush and milk, in wooden dishes, hominy and “cider-pap” (small hominy boiled in cider) with fat bacon fried, and “calcified” with molasses. Miller p 21

When I grew up, 200+ years later, many of those items were still being eaten by the descendants of these same German families, in particular, fried mush with molasses or maple syrup.

1751 – On October 26, 1751, Michael’s son Philip Jacob had taken over the warrant and enlarged the tract Ash Swamp to 290 acres. It was surveyed on April 25, 1752 and a patent issued on November 17, 1753.  His brother John also farmed a portion of the property or about 140 acres.

Miller page 27

This land is very near Maugansville. These resurveys were key to finding these properties today.  Gene Miller went to a great deal of trouble to fit the pieces of the Miller and neighboring surveys together.

Miller page 26

1751 – Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller marries Magdalena whose last name is said to be Rochette, but is unproven. The marriage year is based on the year of first child’s birth.  If this is the case, then Philip may have married her in Hanover, York Co., PA, not Frederick Co., MD.  This marriage could be why Michael gave Philip Jacob land when he did.

Replogle states from two sources that the early Brethren were very strict about not marrying outside of the faith. If this is true, then surely someplace there is a Rochette as a Brethren or Magdalena is not a Rochette.  She is more likely from within the Brethren church.  What I wouldn’t give for a membership list of Little Conewago Church in 1750.

1751 – Michael’s son, Lodowich Miller buys Tom’s Chance and sells it in 1755 to Peter Tysher, located today in what is Washington Co., MD, located adjacent to Ash Swamp, including the Salem Reformed Church on Salem Church road.  Land books B p 429 and E p 945

1752 – Road from Wrightsville to Monocacy, near Frederick, MD today. Likely the road Michael Miller took when he moved from PA to MD.  This road went right through Conewago country.  In 1752, the entire Brethren community went down this road to Frederick Co., MD.  Conestoga wagons were used on this road.  The road from Frederick to Antietam Creek was very rudimentary, later becoming the National Road.  Replogle 56-57

1752 – It is believed that Michael Miller moved to the Hagerstown area about 1752 because on March 7, 1752 he sold his portion of Batchelor’s Choice in York County, purchased in 1744, 150 acres, to Samuel Becktel for 220 pounds (York Co. Deed Bk C 445-446). Samuel Becktel probably continued to live on his farm until his death, sometime prior to March 31, 1767.  Miller p 4, 20 and 23

In 1876, on the Heidelberg Township map, there are still two listings of S. Bechtel living on this land.

1752 – About this time Michael Miller moved to Frederick Co., living on Miller’s Fancy at the junction of Antietam Creek and Little Antietam Creek and lived there the rest of his life.  His wife Susan Bechtol had recently died and he sold his Hanover land to his late wife’s relative John Bechtol.  Replogle p 31

We have no evidence to suggest that when Susan actually died, other than it was prior to 1754 when Michael has remarried.

1752 – Michael Miller deeds Philip Jacob and John Miller half of Ash Swamp each. Philip Jacob lives there most of his life. Replogle p 33

This is believed to be the first record of Philip Jacob Miller – although there was an undated records that could have been earlier. By 1752 he would have been 26 years old.

Michael Miller bought the plantation Ash Swamp from John George Arnold in 1745, had it resurveyed to his 3 sons, John, Philip Jacob and Lodowich in 1752. They conveyed it to each other so that soon thereafter John owned the portion to the north and Philip Jacob the part to the south.  Lodowich bought an adjoining farm to the southwest, “Tom’s Chance.”  Miller P 15

1752 – Tired of the Maryland/Pennsylvania border feud that had lasted for 15 years, the entire Brethren community sold their land in Hanover Co., PA (today current Adams Co.) and moved to Frederick Co., MD. Where they established 4 new churches. Replogle 97

This area is still heavily Brethren and Mennonite today.

1753 – Michael Miller bought 409 acres. Replogle

1753 or 1754 – Johann Michael Miller marries Elizabeth Garber, the widow of his neighbor Nicholas Garber. Replogle p 31

1754 – We have no death date for Susanna Bechtol, the first wife of Michael Miller, but an administrative record in the orphan’s court of York Co., PA states that in 1754 Elizabeth Garber, the widow of Nicholas is now the wife of Michael Miller and that he is administrating the accounts for the will. (Book A – 1749-1762, page 47, York Co, Pa Dec. 10, 1754)

We believe Susanna died about 1752 at the time that Michael had land “Ash Swamp” in Maryland resurveyed for the 3 sons, John, Philip Jacob and Lodowich. This explains why there was no wife’s signature and perhaps why the land was divided at that time. Mason p 12

1755 – 676-677 – Michael Miller recorded a deed March 20, 1755 made March 17, 1755 between George Pow of Frederick Co. and Michael Miller for 36 pounds current money, confirms unto him, 2 tracts called part of the “Resurvey on Well Taught, in Frederick County; 1st parcel containing 292 acres and the other tract, containing 117 acres.  Signed George Pow, before William Webb and Thomas Prather.  Catherine wife of the said George Pow, released dower right.

Frederick County Maryland Land Records Liber B Abstracts 1748-1752 by Patricia Abelard Andersen, p 59.

1755 – Michael Miller obtains a grant for Miller’s Fancy in March, 36 ac. Washington Co. MD,  Miller P 23

For the next ten years, Michael filed no deeds. It’s likely the area was abandoned for part of this time given the Indian uprisings.

1754 – All of the Indians disappear from Frederick County. French negotiators have been wooing them.  This is the beginning of the French and Indian War.

1755 – General Braddock’s expedition leaves Cumberland County, MD on May 29th.  Braddock met with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in Frederick County, Maryland.  Braddock had recently arrived from England and had just begun his march toward Fort Duquesne.

At the end of their conference, half of Braddock’s army moved west on the north side of the Potomac and somewhere crossed Antietam Creek. It’s not known just where, but it could not have been far from “Miller’s Fancy” and may been right across it.  Replogle 32

Johann Michael Miller lived near the Upper Antietam bridge, which would have been a ford at that point.

Justin Replogle, on page 104 and 105 gives significant detail, but in summary, the troops pass, if you draw a straight line between Frederick and Conococheague, no more than a mile or so from Michael Miller’s farm. Miller’s Fancy is only about 2 miles north of the Potomac and the troops had to pass between the river and the farm.  With 2000-3000 men or more, you know that the Miller family was not unaffected by this.  Watching a British Army in red coats in June march through the woods and on Indian trails must have been quite a spectacle.

I wonder if Michael realized he was watching history unfold.

Braddock’s men may have camped in this area as well because they took a day to build a bridge over Antietam Creek. The photo below shows a portion of Braddock’s road still visible today near Fort Necessity.  Braddock’s troops often opened or expanded the road as they went to a width that allowed wagons to pass.

Braddock's road

Imagine seeing all of those red coats in the woods on or near your land, and wondering what the future would bring.

Michael had to wonder how this was any different than what happened in the 30 Years War in Europe that devastated the countryside. Did he ever question his decision to leave Germany?

Michael Miller wasn’t the only person to see the redcoats. Braddock’s troops also crossed the Potomac at Conochocheague, so Stephen Ulrich and Jacob Stutzman probably saw them as well.  These men watched history unfold, having absolutely no idea of the dire consequences that would follow.

Braddock had been warned about the Indian’s ambush style of warfare Benjamin Franklin called “ambuscade,” but Braddock poopooed that information, stating that they would make no impression upon his finely trained troops. He was wrong, in fact, he was dead wrong.

Braddock was defeated, badly, as the Indians on further up the trail ambushed the brigade. Braddock himself was killed.  Raids on settlements and settlers began immediately and within days reports say that upwards of 100 settlers had fled their homes, 50 had been killed or captured and 27 houses had been burned.  On the Maryland-Pennsylvania border in the “two coves”, just west of Hagerstown, 47 people had been killed or captured.  Now the entire western frontier lay unprotected.  Replogle 105-106

Braddock’s disastrous defeat in November set off Indian attacks along the whole frontier and Stephen Ulrich almost certainly abandoned his farm and fled east, along with the entire community. He apparently came back. Replogle p 17

From 1755 to 1757, Alfred James writes, “Raid after raid from Fort Duquesne hit pioneer settlements along the Susquehanna and the Potomac.” It was unending and relentless.  Another reports that “Frederick, Winchester and Carlisle became the new frontiers of the colony” and “Many even fled to Baltimore,” and “some to Virginia.”  Arthur Quinn writes that families went as far east as Bethlehem “where there was no more room in the inns, or the shops or even the cellars.”  Nead writes, “Terror and desolation reigned everywhere.” Repogle 106

Where was Johann Michael Miller and his family during this time? His children would likely all have been adults, with families of their own.  Given Susanna Bechtol’s birth in 1688, their last child was probably born no later than 1733, so clearly an adult by 1754 or 1755.  Susanna had died by this time, so Michael had his new wife and both sets of their children to worry about.  Did they all escape or remove to locations further east?  Together?  Separately?  In an orderly fashion?  In a panic?  What happened?

In April of 1756, Elisha Shaltor wrote, “I found the people in the greatest confusion, the troops abandoning the forts and the country people in the greatest consternation.”

The year 1756 seems to have been the worst for the Conococheague community.

Conococheague river

On April 25, 1756, “Forty-one persons deserted their cabins and clearing near Conococheague and came to Baltimore. Their houses were destroyed and their cattle killed.”  Two days earlier, Thomas Cresap, Jr. had been killed and fighting had occurred between Hanover and Bedford.  No place was safe.  Not where they moved from.  Not where they moved to.  Apparently no place except the eastern seaboard cities.  Worse yet, in those cities, no one seemed to care.

Hanover to Bedford map

Maryland and Pennsylvania legislatures were reluctant to do anything. The frontier was far from the cities and the Quakers hesitated to advocate violence.

Finally, in 1756, Maryland authorized a fort in the Conocheague area which would become Fort Frederick, about 15 miles away. That was far too little and way too late.  If anything it incensed the Indians.  The Indians easily captured this small isolated fort and killed all the settlers they encountered along the way, for good measure.

Maugansville to Fort Frederick

On October 25 Indians arrived with 20 scalps from the town of Conococheague. The list of the dead hints at the constant terror.


October 25 – John Loomis, wife and 3 small children
October 28 – Jacob Miller wife and 6 children
October 30 – George Falke, house, mill, barn, 20 cattle, 4 horses, wife, 9 children cut into pieces and fed to the pigs. A trader scalped, roasted alive, eaten.

The Conococheague residents tried to protect themselves at first, but then, they gave up and fled back east. The only Brethren name on the militia lists was George Butterbaugh, and Replogle suggests that he may not have been Brethren yet at that time.  All of this was taking place in the area where the Ulrichs, Cripes and Millers lived.

Those who were willing to fight must have been terribly frustrated and felt endangered by the Brethren who were not. They were surely looked upon as a burden to the rest of the community.  Did the Brethren truly watch their families slaughtered and do nothing?  It’s difficult to believe that basic human instincts didn’t kick in.

Most settlers fled east from Monocacy. George Washington received a report in the summer of 1756 that “350 wagons had passed that place to avoid the enemy within the space of 3 days” and by August the report was that “The whole settlement of Conococheague in Maryland is fled, and there now remain only two families from thence to Fredericktown…..”

Conococheague to Frederick

Surely that included Michael Miller and the rest of the Brethren families. The Indians were reported within 30 miles of Baltimore.  Frederick is 47 miles from Baltimore.

Furthermore Washington said, “That the Maryland settlements are all abandoned…is a certain fact.”

Where did the Brethren families go? Who did they stay with?  What did they do?  And for how long?

In July 1756, the commander at Fort Duquesne said that he had “succeeded in ruining the three adjacent provinces, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, driving off the inhabitants and totally destroying the settlements over a tract of country over 30 leagues wide…the Indian villages are full of prisoners of every age and sex.”

In 1757, “the frontier settlements were abandoned over a wide area.”

And so life continued, land abandoned, the residents living who knows where, but assuredly with Brethren families or congregations back east, throughout 1756, 1757 and into 1758.

1758 – General Harris extends a road from Harrisburg, PA to Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River (Pittsburg.) Highway 30 follows this road most of the way today. Replogle 55

Forbes went from Cumberland to Bedford and had hundreds of men working on the road. By August 1758, 1400 men had extended the road to Bedford, just wide enough to get a wagon through.  A contemporary writer said it took 8 days to travel from Bedford to Ligonier, a distance of about 45 miles.  This tactic succeeded.  General John Forbes took Fort Duquesne, now Pittsburg, the French abandoned it, and ended the French and Indian War on November 25, 1758.  Indian attacks diminished and by 1762, the French had given up Canada.  Replogle 107-108, 110

Forbes Road

The area was never really in jeopardy of Indians regaining control, but it was in real jeopardy of French control. The French, like the English, were using the Indians by making promises.  Were it not for Forbes, we might all be speaking French today.

When did the settlers return to this area? They likely had to rebuild from scratch.  As difficult as this must have been, they obviously did and we have absolutely nothing in our family history reflecting this extremely difficult time.  You would think there would be stories…something…but there is nothing.

We don’t know where our Brethren families lived during this time, what happened, who died, when they returned, how, or what they faced. Were their homes all burned?  Was anything left?  Did they start over again?  What happened?

There is no hint.  Brethren were never whiners.  There are no tales of woe.  The only hint is when transactions resume.  For Michael Miller, that was in 1761 when he again began purchasing land, if that Michael was our Michael, or in 1762 when taxes were again being paid in Frederick County.

Michael, by this time, was an old man, 69 years old, and assuredly tired. In particular, tired of conflict and warfare.  I’m sure he simply wanted to sit on the porch of his children’s home and look over a peaceful vista – one with no Indians, soldiers or war-like sheriffs.

One small item of significance – during the war, a small fort was built at Raystown, which would eventually become Bedford, a location that would, in 1770, become quite important to the Brethren. It was indeed the next frontier and two of Michael Miller’s grandsons through his son Philip Jacob would find themselves in Bedford County, PA.

1760 – One Michael Miller was Constable of Upper Antietam Hundred. This causes me to wonder how a Brethren can be a constable if they won’t take an oath.

The Brethren shunned anything legal. They did not marry by obtaining a license.  I don’t think they would have registered their deeds if there was any way they could have avoided it.  Many times, they simply didn’t.

For instance, on February 14, 1776, Alexander Mack Jr., the son of the founder of the Brethren faith writes in a letter that he is shunning his daughter, Sarah, because “she married outside of the brotherhood” and secondly “because the marriage was performed with a license and third because her husband had not quite completed his apprenticeship.” Shunning in the Brethren world was ostrification and the results of that could be far more severe then than now.  Protection and assistance, for example, came from the group, generally a family group, that you were a member of.  Sarah must have been one very brave young lady or blindly in love.

1761 – Michael Miller purchases Deceit in May, 108 ac for 50 lbs. Washington Co. MD  Miller p 23

1761 – Michael Miller recorded a mortgage on May 6, 1761 made March 26, 1761 between Joseph Perry of Frederick Co. for 50 pcm (Pennyslvania Current Money) mortgaging a tract called “Deceit” on a branch of Antietam near the place that George Fairbush formerly lived on, containing 108 acres. Signed Jos Perry before Mos Chapline, Peter Bainbridge.  Receipt ack, AF and duty pd.  Frederick Co. Maryland Land Records, Liber F Abstracts, 1756-1761 p 124 by Patricia Abelard Anderson (Note – I did not extract all Miller records, just first names in which we are interested.)

Given that none of the other names are Brethren, I wonder if this is a different Michael Miller, perhaps the one that was a constable.

1762 – When Nicholas Martin was naturalized in Pennsylvania in 1762,  Michael Miller and Jacob Miller were witnesses. It was this Nicholas Martin who gave the year of death for Michael Miller as 1771.  Mason p 10 (Note that Michael’s signature would be on this document if the original still exists.)

This might suggest to us that Michael spent his time in exile in Pennsylvania and not in Maryland. Of course, he might simply have traveled to Maryland to testify for Nicholas Martin.

1762-1763 – In Frederick Co., MD, Michael Miller paid taxes on more than 700 acres, Michael Miller Jr. on 80 acres and Hans Michael Miller on more than 2000 acres. Replogle 117 quoting from Mason


To separate the three Michael Millers, Michael Miller Sr., Michael Miller Jr. and Hans Michael Miller, we use the information that is recorded in the Land Tax records at Annapolis MD in the archives. This is what was found:

Michael Miller Sr. 1762 and 1763
Skipton of Craven – 100 ac
Miller’s Fancy – 36 ac
Skipton of Craven – 180 ac
Resurvey of Well Taught – 409 ac

Michael Miller Jr. 1762 and 1763
Miller’s Chance – 50 ac – 1762 the same land
Blindman’s Choice – 50 ac – 1763 to 1772
(Most years Miller’s Choice was called Blindman’s Choice)

Hans Michael Miller – 1772
In addition to land in Antrim Twp, Franklin Co, Pa and New Creek, now Mineral Co, WV as given in his will, he paid taxes in 1772 in Frederick Co., MD on the following:
Resurvey of Nicholas Mistake – 1025 ac
Garden’s delight – 146 ac
Add Garden’s delight – 28 ac
Plunket’s Doubt – 133 ac
Maiden’s Walk – 35 ac
Tonas Lott – 16 ac
Small Hope – 20 ac
Small Hope – 43 ac
Rocky Creek – 150 ac

For anyone tracking Hans Michael Miller, Franklin County, PA and Mineral County, WV would be good places to start.

Gene Miller found that Hans Michael Miller was given 1000 pounds by his father Michael Miller Sr. (died 1771) to purchase Pleasant Gardens. What he purchased may have been an earlier name for what he called Gardens Delight and Add Gardens Delight.  If it was this land, it was land that his 2 sons sold to Jacob Good and was located near the land, “Huckleberry Hall”, that Jacob Good bought from John Schnebly in 1787.  It was located near Maugansville, MD.  This land would go to the son-in-law and grandchildren of Elizabeth Garber, the step-mother of Hans Michael Miller, assuming he is the son of Michael Miller who died in 1771.  Jacob Good had remarried.  This is a connection between the 1st set of Michael Millers Sr.’s children and his step-children.  Mason P 13

We did not follow the land records of Hans Michael Miller, but did follow the land records of Michael Miller Sr. (died 1771) and Jr., his presumed son.

We found that Michael Miller Sr. (the second, died 1771) paid taxes on his land and in his name for 1762 and 1763. He deeded all the land to his step-children in 1765.  After that he continued to pay taxes on 36 acres of Miller’s Fancy and 8 acres of Resurvey on Well Taught.  It’s this fact that causes researchers to believe this is where Michael actually lived.

1762 – John Hager began to lay out what would one day become Hagerstown, Maryland.

1763 – The surveyors started laying out the Mason-Dixon line and they got as far as Dunkard’s Creek where Indians stopped them. Replogle 114

A historical marker is located at Dunkard’s Creek in the Mason Dixon Historical Park where the creek crosses the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border about 150 miles west of Hagerstown.

Hagerstown to Mason-Dixon

1763 – In reference to Pontiac’s War (the Pontiac Conspiracy – which lasted until 1765) and the attacks on Fort Pitt, its inhabitants, and the destruction of Ligonier – David McClure says “the greater part of the Indian traders keep a squaw and some of them a white woman as a temporary wife. The people of Virginia…are different from those of the Presbyterians and the Germans.  They are much addicted to drinking parties, gambling, horse racing and fighting.”  These people were all residents of Fort Pitt, a total of 322 people.  Most people fled east once again and the Indians attacked as far west as Carlisle.

The Maryland Gazette, written at Frederick on July 19, 1763 said, “The melancholy scene of poor distressed families driving downwards through this town with their effects…enemies…now daily seen in the woods….panic of the back inhabitants, whose terrors at this time exceed what followed on the defeat of General Braddock.” Ironically it also reported that the season had been remarkably fine and the harvest the best for many years.  Once again, Frederick County put together two companies of militia and once again, no Brethren names appeared on the list.  Replogle 113 – 114

By 1763, Michael Miller was an old man, almost 72 years of age. Again, relations with the Indians deteriorated and they attacked in waves.  “The Cumberland Valley and frontier regions are deserted,” came the reports.  “Bands of raiding Indians spread over western Maryland” Nead says and on August 13, 1763 George Washington writes that once again, “no families remain above the Conococheague road, and many are gone from below it.  The harvests are, in a manner lost, and the distresses of the settlements are evident and manifold.”  Replogle 113/114

Two Brethren, Nicholas Martin and Stephen Ulrich are found attending the Great Council of the Brethren in Conestoga in 1763. Would they have left their family in Frederick County among the massacres, or does this imply that the group had once again moved back east, and this where in the east they had moved?

Looking at the map, this seems to be an important clue. It would appear that they had been evacuating in reverse settlement order.  Perhaps they first went to join the congregants of the church in Hanover, and finding that location unsafe, went on further back to their home church, Conewago, further east.

Conewago, in the book, “A History of the Church of the Brethren in Southern District Pennsylvania” is noted as being near current Ephrata, PA and also as being the current congregation of White Oak in Lancaster, County.

Ephrata to Hagerstown

1765 – The 4 children of Nicholas and Elizabeth Garber were living in Frederick Co. MD before 1765. Nicholas’s will gives the names of two of them, Elizabeth and Samuel, and researchers have determined that the other two were Anna and Martin.

In 1765, Michael Miller is selling land, just like nothing happened, or perhaps the recent unrest is part of why he transferred the land when he did. In essence, he went on a huge deeding spree, deeding all of the land he owned, mostly to his step-children and their spouses.

1765 – Jacob Good recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765, made Oct. 25, 1765, between Michael Miller of Frederick Co. for 100 pounds current money, a parcel called Hamburgh, part of a Resurvey on Well Taught, metes and bounds given, containing 81 acres. Signed Michael Miller by mark M before Joseph Smith, James Smith, Elizabeth Miller wife of Michael released dower.  P 140-142  Frederick Co. MD Land Records Liber K Abstracts, 1765-1768 abstracted by Patricia Abelard Andersen p 15-16

Please note that this means that Elizabeth Garber, Michael’s second wife is still alive in 1765. There is significant confusion about Michael Miller administering the estate of her former husband, Nicholas Garber, and some researchers have construed that administration in 1754 to be the estate of Elizabeth, which it clearly is not.

1765 – Michael Miller sold the 409 acres of Well Taught to Jacob Good and John Riffe. He paid taxes on 8 acres of this 409 acres along with the 36 acres called Miller’s Fancy which has what has led some researchers to surmise that is where Michael actually lived.  Mason p 14

1765 – John Rife recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765, made Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller of Frederick County for 200 pounds current money, a tract of land called Quarry, part of a resurvey on Well Taught patented to George Jacob Pow, metes & bounds given, 179 acres signed Michael Miller by mark M. Witnesses Joseph Smith, James Smith, receipt ack.  Elizabeth Miller released Dower.  P 166-167

1765 – Michael Miller sold in October 1765, 36 acres of Miller’s Fancy and 5 acres of Resurvey of Well Taught for 50 pounds. Wash Co., MD. Miller p 23.

This appears to be the 5 acres he paid tax on until he died, but he had already transferred the entire 36 acres to John Riffe, so this is somewhat confusing.

1765 – John Rife recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765, made Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller for 50 pounds, a tract called Miller’s Fancy, metes and bounds given, 5 acres, signed Michael Miller by mark M. Witness Joseph Smith, James Smith.  Receipt ack.  Elizabeth wife of Michael released dower. P 175-176

1765 – Jacob Good recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765 made on Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller of Frederick County for 300 pounds, a tract called Good’s Choice, part of Skipton and Craven, land whereon the said Jacob Good now lives, metes and bounds given, 163 acres, signed Michael Miller by mark M.  Wit Joseph Smith and James Smith, receipt acknowledged and dower released by Elizabeth Miller wife of Michael Miller. P 177-178 Wash Co Md.  Miller p 23

1765 – Jacob Good recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765 made on Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller for 60 pounds tract called Luck, part of resurvey on Well Taught entered to George Pie. Metes and bounds given, 100 acres.  Signed Michael Miller by mark M.  Witnesses Joseph Smith, James Smith and Elizabeth Miller releases dower. P 179-180 Wash Co MD  Miller p 23

1765 – John Rife recorded a deed on Oct. 28, 1765 made on Oct. 25, 1765 between Michael Miller for 200 pounds, a tract called Rife’s Lot, part of Skipton and Craven whereon John Rife now lives, metes and bounds given, 117 acres. Witnesses Joseph Smith, James Smith and Elizabeth Miller release dower. P 185-186

Jacob Good and John Riffe were Michael Miller’s step-daughter’s husbands. Mason P 14

1765 – Michael Miller sold Michael Tanner 50 acres of “Miller’s Choice”.

1765 – Michael Miller had “Range” surveyed – 50 acres – grant. We believe that this is the 50 acres on Piney Creek that he sold in 1765 to Michael and Eve Tanner who deeded it to a son-in-law, John Storm. See circle 9.  Was Eve one of Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol’s daughters that we have not discovered?  Mason P 14

Frederick Co. MD Land Records Liber K Abstracts, 1765-1768 abstracted by Patricia Abelard Andersen, p 18-19

1768 – The defeat of Pontiac triggers mass migration westward over the mountains. Replogle 20

1768 – November – the British government bought large tracts of land from the Iroquois and Pennsylvania now owns all the land west of the Alleghenies to the Ohio River except for the northernmost part of the colony, opening the doors for a huge migration. However, the Delaware and Shawnee were left out and the raids continued.  Replogle 115

1768-1769 – List of persons who stand charged with land on Frederick County rent rolls which are under such circumstances as renders it out of the power of George Scott Farmer to collect the rents and there claims allowance under his articles for the same from March 1768 to March 1769: (Note there are several pages of these, so much so that it looks like a tax list, not a roll of uncollectibles.)

No Cripe, Greib, Ullrich, Ullery or Stutzman
Conrad Miller
Isaac Miller
Jacob Miller Jr
John Miller
Lodwick Miller
Michael Miller heirs
Oliver Miller, Balt Co.
Oliver Miller, Balt Co additional
Thomas Miller

Inhabitants of Frederick Co. MD, Vol 1, 1750-1790 by Stefanie R. Shaffer, p 45

1770 – Michael Miller recorded on June 21, 1770 a deed made on the same date between he and Peter Apple/Apel for 50 pounds, a 20 acre tract of Small Hope. Signed in German script, Peter Apel before Charles Beatty, William Richey Receipt ack.  Alienation fine paid.  Please note that in 1772 Hans Michael Miller is paying tax on this land. P 154-155

Also note that in 1765 Johann Michael Miller was signing with an M, and this Michael Miller signs five years later in German script.

As best I can tell, the alienation fine was connected with selling the land privately away from the proprietor of Maryland. This is discussed on pages 33-35 of “The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Centuries, Volume 2” by Herbert Levi Osgood.

Frederick County Maryland Land Records Liber N Abstracts 1770-1772 Abstracted by Patricia Ableard Andersen p 24

1770 – Richard Richardson recorded June 25, 1770 made June 22 between Michael Miller for 40 pounds, sells 10 acres of tract called Small Hopes. Signed Michael Miller receipt acknowledged Pages 171-173

Frederick County Maryland Land Records Liber N Abstracts 1770-1772 Abstracted by Patricia Ableard Andersen, p 25

1771 – Michael Miller’s death is recorded by Nicholas Martin in a letter to Alexander Mack Jr. wherein he references the death of Michael Miller as a “year ago” which would be approximately May of 1771.

On May 24, 1772, when Nicholas Martin was presiding at Conecocheague, he wrote a lengthy letter to Alexander Mack, Jr., of which one paragraph reads:

“You will perhaps know that the dear Brother Michael Miller died a year ago. Brother Jacob Stutzman is again quite improved; he was very feeble this past winter.”

Michael Miller is references as “Brother” so there is absolutely no question that he died Brethren.

Elder Nicholas Martin was the ruling Church of the Brethren elder for this section of MD and PA and a friend of Alexander Mack Jr.  Alexander Mack Sr. was the founder of the Brethren Church and his son the leader after his father’s death.  In other letters he comments about the health of Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman.  When Nicholas was naturalized in 1762, Michael Miller Sr. and his son Philip Jacob Miller were witnesses for him.  Nicholas’s farm called “Swamp of Experience” was adjoining Tom’s Chance and Ash Swamp.  Mason P 19

These men were clearly very close neighbors and friends. Nicholas Martin probably preached the funeral of his friend Michael Miller, in German of course.

1771 – Justin Replogle believes that Michael is probably buried on Miller’s Fancy. Replogle p 32

Floyd Mason believes Michael is buried on Ash Swamp.

We believe that Michael Miller was buried on his plantation where he lived or in the family cemetery on John Miller’s section of Ash Swamp. We believe he remained Lutheran or Reformed.  However he may have attended or joined the German Baptist Brethren.  Some records say that they lived and were buried at Conococheaque, Washington Co., MD near Hagerstown, MD.    Mason P 20

Gene Miller believes he is buried in the now-lost cemetery on John Miller’s part of Ash Swamp.

It is believed that Michael Miller is most likely buried in the private cemetery that was located on the John Miller portion of the Ash Swamp property. The 50 by 50 foot cemetery plot is apparently lost to history today as there is no record of it.  Miller 31

I don’t have a clue where he is buried, but if I had to guess, and I do, I would suggest it is more likely to be on his son’s property than elsewhere simply because that land is more likely to ‘remain in the family’ where the land of step-children is already outside of the blood-line family. It’s also likely that a cemetery on John Miller’s land had already been established as the “Miller cemetery” for this family.  It’s unlikely that there were no deaths between 1752 when Michael deeded this land to his sons and 1771 when Michael died.

1771 – Michael Miller dies and Ash Swamp is divided between Philip Jacob, John and Lodowich. 1000 pounds is given to Hans Michael to purchase Pleasant Gardens, Michael Jr. is given Blindman’s Choice.  Miller p 24

Note: I don’t find a deed giving Blindman’s Choice to Michael Jr.

From 1769 thru 1772 the tax on Michael’s land was paid by the heirs as seen on this tax books. There are some records that show that the tax was owed for several years and we believe that they did not get around to paying the tax until after Michael’s death in 1771.  Michael Miller Sr. (the second died in 1771) lived for years at the mouth of Little Antietam where it flows into the Antietam Creek.  Mason p 13

We found that after the death of Michael Miller Sr. (the second), in 1771, both Michael Miller Jr. (the third) and Hans Michael Miller were paying the tax in 1772 and succeeding years. Philip Jacob Miller was paying taxes on “Ash Swamp,” 290 acres and Lodowich Miller was paying taxes on land that he had bought near Taneyown, Md.  See Circle #7.  Mason P 14

The names of Michael Miller Jr. (the third) and Hans Michael Miller are confusing. Given that Michael Miller Sr.’s (d 1771) actual name was Johann Michael Mueller (Miller), and Hans is short for Johann, you would think that Michael Miller Jr. would be Hans Michael Miller Jr.  Both of these men cannot be sons of the Michael Miller who died in 1771.  However, one could be a son and one his grandson.  Further research into both Michael Miller Jr. (the third) and Hans Michael Miller would hopefully reveal additional information and in particular, about their age.  We know, for example, that Johann Michael Miller (the second’s) first child, a son, Johann Peter, was born in 1715.  If Johann Peter married when he was 20 and had a son when he was 21, whom he named after his father, that birth would have occurred about 1736.  That child, Johann Michael Miller, would have come of age about 1757.  Given that several grandchildren of Michael Miller could have been coming of age anytime after 1757, Hans Michael Miller could have belonged to any of the living or perhaps deceased male children of Johann Michael Miller the second who died in 1771.

I assembled the various land transactions of Michael Miller as shown below.

Miller land chart 1Miller land chart 2

*Troy Goss refers to the John who was involved with the Ash Swamp land as John Peter. This is the only source I have seen referring to this John as John Peter Miller.  It would be very unusual for Johann Peter to be called John instead of Peter, since Johann was the first given name of most German male children.  The only person called Johann or John would be someone whose full name was Johannes Mueller.

In 1783, these men conveyed land back and forth. Troy shows deeds on Dec. 9, 1783 for 220 acres from Lodowich to Philip Jacob Miller for 5 shillings (Washington Co., Land records, Book C, pages 563-47).  On December 26, 1783, Philip Jacob Miller conveys 144 acres to John Peter Miller for 5 shillings “and brotherly affection.” Book C, pages 260-262.

To finish the story of Michael’s land in Frederick County, when John died in 1794, Frederick County had become Washington County. The family sold all of Michael’s land that both John and Philip Jacob had inherited to one John Schnebley.

Philips Jacob’s land, sold on September 25, 1795, included Keller’s Discovery for 11 acres, Prickley Ash Bottom for 11 acres and his part of the Resurvey of Ash Swamp for 143.5 acres, for 2,175 pounds. Liber I, page 360.

John’s land included his 143.5 acres of the Resurvey of Ash Swamp for 2,044 pounds. Liber I FF page 584.

It’s interesting to note that Michael paid 243 pounds for this land in 1745 that sold for a total of 4219 pounds in 1795, about 50 years later, for a profit of 576%. He was indeed an astute investor.

Philip Jacob Miller left and went to Kentucky in about 1796, a couple of years after his brother John died. Philip had witnessed his brother John’s will.  He likely sorely missed his brother who had been his neighbor and farming companion his entire life.  While we don’t have a will in Maryland for Philip Jacob, we do have John’s will which gives us a peek into their life on Ash Swamp.

The land was referenced as both meadow and swamp. It seems there was about 100 acres of woodland and the rest was swamp, meadow and cultivated land.  The woods are entirely gone today.

In John Miller’s estate inventory, we find

  • A Bible – I have to wonder if this was his father’s Bible. If he was Johann Peter born in 1715, he was the eldest son, and this could well have been his father’s Bible if it survived all of the moves, warfare and indian raids.  I wonder what happened to this Bible.
  • Hand tools such as saws, hammers, trowels, branding irons, knives, pinchers, shovels, chains, broad axes, a grubbing hoe, a rifle, a scythe, an anvil and a corn hoe. Obviously, the rifle was for hunting, not defense.
  • Farm implements such as a tar bucket, a bushel basket, a wagon whip, a dutch oven, old flour barrels, a chisel, a compass, a dung fork, an auger, a barking iron, a shot gun, a wool wheel, tanners knives, stelyards, a harrow, a hay fork, plows, draw knives, mall rings, wedges, a windmill and sausage horn.
  • Produce such as flower, a barrel of vinegar, stacks of hay, wheat, oats, rye, corn, flax, potatoes. Some produce was still in the field such as 8 acres of barley and wheat that was seeded.
  • Farm animals including geese, turkeys, ducks, horses, cows, calves, bulls, sheep and hogs along with cured pork.
  • Household items such as chairs, a tub, a bedstead, a table, dressers, chests, a dough tray, lamps, baskets, a kettle, a stove, weaving loom and spooling wheel, wool cards, knives and forks, pewter spoons, a kitchen cabinet and shelves. It’s interesting that there is only one bedstead.

Philip Jacob’s farm would probably have been quite similar, as would Michael’s before them at his death in 1771, although Michael may have had significantly less because he had to start over so many times when war drove him out and the Indians likely burned his homes. I wonder how many homes he lost in that manner.  I’m betting at least two.

Michael and his son’s lives were filled with uncertainty in a way we find difficult to relate to today.

“For the first fifty years the Brethren suffered many privations on account of the French war in 1755, the Revolution 20 years later, and subsequent Indian wars together with many inconveniences incident to a newly settled country, as our part of the state was at that time. The dread of the Indian’s tomahawk and scalping knife, was everywhere felt. In the morning before going to the fields to work, the farmer and his sons often bid good-bye to the balance of the family, fearing they might not return, or if permitted to do so, would find their loved ones murdered by the Indians.” (From The Brethren Almanac 1879.)

That simple paragraph probably pretty much sums up the daily life of Johann Michael Miller’s life. Always wary, always on the frontier, always in some amount of jeopardy.  However, his faith sustained him and he managed to survive, as did many of his children, either because of or in spite of his Brethren faith and non-violent ways.

The Brethren Almanac goes on to report, “Under the guiding hand of their first resident Elder, Wm. Stover, the congregation worshipped in houses. Brother Jacob Miller was elected to the ministry, and in 1765 moved to Virginia.”

This is the genesis of the legend that Jacob Miller is the son of Michael Miller – a legend we will disprove.

Visiting Michael’s Land in Frederick (now Washington) County, MD

In October of 2015, I was able to visit Hagerstown, Maryland, located in Washington, County, the part formerly Frederick County. More specifically, I was able to locate Johann Michael Miller’s land, Ash Swamp, that he may have lived on and that he left to his sons, in particular, John and Philip Jacob, my ancestor.

Johann Michael Miller owned land just outside of and now partly within Maugansville, Maryland.

Gene Miller, in his book, assembled the surveys into a conglomerate. If Gene is right about where the cemetery was located, it may well be under the subdivision today, and if not, perhaps our ancestors are sleeping peacefully under some corn.

Resurvey of Ash Swamp

On this map, Michael’s land encompasses most of the land between Cearfoss Pike (58), Gardenville Road and Maugansville Road including Rush Run.

Ash Swamp map crop

Here is the satellite view of that area.

Ash Swamp satellite

The grey balloon is the old working farm that remains.

Arriving in the area from Cearfoss, approaching Michael’s farm, you notice the lovely clean farms. As I’ve been working my way north this week from Richmond, VA, I’ve noticed how much these farms resemble the Pennsylvania, Lancaster County, type of farms and buildings.  That makes sense, since the people who settled here were a group of Germans that had previously lived in that area.

The land to the south of Cearfoss Pike was also Michaels. His son, Lodowick also bought a significant amount of land here.

Lodowick's land

There is a more contemporary home very near to the road. This structure is not old enough to have been here when Michael owned this land.

Miller land current house

However, this farm that sits back could have been the original farm and house, or at least the location of the original buildings. This would have been John’s portion of the farm.

Miller land farm house

The house sits quite a ways back from the road, and I did not want to disturb the current day owners, so I took photos from a distance.

Miller land farm close

Based on the maps of this region from the 1850s through about 1900, this farm does not appear to have existed at that time, so it’s not the original farm house, as I had hoped.

Fortunately, Grace Academy purchased Michael’s land and built in the middle of the field, behind the homes on 58 and also behind the homes in the development off of Garden View and Maugansville Road.

Miller with arrows

The map above shows the original farm to the upper left, Grace Academy to the lower left, the property today owned by the car collector is to the far right and the arrow just slightly left of that is Ashton Hall. Johann Michael Mueller owned most of this land.

You can see the land overlayed on this scan from page 30 of the Miller book.

Miller book overlay crop

This 1859 Taggert plat map of Washington County shows homestead locations.

Washington 1859

It appears that the old farmhouse on Cearfoss Pike is on the Daniel Zeter land but it’s not showing as a homestead. Daniel Zeter’s actual homestead is north of Michael Miller’s property, although it looks like there was a road leading to his house over Michael’s property.  It could also have changed in the years since the 1770s or even the 1790s.  It appears that the M. Horst and John Horst properties are the car collector perhaps and Ashton Hall.

washington 1877

The 1877 atlas, above clearly shows the Zeller residence. If that is where John’s farm was located, it’s likely under the subdivision today.  Philip Jacob’s land is likely where the Horst farms were located.

The 1879 map is very similar.

Washington 1879

The Ashton Hall history confirms we have the correct land with the following:

In 1838, the farm was sold to John Horst, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to settle the estate of John Schnebly. In 1865, Horst sold part of the farm to his son Samuel, …reserving that part of the dwelling house on the north side of the passage from the cellar to the garrett with privilege of using the entries and stairs for passing and repassing with free access to any of the springs and one third part of the garden… according to the deed. Samuel and his bride resided in the upstairs ballroom area, and an enclosed stairway was added just inside the kitchen door for access. In 1885, Lesher Horst, son of Samuel and Lydia Horst, built his own brick home on their portion of Ashton Hall. This property was later to become known as the Miller Asparagus Farm. Fanny Horst married Michael Martin and in 1899, the Martin family purchased the farm and continued their lineage at Ashton Hall. These were Mennonite families who continued to farm the land until 1989, 183 years. Orville Martin was the last steward of Schnebley’s fertile lands.

Ashton Hall has evolved into a community. John Schnebley’s estate has been subdivided with single-family dwellings converging over half the designated meadow, at this time. A church, a private school (kindergarten through twelfth grade), two smaller farms, and a soccer complex are on the perimeter acreage. In the midst of this, sits a quiet reminder of another way of life altogether.

The Grace Academy location, the private school mentioned above, provided wonderful access to photograph Michael’s land and the farm to the west. Most of this land was Michael’s.  You can see what wonderful farming land it would have been, especially given the reminder of the mountains within sight to the west.  These are the Blue Ridge and are maybe 8 or 10 miles distant.

Miller farm west

My husband and I had a picnic lunch of bagels with cream cheese and left over pizza in the Grace Academy parking lot. It was fun to break bread on Michael’s land, some 244 years after he passed from this earth.  He probably took food from his knapsack and did the same thing in 1745 when he scouted this land.  I’m sure it looks dramatically different, 275 years later, but still, I returned and ate where Michael assuredly did as well.  None of this land would have been cleared at that time, so Michael would not have been able to see the mountains in the distance.  We’re looking at the results of Michael’s work and that of his sons John and Philip Jacob Miller.

Miller farm west 2

Michael’s land to the left of the photo above.

Miller farm west 3

Michael’s land to the right of the farm before the subdivision.  The subdivision was his land too.

Miller farm west 4

A closer look at the farm.

Miller farm mountains

And the mountains.  Did Michael ever dream of crossing these mountains?  Or was Michael done with dreaming of new frontiers?  His son, Philip Jacob not only dreamed of crossing these mountains, he did, at age 70 or so.

Miller farm sky

The farm from Garden View Road, from the back side, across the north part of Michael’s land. This sky is stunning.

Miller farm sky 2

Thankfully Michael had his land resurveyed, because this is the only record we actually have of who received the land and where it lay.

There are however, two other properties of significant interest. On the map, below the grey balloon marks the location of 13318 Maugansville Road.

Miller Maugansville road

Just below this location we find 13220 Maugansville Road, which is Ashton Hall. These two locations are quite historic.

Here is a closer view of the two together.

Miller Ashton Hall

Michael’s son, Philip Jacob would have built a house on this land. These two properties are candidates for that home.  Ashton Hall is actually on Rush Run, which would have been the water source for both.  However, we know that the current building at this location was built in 1801 because the history of Ashton Hall has been researched.  We don’t know if Ashton Hall was built on the location where Philip Jacob’s house had been.

In 1795, John Schnebly purchased 146 and 1/2 acres of land, parts of land grants Keller’s Discovery, Prickly Ash Bottom and Resurvey on Ash Swamp for the sum of …two thousand one hundred and seventy-five pounds five shillings current money. John Schnebly named his property Ashton Hall and, in 1801, built the stone house near Maugansville.

This does, however, confirm that part of this land was indeed Resurvey on Ash Swamp, Michael’s land.

Miller Ashton Hall 2

This property, below, just north of Ashton Hall was visited in the 1970s by other Miller researchers when it was Miller Farm Market. The owners at that time believed that while the house was probably not old enough to be from that timeframe, some of the other buildings were.

Miller car collector

There didn’t seem to be anyone home, so I pulled into the driveway, snapped a few quick shots and left.

Miller car collector 2

An automobile collector lives here today. This could have been the location of the original Philip Jacob Miller homestead.

Miller car collector 3

Miller car collector 4

This begs the question of where Michael and his first wife, Susan Berchtol, are buried. The answer is that we don’t know.

Susan could have died near Hanover, PA before Michael migrated to Maryland, but it is uncertain.

However, it’s a safe bet is that Michael is buried either here or on his land on the Antietam, Miller’s Fancy. We know that someplace here on his own property is a 50 foot by 50 foot cemetery, found on John Miller’s portion, lost to time and probably being plowed or under houses.  Michael’s son John owned this land when he died as well, so he is probably buried here too.  If one of the houses in the subdivision is haunted, well, I guess we know why!

In the Mason book, Floyd mentions that they visited the Hagerstown area in 1990. He includes a photograph of a property he believes may be one of the old Miller locations.  I originally thought it was the car collector’s property above, but after looking again, I don’t think it is.

Mason pix Maugansville Road

I “drove” this area again using Google maps street view, and I saw nothing at all similar, so I’m presuming that this property is gone today, in October 2015, or it really is the same property I visited owned by the car collector. It has been 25 years since Floyd Mason took these photos, and it was an old property at that time.  If it was as old as Mason thought, it would be very difficult to maintain.  There are several new structures in the area and the couple that owns Ashton Halls has reported a lot of development.

The balance of Michael’s Resurvey of Ash Swamp is either a contemporary subdivision, or farmland surrounding Ashton Hall, which you can’t see from the road. Rush Creek crosses this property and by driving into the entrance of the soccer club, beside the Academy, you can see somewhat of the land east of the Academy, west of Maugansville Road and north of Cearfoss Pike.  This is on the western part of Philip Jacob Miller’s portion of Ash Swamp.

Miller soccer complex

The picture above is looking north. The one below looking east.  Ashton Hall would be behind those trees about half a mile as the crow flies.  The car collector’s property may be slightly visible in the distance just beyond the row of trees.

Miller Ashton Hall 3

I find it very vexing, after all of the real estate transactions Michael Miller was involved with that we still don’t really know where he lived when he died. We know that he deeded all of his land before his death, so he was clearly living with one of his children (or step-children) or at least on land owned by them.

When visiting, I didn’t make the side trip to Antietam and Little Antietam Creek because with all of Michael Miller’s activities on or near Cearfoss Pike, I really didn’t think that he would be living south of Hagerstown. I was probably wrong, and of course, now I wish I had taken that side trip.

Michael did own that land and he could have been living on Miller’s Fancy. In the deed where he conveys the Skipton on Craven land to his step children’s spouses, Jacob Good and John Rife, the deeds say “the land where they now live” indicating that it’s where they live, not where Michael lives.  But Michael continues to pay the taxes on part of the land he sold to his step-children’s spouses.  He had to live someplace.  Is that tax money his “rent” for the rest of his life?

Mason believes that Michael lived on 36 acres of Miller’s Fancy and 8 acres of Well Taught. That doesn’t seem like enough land to support a family, but then again, maybe Michael didn’t need to support a family anymore.

In general terms, the area where Michael Miller’s land lay on the Antietam Creeks was near Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Miller Antietam map

One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War was fought here. This iconic image of the Battle of Antietam where the Confederate and Union dead lie together in front of the Brethren Church has become symbolic of the war itself. This battle was found on the land of the descendants of Michael Miller.

Miller Brethen church Antietam

The intersection of Antietam and Little Antietam Creek is on Keedysville Road.

Antietam and Little Antietam

A closer look at the intersection of Antietam and Little Antietam

Intersection Antietam and Little Antietam

This is the bridge over Little Antietam Creek.

Bridge Little Antietam

Looking at Little Antietam from the bridge.

Curve Little Antietam

If the description of where Michael Miller lived is accurate, he lived on the curve where Antietam Creek intersects with Little Antietam, below.

Antietam curve

This is the curve where Little Antietam intersects with Antietam. Antietam is on the left.

Barn Little Antietam

This barn is actually on the curve with the river slightly visible behind the barn. Was this where Michael’s barn stood?  Was this Michael’s barn?  It’s certainly in the right location.

Bridge Antietam

This is the bridge over Antietam Creek.

Of course, Floyd Miller believes that Michael’s land was northeast of Hagerstown and Maugansville, as shown on his map with circle #4. Perhaps one day a future generation of Miller researchers will run the deeds backwards and forward in time and resolve this mystery once and for all.  If we’re extremely lucky, an old cemetery will be discovered on one of these parcels.

Michael’s Children

Because Michael did not have a will, we only know of three or four children positively, and a possible fifth. The rest of the individuals attributed to Michael elsewhere are speculation.  If someone does have other children and documentation for such, I would love to add that child.  I have not included any speculative children below.

  • Hans (probably Johann) Peter Mueller, baptized on January 19, 1715, at Konken, Germany. We don’t know if this child lived to adulthood. If so, he would probably have married when the family was living in Chester Co, PA. He may be John Miller below.
  • Lodowich Miller born 1724 or earlier in Germany. Migrated with his parents and lived in or near Hanover, PA and Hagerstown, MD before marrying Barbara, surname unknown, and migrating to Rockingham Co., VA about 1782 where he likely died in 1792.
  • Philip Jacob Miller born about 1726 in Germany. Migrated with his parents and lived near Hanover, York Co., PA. Inherited land from his father in present day Washington County, MD near Maugensville. Married Magdalena, probably in York County, who was reported to be a Rochette. He remained in Frederick County until 1796 when he, along with his children, migrated to Campbell County, KY where he died in 1799.
  • John Miller inherits part of Ash Swamp from Michael in 1765 and lived there until he died in 1795, likely being buried on his own land on a 50 by 50 foot cemetery plot, now lost to time. He may be Hans Peter Mueller born in 1715.
  • Hans Michael Miller is given money to purchase land.
  • Michael Miller Junior is given land.

There exists some confusion between John Miller and Johann Peter Miller. In some cases, John, who inherited part of Ash Swamp is referenced as Johann Peter.  If this is the case, then we know that Johann Peter did live and what happened to him.  However, it also means that it reduces the number of children we know about.

Various researchers attribute Michael and Susanna with anyplace from 7 to 12 children. Given that they were married for 17 childbearing years, they would probably have had between 9 and 12 children.  It’s unlikely that their children all lived.

It seems that any male with the surname Miller living in the region gets attached as a son. Miller is an extremely common occupation name in Germany.  After all, every village had at least one miller, so there are lots of German Millers.

It’s certainly possible that the Jacob Miller and family who were massacred were Michael’s son and grandchildren, but we don’t know and we have no real evidence to suspect – other than the surname in the same place and time.

There is a Barbara who marries a Garber who is often credited with being Johann Michael Mueller’s daughter – and while she might be – there is no evidence that she is – not even land transactions. It would be interesting to see if any of Barbara’s descendants match any of Michael’s descendants utilizing autosomal DNA – assuming they share no other lines.  Given the level of endogamy in the Brethren community, that’s a tough criteria to meet – assuming you do know the surnames of all of the females.  Since the Brethren didn’t register their marriages in the counties where they lived, females surnames are particularly troublesome and elusive.

It’s almost assured that Johann Michael Miller and Susanna Agnes Bechtol had additional children. Whether those children lived to adulthood is uncertain.  It’s even uncertain that Hans Michael Miller, above is Michael’s child, especially given the fact that we also have a Michael Miller Jr. involved.  One of these men is probably a grandchild.

It’s ironic that we know more about Michael’s step-children through land transactions where he sells them land than we know about his own children, aside from Philip Jacob, Lodowich and John.

But there is one thing we do know, and it solves a very long and somewhat contentious mystery.

Jacob is Not Michael’s Child

Jacob Miller has been quite a conundrum. Jacob was born about 1735 in Pennsylvania, was a Brethren minister, lived in Frederick County and then moved to Virginia in about 1765.  He eventually moved on to Kentucky.  Eventually, Jacob is found in Montgomery County, Ohio, outside Dayton, when the county was first forming, again with our Miller family.  In fact, Daniel, Michael Miller’s grandson through Philip Jacob Miller buys land from Jacob Miller when Daniel first arrives in Montgomery County.  It has been assumed or postulated for a very long time that Jacob Miller is a son of Michael Miller, but he isn’t. Y DNA testing has shown that these Miller families do not share a common male ancestor.

One of the goals of establishing the Miller-Brethren project in 2009 was to sort through the various Miller individuals associated with the Brethren church as it expanded across America.

It took quite some time to establish the Y DNA signature of Johann Michael Miller. The first two men who believed they were descended from him did not match each other, so we needed to proceed with individuals with well documented genealogy.  Fortunately, we managed to recruit several Miller men and today, we have a total of 6 Miller males who descend from Michael.

Brethren Miller Jacob

In the screen shot above, the Jacob Miller line is lavender.  You can see that it differs significantly from the Johann Michael Miller line, in yellow, below. You can click to enlarge both graphics.

Brethren Miller Michael

You may also have noticed that one the men who descends from the Elder Jacob Miller line thought that he descended from the Johann Michael Miller line. This certainly is not an uncommon occurrence and sorting through situations like this was indeed part of the project goals.  It’s very difficult to tell the difference between people of the same name in the same county at the same time subscribing to the same religion.  Thank goodness for the tool of Y DNA.

One of the surprising aspects of this project is that there were so many different Miller lines associated with the Brethren or found in the counties where the Brethren Millers were known to be living – including a second and third Johann Michael Miller. We have 15 groups in total, plus a few people who remain in the “non-Brethren” or ungrouped groups for various reasons.

We invite all male Millers who have Brethren heritage in their Miller line or who think they might descend from Johann Michael Mueller to test at Family Tree DNA.  Please purchase the Y DNA 37 or 67 marker test and the Family Finder autosomal test as well, if the budget will allow both tests.

As more people test, hopefully Miller males who descend from “possible sons” of Johann Michael Miller, we should be able to either confirm more of his sons or put those rumors to rest once and for all.