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  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 –
Ancestry –

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 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… 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 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.

Visiting Mom at Family Tree DNA

Mom swabbed for me, several times in fact.  She wasn’t terribly interested in DOING genealogy, but she was quite interested in the outcome of the process, and she loved to go along with me on our “larks,” as she would call them, where we would go and find our family land, or house…or something interesting…like the original bar in the Kirsch House, below.

Kirsch house 1990s

On the Kirsch House adventure, above, Mom and my daughter and I went back to Aurora, Indiana to find the location of “The Kirsch House,” the hotel and tavern owned by Mom’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel, below.

Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch

Mom didn’t know Jacob, who died the year before she was born in 1922, but Barbara didn’t pass away until 1930, so Mom knew Barbara.

Mom loved those adventures.  She just wasn’t interested in doing genealogy by herself.  I didn’t understand then, but I think genealogy made her sad.  Probably because the easiest places to visit were where she had lived, had grown up, and had personal memories of those who had passed on.  I remember visiting the graves of her mother, her grandmother and the day we found the tombstone of her great-grandmother, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, who had died when Mom was 8.  Mom was Barbara’s namesake.

Kirsch Riverview

The Kirsch family immigrated from Germany to Aurora, so going further back in time from Aurora meant jumping the pond.  When we did get back to Germany in the records…we couldn’t visit that location in person.

It’s not that I didn’t want to take a trip to Mutterstadt, Germany to visit the Kirsch homelands, it’s that I couldn’t pry Mom away from her work long enough to take a trip like that.  Mom worked as an Avon lady, her third career, until she was 83 years old.  And she didn’t retire then because she wanted to, but because her health was failing due to dementia and other factors.

And…truthfully…she only retired then because we stole her car.  Well, we didn’t EXACTLY steal it…it’s just that after she had another of those accidents that she didn’t know how occurred…it so happened that it took months for her car to be repaired.  She forgot that she even owned a car until the insurance bill came…and was she ever hot then when she remembered about her car.  I blamed my brother who blamed the car repair place who claimed the part would be there any day now!

Do you know how difficult it is to hide a bright red sports car?  Yes, she bought a red sports car with mag wheels, dual exhaust, front and rear spoilers and a loud engine that made rumbling sounds as her last hurrah.  She had always wanted one.


It’s pretty humorous now, but at that time my brother and I were 50 and 60 year old kids who had gotten caught with our hands in the proverbial cookie jar!  She was not a happy camper when she remembered that she had a red sports car, and she let us know about it in no uncertain terms!

I asked Mom to swab, again, in the spring of 2003.  She simply asked what this one was for and swabbed in a resigned sort of way.  I know she had to be thinking to herself, “the things we do for our children.”  Had she lived long enough, she would have been both “spittin’ and swabbin’.”  Sounds like a dance doesn’t it!

It was at that point in time that I was suspecting that perhaps one of her ancestral lines held Native ancestry – but it wouldn’t be until after her death that I was able to prove such…not by her DNA at that time, but by breaking through a brick wall and proving those lines via plain old genealogy and the DNA of direct paternal and matrilineal DNA descendants of those Acadian lines.  Oh, how I wish she could have been here to hear about that!  We would have been on our way to Nova Scotia tout suite, guaranteed.

In 2003, when Mom first tested, autosomal DNA testing had yet to be introduced, so Mom’s DNA was archived at Family Tree DNA for 25 years.  Now Family Tree DNA wasn’t started until in 2000, so they aren’t going to have to figure out what to do with archived DNA until about 2025.  Mom’s DNA has only been there for 12 years.

Mom passed away in the spring of 2006.  She was 84 years old and her health had failed.  One is never ready for the death of a parent, but one does know sometimes that it needs to happen.  Death was a release.

I took at this photo of Mom in the window of the church in Aurora, Indiana where her grandmother was baptized, as was her great-grandmother and where her great-great-grandmother attended church after arriving from Germany, probably extremely thankful that weeks-long miserable boat trip was over and everyone survived.  This reflective image is how I think of Mom.

Mom church window

Not really gone, but kind of ethereal and slightly out of reach.  But not all of Mom is physically gone.

When autosomal DNA testing became available, I ordered an upgrade for Mom in August of 2011.  Bennett Greenspan called me and told me that they had been having limited success with older samples, especially those older than 5 years.  Just because they can archive the DNA, and just because they can amplify the DNA to increase their probability of success, doesn’t mean there is enough quantity or the quality of the DNA is adequate for the kinds of tests that require a significant amount of DNA – those tests being the Family Finder and Big Y tests, although Mom obviously would never be a candidate for the Big Y (because women don’t have a Y chromosome.)  Amplifying the good DNA also amplifies any contaminant DNA as well, like from bacteria.

I told Bennett I had to try, so he agreed.  The wait seemed much longer than it was, but the day her results arrived, I cringed and clicked to open the link to find her actual results and matches, not a message saying that the test had failed.  I surely held my breath, because at that time we were at the 8 year mark since she had swabbed, and 5 years since her death, so there was no opportunity to get another DNA sample.

Mom hadn’t failed me, and neither had Bennett, luck nor technology.

A couple of years ago, I visited Family Tree DNA after the 2013 conference.  I received a lab tour in a small group, but it was pretty quick and the space was small and tight.

This fall, I visited again and was afforded a private tour.  (Thank you Bennett.)  It was much quieter and more personal.  The lab looked a lot like the tour of a couple years ago, except for some new equipment, but this time, I actually got close to the freezer.

Mom wore a ring that her parents gave her when she was 16.  She wore it every day for 68 years.  Now I wear it on a chain around my neck because I don’t want to have it sized.  The band is too thin, and although I know I can have it built back up, I wanted to wear it as she had.  The fact that the band is hair thin speaks of her lifetime and all the activities that wore the metal away, and I don’t want to change that memory.

I wore the ring to Houston, taking Mom along with me.  She goes with me on many journeys now.  We’ve been to places Mom could never have imagined and assuredly wouldn’t like.  For example, evacuating during a hurricane on Hatteras Island…but I digress.

Standing in front of the freezer, touching her ring, I told Bennett that I was visiting Mom, that she was in there and there was more of “her” in there now than any other place in the world, except maybe in me.  But then again, I only carry half of her DNA.  Bennett just kind of paused for a minute, smiled, and opened the freezer door for me.  I could see the robotic arm moving back and forth and of course, I have no idea where Mom was in this little mini-freezer-cemetery.  But she was there just the same, and I visited her.

FTDNA freezer

I stood there for a long minute peering inside, said a little private prayer and tried to hide the tears welling up in my eyes.

I know Bennett probably had no idea just how important it would be to people, like me, to be able to resurrect a little bit of Mom, and along with her, our ancestors’ history, after someone’s death.  Had it not been for his foresightedness to archive the DNA for 25 years, and his willingness to purchase a custom $600,000 (choke) freezer to do it, I would never have been able to recover Mom’s autosomal DNA, and along with it, that half of her autosomal DNA that I didn’t inherit.  Not only that, when someone matches both mother and I, it’s a sure fire way to know that match is from her side of the family.

I thank mother for swabbing and giving me the eternal gift of her DNA, the gift that truly does keep on giving, every single day.

So, when you’re wondering where to test your DNA, strongly consider the fact that Family Tree DNA archives your DNA.  You may not care, but your family just might.  Transferring your results from another company is not the same as having your DNA at Family Tree DNA.

Mom is not the only case I’ve come across.  There are many, including Bennett’s own father – and the DNA archival service is included in the cost of the test.  Of the three primary testing companies, Family Tree DNA is the only company that offers more than one test – so even if the other companies did or do archive your DNA, if there is nothing more to order, that archived DNA can’t be of benefit to you.

I wanted to take flowers when I visited Mom, but flowers aren’t allowed in the lab due to contamination concerns, so I guess Mom will just have to make do with this rose from my garden.

rose for mom

I surely do miss Mom, but at least I didn’t have to miss out on everything!  There’s no bringing Mom back, but at least we were able to salvage a bit of her.

And now that I think of it, she’s not at all alone in that freezer-cemetery.  I’m in there with her, as are some 610 of her cousins who match her autosomal DNA as well as her mitochondrial matches. I hope she’s getting to know them.  Knowing Mom, she has organized a mini-freezer-reunion and has rearranged everyone so her cousins can be in the same tray with her.  I surely hope she is getting all those connections straightened out and will find a way to share that information with me!  I’m dying (pardon the pun) to know how her matrilineal ancestors got from Scandinavia to Germany, for example.

I guess I should be telling Mom to rest in peace, but that isn’t really what I want.  I want her to help out from the other side.  She can rest in peace when I get there.  We’ll have a lot of catching up to do about these great adventures, and I can’t wait to sit down and have a cup of tea with her.

I’m betting I’ll have some “splaining” to do about her red car too.  I’m just sure that my brother, my accomplice…who, by the way, wound up with that car after Mom’s passing and is already “there,” has implicated me as the guilty party!

Living the Life You Only Hoped For

Thanksgiving is hard for some folks.  Life didn’t turn out exactly as they hoped or planned.

It’s easy for me to sometimes get tied up in the melancholy.  Thanksgiving when I was younger was a festive time on the farm.  The kitchen was overflowing onto tables in the living room. Aunts, uncles, siblings, lots of kids, sometimes foster children, boyfriends, girlfriends…the house was full. Mom and I were cooking and everyone brought a dish to pass.  It never occurred to me that one day those times would only be a memory.

It’s not like that now.  All of those people are gone, including my siblings.  In fact there are only a handful of people alive now who experienced those days and most of them are scattered to the winds.

So, I have to actively think of things to be thankful for at Thanksgiving.  Obviously, I’m thankful for my family, my children, their spouses, grandchildren and grandpuppies who do live close by.  And I’m really thankful that my husband likes to cook – and so are my kids!!!

Then, last night, on Facebook, I saw this inspirational saying by


That is just spot on.  I have never thought about things quite like this before.

And of course, my thoughts immediately turned to genetic genealogy.

Twenty years ago, DNA testing didn’t exist nor did we have any clue that it might.

Fifteen years ago, Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld were just starting Family Tree DNA.  They are today the only one of the early testing companies still in business and the only one to offer a full complement of DNA tests for genealogy.  Am I ever thankful for them and their success.

Ten years ago, we thought we had come a long way because we could test males Y chromosomes to 25 or 37 markers and the female line mitochondrial DNA.  I don’t recall whether we were doing full sequence testing yet a decade ago.

Five years ago, autosomal DNA testing had just been introduced and we were ecstatic.  Little did we know it would open the floodgates.

And today, the genetic genealogy world is one I couldn’t even have dreamed of.  I wonder what the next 5 years holds.

Indeed, times have changed dramatically, and for all we’ve lost through the natural processes of life, we’ve gained incredibly.  Not only have we gained new relatives and immediate family through birth and marriage and birth…but we’ve gained the tools to get to know our distant relatives.

By distant, I mean both in terms of miles and ancient.  The new relatives who live distantly we now get to know through social media like Facebook.  One of the ways we find those new relatives is through genealogy and sometimes, DNA testing.  I’ve become very close to some of the people I’ve met through genealogy.

But I also mean distant as in distant or ancient ancestors, my great-great-great-great-great grandfather Estes.  My most distant Estes ancestor was Nicholas Ewstas born in 1495 in Deal, Kent, England.  Today, through the magic of DNA testing, I know what his entire Y chromosome looked like, through his descendants.  I know that many of us today probably share small portions of his autosomal DNA.  I know how to identify his descendants by matching them to his Y chromosome results.  I know where in the world he came from, before Kent.  I know how his ancestors got from Africa to Europe and then to England, at least roughly.

Furthermore, the more people who test, the more direct Y and mtDNA relatives I can find to complete my DNA pedigree chart.  The more I can learn about these distant ancestors, by meeting more of my distant relatives in this lifetime.  The more people who test, the more ancestors available for all of us to find!!!

My biggest regret is that I didn’t know about DNA testing back in the day – that I can’t go back and swab those aunts and uncles.  I wouldn’t make that mistake today.  I now carry swab kits in my purse.  And yes, those of you who know me know I’m dead serious.  I would test all of them for autosomal DNA, Y and mtDNA if those lines had not already been tested and posted publicly for other descendants to find.

Indeed, I am extremely fortunate to find myself living in a time of miracles I didn’t even know enough to hope for.  I am very thankful.

thankful 2

Phebe (c1747-c1803), Is Jotham Brown’s Wife Zopher Johnson’s Daughter?, 52 Ancestors #99

I love her name, Phoebe.  There have been other Phoebe’s in the family line – her granddaughter, Phoebe Crumley, assuredly named for her.  Nine generations later, we have another Phoebe, but her parents had never heard of Phoebe Brown or Phoebe Crumley.  I like to think that they were somehow influenced by forces unseen to select a beautiful family name.

We don’t know a lot about the original Phoebe, Jotham Brown’s wife, whose name was also spelled Phebe, Pheby and Feby.  For example, we don’t know who her parents were.

There has been speculation for years based on the close relationship of the Brown and Johnson families in Frederick County, Virginia and Greene County, Tennessee, that Phebe was the daughter of Zopher Johnson the Elder.  I wish she was, because I think Zopher is a really cool name and someone else has already done a lot of quality research on this family who was originally found near Philadelphia, but alas, I really don’t think so.  Let’s take a look at Phoebe’s life and see how the evidence stacks up.

We know that Phoebe was living in Virginia in 1768, because on the 1850 census, her daughter, Jane Brown Cooper gave Virginia as her birth location.

We also know that Zopher Johnson, “the Elder” who is Phoebe’s speculative father, was living at the Forks of the Delaware between 1754-1762 when his son, Zopher Johnson, Sr., was born.

Zopher Johnson the Elder clearly did moved to Virginia sometime before 1781 when he was on the tax list in Frederick County, VA.  This is also the first location where we find Zopher Johnson living in the same location as the Jotham Brown family.  They are both found on the 1782 tax list.  We also know that Jotham Brown was living in Hampshire County in 1778 and remained there until about 1781.

Spring Gap Road with Mountain

This land in Hampshire County is still very remote and wooded today as shown by Google Maps street view.  I can’t even imagine how forbidding it looked 237 years ago when the first settlers were obtaining land grants.

Spring Gap Hamphire Co

Spring Gap and Bethel Road where they cross the creek feeding into Little Cacapon River.  This is the area where Jotham and Phebe Brown owned land.

In 1778, Jotham Brown would have been about 38 years old and Phebe maybe a few years younger.  Given that their oldest daughter, Jane was born in 1768, and is believed to be their oldest child, Jotham would have married Phoebe about 1767 – wherever they were both living at the time.

The problem is that we don’t know where they living in 1767, although it’s likely they were living in Virginia given that their daughter was born there a year later in 1768.

Had Zopher Johnson moved to someplace in Virginia by 1767?  If so, where?  He wasn’t in Hampshire County, or at least not that we can tell, although most Hampshire County records are missing, but Virginia land grants for this area exist.

Conversely, was Jotham Brown living in Pennsylvania in 1767?  There are no records that indicate that’s the case – but it’s possible.

However, in order for Zopher Johnson’s daughter to marry Jotham Brown, they had to be in the same location at the same time.  You can’t court someone who doesn’t live nearby – at least not then in Virginia.

By 1781/1782, both families had moved to Frederick County, VA.  Was this move coordinated or pre-planned or simply circumstantial?

The 1782 tax records tell us that Jotham Brown and Phoebe had 8 children, which could mean that they had been married roughly as long as 16 years, about 1766, which correlates with their the known birth year of Jane in 1768.

There was a strong Quaker presence in Frederick County, and the Crumley and Babb families into which the Brown family would eventually marry years later in Greene County, TN were both Quaker.  Did the Johnsons and Browns live near the Quaker families on Apple Pie Ridge in Frederick County?

Catherine Crumley 2

It’s likely, because, in 1787, when Berkeley County, West Virginia was formed from Frederick County, the Johnson family is found in Berkeley County.  So was William Crumley whose land actually spanned the states, with the state line running between the fence and the white barn below.  This area was heavily Quaker, but not to the exclusion of others.

William Crumley 6

By 1790, Zopher Johnson had moved to Greene County, Tennessee.  Within a few years, William Crumley’s son, William (the second), moved to Greene County, TN as well.

However, Jotham and Phoebe Brown didn’t stay long in Frederick County.  They were gone by 1783 when they bought land in Botetourt County, VA on Brush Creek (below) where they lived until Jotham died sometime between March of 1797 when he and Phoebe sold a plot of land and May of 1800 when Phoebe and Jotham’s eleven children sold Jotham’s remaining land in preparation to move to Greene County, TN.  It’s that deed that tells us the names of all of Jotham and Phoebe’s children, at least the ones that were living at that time.  We don’t know of any that died, but in that time and place, for all of your children to live to adulthood would be remarkable indeed.

brush creek mountain from the creek

By this time, Phoebe’s oldest daughter, Jane, had married Cristopher Cooper and Phoebe probably accompanied them when they moved to Greene County.  Of Phoebe’s eleven children, nine moved to Greene County and two moved to Kentucky – so certainly Phoebe went someplace and didn’t stay in Montgomery County alone with no family and no land. That would have been a death sentence.

By this time, the Johnson and Crumley families were already established in Greene County.  The Brown/Cooper family would join the Johnson and Crumley families in the Cross Anchor area.  Was this planned, and if so, as a function of knowing each other in Frederick County…or was there something more – an already established family tie other than Sylvanus having married Ruth Johnson in Montgomery County?  If Phoebe was Zopher’s “the Elder’s” daughter, Ruth would have been Sylvanus’s first cousin.  This marriage does tell us that at least some of the Johnson family was also in Montgomery County.

William Crumley (the second) had helped to establish the Methodist Church in Greene County, TN in 1797.  At least two of Phoebe Brown’s sons-in-law were Presbyterian as both Christopher Cooper and William Stapleton signed a religious petition in Botetourt County in 1785 to establish a Reformed Church of Scotland.  Zopher the Elder’s son, Zopher Sr., is buried in the Kidwell Cemetery in Greene County which was a Methodist churchyard at one time, and some of his descendants married Presbyterian, so although we don’t know Zopher the Elder’s religious conviction, it doesn’t appear to be Quaker.  He’s not mentioned in any Quaker church records.

We know that Phoebe Brown was still alive in 1802 when she witnessed the sale of land by her daughter Jane and Jane’s husband, Christopher Cooper in Montgomery County.  By December 1803, Jane and Christopher were purchasing land in Greene County, and it’s very likely that Phoebe was along with them with her two youngest, unmarried children.  By this time, Phoebe would have been less than 60 years old, probably about 55 given that she had her last child about 1790 – not elderly by any means.

Cooper land

We don’t know when Phoebe passed away, but assuming she did not die before leaving Montgomery County, she would be buried on her daughter, Jane’s land in what is now referred to as the “Old Cooper Cemetery.”  Cousin Stevie Hughes set a beautiful marker so that it will never be lost in the underbrush again.

There are other tidbits and hints too – but those tidbits don’t speak favorably about Phoebe being the daughter of Zopher Johnson.

Phoebe and Jotham Brown had the following children, according to Stevie Hughes excellent research:

  • Jane Brown, born 1768 in Virginia, married Christopher Cooper on October 20, 1786 in Montgomery County, VA.  She died between 1856 and 1859 and is buried in the Old Cooper cemetery on Spider Stines Road near the Cross Anchor area in Greene County, on the land where she had lived.

Old Cooper burial stone

  • Sylvanus Brown born about 1771, married Ruth Johnson, daughter of Moses Johnson, a son of Zopher Johnson, in 1794 in Montgomery County, VA.  They moved to Greene County in 1805 and lived on Smith’s Fork, also known as Tillman’s Fork, very close to William Crumley who also lived on Tillman’s Fork.  In fact, four of Sylvanus’ children married Crumleys.
  • David Brown born about 1773 married Nancy Craig in 1795 in Montgomery County.  He also came to Greene County where he served in the War of 1812.
  • John Brown was born about 1774, married Elizabeth Wilson and migrated from Montgomery County to Lincoln County, KY by 1802.
  • Esther Brown born about 1775 married John Willis in 1793 in Montgomery County.  She was in Montgomery County in 1818 when John died and in 1820, but is believed to have migrated to Greene County by 1830.
  • Elizabeth Brown born about 1780 married Joshua Wilson in Lincoln County, KY in 1802.  She apparently moved there with her brother John.
  • Mary Brown born about 1780 married William Stapleton in Montgomery County.  They were in Greene County by 1812.  The family migrated to Hawkins Co., TN and then to Lee Co., VA where Mary died in 1843 and is buried in the Roberts Cemetery.  They lived close to sister Lydia Brown and her husband, William Crumley the Third.

Mary Brown Stapleton gravestone

  • Jotham Brown Jr. was born October 2, 1783 and moved with his family to Greene County where he married Margaret “Peggy” Maloney and served in the War of 1812.  He lived on the Waters of Lick Creek.  There is a Malone Cemetery on the land by the Union Church where this couple may be buried.  This is very near Tilman’s Fork.

malone cemetery

  • Mercy Brown born about 1784 married William Babb in 1807 in Greene County,  eventually settling in Hawkins County, TN..  The Babb family had lived near the Crumley family in Frederick County, VA and were Quakers.
  • William Brown was born about 1789 and married Martha Blair in 1811.  He likely died young with only one son and possibly a daughter.
  • Lydia Brown, the youngest child, was born about 1790 in Montgomery County, VA.  She would have come with her mother and siblings to Greene County where she married William Crumley (the third) on October 1, 1807.  There has been a lot of discussion, along with mitochondrial DNA testing, to determine whether or not Lydia died before 1817 or whether she lived beyond 1817.  While this may seem trivial, it isn’t, at least not to me, because my ancestor, Phebe Crumley was born to William Crumley (the third) and his wife in March of 1818.  One William Crumley married in October of 1817 to one Elizabeth Johnson.  William Crumley the Second and his son, William Crumley the Third were both living in Greene County at that time.  Suffice it to say that based on mitochondrial DNA testing, it appears that William Crumley (the third) was not the William Crumley who married Elizabeth Johnson in 1817.

With all of these children, if one’s father was named Zopher, wouldn’t you think one child, or one grandchild would be named Zopher?  Well, there isn’t, except for a son of Sylvanus but then Sylvanus married a granddaughter of Zopher Johnson….so that isn’t unexpected.  No other children or grandchildren named anyone Zopher.

To me, this is fairly damning evidence – but it isn’t everything.

Several weeks ago, I set a “honey pot” trap on  That means I intentionally added Zopher Johnson to my family tree.

Ancestry Zopher Johnson

This would cause anyone who matched my DNA and also had Zopher Johnson in their tree to pop up as a shakey leaf DNA match.  Now, clearly, some of these could be valid in that Sylvanus Brown married a Johnson granddaughter of Zopher – so I could legitimately match those descendants who legitimately have Zopher in their tree.  I could certainly match them through the Brown side.

Needless to say, I have to be exceedingly careful when I evaluate those matches – well, I would be – if I had any matches to descendants of Zopher Johnson.  At Family Tree DNA, I don’t have any Zopher matches either except for people from my own line who have Zopher in their tree as Phoebe’s father.  What I’m looking for are matches to people with whom I share no other common ancestor.

We recently found a man who descends from Zopher Johnson’s son and whose family did not intermarry with any Crumley lines.  He graciously tested, and there are no matches between any of the known Crumley descendants of Phoebe and Jotham Brown.  I have several cousins who have tested.

There are no matches to our Zopher Johnson descendant by any of the people who descend from Phoebe, Jotham Brown’s wife.

There are two things to consider – the distance of the proposed relationship and that you can’t prove a negative.

This relationship is quite a ways back in the tree, if it exists, but still, you could expect the Johnson descendant match to someone since there are several cousins who have tested.  For example, Zopher is 7 generations back from me, counting my father as generation 1, but others descended from this line are as much as 2 generations closer.

Unfortunately, we can prove, genetically that Phoebe DOES descend from Zopher Johnson (if she does), but we can never prove that she DOES NOT descend from Zopher Johnson – at least not this far removed generationally.  You simply can’t prove a negative in this case.  At this point in time, there are no matches and it doesn’t look like Phoebe is Zopher Johnson’s daughter.

We do have the mitochondrial DNA information for Phoebe, Jotham Brown’s wife, but since Zopher Johnson the Elder’s wife is unknown and there are no known daughters, there is no one available who descends from Zopher Johnson’s wife to test.

In time, there could be DNA matches that contradict the combined genealogical, location and autosomal DNA match implications so far.  But I have a feeling that’s going to be a very, very long wait.  I really don’t think that Phoebe, the wife of Jotham Brown, is the daughter of Zopher Johnson the Elder, although I’d certainly welcome any unknown information of any kind proving or even hinting otherwise.

Regardless of who her parents were, Phoebe moved a lot for a pioneer woman.  She married about 1767 and had a child someplace in Virginia in 1768.  She was first found in Hampshire County in 1778 with husband Jotham Brown.  Just a few years later, in 1781, and with a family, they moved across several mountains to Frederick County, VA where they only stayed for a year or two.  Then, in 1783, probably quite pregnant, Phoebe headed off to Botetourt County, the part that would become Montgomery County, VA where they lived on Brush Creek.  She continued to have children until about 1790 when Phoebe would have been in her early/mid-40s.  You would think by then the family would have been quite established, especially since her older children were marrying and settling nearby in Montgomery County, but that wasn’t the case.  After Jotham’s death sometime between 1797 and 1800, the entire family picked up once again and moved on, most of them to Greene County, TN.

In just under 25 years, from 1778 to 1802, Phoebe lived in 4 different frontier locations, all of which required exceedingly difficult work to clear the lands and build cabins to make them inhabitable.  This would be hard enough without children, but she had at least 11, in anything but optimal conditions, plus any she buried along the wagon trail or on those lands where they lived.  Those children, she would have had to leave behind when they moved on.

Phoebe was no shrinking violet, no wall-flower and clearly wasn’t afraid of hard work. I can’t help but wonder if she delivered her own babies, then rested for a bit before going to chop firewood to fix supper.

From today’s perspective of a nice heated house with no drafts, watching the snow fall, I can’t even imagine the privations of Phoebe’s life.  Yet, she not only survived, she thrived as did her children…who had children…who had children…who eventually had me.  I think when I want to complain about something, I’ll stop and think about Phoebe first.  After all, there is a part of her in me…and I’m doubting seriously if Phoebe, the woman who survived unknown challenges and created a family life on four frontiers, was very tolerant of whiners and complainers.

Update:  I’ve never had to update an article before I hit the publish button, but there’s a first time for everything.  I’m adding this tidbit with the hope that it will ring a bell with someone and produce actual verifiable information.

Recently, the Jotham Brown line had a Y match to a Sylvanus Brown/Esther Dayton family from Long Island, NY who was found there in the early 1700s.  Sylvanus is such an unusual name that along with the Y DNA match, it’s quite compelling.  We know they do share a common Brown ancestor, we just don’t know where or when.

In addition, another long-time researcher tells me that the Cooper family was already established in Montgomery County when Jotham Brown and Phebe moved there in 1783.  Jotham and Phebe’s daughter, Jane, married Christopher Cooper, son of James, whose will was contested, and whose brother was named…Sylvanus.  So we have two families that include the very unusual name of Sylvanus meeting (again?) in Montgomery County, VA.

According to “Annals of Southwest Virginia”, Christopher and John Cooper were the first to acquire land on Brush Creek of Little River (Feb. and Nov., 1782). Jotham acquired land there August 20, 1783.  Moses Johnson acquired 200 acres on Brush Creek August 20, 1783, the same day Jotham Brown acquired his land.  James King (another Long Island and New Jersey surname) acquired 300 acres on Brush Creek September 2, 1782, so he was there early with Christopher Cooper.

Furthermore, the Zopher Johnson line that went to Illinois carries a story that Zopher Johnson Jr. (the grandson of Zopher Johnson the Elder) had an inheritance on Long Island but never pursued it due to lack of money.  True?  We don’t know, but that’s a very odd location for oral history out of Illinois.

Is this coincidence?  We don’t know, but if anyone has any information about the Johnson, Brown or Cooper families that can unite them on Long Island (or elsewhere) or provide an explanation for what is today, circumstantial evidence, I would be exceedingly grateful.

Thinking Outside the Box

Some of you may know that I’m speaking again at the Family Tree DNA Conference for project administrators being held in November in Houston.  This is the 11th conference, and I’ve attended them all.

I want to first and foremost thank Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld for hosting this legendary conference, for the 11th time, and for the opportunity and honor to speak to the attendees.

As I’ve been getting my thoughts and my presentation together for this conference, a couple of things have come to mind that I’d like to share.

My conference topic is “Y DNA to Autosomal Case Study – Kicking it Up a Notch.”

I know, the title doesn’t sound terribly interesting, but believe me, after beginning innocently enough, it turned out to be the project from Hell.  Followed by very interesting discoveries whereby it redeemed itself from Hell.

The session description is:

The Crumley surname project was relatively small and had already answered the burning question for which it was created.  Had it served its only purpose?  What else could be done?  The project administrators transitioned this Y DNA project to a Y-plus-autosomal DNA project quite successfully – and made some surprising discoveries along the way.  How did they go from a base of 5 to more than 50 participants in a few weeks?  What did they discover?  How do the descendants of two men born in the 1730s compare autosomally? (Yes, we have autosomal comparative data to 9th cousins.)  What can you learn and how can existing Y projects become the foundation of a hugely successful autosomal project?

But I have to tell you the truth….I made myself insane with this project.  I have over 50 people that had to be hand compared to each other – one by one.  If you’re counting, that’s 1250+ individual comparisons.  The results had to be compiled – which resulted in a spreadsheet of almost 9000 rows.  The relationships of the participants had to be defined, their genealogy collected and assembled and the results analyzed.  Which is what, of course, led to the discoveries I’ll be discussing at the conference.

During the time when I was doing all of those comparisons, I asked myself over and over, “why the dickens am I doing this?”

I realized sometime in the middle of the night last night – the answer to “why I’m doing this,” is really the answer to all of the questions about genetic genealogy research.

In fact, it’s exactly like this quilt.

Thinking Outside the Box

Ok, so what is a quilt doing in the middle of this genetic genealogy article?

Is it even a quilt?

It’s not square like a quilt…but it has blocks – well triangle blocks, three layers and a binding…and it was made by a quilter.  Me.  So it must be a quilt – but it’s unlike any other quilt in many ways.

Its name?

Thinking Outside the Box

That’s at once the disease and the cure!  And it’s the answer.

And it all started with Bennett Greenspan.

undeniable bennett

In the middle of the night, I realized that the fundamental questions in all of genetic genealogy research begin with the words, “Why can’t we…..”

Had Bennett Greenspan not asked that question, and not once, but repeatedly, until he received a satisfactory answer, the field of genetic genealogy would never have existed.

For those not familiar with this legendary story, Bennett, a genealogist (just like the rest of us) back in the prehistoric days of 1999, wanted to know why he couldn’t compare the Y chromosome of one man with a particular surname to another man with the same surname to see if they shared a common ancestor.  He took that question to scientists who worked with the Y chromosome.  Let’s just say the scientists weren’t terribly receptive.

Bennett was politely refused, then more firmly refused, but Bennett persisted until Michael Hammer gave up resisting and just ran the test to get rid of Bennett.  But that didn’t work either, because Bennett had more questions.  Couldn’t someone form a company to do this?  Couldn’t Michael Hammer’s lab at the University of Arizona run those tests for that company, which would come to be known as Family Tree DNA.  Questions begat questions.  History was, unknowingly, being made.  The answers and results of course, we all know about…but had it not been for Bennett’s bravery to ask that initial question – and to persist in the face of rejection and adversity – none of this would have happened.

Bennett didn’t have a crystal ball.  He couldn’t have known that an entire industry would evolve from his simple act of genealogical frustration.  But Bennett is who he is and he continued to ask that question and pursue the answer.

As I spent days and days working through the 50 participants’ data in the Crumley project, I often wanted to quit, but I’m either too anal or too OCD or too persistent to do that.  (No, we’re not voting on that topic:)  I had to finish.  And thank goodness I did, because the discoveries were there waiting for me – but I couldn’t have known that until AFTER I did the work that revealed them.  Had I stopped or never begun, I would never have known.  Same with Bennett – thank goodness he persisted.

So first, I had to first ask the question, “Why can’t we….?” Or more appropriate, “What can we…?” and proceed to find out.

In the field of genetic genealogy, and much more broadly applicable as well, if you never ask that question, you’ll never be wrong or make mistakes.  You’ll never be made fun of.  Your work will never be criticized.  You’ll never be rejected.  You’ll be entirely safe.

But you know what else????

You’ll never be right either.

You’ll never push the frontier.

You’ll never inspire other people to ask that same question.

You’ll never make that discovery.

Because you never took the risk of thinking, and acting, outside the box.

Thanks Bennett.

For being brave enough to persist in the face of adversity…

For allowing that question to burn you to action…

For the revolution you started…

For being a leader, an inspiration and our champion…

For providing a supportive and encouraging environment to conduct our own personal and broader genetic genealogy research…

For facilitating our insanity as citizen scientists…

For thinking outside of the box…