Working with the New Big Y Results (hg38)

If you are a Family Tree DNA customer, and in particular, a male or manage male kits, you’re familiar with the Big Y test.

The Big Y test scans the entire gold standard region of the Y chromosome, hunting for mutations, called SNPs, that define your haplogroup with great precision. This test also discovers SNPs never before found.  Those newly discovered SNPs may someday become new haplogroup branches as well. The Big Y test is how the Y DNA phylotree has been expanded from a few hundred locations a few years ago to more than 78,000, and along with that comes our understanding of the migration patterns of our ancestors.

We’re still learning, every single day, so testing new people continues to be important.

The Big Y is the logical extension of STR testing (panels 37, 67 and 111), which focus on genealogical matches, closer in time, instead of haplogroup era matches. STR locations mutate more rapidly than SNPs, so the STR test is more useful for genealogists, or at least represent an entry point into Y DNA testing. SNPs generally reach further back in time, showing us where are ancestors were before STR test results kick in.  More and more, those two tests have some time overlap as more SNPs are discovered.

If you want to read more, I wrote about this topic in the article, “Why the Big Y Test?”.  Ignore the pricing information at the end of that article, as it’s out of date today.

Before we talk about the new format of the Big Y results, let’s take a step back and look at the multiple reasons why Family Tree DNA created a new Big Y experience.

The first reason is that the human reference genome changed.

What is the Human Reference Genome?

The Human Reference Genome is a genetic map against which everyone else is compared.  In essence, it’s an attempt to give every location in our genome an address, and to have them all line up on streets where they belong on a nice big chromosome by chromosome grid.

That’s easier said than done.  Let’s look at why and begin with a little history.

Hg refers to the human reference genome and 38 is the current version number, released in December of 2013.

The previous version was hg19, released in February of 2009.

This seems like a long time ago, but each version requires extensive resources to convert data from previous versions to the newer version.  Different versions are not compatible with each other.

You can read more about this here, here, here and here, if you really want to dig in.

Hg19, the version that we’ve been using until now, was based only on 13 anonymous volunteers from Buffalo, New York. Hg38 uses far more samples and resequences previously sequenced results as well. We learned a lot between 2009 when the previous version, hg19, was released and 2013 when hg38 was released.

Keeping in mind that people are genetically far more alike than different, sequencing allows most of the human genome to be mapped when the genomes of those reference individuals are compared in layers, stacked on top of each other.

The resulting composite reference map, regardless of the version, isn’t a reflection of any one person, but a combination of all of those people against which the rest of us are compared.

Areas of high diversity, in this case, Y SNPs, may differ from each other. It’s those differences that matter to us as genealogists.

In order to find those differences, we must be able to line up the genomes of the various people tested, on top of each other, so that we can measure from the locations that are the same.

Here’s an example.  All 4 people in this table above match exactly on locations 1-7, 9- 10 and 13-15.

Locations 8, 11 and 12 are areas that are more unstable, meaning that the people are not the same at that location, although they may not match each other, hence the different colored cells.

From this model, we know that we can align most people’s results on the green locations where everyone matches everyone else because we are all human.

The other locations may be the same or different, but they can’t be aligned reliably by relying on the map. You can read more about the complexity of this topic here and a good article, here.

A New Model

The challenge is that between 2009 and 2013, new locations were discovered in previously unmapped areas of the genome.

Think of genome locations as kids sitting in assigned seats side by side in a row.

Where do we put the newly discovered kids?

They have to crowd in someplace onto our existing map.

We have to add chairs between locations. The white rows below represent the newly discovered locations.

When we add chairs, the “addresses” of the kids currently sitting in chairs will change.  In fact, the address of everyone on the street might change because everyone has shifted.  Many of the actual kids will be the same, but some will be new, even though all of the kids will be referenced by new addresses.

This is a very simplified conceptual explanation of a complex process which isn’t simple at all.  In addition to addressing, this process has to deal with DNA insertions, deletions, STR markers which are repeats of segments, palindromic mutations as well as pseudo-autosomal regions of the Y chromosome. Additionally, not all reads or calls are valid, for a number of reasons. Due to all these factors, after the realignment is complete, analysis has to follow.

Suffice it to say that converting from one version to the next requires the data to be reanalyzed with a new filter which requires a massive amount of computational power.

Then, the wheat has to be sorted from the chaff.


The conversion to hg38 has been a boon for discovery, already.  For example, Dr. Michael Sager, “Dr. Big Y” at Family Tree DNA has been busily working through the phylotree to see what the new alignment provides.

In November, he mentioned that he had discovered correct placement for a new haplogroup, high in the R1b tree, that joined together several subclades of U106.

In hg19, U106 had 9 subclades, all of which then branched downwards.

However, in hg38, utilizing the newly aligned genome, Michael can see that U106 has been reconfigured and looks like this instead.

Look at the difference!

  • Two new haplogroups have been placed in their proper location in the tree; Z2265 and BY30097.
  • A2150 has been repositioned.
  • Because of the placement of A2150 and Z2265, U106 now only has two direct branches.
  • S19589 has been moved beneath Z2265
  • The remaining 7 peach colored haplogroups in the old tree are now subclades of BY30097.

You may not know or realize that this shuffle occurred, but it has and it’s an important scientific discovery that corrects earlier versions of the phylotree.

Congratulations Dr. Sager!

So, how does the conversion to hg38 affect customers directly?

The Conversion

In or about October 2017, Family Tree DNA began their conversion to hg38. Keep in mind that no other vendor has to do this, because no other vendor provides testing at this level for Y DNA, combined with matching.

Not only that, but there is no funding for their investment in resources to do the conversion.  By that I mean that once you purchase the product, there is no annual subscription or anything else to fund development of this type.

Additionally, Family Tree DNA designed a new user interface for the enhanced Big Y which includes a new Big Y browser.

The initial conversion has been complete for some time, although tweaking is still occurring and some files are being reconverted when problems are discovered.  Now, the backlog of tests that accumulated during the conversion and during the holiday sale are being processed.

So, what does this mean to the consumer?  How do we work with the new results?  What has changed and what does all of this mean?

It’s an exciting time. We’re all waiting for new matches.

I’m going to step through the features and functions one at a time, explaining the new functionality and then what is different, and why.

First Look

On your personal page, you have Big Y Results and Big Y Matches.

Either selection takes you the same page, but with a different tab highlighted.

Named Variants

Named variants are SNPs that are already known and have been given SNP names.

At the bottom of the page, you can see that this person has 946 SNPs out of 77,722 currently on the tree.  Many SNPs on the tree are equivalent to each other.

The information about each SNP on this page shows that it’s derived, meaning it’s a mutation and not ancestral which is the original state of the DNA.

If you look closely, you’ll see that some of the Reference and Genotype values are the same.  You would logically expect them to be different.  These are genuine mutations, but they are listed as the same because in hg19, the reference model, which is a composite, is skewed towards haplogroup R.  In haplogroup R, these values are the same as the person tested (who is R-BY490), so while these are valid mutations on the tree of humanity, they are derived and found in all of haplogroup R. The same thing happens to some extent with all haplogroups because the reference sequence is a composite of all haplogroups.

The next column indicates whether the SNP has or hasn’t yet been placed on the Y tree.

The Reference column refers to the value at this address shown in the hg38 reference model, and the Genotype column shows the tester’s result at that location.

The confidence column shows the confidence level that Family Tree DNA has in this call. Let’s talk about confidence levels for a minute, and what they mean.

Confidence Levels

The Big Y test scans the Y chromosome, looking for specific blips at certain addresses.  Every location has a “normal” blip for the Y chromosome as determined by the reference model.  Any blips that vary from the reference model are flagged for further evaluation.

Blips can be caused by a mutation, a read error or a complex area of DNA, which is why there is a threshold for a minimum number of scans to find that same anomaly at any single location.

The area considered the “gold standard” portion of the Y chromosome which is useful genealogically is scanned between 55 and 80 times.  Then the scans are aligned and compared to each other, with the blips at various locations being reported.

The relevance of blips can vary by location and what is known as density in various regions.  In general, blips are not considered to be relevant unless they are recorded a minimum of 5 to 8 times, depending on the region of the Y chromosome.  At that level, Family Tree DNA reports them as a medium confidence call. High confidence calls are reported a minimum of 10 times.

Some individuals and third-party companies read the BAM files and offer analysis, often project administrators within haplogroup projects.  Depending on the circumstances, they may suggest that as few at 2 blips are enough to consider the blip a mutation and not a read error.  Therefore, some third-party analysis will suggest additional haplogroups not reported by Family Tree DNA. Project administrators often collaborate with Dr. Sager to coordinate the placement of SNPs on the tree.

Therefore, at Family Tree DNA:

  • You will see only medium and high confidence calls for SNPs.
  • Over time, your Unnamed Variants will disappear as they are named and become Named Variants with SNP names.
  • When Unnamed Variants become Named Variants, which are SNPs that have been named, they are eligible to be added to the Y tree.
  • If the SNP added to the Y tree is below your present terminal SNP, you may one day discover that you have a new terminal SNP, meaning new haplogroup, listed on your main page. If the new SNP is within 5 upstream of your terminal SNP, looking backward up the tree, you’ll see it appear in your mini-tree on your personal page and on your larger Haplogroup and SNP page.

Unnamed Variants

Unnamed variants are newer mutations that have not yet been named as SNPs.

In order for a mutation to be considered a SNP, in true genetics terms, it has to be found in over 1% of the population.  Otherwise, it’s considered a private, personal, family or clan mutation.

However, in reality, Family Tree DNA attempts to figure out which SNPs are being found often enough to warrant the assignment of a SNP number which means they can be placed on the haplotree of humanity, and which SNPs truly are going to be private “family mutations.”  Today, nearly all mutations found in 3 or more individuals that are considered high confidence calls are named as SNPs.

Both named and unnamed variants are a good thing.  New SNPs help expand and grow the tree.  Personal or family SNPs can be utilized in the same fashion as STR markers.  Eventually, as new SNPs are categorized and named, they will be moved from your Unnamed Variants page and added to your Named Variants page.

If you had results in the hg19 version, your unnamed variants will have changed.  Just like those kids sitting on the bleachers, your old variants are either:

  • Still here but with a new name
  • Have been given SNP names and are now on your Named Variants list

The great news is that you’ll very probably have new variants too, resulting from the new hg38 reference model and more accurate alignment.

If you’re really a die-hard and want to know which hg19 locations are now hg38 locations, you can do the address conversion here.  I am a die-hard but not this much of a die-hard, plus, I didn’t record the previous novel variant locations for my kits.  Dr. Sager who has run this program tells me that you only need to pay attention to the two drop down menus specifying the “original” and “new” assemblies when utilizing this tool.

Y Chromosome Browser Tool

You’ve probably already noticed the really new cool browser tool, positioned tantalizingly to the right of both results tabs.

Go ahead and click on either a SNP name or an unnamed variant.

Either one will cause a pop up box to open displaying the location you’ve selected in the Big Y browser.

Utilizing the new Y chromosome browser tool, you can see the number of times that a specific SNP was called as positive or negative during the scan of your Y DNA at that specific location.

To see an example, click on any SNP on the list under the SNP Name column.

The Y chromosome browser tool opens up at the location of the SNP you selected.

The SNP you selected is displayed in pink with a downward arrow pointing to the position of the SNP. The other pink locations display other nearby SNP positions.

See that one single pink blip to the far right in the example above?  That’s a good example of just one call, probably noise.  You can see the difference between that one single call and high confidence reads, illustrated by the columns of pink SNP reads lined up in a row.

You can click on any of your SNP positions, named or unnamed, to see more information for that specific SNP.

Pink indicates that a mutation, or derived value, was found at that location as compared to the ancestral value found in the reference model.

Blue rows and green rows indicate that the forward (blue) or reverse (green) strand was being read.

The intensity of the colors indicates the relative strength of the read confidence, where the most intense is the highest confidence.

The value listed at the top, T, A, C or G is the abbreviation for the ancestral reference nucleobase value found in the reference population at that genetic location, and the value highlighted in pink is the derived (mutated) value that you carry.

Confidence is a statistical value calculated based upon the number of scans, the relative quality of that part of the Y chromosome and the number of times that derived value was found during scanning.

I love this new tool.

I hope that in the next version, Family Tree DNA will include the ability to look at additional locations not on the list.

For example, I was recently working on a Personalized DNA Report where the SNP below the tester’s terminal SNP was not called one way or another, positive or negative.  I would have liked to view his results for that SNP location to see if he has any blips, or if the location read at all.


The third tab displays your Big Y matches and a mini-tree of your 5 SNPs at the end of your own personal branch of the haplotree.

Your terminal SNP determines the terminal (final or lowest) subbranch (on the Y-DNA haplotree) to which you belong.

On your mini-tree, your terminal SNP (R-BY490 above) is labeled YOU.

The number of people you match on those SNPs utilizing the new matching algorithm is displayed at each branch of the tree.

The matches shown above are the matches for this person’s terminal SNP. To see the people matching on the next branch above the terminal SNP, click on R-BY482.

The number listed beside these SNPs on your 5 step mini-tree is NOT the total number of people you match on that branch, only the number you match on that branch AFTER the matching algorithm is applied.

I put this in bold red, because based on the previous matching algorithm that managed to include everyone on your terminal SNP, it’s easy to presume the new version shows everyone in the system who matches you on that SNP – and it doesn’t necessarily.  If assume it does or expect that it will, you’re likely to be wrong. There is a significant amount of confusion surrounding this topic in the community.

New Matching Algorithm

The Family Tree DNA matching algorithm has changed substantially. It needed to be updated, as the old matching algorithm had been outgrown with the dramatic new number of SNPs discovered and placed on the phylotree. Family Tree DNA created the original matching software when the Big Y was new and it was time for a refresh. In essence, the Big Y testing and tree-building has been successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and the matching routine became a victim of its own success.

Previously, Family Tree DNA used a static list of somewhere around 6,000 SNPs as compared to over 350,000 today, of which more than 78,000 have been placed on the tree. By the way, this SNP number grows with every batch of Big Y results because new SNPs are always found.

The previous threshold for mismatches was 4 SNPs. As time went on, this combination of a growing tree and a static SNP list caused increasingly irrelevant matches.

For example, in some instances, haplogroup U106 people matched haplogroup P312 people, two main branches of the R1b haplotree, because when compared to the old SNP list, they had less than 4 SNP mismatches.

The new Big Y matching routine expands as the new tree grows, and isn’t limited.  This means that people who were shown as matches to haplogroups far upstream (e.g. P312/U106), whose common ancestor lived many thousands of years ago, won’t be shown as matches at that level anymore.

Many people had hundreds of matches and complained that they were being shown matches so distant in time that the information was useless to them.

The previous Big Y version match criteria was:

  • 4 or less differences in Known SNPs (now Named Variants.)
  • In addition, you could have unlimited differences in Unnamed Variants, then called Novel Variants.

Family Tree DNA has attempted to make the matching algorithm more genealogically relevant by applying a different type of threshold to matching.

In the current Big Y version, a person is considered a match to you if they have BOTH of the following:

  • 30 or fewer differences in total SNPs (named and unnamed variants combined.)
  • Their haplogroup is downstream from your terminal SNP haplogroup or downstream from your four closest parent haplogroups, meaning any of the 5 haplogroups shown on your 5 step mini-tree.

Here’s the logic behind the new matching algorithm threshold.

SNP mutations happen on the average of one every 100 years.  This number is still discussed and debated, but this estimate is as good as any.

If your common ancestor through two men had two sons, 1500 years ago, and each line incurred 1 mutation every hundred years, at the end of 1500 years, the number of mutations between the two men would be approximately 30.

Family Tree DNA felt that 1500 years was a reasonable cutoff for a genealogical timeframe, hence the new matching threshold of 30 mutations difference.

The new match criteria is designed to reflect your matches that are most closely related to you.  In other words, the people on your match list should be related to you within the last approximate 1500 years, and people not on your match list who have taken the Big Y are separated from you by at least 30 mutations.

There may be people in the data base that match you on your terminal SNP and any or all of the SNPs shown on your mini-tree, but if you and they are separated by more than 30 differences (including both named and unnamed variants) on the Y chromosome, they will not be shown as a match.  

By clicking on the SNP name on your mini-tree, at right, you can see all of the people who match you with less than 30 differences total at each level, and who carry that particular Named Variant (SNP). The example shown above show this person’s matches on their terminal SNP. If they were to click on BY482, the next step up, they would then see everyone on their match list who is positive for that SNP.

On your match page, you can search for a specific surname, nonmatching variants or match date.

The Shared Variants column is the total number of shared variants you have with the match in question.  According to the lab at Family Tree DNA, this number very high because it is reflective of many ancient variants.

You can also download your data from this page into a spreadsheet.

The Biggest Differences

What you don’t receive today, that you did receive before, is a comprehensive list of who you match on your terminal and upstream SNPs.

For example, I was working with someone’s results this week.  They had no matches, as shown below.

However, when I went to the relevant haplogroup project page, I discovered that indeed, there are at least 4 additional individuals who do share the same terminal SNP, but the tester would never know that from their Big Y results alone, if they didn’t check the project results page.

Of course, it’s unlikely that every person who takes the Big Y test joins a Y DNA project, or the same Y DNA project.  Even though projects will show some matches, assuming that the administrator has the project grouped in this manner, there is no guarantee you are seeing all of your terminal SNP matches.

Project administrators, who have been instrumental in building the tree can also no longer see who matches on terminal SNPs, at least not if they are separated by more than 30 mutations. This hampers their ability to build the Y tree.

This matching change makes it critical that people join projects AND make their results viewable to project members as well as publicly.  Most people don’t realize that the default when joining projects is that ONLY project members can see their results in the project. In other words, the results are available in the public project, like the screenshot above.

You can read more about Family Tree DNA’s privacy settings here.

Another result of the matching algorithm change is that in some cases, one man may match a second man, but the second man does not show up on the first man’s match list.

I know that sounds bizarre, but in the Estes project, we have that exact scenario.

The chart above shows that none of the Estes Big Y participants match kit number 166011, also an Estes male, but kit 166011 does show matches to all of those Estes men.

Kit 166011 is the one to the far right on the pedigree chart above, and he is descended from a different son of Robert born in 1555 than the rest of the men.  Counting from kit 166011 to Robert born in 1555 is 12 generations.  Counting from kits 244708 and 199378 to Robert is 10 generations, so a total of 22 generations between those men.

Kits 366707, 9993 and 13805 are 11 generations from the common ancestor, so a total of 23 generations.  Not only are these genealogically relevant, they carry the same surname.

The average of 30 mutations reaching to 1500 years doesn’t work in this case.  The cutoff was about 1555, or 462 years, not 1500 years – so the matching algorithm failed at 30% of the estimated time it was supposed to cover.  I guess this just goes to prove that mutations really don’t happen on any type of a reliable schedule – and the average doesn’t always pertain to individual family circumstances.

If you’re wondering if these men match on STR markers, they do.

In this case, the Big Y doesn’t show matches in a timeframe that STR markers do – the exact opposite of what we would expect.

One of the benefits of the Big Y, previously, was the ability to view people of other surnames who matched your SNP results.  This ability to peer back into time informed us of where our ancestors may have been prior to where we found them.  While this isn’t genealogy, per se, it’s certainly family history.

A good case in point is the Scottish clans and how men with different surnames may be related.

As a family historian I want to know who I match on my terminal SNP and the direct upstream SNPs so I can walk this line back in time.

What’s Coming

At the conference in Houston in November, Elliott Greenspan discussed a new direction for the Big Y in 2018.  The new feature that all Big Y testers are looking forward to is the addition of STRs beyond the 111 marker panels, extracted from the Big Y as a standard product offering. Meaning free for Big Y testers.

The 111 and lower panels will continue to be tested on their current Sanger platform.  Analysis of more than 3700 samples in the data base that have both the Big Y and 111 markers indicate that only 72 of the 111 STR markers can be reliably and consistently extracted from the Big Y NGS scan data. The last thing we want is unreliable NGS data being compared to our Sanger sequenced STR values. We need to be able to depend on those results as always being reliable and comparable to each other. Therefore, only STR markers above 111 will be extracted from the Big Y and the original 111 STR markers will continue to be sold in panels, the same as today.

However, because of the nature of scanning DNA as opposed to directly testing locations, all of the markers above 111 will not be available for everyone. Some marker locations will fail to read, or fail to read reliably.  These won’t necessarily be the same markers, but read failure will apply to some markers in just about every individual’s scan.  Therefore, these additional STR markers will be supplemental to the regular 111 STR markers. You get what you get.

How many additional markers will be available through Big Y?  That hasn’t been finalized yet.

Elliott said that in order to reliably obtain 289 additional markers, they need to attempt to call 315.  To get 489, they have to attempt more than 600, and many are less useful.

Therefore, speculating, I’d guess that we’ll see someplace between 289 and 489, the numbers Elliott mentioned.

Are you salivating yet?

Given that the webpage and display tools have to be redesigned for both individuals’ results, project pages and project administrators’ tools, I’d guess that we won’t see this addition until after they get the kinks worked out of the hg38 conversion and analysis.

It’s nice to know that it’s on the way though. Something to look forward to later in 2018.

In Summary

I know that the upgrade to hg38 had to be done, but I hated to see it.  These things never go smoothly, no matter who you are and this was a massive undertaking.

I’m glad that Family Tree DNA is taking this opportunity to innovate and provide the community with the nifty new Y DNA browser.

I’m also grateful that they listen to their customers and make an effort to implement changes to help us along the genealogy path.

However, sometimes things fall into the well of unintended consequences.  I think that’s what’s happening with the new matching routine. I know that they are continuing to work to tweek the knobs and refine the results, so you’re likely to see changes over the next few months. It’s not like there was a pattern or recipe anyplace.  This has never been done before.

Here’s a list of changes and updates I’d suggest to improve the new hg38 Big Y experience:

  • In addition to threshold matching, an option for direct SNP tree matching through the 5 SNPs shown on the participant’s 5 step mini-tree, purely based on haplotree matching. This second option would replace the functionality lost with the 30-mutation threshold matching today.
  • A matches map of the most distant ancestors at each level of matching for both threshold matching and SNP tree matching.
  • An icon indicating whether a Big Y match is an STR match and which level of STR panel testing the match has completed. This means that we could tell at a glance that a Big Y match has tested to 111 markers, but is only a match at 12.
  • An icon indicating if the Big Y match has also taken the Family Finder test, and if they are a match.
  • An icon on STR matches pages indicating that a match has taken a Big Y test and if they are a match.
  • Ability to query through the Big Y browser to SNP locations not on the list of named or unnamed variants.
  • Age estimates for haplogroups.

If you are seeing Big Y results that you find unusual or confusing, please notify Family Tree DNA support. There is a contact link with a form at the bottom of your personal page.  Family Tree DNA needs to be aware of problems and also of customer’s desires.

Family Tree DNA has indicated that they are soliciting customer feedback on the new Big Y matching and tools.

Please also join a relevant haplogroup project as well as a surname project, if you haven’t already. Here’s an article, What Project Do I Join?, to help you find relevant projects.

If you think you have an unnamed variant that should be named and placed on the phylotree, your haplogroup project administrator is the person who will work with you to verify that the unnamed variant is a good candidate and submit the unnamed variant to Family Tree DNA for naming.

If you are a project administrator having issues, questions or concerns, you can contact the group projects team at  Be sure that this address is in the “to” field, not the “cc” field as the e-mail will bounce otherwise.

Don’t forget that you can reference the Family Tree DNA Learning Center about your Big Y results.

Thank you to Michael Sager for his assistance with this article.

2017 – The Year of DNA

Every year for the past 17 years has been the year of DNA for me, but for many millions, 2017 has been the year of DNA. DNA testing has become a phenomenon in its own right.

It was in 2013 that Spencer Wells predicted that 2014 would be the “year of infection.” Spencer was right and in 2014 DNA joined the ranks of household words. I saw DNA in ads that year, for the first time, not related to DNA testing or health as in, “It’s in our DNA.”

In 2014, it seemed like most people had heard of DNA, even if they weren’t all testing yet. John Q. Public was becoming comfortable with DNA.

In 2017 – DNA Is Mainstream  

If you’re a genealogist, you certainly know about DNA testing, and you’re behind the times if you haven’t tested.  DNA testing is now an expected tool for genealogists, and part of a comprehensive proof statement that meets the genealogical proof standard which includes “a reasonably exhaustive search.”  If you haven’t applied DNA, you haven’t done a reasonably exhaustive search.

A paper trail is no longer sufficient alone.

When I used to speak to genealogy groups about DNA testing, back in the dark ages, in the early 2000s, and I asked how many had tested, a few would raise their hands – on a good day.

In October, when I asked that same question in Ireland, more than half the room raised their hand – and I hope the other half went right out and purchased DNA test kits!

Consequently, because the rabid genealogical market is now pretty much saturated, the DNA testing companies needed to find a way to attract new customers, and they have.

2017 – The Year of Ethnicity

I’m not positive that the methodology some of the major companies utilized to attract new consumers is ideal, but nonetheless, advertising has attracted many new people to genetic genealogy through ethnicity testing.

If you’re a seasoned genetic genealogist, I know for sure that you’re groaning now, because the questions that are asked by disappointed testers AFTER the results come back and aren’t what people expected find their way to the forums that genetic genealogists peruse daily.

I wish those testers would have searched out those forums, or read my comparative article about ethnicity tests and which one is “best” before they tested.

More ethnicity results are available from vendors and third parties alike – just about every place you look it seems.  It appears that lots of folks think ethnicity testing is a shortcut to instant genealogy. Spit, mail, wait and voila – but there is no shortcut.  Since most people don’t realize that until after they test, ethnicity testing is becoming ever more popular with more vendors emerging.

In the spring, LivingDNA began delivering ethnicity results and a few months later, MyHeritage as well.  Ethnicity is hot and companies are seizing a revenue opportunity.

Now, the good news is that perhaps some of these new ethnicity testers can be converted into genealogists.  We just have to view ethnicity testing as tempting bait, or hopefully, a gateway drug…

2017 – The Year of Explosive Growth

DNA testing has become that snowball rolling downhill that morphed into an avalanche.  More people are seeing commercials, more people are testing, and people are talking to friends and co-workers at the water cooler who decide to test. I passed a table of diners in Germany in July to overhear, in English, discussion about ethnicity-focused DNA testing.

If you haven’t heard of DTC, direct to consumer, DNA testing, you’re living under a rock or maybe in a third world country without either internet or TV.

Most of the genetic genealogy companies are fairly closed-lipped about their data base size of DNA testers, but Ancestry isn’t.  They have gone from about 2 million near the end of 2016 to 5 million in August 2017 to at least 7 million now.  They haven’t said for sure, but extrapolating from what they have said, I feel safe with 7 million as a LOW estimate and possibly as many as 10 million following the holiday sales.

Advertising obviously pays off.

MyHeritage recently announced that their data base has reached 1 million, with only about 20% of those being transfers.

Based on the industry rumble, I suspect that the other DNA testing companies have had banner years as well.

The good news is that all of these new testers means that anyone who has tested at any of the major vendors is going to get lots of matches soon. Santa, it seems, has heard about DNA testing too and test kits fit into stockings!

That’s even better news for all of us who are in multiple data bases – and even more reason to test at all of the 4 major companies who provide autosomal DNA matching for their customers: Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, MyHeritage and 23andMe.

2017 – The Year of Vendor and Industry Churn

So much happened in 2017, it’s difficult to keep up.

  • MyHeritage entered the DNA testing arena and began matching in September of 2016. Frankly, they had a mess, but they have been working in 2017 to improve the situation.  Let’s just say they still have some work to do, but at least they acknowledge that and are making progress.
  • MyHeritage has a rather extensive user base in Europe. Because of their European draw, their records collections and the ability to transfer results into their data base, they have become the 4th vendor in a field that used to be 3.
  • In March 2017, Family Tree DNA announced that they were accepting transfers of both the Ancestry V2 test, in place since May of 2016, along with the 23andMe V4 test, available since November 2013, for free. MyHeritage has since been added to that list. The Family Tree DNA announcement provided testers with another avenue for matching and advanced tools.
  • Illumina obsoleted their OmniExpress chip, forcing vendors to Illumina’s new GSA chip which also forces vendors to use imputation. I swear, imputation is a swear word. Illumina gets the lump of coal award for 2017.
  • I wrote about imputation here, but in a nutshell, the vendors are now being forced to test only about 20% of the DNA locations available on the previous Illumina chip, and impute or infer using statistics the values in the rest of the DNA locations that they previously could test.
  • Early imputation implementers include LivingDNA (ethnicity only), MyHeritage (to equalize the locations of various vendor’s different chips), DNA.Land (whose matching is far from ideal) and 23andMe, who seems, for the most part, to have done a reasonable job. Of course, the only way to tell for sure at 23andMe is to test again on the V5 chip and compare to V3 and V4 chip matches. Given that I’ve already paid 3 times to test myself at 23andMe (V2, 3 and 4), I’m not keen on paying a 4th time for the V5 version.
  • 23andMe moved to the V5 Illumina GSA chip in August which is not compatible with any earlier chip versions.
  • Needless to say, the Illumina chip change has forced vendors away from focusing on new products in order to develop imputation code in order to remain backwards compatible with their own products from an earlier chip set.
  • GedMatch introduced their sandbox area, Genesis, where people can upload files that are not compatible with the traditional vendor files.  This includes the GSA chip results (23andMe V5,) exome tests and others.  The purpose of the sandbox is so that GedMatch can figure out how to work with these files that aren’t compatible with the typical autosomal test files.  The process has been interesting and enlightening, but people either don’t understand or forget that it’s a sandbox, an experiment, for all involved – including GedMatch.  Welcome to living on the genetic frontier!

  • I assembled a chart of who loves who – meaning which vendors accept transfers from which other vendors.

  • I suspect but don’t know that Ancestry is doing some form of imputation between their V1 and V2 chips. About a month before their new chip implementation in May of 2016, Ancestry made a change in their matching routine that resulting in a significant shift in people’s matches.

Because of Ancestry’s use of the Timber algorithm to downweight some segments and strip out others altogether, it’s difficult to understand where matching issues may arise.  Furthermore, there is no way to know that there are matching issues unless you and another individual have transferred results to either Family Tree DNA or GedMatch, neither of which remove any matching segments.

  • Other developments of note include the fact that Family Tree DNA moved to mitochondrial DNA build V17 and updated their Y DNA to hg38 of the human reference genome – both huge undertakings requiring the reprocessing of customer data. Think of both of those updates as housekeeping. No one wants to do it, but it’s necessary.
  • 23andMe FINALLY finished transferring their customer base to the “New Experience,” but many of the older features we liked are now gone. However, customers can now opt in to open matching, which is a definite improvement. 23andMe, having been the first company to enter the genetic genealogy autosomal matching marketspace has really become lackluster.  They could have owned this space but chose not to focus on genealogy tools.  In my opinion, they are now relegated to fourth place out of a field of 4.
  • Ancestry has updated their Genetic Communities feature a couple of times this year. Genetic Communities is interesting and more helpful than ethnicity estimates, but neither are nearly as helpful as a chromosome browser would be.

  • I’m sure that the repeated requests, begging and community level tantrum throwing in an attempt to convince Ancestry to produce a chromosome browser is beyond beating a dead horse now. That dead horse is now skeletal, and no sign of a chromosome browser. Sigh:(
  • The good news is that anyone who wants a chromosome browser can transfer their results to Family Tree DNA or GedMatch (both for free) and utilize a chromosome browser and other tools at either or both of those locations. Family Tree DNA charges a one time $19 fee to access their advanced tools and GedMatch offers a monthly $10 subscription. Both are absolutely worth every dime. The bad news is, of course, that you have to convince your match or matches to transfer as well.
  • If you can convince your matches to transfer to (or test at) Family Tree DNA, their tools include phased Family Matching which utilizes a combination of user trees, the DNA of the tester combined with the DNA of family matches to indicate to the user which side, maternal or paternal (or both), a particular match stems from.

  • Sites to keep your eye on include Jonny Perl’s tools which include DNAPainter, as well as Goran Rundfeldt’s DNA Genealogy Experiment.  You may recall that in October Goran brought us the fantastic Triangulator tool to use with Family Tree DNA results.  A few community members expressed concern about triangulation relative to privacy, so the tool has been (I hope only temporarily) disabled as the involved parties work through the details. We need Goran’s triangulation tool! Goran has developed other world class tools as well, as you can see from his website, and I hope we see more of both Goran and Jonny in 2018.
  • In 2017, a number of new “free” sites that encourage you to upload your DNA have sprung up. My advice – remember, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.  Ask yourself why, what’s in it for them.  Review ALL OF THE documents and fine print relative to safety, privacy and what is going to be done with your DNA.  Think about what recourse you might or might not have. Why would you trust them?

My rule of thumb, if the company is outside of the US, I’m immediately slightly hesitant because they don’t fall under US laws. If they are outside of Europe or Canada, I’m even more hesitant.  If the company is associated with a country that is unfriendly to the US, I unequivocally refuse.  For example, riddle me this – what happens if a Chinese (or fill-in-the-blank country) company violates an agreement regarding your DNA and privacy?  What, exactly, are you going to do about it from wherever you live?

2017 – The Year of Marketplace Apps

Third party genetics apps are emerging and are beginning to make an impact.

GedMatch, as always, has continued to quietly add to their offerings for genetic genealogists, as had While these two aren’t exactly an “app”, per se, they are certainly primary players in the third party space. I use both and will be publishing an article early in 2018 about a very useful tool at DNAGedcom.

Another application that I don’t use due to the complex setup (which I’ve now tried twice and abandoned) is Genome Mate Pro which coordinates your autosomal results from multiple vendors.  Some people love this program.  I’ll try, again, in 2018 and see if I can make it all the way through the setup process.

The real news here are the new marketplace apps based on Exome testing.

Helix and their partners offer a number of apps that may be of interest for consumers.  Helix began offering a “test once, buy often” marketplace model where the consumer pays a nominal price for exome sequencing ($80), significantly under market pricing ($500), but then the consumer purchases DNA apps through the Helix store. The apps access the original DNA test to produce results. The consumer does NOT receive their downloadable raw data, only data through the apps, which is a departure from the expected norm. Then again, the consumer pays a drastically reduced price and downloadable exome results are available elsewhere for full price.

The Helix concept is that lots of apps will be developed, meaning that you, the consumer, will be interested and purchase often – allowing Helix to recoup their sequencing investment over time.

Looking at the Helix apps that are currently available, I’ve purchased all of the Insitome products released to date (Neanderthal, Regional Ancestry and Metabolism), because I have faith in Spencer Wells and truthfully, I was curious and they are reasonably priced.

Aside from the Insitome apps, I think that the personalized clothes are cute, if extremely overpriced. But what the heck, they’re fun and raise awareness of DNA testing – a good thing! After all, who am I to talk, I’ve made DNA quilts and have DNA clothing too.

Having said that, I’m extremely skeptical about some of the other apps, like “Wine Explorer.”  Seriously???

But then again, if you named an app “I Have More Money Than Brains,” it probably wouldn’t sell well.

Other apps, like Ancestry’s WeRelate (available for smartphones) is entertaining, but is also unfortunately EXTREMELY misleading.  WeRelate conflates multiple trees, generally incorrectly, to suggest to you and another person on your Facebook friends list are related, or that you are related to famous people.  Judy Russell reviews that app here in the article, “No, actually, we’re not related.” No.  Just no!

I feel strongly that companies that utilize our genetic data for anything have a moral responsibility for accuracy, and the WeRelate app clearly does NOT make the grade, and Ancestry knows that.  I really don’t believe that entertaining customers with half-truths (or less) is more important than accuracy – but then again, here I go just being an old-fashioned fuddy dud expecting ethics.

And then, there’s the snake oil.  You knew it was going to happen because there is always someone who can be convinced to purchase just about anything. Think midnight infomercials. The problem is that many consumers really don’t know how to tell snake oil from the rest in the emerging DNA field.

You can now purchase DNA testing for almost anything.  Dating, diet, exercise, your taste in wine and of course, vitamins and supplements. If you can think of an opportunity, someone will dream up a test.

How many of these are legitimate or valid?  Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m exceedingly suspicious of a great many, especially those where I can find no legitimate scientific studies to back what appear to be rather outrageous claims.

My main concern is that the entire DTC testing industry will be tarred by the brush of a few unethical opportunists.

2017 – The Year of Focus on Privacy and Security

With increased consumer exposure comes increased notoriety. People are taking notice of DNA testing and it seems that everyone has an opinion, informed or not.  There’s an old saying in marketing; “Talk about me good, talk about me bad, just talk about me.”

With all of the ads have come a commensurate amount of teeth gnashing and “the-sky-is-falling” type reporting.  Unfortunately, many politicians don’t understand this industry and open mouth only to insert foot – except that most people don’t realize what they’ve done.  I doubt that the politicians even understand that they are tasting toe-jam, because they haven’t taken the time to research and understand the industry. Sound bites and science don’t mix well.

The bad news is that next, the click-bait-focused press picks up on the stories and the next time you see anyone at lunch, they’re asking you if what they heard is true.  Or, let’s hope that they ask you instead of just accepting what they heard as gospel. Hopefully if we’ve learned anything in this past year, it’s to verify, verify, verify.

I’ve been an advocate for a very long time of increased transparency from the testing companies as to what is actually done with our DNA, and under what circumstances.  In other words, I want to know where my DNA is and what it’s being used for.  Period.

Family Tree DNA answered that question succinctly and unquestionably in December.

Bennett Greenspan: “We could probably make a lot of money by selling the DNA data that we’ve been collecting over the years, but we feel that the only person that should have your DNA information is you.  We don’t believe that it should be sold, traded or bartered.”

You can’t get more definitive than that.

DTC testing for genetic genealogy must be a self-regulating field, because the last thing we need is for the government to get involved, attempting to regulate something they don’t understand.  I truly believe government interference by the name of regulation would spell the end of genetic genealogy as we know it today.  DNA testing for genetic genealogy without sharing results is entirely pointless.

I’ve written about this topic in the past, but an update is warranted and I’ll be doing that sometime after the first of the year.  Mostly, I just need to be able to stay awake while slogging through the required reading (at some vendor sites) of page after page AFTER PAGE of legalese😊

Consumers really shouldn’t have to do that, and if they do, a short, concise summary should be presented to them BEFORE they purchase so that they can make a truly informed decision.

Stay tuned on this one.

2017 – The Year of Education

The fantastic news is that with all of the new people testing, a huge, HUGE need for education exists.  Even if 75% of the people who test don’t do anything with their results after that first peek, that still leaves a few million who are new to this field, want to engage and need some level of education.

In that vein, seminars are available through several groups and institutes, in person and online.  Almost all of the leadership in this industry is involved in some educational capacity.

In addition to agendas focused on genetic genealogy and utilizing DNA personally, almost every genealogy conference now includes a significant number of sessions on DNA methods and tools. I remember the days when we were lucky to be allowed one session on the agenda, and then generally not without begging!

When considering both DNA testing and education, one needs to think about the goal.  All customer goals are not the same, and neither are the approaches necessary to answer their questions in a relevant way.

New testers to the field fall into three primary groups today, and their educational needs are really quite different, because their goals, tools and approaches needed to reach those goals are different too.

Adoptees and genealogists employ two vastly different approaches utilizing a common tool, DNA, but for almost opposite purposes.  Adoptees wish to utilize tests and trees to come forward in time to identify either currently living or recently living people while genealogists are interested in reaching backward in time to confirm or identify long dead ancestors. Those are really very different goals.

I’ve illustrated this in the graphic above.  The tester in question uses their blue first cousin match to identify their unknown parent through the blue match’s known lineage, moving forward in time to identify the tester’s parent.  In this case, the grandparent is known to the blue match, but not to the yellow tester. Identifying the grandparent through the blue match is the needed lynchpin clue to identify the unknown parent.

The yellow tester who already knows their maternal parent utilizes their peach second cousin match to verify or maybe identify their maternal great-grandmother who is already known to the peach match, moving backwards in time. Two different goals, same DNA test.

The three types of testers are:

  • Curious ethnicity testers who may not even realize that at least some of the vendors offer matching and other tools and services.
  • Genealogists who use close relatives to prove which sides of trees matches come from, and to triangulate matching segments to specific ancestors. In other words, working from the present back in time. The peach match and line above.
  • Adoptees and parent searches where testers hope to find a parent or siblings, but failing that, close relatives whose trees overlap with each other – pointing to a descendant as a candidate for a parent. These people work forward in time and aren’t interested in triangulation or proving ancestors and really don’t care about any of those types of tools, at least not until they identify their parent.  This is the blue match above.

What these various groups of testers want and need, and therefore their priorities are different in terms of their recommendations and comments in online forums and their input to vendors. Therefore, you find Facebook groups dedicated to Adoptees, for example, but you also find adoptees in more general genetic genealogy groups where genealogists are sometimes surprised when people focused on parent searches downplay or dismiss tools such as Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA and chromosome browsers that form the bedrock foundation of what genealogists need and require.

Fortunately, there’s room for everyone in this emerging field.

The great news is that educational opportunities are abundant now. I’m listing a few of the educational opportunities for all three groups of testers, in addition to my blog of course.😊

Remember that this blog is fully searchable by keyword or phrase in the little search box in the upper right hand corner.  I see so many questions online that I’ve already answered!

Please feel free to share links of my blog postings with anyone who might benefit!

Note that these recommendations below overlap and people may well be interested in opportunities from each group – or all!!


Adoptees or Parent Search

Genetic Genealogists

2018 – What’s Ahead? 

About midyear 2018, this blog will reach 1000 published articles. This is article number 939.  That’s amazing even to me!  When I created this blog in July of 2012, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough to write about.  That certainly has changed.

Beginning shortly, the tsunami of kits that were purchased during the holidays will begin producing matches, be it through DNA upgrades at Family Tree DNA, Big Y tests which were hot at year end, or new purchases through any of the vendors.  I can hardly wait, and I have my list of brick walls that need to fall.

Family Tree DNA will be providing additional STR markers extracted from the Big Y test. These won’t replace any of the 111 markers offered separately today, because the extraction through NGS testing is not as reliable as direct STR testing for those markers, but the Big Y will offer genealogists a few hundred more STRs to utilize. Yes, I said a few hundred. The exact number has not yet been finalized.

Family Tree DNA says they will also be introducing new “qualify of life improvements” along with new privacy and consent settings.  Let’s hope this means new features and tools will be released too.

MyHeritage says that they are introducing new “Discoveries” pages and a chromosome browser in January.  They have also indicated that they are working on their matching issues.  The chromosome browser is particularly good news, but matching must work accurately or the chromosome browser will show erroneous information.  Let’s hope January brings all three features.

LivingDNA indicates that they will be introducing matching in 2018.

2018 – What Can You Do?

What can you do in 2018 to improve your odds of solving genealogy questions?

  • Test relatives
  • Transfer your results to as many data bases as possible (among the ones discussed above, after reading the terms and conditions, of course)
  • If you have transferred a version of your DNA that does not produce full results, such as the Ancestry V2 or 23andMe V4 test to Family Tree DNA, consider testing on the vendor’s own chip in order to obtain all matches, not just the closest matches available from an incompatible test transfer.
  • Test Y and mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA.
  • Find ways to share the stories of your ancestors.  Stories are cousin bait.  My 52 Ancestors series is living proof.  People find the stories and often have additional facts, information or even photos. Some contacts qualify for DNA testing for Y or mtDNA lines. The GREAT NEWS is that Amy Johnson Crow is resuming the #52Ancestors project for 2018, providing hints and tips each week! Who knows what you might discover by sharing?! Here’s how to start a blog if you need some assistance.  It’s easy – really!
  • Focus on the brick walls that you want to crumble and then put together both a test and analysis plan. That plan could include such things as:

o   Find out if a male representing a Y line in your tree has tested, and if not, search through autosomal results to see if a male from that paternal surname line has tested and would be amenable to an upgrade.

o   Mitochondrial DNA test people who descend through all females from various female ancestors in order to determine their origins. Y and mtDNA tests are an important part of a complete genealogy story – meaning the reasonably exhaustive search!

o   Autosomal DNA test family members from various lines with the hope that matches will match you and them both.

o   Test family members in order to confirm a particular ancestor – preferably people who descend from another child of that ancestor.

o   Making sure your own DNA is in all 4 of the major vendors’ data bases, plus GedMatch. Look at it this way, everyone who is at GedMatch or at a third party (non-testing) site had to have tested at one of the major 4 vendors – so if you are in all of the vendor’s data bases, plus GedMatch, you’re covered.

Have a wonderful New Year and let’s make 2018 the year of newly discovered ancestors and solved mysteries!



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Glossary – Terminal SNP

What is a Terminal SNP?

It sounds fatal doesn’t it, but don’t worry, it’s not.

The phrase Terminal SNP is generally used in conjunction with discussing Y DNA testing and haplogroup identification.

SNPs Define Haplogroups

In a nutshell, SNPs, single nucleotide polymorphisms, are the mutations that define different haplogroups. Haplogroups reach far back in time on the direct paternal, generally the surname, line.

SNPs, mutations that define haplogroups are considered to be “once in the lifetime of mankind” events that divide one haplogroup into two subgroups, or branches.

A haplogroup can be thought of as the ancient genetic clan of males – specifically their Y DNA. You might want to read the article, What is a Haplogroup?

If you test your Y DNA with Family Tree DNA, you’ll notice that you receive an estimated haplogroup with the regular Y DNA tests which test STR, or short tandem repeat, markers. STRs are the markers tested in the 37, 67 or 111 marker tests. You can read about the difference between STRs and SNPs in the article, STRs vs SNPs, Multiple DNA Personalities.

STR markers are used for more recent genealogical testing and comparison, while haplogroups reach further back in time.

An estimated haplogroup as provided by Family Tree DNA is based on STR matches to people who have done SNP testing. Estimated haplogroups are quite accurate, as far as they go. However, by necessity, they aren’t deep haplogroups, meaning they aren’t the leaves on the end of the twigs of the branch of your haplotree. Estimated haplogroups are the big branches.

In essence, what a haplogroup provided with STR testing tells you is the name of the town and the main street through town. To get to your house, you may need to turn on a few side streets.


The haplotree, back in the ancient days of 2002 used to hold less than 100 haplogroups, each main branch called by a different letter of the alphabet. The main branches or what is referred to as the core backbone is shown in this graphic from Wikipedia.

Today, the haplotree shown for each Y DNA tester on their personal page at Family Tree DNA, has tens of thousands of branches. No, that’s not a misprint.

The haplotree is the phylogenetic tree that defines all of the branches of mankind and groups them into increasingly refined “clans” or groups, the further down the tree you go.

In other words, Y Adam is at the root, then his “sons” who, due to specific mutations, formed different base haplogroups. As more mutations occurred in the son’s descendants’ lines, more haplogroups were born. Multiply that over tens of thousands of years, and you have lots of branches and twigs and even leaves on the branches of this tree of humanity.

Let’s look at the terminal SNP of my cousin, John, on his Haplotree and SNP page at Family Tree DNA.

John’s terminal SNP is R-BY490. R indicates the main branch and BY490 is the name of the SNP that is the further down the tree – his leaf, for lack of a better definition.

In John’s case, we know this is the smallest leaf on his branch, because he took the Big Y test which reads all of his SNPs on the Y chromosome.

Haplogroup R is quite large with thousands of branches and leaves – each one with its own distinct history that is an important part of your genealogy. Tracking where and when these mutations happened tells you the migration history of your paternal ancestor.

How else would you ever know?

How Do I Discover My Terminal SNP?

Sometimes “terminal SNP” is used to mean the SNP for which a man has most recently tested. It may NOT mean that he has tested for all of the available SNPs. What this really means is that when someone gives you a terminal SNP name, or you see one listed someplace, you’ll need to ask about the depth of the testing undergone by the man in question.

Let’s look at an example.

I’ve condensed John’s tree into only the SNPs for which he tested positive. The entire tree includes SNPs that John tested negative for, and their branches which are not relevant to John – although we certainly didn’t know that they weren’t relevant before he tested. However, he may want to reference the large and accurate scientific tree, so all information is provided to John. It’s like seeing a map that includes all roads, not just the one you’re traveling.

I’ve created a descendant chart style tree below. Y line Adam is the first male. Some several thousands of years later, his descendant had a mutation that created haplogroup R defined by the SNP M207, in yellow.

John, based on his STR matches, was predicted to be R-M269. On his results page, that’s the estimated haplogroup that was showing when his results were first returned.

If you had asked John about his terminal SNP, he would have probably told you R-M269. At that time, to the best of his knowledge, that WAS his terminal SNP – but it wasn’t really.

John could choose three ways to test for additional SNPs to discover his actual terminal SNP.

  • One by One

John could selectively test one SNP at a time to see if he was positive, meaning that he has that mutation. SNPs cost $39 each to test, as of the time this article was written. Of course, John could also be negative for that SNP, meaning he doesn’t have the SNP, and therefore does not descend from that line. That’s good information too, but then John would have to select another branch to test by purchasing the SNP associated with that new branch.

If John had selected any of the SNPs on the list above to test, he would have tested positive. So, let’s say John decided to test L21, a major branch. If he tested positive, that means that all of the branches directly above L21, between L21 and M207, are also positive, by inference.

At that point, John would tell you that his terminal SNP is L21, but it isn’t actually.

  • SNP Packs

Now, John wants to purchase a more cost-effective SNP pack, because he can test 100 or more SNP locations by purchasing one SNP pack for $99. That’s a great value, so John purchases the SNP pack offered on his personal page. A SNP pack tests selective SNPs all over the relevant portion of the tree in an attempt to place a man on a relatively low branch. These SNPs are selected to find an appropriate branch, not the appropriate leaf. They confirm (or disprove) SNPs that have already been discovered.

Let’s say, in John’s case, the SNP pack moves him down to R-ZP21. If you asked him now about his terminal SNP, he would probably tell you R-ZP21, but it still isn’t actually.

SNP packs are great and do move people down the tree, but the only way to move to the end of the twigs is the Big Y test.

  • The Big Y Test

The Big Y test tests for all known SNPs as well as what were called Novel Variants and are now called Unnamed Variants which are new SNPs discovered that are as yet unnamed. You may have a new SNP in your line waiting to be discovered. The Estes family has one dating from sometime before 1495 that, to date, has only been found in Estes descendant males from that common ancestor who was born in 1495.

The Big Y test scans virtually the entire Y chromosome in order to place testers on the lowest leaf of the tree. You can’t get there any other way with certainty and you’ll never know if you have any as yet undiscovered SNPs or leaves unless you take the Big Y.

In John’s case, that leaf was 4 more branches below R-ZP21, at R-BY490.

Why Does a Terminal SNP Matter?

Haplogroup R-M269 is the most common haplogroup of European men.

Looking at the SNP map, you can see that there are so many map locations as to color the map of the UK entirely red.

Genealogically, this isn’t helpful at all.

However, looking now at DF49, below, we see many fewer locations, suggesting perhaps that men with this terminal SNP are clustered in particular areas.

SNPS further down John’s personal haplotree tell an increasingly focused and granular story, each step moving closer in time.


Men generally want to discover their terminal SNP with the hope that they can learn something interesting about the migration of their ancestors before the genesis of surnames.

Perhaps they will discover that they match all men with McSurnames, suggesting perhaps a Scottish origin. Or maybe their terminal SNP is only found in a mountainous region of Germany, or perhaps their Big Y matches all have patronymic surnames from Scandinavia.

Big Y testing is also a community sourced citizen science effort to expand the Y haplotree – and quite successfully. The vast majority of SNPs on the publicly available ISOGG Y tree today are from individual testers, not from academic studies.

Haplogroups, and therefore terminal SNPs are the only way we have to peek back behind the veil of time.

If you’re interested in discovering your terminal SNP, you’ll be money ahead to simply purchase the Big Y up front and skip individual SNP testing along with SNP packs. In addition to discovering your terminal SNP, you are also matched to other men who have taken the Big Y test.

You can order the Big Y, individual SNPs or SNP packs by clicking on this link, signing on to your account, and then clicking on the blue “Upgrade” button, either in the Y DNA section, shown below, or in the upper right hand corner of your personal page.



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Why the Big Y Test?

My recent article about the Big Y test sale and coupons bundled with a free 111 marker upgrade at Family Tree DNA generated quite a number of questions about the Big Y DNA test itself, and why a male might want to take one. I’ll answer that question, along with a few more that have arisen, but the coupon sale I referenced only pertained to December 2017. The rest of this article is still very relevant!

Why the Big Y?

Y DNA tests test a man’s direct paternal (usually surname) line and fall into two groups.

  • STRs – Short Tandem Repeats
  • SNPs – Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms

The first group, STRs, are the typical 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 Y DNA tests.  STR marker location values change rapidly, as compared to SNPs which mutates more slowly.

Each STR test tests the number of STR markers it’s named for. In other words, a 37 marker test tests 37 marker locations with the goal of matching other men with the same surname. Often, as you test higher levels, the results become much more specific and you “lose” matches to men with non-matching surnames. In this case, “losing” is a good thing, like weight!

The closer the STR match on more markers, the more reliable the results. Fewer matches generally mean we’re filtering out the more distant matches in time and the closer in time you shared a common ancestor with the people you match the most closely on the highest marker test you’ve both taken.

In other words, you might match 50 people at 37 markers, but only 20 at 67 markers and 4 at 111 markers.  Those 4 men are the most closely related to you on that direct paternal line – which is why we strongly suggest that people upgrade to 111 markers.

You can see in this example from the Estes project that the first two people whose surname is Estes are not biologically descended from the same male as the last four individuals – because their STR markers showing in the project are quite different.

Because STR markers mutate more rapidly, they are very useful for genealogy – and are used for that purpose.  An exact high marker match (typically 37, 67 or 111) to a male with the same surname indicates that you share a common ancestor with that man, probably within the past few generations and certainly since the advent of surnames. STR mutations sometimes happen independently in different lines, and when that happens, it’s called matching by convergence.

SNPs, on the other hand, are much more stable and mutate at a much slower rate and are therefore sometimes not as useful for traditional genealogy – BUT – they have the power to look further back in time where we have no tools other than DNA to make discoveries about our ancestors.

In general, but not always, men known to descend from a common ancestor will share the exact same “terminal SNP” – meaning the SNP mutation that happened the most recently.  Sometimes a SNP mutation will have happened in the past few generations and men who share a common ancestor since the advent of surnames will have a different terminal SNP, but not often and if they do, it’s generally only one step down the haplotree from each other. Just the “son” leaf on that branch.

On the Big Y haplotree, above, of an Estes male, five people match him on the BY490 branch, six on the BY482 branch above, and so forth. Of course, the next question is who matches him on these branches, so he will look at his Big Y match list to see those individuals.

What this means is that, in general, SNPs define more distant clan relationships, because they happen less often, and STRs define more recent surname relationships – although the more SNPs that are discovered – the more instances of some overlap we see.

The following chart shows where the two kinds of testing are the most useful – which illustrates why we need both kinds of testing.

Sometimes, there are no new SNP mutations that have occurred in a particular since the adoption of surnames. Of course, there is an exception to every guideline, and it just might be you. In fact, it could be between you and your father, or your father and his father. You don’t know what you don’t know and the only avenue to discovery is DNA testing.

What Does the Big Y Do?

While the STR panel tests specific addresses on the Y DNA to read a specific location – the Big Y test is a scan that scans the majority of the Y chromosome.

In other words, the 37 marker test provides you with results for 37 individual locations, or alleles, on the Y chromosome by measuring the number of repeats found at those locations specifically.

However, the more DNA addresses to be checked, the more expensive the test – which is why STR testing is broken into panels.

The Big Y test scans the majority of the Y chromosome to compare to a standard Y DNA pattern.  Because scan technology, known as NGS or next generation sequencing, allows us to look at tens of thousands of locations, it is not as accurate as looking at one specific location (think google satellite view versus driving down the street).  The DNA sequencing equipment scans the entire Y chromosome several times, like 25 or 30, and then reports on how many times something out of the ordinary is seen at a specific location.

If the scan spots something unusual 10 times or more, it’s called as a positive “result.”  Ten times or less, it’s considered a blip and not a high enough confidence result to consider as a valid result to report to a customer.

Why Do You Care?

As a customer, you may not care about the scans and underlying scientific processes that I just described – but you do care about the outcome which is your confirmed haplogroup closest in time to you on the tree. That information is important genealogically.

The Y DNA haplotree is the result of mutations that occurred every few hundred or few thousand years over the lifetime of mankind.  The mutation that identifies you the most closely with your closest male relatives is the last mutation that occurred that you all share – or don’t – which means a new mutation happened since the advent of your surname, assuming you do actually descend from a common ancestor and don’t just circumstantially carry the same surname. Yes, that does occasionally happen.

The result for the customer who takes the Big Y test is that the haplogroup predicted through STR testing is confirmed and generally several more branches and leaves are added to your own personal haplogroup tree.

Family Tree DNA very accurately predicts your branch haplogroup when you take an STR test, but it’s a major branch, near the tree, not a small branch and certainly not a leaf.  Smaller branches can’t be accurately predicted nor larger branches confirmed without SNP testing. The most effective way to SNP test for already discovered haplogroups – plus new ones never before found – perhaps unique to your line – is to take the Big Y.

While all of this science may not sound exciting at first glance, the results certainly can be, for a genealogist anyway.

The Big Y:

  • Confirms estimated haplogroups.
  • Provides you with your haplogroup closest in time – meaning puts twigs and leaves on your branches.
  • Helps to build the Y DNA tree, meaning you can contribute to science while learning about your own ancestors.
  • Confirms that men who do match on the same STR markers really ARE in the same haplogroup.
  • Shows matches further back in time than STRs can show.
  • Maps the migration of the person’s Y line ancestors.

Together, STR and SNP tests provide us with the closest mutations meaning the most genealogically relevant as well as (generally) older and more distant mutations, giving us at least some information before the age of surnames. This means you will match men who adopted surnames about the same time your ancestors did.  If you are a McDonald, you might match men whose surname is Campbell, as an example. Or, you might match men with Scandinavian surnames.  All of these pieces of information add to the story of your ancestors before surnames and records – the point at which your paternal line is unquestionably lost to traditional genealogy. Big Y testing is a way to reach back behind that veil.

How else will you ever learn the history of your ancestor in that timeframe? And why wouldn’t you want to?


If you are interested in discovering any of this information, the Big Y is the most thorough avenue for the genealogist.  You can purchase some SNP markers individually, but that gets expensive very quickly, and you can’t learn about any new markers your DNA might hold if you purchase only SNP markers previously known to exist. Y DNA holds hundreds or even thousands of SNPs with mutations to report.

Additionally, many men’s DNA also holds never-before-discovered SNP mutations.  You can’t discover those any way other than a Big Y test.

Who Should Purchase the Big Y?

  • Males who want to discover their ancestor’s story before the advent of surnames.
  • Men who want to confirm and extend their haplogroup.
  • Men who want to be pioneers and discover new SNPs in their DNA – never previously found.
  • Males who want to participate in research and building the Y DNA tree.
  • Males who have previously taken some level of STR tests at Family Tree DNA.

The Big Y is only an upgrade test. You can only see the Big Y as a purchase option on your account as an upgrade.  Click on the blue Upgrade button located in your Y DNA section or at the top right of your personal page.


  • I want to discover my father’s paternal line, but I’m a female. What can I do?

Answer – Test your father or brother, or a male relative who carries your father’s surname and descends from the common male ancestor through the direct paternal line.  The article, Concepts – Who To Test For Your Father’s DNA will help you find a male to test for your father’s line.

  • I’m a male, but I haven’t taken any Y DNA test? How can I take the Big Y?

Answer – Easy.  Just order the BIG Y-500 which includes the 111 marker test, the Big Y and additional free STR markers.

  • I’ve already taken the 111 marker test? How do I order the Big Y?

Answer – Just click on your blue Upgrade button.



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Big Changes for Big Y Test at Family Tree DNA

Today, I received a notification from Family Tree DNA (for group administrators) about some significant and very welcome changes to the Big Y test results.

The Big Y test, launched in November 2013, is a test for men who have already taken the regular Y DNA 37, 67 or 111 marker tests and want to refine their haplogroup further, or contribute to the building of the Y haplotree, or both. The Big Y test scans the entire Y chromosome for mutations, known as SNPs, which finds mutations on the Y chromosome that define branches of the paternal line of humanity. Some of these SNPs are already known, but some may be new, scientific discoveries found in your own DNA.

There’s lots to learn from Big Y testing, especially in conjunction with other testers through matching and haplogroup projects. The Big Y test has been responsible for taking the Y tree from hundreds of branches to tens of thousands that each tell a story of a branch or twig of mankind. That branch just happens to be yours and the people you match on that branch share a similar history.

In order to discern as much as possible, I have tested at least one man in each of my family lines for the Big Y. In the Estes line, I used the Big Y to shed light on a long-standing family story that probably isn’t true. The Big Y from my Lentz line produced very surprising results, matching an ancient burial along the Volga River from the Yamnaya culture. You can read more about that here. This just goes to show that you don’t know what you don’t know until you test.

The Big Y test, a deep dive into your haplogroup history, combined with the STR 37, 67 or 111 STR marker tests provide you with the most information you can obtain from Y DNA. The STR panels are focused on mutations that happen more frequently, so are relevant to genealogy in the past 500-800 years while the SNPs that define haplogroup branches happen less frequently, are viewed as “once in the lifetime of mankind” types of events, and speak to our older history, typically before the advent of surnames. Having just said that, I’ll also add that newer SNPs are being found that have occurred in a genealogical time frame and that do sometimes differentiate different lines of a family.

If you have taken a Y DNA 37, 67 or 111 marker test, you can upgrade to the Big Y by clicking on the blue upgrade link on your home page in the Y DNA section or in the upper right hand corner.

Big Y testers must first have tested to at least the 37 marker level, so the Big Y cannot be ordered without first ordering (or upgrading to) at least the 37 marker test.

The Announcement

Here’s what Family Tree DNA has to say about the new release:

Dear Group Administrators,

We’re releasing a big update to Big Y on October 10th and want to give you a first look before the release goes live.

Once the release is live, we will be recalculating Big Y matches. We anticipate this to take approximately 5-7 days. During this time, you will see a “Results Pending” page when you click on the Big Y section. You will be notified by email once your results are processed and ready.

Once the transition is complete, we will update you as to when BAM files will be available.

What’s New?

Here’s the breakdown of what we added and how it all works

Human Genome 38

We’ve updated from hg19 to hg38. This is a more accurate representation of the human genome and is the most recent version referenced by the human genome community.

Some of the advantages of hg38 are:

  • Better mapping of NGS data to the proper location
  • Consideration of alternative haplotypes across the genome

For more information about human genome builds, click here.

Terminal SNP Guide

We’ve added a terminal SNP Guide that allows you to view and filter the branches closest to the tester’s terminal branch on the haplotree.

BIG Y Browser

We’re giving you the ability to view your SNP data from Big Y. This will allow you to personally assess all SNP call positions that are being evaluated for matching purposes. This data will be continuously updated.



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

James Lee Claxton/Clarkson (c1775-1815), Died at Fort Decatur, Alabama, 52 Ancestors #166

James Lee Claxton or Clarkson was born about 1775, but our first hint of him is found in Russell County, Virginia in the court records that begin in 1799.

The surname, Claxton, has become Clarkson in several subsequent generations – but even today, in Claiborne and Hancock Counties when people refer to this family who spells their last name Clarkson, it’s pronounced like Claxton or Claxon.

I’m transcribing the names as they are spelled in the records, but I’m referring to James as Claxton. His earliest records are found spelled that way, as are most of his DNA matches.

Russell County, VA

In the Russell Co., VA Court Minute Book 3, 1799-1808:

February 25, 1800, Page 47 – James Claxton, Surveyor of the road in place of James LeMarr and that John Tate furnish a list of tithables.

June 13, 1800, Page 62 – John Tate assigned to furnished Thomas Johnson and James Claxton, surveyors of the road with a list of tithables.

August 26, 1800, Page 80 – Commonwealth vs James Claxton, dismissed.

I’d love to know what that was

February 24, 1801, Page 109 – William Tate, Jr. be surveyor of the road in place of James Claxton and that Thomas Johnson furnish him a list of tithables

March 24, 1801, Page 118 – Commonwealth vs James Claxton, dismissed.

Again? Maybe this has something to do with why his position as surveyor of the road was assigned to William Tate.

February 23, 1802, Page 177 – Zachariah Fugate, Peter Counts, Richard Davis, James Claxton, to view a road from the forks of the road where it takes off Davises until it intersects the road the side of John’s cabins.

James couldn’t have been in too much trouble, since he is still given a position of responsibility.

June 22, 1802, Page 195 – Commonwealth vs Nathan Hobbs, presentment, Jury: Littleberry Robinson, Edward Monahon, Jacob Castle, Peter Starns, Thomas Stapleton, William Hall, John Williams, Robert Lawson, James Claxton, Henry Goodman, John Hall and Peter Alley, def found not guilty

The fact that James Claxton is on a jury list strongly suggests that he is a landowner, but no land records for James have ever been found in Russell County.

Tax lists exist for 1787-1800, 1802 and legislative petitions exist for 1785 and 1810. Some are only partial lists.

The first year that we find James Claxton mentioned is in 1800 in the lower district of Russell County. The upper district is missing.

This timetable is reasonable, because that’s about the time he married Sarah Cook, whose father, Joel Cook also lived in Russell County.

In 1801, we again find James in the lower district and Clayton, John and Joel Cook in the upper district.

In 1802, we find James Claxton in the Upper District of Russell County, along with Joel Clayton, George John Cook.  The tax list is in alpha order, so we don’t know the proximity to each other.

However, there were no other Claxtons by any spelling of the name. Where did James Lee Claxton come from, and why?

Don’t I wish I knew!

Not long after they are married, James Claxton and his bride, Sarah Cook, migrate south across the border of Virginia into Tennessee.

In Russell County, Sarah’s father lived near present day Honaker, Virginia. The wagon trip to Claiborne County would have taken between 6 and 11 days and covered about 110 miles. A 2 or 3 hour drive today, through the mountains, but then it would likely have meant that Sarah seldom, maybe never, saw her parents again.

James and Sarah weren’t the only people from Russell County moving south. The Riley family and likely other Cook family members as well accompanied them and are found as their neighbors in their new location on Powell River.

Claiborne County, Tennessee

Claiborne County at that time encompassed the current Claiborne and Hancock Counties. Hancock was split from Claiborne in the 1840s, so the entire time that James Lee Claxton lived there, it was Claiborne.

The northern part of the county, now Hancock County, where James lived, is quite mountainous and the mountain ranges form the border with Lee County, Virginia.

The Powell River, where James Lee Claxton settled snakes between those mountains, having cut its way through granite – undulating back and forth and back and forth. You can see those bends in the river, below.

The location below, with the red arrow, is Claxton’s Bend where James Lee Claxton lived.

We don’t know exactly when James moved to Claiborne County, but we do know that he is not found on Russell County, VA tax lists after 1800. His eldest son, Fairwick, reports that he was born in 1799 and that he was born in Virginia, so that too is a clue.

Mahala, the next oldest child born in 1803 claims that she too was born in Virginia.

We first find James in a Claiborne County record in 1805.

It would be safe to say they moved between 1803 and 1805, although birth locations gleaned from census records have been known to be wrong before.

Claiborne County, TN Court Notes

June 16, 1805 –  page146 – William Bales overseer of the road from Williamson Trent’s to the Bald Hill near Martin’s Creek intersecting the Virginia line – hands Nathan Morgan, William Morgan, Mark Morgan, Zacharish Stephens, James Claxton, William Allen, Charles Rite, George Spencer, Elijah Smith, Joseph Mourning, William Hatfield, Henry Smith, Jacob Smith, William Evans, John Allen, James Allen, John Riley and John Parrot.

Sept 1805 – page 164 – James Claxton appointed constable, took oaths and gave securities John Husk and Isaac Southern

Sept 1805 – Henry Fugate allowed the following hands to work on road on the North side of Wallen’s ridge in Charles Baker’s company:

  • Nathan Watson
  • David Watson
  • James Poe
  • James Hist or Hust
  • James Morgan
  • John Colter
  • Isac Armstrong?
  • John Jones
  • Thomas Jones
  • Elisha Jones
  • John Rash
  • Zach Stephenson
  • William Pice
  • Isaac Southern
  • Charles Baker
  • William Crosedale
  • William Parton
  • Shelton Parton
  • Drury Lawson
  • James Claxton
  • Goen Morgan
  • William Morgan
  • Obediah Martin’s hand
  • William Martin
  • Johnston Hanbleton
  • Gainford Grimes
  • William Rutherford
  • Jacob Smith
  • Elijah Smith
  • Henry Smith
  • Mark Foster
  • Aleander Richie
  • William Dohely?
  • Thomas Harrison
  • Isac Fauster

Road lists are wonderful resources, because they give you in essence a list of the neighbors who live along that road. Everyone was expected to help. Later, we’ll recognize John Riley as a close friend, swearing he had attended James’ wedding, and he’s on both of the above lists.

The Martins are the Martin’s who lived at Martin’s Branch, quite close to the Claxton’s on the Powell River.

Sept. 1806 – page 71 – John Ryla admin of estate of William Ryla decd and for that purpose entered into bond of $1500 for the lawful discharge of his duty – Isaac Southern and James Claxton securities.

Note, that’s really John Riley.

May 1808 –  page 184 – Deed from John Cage to Henley Fugate and John Riley 640 ac – witness James Claxton and William Bails

May 12, 1817 – page 342 – Sarah Claxton to administer the goods and chattels, rights and credits of James Claxton decd – bond Josiah Ramsey

Sarah Claxton be allowed $15 out of estate of James Claxton decd for her serviced rendered in the administration of estate.

August 11, 1817 – Sarah Claxton administrator of the estate of James Claxton decd returned inventory of personal estate – order of sale granted to sell personal estate of deceased.

Is that not sad? It’s bad enough that she lost her husband with a houseful of children, and now she has to lose everything else as well. Men were presumed to own everything and the widow was provided only one third of the value of the estate.

Unfortunately, there is no estate inventory in any of the surviving books.

Feb. 11, 1818 – page 41 – On motion William Graham and Mercurious Cook appointed commissioners to settle with Sarah Claxton administrator of James Claxton decd and make report to the next court.

The great irony is that this was exactly three years to the day after James’s death.

I had always wondered if Mercurious Cook was a relative of Sarah’s, but if he were, he would not have been appointed to settle with her on James’s estate.

James married in 1799, but he was dead by 1817, less than 18 years later. Early deaths always make me incredibly sad, because I know full well what that means to the widow and children.

How did James die? We’ll find out shortly.


By 1810, James owned land in Claiborne County.

1810 – John Hall to James Claxton, 1810, book C-58 (looked up in later Hancock County book for description – 100 acres on the North side of Powell River, Hobbs line, granted in grant 2051 to John Hall from the state of Tn.) – this is the power of attorney to Walter Evans to sell his land entry “after it ripens into a grant” to James Claxton – dated October 29, 1810, registered April 1811

1811 – John Hall to James Claxton, 1811, D-94 for $10 – original states Dec. 4, 1811, John Hall of Sumner County and James Claxton of Claiborne, $300, 100 acres adjacent the land of Thomas Hobbs on the North side of the Powell river, bank of Powell river, up said river, land originally contained in grant 2051 granted to said Hall by the state of Tn. Oct 27 1811. Signed John Hall by Walter Evans his attorney.

By piecing deeds and surveys together over time, we know that the Claxton family all lived adjacent.

Fairwick Claxton, James’s son, was granted land in 1833 which abutted his brother Henry’s and his mother Sarah’s land.

The Claxton’s lived on the Powell River, at a place still known as Claxton’s bend.

We are quite fortunate for an 1834 deed that lists the children of James Claxton and Sarah.

1834 – Fairview Claxton to Sarah Claxton, 1834, Book O-233 for $70.00 – original reads March 27th, 1834, between Farwick Clarkson, Andrew Hurst and wife Mahala, John Plank and wife Elizabeth, Levi Parks and wife Susannah, John Collinsworth and wife Rebecca, Jacob Parks and wife Patsy, heirs at law of James Clarkson deceast of the one part and Sarah Clarkson widow of the aforesaid James Clarkson decd of the other part, all of Claiborne Co. Tn. In consideration of:

  • Farwick Clarkson, $70 (signs with a signature – but all of the rest make marks. Fairwick’s wife is not included for some reason.)
  • Andrew Hurst and wife Mahala – $70
  • John Plank and wife Elizabeth – $70 or 20 (Debra’s note marked through)
  • Levi Parks and wife Susannah – $70
  • John Collensworth and wife Rebecca – $20
  • Jacob Parks and wife Patsy “Polly” – $20

To Sarah Clarkson, widow aforesaid, 100 acres, Claiborne on the North side of Powell river where Sarah lives and land that was conveyed to James Clarkson from John Hall of Sumner Co. Tn. – beginning at Hobbs line, bank of Powell river. Witnessed by John Riley and Johiel Fugate. Registered Jan. 1, 1841

Yep, that’s James original land from 1810 and now Sarah owns it free and clear, in fee simple.

And again, we find John Riley involved with the family.

Visiting the Claxton Land

 In 2005, with the help of a local woman who was able to find the “ford” crossing the Powell River, I was able to visit the Clarkson land. Actually, this was rather happenstance, because I was actually looking for the McDowell Cemetery. What I didn’t realize at the time, is the wonderful vista it would provide of the adjacent lands on the Powell River.

It was also before the days of Google maps, and before my visit to the Clarkson/Claxton cemetery in which I was trapped in the cemetery with a cousin by a lovelorn bull. So, at the time I first visited and forded the Powell River, I didn’t know exactly where the Claxton land was, but I knew that is was nearby because of the hand-drawn surveyor’s map that so helpfully labeled Claxton’s bend.

The McDowell land is within sight of the Claxton land and because the McDowell land is high, appropriately known as “Slanting Misery,” even yet today, you can climb to the top of Misery Hill and view the surrounding lands. And trust me, having done it, not once, but twice, in the dead of summer, it’s very aptly named.

On the map above, the Claxton family cemetery, where I’m sure that Sarah is buried, along with her son Fairwick and many other family members is shown with the left red arrow.

The middle arrow is where I waded, yes, waded, across the Powell River and the right arrow is the location at the top of the hill on Slanting Misery where I climbed to survey the area.

Here’s a closeup on the Claxton Family Cemetery, now called the Cavin Cemetery, named after the current owners. It’s fenced and located in a field at the intersection of Owen Road and River Road, shown above. You can see the square fenced area.

Do you want to come along on my little River adventure?

Actually, I had to go twice, because I was unable to find the McDowell Cemetery the first time. I’ll spare you the story about the bull chasing us away the second time. It seems that every farmer in Hancock County has their own bull. In Indiana, where I grew up, farmers shared one bull – but he was always an extremely happy bull.

The first visit was much more serene, probably because I didn’t realize the level of bull-related danger, so come along.

To begin this chapter of our story, let’s look at the Powell River as seen from Cumberland Gap.

If you wonder why I love this country, one look at this picture and you don’t have to wonder anymore.

Deep breath.

The Powell River cuts a deep swath through the mountains in both Claiborne and Hancock County, Tennessee. This picture is looking east towards Hancock County from the summit and overlook at Cumberland Gap.

The Powell River is certainly not a small river, and it can vary from lazily running along to a raging torrent, depending on the water level and the rain.

It’s pretty daunting to look across this river and not to know how deep it is. However, the only other option was to attempt to drive, and I can swim a lot better than my Jeep.

And yes, for the record, I DO know how difficult it is to get yourself removed from being stuck offroad in Hancock County. Let’s not talk about that right now. I’m still embarrassed.

This is a really bad photo of me screwing up my courage and wading the river. I was half way across when I realized my partner in crime, or supposed partner in wading, was still standing on the riverbank. Her excuse was that she was going to take my picture. I really think she was waiting to see if I was going to have to swim for shore. For the record, it wasn’t deeper than about 3 feet which is why we had to look for the “ford” which is notoriously shallow. The locals told me that the alternative was a 25-mile drive – through the mountains, on two track roads. I’ll wade, thank you.

If you’re wondering what I had in the bag, it was a camera and notes about how previous searchers found the cemetery years before, with a hand drawn map. It didn’t help.

It started out with “cross the river.”

So far, so good.

Then “follow the road…”

What road? Where?

…to the well.”

What well?

“…near the barn.”

Ok, I should be able to see something as big as a barn.

What barn? Where?

You get the idea.

Standing in the middle of the river, looking towards McDowell Shoals. The local folks said there used to be a swinging rope bridge across the river above that island, until it got washed away in a flood. Now THAT made me feel a LOT better. They said it was some hellatious flood.

I don’t know which flood swept this bridge away, but the floods in the region are legendary. The rivers drain the mountains and then empty into each other.

This photo is of the 1977 flood in Sneedville, the county seat of Hancock County where the Clinch River did a great deal of damage. The Powell River empties into the Clinch. Sneedville saw about 15 feet of water and the river was about 33 feet above normal and believed to have been about 10 feet higher than in the previous all time high recorded in 1826.

Here’s a picture of the Powell River somewhat upstream, near the Cumberland Gap, during the 1977 flood. It would have been worse downstream.

So, maybe Slanting Misery wasn’t so miserable after all and provided a safe retreat in a flood.

I do wonder how the Claxton land fared in the floods. It was quite a bit lower.

A report prepared by the US Department of the Interior after the 1977 flood, from which these flood photos were extracted, reported that the 1977 flood resulted from 3 days of rain that saturated the ground, followed by another 4 days of rain a couple days later that caused most of the water to reach the streams as surface runoff. The second rain event dumped more than 15 inches of water on the area.

The 1977 flood levels were the greatest since 1826 on the Powell River. The Claxtons would have been living on their land in 1826, although James.had already died, so Sarah and her children would have had to deal with whatever happened.

In any case, the Powell river can be quite powerful, especially when upstream creeks and rivers receive rainfall. Had I known that, I might have been watchful of the weather – but ignorance is bliss.

I climbed to the top of the hill on Slanting Misery and recorded the vista for posterity.  And am I ever glad that I did, because this is the land of not only the McDowell family, but the Claxtons and (not pictured) the Herrell’s, all of whom intermarried.

The land beyond the barn (yes, THAT barn) is the Claxton land, laying across the river that you can’t see, of course, because it’s in the “dip” between the trees. And yes, you CAN see the barn from on top of the hill, but not from the river level. They probably built the barn where it wasn’t subject to the annual spring floods.

This land is as beautiful as it is remote.

There is nothing like looking at the land of your ancestors to make your heart skip a beat.

Three families that lived here, the Claxtons, the McDowells and the Harrells would intermarry to create my grandmother, Ollie Bolton.

Five generations of ancestors lived on this land as neighbors. The blood of my kinfolk waters this land and has for more than 200 years.

James Claxton’s Death

I was invited to Alabama in July of 2006 to give a DNA presentation. I wasn’t too cracked up about that – Alabama in the dog days of summer – but I decided to go anyway. DNA evangelists, in those early days, took every opportunity to spread the word.

My one and only visit to Alabama would prove to be quite interesting, in a very unexpected way, having nothing to do with the speaking engagement.

I realized after I accepted that invitation that my ancestor, James Lee Clarxton, had died at Fort Decatur, Alabama on February 11, 1815, a casualty of the War of 1812, albeit through disease and not direct warfare. Still, he died in the line of duty, a place he would never have been if he were not serving his country, far from home, in the middle of winter, with little or no food.

More than two years later, on August 11, 1817, Sarah Cook Claxton, his wife, was appointed administrator of the estate of James and the estate was settled May 11, 1818.

I wonder if that means that Sarah wasn’t informed of his death until two and a half years later. Surely not, but why the delay in probating his estate? Typically estates were probated within 30 days – generally at the next court session. But not James’s.

In 1815, Sarah would have only been married for about 15 or 16 years. She and James had 8 children, although some of their birthdates are uncertain and conflict, unless there were twins.

  • Fairwick (or Fairwix) was born 1799/1800, died Feb 11, 1874 and married Agnes Muncy sometime around 1819.
  • Mahala was born in 1801, died in March 1892 and married Andrew Hurst.
  • Elizabeth was born about 1803, died in 1847 and married John Plank.
  • Mary Polly was born about 1803, died in 1887 and married Tandy Welch
  • Susannah was born about 1808, died in 1895 in Iowa and married Levi Parks.
  • Rebecca was born in 1808, died in 1880 in Union Co., TN and married John Collingsworth.
  • Martha Patsy was born in 1811, died in 1898 and married Jacob “Tennessee” Parks.
  • James born 1810/1815 in the 1840 census with a wife and 2 daughters, but by the time Sarah die in 1863, neither he nor his daughters are mentioned as heirs
  • Henry was born 1813/1815, died August 1838 and married Martha Patsy Gillus Walker.

Sarah, James’s widow, seemed to be quite independent. She never remarried, even though she had small children. She lived 48 years as a widow, not passing away until December 21, 1863, and did things that most women didn’t do during that timeframe. For example, she obtained not one, but multiple land grants.

In 1834, Sarah purchased 100 acres from the “heirs at law” of James Clarkson i.e. their children: Fairwix, Mahala, Elizabeth, Susanna, Rebecca, and Martha. Children Mary (Polly) and Henry are not mentioned in the deed. Henry probably was still living at home but Mary (Polly) had been married to Tandy Welch for fourteen years. Perhaps she received her inheritance when she married.

James’s Pension Record

Most of what is known about James Lee Clarkson/Claxton and his family is taken from the service and pension files of the National Archives. The pension file is voluminous, containing thirty-nine pages. It’s always a good day when you receive a thick envelope from the archives!

In the 1850’s, Congress passed several acts benefiting military survivors and widows. It was during that period that Sarah Clarkson applied for both his pension and bounty land. We know about his death because Sarah applied for both.

According to the Treasury Department letter dated Dec. 30, 1853, James Claxton enlisted on November 8, 1814 and died on February 11, 1815. His widow, Sarah, had received a half-pay pension of $4 per month under the Act of April 16, 1816.

Hancock Co, State of Tennessee – On this 8th day of March 1851 personally appeared before me a JP John Riley of Hancock Co., Tn. and John Taylor of Lee Co., Va. who being duly sworn according to law declare that Sarah Clarkson is the widow of James Clarkson decd who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. John Brockman in the 4th regiment of East Tennessee militia commanded by Col. Baylis – in the War with Great Britain declared by the United States of the 18th day of June 1812. That said Sarah Clarkson was married to James Clarkson decd in Russell Co. in the St. of Va on the 10th of October 1805 by one John Tate a JP in their presence, that the name of the said Sarah Clarkson before her marriage aforesaid was Sarah Cook, that her husband the said James Clarkson died at Fort Decature on the 20th of Feb. AD 1815 and that she is still a widow, and they swear that they are disinterested witnesses.   Signed by both John Riley and John Taylor and witnessed by AM Fletcher. Sworn before William T. Overton JP

John Riley again. A disinterested witness means that they don’t stand to benefit from the statement.

A second sworn statement is given below:

On March 8th, 1851 personally appeared before me Sarah Clarkson aged 76 years a resident of Hancock Co. Tn. who being duly sworn according to law declares that she is the widow of James Clarkson decd who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. Brock (number of regiment not recollected) regiment of E. Tennessee militia commanded by Colonel (too light to read) in the war with Great Britain declared June 18th, 1812. That her said husband was drafted at Knoxville Tn. on or about the 13th of November AD 1814 for the term of 6 months and continued in actual service as she is informed and believes in said War for the term of 3 months and 7 days and died at Fort Decatur or near there on or about the 20th of February 1815 as will appear on the muster rolls of his company on account of sickness. She further states that she was married to the said James Clarkson in Russell Co. VA on October 10th 1805 by one John Tate JP and that her name before her marriage was Sarah Cook and that her said husband died at Fort Decatur as aforesaid on the 20th of February AD 1815 and that she is still a widow. She makes this declaration for the purpose of obtaining the bounty land to which she may be entitled under the act passed September 25th, 1850. Witness Fairwick Clarkson (possibly others as the bottom of page is cut off) and she makes her mark.

James Lee Claxton’s death date is given variously as February 11 and February 20, by different sources.

In another statement, Sarah gave her marriage date to James Lee Claxton as October 10, 1799 which meshes better with the births of their children. By 1805, James and Sarah were living on the Powell River in what is now Hancock County, Tennessee, raising a family. Their oldest son, Fairwick (Fairwix, Farwick, Farwix), also my ancestor, was born in 1799 or 1800.

A third document tells us a little more about the circumstances of James death.

State of Tennessee, County of Hancock, on the 29th day of August in the year of our Lord 1853, personally appeared before me a JP within and for the county and state aforesaid. Foster Jones and Tandy Welch citizens of said state and county who being duly sworn according to law declare that they were personally acquainted with James Clarkson decd (sometimes called and written Claxton) who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. Brock in the 4th regiment as well as recollected of E. Tennessee militia commanded by Col. Bales in the War with Great Britain declared June 18 1812 and that the said James Clarkson (or Claxton) sickened and died before the expiration of the time for which he engaged to serve in the said war and he belonged to the said company and regiment to which we did and that we each of us have applied under the act of Sept. 28 1850 and obtained land warrants for our service in said war. Tandy Welch and Foster Jones both make their marks, AM Fletcher a witness and Stephen Thompson a witness.

Another statement indicates that both Tandy Welch and Foster Jones witnessed the death of James Claxton.

Tandy Welch, the man who was at James’ side when he died, five years later, on June 22, 1820, married James’ daughter, Mary.

On November 29, 1853, personally appeared before me Mrs. Sarah Clarkston, a resident of Hancock County aged 79 years…widow of James Clarkson…married about 1799…drew 5 years half pay in 1816…obtained 40 acres of land bounty dated Sept. 22, 1853 number 92928.

The War of 1812 is a rather neglected war, as they go. We don’t know a lot about where these men were on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. What follows is a little information about his regiment from The Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812.

The 4th Regiment, along with Colonel William Johnson’s Third Regiment and Colonel Edwin Booth’s Fifth Regiment, defended the lower section of the Mississippi Territory, particularly the vicinity of Mobile. They protected the region from possible Indian incursions and any British invasion. These regiments were under the command of Major General William Carroll. They manned the various forts that were located throughout the territory: Fort Claiborne, Fort Decatur, and Fort Montgomery, for example. Sickness was rampant in this regiment and the desertion rate was high. The regiment mustered in at Knoxville and was dismissed at Mobile.

And then this from one of the soldiers, Thomas David, at Camp Montgomery who kept a diary:

I now volunteered again and under Capt Henry Lane subsequently attached to Gen McIntosh. [Jones’ Regiment] I think it was the latter part of October 1814 that we were mustered into service at Fort Hawkins, and went soon (well supplied) to Fort Decatur, on the Tallapoosa river. We built boats to carry provisions down the river. We started overland to Fort Claiborne [Louisiana]. We got there eight days before the boats arrived with the food, and there was none at the Fort. We had bad times, some suffered extremely, some died. Before our supplies came reports came that the British had taken Fort Bowyer at Mobile point, and an attack upon the town fort was expected. What were we to do?

Sarah initially had problems collecting James’ pension and bounty land due to the difference in the spelling of his last name, Clarkson, under which she applied, vs Claxton. I fully understand that, because I have issues with James’s records today for the same reason.

Sarah did collect a widow’s benefit of half pay, $3.85 a month, for five years, although exactly when is unclear. During the 1850’s she also received a land grant of forty acres. However, she filed a deposition in March of 1854, claiming she was entitled to 80 acres. The 40 acre grant was cancelled (a copy of the cancelled certificate is in the pension file) and the 80 acre grant approved. In the for-what-it’s-worth category, the scanned version of his pension file at Fold3 is significantly incomplete.  More than half is missing, so I’m glad I ordered it from the National Archives years ago.

Sarah’s monthly pension ceased when the Civil War began. After the war, her son, Fairwick, filed an oath of loyalty in order to apply for restoration as administrator of her estate since Sarah had died. He also vouched for Sarah’s loyalty and testified about Sarah’s “heirs to wit”. Sukey Parks, wife of Lewis Parks, is said to have moved to Iowa some 20 years ago, Farwix and Polly are residents of Hancock County, Patsy and Mahala are in Claiborne County, and Rebecca is listed as living in Union County. Rebecca is reported as “disloyal”, meaning Confederate, but that “cannot be proven from personal knowledge.”

We know from James’s records that he was buried at Fort Decatur, on a hill not far from the fort. He never came home.  I wonder if Tandy Welch and Foster Jones, two of the local men in his unit, bore the responsibility of telling her about his death after they were discharged later in 1815. The war of 1812 ended just a month after James died – on March 23, 1815.

I decided that since I was going to Alabama anyway that I’d like to go and find James’ grave at Fort Decatur and pay my respects to him where he is actually buried.

That sounded much easier than it was to prove to be.

First, I had to find Fort Decatur.

Finding James

I began by trying to find the location of Fort Decatur. After many frustrated attempts, I finally discovered that the Fort was not preserved, but neither was it destroyed. It was simply abandoned and allowed to decay.

In subsequent years, the site had been purchased with a significant piece of other property by Auburn University for their Experimental Agricultural Farm. So one can get to the fort, if one can find the fort, which is another matter altogether. But then again, I thought, how difficult can a fort be to find?

I would discover that the answer to that question is not what it appeared.

I was fortunate to locate two local men who knew the area well and were raised there. Unfortunately, neither was able to accompany me during my visit. I arrived on a Sunday morning in one of the most remote places I’ve ever been. I pulled into the parking lot of a very rural church to ask directions, and the children were actually frightened of me. They literally ran inside to hide. I was both confused and felt terrible.

Then I realized I was literally right down the road from where the Tuskeegee Sylphilis Study infamously took place. Some things cast a very long shadow.

The local people didn’t even know there WAS a fort. Actually, I think they thought I was crazy. And the Experimental Agricultural Farm was completely deserted.

Fortunately, my friend had sent me an old drawing of the fort made shortly after its construction. It is located between the railroad tracks, which were not there when the fort was built, obviously, and the bend in the river.

I would wager that James is buried on that hill behind the fort. The documentation said it was near the spring.

My friend also sent me a photograph of the monument at Fort Decatur.  It was placed there in 1931 by the Alabama Anthropological Society (which ceased to exist long ago).  The inscription on the plaque reads:



Built by the 3d U. S. Inf.

You can see that it is illegible, but illegible or not, monument itself should at least be visible as it’s pretty good size, and fenced – right?

Fort Decatur was built by a contingent of NC militiamen in 1812/1813 as a fortification in the War of 1812 when our country was fighting with the English.

The Indians were backing the British because the British told them that if they won, they would return all of their lands. The Creek Indians were a particular stronghold, and these forts along the Alabama Rivers, plus some in Mississippi and Louisiana and Northern Florida provided protection for the then sparse residents and also for locations from which to fight.

Fort Decatur was relatively small, as forts go, and was only a militia stronghold, not a hospital or supply fort. Many of the soldiers from Fort Decatur traveled between Fort Montgomery and Fort Claiborne in Louisiana. Other contingents built other now defunct forts at the convergence of the Coosa and Talapaloose rivers – Fort Williams and Fort Strothers, also nearby, a large supply fort. Davis’s journal said that his regiment was dispatched, on foot, to Fort Claiborne but they beat the supply boat by almost 2 weeks and had nothing to eat. Getting troops someplace was one thing. Feeding them was quite another.

The regiments that were at Fort Decatur were devastated by famine, starvation and associated diseases. They probably also had typhoid, given the descriptions of what was going on. One soldier said that they lost 50% of their men, which according to the roster, is accurate. Most of the deaths were due to disease and starvation, not fighting the Creeks. All of this was incredibly sad, especially when I think of my ancestor’s last days.

I hate to think his death was for naught, but given that the war ended a month later, and that he wasn’t killed defending his country, but died a miserable death instead – I do feel that his life was wasted in the sense that his death was premature and pointless. I have to wonder what prompted him to join.

Most of these men didn’t even have horses, as soldiers had to supply their own, and they marched from Knoxville to Alabama, on foot, in the winter. Those who survived were discharged in May and then walked home again. In addition to James, there was a drummer and a fifer, typically boys between 12 and 15, as only 16 and over were allowed to fight. One of those young boys was possibly the brother of James’s wife, Henry Cook – so Sarah lost her husband and possibly her little brother or a nephew as well.

Very interesting indeed, and a devastating chapter in a War whose soldiers probably didn’t even understand why they were fighting. They were “drafted” or volunteered in the militia because they had no other choice. Both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War were passionate wars with a purpose, regardless of your perspective. This one was just something that had to be done.

Ironically, the Fort was built across from a very large Indian village that spanned 4 miles on the bends of the river. In 1815, the Indians came to the fort to ask for peace. Eventually, they were removed to Oklahoma along with the Cherokees. Some left and joined the Seminole in Florida.

One of the reasons I was able to find information about the fort is because the Governor of Tennessee, John Sevier, also died at the fort just a couple of weeks before James Claxton. Sevier was buried outside the fort on a hillside. The fort itself was built on the top of an Indian mound. Some years later, a contingent of men returned to Fort Decatur and exhumed Sevier, bringing him back to Tennessee and reburying him in Nashville. The location of Sevier’s body was marked at the time with a marble marker. Other graves were either entirely unmarked, or with wooden crosses. Given that half the men were dead, the other half likely sick, most of the graves were probably unmarked.

During a stop in the Tennessee archives in Nashville on my way to Alabama, I was able to unearth a great deal of information about the trip to exhume Sevier, but nothing that would definitively locate the cemetery or burial location today. Some think Sevier may not have been buried with the rest of the men, but I bet he was.

On the map below, the fort is marked, along with Sevier’s gravesite. Reports of the cemetery said it was near a spring, which is shown on the original drawing.

The roads have changed from the time that the “old Federal Road’ ran alongside the original Fort. The map below shows the current configuration.

A current topo map insert is shown below as well. Armed with all of this information, how could I fail to find the fort? The men who had grown up locally played on and in the fort as a child.

I gave this personal version of a scavenger hunt my best effort.

I found Milstead, which was located right on Highway 40. I found the University of Auburn farms, and the 4 brick houses where I’d guess the students stay. Not a soul was anyplace on the land. I went behind the big yellow building to the brick house back there too, and saw the road going on back. I followed the road, thinking either I’d find someone to ask or I’d find the fort. The road (2 track) went back and then along the railroad for maybe 1/8th mile, then crossed over the railroad track. From the maps I had found, it looked like the fort was between the railroad and the river, and that it was where the river bent to the west leaving the tracks. I have a GPS unit in my car, and I was at that location, and there is a hill, but the kudzu was so thick that I couldn’t see anything. I followed that road on for a ways and it shortly turned towards the river and there were “no trespassing” signs, which I ignored (against my better judgment) and followed the road down to the river. I thought maybe I could see the fort from that road down by the river, but I couldn’t.

I took a photo, which I now can’t find, and I left before someone started shooting at me. The area looked like it was privately owned after crossing the railroad track. In retrospect, I think I probably went too far. With kudzu covering everything, and I mean literally everything, it was impossible to tell.

I returned home very disappointed. It was a relatively miserable and disheartening trip. I seldom fail at finding something – especially a something that large.

I don’t mind tramping through the woods in 100 degree heat to find an ancestor – but not finding something as large as a fort, being miserable and having driven for more than 900 miles for the privilege was hard to bear.

My cousin, Daryl, and I were planning to return the following year, but life interfered and we have been unable to return to find the fort.

Fortunately, an unlikely source, YouTube has come to my rescue. Someone took a video “tour” of Fort Decatur, so we can all enjoy the visit.

Apparently nothing, or not much, is left of the original fort itself, just the earthworks. In part, this explains why I was unable to find a “fort.” Knowing that James died there while watching this video was a very moving moment. I couldn’t be more grateful for this man’s kindhearted posting of this video.

Above is a clip from the video within the “fort” itself, and below, the ditch that surrounded the fort.

And look, there’s that marker in the video! It does still exist.  I guess this is the closest thing to a grave marker that James Lee Claxton will ever have.

I found the location on Google maps, but try as I might, I can’t see the marker or the remains of the fort. However, the bend in the River is distinctive and we know that the fort is located right beside the river, about where the T is in Tallapoosa.

The tiny village of Milstead is in the lower left corner.  The Auburn farm is the circle driveway and the farm to the left of the circle driveway.  I believe they own the area from 40 to the river.

The fort would have been located in the forested area below, between the hill and the river, and the gravesite wouldn’t have been far. Looking at this area today, compared with the map that shows John Sevier’s grave, it certainly looks like the gravesites were near the railroad.

Utilizing the various maps and hints, I think that the fort is right about where the tip of the red arrow is located, below. The green area below the fort would be the hill, as draw on the original map and current day topo. The two blue arrows to the left would be the old road that fords the river, and the road approach on the far bank. The two blue arrows on the right side are the spring and the stream. This leave, of course, the hill in the middle between the fort, the railroad tracks,and the various blue arrows. If James was buried on the hill, near the spring, he could have been buried on the right side of the hill area, probably not far from the road cut today, which you can see between the right blue bottom arrow and the railroad tracks..

Additional research and working with the University revealed that during the time when the railroad tracks were laid that human bones were unearthed and pretty much ignored. I have to wonder if those bones were the bones of the men who died during the War of 1812. We know that several soldiers died at this location, roughly half of the men stationed here were reported as deceased during their enlistment, although only about 6 were noted on the roster as having died in January and February.

However, given that the fort location was near the Indian village and mound, the bones uncovered could also have been Native bones. None were salvaged. They were quickly “reburied” by recovering them with dirt.

I know that the chances of me going back to Alabama AND finding Fort Decatur are slim to none, but I have certainly gotten closer to the gravesite of James Clarkson than any other family member ever has. I paid my respects, such as they were.

I suspect James’ widow, Sarah, always wanted to visit his grave. She never really got to say goodbye. His youngest children never knew him.

Tandy Welch, James’s future son-in-law was with James when he died and was probably one of the men who buried James. Sarah and his children would have had to be content to know that at least James had two old friends with him, Tandy Welch and Foster Jones. James too would have taken comfort knowing that Tandy would help look after his young family. That’s probably how Tandy came to marry James’ daughter.

Sarah never remarried.

James Claxton’s Y DNA

We had two burning questions when we began DNA testing on the Claxton line.

First, were the various groups of Claxton, Clarkson, Clarkston and similar surnames one group, or many?

To some extent, we’ve answered that question.

There are several unrelated groups of men, as you can see when looking at the Claxton Y DNA project. By the way, we welcome all Claxton and Clarkson descendants, so please test at Family Tree DNA and join the project. If you are a male Claxton or Clarkson, take the Y DNA test at 37 markers or above, in addition to the Family Finder test. For everyone else descended from any of these lines, take the Family Finder test and please, join the Claxton project.

What is surprising is that some men found in or near the same geographic locations do not have matching Y DNA, meaning they don’t share a common direct paternal line.

In some cases, based on their genealogy, we know these men who don’t match are truly descended from different lines. In other cases, we may have encountered some new lines, meaning those through uncertain parentage or adoption whose surname has remained Claxton, but their Y chromosome is reflective of a different ancestor.  We consider those “new” Claxton lines, because they are clearly Claxton from here forward.

Our second question was the geographic origins of our Claxton line. Where did our ancestors live before they immigrated? Of course, the best way to tell would be for a Claxton male from that location to take the Y DNA test, and match our line, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

One of our Claxton men took the Big Y test. Thank you immensely!

The Big Y test scans virtually the entire Y chromosome for mutations called SNPs that point to deep ancestry on the paternal line. In our case, the Claxton’s terminal SNP, meaning the one furthest down the tree, is haplogroup R-FGC29371. This by itself doesn’t mean a lot, but in context, it does.

This Claxton cousin’s closest matches on the Big Y test are men with the following last names:

  • Parker
  • Joyce
  • Grigsby
  • Gray
  • Daniel

This suggests that he doesn’t necessarily match these men in a genealogical timeframe, and in fact, he doesn’t match them on the regular STR marker test panel at Family Tree DNA – but it means that those families and his are probably from the same place at some time before the advent of surnames.

Utilizing the SNP utility at Family Tree DNA, we see that there are only three locations of clusters where this SNP is found, so far, and all 3 are in the UK.

Of course, as luck would have it, one is in Ireland, one in Scotland and one near the Scotland/England border.

The Unresolved Mystery

We still haven’t identified the parents of James Lee Claxton. I’m firmly convinced that his middle name, Lee, given in 1775 when middle names were only purposefully given, is a clue. Middle names at that time in the colonies were generally only bestowed when they were family surnames. Everyone having surnames came in vogue not long thereafter, but I strongly suspect Lee is a family name.

Unfortunately, Lee is also a rather common name, but I have been on the lookout for decades now for any Lee or Lea connection. So far, that has been another blind alley wild goose chase…but hey…you never know which of these goose chases might actually net something!  One thing, none ever will if we don’t pursue those geese.

In a future article about James’ potential father’s, I’ll step through what we’ve done and who we’ve ruled out.

In the mean time, nearly 13 years after founding the Claxton/Clarkson surname project, I’m still waiting for that person to test someplace in the UK that will match our Claxton line.

While waiting for that person to test, I’d settle for a definitive line out of Virginia, perhaps!

If you are a Claxton male, please consider both Y DNA and autosomal testing (the Family Finder test) at Family Tree DNA and joining the Claxton project.



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Working with Y DNA – Your Dad’s Story

Have you ever wondered why you would want to test your Y DNA? What would a Y DNA test tell you about which ancestors? What would it mean to you and how would it help your genealogy?

If you’re like most genealogists, you want to know every single tidbit you can discover about your ancestors – and Y DNA not only tells males about people they match that are currently living and share ancestors with them at some point in time, but it also reaches back beyond the range of what genealogy in the traditional sense can tell us – past the time when surnames were adopted, peering into the misty veil of the past!

If you aren’t a male, you can’t directly test your Y DNA, because you don’t have a Y chromosome, but that’s OK, because your father or brother or another family member who does carry the same Y chromosome (and surname) as your father may well be willing to test.

What Is Y DNA?

Y DNA a special type of DNA that tells the direct story of your father’s surname line heritage – all the way back as far as we can go – beyond genealogy– to the man from whom we are all descended that we call “Y line Adam.” In the pedigree chart below, Y DNA is represented by the people with blue squares – generally the surname line.

Y DNA is never mixed with the mother’s DNA, so the Y DNA of the blue line of ancestors above remains unbroken and intact and the Y DNA is passed from father to only their male children. The Y chromosome is what makes males male, so females never inherit a Y chromosome. Of course, that means females can’t take Y DNA tests, so they have to ask a family member to test who carries the Y chromosome of the line they are interested in.

Because the surname doesn’t typically change for males between generations, this test is particularly powerful in identifying specific lineages of the male’s surname.  For men looking to identify their paternal line, Y DNA testing is extremely powerful!

Y DNA testing is a great way to determine which ancestral line of a given surname a male descends from.

Want to see how this works?  Family Tree DNA provides 13 great tools for every Y DNA customer. Let’s take a look!


Everyone who tests their Y DNA at Family Tree DNA receives a haplogroup assignment. Think of a haplogroup as your genetic clan. Haplogroups have a history and a pedigree chart, just like people do. Haplogroups and their branches can identify certain groups of people, such as people of African descent, European, Asian, Jewish and Native American.

While the Y DNA is passed intact with no admixture from the mother, occasionally mutations do happen, and it’s those historical mutations that form clans and branches of clans as generation after generation is born and continues to migrate to new areas.

If you take any Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA, you will receive a haplogroup prediction. In the following example, the gentleman received haplogroup C-P39 as his haplgroup prediction.

Haplogroup predictions from Family Tree DNA are very accurate. They are basic in nature, but detailed enough to identify the continent where your ancestors are found as well as sometimes identifying groups like Jewish or Native American. To receive a more refined haplogroup, additional tests are available (individual SNPs, SNP panels and the Big Y), which confirm the original haplogroup assignment and give you the opportunity to find the smallest branch of the haplotree upon which you reside as a leaf.

Let’s look at an example.

Y haplogroup C arose in Asia and subgroups are found today in parts of Asia, Europe and among Native American men.

Recently, by utilizing the Big Y test, an advanced specialized test that scans the majority of the Y chromosome for mutations, the haplogroup C tree was extended by several branches at Family Tree DNA.

With regular STR marker testing, which is the Y DNA test you purchase from Family Tree DNA,  this particular haplogroup C male had his base haplogroup of C identified along with the additional branch of C-P39. With additional advanced testing of some type, such as individual SNP testing, panels of SNPs available for some haplogroups, or the Big Y test – testers can learn more about their haplogroups – and with the Big Y, virtually everything there is to know about their Y chromosome.

However, until testers receive their regular STR results for their markers, advanced tests aren’t available to order, because testers don’t yet know into which haplogroup, or clan, they will be placed.

The haplogroup C Y-DNA project at Family Tree DNA provides a map of the most distant known ancestors of Haplogroup C members, including all branches, shown below.

Hapologroup C-P39, a Native American subgroup, is found in a much more restricted geography in the Haplogroup C-P39 project, below.

Tools at Family Tree DNA

At Family Tree DNA, your Y haplogroup is shown in the upper right hand corner on your personal page dashboard.

In the Y DNA section, additional tools are shown. Let’s look at each tool and what it can tell you about your direct paternal line.

You can always navigate to the Dashboard or any other option by clicking on the myFTDNA button on the upper left hand corner and then the Y DNA dropdown.


The first place most people look is at their Matches page. In the case of our example, he has twenty three 111 marker matches ranging from one person with a genetic distance of 1, meaning one mutation difference, to several with 6 mutations difference. The fewer mutations, in general, the most likely the closer in time your most recent common ancestor with your match.

You can see by just looking at the matches below why entering the name of your earliest known ancestor (under Manage Personal Information, Account Settings, Genealogy) is so important!!! That’s the first thing people see and the best indication of a common ancestor. I always include a name, birth/death date and location.

In this case, it’s very clear the common ancestor of most, if not all, of these men is Germain Doucet born in 1641 in Port Royal, Nova Scotia. And before you ask, yes, it’s rather unusual to have an entire list of men descended from one man, but it’s clearly not unheard of.

As you can see, many of these matches (names obscured for privacy) have trees attached to their results and several have also taken the autosomal Family Finder test.

The different Y-DNA haplogroups listed to the right are a function of the “Terminal SNP,” meaning the SNP that tested positive furthest out towards the tip of the branch of the tree. Four matches have had additional SNP testing which shows their terminal SNP to be either Z30754 or M217.

This gentleman can then view his 67, 37, 25 and 12 marker matches by clicking on that dropdown.

He can also e-mail any of his matches by clicking on the envelope icon or view their trees by clicking on the pedigree icon.


Next, let’s look at the Y-STR results for 67 markers. This page should really probably say “raw results,” because as many people say, “it’s just a page of numbers.”

This page shows your values and mutations at specific markers – in other words, what makes you both different from other people and the same as people you match, which means you share a common ancestor at some point in time in the not too distant past.

The beauty of these numbers, is, of course, in what they tell us in context of matching other people. You can’t have matches without these numbers. You also can’t have maps or anything else without the raw mutation information.

HaploTree and SNP Page

STR markers show mutations in recent timeframes, generally within the past 500-800 years, but SNPs take you back into antiquity – just like your family pedigree chart – working from closest to further back in time .

Your Haplotree and SNP page shows you the tree for your haplogroup – in this case C – designated by SNP M216, shown at the very top, along with all branches of the tree. The branches and leaves are color coded based on whether you have tested for that particular SNP, and if so, whether you were positive, meaning you carry the mutation, or negative, meaning you don’t.


The SNP map shows you cluster locations worldwide where any selected SNP is found.

Matches Maps

One of my favorite tools is the Matches Map because it shows the most distant ancestor for all of your matches that have provided that information.

Hint: you MUST enter the geographic information through the link at the bottom of this map (below) for YOUR ancestor to be displayed on THIS map and also on the maps of your matches.

You can also display your match list by clicking on the link beneath the map. You can click on the pins on the map to display the accompanying information.

Note the legend, as your exact matches are shown in red, 1 step mutations in orange, 2 steps in yellow, and so forth. Be sure to look for clusters, and note that if there are multiple people listed in the same location, their pins will stack on top of each other.

For example, in this case, the orange pin shown has two people’s ancestors in that location, including this tester, and a relevant cluster is clearly shown in Nova Scotia.

Migration and Frequency Maps

Are you wondering how your ancestor and his ancestors arrived where you first find them?

The haplogroup Migration Maps shows you the path from Africa to wherever they are found – in this case, the Americas.

The Frequency Map then shows you how much of the New World population is branches of haplogroup C.

Haplogroup Origins

The Haplogroup Origins tool shows the distribution of the haplogroup, by region, by match type and count.  Please note that you can click on any graphic to enlarge.

For example, this person has one 111 marker C-Z30765 match in Canada.

Ancestral Origins

The Ancestral Origins page shows matches by country along with any comments. These matches don’t have any comments, but comments might be Ashkenazi or MDKO (most distant known origin) when US is given.

Advanced Matching Combines Tools

Another of my favorite tools is the Advanced Matching tool, available under the Tools and Apps tab.

Advanced Matches is a wonderful tool that allows you to combine test types. For example, let’s say that you want to know if any of the people you match on the Y DNA test are also showing up as a match on the Family Finder test. You could further limit match results by project as well.

Be sure to click on “show only people I match in all selected tests” or you’ll receive the combined list of all matches, not just the people who match on BOTH tests, which is what you want.

In this example, I’ve selected 12 markers and Family Finder, because I know I’m going to find a few matches for illustration.

Of course, for adoptees, finding someone with whom you match closely on the Family Finder test AND match exactly (or nearly) on the Y DNA test would be very suggestive of a patrilineal common ancestor in a recent timeframe.


We started our discussion about Y DNA haplogroups by referencing two different haplogroup C projects. Family Tree DNA has over 9000 projects for you to select from.  The good news is that you really don’t have to limit your selections, because you can join an unlimited number of projects.

Thankfully, you don’t have to browse through all the available projects.

  • Haplogroup projects are categorized by Y or mtDNA and then by subgroup where appropriate.
  • Surname projects exist as well and are searchable for your genealogy lines.
  • Geographical projects cover everything else, from geographies such as the Denmark project to the American Indian project.

Some projects focus on Y DNA, some on mtDNA and some include both.  Additionally, some projects welcome people with autosomal results that pertain to that family surname or region.  Every project is run by one or more volunteer administrators that define the focus of the project.

To help people select relevant projects, project administrators can enter surnames that pertain to their project so that Family Tree DNA can match your surname to the project list to provide you with a menu of candidate projects to join.

Of course, you’ll need to read the project description for each project to see if the project actually pertains to you. You can see what is available for other surnames by utilizing the “Search by Surname” function, at the bottom of the menu.

You can also scroll down and browse in a number of ways in addition to surname.

All testers should join their haplogroup project so that everyone can benefit from collaboration.

You can join and manage your projects from your home page by clicking on the Projects tab on the upper left, shown below.

Y DNA Summary

I hope this overview has provided you with some good reasons to test your Y DNA or to better understand your results if you’ve already tested.

If you are a male and are interested in testing a line that is not your surname line, or if you are a female and you can’t test, you can find a male who descends from the ancestral line in question through all males and recruit that gentleman to test.  You can also check existing surname projects to see if someone from your line has already tested.

Y DNA holds the secrets of your patrilineal line. You never know what you don’t know unless you test. You don’t know what kind of surprises are waiting for you – and let’s face it, our ancestors are always full of surprises!

Y DNA Order Options

Family Tree DNA is the only company that offers this type of testing.  Ordering options include 37, 67 and 111 marker tests. You can also order 12 and 25 marker tests within projects. I suggest testing at the highest level the budget will allow, but no less than 37 markers. Most people have matches. Some people have a lot of matches and need the 111 marker test to more fully refine their matches to just the ones that may be genealogically relevant.

You can always upgrade later to a higher marker level later, but the combined original test plus upgrade cost more separately than just purchasing the larger test out the gate. It’s really a personal decision based on your goals and your budget.


If you have never tested at Family Tree DNA, you can obtain a discount any day of the week by joining through your surname project. Just click here and then enter your surname into the Project Search box, shown upper right below.  I’ve typed Estes for purposes of illustration.

You will be shown a list of projects (at left above) where the various project administrators have indicated that someone with your surname might be interest in their project. Read the project descriptions, then click on the resulting project that best suits your situation – generally your surname – Estes above for example. You will automatically be joined to the project you select when you order a product, shown below. After you order, you can join multiple projects.

Next, click on the test level you wish to order.

By virtue of comparison, the project pricing for 37, 67 and 111 markers, above, saves you $20 off the regular price if you don’t order through a project.

If you already have a kit number at Family Tree DNA and have ordered other products, you can sign in, upgrade and order your Y DNA test by clicking here.

Happy ancestor hunting!



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Native American Y Haplogroup C-P39 Sprouts Branches!

I am extremely pleased to provide an update on the Haplogroup C-P39 Native American Y DNA project. Marie Rundquist and I as co-administrators have exciting discoveries to share.

As it so happens, this announcement comes almost exactly on the 4th anniversary of the founding of this project at Family Tree DNA. We couldn’t celebrate in a better way!

Native American Y DNA Haplogroups

Haplogroup C is one of two core Native American male haplogroups. Of the two, haplogroup Q is much more prevalent, while haplogroup C is rare. Only some branches of both haplogroup Q and haplogroup C are Native American, with other branches of both haplogroups being Asian and European.

C-P39 is the Native American branch of haplogroup C, and because of its rarity, until now, very little was known. There were no known branches.

In February 2016, Marie Rundquist created a focused project testing plan to upgrade at least one man from each family line to the full 111 markers along with a Big Y test in order to determine if further differentiation could be achieved in the C-P39 haplogroup lineage.

Haplogroup C-P39 Sprouts Branches

In November 2016, Marie presented preliminary research findings at the International Genetic Genealogy Conference in Houston, Texas, with a final evaluation being completed and submitted to Family Tree DNA for review in March 2017. As a result, Marie provides the following press release:

April 29, 2017: Based on a recent “Big Y” DNA novel variant submission from the C-P39 Y DNA project, the Y Tree has been updated by Family Tree DNA scientists. With this latest update, in addition to the C-P39 SNP that distinguishes this haplogroup, there are now new, long-awaited, downstream SNPs and subclades, as reflected in the Y Tree that offer new avenues for research by members of this rare, Native American haplogroup. A summary of new C-P39 Y DNA project subclades follows:

  • North American Appalachian Region: C-P39+ C-BY1360+
  • North American Canada – Multiple Surnames: C-P39+ C-Z30765+
  • North American Canada – Multiple Surnames: C-P39+ C-Z30750+
  • North American Canada: Acadia (Nova Scotia): C-P39+ C-Z30750+
  • North American Canada: Acadia (Nova Scotia): C-P39+ C-Z30754+
  • North American Southwest Region: CP39+ C-Z30747+

The following SNP (BY18405+) was found to have been shared only by two C-P39 project members in the entire Big Y system, as reported here:

  • North American Canada Newfoundland: C-P39+ C-BY18405+
  • North American Canada: Gaspe, QC: C-P39+ C-BY18405+

The ancestors of two families represented in the study, one in the Pacific Northwest and another in the North American Southwest did not experience any mutations in the New World and Big Y results are within the current genetic boundaries of the C-P39 SNP haplogroup as noted.

The Family Tree DNA C-P39 Y DNA Project is managed by Roberta Estes, Administrator, Marie Rundquist, Co-Administrator, and Dr. David Pike, Project Advisor. The “Big Y” DNA test is a product of Family Tree DNA.


The New Tree

The new C-P39 tree at Family Tree DNA is shown, below, including all the new SNPs below P39, a grand total of eight new branches on the C-P39 tree.

It’s just so beautiful to see this in black and white – well, green, black and white. It’s really an amazing accomplishment for citizen scientists to be contributing at this level to the field of genetics.

Beneath C-P39, several sub-branches develop.

  • BY1360 which is represented by a gentleman from Appalachia.
  • BY736 which is represented by two downstream SNPs that include the surnames of both King and Brooms from Canada.
  • Z30747 which is represented by a Garcia from the southwest US, following by downstream subgroup Z30750 represented by a Canadian gentleman, and SNP Z30754 represented by the Acadian Doucette family from Nova Scotia.

This haplotree suggests that the SNP carried by the gentleman from Appalachia is the oldest, with the other sub-branches descending from their common ancient lineage. As you might guess, this isn’t exactly what we had anticipated, but therein lies the thrill of discovery and the promise of science.

The Next Step

Just like with traditional genealogy, this discovery begets more questions. Now, testing needs to be done on additional individuals to see if we can further tease apart relationships and perhaps identify patterns to suggest a migration path. This testing will come, in part, from STR marker testing along with Big Y testing for some lines not yet tested at that level.

We’re also hopeful, of course, that anyone who carries haplogroup C-P39 or any downstream branch will join the C-P39 project. Collaboration is key to discovery.


If you would like to donate to the C-P39 project general fund to play a critical role in the next steps of discovery, we would be eternally grateful. At this point, we need to fund at least 4 additional Big Y tests, plus several 111 marker upgrades, totaling about $3000. You can contribute to the project general fund at this link:

Thank you in advance – every little bit helps!


I want to personally congratulate Marie for her hard work and dedication over the past year to bring this monumental discovery and tree update to fruition. It’s truly an incredible accomplishment representing countless hours of behind the scenes work.

Marie and I would both like to thank all of our participants, individuals who contributed funds to the testing, Dr. David Pike as a project advisor and, of course, Family Tree DNA, without whom none of this would be possible.

DNA Testing for Native Heritage

If you are male and have not yet Y DNA tested, but believe that you have a Native ancestor on your direct paternal (surname) line, please order at least the 37 marker test at Family Tree DNA. Your results and who you match will tell that story!

People with Native heritage on any ancestral line are encouraged to join the American Indian Project at Family Tree DNA. If you have tested elsewhere, you can download your results to Family Tree DNA for free.

For additional information about DNA testing for Native American heritage, please read Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA.



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The Big Y and Genealogy


For the holidays, I want to talk briefly about one particular type of DNA that is tested, and why one might want to order that particular test.

I’ve seen questions this past week about the Big Y test, so let’s talk about this test today.

The Big Y Test

The questions I’ve seen recently about the Big Y mostly revolve around why the test isn’t listed among the sale prices shown on the Family Tree DNA main page.

The Big Y test is not an entry level test. The tests shown on the Family Tree DNA main page are entry level and can be ordered by anyone, at least so long as the Y DNA tests are ordered for males. (Females don’t have a Y chromosome, so Y tests won’t work for them.)

The Big Y test is an upgrade for a male who has already taken the regular 37, 67 or 111 STR (short tandem repeat) marker test. For those who are unfamiliar, STR markers are used in a genealogically relevant timeframe to match other men to search for a common recent ancestor and are the type of markers used for 37, 67 and 111 marker tests.

SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) are used to determine haplogroups, which reflect deep ancestry and reach significantly further back in time.

Haplogroups are predicted for each participant based on the STR test results, and Family Tree DNA’s prediction routines are very accurate, but the haplgroup can only be confirmed by SNP testing. These two tests are testing different types of DNA mutations. I wrote about the difference here.

Different SNPs are tested to confirm different haplogroups, so you must have your STR results back with the prediction before you can order SNP tests.

The Big Y is the granddaddy of SNP testing, because it doesn’t directly test each SNP location, and there are thousands, but scans virtually the entire Y chromosome to cover in essence all known SNPs. Better yet, the Big Y looks for previously unknown or unnamed SNPs. In other words, this test is a test of discovery, not just a test of confirmation.

Many SNPS are either unknown or as yet unnamed and unplaced on the haplotree, meaning the Y DNA tree of mankind for the Y chromosome. The only way we discover new SNPs is to run a test of discovery. Hence, the Big Y.

It’s fun to be on the frontier of this wonderfully personal science.

Applying the Big Y to Genealogy

In addition to defining and confirming the haplogroup, the Big Y test can be immensely informative in terms of ancestral roots. For example, we know that our Lentz line, found in Germany in the 1600s, matches the contemporary results of Burzyan Bashkir men, descendants of the Yamnaya. I wrote about this here, near the end of the article.

Even more amazing, we then discovered that our Lentz line actually shares mutations with ancient DNA recovered from Yamnaya culture burials from 3500 years ago from along the Volga River. You can read about that here, near the end of the article. This discovery, of course, could never have been made if the Big Y test had not been taken, and it was made by working with the haplogroup project administrators. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Sergey Malyshev for this discovery and the following tree documenting our genetic lineage.

JakobLenz Malyshev chart

Our family heritage now extends back into Russia, 3500 years ago, instead of stopping in Germany, 400 or 500 years ago. This huge historical leap could NEVER have been made without the Big Y test in conjunction with the projects and administrators at Family Tree DNA.

And I must say, I’m incredibly glad we didn’t wait to order this test, because Mr. Lentz, my cousin who tested, died unexpectedly, just a couple months later. His daughter, when informing me of his death, expressed her gratitude for the test, the articles and shared with me that he had taken both articles to Staples, had them printed and bound as gifts for family members this Christmas.

These gifts will be quite bittersweet for those family members, but his DNA legacy lives on, just as the DNA of our ancestors does inside each and every one of us.  He gave all Lentz descendants an incredible gift.



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Daniel Miller (1755-1822), Musical Graves, 52 Ancestors #130

There are just too many Daniel Milles in Montgomery County, Ohio in the early 1800s, all Brethren, of course, and therefore, running with the same crowds and very difficult to tell apart.

In order to sort through the confusion surrounding the various Daniel Millers, and who they are related to, and how, I’ve numbered them.  This must be the German trait for love of organization coming out in me:)

Daniel (1) is the subject of this article and my ancestor. Daniel Miller was born to Philip Jacob Miller and his wife, Magdalena, whose last name is unknown, on April 8, 1755 in Frederick County, Maryland. Daniel was married to Elizabeth Ulrich and died in Montgomery County, Ohio on August 26, 1822. Those are the easy dates. The rest are difficult.

Daniel (2) arrived in Montgomery County from Huntington County, PA. Daniel (2)’s wife was Susanna Bowman and Daniel (2) lived in what would become the City of Dayton proper where he settled on Wolf Creek in November of 1802, according to the History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, Volume 1.   For those specifically interested in this line, the Brethren Heritage Center has an article available written by Gale Honeyman.

Daniel (3) is the son of Daniel (1). According to the family Bible he was born on March 30, 1779 and he died on June 25, 1812. He would have been 33 years old, and unless he was disabled in some way, he was likely married and may well have had children. He would only have been about 20 when his father Daniel floated down the Ohio on a raft, probably in 1799. Daniel (3) could have remained in Clermont County when his father and uncle, David Miller, left for Montgomery County sometimes around 1802. There is no mention of an estate for Daniel (3) in Montgomery County.

Daniel (4) is the grandson of Daniel (1) through his son Stephen Miller. Daniel (4) was born in 1797 in Bedford County, PA and died in 1879 in Preble County, Ohio.

Daniel (5) is the son of Michael Miller and Salome Cramer of Montgomery County. Michael is the son of David Miller who died in 1845. David was the brother of Daniel (1). Michael obtained and farmed his father’s farm in Randolph Township. Daniel (5) was born in 1822, died in 1903 and was married to Isabella Cook.

Daniel (6) is the grandson of Daniel (1) through son Jacob A. Miller born in 1776 who married first to Elizabeth Metzger and second to Catherine Zimmerman. Jacob farmed his father’s land in Randolph Township past 1851 and likely until his death in 1858. Jacob’s son Daniel (6) by his first wife was born about 1800, married Susanna Hardman on November 1, 1819 and died about 1835 in Montgomery County.

Daniel (7) born in 1815 is the son of Isaac Miller, son of Daniel (1) and his wife Elizabeth Miller who is the daughter of David Miller, brother of Daniel (1). I know nothing more about Daniel (7).

Daniel Y. (8) born in 1808 is the son of John Miller, son of Daniel (1).  John’s wife Esther Miller, daughter of David Miller, brother of Daniel (1). Daniel Y. (8) married Margaret Bainter and died in 1833.

Daniel (9) is the son of Daniel (2) and his wife, Susan Bowman. Daniel (9) was born about 1808 and died about 1863 in Montgomery County, marrying Susan Oliver.

Daniel (10) is the son of the Elder Jacob Miller by either his first or second wife, who are unknown. This Daniel was born on September 6, 1780 and died on November 15, 1858 in Monroe County, Iowa. Daniel (10) married Elizabeth Shidler or Shideler on April, 13, 1808 in Montgomery County, Ohio, but by 1813, it appears that they had moved on to Union County, Indiana. When Daniel lived in Montgomery County, he owned land near the 4 Mile Church, east of Cottage Creek, about one and one half miles west of the Lower 4 Mile Church.

Y DNA testing has proven that the Elder Jacob Miller and Johann Michael Miller lines were not related through their paternal Miller line.

Therefore, Daniel (2) and (9) are related to each other, but probably not the rest of the Daniels. We know that Daniel (10) is not related to the Daniels descended from Philip Jacob Miller (son of Johann Michael Miller) because Y DNA testing eliminated that possibility. If a Miller male descendant of Daniel (2) or (9) were to test, we could determine if that Miller line shares a common male ancestor with either the Elder Jacob Miller of Johann Michael Miller lines. Please note that you can click on any of the graphics to enlarge.

Daniel Miller Daniel descendants

Judging from 5 grandsons names Daniel Miller, Daniel who died in 1822 was both well-loved and well-remembered. I wonder if there are any Daniels today who still descend through a line of Daniels, named for the original Daniel Miller.

Let’s take a look at the life of Daniel Miller (1), the subject of this article.  For a Brethren man with no church records to depend on, we’ve amassed a huge amount of information – probably because I had to dig so deeply and in such obscure places to find hints about his life.  This was not a short process.  I’ve worked on Daniel for at least 20 years now.  And he has frustrated me for all of those 20 years!

Having said that, and having FINALLY finished researching Daniel’s life, he is one of my most interesting ancestors.  The fact that I was able to track him across the country, on four different frontiers, and that he managed to survive in the middle of multiple wars and Indian attacks, a Brethren man unwilling to defend himself, is nothing short of miraculous.

Make yourself a pot of coffee or tea, and come along on this most amazing journey…

Daniel Miller (1), the Amazing Brethren

Daniel Miller was born to Philip Jacob Miller and his wife, Magdalena, whose last name is unknown and probably not Rochette, on April 8, 1755 in Frederick County, Maryland. We know this for a fact because both Philip Jacob Miller and Daniel Miller had a family Bible and Daniel’s birth is recorded in that Bible, along with those of his siblings.

In fact, the Bible that was once believed to be the Philip Jacob’s Bible wasn’t the original Bible, and was recopied at some point and found in the possession of Daniel – so it may have been recopied specifically for Daniel. You can see that the entries for Philip Jacob’s children look to be in the same writing, probably copied at the same time – although the copying may well have been done by Philip Jacob himself.

Daniel, along with his parents and grandparents were members of the Brethren faith, which means that there are no church records available today to help with our search. It also means that other records, such as marriages, deeds and wills were sporadically filed, since Brethren by and large tried to avoid courthouses, avoided having to swear an oath having to do with anything, or fees of any kind. So we are exceedingly lucky to have this Bible – otherwise we would know much less about the Miller family.

Let’s take a look at that wonderful Bible and see what secrets it holds for us.

The Philip Jacob Miller Bible 

First, this Bible is simply stunningly beautiful.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible front

Philip Jacob Miller probably sat in front of his fireplace in his home on Ash Swamp, about the time of his father’s death in 1771, reminded of his own mortality, and dutifully wrote the names and dates of his children’s births into his new Bible. His old Bible may have been destroyed during the two evacuations of Frederick County during the Indian Wars. If the old Bible was left behind in a hurried exit, it assuredly burned when the houses and barns were torched. Regardless of why, Philip Jacob Miller obtained a new Bible about the time his father died. We know Philip didn’t purchase the Bible before 1770, because that is the printing date, in Germany.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible front page

On February 11, 2009, I was fortunate enough with some hints and sleuthing to find the Philip Jacob Miller Bible in Elkhart, Indiana. The custodial family, who has no idea how the Bible originally came to be in their family, has taken wonderful care of the Bible and allowed it to be photographed.

Both the custodial family and I spent a significant amount of time trying to figure out how they came to be in possession of the Miller family Bible, which they greatly cherish as a family heirloom. I suspected a second marriage or something of that sort, but the only connection we could find was that their family bought a house that was in a John Miller family. Although further research suggests that John Miller is not from our line. However they obtained it, thank goodness they do cherish it, because that’s the only reason it still exists today.

Upon arriving to visit the Bible, another surprise was awaiting me, as the front section holds the children’s birth records of Philip Jacob Miller, and the back holds the same for the children of Daniel Miller, son of Philip Jacob Miller. Given a signature in the Bible, along with Daniel’s estate records, Daniel’s son John was the next custodian, taking the Bible to Elkhart County, Indiana, where he subsequently settled.  This John Miller is NOT the same John Miller that the custodial family’s ancestors bought the house from.

This Bible was printed in 1770, but the first child’s birth recorded is in 1752, and Philip Jacob’s children are not entered in birth order. Furthermore, the handwriting in the back matches Daniel’s exactly. This tells us that this Bible is probably not the original Philip Jacob Miller Bible. One look at what happened in Frederick County, Maryland in 1750s and 1760s and we’ll quickly understand why.

The residents all evacuated twice and their houses were burned. If the family Bible didn’t manage to somehow get put in the wagon as the family was evacuating, then it burned. The Miller family was back in the region by 1765 when Michael Miller, Philip Jacob’s father, was deeding land, but I’m guessing a new Bible didn’t get purchased until after Michael’s death in 1771. Perhaps Philip Jacob thought the purchase of a new Bible would be a fitting remembrance for funds received after his father’s death. Or maybe Michael bought it for Philipp Jacob. Or perhaps Philip Jacob bought a Bible for each of his children when they married or when they left the area. We’ll never know. I’m just thankful this one still exists.

A single entry gives away the subsequent owner. Beside the first entry in the Bible, which is the birth of Daniel in 1755, there is another entry which says “1775 Daniel Meines Sohn Sohn zur Welt geboren” (my son’s son was born into this world). In the back portion, we show the birth of Stephen in 1775, the eldest son of Philip Jacob’s eldest son Daniel. An earlier 1947 translation (apparently before the tape was applied) says “my grandson was born March 7, 1775”, which was obviously translated before the tape was applied, and matches exactly with Daniel’s own entry of his son’s birth.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible Daniel entry

The fact that this entry says “My son’s son” tells us that in 1775, Philip Jacob indeed was in possession of this Bible, so it was not given to Daniel for his marriage in 1774 and did not travel with Daniel to Bedford County in 1775. Philip Jacob was recording the births of his grandchildren.

This photo is me holding the Bible. What a glorious day.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible and me crop

The following page is the front inside page with Philip Jacob’s children’s births recorded.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible children

The births are recorded as follows:

  • My son Daniel Miller was born at 4 o-clock at night April 8, 1755. He died August 26, 1822.
  • My daughter Lidia was born at 3 o’clock at night, December 18, 1754. The zodiac sign was the Waterman (Aquarius).
  • My son David was born December 1, 1757, at 3 o-clock at night. The zodiac sign was the lion (Leo).
  • My daughter Susannah was born March 2, 1759, at 7 o’clock in the morning. The sign was the Bull (Taurus).
  • My daughter Christine was born December 4, 1761 at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, the sign was the Fish (Pisces).
  • My daughter Mariles was born — 1762 at 8 o’clock in the morning. The sign was the Virgin (Virgo). (Virgo runs from September 17 to October 17)
  • My son Abraham was born April 28, 1764.
  • My son Solomon was born March 20, 1767.
  • My daughter Ester was born February 13, 1769.

I find it interesting that Michael recorded the astrological signs for the births of some of his children, but not all.  I’m not at all sure of the significance of the signs, if any.

The following page is the inside back page recording the births of Daniel’s children.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible Daniel children

The first entry is that of Daniel himself, again, and the second entry is that of his sister Lizbeth born in 1752 who was not recorded on the page with the rest of Philipp Jacob Miller’s children.

  • Lizabeth Miller was born in April 1752.

The fact that Elizabeth was omitted suggests a recopy after all of the children were born in 1769. Daniel’s children begin after Lizabeth Miller’s entry, so the Bible appears to have been recopied after 1770 and before 1775.

The only other possibility is that Lizabeth Miller in the Bible was referring to Elizabeth Ullery (Ulrich) Miller, Daniel’s wife, not Daniel’s sister, Elizabeth. I don’t believe that to be the case because Lizabeth is actually referred to in the Bible entry as Elizabeth Millerin, which indicates a maiden name of an unmarried woman. We know that Philip Jacob did indeed have a daughter, Elizabeth, because she married Jacob Shutt or Shott, both signing the agreement between siblings as to the land distribution of Philip Jacob Miller after his death in 1799.

This Bible survived the trip west in a wagon, then floating down the Ohio River. This Bible has been wet one or more times. We know that in the early 1800s, this Bible went to Clermont County, Ohio, then Montgomery County, Ohio, then in the 1830s, to Elkhart County, Indiana where it remained for the next 177 years or so. An amazing journey for a Bible!

The top back entry for Daniel also has his death entry beside it to the right in a different hand and ink.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible Daniel's death

Following those entries we find Daniel’s children. Oddly, we find no other deaths recorded, nor marriages. It pains me greatly that there is no information for Daniel’s wife, Elizabeth Ulrich, or her parents.

Daniel’s children are recorded as follows:

  • My son Stephen was born March 1 (or 7) 1775
  • My son Jacob was born November 20, 1776
  • My son Daniel was born March 30, 1779. He died June 25, 1812.
  • My son David was born July 30, 1781.
  • My son Samuel was born March 17, 1785.
  • My son Johannes was born December 15, 1787.
  • My son Isaac was born December 8, 1789.
  • My son Abraham was born March 16, 1794.
  • My daughter Elisabeth was born April 2, 1796.

We do find the signature of Daniel’s son, John, in the Bible twice, once at the bottom of the back page (shown second image above) and once a few pages inside the front on a water-stained page. I wonder why John never recorded his children’s births in the Bible as well.  There was clearly a blank page available.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible John signature

It looks like Philip Jacob Miller and his wife lost a child in 1756, as there is a child born in April 1755 and then not another one until 2 and a half years later, suggesting that they lost a child about September 1756. 1756 was the year that the Brethren were evacuated and was reported to be the worst of that time. Did Magdalena have that child in a wagon perhaps? We are left to wonder what happened. One thing is for sure, that child’s death and the grief it brought to the family would have made whatever else was happening in 1756 even worse. For all we know, that child may have had to be laid to rest along the roadside someplace in an anonymous grave.

Daniel and Elizabeth also have a nearly 5 year gap between children born in 1789 and 1794.  It looks like they lost at least one if not two children during that time.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible corner2

The beautiful leather and metal workmanship on this Bible is just incredible.  I can just see both Philip Jacob and Daniel lovingly handling the same Bible I held and lovingly opened too, to step back hundreds of years into their world.

Bible Chain of Possession

The strange thing is that the custodial family has no, and I mean no, idea how they obtained this Bible in the first place or if or how they are related to the Miller family.  I did some research as well, and for them to be related looks virtually impossible.

Here’s what I have between the custodial family, their research and mine:

This Bible was handed down from:

  • Mollie Knopp Rupp to
  • Sophia Rupp Rowe to
  • George Rowe
  • Chester Rowe
  • William Rowe Beardsley (sister of Chester) and then we’re down to the last couple of generations.

This is documented on a paper with the Bible.

So I started by finding Sophia.  The Bible would have come into that family’s possession above Mollie Knopp Rupp for her to have passed it on.

The 1880 Elkhart County census shows Sophia with husband Benjamin.  Sophia was born in 1843 in Ohio and her parents were born in Pennsylvania.

Her son George was born 1876.  Benjamin Rowe was born in 1843 in Indiana.

Benjamin Rowe is the son of either Peter or Henry (two census look different) and wife Eliza both born in PA in 1815. According to their children’s ages, they were in Ohio between 1838-1842 then moved on to Indiana.  Of course, Eliza could be a second wife.

We find Sophia with her father George Rupp who was born in 1805 in PA along with his wife, Magdalena, born in 1807 in PA.  They migrated to Ohio from PA between 1831 and 1838 according to kids ages, and were still in Ohio in 1844, but in Elkhart County by 1850.  They were also not living near the Millers in Elkhart County, and they were all grouped together in Concord Township.

According to the document, Mollie Knopp Rupp would be Magdalena Rupp, wife of George so Mollie would be a nickname.  I could find no Mollie’s.  There is nothing on Rootsweb, nothing on Ancestry and neither can I find anything with the name Knopp, Rupp or Rowe in the Miller book by Mason.

My issue with all of this is that there is no reasonable opportunity that I can see for the Bible to get from the John Miller (son of Daniel) family to Mollie Knopp Rupp, but yet it did.  We know that Daniel had this Bible until his death in 1822 when it was purchased by John from Daniel’s estate, we know where this Bible was until the 1830s when the first Miller settled in Elkhart County, probably the 1840s and possibly as late as 1856 when John Miller died. This Bible was the second highest item in price at Daniel Miller’s estate sale, so obviously quite valuable to his son John.

Of course, we can’t determine what happened to his Bible after John’s death, but given that he paid top dollar for this Bible, it’s very unlikely that he intentionally allowed it to exit the family. John Miller and his wife Esther Miller were first cousins and both descended from sons of Philip Jacob Miller, meaning the Bible had personal significant to both of them.  John Miller died first in 1856 and Esther lived with her son Jacob until her death in 1861.  I suspect that the Bible never entered the estate and may have been inherited by son Jacob by virtue of the fact that his mother was living there when she died. Jacob died in 1872.

In the 1880 census, Magdalena and George Rupp who are age 72 and 75 are living beside John W. Miller, age 43, born in Indiana, in Concord Twp.  John’s wife is Mary Stutsman, age 48, children Cyrus 19, Manerva 17, Ira 16, Lewis 14, Ortha 11, Edward 5 and Lawrence 3.  John is reportedly the son of Jesse Miller, born in 1809 in Pennsylvania and who married Lucy Dalrymple. So if John W. Miller is related to our Miller line, his line never went to Montgomery County, nor is there a connection that I can discern aside from the fact that his wife was a Stutzman, a family long associated with the Brethren Miller family.

The man who owns the Bible presently has a note that says: Bible was passed from Mollie Rupp to Sophia Rupp Rowe to George Rupp.  George was his grandfather and the Bible owner tells me that his grandfather “bought the Miller farm.” Apparently from the plat map, that was the Miller farm that belonged to John W. Miller that was beside Magdalene (known as Mollie) and George Rupp in the 1880 census.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible 1880 census

I have simply found no reasonable explanation for how the Bible came into the possession of the current family, sometime after John Miller settled in Elkhart County and died, in 1856, and Mollie Knopp Rupp’s death at 88 years of age in 1896, when she passed the Bible to her daughter. Sophia.  If anyone ever solves this mystery, I’d love to know.

Let’s go back to Frederick County where both the Bible and Daniel had their beginnings.  

Frederick County, Maryland

Daniel Miller’s parents had moved to Frederick County, Maryland with a group of Brethren settlers from York Co., PA in 1751 or 1752, so by the time that Daniel was born, in 1755, they would have had at least some land cleared and been farming in Frederick County, at least in some capacity, for 3 or 4 years.

Stephen Ullerick or Ullery was the first Brethren to settle in this area in 1738 and is the father of Elizabeth Ulrich, Daniel’s eventual wife.

We’re actually assuming that Daniel was in fact born IN Frederick County, because we don’t know otherwise. I know that’s an odd statement to make, but Daniel was born in April of 1755 just before his father, Philip Jacob Miller, had his land resurveyed in May. In July, General Braddock was defeated, leaving the entire frontier exposed. The residents evacuated and left Frederick County and surrounding areas, for approximately six years, returning to find their farms destroyed, their buildings burned and of course, their livestock long gone. Given that we know Philip Jacob was still in Frederick County in May, it stands to reason that Daniel was born there the previous month.

The Brethren, of course, being pacifists, would not defend themselves. Many died. In the fall of 1756, 20 people were scalped in the Conococheague Valley, which includes the area where Philipp Jacob Miller lived, including one Jacob Miller, relationship, if any, unknown. By August, the entire valley was vacant, except for two families, according to a report received by George Washington.

We don’t know where the Miller family went when they evacuated, but Daniel spent his early years with his family wherever they lived. They may well have gone back east to join other Brethren settlements that were less endangered.

The French and Indian War ended officially in November of 1758 and Indian attacks had diminished by 1762.

We also don’t know when the Miller family returned. Certainly not before 1759, and we know they were back by 1761 when Daniel’s grandfather, Michael Miller, was purchasing land.

Daniel would have been 6 years old in 1761, so while he certainly didn’t remember the evacuation when he was 4 months old, or maybe slightly older, he probably did remember returning to Frederick County. To him, it wasn’t a return, but the first time he laid eyes on the land that his father owned, originally purchased by his grandfather.  I wonder if Daniel’s parents cried when they saw what had become of their home.

There is no sign today on this essence-of-Americana landscape of the bloodshed and terror that took place on this gently rolling farmland owned by Philip Jacob Miller with the mountains in the distance, foreshadowing the future.

Miller farm west 2

This is the land where Daniel grew up, looking at those mountains. One has to wonder if the boy ever dreamed of crossing them, or wondered what was on the other side.  The mountains were probably equated with danger when he was a child.

Miller farm mountains

Braddock’s Road

The land that General Braddock was fighting for, between Frederick County, Maryland and what is today Pittsburgh, PA, then Fort Duquesne, would be a very important road in the history of the Miller family, 20+years down the road, pardon the pun, and again, 40 years into the future.

While General Braddock was killed in 1755, a victim of his own insolence and unwillingness to heed the advice of men who knew Indian war tactics, General Forbes picked up the ball and came up with a strategic plan. Were it not for Forbes, we might all be speaking French today.

In 1758, General Harris extended a road from Harrisburg, PA to Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River (Pittsburgh.) Highway 30 follows this road most of the way today.

Forbes road went from Cumberland to Bedford and by August 1758, 1400 men had completed 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 military strategy 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

There is one item of particular significance – during the war, a small fort was built at Raystown, which would eventually become Bedford, PA, a location that would, in the 1770s and 1780s, become quite important to the Brethren Miller family. It was the next stop on the frontier and four of Philip Jacob’s children, including Daniel Miller, would find themselves traveling that road and settling in in Bedford County, Pennsylvania for a few years, at least until their father rallied the family round once again.

Philip Jacob Miller would eventually follow Forbes old road, as would his son Daniel, to Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio River to Campbell Co., KY, where Philip Jacob Miller would settle one last time – this time, with his adult children – in a place where he could purchase land for each of them.

But before Daniel Miller can do any of that, he has yet to grow up – and that he did in Frederick County. But things were not always peaceful and his life was probably far more exciting that a little Brethren boy would have wished.

Pontiac’s War

After returning to Frederick County after the long evacuation caused by Braddock’s defeat, the years of 1761 and 1762 were probably spent rebuilding homes, barns and sawmills, trying to normalize life once again. Sunday would bring church services, held in one of the homes or barns of the Brethren families. Life slowly returned to normal as the seasons changed, but then, once again, they had to run for their lives.

Pontiac’s War descended upon them and from 1763 to 1765, the Brethren families in this area had to take shelter elsewhere. According to historical records, the devastation and fear was even worse than the first time. And true to form, we don’t know where the Miller family went, or for how long. What I wouldn’t give for a journal…even just one sentence a week…anything.

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 this time, Daniel would have been eight years old. Was he thrilled at the excitement, or terrified? Did he understand the imminent danger, or did his parents attempt to shelter the children? Was there any sheltering the children from something like that?

Perhaps the entire group of Brethren returned to Conestoga. Conestoga is near present day White Oak in Lancaster County, PA and both Conestoga and Conewago, another Brethren settlement, aren’t far from the Brethren settlement in Ephrata. It would make sense for the Brethren to return to areas they knew and relatives with whom they could shelter for as long as need be.

Ephrata to Hagerstown

I suggest this possibility because we know that two Brethren, Nicholas Martin and Stephen Ulrich, are found attending the Great Council of the Brethren in Conestoga in 1763. Where you find one Brethren, or a group, you’re likely to find more – and we know that Stephen Ulrich lived in Frederick County.

By 1765, we know that the Millers are back in Frederick County once again, because Daniel’s grandfather, Michael Miller is selling land to his children.

Daniel would have been 10 by this time, certainly old enough to help. Once again, the homes and barns would have needed to be rebuilt – and you can rest assured that Daniel did what he was capable of doing. On a farm, every able hand helped, from the youngest to the oldest.

Beyond the Allegheny Mountains

Philip Jacob Miller land Allegheny Mountains

Pontiac’s defeat served to make the lands west of the Allegheny Mountains, the ones seen in the distance, standing on Philip Jacob Miller’s land, safe, or safer, anyway, for settlement. Events began to happen that enabled the settlement of these areas. The British government bought large tracts of land from some Indian tribes, but unbeknownst to them, they were not negotiating with all of the interested parties, and new raids ensued.

It would take decades for the European takeover of the Native lands to be complete. But settlers didn’t wait on that eventuality. In 1755, the first Brethren settlers found their way to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, an area that would soon attract other Brethren as the next frontier. Why people who would not defend themselves continued to put themselves in harm’s way is beyond me, but they did consistently on every frontier.

Johann Michael Miller’s Death

Daniel would have been 16 or 17 when his grandfather, Johann Michael Miller, died. This family had been close, evacuating twice together, and returning together. Michael Miller had purchased the land eventually owned by Philip Jacob and his brothers, John and Lodowich. This, of course, is the land where Daniel grew up. The fields he roamed. The lands they left and returned to, twice, and built upon, three different times.

Daniel would have known his grandfather well, and he would have wept at his graveside, probably on the now missing cemetery on his uncle John’s land, the farm next to his father, Philip Jacob Miller. The patriarch was gone – the original German immigrant – the original Brethren in the family – the anchor.

There was one less thing to hold Daniel in Frederick County.


We don’t know exactly when Daniel Miller married Elizabeth Ulrich, but we can estimate based on the birth of their first child, conveniently recorded in the Bible.

Their first son, or at least the first child recorded in the Bible was born on March 1, 1775. This would have been slightly less than a month before Daniel’s 20th birthday, so it’s safe to say this was their first child, and that Daniel and Elizabeth were married sometime in 1774. Most brides were pregnant shortly after marriage, so a child born in 1775 would be expected.

Unfortunately, Brethren marriages were generally not recorded civilly and were simply performed by the Brethren clergy.

Alexander Mack, the son of the founder of the Brethren movement, on Feb. 14, 1776 says that he is shunning his daughter Sarah because “she married outside of the brotherhood; secondly because [the marriage] was performed with a license; and thirdly because her husband had not quite completed his apprenticeship….” Replogle 70

This certainly explains why we have so few Brethren marriage records.

We know that Daniel did marry Elizabeth Ulrich, daughter of Stephen Ulrich Jr. and wife Elizabeth, whose last name is unknown but said to be a Cripe/Greib (without any documentation that I’ve been able to find.) We’re fortunate that when Elizabeth Ulrich’s father, Stephen Jr., died and the heirs sold his land in Washington County (formerly Frederick), Maryland in 1785, Daniel Miller is listed as one of the signing heirs.

Furthermore, the Miller, Stutzman and Ulrich families had a close relationship, not only here in the US, but in Germany where they are found together as well. However, that part of the story must wait for another day, specifically, until the German research is finished.

The Revolutionary War

In 1775, about the time that Daniel’s first child was born, the Revolutionary War broke out and Frederick County, Maryland was in the midst of the conflict. A notoriously bad place to be for a Brethren family, especially a newlywed family with a new baby.

The Revolutionary War begin in April of 1775 when British troops and American Minutemen clashed at Lexington and Concord. When this news reached Pittsburg and the western counties, military companies were formed. Donald Durnbaugh, noted Brethren historian, says that about one third of the populace remained loyal to the English government, one third favored the Revolution and the final third tried to maintain an uneasy neutrality. Many Germans, especially, opposed the war. They felt that “the English government had allowed them to settle in the rich land of America and spared them the harsh feudal exaction of the princes of Germany and the city governments of Switzerland which had caused them to migrate. Furthermore, British taxes had little effect on subsistence farming.

Those volunteering for the colonist causes were early called Associators, later called Militia Companies. The Committee on Observations made lists of those not participating, whether Loyalist or members of the Peace Churches, and they were called non-enrollers or Non-Associators.

In 1775 Congress required all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 50 to join militia companies. “Non-Associators” could hire replacements. But Frederick County was less liberal. In Hagerstown, the Committee of Observation proclaimed that rights required responsibilities and on Dec. 18, 1776, “resolved that the Dunkard and Mennonists” pay fines for non-participation. They also had to march with the militia to help with intrenching and to care for the sick. Non-compliance would result in “rigorous measures … immediately taken.” Mennonites and Brethren petitioned to substitute produce for cash. Some had already contributed blankets and rugs.

Early in the Revolution, Mennonites, Dunkers and Quakers were given freedom to remain true to their peace positions of non-violence, but in return they would pay an additional tax of 2 shillings and 6 pence per week. This was granted at Philadelphia and Annapolis for all of PA and MD but it was carried out in the local towns and villages. Local Committees were free to make their own rules and interpretations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington County, Maryland was formed in September 1776 from the portion of Frederick County where Philip Jacob Miller lived.

In March 1776, Congress declared adherence to or support of the British King as “high treason,” so the stakes became even higher for the Brethren.

Dunkers were taken into court and fined in 1776. It is stated that Maryland Dunkers fared better than Pennsylvania Dunkers and that is perhaps why many of them moved from York Co., PA to Maryland in the 1760s.

When they did not pay their fines officials confiscated their land, sold it and paid their fines for them. Some say that the court gave them permission to destroy these records and therefore the records of some of these confiscations are not available.

  • Elder Jacob Danner – 10 pounds
  • Eld Samuel Danner, son of Jaob Danner – 6.5 pounds
  • Elder Martin Garber so of John H. Garber, 7.5 pounds – then remitted
  • Elder Samuel Gerber son of John H, – 6.5 pounds – then remitted
  • John Garber (may be Elder John H.) – 6.5 pounds – then remitted
  • Elder Daniel Miller (son of Lodowich) – 4.5 pounds
  • Elder Michael Wine, son-in-law of Lodowich Miller – 6.5 pounds, reduced to 5.5 pounds. 1782 – farm and land confiscated.
  • Christopher Steel, brother-in-law of Michael Wine – 5.5 pounds reduced

Mennonites and Dunkers were watched very closely because some though they were Loyalists.

In 1777, a law was passed requiring a loyalty oath of all male citizens above age 18. Maryland allowed “Dunkers and Menninists” to make a right of affirmation instead.

There is an oath of fidelity recorded for one Daniel Miller in Washington County, Maryland in 1778, although an oath of fidelity would be quite unusual for a Brethren man. However, Daniel’s father was naturalized so maybe an oath of fidelity was simply viewed as a necessary evil of survival at that time, given the 1777 legislation, even for a Brethren. Or maybe Daniel was shunned in Washington County, Maryland after his oath. Or maybe that Daniel Miller isn’t our Daniel Miller.

In April 1778, a law made it possible to banish non-oath-takers and confiscate their property. Punishments kept escalating until in October 1778 two Quakers were hanged despite a petition with 4000 names sent to the Assembly. In 1784 John Frederick Rachel, a Moravian, wrote, “No Dunker, no Quaker took up arms. What is more all these people were so sympathetic and loyal to the government of Great Britain that they could not be persuaded to abjure the King….”

Some Brethren did take the oath, but the church took a hard line with them. At the 1778 annual meeting the official policy was unyielding: “Brethren who have taken the attest should recall it before a justice, and give up their certificate and recall and apologize in their churches….If they cannot do this, they will be deprived of the kiss of fellowship of the council, and the breaking of bread….” Replogle 147

In 1778, failure to report loyalist sympathizers became punishable and refusing to take the allegiance oath made one ineligible to buy or sell property or collect debts. Residents traveling without an oath certificate were to be considered spies. Should they refuse to take the oath, they “shall be thrown into prison without bail.” This left pacifists very little room for compromise. Replogle 147

On the matter of paying for military substitutes, the 1781 Annual Meeting said money “should not be given voluntarily without compulsion.” Replogle 147

In both Pennsylvania and Maryland, Committees of Observation operated at the local level. One member represented each 100 families. These, in effect, were the courts. In Frederick Co, Maryland they had, of course, many ”non-Associators” to investigate.

Many people migrated to Virginia about this time. Family verbal history says that in 1782 a number of Brethren farmers went to the Shenandoah valley because of property lost to the Committee. Among them were Jacob Miller, (Michael Sr.’s son) and 2 sons of Barbara Miller, (Michael Sr’s daughter) and Michael Wine (Lodowich Miller’s son-in-law). Replogle 148

Regarding the above, please note that Michael Sr. has no proven son Jacob and no proven daughters at all.

The tax list of 1783 shows that Philip Jacob Miller owned 167 acres of land in Frederick County with 98 acres in woodland and 14 acres in meadowland and 55 acres of cultivated land. He had 9 horses, 4 cows and his oldest son Daniel owned no land but had 5 cows and 5 horses. Land costs were rising in the Washington County region as the area became more settled, as witnessed by the fact that Daniel at the age of 28 still did not own any land.

It is believed that at this time Daniel and his brother David who had by this time married Magdalena Maugans, a daughter of Conrad Maugans, moved to Morrison’s Cove, Woodberry Township, Bedford County, PA.

Hagerstown was a supply point for the newly opened land in still primitive Bedford County. Miller 31

The Next Frontier – Bedford County, Pennsylvania

In 1775, families living around Hagerstown had several routes to choose from if they wanted to migrate to Bedford County, PA. If they planned to go straight west, they took the road to Cumberland which was improved and straightened in the 1750s.

Those going to Frankstown Township in Bedford County, which at that time encompassed all of Morrison’s Cove, could travel the 60 miles to Cumberland, then take Burd’s road north to Bedford, about 30 miles. It’s possible that some took a trail up the east slope of the ridge, just west of Hagerstown. This one ran very close to or over the property of Jacob Stutzman and Stephen Ulrich II, shown below.

Stephen Ulrich land Frederick County

North of Fort Bedford, there were no improved roads. An Indian trail led through the Juniata Valley. Another went along Snake Creek to a gap at the north end. This gap opened out into a much larger flat, about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide at the widest. This was Morrisons Cove, or would be.

Settlers addresses up there were vague. Before 1775 living in Frankstown meant being somewhere in a large expanse. Generally speaking, in 1770 Frankstown is the country north of Bedford Town and Colrain is the area just south. One local history says that the dimensions of the townships before 1771 cannot be ascertained. In 1767 the vague political tracts began to divide in very complex ways. One that concerns our history occurred in 1775 when Woodberry Township was carved out of Frankstown.

When the Germans first came to Frankstown, no settlers had been here legally before and not many squatted illegally. In 1748 Conrad Weiser passed through and said, “Came to Frankstown but saw no houses or cabins” and Raystown, later Bedford, to the south was just a trading post in the 1750s. Nothing but an Indian trail passed through it until Forbes Road in 1758. Replogle 126-127

The 1850 census for Daniel Miller’s son, David Miller, living in Elkhart County, Indiana, stated that he was born in Maryland, not Pennsylvania.

David Miller 1850 census

We know David’s birth date from the family Bible – July 30, 1781.

It appears that Daniel Miller actually moved to Bedford County in the 1770s, and removed back to Frederick County, Maryland, for safety.  This back and forth yo-yo settle, evacuate and resettle routine would have been all-too-familiar to Daniel.

The Historical Society of Somerset County re-published the journal of Harmon Husband a few years ago. The Journal talks about Indian uprisings in Somerset County beginning in 1778. It talks about the 250 militia from York, Cumberland and Lancaster County were called up in 1779 to defend Westmoreland and Bedford Counties. It also includes a July 4, 1779 letter from a resident of the town of Bedford, stating the county was pointed toward destruction, and mentions Simon Girty.

Simon Girty

Simon Girty, an Irish child captured and raised by the Seneca was known as “the White Savage.”

The History of Bedford & Somerset Counties has a February 16, 1779 letter from the Bedford commissioners, noting that for the last 18 months they had been dealing with Indian uprisings, and that many of the settlers didn’t grow or harvest crops resulting in food shortages, and that many had already left the county. The History goes on to talk about an evacuation that occurred in 1782, after Girty burned Hannastown (outside Greensburg, PA).

It states the settlers (including Husband) evacuated to Conococheague (Hagerstown, Maryland area), as well as Cumberland and York Counties in Pennsylvania, the area where the Miller family resided before moving to Frederick County, Maryland in 1751 or 1752. It goes onto describe the local forts, noting that they were only occupied by a few militia and rangers, had only minimal provisions, and no money to buy additional supplies.

Fort Bedford was the nearest fort, but built in the French & Indian War, and was likely in poor shape by this time. The only option was to move to a place that had food, and was safe from the Indians who were being encouraged to attack settlers.

During a visit to the Allen County Public Library, I extracted the following information from a 1776 “List of Inhabitants” from Bedford Co., PA:

  • Daniel Gripe – Frankstown Twp
  • Jacob Gripe – “
  • Jacob Gripe Jr – “
  • Ullerick – none listed
  • Adam Miller – Colerain Twp
  • Christian Miller – Colerain
  • Christian Miller – Que – not sure which township this is or where
  • Felix Miller – Hopewell
  • George Miller – Bethel Twp
  • Jacob Miller – Barree Twp
  • John Miller – Bedford Twp
  • John Miller – Brother’s Valley
  • John Miller – Que
  • Joseph Miller – freeman – Frankstown Twp
  • Joseph Miller Sr – inmate – Frankstown Twp
  • Michael Miller – Brother’s Valley
  • Nicholas Miller – Brother’s Valley

The location, “Que,” is a bit of a conundrum.  Gale Honeyman from the Brethren Heritage Center indicates that Quemahoning Township is in Somerset County, organized in 1775, and that Christian and John were likely part of the Amish community that settled in Bruder’s tal/Broterh’s Valley coming from Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Names may be listed more than once because if they are property owners, they may own more than one location. At this time, there is no mention of Daniel or his brother David Miller. Daniel’s two brothers-in-law, Daniel Ulrich married to Susannah Miller and Gabriel Maugans who married Esther Miller were probably too young to have been in Bedford County this early. Gabriel and Esther married in the late 1790s and Daniel and Susannah married about 1780.

However, a 1775 road petition in Bedford County provides evidence that several Brethren families were indeed in Bedford County including both Daniel Miller and Daniel Ullery. The petition text is as follows:

To the worshipful justices of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace held at Bedford for the County of Bedford the third Tuesday in October in the Year of our Lord 1775 ~

The Petition of diverse inhabitants of Colerain Township and FranksTown Township in the County of Bedford humbly sheweth.

That your petitioners labour under many inconveniences for want of a road leading from Robert Elliott’s at the Snakes Spring to the Gap in the Dividing Ridge between Croyle’s Cove and Morrison’s Cove, from thence to Daniel Oulery’s Mills and from thence to Frankstown Gap in Dunnings Mountain.

Your petitioners therefore pray your worships would nominate and appoint men to view and examine the same and if they find it necessary and convenient then that they lay out the same as a public road, as they shall think may be least to the damage of the neighbor or parties concerned and least injurious to the inhabitant thereabouts and make return thereof by courses and distance under their hands to the next court agreeable to an act of assembly in such cases made and provided.

The actual petition is shown below.

Daniel Miller 1775 Bedford petition 1Daniel Miler 1775 Bedford petition 2Daniel Miler 1775 petition 3

Daniel Miller 1775 Bedford petition 4

Apparently, the 1775 petition didn’t gain traction, because in the spring of 1776, an identical petition was submitted on the third Tuesday of April, but this time, there were far fewer signatures. One other difference is that one of the landmarks was slightly different, stated as “Daniel Woolrey’s Mill in Morris’s Cove.”

The petition signers are shown in the chart below.

Petition Signers 1775 1776
Conrad Brombach X
Philip Metzger X X
Johannes Martin X X
Joseph Cellar X
Jacob Kaff X
Daniel Miller X
Henrich Bender X X
Henry Braun X X
John Deeter X
Michael Hay X
Martin Miller X X
Georg Knie X
Daniel Paul X
David Ulry X X
John Kroll (Correl) X X
Jacob Neider X
Peter Bayer X
Christian Whetston(e) X X
Phillip (Philippus) Knie X X
Georg Roth X X
Daniel Oulery X
John Gillingham X
Stophel Markly X
Joseph Morrison X
Rinehart Replogle (Reblogle) X X
Jacob Easter X
Robert Frigs X
John Houser X
Powel Rood X
Daniel Frazer X
Philip Stoner X X
William Parker X
Robert Elliott X
Benjamin McFerran X
William Phillip X
Johannes Metzger X
George Brumbaugh X
Heinrich Holding Zander X
Paul Roth X
Abraham Dieter X
Feld Ober X
Jacob Neif Braller X

Was Daniel Miller still living there, but simply didn’t sign the petition, or had he returned to Frederick County, Maryland?  He’s not on the 1776 list of inhabitants either.

It’s likely that Daniel Ulrich was still there, because his mill was mentioned, and his mill is further mentioned in local histories.  He is not listed on the 1776 list of inhabitants either, which causes me to wonder if the list is incomplete.

The following year, 1777, is the year that the British launched their Indian attacks in Morrison’s Cove and Koontz says that these “frequently compelled settlers to seek safety at Fort Bedford.”

The local history agrees that “Indian hostilities were so frequent that nearly all the inhabitants left the cove….” Replogle

The 1777 Dunkard Massacre was part of the large British strategy. The main attack was probably an area between Roaring Spring and Martinsburg in Morrison’s Cove. At least 30 people died. No first-hand account exists, but U. J. Jones says, “Some few of the Dunkards….hid themselves away; but by far the most of them stood by and witnessed the butchery of their wives and children….” Jones is not entirely reliable and doesn’t like the Brethren much, but something like this surely happened. Replogle 158

Other reports from this area in 1777 are gruesome and grisly. Many people were killed. One report said that “We came safe to Bedford…the people on the road all fled for 42 miles from Ligonier.”   Another report said that “people from Morrisons, Croyals and Friends Coves are fled or fortified.”

A 1779 extract from the commissioners’ books said that so many citizens fled that the full board couldn’t meet, collect taxes, nor could they say when they could. Replogle 161

The best evidence for these families being involved in an Indian attack is the following story repeated in many accounts. Jacob Neff, a Brethren man supposedly shot and killed an Indian or two at the Neff mill. In retaliation the Indians burned the mill. The local Brethren congregation forgave him for his breach of pacifism but later banished him for bragging about it. James Sell investigated this story and found the killing and expulsion to be true, but the mill belonged to Daniel Ulrich. Though one account says he bought it later. In fact Daniel Ulrich not only owned the mill, but land that is today Roaring Spring. It is not certain which Daniel Ulrich this is, but the one that best fits is the Daniel Ulrich who married Susannah Miller, the daughter of Philip Jacob Miller. Her husband Daniel Ulrich was probably the grandson of Stephen Ulrich Sr. Susannah’s brothers Daniel and David Miller also lived in the Cove.

From the History of the Church of the Brethren in the Middle District of Pennsylvania:

During the Indian Wars of 1762 and onward there were quite a number of murders committed and captives taken. The particulars will never be known. The greatest massacre was in 1777. One history says there were thirty killed. Our tradition says twenty. The number of prisoners taken we cannot conjecture. A Brother Houser and family are mentioned among the number.

John Houser did sign the 1775 road petition, so a man by that name is present in the valley.

John Martin, a pioneer preacher, whose name heads the list of ministers of the Clover Creek congregation, suffered greatly from these Indian depredations.

John Martin signed both the 1775 and 1776 road petitions.

For want of the original, copy is taken from Jones’ History of Juniata Valley, relating the incident as follows:

Page 20:

During the Great Cove massacre, among others carried into captivity was the family of John Martin. This incursion was indeed a most formidable one, led by the kings Shingas and Beaver in person. How many were killed there is no living witness to tell; neither can we conjecture the number of prisoners taken.

The following petition was sent by John Martin to council:

August 13, 1762

“The Humble Petition of Your Most Obedient Servant Sheweth, Sir, may it please Your Excellancy, Hearing me in Your Clemancy a few words. I, One of the Bereaved of my Wife and five Children, by Savage War at the Captivity of the Great Cove, after Many & Long Journeys, I Lately went to an Indian Town, viz., Tuskaroways, 150 miles Beyond Fort Pitts, & Entrested in Co. Bucquits & Co. Croghan’s favor, So as to bear their Letters to King Beaver & Cap. Shingas, Desiring them to Give up One of my Daughters to me, Whiles I have Yet two Sons & One Other Daughter, if Alive, Among them — and after Seeing my Daughter with Shingas he Refused to Give her up, and after some Expostulating with him, but all in vain, he promised to Deliver her up with the Other Captives to yr Excellency.

Sir, yr Excellency’s Most Humble Servt Humbly & Passionately Beseeches Yr Beningn Compassion to interpose Yr Excellencies Beneficent influence in favor of Yr Excellencies Most Obedient & Dutiful Servt.

John Martin”

Page 21:

Brother Sell writes further :

The Brethren came into the Great Cove, now Morrison’s Cove, and by taking possession of the valley in the vicinity of Roaring Springs, the western portion of the Clover Creek congregation, were among its first settlers.

They set to work to clear away the forests, till the soil, build mills, and labored to promote the peace and prosperity of the country. It has been conceded to them, even by people who took no interest in their religion, that as good farmers, good taxpayers, quiet and inoffensive people — they were of the best of citizens.

But their exclusiveness, opposition to education, their lack of interest in political matters, and above all, their non-resistant principle brought them into disrepute with their neighbors.

This made their situation unpleasant and at times exposed them to more danger from their common enemy. Had they been permitted to treat with the Indian alone and manifest their love of peace and fair and honorable treatment, there is every reason to believe that not only they but their fighting neighbors would have escaped the assaults of the savage’s tomahawk and scalping knife.

The settlers all suffered from the incursions of the Indians from the time of their coming into the valley up to the time and during the Revolutionary War.

By this time by purchase and force the Indians were driven west of the Allegheny mountains. But out of hatred to their white brothers from real or imaginary wrongs, and also for spoils and scalps on which they were paid a bounty by the British government they made frequent raids into the valleys east of the mountain. When invasions were made the news was heralded as rapidly as the circumstances of the times permitted and the warning was to flee for safety. Some left their homes, others did not. All perhaps did not hear the alarm. Some could not go, and others preferred not to go. The result was that a number of them were murdered. In 1777 between twenty and thirty were killed.

During all these trying experiences of frontier life covering a period of nearly a quarter of a century, but one breach or violation of the peace principle held by our people is recorded.

Page 22, 23:

This single instance, which Brother Sell calls the “Jacob Neff Episode” occurred within the bounds of the Clover Creek congregation. U. J. Jones, after giving a copy of a report of “Thomas Smith and George Woods”, both, we believe, Justice of Peace at the time to President Wharton in which there is no direct reference to the Brethren, refers to the Neff incident as follows:

The band of Indians, after the Dunkard massacre, worked their way toward the Kittaning war path, leaving behind them some few stragglers of their party whose appetite for blood and treasure had not been satisfied. Among others, an old and a young Indian stopped at Neff’s Mill. Neff was a Dunkard; but he was a single exception so far as resistance was concerned. He had constantly in his mill his loaded rifle, and was ready for any emergency. He had gone to his mill in the morning without any knowledge of Indians being in the neighborhood, and had just set the water-wheel in motion when he discovered two Indians lurking, within a hundred yards, in a small wood below the mill. Without taking much time to deliberate how to act, he aimed through the window, and deliberately shot the old Indian. In an instant the young Indian came toward the mill, and Neff ran out of the back door and up the hill. The quick eye of the savage detected him, and fired, but missed his aim. Nothing daunted by the mishap, the savage followed up the cleared patch, when both, as if by instinct, commenced reloading their rifles. They stood face to face, not forty yards apart, on open ground where there was no possible chance of concealment. The chances were equal; he that loaded first would be victor in the strife, the other was doomed to certain death. They both rammed home the bullet at the same time — with what haste may well be conjectured. This was a critical juncture, for, while loading, neither took his eye off the other. They both drew their ramrods at the same instant, but the intense excitement of the moment caused the Indian to balk in drawing his, and the error or mishap proved fatal, because Neff took advantage of it, and succeeded in priming and aiming before the Indian. The latter, now finding the muzzle of Neff’s rifle bearing upon him, commenced a series of very cunning gyrations and contortions to destroy his aim or to confuse him, so that he might miss him or enable him to prime. To this end he first threw himself upon his face; then, suddenly rising up again, he jumped first to the right, then to the left, then fell down again. Neff, not the least put off his guard, waited until the Indian arose again, when he shot him through the head.

Neff, fearing that others might be about, left the mill and started to the nearest settlement. A force was raised and the mill revisited; but it was found a heap of smouldering cinders and ashes, and the dead bodies of the Indians had been removed. It is altogether likely that the rear of the savage party came up shortly after Neff had left, fired the mill, and carried away their slain companions.

For the part Neff took in the matter he was excommunicated from the Dunkard society. Nevertheless, he rebuilt his mill; but the Dunkards, who were his main support previously, refused any longer to patronize him, and he was eventually compelled to abandon the business.

Brother Sell speaks of the same incident as follows :

Daniel Ullery was the original owner of Roaring Spring. He built the first mill. Jacob Neff was his miller. During the Indian massacre of 1777 he shot an Indian. He was counseled by the church for his violation of her peace principles. He did not plead justification. He admitted that it was wrong to take human life but said his deed was done under strong temptation and excitement. He was excused, but required not to speak of his act in company in a boasting or justifying way. This restriction he frequently violated and he was expelled from the church.

This story has been repeated and exaggerated and the church through it is represented so that we take this opportunity to tell the story as we have it from our own traditions. The history of Juniata Valley says that when Neff rebuilt his mill the Brethren refused to patronize him. This is not correct. The chain, or abstract of title shown that Neff never owned the mill, did not build it in the first place, did not in the second place.

Pages 25, 26:

Ullery built and rebuilt it. It was a necessity in the new settlement.

The first Indian depredators, or at least the greater portion of them, were seen at a camp-fire by a party of hunters; and if the proper exertions had been made to cut them off, few other outrages would have followed. The supposition is that there were two parties of about fifteen each, who met at or near Neff’s Mill in the Cove. On their way thither, the one party killed a man named Hammond, who resided along the Juniata, and the other party killed a man named Ullery, who was returning from Neff’s Mill on horseback. They also took two children with them as prisoners.

The savages swept down through the Cove with all the ferocity with which a pack of wolves would descend from the mountain upon a flock of sheep. Some few of the Dunkards, who evidently had the latent spark of love of life, hid themselves away; but by far the most of them stood by and witnessed the butchery of their wives and children, merely saying, “Gottes wille sei gethan.” *

This sentence was so frequently repeated by the Dunkards during the massacre, that the Indians must have retained a vivid recollection of it. During the late war with Great Britain, some of the older Indians on the frontier were anxious to know of the Huntingdon volunteers whether the ” Gotswiltahns ” still resided in the Cove. Of course our people could not satisfy them on such a vague point.”

* God’s will be done.

Back to Maryland?

We have a couple of pieces of evidence that Daniel Miller went back to Maryland.

First, the local history says that the area was indeed nearly entirely evacuated and that the Conococheague Valley was one of the locations where the refugees located. For Daniel, this would simply have been going home.

Secondly, Daniel’s son indicated he was born in Maryland in 1781.

Third, in 1776 when they do not sign the road petition in Bedford County, both Daniel and David Miller appear in Frederick County on the list of non-enrollers, but there is also another Daniel Miller living in Frederick County, son of Lodowich Miller, so these two can be confused.

Fourth, in 1778, some Daniel Miller took the oath of fidelity in Washington County, Maryland, formerly the area Frederick County.

Fifth, in 1783, after Lodowich’s family, including the other Daniel, had removed to the Shenandoah Valley, Daniel Miller remains and is taxed in Frederick County with animals but no land.

However, Daniel wasn’t to stay long in Frederick County, because by 1786, we find him once again in Bedford County.

Return to Bedford County

1783 was an important year. The Revolutionary War had lasted for 7 years. On April 11, the Continental Congress proclaimed an end to hostilities. However, most of Ohio was still in dispute with the Indians which held back settlement there for another 20 years. Replogle 162

Also, in 1783, the road from Cumberland to Bedford County was improved and was eventually 12 feet wide. Replogle 57

This would have allowed wagons and might have made resettlement very attractive to Daniel Miller.

The 1784 Bedford County tax list tells us that Daniel hadn’t yet made that return journey.

1784 Bedford Co. tax returns:

  • Daniel Ullery – 408 acres in Frankstown Twp
  • No David or Daniel Miller listed but lots of other Millers
  • Jacob Stutzman – 0 acres, 1 dwelling, 2,0
  • Jacob Cripe – 900 acres

1784 Bedford County, in Brother’s Alley:

  • John Miller (1-6)
  • Peter Miller (1-5)
  • Michael Miller (1-6)
  • Christian Miller (1-6)
  • William Miller (1-2)

The Kernel of Greatness, An Informal Bicentennial History of Bedford County by the Bedford County Heritage Committee, page 134:

It is known that some Brethren settled here as early as 1785, for that was the date in a deed for a grant of land in Morrison’s Cove made jointly to Jacob Brumbaugh and Samuel Ullery. The latter was the first minister of the denomination known to have preached hereabouts. Centered around New Enterprise, the Yellow Creek (or Hopewell) congregation embraced all the territory of our county and most of Fulton. From this first group sprang the majority of all local Brethren Churches.

In 1785, Woodbury Township was formed from Frankstown. This is where Daniel Miller would live. Settlers had arrived there at first 40 years earlier, but settlement was still sparse.

The nearby town of Hollidaysburg was not laid out until next year and entire township only had 118 households. Replogle p 29

In 1786 Jacob Snyder settled in Snake Spring Valley. At his home Brethren of the area held meetings over a period of years until in 1840 a congregation was organized.

1786 Woodbury Twp. tax list

  • Daniel Miller (Cox’s land)
  • David Ulerick
  • Stephen Ulerick
  • Daniel Ulerick
  • Jacob Stutzman (Cox’s land)
  • John Ulrick – single – Cox’s land

From the tax lists, we find evidence that Daniel Miller, along with several other Brethren is living on Cox’s land. I found mention of Cox in the early deed books.

In 1780 Charles Cox in Morrison’s Cove sells John Snyder 500 acres near where Three Springs enters Yellow Creek. This tells us that Daniel Miller probably lives someplace in this vicinity as well.

Undated Tax list:

  • David Ulrich – Cox’s land
  • Stephen Ulrich – Cox’s land
  • Daniel Ulrich

In 1787, Woodbury Township was divided between Bedford County and Huntingdon County, but Daniel continues to be listed in Bedford County. In 1838, the Bedford portion is further divided into Woodbury and South Woodbury.

1788 Bedford Tax list:

  • Daniel Miller
  • David Miller
  • Daniel Ullery
  • David Ullery
  • Stephen Ullery
  • John Ullery – single

Several other Brethren families went to Morrison’s Cove and were there by 1789. At least four of Stephen Ulrich Jr.’s children: Hannah who married George Butterbaugh. David Ulrich and Stephen Ulrich III were “made subject to law to the performance of military duty” in 1789. Lydia Ulrich married Jacob Lear. Daniel Ulrich owned a mill where Roaring Spring is today. Replogle 129

Jason Replogle notes that the word “inmate” on the tax records, according to the Bedford County Historical Society means renter, non-owner.  They also say that tax assessing went on at that time every 3 years which would explain the sequence of 1782, 1785, and 1788 in Frankstown. Replogle 131

In 1789, in Morrison’s Cove, David Miller was assessed for 474 acres, 2 horses and 3 cows and Daniel for 214 acres, 3 horses and 4 cows. Replogle 129

The 1789 tax list has an unexpected benefit – ages, I think. Never before, or since, have I seen a tax list that included ages, but this one appears to. Daniel Miller was actually 34, and is shown as 37. His brother, David was 32 and he is shown as 23. If these aren’t ages, I don’t know what they would be.

1789 Bedford County Tax List

Age? Name – Woodbury Twp – Martain Loy’s Return ? Land Horses Cows
Thomas Veccory?                                             Va 125 500
Martain Loy 164 241 2 2
36 Henry Werner 96 or 46 50 2 2
43 Abraham Feeter or Jeeter 145 327 5 5
35 Jacob Good 92 150 3 4
28 Jacob Bowman – Coxes Land 102 230 2 3
40 John Bair – Coxes Land 109 230 3 1
Peter Sensebaugh – Coxes Land 76 153 1
20 John Sensebaugh – stricken through 10 Checkmark
Peter Witmar 100 300
30 Philip Mixcelle? – Snivel’s Land 182 300 2 4
40 George Bowman 10 0 1- 0
William Tatorious – one still 61 100 2 3
40 Christian Dridl 38 50 2 3
50 William Yortea – one still 36 0 2 2
45? John? Forgeson (crease in paper) 50 ? ? ?
28 Jacob Cravenston – Coxes Land 10 1- 0
Nicholas Cravenston – Coxes Land 189 279 3 3
William Beaman – Coxes land 176 278 2 2
18 George Beaman
26 Gabriel Magin – Coxes land 261 0 2 2
42 Jacob Viant – Coxes land 133 1- 1
23 David Miller – Coxes land 149 474 2 3
34 Jacob Lear – Coxes land 136 215 3 2
37 Daniel Miller – Coxes land 142 214 3 4
36 Stephen Ullreck – Cox Land 145 148 3 5
26 David Ullreck – Cox land 142 148 3 4
Ditto 37 150
56 Jacob Stutzman – Cox land 142 148 3 4
50 John Snyder 350 250 3 8
Abraham Overholtzer – one saw mill 149 220 3 3
30 John Hipple 126 419 2 2
Peter Sherman? 45 100 Torn Torn
25 Jacob Bain 60 100 2 2
34 or 39 Peter Folks 76 200 2 2
John Brannon on Capt. Hunter’s land 76 100 2 2
30 John Welch – single freeman
40 Nicolous Peticot – Capt. Hunter’s land 66 0 1- 2
37 James Ray 56 100 2
37 Henry Erllabaugh on Hunter’s land 63 5 5
36 Thoma Eyl 25 50
40 Edward Mceroy 63 100 1- 5
45 William Gilson or Gibson 66 100 5 2
John Sherley 101 150 2 2
18 Richard Sherley – struck through
Peter Werner or Verner 23 2 1
John Peterbaugh 25 100
Thomas McCune 17 70 Smudged 2
Name illegible on fold – Cox’s land 100 Hole ? 2
49 John Falkner – Cox’s land 89 Smudge 2 3
Ditto for land 25 100
30 Henry Dial 18 60 Smudge ?
27 William Adams 38 100 1 1
40 Peter Adams 65 100 2 2
44 Philip Knee, Knu or Jones 64 100 2 3
George Roth 65 100 3 2
20 Philip Roth – struck through
44 Abraham Deeter- one grist mill 175 150 3 ?
John Mets?er 11 200 3 6
40 George Broombaugh 92 130 3 4
24 John Engle 179 600 2 3
28 Casper D (or B)illinger 29 2 3
30 John Hall – half taxes 50 300 1 3
22 Daniel Hall – single freeman – one still 80 172 2 torn
21 Jacob Overholtzer – single freeman
23 John Cramer – single freeman
30 Daniel Ullerick 154 150 2 3
45 Jacob Nave 200 400 4 4
39 Ludwick Wissenger 60 100 3 2
40 Simon Hay 25 50 1 1
35 Michael Hay 51 100 2 2
35 Martain Housen? – quantity of land unknown to me 25 100
24 Edward Cowen – quantity of land unknown to me 76 209 2 2
30 Christopher Rohrer – single freeman – one still 15
Christian Newcomer 15 60
40 Harmon Deik? 100 150 2 2
23 John Ullrick – a sawmill – single freeman 70 100 2 2
40 Michael Pot? 79 227 2 3
Ditto for land 25 100
26 Nicolous Shell for Hollis land 38 100 1 1
Ditto for land 37 100
John Croal for Wallyses land 123 250 2 1
40 Abraham Newswander – Wallis land 76 2 2
23 George Faring? For Wallysis land 110 1 2
26 Rinehart Replogle Jr on Wallysis land 26 2 2
18 John Replogle – struck through
Rinehart Replogle Sr, on Wallysis land 296 476 5? 2
30 William Cohanico? – Wallysis land 226 352 2 2
46 Peter Beltser 3 1
48 Joseph Cellers 192 200 3 4
43 James Knot 25 100 2 2
40 William Nichlous 38 50 2 2
William Findley 38 50 2 2
John Adams Sr. 25 50
25 George Hanay – single freeman 35 50 1
40 John Lower 25 100
Abraham Lingin ?? 75 175 1 1
30 Jacob Devil? 75 75 1 1
23 Peter Embler 3 1 1
3? George Lingerfelt ? ? Torn Torn
25 John Overholtzer 43 80 2 1
42 Abraham Leedy 64 110 5 3
48 Henry Brown 61 110 3 2
32 William Ditts? Or Ditto? 101 200 2 2
23 George Dell or Doll 12 50
John Cellars 100 200
47 Christopher Week 58 50 4 2
22 Daniel Magin – Wallis land 160 1-
48 Crestian Wetstone – ditto 173 2 1
45 Valentine Oster 142 200 3 4
Ditto 12/10? 62
23 John George Priceler 20 70
David Hootsman 50 100
Joseph Long 326 750 2 2
Ditto 75 300
32 Daniel Ullerick 76 200 2 2
40 Lutwidk Low 28 50 1- 2
Jacob Broombaugh 275 700
Cronkleton 25 100
30 Jacob Puterbaugh 50 50 3 3
Ditto at the Long Meadows 12 25
Ditto on the Plow He?lievg 100 210
George Puterbaugh Jr 25 100
29 Adam Burcket 129 210 2 3
30 Abraham Gantsenger Jr? 75 200
25 Thomas Jones – single freeman
39 Jacob Smith – Cox’s land and tanyard 111 2 3
William Bower – single freeman 15 10 1 1
John Ditts or Ditto 54 100 2 3
George Bower – single freeman
27 Isaac Cronck – single freeman 1
John Martain 272 449 4 4
20 Coonrod Martain – struck through
John Teeter or Jeeter 172/80/1118 125 150 3 6
Ditto land 25 100
Woodbury Township Nonresident Persons Names
Samuel Wallis
Jacob Brumbaugh (4 tracts adjacent) 897
John Brumbaugh 200
Israel Brumbaugh 190
Dickson Children? 272
Ditto 84
Henry Huffman 76
Martin Houser 250
Abraham Kinsinger 200
Joseph Morris 200
Thomas Mchune 80
George Buterbaugh Jr 225
John Buterbaugh 103
John Sellery 200
Ditto 138
Daniel Hall (or Stall) 172
David Stutzman 60
Henry Snively Doc? 250
Thomas Vickroy 464
Joseph Krootleton 100
John Darne 100
Jacob Stevens 200
Joseph Long 370
Richard Vanbell 219
John Moore 503
George Ruch 369
William Gerrgas 237
Benedict Dorsey 232
Robert Lasley 298
Moses Patterson 315
Samuel Richards 367
Isaac Harvel 352
Thomas Walker 398
Abraham Robison 475

On another tax list, a Jacob Miller is listed as a nonresident in 1789.

A list of the inhabitants of Woodberry Township made subject by law to the performance of militia duty, taken by Martin Loy the 26th of January 1789 includes the following names:

  • Gabriel Magin (Maugans)
  • David Miller
  • Jacob Lear (this family later found in Elkhart County, Indiana)
  • Daniel Miller
  • Steven Ullrech
  • David Ullrech
  • Jacob Stulsman (Stutzman)
  • Daniel Magin (Maugans)
  • Samuel Ullrich
  • Coonrath Martin (Conrad)
  • Daniel Ullric
  • John Ullrick
  • George Haney (descendants later found in Elkhart County, Indiana)

1789 Woodbury Twp tax list, extracted for Miller, Maugans and Ulrich by various spellings:

  • David Miller
  • Daniel Miller
  • Gabriel Maugans
  • Stephen Ulrich
  • David Ulrich
  • Samuel Ulrich
  • Daniel Ulrich

1790 or 1791 tax list

  • David Miller
  • Daniel Miller
  • Peter Maugons
  • Daniel Maugons
  • David Ulry
  • Samuel Ulry
  • Daniel Ulry
  • Stephen Ulry
  • Yearty Ulry

Daniel Miller first appeared on the Woodbury Township tax list in 1785 and by 1789, is well established, farming 214 acres with 3 horses and 2 cows. There was just one problem, those 214 acres weren’t his. He rented land from a man named Cox who was somewhat of a land speculator. Many Brethren families are noted on the tax lists as renting land from Cox. According to the “History of the Church of the Brethren in the Middle District of Pennsylvania,” by 1790, all of the desirable lands were owned and all of the good land was claimed many years before. This area began to be settled initially in 1755.

No land records have been found in Bedford County for David or Daniel Miller.  Presumably the land they rented from Cox was located near what is now New Enterprise in the southern end of the valley. This is where Samuel Ulrich, Elizabeth’s brother, was located, and many other German Baptists from the Washington County, area.

This beautiful rolling valley named Morrison’s Cove would have been where Daniel and Elizabeth farmed and raised their children among like-minded families in the Brethren church. Bedford County at that time had no established church buildings, and services were held in member’s homes and barns. Daniel, like everyone else, would have taken his turn.

David Miller Bedford fall

Daniel Miller wasn’t the only child of Philip Jacob Miller to move to Bedford County. His brother David Miller settled there too, along with sister Esther who married Gabriel Maugans and sister Susannah who married Daniel Ullery.

Susannah Miller and Daniel Ullery owned the mill at Roaring Springs, today the old mill pond with a beautiful fountain.

David Miller Roaring Springs

Daniel certainly lived nearby and visited this mill regularly, as did all farmers.

Daniel Miller roaring springs

The first census was taken in 1790, and the Bedford County census fortunately appears to be recorded in house order.

Daniel Miller 1790 Bedford census

We find Gabriel Maugans beside Daniel and David Miller. Another Maugans appears to be next door, and the entire group is near to the Ullery, Replogle and Stutzman families. All known Brethren.

It never really struck me until I saw this census that Daniel’s first 7 children were all boys.

I put together a 1788-1791 Cross Match Census and Tax lists table for Miller, Stutzman, Ullerich and Cripe in Bedford County.

Name 1790 M16+ 1790 M<16 1790 F 1788 tx 1789 tx 1790 tx 1791 tx
Phillip Miller – Ayr/Dublin – no land tax 2 1 7
Jacob Miller 1 2 4 H H
Felix Miller 2 3 1 H H
Jacob Miller 1 1 4 H
John Crull 1 3 7 W W W
David Miller 1 2 4 W W W
Daniel Miller 1 7 1 W W W
David Ullery 1 5 2 W W W
Samuel Ullery 1 1 5 W W
Jacob Miller – Bedford Twp – no land tax 1 2 2
Andrew Miller 1 6 Bd
John Crull 3 1 7 W W
Daniel Ulrick 2 2 4 W W W
Jacob Miller 4 3 3 Bd Br
Peter Miller 1 2 Bd
Peter Miller 1 1 Bd Bd
John Miller 1 2 Bd Bd
Elles Miller 1 2 Bd
Michael Miller 1 2 3 Br Br
Nicholas Miller 1 0 0 Br Br Br
Christian Miller 2 1 0 Br Br Br
Abraham Miller 1 1 Br Br
Andrew Miller – no tax lived in Br 1 1 1
John Miller 1 2 Q Q Q
Nicholas Miller 1 1 2 Br Br Br
Michael Miller 1 1 6 Br Br Br
Nicolas Miller 1 1 1 Br Br
Mary Miller, widow 0 3 1 Br
John Miller 2 3 3 M M
Barbara Miller 0 1 5 Q Q Q
Christian Miller 1 3 5 Q Q
Christian Miller 1 3 5 Q Q Q
Abraham Miller ! 1 4 Q Q Q
Christy Miller 1 3 2 Q Q Q
Hendrey Miller 1 3 2 E E
John Miller 1 1 E E
John Miller 1 1 3 E E
Peter Miller 1 3 2 E E E
Jacob Miller 1 3 2 E E E

Bd = Bedford
Br = Brother’s Valley
M= Milford
E= Elklick

If you’re thinking to yourself, there certainly were a lot of Miller men in Bedford County by this time, you’re absolutely right, and we know they weren’t all ours. It’s no wonder that there is so much confusion surrounding this family and surname.

The last tax lists where we find Daniel Miller are the available group from 1796-1799.

Daniel Miller 1796 Bedford tax

The 1796 list, above, shows Daniel Miller with a house and sawmill, both.  I can’t read all the column names, but he looks to also have 2 horses and 4 cows.  He was quite well off, comparatively.

Daniel is present in 1797 and 1798, but David Miller is not on the list anytime from 1796-1799. In 1799, both are absent, gone to the land of Kentucky and Ohio, the next frontier.

Bedford County Maps

What can we discern about where Daniel Miller lived in Bedford County?

From various deeds, we know that Cox owned land near where 3 Springs empties into Yellow Creek, near New Enterprise today.

Daniel Miller Cox land

The little grey balloon in the lower right quadrant marks that intersection.

Daniel Miller Cox land satellite

The road through Loysburg Gap is Woodbury Pike in present day South Woodbury Township.  The intersection of 3 Springs and Yellow Creek is just above Loysburg, shown on the topo map below.

Daniel Miller Loysburg Gap

The Topozone map below shows Dunnings Mountain forming the western border of Morrison’s Cove.

Daniel Miller Dunnings Mountain

The topographical map below shows the location of Dunnings Mountain, with the red balloon, forming a western border for Morrison’s Cove but more importantly, it also shows the valley area which is roughly 5 miles across and 20 miles north to south which constitutes Morrison’s Cove, enclosed by the mountains.  Morrison’s Cove is a beautiful valley.

Daniel Miller Morrison's Cove

This valley encompasses Roaring Spring on the North to New Enterprise on the South, Dunnings Mountain on the West to the state Game lands 73A East of 866, near Loysburg Gap where 36 crosses the mountain between New Enterprise and Yellow Creek.

Daniel Miller intersection 3 Springs

In fact, look at this beautiful historic building on 3 Springs at the intersection of 869 and Woodbury Pike, PA36.  Could this have been Daniel’s mill?

Based on the description of Cox’s land location, Daniel Miller probably lived someplace in the southern part of Morrison’s Cove. We know that Daniel Ullery owned the mill in Roaring Springs.

The headwaters of Snake Spring are about 3 miles below Loysburg, where the two mountain ranges come together and Upper Snake Spring Road becomes Church View Road which becomes Lower Snake Spring Road. This is the southernmost part of the 1775 and 1776 road petition, beginning at Snake Spring to the Gap in the dividing ridge.

Croyle’s Cove today is Snake Spring Township, and the Gap referenced would be the Gap leading between Lower Snake Spring Road and Upper Snake Spring Road. Morrison’s Cove is noted as being above this gap.

Daniel Miller Croyle's Cove

Today, Woodbury Township and South Woodbury Township are in Bedford County, while North Woodbury Township later fell into Blair County. We know that Daniel Miller lived in what was then Woodbury Township in Bedford County.

Daniel Miller Woodbury Twp

Today’s Woodbury Township

Daniel Miller South Woodbury Twp

Today’s South Woodbury Township.

Daniel Miller North Woodbury Twp Blair Co

Today’s North Woodbury Township, Blair County, PA.

On the USGS topo map, North Woodbury is not labeled as Morrison’s Cove.

Roaring Springs is in present day Taylor Township and it is also not labeled as Morrison’s Cove.

Only Woodbury and South Woodbury are labeled as Morrison’s Cove, between Woodbury and New Enterprise.

Daniel Miller lived in what was then Woodbury Township, probably near New Enterprise, and clearly on one of the streams strong enough to power a sawmill. The creeks in that area are Yellow Creek and 3 Springs and I would not be one bit surprised if the building near that intersection that still exists today was Daniel’s mill.

Philip Jacob’s Decision

In 1795, the Treaty of Grenville followed the defeat of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near the Maumee rapids. Indians agreed to give up about two thirds of Ohio and a part of Southeastern Indiana. In Ohio large-scale Indian dangers ended and large-scale migration began. Replogle 165

Following the treaty, regular trips were established from Cincinnati to Pittsburg and back. They took a month. Boats dotted the Ohio as far as the eye could see.  A Second source says a one way trip from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati took about a week.


As family members moved to Bedford County, and other Millers migrated to other frontier locations, the family in Frederick County was becoming thin.

Philip Jacob’s brother Lodowich had either moved to Rockingham County, VA or died in about 1782 or 1783 and their brother John died in 1794. John farmed the other half of the same land that Philip Jacob farmed. Those two men would have been extremely close, and dependent to some extent on each other for help with farming. With John’s passing, and several of Philip Jacob’s children already gone for a decade or more, he must have been thinking about what to do with his own land and assets, as well as his legacy to his children.

Philip Jacob Miller made a monumental decision. When he sold his brother, John’s land, as executor, he sold his own land to the same man in 1796.

Philip Jacob then proceeded to “sell out” as it was known, selling everything he didn’t need to be able to pack what he did need into a wagon to set off for the new frontier where he had arrived by August of 1796. Not the frontier in Bedford County. That was no longer a frontier and the land was mostly gone – but the real frontier, beyond Pittsburgh – down the Ohio River to near Fort Washington, a location that would one day become Cincinnati, Ohio. That was the real frontier where the Indians had just been defeated the year before. Trees were waiting to be chopped and land was waiting to be cleared. A repeat, for Philipp Jacob Miller, of what he had done nearly half a century earlier when Frederick County was the frontier. However, in 1751, Philip Jacob was in his 20s. In 1796, he was roughly 70.

I can just imagine an older Philip Jacob Miller sporting long grey hair, the signature look of an older Brethren man who, then, would have been considered elderly. A man that everyone knew would not defend himself, carrying his life savings in a wagon, then on a river flatboat, floating down the Ohio, landing in an untamed wilderness on a frontier that was in some ways akin to the Wild West.

I don’t know whether to be astounded or horrified. Clearly, nothing bad happened, because Philip Jacob bought about 2000 acres of land, seven times what he sold, enough for all of his children after his death to have 200 acres each. Ironically, he never got to live on the land he purchased. He never owned land in either Kentucky where he died or technically, in Ohio either, because the surveying and title transfer did not happen until after his death. So Philip Jacob actually died landless.

Thank goodness for the beginnings of his land purchase, because the transactions surrounding that land following Philip Jacob’s death in 1799 inform us of which children were still living and the names of the daughter’s husbands. 

Philip Jacob Miller left Maryland in early 1796 and arrived in Campbell County, KY later that year, just across the river and upstream a few miles from Cincinnati, then just a small village.

Son David may have actually traveled with his father in 1796, but he had assuredly joined him by 1797. In 1799, Daniel left Bedford County and followed.

The Land That Becomes Ohio in 1803

As a compromise with the other colonies during ratification deliberations on the Articles of Confederation, Virginia ceded its territorial claims to lands northwest of the Ohio River and was granted lands in the southwestern quarter of Ohio in 1784 to give as payment to Virginia’s soldiers who served in the Continental Army. This area was called the Virginia Military Reserve.

During the Constitutional Convention, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which, among other things, prohibited slavery north of the Ohio River, partly to prevent farmers in the Northwest Territory from competing with the South. Nevertheless, such a prohibition was attractive to the German Baptist Brethren.

From Troy Goss’s website:

Philip Jacob Miller having acquired considerable funds from selling his property in Washington Co, MD now sought to provide for the future of his children. Sometime after Phillip’s settling in Campbell County, he purchased land warrants for two tracts of land in the still unsettled country soon to be the State of Ohio. He purchased the warrants from William Lytle who was acting as agent for James Taylor. The land was yet to be surveyed. The land was purchased for $1.10 per acre while other tracts I the area were selling for $2 per acre.

Philip Jacob’s land was comprised of 2 surveyed tracts. Tract 3790 (in Clermont and Warren County) was for 1766 2/3rd acres, according to the US National Archives. Tract 3790 consisted of 8 military warrants purchased and assembled to James Taylor and William Lytle. Philip Jacob sometime before his death acquired an interest in these warrants. The tract was then surveyed after his death and several years later, the patents were issued to his heirs.

This tract was comprised of the following warrants:

  • Warrant 4617 200 acres Robert Underwood May 19, 1798 acquired by Lytle
  • Warrant 4888 200 acres Eppa Fielding April 19 1799 acquired by Taylor
  • Warrant 3583 200 acres
  • Warrant 4828 200 acres William Lytle
  • Warrant 4902 100 acres Henry Sanders Aug 1 1799 acquired by Taylor for Reuben Rose’s service for 3 years as a private in the Virginia continental line – heir of Reuben, Feb. 7, 1802
  • Warrant 4903 for 100 acres William Plunkett Aug. 13 1799 acquired by Taylor, heir of James Feb 7 1800, for James Plunkett service for 3 years as private on Virginia line
  • Warrant 4899 for 100 acres Martin Holloways Aug. 1, 1799 acquired by Taylor Feb. 7, 1800
  • Warrant 4905 for 666 2/3 acres John Nelson Aug. 2, 1799 acquired by Taylor Feb. 7, 1800
  • Total acres 1766 2/3

The property was surveyed Feb. 20, 1800 and William Lytle acquired James Taylor’s interest in the property on June 24, 1802. A patent was issued to James Taylor, William Lytle and Robert Underwood on May 2, 1803. The property was then conveyed to David Miller and Abraham Miller administrators of the Philip J. Miller estate on Sept. 7, 1803 for $2000.

Tract 3791 was located in Warren County.

In August or September of 1799, Philip Jacob Miller died in Campbell Co., KY, before he could complete his land purchase transaction. His widow, Magdalena, lived until 1808.

An agreement was made by his heirs and children as to the disposition of the two tracts of land Philip had purchased. In an agreement dated December 19, 1799, the heirs decided to divide the 2000 acres into ten 200 acre parcels with John Ramsey and Theophilus Simonton acting as appraisers and administrators. They were to draw lots as to who received which parcel. Magdalene Miller Cripe elected to take her share in cash. In order to equalize the draw for those heirs at the last of the drawing, the following procedure was used:

  • The 10th lot was to pay $55 to the 4th
  • The 7th lot was to pay $38 to the second lot.
  • The 6th lot was to pay $33 to the 3rd lot
  • The 8th lot was to pay $28 to the first lot
  • The 9th lot was to pay $24 to the 5th

As it was in the dead of winter, the survey would have to wait until spring. On Feb. 8, 1800, entry 3790 was made for 1766 2/3 acres. On Feb. 20, 1800 the survey was made with David Miller and Jacob Snyder as chain carriers and Abraham Miller as marker. Sons David and Abraham were the executors of Philipp Jacob Miller’s estate. The survey being completed, the agreement was finalized and signed and recorded on March 29, 1800. The patent was not issued until the later part of 1803 and the heirs received their parcels during the years 1805 through 1809 as they settled into the region to receive their land.  Miller 51

Clermont County, Ohio

Excerpt from “The Brethren Encyclopedia”:

In 1796 Philip J. Miller moved to Campbell Co., KY, where he died in 1799. Members of his family were charter members of the Stonelick, OH, congregation in 1802. Later some family members (Daniel and David) moved into Montgomery Co., OH. Philip’s daughter Magdalene married Daniel Cripe, who was a leader in the southern Ohio church and later established the congregation in Elkhart Co., Indiana (1829).

While Philip Jacob Miller lived in Campbell County, KY on the south side of the Ohio River, Daniel Miller made his way 50 miles or so north into Ohio, winding up on the Clermont County border with Warren County.

While we know that Daniel Miller did wind up in Clermont County, there is one piece of evidence that suggests he may have lived in Kentucky near Philip Jacob Miller for at least a short time.

History of the Church of the Brethren of the Southern District of Ohio, 1920, p 509

When [Daniel was] eighteen months old (middle of 1799), his father (Stephen, son of Daniel, son of Philip Jacob Miller) built a raft on the Ohio River and floated down the stream to Kentucky, where they landed and lived for a while in that state. They, then, moved to Clermont County, Ohio. They next moved to Montgomery County, Ohio, where Daniel’s father (Stephen) in 1816, built the first frame house in Jackson Township.

Extracted from the History of the Church of the Brethren of the Southern District of Ohio, published originally in 1916, reprinted in 2007, page 50 – regarding the organization of Stonelick Church in Clermont County:

The following persons are remembered as being members at or soon after the final organization of the Stonelick Church in 1802: John Garver and wife, Abraham Miller, Catherine Miller, David Miller, Magdaline Miller, Stephen Miller and wife, Frederick Weaver, Elizabeth Wever, Mathias Maugans, David Bowman and wife, Joseph Myers and wife, Michael Custer and wife, Stephen Miller Jr., Lewis Caudle and wife, Gabriel Karns and wife, Jonas Bowman, Lydia Belar, Catharine Gray, Arthur McNeal and wife, Rachael Frybarger, Sarah Stouder, Sarah Binkley, Daniel Miller and wife, Daniel Replogle and wife, Jacob Metzger and wife, Esther Maugans and Daniel Maugans and wife. The first deacons included Daniel Miller. Daniel Miller was also a minister.

Magdalina was the wife of David Miller. However, Magdalena was also the widow of Philip Jacob Miller who died in 1808. Elizabeth was the wife of Daniel Miller. Abraham and Stephen were brothers to David and Daniel Miller, and all were sons to Philip Jacob Miller, deceased and Magdalena Miller.

Daniel Miller became known as the Elder Daniel Miller when he was ordained a minister in the O’Bannion Church in Clermont County, Ohio in about 1797. The O’Bannion, Obannon and Stonelick Churches are one and the same, according to the Brethren historian and minister, Merle Rummel.

What does it mean to be a Brethren Elder? From an article by Wayne Diehl titled “Miller Connections”:

What did it mean to be an Elder in the Brethren Church? “There were three levels of leadership within the church: the deacon, frequently considered the first step in the ministry in the nineteenth century: the preacher, who was frequently called a teacher; and the elder or bishop.

The deacons and preachers were elected by the vote of the local congregation, while the elders were ordained “after they have been fully tried and found faithful.”

An elder is, in general, the first or eldest chosen teacher in the congregation where there is no bishop: it is the duty of the elder to keep a constant oversight of that church by whom he is appointed as a teacher. It is his duty to appoint meetings, to baptize, to assist in excommunication, to solemnize the rites of matrimony, to travel occasionally, to assist the bishops, and in certain cases to perform all the duties of a bishop.

The O’Bannion Church was the first Brethren Church north of the Ohio on the old Indian Trail north from Bullskin Landing, the location where people landed and unloaded those flatboats.

The old log O’Bannon Church Building (c1823) was at the Stoddard (Stouder) Cemetery, shown below, about a mile east of the south edge of Goshen – so these families were in the immediate Church area, according to Merle Rummell, Reverend and Brethren Historian.

Stouder Cemetery

Daniel and David Miller didn’t wait on their inheritance of land from Philip Jacob Miller, but bought their own and lived at 132 and Woodville Pike, in the lower left hand corner of the map above.

Merle Rummell tells us the following:

Gabriel Karns lived about a mile on east of the Millers, on Manila Pike, the old Indian Road. Daniel Miller was put into the ministry at the Obannion Church.

In eastern Ohio Territory, the land back from the River was not good farmland. It was Appalachia Hills that crowded the River. David Horne travel 60 miles up the Muskingum River to the Forks of the Licking at the new Zane Trace, before he found land. John Countryman left the Massie Fort at Three Islands (now Manchester OH) and went 30 miles up the Ohio Brush Creek till he found farmland. It was at the Little Miami River, just before Cincinnati where the Brethren stopped at good farmland along the Indian Trace, the Obannon Church.

The Bullskin Landing was a goal for the Brethren migration down the Ohio River by flatboat. It was probably the best landing on the river, being a sunken valley back into the Ohio Hills.

Bullskin creek

Bullskin Creek is flooded by the Ohio River for half a mile back from the River, a wide valley opening. It was the first major landing for Ohio River flatboats above Fort Washington (Cincinnati). Here the flatboat was protected, off the river, with easy unloading facilities.

Most of the settlers on the New Frontier were frontier folk from the Old Frontier, very few were from the Settled East. The River brought them from Old Fort Redstone (now Union and Brownsville, PA), Brothers Valley and Washington Co. PA in the west; from Penns Valley, Brush Valley and Northumberland Co., PA in the north; from the Conococheague and Middletown Valley, MD; from Morrison’s Cove, Cambria Co. and the Juniata Valley, PA. The Kanawha Trace brought them from the Carolina settlements on the Yadkin; from Franklin and Floyd Counties and the lower Valley of Virginia.

These areas were the Old Frontier. It showed in the type of people who came, in their self-reliance and independent thought. They didn’t just accept being told something was true, they tried it out for themselves, and used it. They had to, or they died on the frontier. They were not stupid, while some were illiterate, most could read their Bible – maybe a Berleburg Bible, some read Greek. The Brethren knew what the Bible said, and lived it. They were definitely Brethren, and they took their Brethrenism with them, making a real Christian witness to their neighbors!

South of Goshen, came first David Miller, then his brother, Daniel. Daniel was put into the ministry there about 1798. The first minister was Elder John Garver, from Stony Creek in Brothers Valley, Pennsylvania, by way of Virginia, to North Carolina, to Kentucky. In 1805 he moved to the Donnels Creek Church, up the Indian Road. By tradition, the founding of the Obannon Baptist Church was 1795 by Elder David Stouder. He seems to have come over from Kentucky, and by research, may be the David Stover near Limestone, probably from the Log Union Church. This was the beginnings of the Obannon Church, but these families weren’t allowed to stay.

These were the Bounty Lands, claimed by Virginia as payment for service to their Veterans of the Revolution. Government survey of the lands began in 1802, and it did not matter to the Government or the surveyors if people already lived on these lands, if there were homes built and fields cleared. That the Dunker custom often included getting title from the Indians to homesteads gave them no claim to their lands in the eyes of the surveyor or state. Legally, they were squatters. There was no appeal for their claim to the land, all they could do was leave. They moved north, beyond the Bounty Lands, to the little Village of Dayton. Their move was easy, they went up the Indian Trace. From Little’s Bounty Lands Survey (1802) we have been able to identify the adjoining farms of David and Daniel Miller, they were surveyed as cleared lands.

Now other Brethren families came to Bullskin Landing. These were the second line of Brethren, moving west from the Old Frontier lands in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia or Carolina, and some moved up from the churches in Kentucky. They used Bounty claims to get land, Bountys purchased back home, by self or through kin, from those who had no wish to leave for the west. The families at Obannon were mostly from Maryland and Pennsylvania: Binkley, Cripe, Grossnickle, Frey, Karns, Maugans, Miller, Moler, Pringle, Stouder; Elder John Garver and Frederick Weaver as ministers. Stonelick was a meeting house of the Obannon Congregation. This was good farmland, but it was a heavy clay and many Brethren soon moved north to better lands on the Great Miami headwaters near Dayton Ohio, where they remain strong today.

From Troy Goss’s site:

Right around the time that Daniel moved to Preble (this is an error, it was Montgomery) County, Daniel and David purchased plots from Ohio land magnate William Lytle (1770-1813), in Clermont County, on May 9, 1801. Daniel’s lot measured 100 acres (91 poles by 177 poles [1501.5′ by 2,920.5′]) for $200 and David’s, a triangular 204 acres, he bought for $400. [Deed 1801] Daniel’s plot lie between Captain William Barret’s survey (Virginia Military Reserve Survey Tract 710) to the north and David’s triangular tract to the south.

Daniel Miller Barrett MS 170

On this map from the Clermont County GIS system, Barrett MS 710 is in the upper left region in Goshen Township, where the G is located.

Troy continues:

The lot is estimated to lie to the south of Smith Road, paralleling Ohio State Route 28 (perhaps referred to as “Goshen Road,” as noted above) about 840 feet to the northwest, and up to the intersection of Smith Road and Fay Road (believed to be the southern corner of Survey 710,) shown on the maps below. Daniel and Elizabeth sold this property on April 28, 1809, to Alexander Hughey for $600, tripling what they paid for it eight years earlier. Daniel and Elizabeth were noted as living in Montgomery County at the time.  If this is correct, Daniel’s land would be in the area, shown below.

Daniel Miler 28, Smith, Fay

The corner of Barrett’s 710 is reported to be the corner of Smith Road and 28, shown above and below.

Daniel Miller Barrett land Clermont satellite

Along Smith Road, the land is much like it was 200+ years ago.  The area along 28 is sporadically developed, with homes and businesses fronting 28, so Smith Road is much more authentic to the time Daniel lived there.

Daniel Miller Clermont Smith Road field

After Daniel’s death, his heirs sold the 200-acre lot in Hamilton Township, Warren County, that he inherited from his father, to nephew-in-law Benjamin Eltzroth for $500. [Deed 1828]

There is a slightly different location for Daniel’s land provided by Merle:

Elder Daniel Miller and his brother David owned adjacent tracts of 200 and 100 acres about 2 miles south of Goshen, Ohio, on the northwest corner of OH132 and Woodville Pike – in the O’Bannon Church area.

 This area is shown on the map below, today.

David and Daniel Clermont land map

David and Daniel’s land is shown, beginning at this intersection of Ohio 132 and Woodville Pike.

David and Daniel Clermont land

Here’s a map of the two locations.  As you can see they are a little over a mile apart, not far from Goshen.

Daniel Miller map possible land locations

David and Daniel Miller’s land as reported by Merle is shown below in relation to the location of the Stonelick Brethren Church today.

David Miller Clermont

I would like to resolve this discrepancy and have contacted the GIS (Geogaphic Information Systems) Department in Clermont County to see if they have a map with the various military surveys overlaid over the current roads and landmarks.

They were very kind and sent the following map, showing Barrett’s survey 710 as well as an inset for 132 and Woodville Pike.

Daniel Miller Barrett GIS

Additional deed work, either running Daniel’s deeds backwards to the military survey, or forward to current, could probably pinpoint the exact location of Daniel’s land in Clermont County.  Regardless of exactly where he lived, we know he was very closely involved with the O’Bannion, now Stonelick Church.

Stonelick church today

The Stonelick covered bridge, shown below, now closed and undergoing renovation is located near the Stonelick Brethren Church, above, where several of Philip Jacob’s children, including Daniel, were founders.  For Daniel, this church would have held a very special place in his heart, where he was called into the ministry.

Stonelick bridge

After living between 5 and 8 years in Clermont County, the Miller clan would be on the move once again, this time to Montgomery County, Ohio.

Montgomery County, Ohio

The Ohio land office opened in 1801 and Ohio was admitted to the Union in 1803. It was about that time or shortly thereafter that Daniel Miller moved from Clermont to what would become Montgomery County, Ohio, at about the same time the state was admitted to the Union.

The government was trying to attract settlers to frontier areas by passing the Public Land Act where land could be purchased very cheaply. In 1804, the amount of land you could purchase was reduced to 160 aces from 320 acres, but the price was still $2 an acre.

We know that Daniel was in Montgomery County in 1804 because he was listed on the tax lists. He may not have been sure he wanted to stay, because he didn’t sell his Clermont County land until 1809. One of his sons could also have been farming that land as well. Daniel’s eldest son was born in 1775, so he had several sons of an age to farm.

From “Early Settlers of Montgomery Co Ohio”:

1804 Tax List:

  • Miller, David
  • Miller, Daniel
  • Miller, John Brown
  • Miller, John
  • Miller, James Sr
  • Miller, Jacob
  • Miller, James Jr

By 1805 some of the members of the Stonelick (Clermont County) group moved on to north of Dayton in Montgomery County. Magdalene Miller Cripe and Daniel Cripe moved in 1805 along with Daniel’s brothers John, Joseph and Samuel (Miami Valley Index, Lib. Of Congress, Wash DC).

In 1805, Daniel Miller was co-executor of the estate of Peter Gephart, along with the widow Catherine Gephart. David Miller, son of Daniel, married the widow, Catharine later in 1805.

In 1805, Daniel purchased land on Bear Creek in section 34, Twp 3 Range 5 in Jefferson Township (now Miami) on the east part of the section east of the creek. He purchased 150 acres. The 1806 tax list for Montgomery County also shows others living in that section were:

  • John Bowman Sr – 136 acres
  • John Bowman Jr – 100 acres
  • Daniel Bowser 75 acres
  • John Kripe – 50 acres
  • David Miller – 50 acres

Miller P 52

From the book “History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery Co., Ohio” by Rev. A.W. Drury, 1909.

Page 828 – December 9, 1829 Miami Township was formed. Parts were taken from Washington Twp. and Jefferson Twp. This township runs along the Miami river and includes her rich bottom lands. In 1788 the first exploration party was recorded, and in 1795 the first “road” cut to present day Dayton. Miamisburg is in this original township area. In 1797 Zachariah Hole settled and created Hole’s Station, several blockhouses to protect settlers from possible Indian attack.

The land in what would become Miami Township was all purchased early.

West of the Miami River in Township 2, range 5, Alexander Scott purchased sections 2 and 3, Oct. 19, 1802, William Emrick purchased section 4 Aug. 10, 1804 and G. Myers and P. Gephart purchased sections 9 and 10 on July 9, 1804. George Stettler purchased sections 15 and 16 on July 18, 1804. Samuel Tibbals purchased sections 21, 22, and 23 on Dec. 26, 1801. Arthur Vandevere purchased section 26, 27 and 28 Aug. 17, 1801. Jacob Miller purchased Township 3 range 5 sections 34, 35 and 36 in July 28, 1801. David Longhead purchased in Township 1 range 6 sections 19, 20, 29, and 30 on Dec. 28, 1803, The above descriptions include all of the land west of the Miami River, belonging to Miami township and also parts of sections 26, 27 and 28 lying south of the Montgomery Co line. Jacob Miller, named as one of the purchasers has special interest to us as he was the first Dunker preacher, settling within the limits of Montgomery Co.

It’s possible that the Elder Jacob Miller was involved in a bit of land speculation. Daniel Miller purchased his land from Jacob Miller. He probably felt that being a fellow Brethren, he could trust Jacob.

We don’t find Daniel on the 1806 or 1808 tax lists, but they may be incomplete. We do find him in 1809 and 1810. The 1810 tax list is particularly helpful because it includes a list of who entered the land patent for this land.

1810 Lands Recorded July 21, 1810

Proprietor’s Name Twp Range Twp Section By Whom Entered
Gephart, Peter (heirs) German 5 2 10 Note – more Gepharts
No Lentz
Miller, Aaron Jefferson 5 3 11 Jacob Miller
Miller, Daniel Dayton 6 2 30 D. Miller
Miller, Daniel Dayton 5 4 11 D. Miller
Miller, Daniel Jefferson 5 3 34 Jac. Miller
Miller, David Jefferson 5 3 11 Jacob Miller
Miller, David German 5 2 10
Miller, David Randolph 5 5 17
Miller, George German 4 4 26
Miller, Isaac Sr. Jefferson 5 3 7 Peter Weaver
Miller, James Wayne 6 3 33 Fryback and Miller
Miller, John Dayton 6 2 32 Jona Donnel
Miller, John German 4 4 27
Miller, Phillip Wayne 8 3 22 P. Short
Miller, Susannah Jefferson 5 3 29 John Miller

We know in the above tax list that Daniel’s son David is living in the same location as the Gephart land. David Miller married Peter Gephart’s widow in 1805. I also suspect that the Daniel and David who own adjacent land, both entered by Jacob Miller are our Daniel and his brother David, although I have no way to prove it. The Daniel in Dayton is Daniel (2) and the land owned by David in Randolph Twp. is Daniel’s brother, David. The Randolph Township land would be David’s last land purchase, as he was buried on that land in 1845.

1814 Tax List

Name Range T S Orig Patent
Dayton Twp
Daniel Miller 6 2 30 Self
Daniel Miller 6 4 11 Self
Daniel Miller 6 2 19 Self
Daniel Miller 6 2 29 Self
John Miller 6 2 25 Andrew Robinson
John Miller 6 2 15 John Neff
John Miller 6 2 15 John Neff
German Twp
David 5 2 9, 10 Moyer and Gephart
George Miller 4 4 26 Amos Higgins
Jacob Miller 4 4 30 Abraham Horner
John Brown 4 4 27 John Miller
John Carpenter 4 4 27 John Miller
Jefferson Twp
Daniel Miller 5 3 34 Jacob Miller
Elizabeth Miller 5 3 26 Bowser and Waggoner
Isaac Miller 5 3 7 Peter Weaver
Jacob Miller 5 3 11 Self
Peter Miller 5 3 36 Wm. Waggaman
Susanna Miller 5 3 29 John Miller
David Miller 5 5 13 John Miller
Randolph Twp
David Miller 5 5 17 John Miller
John Miller 5 5 17 John Miller
Michael Miller 5 5 17 David Miller

Montgomery County township map

On the Montgomery County map, above, you can see the various Township locations. While the portion of Miami where David Miller lived, German and Jefferson were located in the southern part of the County, on the west side of the Miami River, Randolph Township was located on the North side of the County. David, Daniel’s brother bought land in Randolph Township, and eventually, so did Daniel.

Jefferson Township butts up against both German and Miami Township and Daniel definitely bought land from Jacob Miller according to Montgomery County deeds, in Jefferson Township, the part of which later became Miami Township.

A review of the Daniel Miller deeds in Montgomery County shows us the following information:

Daniel Miller land

Daniel’s land in Jefferson Township was interesting, in particular, because in addition to being owned by Daniel for more than a decade, he also established a cemetery in that location. During that time, Daniel’s son, Daniel died in 1812 at the age of 33, with no sign of having married. It’s likely that Daniel buried his son on his land.

Daniel Miller land Bear Creek

The land that Daniel owned includes what is known as the Troxel Cemetery, named after the man Daniel sold it to who was also a neighbor. It was already a cemetery at the point that Daniel sold it, and it was undeveloped when Daniel bought the land from Jacob Miller who had not lived there but was engaged in land speculation – so that cemetery had to be the Daniel Miller cemetery. It may also have served other Brethren families in the area.

The burial records were obtained from the Salem’s Church in Ellerton.

There are only 14 known burials, the earliest of which was Christian Troxel, buried in May 1814, before Daniel sold the land, so it was apparently serving as a community cemetery.

Daniel Miller land Troxel

According to Find-A-Grave, this is the location of the Troxel Cemetery with the following cemetery notes and/or description:

This cemetery no longer exists. Only one stone remains. The cemetery was located between two fields and was destroyed to make access from one field to the other.

Daniel Miller land Troxel fields

If that is in fact accurate, there are a very limited number of places on this tract of land where the cemetery could have been located.  On the map above, the cemetery would be in the upper area where Bear Creek Road and the blue Bear Creek appear side by side, where the creek approaches the road.

I don’t think the Find-A-Grave location is exactly accurate, because the deed description when Daniel sold the cemetery to Troxel says that it is on the bank of Bear Creek, measured from the middle of the head race of the great mill, containing half an acre.  The Mill appears to be located approximately where the white roof building is today, so the cemetery would be right there as well.  The tree line across from the white roof building is the north end of Daniel’s property.

Daniel Miller cemetery and mill location

If the cemetery was destroyed for field access, the only location on the banks of Bear Creek with anything resembling fields was at this location.

Daniel Miller Bear Creek mill closeup

The succession of deeds confirms that Daniel Miller was indeed a miller in the truest sense of the word. His land included a mill, and given that his 1796 tax record in Bedford County also indicated that he had a mill, this would simply be a continuation of his livelihood. And who better to trust with your business than the local church elder?

This 1851 plat map shows Beck’s Mill where Daniel Miller once owned land on Bear Creek.

Daniel Miller 1851 Bear Creek

Using Google Maps and street view, I took a “drive” of the area where Daniel lived.

Daniel Miller Bear Creek distant

Daniel’s property began as the field line below South Union Road on Bear Creek Road. The mill must have been on the far north side of Daniel’s property, just about 500 feet south of the intersection of South Union Road and Bear Creek Road, where homes are located today, based on the 1851 map and the deeds referencing the cemetery, which was clearly very close to the property line as well.  You can see Daniel’s property line on the current map today, shown below.

Daniel Miller Bear Creek mill location

From the bridge on South Union Road, we can see Bear Creek. This is looking south towards Daniel’s land.

Daniel Miller Bear Creek view

Driving south of Bear Creek, we follow the road through Daniel’s land, but the creek is obscured by trees on the right.

Daniel Miller corn fields

Daniel’s land is growing fine crops of corn. As a farmer, he would be very pleased.

Daniel Miller home place

Based on the 1851 map, and the lay of the land, I’m sure this is the old homeplace. Some of these structures could have been Daniels. Perhaps his original house is “inside” one of these homes today. This hill is the highest elevation on the property, and Bear Creek is right across the road, so Daniel clearly built where he was least likely to be flooded.

Daniel Miller farm

It’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that at least one of these barns was Daniels.

Daniel Miller farmscape

This land probably hasn’t changed much in the last 200 years. It was exactly 200 years ago that Daniel sold this land.  What an incredibly beautiful Americana farmscape.

Daniel (2) of Dayton

There is a second Daniel Miller on the Montgomery County tax lists that lived in what would become the City of Dayton. That isn’t our Daniel, and these two Daniel Millers have been confused for years. I spent a lot of time when I initially began researching Daniel Miller in Montgomery County barking up the wrong tree.

Gale Honeyman wonders if this Daniel Miller is also related to Philip Jacob Miller, perhaps through an unknown son of Johann Michael Miller. That’s certainly a possibility, especially with an association with the Ullery family. If a male Miller descendant of this Daniel Miller ever decides to take a Y DNA test, we’ll know immediately if Daniel (2 )descends from the same line as either Johann Michael Mueller/Miller or the Elder Jacob Miller.

Extracted from the History of the Church of the Brethren of the Southern District of Ohio, published originally in 1916, reprinted in 2007:

P 93 – The south line of Lower Stillwater was finally established along the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad from Trotwood south-east to what is now called Gettysburg Avenue: thence south a half mile and east to Miami River. This detour was made to include the lands of an early settler who needs more than passing mention. Upon a marble slab erected in the family cemetery on this farm this inscription appears:

“Daniel Miller Sr. Emigrated from Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, 1804, to this place where he died January 24, 1849. Aged 83 years, 8 months and 19 days.”

His wife Susan, was a sister of Elder David Bowman, Sr. She died December 10, 1851. When they landed at Dayton its oldest house had been built 8 years. They made their way up Wolf Creek Valley by the men going ahead and cutting away trees and vines for passage and taking possession of Section 30, three miles west of Dayton, but now adjoining the corporation. The encroachment of the city caused the removal of their remains to Fort McKinley, where their monuments now stand.

They raised to maturity 4 sons, namely: Benjamin (Elizabeth Bowser), Daniel (Susan Oliver), John (Anna Winger Sollenberger), Joseph (Catherine Funderburg) and 7 daughters: Mary who married Samuel Ullery and died leaving a daughter Susan who married David Beeghly. Elizabeth married Moses Shoup of Beaver Creek Church, Susan married Joseph Etter, Esther married Isaac Long, Margaret married Abraham Denlinger, St., Catherine married Jacob Wolf, Sarah married John Denlinger, Sr.

Indeed, there is quite a bit of information about Daniel (2), extracted from several source, including the following by Carolyn T. Denlinger:

In late 1802 or early 1803, Daniel Miller came from Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania to prospect for land. In Harrison township in Montgomery County, he found a squatter by the name of Billy Mason who had built his cabin and cleared some land in 1800, the first squatter in Harrison Twp. Daniel Miller liked the land which lay along the Wolf Creek and he bought it from Mason. The US patent for this plot was granted to him on Feb 11 1804 above the signature of President Thomas Jefferson. Miller then returned to Pa. and brought his wife and family back to Ohio.

In 1808 a large brick dwelling was erected on a rise overlooking the Wolf Creek. This house is still standing at 3525 Dandridge Avenue and is registered as a Historic Site.

Daniel Miller 2 home

In 1804 or 1805 Miller built a saw and grist mill on Wolf Creek near his home. The grist mill was later equipped with a set of French Buhrs weighing approximately 1500 pounds each which were bought in Cincinnati. Millers Mill burned in 1825 or 26 but were rebuilt shortly thereafter.

Later he added a distillery and made large quantities of liquor. He and his sons made three trips down the Mississippi River to Natchez and New Orleans to sell the products of their labors. They did so well that Daniel Miller became the owner of a large amount of land ranging in estimates from several hundred acres to two thousand acres.

When Miller arrived in Montgomery county, it was necessary for him to cut a road through the forest to his land from Dayton which was only a tiny hamlet. This was the start of his involvement with the building of roads in the area. According to the road records of the Montgomery Co. engineers office, Daniel Miller was an active participant in the building of these roads: Liberty Road (1809), road from Dayton to New Lexington (1807), Wolf Creek Pike (1810), alteration to Wolf Creek Pike (1813), Western Avenue (1818) and other transactions. A Denlinger family tradition explains the crookedness of Wolf Creek Pike from Dayton to Trotwood this way: as the ancestors were clearing the forest to build the road, it was easier to go around the largest trees than to cut them down.

Daniel Miller’s wife was Susan Bowman, daughter of John Bowman Sr. and wife Esther (maiden name unknown). The Miller’s were the parents of ten children: Benjamin, John, Joseph, Betsy (m. Shoup), Susannah (m. Etter), Catharine (m Jacob B. Wolfe), Esther (m. Long), Margaret (m. Abraham Denlinger), Daniel Jr., Sarah (m John Denlinger). The Millers were devout members of the German Baptist Brethren Church. Their large brick home was built with removable partitions between the rooms so that worship services could be held there. The Annual Meeting of the denomination for the whole country was held at Millers Crossing in 1884.

Daniel Miller lived a long, eventful and prosperous life. He saw Montgomery County change from dense forest to a populous area and he played a prominent part in that development. He died in 1849, his wife in 1851. Both were buried near their home, but the encroachment of the city necessitated their removal to the Ft. McKinley Cemetery on Free Pike.

Fortunately, between being geographically separate along with this additional information, we have enough to separate the two earliest Daniel Millers found in Montgomery County.

Daniel Miller (1) as Executor

In 1805, Daniel Miller was appointed executor of Peter Gephart’s estate.

Daniel’s son, David, would marry Peter’s widow, Catharina Gephart in late 1805.

Montgomery Co. Administrations, Wills and Guardians 1805-1850:

Peter Gephart of German Twp administrators Catherine Gephart and Daniel Miller, security John Bowman and Zachariah Hole, Jan. 4, 1805 #12 p 19

Elizabeth Gephart 8 years and John Gephart 5 years, heirs of Peter Gephart decd, guardian Valentine Gephart and Mathaias Rigal, Aug 26,1806 #29 p 41

In May 1810, Daniel Miller as executor of Peter Gephart’s estate, Catherina Miller as his former wife and the mother of his 2 children, and David Miller as her current husband and guardian of her two Gephart children, petition the court and explain how Peter Gephart and Philip Moyer divided land they bought together.

At the August 1816 court session, Betsey Gephart 10 (age is incorrect) and John 15, heirs of Peter Gephart chose Peter Barta guardian. Security George Parsons and James Chatham.

In 1810, Daniel Miller was also the administrator of the estate of one John Miller of Jefferson Township along with widow Susannah and John Mikesell. We really don’t know who this John was, but given the 1790 census, it’s a distinct possibility that John Miller was a son of Daniel’s brother, David. David has two unexplained males on the 1790 census where he is known to have only female children at that time. John was a farmer and had an extensive estate.

Daniel Miller 1810 exec

In 1813, Daniel serves as an appraiser of the estate of his neighbor, Daniel Bowser, along with the English Brethren minister, Samuel Boltin. 

Daniel Miller 1813 appraiser

Given that Daniel Bowser was Daniel Miller’s neighbor, I wonder if Daniel Bowser is buried in the cemetery on Daniel Miller’s land.

Based on this entry from Montgomery Co. Administrations, Wills and Guardians 1805-1850, it appears that Daniel Miller might well have served once more as an administrator for Adam Miller, although I don’t know who Adam is.

Page 30 – Adam Miller, administrators Daniel and John (Johannes) Miller. Securities Michael Hagar and Adam Weaver?, July 1821. Adam died in June and paperwork within the estate packet indicate he owned land in Dayton Township.

Daniel Miller 1821 exec

In 1822, just 5 months before he died, it looks like Daniel was a witness in another estate for Jacob Ullery, probably related to Daniel’s wife.

34 – Jacob Ullery will Book A p 228 exec David Miller and Samuel Stutzman witnesses David and Daniel Miller, wife Susannah, children Daniel, Jacob, John, Mary, Susannah, Lydia, Cathy. March 4, 1822.

Moving On Up, to the North Side

When Daniel first arrived in Montgomery County, he bought land in Jefferson Township in the southern part of the county, along the Miami River bottomlands.

In 1814, according to the tax list, Daniel Miller is still farming the same land, but in 1815, that would change when Daniel sells that land and buys land in Randolph Township, closer to his brother David and very close to the Happy Corner Church, then known as the upper house of Lower Stillwater.

May 27, 1815 – Daniel Miller to Michael Hoovler $2980 section 34 Twp 3 range 5 begin at Abraham Troxel SE corner…D. Bowser corner…meandering to John Bowman’s and Abraham Troxels…149.5 acres. Signed by Daniel Miller, Elizabeth Miller her mark. Witness Philip Mikesell, A. Troxel. Elizabeth releases dower.

May 27, 1815 – Daniel Miller to Abraham Troxel, $20, section 34 Twp 3 range 5, on the Bank of Bear Creek south of the mill N 25 degrees west 7 chains 81 links to post then west one chain and 25 links to the middle of the head race of the great mill, then south 43 degrees east 8 chains and 80 links to beginning containing half an acre. Daniel Miller signed, witnesses Philip Mikesell and George Hoobler – Jefferson Township

This deed of sale tells us that there was a mill on Daniel’s property. This is the only record of that mill, with the exception of the 1851 plat map. The description of this cemetery suggests that it is between the road and the creek.

When Daniel bought this land, it was bordered by the Troxel land, and he sold the cemetery to the Troxel family.  By this time, there was at least one Troxel burial in the cemetery – at least one where the stone remained a few years ago.

Daniel sold his interests in Sec 34 in Montgomery Co, on Bear Creek, selling his 150 acres for $3000 or $20 per acre, an increase of 10 times in a period of 8 years. Of course, he had built a mill. He paid $12 per acre for his new land in Randolph County.  Daniel seemed to be an astute businessman.

Sept. 1, 1815, William Farmer and Prudence his wife to Daniel Miller for $1689,12 section 26 Twp range 5 beginning at SW corner of the section…west boundary line of said section…140.76 acres. Witness Robert Russell and Archibald E. Mickle

Where did Daniel live between May and September of 1815? A receipt in his estate indicates that he hired Michael Wiltfong to assist him with looking for land. Apparently the land they found was what Daniel purchased in Randolph Township, although why Michael wasn’t paid until after Daniel’s death in 1822 is a mystery.

In 1817, the Public Land Act acreage reduced to 80 acres. Price still $2 an acre.

After Daniel’s death, his heirs straightened out the deed to his property.  He had clearly meant to take care of this before he died, another reason to think he died unexpectedly.

March 21, 1826 – David Miller administrator of Daniel Miller to Jacob Miller – Daniel Miller died seized of the SW quarter of section 26 Twp 5 range 5 and on August 22, 1820 sold 100 acres of north side of said quarter to Jacob for $1000 who is one of the sons and heirs of said Daniel who died intestate and without executing the deed to said Jacob. Some of Daniel’s heirs are underage. Court ordered the deed to be recorded. Signed by David and John Miller. Witnessed by Henry Stoddard and John Folkerth.

Received Dec 18, 1827 recorded Jan 1, 1838

On Sept. 24, 1834 John Miller of Miami County, Ohio filed in the court of pleas and quarter sessions against Stephen Miller, Jacob Miller, Samuel Miller, Abraham Miller, John Boogher and Elizabeth his wife, Daniel Miller, Samuel Miller, Abraham Miller, Daniel Cripe and Magdalena his wife, Nancy Miller, David Miller and Elizabeth Miller demanding partition of certain real estate here-in-after described. Heard at February court 1835. Real estate sold at public auction to Peter Hoffman for $500…40 acres off the south side of the SW quarter of section 26 Twp 5 range 5 lying south of and adjoining 100 acres part of said quarter with Daniel Miller deceased in his lifetime sold to his son Jacob Miller and since his death his administrators have conveyed by virtue of an order of the court February term 1826. Signed by the sheriff of Montgomery County, James Brown and witness Abraham Barnett and David John.

This is the 40 acres with a home built in 1832 that stands today. Elizabeth did not die until October 1832, so it’s at least feasible she had the home built.

Daniel originally owned a total of 140 acres in Randolph Township. In 1820 he sold 100 acres to son Jacob, but the deed was never filed. Daniel’s heirs filed it in 1826. Part of the condition of that sale was that Jacob give up his interest in the balance of the 40 acres which may have included the Daniel Miller homeplace. However, according to Daniel’s estate paperwork, he may well not have been living there at the time he died, given that a receipt to son John indicates that he moved from “Stillwater.”

Jacob Miller owned his 100 acres at least as late as 1851 according to the plat map.

The 1851 Montgomery County plat map, Randolph Township section 26 still shows Jacob Miller.

Daniel Miller 1851 Randolph

The 1827 tax lists from Montgomery County show a listing in Randolph Township for “The heirs of Daniel Miller” for tax on 40 acres of land located at Range 5, Township 5, section 26. That land is located on a later plat map, still configured as a 40 acre farm, having not been split, shown below, with the 10 acres showing above. The upper house of Lower Stillwater, now Happy Corner Brethren Church is located about a mile to the west, just past the fruit farms, visible on the corner.

Daniel Miller 1851 Randolph 40 acres

Given this information, it’s not terribly difficult to find this land today using Google maps.

Daniel Miller Old Salem Road

On this map, Daniel’s land in Randolph Township is at the red balloon, and the Happy Corner Church, then the upper house of Lower Stillwater is located at the intersection of North Union and Old Salem Road about a mile west.

Daniel Miller Randolph google

I found the land at 3705 Old Salem Rd Dayton, OH 45415, and immediately became very excited because I was just sure I saw an old cemetery, at the green arrow.

As luck would have it, my husband wandered into my office and announced that he had to go to Cincinnati the following day.  We live in Michigan, so he had to drive through Dayton. He probably wondered why I was so excited about him leaving for a business trip, and maybe a tad bit confused.  When I asked him to go to that location where I thought the cemetery might be, he thought I had lost my mind. I asked him to take a picture, and if the owners were home, to talk to them. He discovered that it isn’t a cemetery, but a garden, created by the current owners, and he also discovered that the original farmhouse actually still stands two structures away, to the east. It pays to talk to current owners.

Daniel Miller Randolph house

Was this Daniel Miller’s house? It’s certainly possible. This address is 3625 Old Salem Road. Realtor listings tell us this home was built in 1832. If they are accurate, this wasn’t Daniel’s, at least not the original home, although the original could be underneath.  The realtor’s date may not be accurate either.

Daniel Miller Randolph house 2

However, Elizabeth lived until in 1832, so the family could have potentially built this for her. I surely would love to know if there is a log cabin under this structure. I also wonder if these trees were growing when Daniel lived there.

Maybe I need to send my husband back to talk to these owners!

Daniel Miller Randolph house close

Daniel owned one more piece of land not recorded above. In 1820, he received a land grant and based on the Land Grant Act, he would have paid $2 per acre or a total of $320 for 160 acres.

Daniel Miller land grant

This is the land Daniel’s estate was paying tax on in Darke County.

On April 27, 1829 after the snows were thawed, John Miller the SE ¼ of section 8, Twp 9 Range 4 in Adams Twp, Darke Co., 160 acres. This was formerly owned by John’s father, Daniel Miller and is the 1820 land grant. It was purchased from the heirs for $200. Earlier on Nov. 13, 1816, David Miller, John’s father-in-law (and Daniel’s brother) had obtained a patent for 160 acres on Section 7 Twp 9, range 4 in Adams Twp. This land later went to David’s heirs. There is a Miller cemetery located on Daniel’s property. It is located in the corner of the SE quarter and the section line of 7 and 8 passes on the west side of the cemetery. It is fenced but not taken care of. The stones are no longer standing. Inscriptions were takin in 1966.

Darke County Common Pleas Court, July term 1829: Stephen, Jacob, David, John, Abraham Miller, John Booker & Betsy his wife vs. Samuel, Daniel, Magdalena, Nancy, David & Betsy Miller. Petition for partition. Land described as SE 1/4 section 8, Town 9, Range 4, Darke County OH. That Daniel Miller, late of Montgomery County OH, died seized of the above described land and that he left 8 heirs to which land descends, to wit: Stephen, Jacob, David, John, Abraham, Betsy, along with Samuel Miller who resides in Montgomery County OH and who is deaf and dumb and also Isaac Miller who died leaving as his heirs at law: Daniel age about 14, Nancy age about 10, David age about 8, Betsy age about 6 & Magdalena aged about 12. Said minor heirs of Isaac Miller, dec’d, reside in Miami County OH. That Jacob has since relinquished his claim because of advancements made by his father to him, in his lifetime. Widow of Daniel Miller, Dec’d relinquishes her right to dower [she is not named]. above described land sold to John Miller. Chancery Book B-1, p 277

Daniel Miller Darke County

The map above shows the location of the Miller Cemetery on this land, and the FindAGrave entry below.

Daniel Miller Darke FindAGrave

I have never before had an ancestor who owned two pieces of land that included cemeteries, and him not be buried in either.

Gale Honeyman at the Brethren Heritage Center informed me of additional land patents, although there is no record of our Daniel selling this land, nor of his estate paying taxes for this land, so these patents could be for one of the other Daniels (2 or 10) in Montgomery County, including Daniel #1’s son, Daniel who died in 1812, although there is no Montgomery County estate for him. This is the most likely possibility since the word “Jr.” is attached to one of the patents. They could also have been sold directly and never registered, so we’ll likely never know which Daniel these belonged to.  There is no record of a Daniel Miller selling these lands in Montgomery County.

Daniel Miller of Montgomery County OH had two land patents in Perry Twp, Montgomery County in section 36 on 19 Jul 1804 and section 11 on 15 Aug 1804. Daniel Miller Jr. of Montgomery County obtained a patent in the same Twp for section 19 on 20 Aug 1805. Early Ohio Settlers, Purchasers of Land in Southwestern Ohio, 1800-1840, 1986, Ellen T. Berry & David A. Berry, p 223. Section 11 is 4 miles from the Preble County line and section 36 is 5 miles from the line.

Daniel’s Death

Daniel died on August 22, 1822. We can presume from a couple of different pieces of evidence that Daniel was not ill before he died, and may have died rather unexpectedly. Daniel had just celebrated his 67th birthday. By today’s standards, that isn’t old at all, and he was clearly still very active and involved.

First, Daniel was building something and had apparently recently moved.

Second, Daniel had no will, suggesting he did not expect to die.

Third, Daniel, apparently, did not die at home, and he may have passed rather unexpectedly.

Fourth, Daniel never registered the deed to his son Jacob from the time he sold Jacob 100 acres of the home place on August 22, 1820 until his death 2 years and 4 days later.  Had he thought he was gravely ill, he would have registered that deed.

Ohio was ravaged by illness between 1820 and 1823, as is told in the following excerpt from the book, “The Midwest Pioneer, His Ills, Cures and Doctors” by Madge Pickard and R. Carlyle Buley published in 1946, page 14:

In Ohio, too, generally prevailed the most distressing sickness and great mortality, particularly from bilious fevers and cholera morbus.

Said James Kilbourne, prominent Ohio journalist and legislator:

“Respecting the healthfulness of this country, I have to repeat that it is in fact sickly in a considerable degree.” He reported the presence in 1800 of bilious fever which returned with more violence the following year: “Almost all were sick, both in towns and country, so that it became difficult, in many instances, to get tenderers for the sick. In many instances whole famihes were down at a time and many died. What seems strange to me is that the Indians who were natives of the country are as subject to the disorder as the whites. Of the few who remain in the territory some are now sick with it and they say it has always been so, and that they have often been obliged to move back from the meadows and bottoms where they always lived, into the woods and uplands during the sickly season to escape it.”

The autumn of 1819 in Ohio was particularly bad along the Scioto River bottoms, “whence deleterious exhalations arise.” “The angel of disease and death, ascending from his oozy bed, along the marshy margin of the bottom grounds . . . floats in his aerial chariot, and in seasons favorable to his prowess, spreads mortal desolation as he flies,” mourned the Portsmouth Scioto Telegraph in 1820. In 1821, “even in the memory of the oldest Indian, so unhealthy a season was never known here before,” reported the Piqua Gazette. Of the one hundred sixty-five thousand people in the seventeen counties within a radius of fifty miles of Columbus, more than one-half were sick in September, 1823. “The most extravagant imagination can hardly picture desolation greater than the reality.”

Ironically, the mystery surrounding Daniel’s death and where he is, or was, buried in one of the most profound of his life.

And I must admit, it’s driving me crazy.

Let me first share with you what we do know.

Because Daniel did not have a will, his estate was involved and generated a lot of paperwork, which still exists today. That’s the wonderful news.

Daniel’s Estate

Montgomery Co. Administrations, Wills and Guardians 1805-1850:

Page 34 – Daniel Miller will probated Sept. 23, 1822. Security John Becher and Stephen Miller, admins David and John Miller

After Daniel died, David Miller, John Miller, John Becher and Stephen Miller are all four bound as securities for David and John Miller as administrators of Daniel’s estate. There is also a receipt where Daniel Miller promises to pay Henry Marquet $7 on January 22, 1822, not long before he died. This receipt contains Daniel’s signature and is the first signature of Daniel’s I found. Today, there are a few more.

Daniel Miller 1822 signature

Daniel’s estate receipts include tax documents for taxes in Darke Co in 1822, 23 and 24, along with Montgomery Co. It also includes a charge in March 1822 for “moving him from Stillwater” and in August for hauling one load for him on Twin. Then another entry for tax in Darke Co. in 1828 and 1829 and also in Montgomery.  The taxes in both Darke County and Montgomery County are for the land we knew that he owned, so no surprises there.  Had he owned additional land, his estate assuredly would be paying taxes on that land.

Surprisingly, there are also receipts relating to the estate of Peter Gephart. Daniel was the administrator of that estate, beginning in 1805. The last child had already come of age, so this must have simply been the final “cleanup,” although Elizabeth Gephart’s husband, William Hipple filed suit against the estate, then dropped the suit. All may not have been entirely friendly.

Samuel Studebacher filed a bill for 2750 bricks at $4 per thousand.

If Daniel had built a house outside of Montgomery County, there would have been land taxes on an additional property, and his estate would have been filed in the county where he lived when he died. Clearly, he died in Montgomery County. But what and where was he building?

Daniel’s estate sale was held September 22, 1822 and the following people purchased items. Note that the purchasers all seem to be family. Johannes Bucher was his son-in-law, married to his daughter Elizabeth. His widow seems to have purchased only one thing. John was his son who bought the family Bible and subsequently took it with him to Elkhart County, Indiana.

Who What $ Cents fractions
John Bugher One stove 20
Abraham Miller One sattle 14
Abraham Miller Two axes 4 61
Steven Miller One chorn 4
Steven Miller One box of sundry articles 2 25
Abraham Miller One mans sattle 2
Samuel Miller One clowiny? Knife 1 56 2/4
Abraham Miller One cut of augers 2 18 ¼
Abraham Miller Chisels 1 81 ¼
David Miller One hand saw 1
John Miller Shackers? forge and hoes 2 50
Jacob Miller One tin and cobs sheet 1 06 ¼
Steven Miller Tin cups and funnel 37 ½
Abraham Miller Holter chain 1 61 ½
Jacob Miller Halter chain 50
Abraham Miller Lot of sundry articles 3 12 ½
John Bucher Col and books 1 38
Abraham Miller Bale and square 1 62 ½
Steven Miller One gross snet 1 6 1/9
David Miller One smelting lien? 87 ½
Stephen Miller One bair skin 75
Abraham Miller One mattik 2 61 ¼
Abraham Miller Waking can (walking cane?) 1
Steven Miller One stovel 25
David Miller Chaier and lasts 1 81 ¼
Steven Miller One bar of iron 2 55
Steven Miller Crout cutter 62 ½
Steven Miller Hors geers 9 75
Jacob Miller Hors geers 4 25
John Miller Hors geers 1 75
Chraha Miller Two bridles 1 6 ¼
John Miller One bible 44
David Miller Set of crocks 75
Abraham Miller One bottle 37 ½
David Miller One chisel 2
Abraham Miller One had? 19
Steven Miller One barrel of whiskey 6
Abraham Miller One brittle 85 ½
Steven Miller One hogsherd 1 37
Jacob Miller Bort mantle 68 ¼
Elisabeth Miller One mans saddle 5
Steven Miller One mare 58
Steven Miller One ink stand 86
Abraham Miller One stove 33
Steven Miller One crosscut saw 8
Steven Miller One grind stone 6 25
John Miller One crosscut 7
Steven Miller One logogars?? 5
David Miller Shab skin and heb stubs 25
John Bugher Cantle mats 43 ¼
Jacob Miller One dony? (dung?) Fork 87 ½
Jacob Miller One hamer 1
John Bugher Two bags 25
John Bugher Pitch fork 50
Jacob Miller Two blains 50
John Bugher One pot 3
Jacob Miller One oven 75
Steven Miller One half bushel 62
Abraham Miller One rifel and pony? 13
Abraham Miller 30 bushels whet 15
John Miller 13 bushels whet 8 19
Abraham Miller 25 bushels corn 4 62
Jacob Miller 28 bushels of corn 5 25
John Bugher 24 bushels of oats 5 6
John Miller Sith an cratle?? 5 12 5
John Bugher 17 bushels of ray 3 56
Abraham Miller One lame (lamb?) 2 12 1
John Bugher Frying pay and spinning whele 2

Surprisingly, Daniel had a barrel of whiskey. Medicinal perhaps? That’s a lot of medicine.

I love the crout cutter.  He was truly still German.  But I must admit, I don’t know what a crout cuter looks like, so I turned to google to find out.

Daniel Miller kraut cutter

This kraut cutter is probably not as old as Daniel’s, but I’d wager that kraut cutters hadn’t changed much.  The cabbage was put into the wooden box (to preserve knuckles and fingers, I’m sure) which was then slid back and forth over the blades to shred the cabbage into small pieces.  Further reading discloses that the Germans would set this contraption on top of a large crock into which they shaved the cabbage and then added salt, allowing the cabbage to naturally ferment, turning the cabbage into sauerkraut.  Daniel had a set of crocks, which were probably used for making sauerkraut.

I do wonder about the “bair skin.”  We don’t really think of bear in Ohio today, but he did live on Bear Creek when the county was quite new.  Of course the skin could also have come from any of the other frontiers Daniel helped to forge.  I wish I knew the story behind that bear skin!

I love estate inventories.  They tell us so much about our ancestors.  Daniel had 3 saddles, but only one mare and pony.  He was obviously still farming, because he had oats, corn, wheat and probably rye.  Surprisingly, Daniel had no livestock except possibly for that lamb.  The shab skin may be a sheep skin.  Also surprisingly, Daniel didn’t have a wagon – a staple on every farm.  Nor did he have a buggy.  So how did Daniel and his wife get from place to place?  He may have ridden a horse, but surely she didn’t ride a horse to church.  Besides, they only had one horse.

This is what is shown in his estate packet, but I surely wonder if it is complete.  There also doesn’t seem to be enough kitchen gear.  Everything in the house was included, as the husband was considered to own everything.  The wife was provided for by having a right to one third of the proceeds, but still, everything was sold at auction unless she bid and the items were then deducted from her one third share.  In this case, Elizabeth, assuming this Elizabeth was the widow, only purchased one man’s saddle.

Daniel’s “simple” son, Samuel, who was often described as an “idiot,” meaning in the vernacular of that time, developmentally disabled, purchased his father’s knife.  I’m glad he was allowed to buy something.  From a later deed, we discover that he was actually “deaf and dumb,” so his mind may actually have been just fine, but he was unable to hear or communicate, sadly locked into his own world, out of ours and unable to provide for himself.  There are more instances of “deaf and dumb” children in later generations, especially where the Millers married their first cousins.

From the Book Montgomery Co. Ohio Common Pleas Law Record 1803-1849 by Rose Shilt and Audrey Gilbert:

David and John Miller admins of Daniel Miller decd, petition to convey land to Jacob Miller SW ¼ S 26 T5 and R5e agreement to sell to Daniel Miller decd, son Jacob 100 acres off N end of section. Heirs of Daniel Miller being Jacob, David, John, Stephen, Abraham, Samuel (who is an idiot) and Betsey Bugher wife of John Bugher all of age, also son Isaac Miller decd leaving 5 children being Daniel, Magdalena, David, Betsey, and Nancy, all minors.

The date right below this entry is May Term 1826, so this would be the term before that, probably Feb 1826.

From the Book Mont Co. Ohio, Chancery Records 1824-1854 by Rose Shilt:

In the Chancery court in the July term of 1835, Daniel’s estate in being heard in chancery. John Miller of Miami Co., vs Stephen, Jacob, Samuel and Abraham Miller, John Boogher and wife Elizabeth all of Montgomery Co, David Miller of Elkhart, Indiana, Daniel, Abraham 2nd and wife Magdalena, Nancy, David 2nd and Elizabeth Miller. Petition – Daniel Miller of Mont. Co decd owned 40 acres off S side Sw ¼ S26 T5 R4 adjoining 100 acres Daniel decd sold to his son Jacob Miller. Daniel Miller decd left 8 children, John, Stephen, Jacob, Samuel, Abraham Miller, Elizabeth wife of John Boogher of Mont. Co Ohio, David Miller of Elkhart Indiana, Isaac Miller late of Darke Co Ohio decd who left 5 children: Daniel Miller, Magdalena wife of Abraham Miller 2nd, Nancy and David Miller 2nd, and Elizabeth Miller, last 3 minors who reside in Elkhart, Indiana. Samuel Miller is an idiot and Jacob Miller his guardian and Jacob’s share forgeit according to terms of agreement for 100 acres leaving each 1/7th share. Sold to eter (is this supposed to be Peter) Hoffman. (page 1)

This petition is particularly important because if definitively connects David Miller of Elkhart County to Daniel, as well as Isaac from Darke County and his children.

From the book Court of Common Pleas 1803-1849, I found the following for Daniel Miller:

  • Page 22 – David and Daniel Miller petition to sell the Gephart land – as admins
  • Page 38 – Benjamin Miller assignee of Daniel Miller vs Robert Graham in debt
  • 39 – John Miller admin of Daniel Miller vs John Emrick debt
  • 41 – Gephart estate – Phillip and Jacob Gephart exec of Henry Gephart decd vs Adam Whinehart and Daniel Miller in debt
  • 22 – Gephart estate – petition to deed
  • 62 – Daniel Miller vs Henry Howman debt – Vol D1- 1818-1820
  • 101 – William Hipple vs Daniel Miller – discontinued May 1823
  • 102 – David and John Miller admin of Daniel vs widow Hurdmor (can’t read my writing for her name) debt

Estate Documents

I visited Montgomery County in 2004 and photographed Daniel’s estate packet at the Montgomery County archives building. Today, his estate papers are available through Ancestry here.

Daniel Miller estate 1

Daniel Miller estate 2

This next item is a list of bills paid out of Daniel’s estate. These can be enlightening as well.

Daniel Miller estate 3

The following document is a bill from John Miller, his son, which includes the notation for moving Daniel “from Stillwater.” Given that Daniel doesn’t seem to have purchased more property and clearly lived in Montgomery County when he died, where did John move Daniel to? Did Daniel and his wife move in with one of his children? If so, why? Who was then living on Daniel’s 40 acres in Randolph Township? Was there a separate house on that 40 acres, or was the main house on the 100 acres that Daniel sold to Jacob, and Daniel simply lived with Jacob’s family until he moved? So many questions and absolutely no answers.

Daniel Miller estate 4

Twin, noted above, likely refers to the area near the Montgomery/Preble County border where the Sugar Hill Cemetery is located, probably the location of an early Brethren Church, located on Twin Creek just east of West Alexandria in Preble County. This and the note about moving both suggest that perhaps he moved to son Stephen’s place, along with his burial location.

Daniel Miller Twin

Daniel Miller 1815 bill

Apparently, in 1815, Daniel Miller’s mare escaped and Michael Wiltfong searched for her for a day and a half, and found her. I wonder if this was involved with Daniel’s move from Bear Creek in Jefferson Township to Randolph Township.

Daniel Miller estate wood

John Becker operated a sawmill in Randolph Township. If Daniel was building something, he would have purchased the lumber near where he was building.

Daniel Miller Becker mill

He would have visited John Becker’s mill, shown above.  Notice that the barn is much larger than the house.  This was typical in Indiana where I grew up as well.

Daniel couldn’t build much with 300 feet of plank. At 10 feet per plank, this is only 30 boards. If they were 8 inches wide, and didn’t overlap, he could only have covered an area 10 feet wide, the length of the planks, and 20 feet tall. Again, not enough for a house. What was Daniel building? And where? Did this have anything to do with his move?

Daniel Miller estate 5

This receipt, above, is in German script.  Not something I can read.

Daniel Miller estate Gephart

The receipts above and below are the final settlements as Daniel’s administration of the estate of Peter Gephart. John is Peter’s son.

Daniel Miller estate Gephart 2

Daniel Miller estate Gephart 3

William Hipple married Elizabeth Gephart, daughter of Peter Gephart. These receipts are the final settlement with her, or actually, her husband since at that time the husband obtained all rights to the woman’s property when they married.

Daniel Miller estate Gephart 4

Daniel Miller estate Gephart 5

Catherine Schaeffer Gephart, widow of Peter Gephart, married Daniel’s son, David Miller in 1805. The receipts above and below contain Catherine’s mark and David’s signature.

David Miller 1823 receipt

I have omitted the several receipts that were for payment of taxes, since we already know the location of his land and those receipts don’t serve to inform us of anything unknown and several marginally legible.

Those receipts do confirm that he owned land in Darke County, Ohio as well as in Montgomery County.

Receipts also show that he had recently built something and moved, although those two things may not be connected. There was a receipt for both lumber and bricks, but not enough bricks to build an entire house, only a chimney and hearth. The receipt was for 2750 bricks. A contemporary brick calculator using bricks that are 7 5/8 by 2 1/4 indicates that to cover a 19X20 foot area, you would need 2726 bricks. Clearly a 19X20 foot area is not enough to cover a home, so this must have been a fireplace, chimney and hearth or something similar. Did he just build a room onto a house?

Apparently Daniel died rather suddenly. We can presume he was not ill because he seemed to be quite active. In 1822, Daniel Miller was 67 years old, not a young man, but neither with one foot in the grave, or so one would think. It appears that his creditors didn’t expect him to die either, as at least one of them from the building project had to swear to a bill for supplies after his death, and the man who helped him hunt land in 1815 had to submit a bill to collect for his services as well.

We know where Daniel lived most of his life, right up until the last few months, and then we not only lose track of where he lived, we also don’t know where he died and was buried, at least for awhile. Daniel Miller was not originally buried where his stone rests today.

In fact, given the size of his grave, not much of Daniel is buried in Sugar Hill Cemetery.

Daniel’s Stone in Sugar Hill Cemetery

When I visited Montgomery County in 2004, I found Daniel’s stone in Preble County, just over the county line. Like a good genealogist hot on the trail, I went right over and took photographs of the cemetery and his headstone.

But things didn’t seem right.

I noticed that the marker seemed much too new for an 1822 death, but with a large number of descendants, I figured that a new marker replaced an old one. I took pictures, said my typical ancestor prayer, and left. Little did I know the mystery that would evolve.

In the first photo, you’ll notice that Daniel’s stone is wedged in-between two others. It doesn’t look like there is room for a grave here, but at the time, I just noted it but didn’t think much of it. In retrospect, there is not room for another adult burial between the two older stones.

Daniel Miller Sugar Hill

Below is Daniel’s stone. It’s not original, but I assumed that the original stone had either been replaced or that his descendants had placed a stone later and he had never had one originally. That’s not unusual.

Daniel Miller Sugar Hill 2

However, take a look at the stones on either side of him. The following photo shows the stone that says, Hannah, wife of Daniel Miller, died October 4, 1876, age 65 years, 8 months, 20 days.Daniel Miller 4 Sugar Hill

The gravestone on the other side of Daniel’s stone marks the grave of Sarah Miller, wife of Daniel Miller who died on July 22, 1831 at the age of 28 years and 3 months. This woman was born in 1803. Daniel Miller is buried in-between them.  However, as confusing as this is, NEITHER of these women are the wife of the Daniel who is buried between them.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Is this some kind of morbid genealogy joke?  I mean, seriously???  Not funny.

Sarah Miller Sugar Hill

The stone directly behind these three belongs to Samuel Miller. Below is a list of all the Miller burials in Sugar Hill cemetery.

Miller Abraham       died Apr. 12, 1876, age 73y 11mo. (so born 1802)
Miller Lydia            died Jan. 7, 1891, age 87y 11mo 11da. (born 1804)

Miiller Daniel (4)           died June 8, 1879, age 8ly 5mo 9da. (born 1798)
Miller Hannah         died Oct. 4, 1876, age 65y 8mo 20da. (born 1811)
Miller Sarah                     died July 31, 1831, age 28y 3mo. (1803)

Miller Margaret       died Feb. 6, 1924, age 87y 9mo 11da. (born 1837)
Miller Samuel         died Nov. 14, 1930, age 96y 9mo 24da. (born 1834)

Miller Catharine      wife of Fred’k., died Oct. 31, 1865, age 55y 8mo 20da. (born 1810)

Miller Daniel (1)          died Aug. 26, 1822, age —.

Let’s piece these families together to see who we have and their relationships.

Abraham was the son of Stephen Miller and Anna Coleman. Stephen was the son of Daniel (1) Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich. Daniel is the man who died in 1822. Daniel’s widow, Elizabeth died in September 1834 but she does not seem to be buried here. Abraham Miller was married to Lydia Rodebaugh who is buried here as well.

Daniel (4) Miller who died in 1879 was born on Dec. 30, 1797 to Stephen Miller and Anna Coleman. His first wife was Sarah Harris whom he married on November 15, 1821 in Bedford County, Pa. and who died on July 31, 1831, as noted above. His second wife was Hannah Ernest, also noted above.

Samuel Miller was born in 1834 and died in 1930 in Preble County “on the farm where he was born.” He was the son of Daniel (4) Miller and Samuel’s wife was Margaret Marker.

In 1850, there is a Catherine Miller who lived in Perry Township, a widow and had children Levi 19, b Pa, Jeremiah 11 and Noah 3. One house away lived Joseph Miller, age 32 born in Pennsylvania and his wife Christena. Joseph is listed on Ancestry as the son of Frederick Miller and Catherine Hammer, so this Catherine who lived next to Joseph would be his mother.

Doing a bit more research on Frederick, Catherine and Joseph, we discover that in 1840, indeed we do find Joseph and Frederick living a few houses away from each other in Montgomery County, but both are age 30-40, so clearly not father and son, more likely brothers.

In 1830, in Jackson Township we find a group of men that includes Stephen (son of Daniel who died in 1822), age 50-60 and then a group of 4 men, George, 30-40, Daniel 30-40, John 20-30 and Joseph 20-30. These 4 men are likely sons of Stephen Miller   On the next page we find John B. Miller, age 50-60.

In 1820, we find two groups of Miller men in Randolph Township. Jackson was formed in 1814, so if they were living in Jackson they would have been listed there in 1820.

We have Jacob, 26-45 with Daniel, over 45. Then we have David, over 45 with John, also over 45 and Michael, age 26-45.

Looking now at the 1820 and 1830 census in Preble County, Twin Township, we find a Frederick and Jonathan in 1820. Frederick is not young then. They are still there in 1830 and Frederick is 60-70. These men don’t appear to be connected to our group of men, but one can’t be sure. What we do know is that there is no Daniel in 1820 nor are his children found there. In 1830, we do find a Daniel in Twin Township.

The pedigree below shows what we know about the relationships between the Miller burials in the Sugar Hill Cemetery. The individuals in bold are buried there.

Daniel Miller Sugar Hill pedigree

In the book, “History of the Church of the Brethren of the Southern District of Ohio” by Wayne Webb, the photo of the cabin on page 36 states that the Elder Daniel Miller built that cabin in 1830 and his son Samuel was born there in 1834. This does indeed mesh with the genealogical record that indicates Samuel lived died on the farm on which he was born. This also ties in with Daniel whose wife Sarah died in 1831. We know he was living in this vicinity by then because his wife is buried in the Sugar Hill Cemetery, so this 1830 census in Twin Township reflects what we know to be accurate based on other records.

Note:  It has come to my attention that this photograph was reproduced without permission in the book above mentioned.  According to the Brethren Heritage Center, the proper attribution should be the “History of the Church of the Brethren of the Southern District of Ohio” by the Historical Committee, 1920, published by the Otterbein Press, Dayton, Ohio.

Daniel Miller 4 cabin Twin

The problem is that the interpretation has been that this cabin belonged to the Daniel (1) Miller that died in 1822, but subsequent research shows nothing to connect the eldest “Elder Daniel” with this land, aside from the fact that a cemetery marker placed over 100 years after his death is located in the cemetery with his son, Stephen’s, children, including the Daniel (4) born in 1797, grandson of Daniel (1) who died in 1822 – whose wives Daniel (1) is buried between.

Again referring to the History of the Church of the Brethren book, on page 509, we find the following story about Stephen, son of Daniel (1) who died in 1822, and his son Daniel (4):

Stephen Miller, the father of the subject of our sketch, was twice married, first to Anna Coleman, of whose children, Daniel was the eldest. She died in Clermont County. Stephen’s second wife was Anna Deardorff (nee Lesh), who also bore him children, among whom were John J. and Stephen, who became ministers in the church.

Daniel was born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, December 30, 1797. When 18 months of age, his father built a raft on the Ohio river and floated down the stream to Kentucky, where they landed and lived for awhile in that state. They, then, moved to Clermont County, Ohio. They next moved to Montgomery County, Ohio, where Daniel’s father in 1816 build he first frame house in Jackson Township. On November 15, 1821, he was united in marriage to Sarah Harris of Clermont County, Ohio. To this union were born 3 daughters, Anna, November 18, 1822, Sarah, November 1, 1824 and Mary, September 3, 1828. He united with the Church of the Brethren when about the age of 27, bring brought under conviction through a serious illness. A short time after this he was elected to the ministry in the Stonelick Church, and later on was ordained in the Upper Twin Church.

After his marriage he lived in Clermont County where he bought a small farm on easy terms but in the fall of 1828, he sold this farm and purchased 160 acres for $625 in Preble County, where he moved April 13, 1829. His new home consisted of a log cabin built near the center of the place surrounded by the forest.   The following winter he built a more comfortable house from hewed logs, which is yet standing. August 22, 1831, his helpmate died leaving him with three small children. January 31, 1833, he was married to Hannah Earnest, to whom were born one son, Samuel, and one daughter, Catherine, who died in 1847. All his children united with the church while young. Anna married Robert Wysong, Sarah, Josiah Woods and Mary, James Swihart. These Brethren all became deacons in the church.

Elder Miller served the Upper Twin Church as Presiding Bishop for 30 years. He was one of the first advocates of the pastoral visit and made regular calls on all the members in the congregation. He solemnized many marriages, preached many funerals and assisted in organizing many churches. His useful life came to a close June 8, 1879.

P 510 – Samuel Miller, son of Elder Daniel Miller, was born January 20, 1834. He was married to Margaret Marker Miller, Sept. 30, 1855. He was elected deacon in the Upper Twin Church in 1874, and to the ministry in 1881. His father, Elder Miller, in order that he might give more of his time to the church, sold his possessions to Samuel, with whom he and his wife lived, for 24 years. Brother Samuel and his good wife, Margaret, have grown old in the service of the Master, still living on the old home place.

Daniel Miller (1) who died in 1822 would be the oldest burial in the Sugar Hill cemetery. It seems inconceivable that his grandson, Daniel (4) Miller’s 2 wives would be buried in such close proximity to him on either side as to be touching him. If any Daniel was to be buried between the wives, it would be Daniel (4), their husband. Daniel (4) the husband of Sarah and Hannah died in 1875, a year before Hannah, and he is buried to the right of Hannah, not between his two wives. It appears that Daniel (1)’s stone was wedged in later.

So here’s the situation. Daniel (1) who died in 1822 was clearly not buried in the location where his tombstone is located today. In fact, in 1822, it’s not likely that this cemetery was even in existence. The first burial with a tombstone is in 1831, and it’s Sarah, forever resting to the right of Daniel’s stone.

The History of the Church of the Brethren of the Southern District of Ohio tell us about this location.  On page 170 the Lower Twin church is also discussed, whose name was later change to Sugar Hill, and the church later torn down. I believe, although it doesn’t say this, that is where Sugar Hill cemetery is located today. This church was organized in 1830.

As we later discover, the Elder Daniel’s grave was moved to this location, but if that was the case, why not also move his wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1834 and mark her grave as well?

It’s nearly 15 miles, and that’s 15 miles with a horse and wagon, between Daniel Miller’s land (B) in Randolph Township and the Sugar Hill Cemetery (A). Furthermore, his brother David had a family cemetery on his land and Daniel could have been buried on his own land. There was no reason to go to Sugar Hill. There has to be something we don’t know.

Daniel Miller to Sugar Hill

The answer bantered about is that Daniel Miller (1) was visiting his son Stephen at the time of his death – Stephen reportedly lived near West Alexandria, close to the Sugar Hill Cemetery. However, Daniel could easily have been transported 15 miles home in a wagon for burial, unless getting the body in the ground was a priority that trumped everything else. Daniel died in August. It could have been very hot and he could have been contagious. Others could have been ill too.

Sugar Hill Brethren Cemetery where Daniel Miller is buried is on Eaton Pike just across the county line into Preble county, slightly east of West Alexandria. Eaton Pike above is 35 on the southern border of the township line in the section map, above.

Daniel’s son Stephen owned land at the SW corner of Farmersville/West Carrollton Road and Diamond Mill Road, not in Preble county near Sugar Hill Cemetery.

On the map below, you can see Daniel’s home location on Old Salem Road, Stephen’s home on Farmersville Road and Sugar Hill Cemetery.

Daniel Miller to Stephen Miller to Sugar Hill

As it turns out, there is more to the story, much more.

Where Was Daniel Buried?

This question sent me on an incredibly frustrating journey that took about two years, and still may not be complete, because still don’t have a definitive answer, but we have tantalizing tidbits.

From Gene Edwin Miller in “Daniel Miller (1755 – 1822), a working copy and a collection of current data on Daniel Miller (1755 – 1822) son of Philip Jacob Miller, son of Michael Miller,” unpublished:

April 1979

One explanation might be as follows……….Elmer C. Miller a son of John R. Miller, son of Jacob Y. Miller, son of John Miller, son of Daniel Miller (1755 – 1822) was an evangelist and traveled throughout the midwest conducting services. In 1924, while in the Dayton, Ohio area, he wrote home to his father, telling of his meeting with a Samuel Miller. Samuel was the son of Daniel Miller, the well known Elder in the Montgomery Co. area.

Daniel was the son of Stephen Miller, oldest son of Daniel Miller (1755 – 1822).

Samuel was then 90 years old and lived in Preble Co. Samuel recalled how that he had helped his father Daniel to locate the body of Daniel Miller (1755 – 1822) from the cemetery at Farmersville to its present resting place at Sugar Hill. He said that when they found the burial place at the original location that it was marked with a little piece of marble about 12″ square and inscribed with the letters “D.M” and dated Aug. 1822. 

Then, from Merle Rummel, Brethren Historian, we have the following: 

  • Stephen William MILLER 1/m  Anna Barbara Kphlman
    born 7 Mar 1775 Conococheague MD b. 12 Apr 1774 Bedford Co PA
    died13 Jan 1851 Montgomery Co OH d. 26 Jan 1813 Clermont Co OH
    bur: Old Brower Cem, Farmersville
    Son of Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich

Merle shows Daniel’s son Stephen being buried in the old Brower Cemetery in Farmersville in 1851, roughly 30 years after Daniel’s death. However, if Daniel (1) who died in 1822 was buried with Stephen who died in 1851, why would Daniel (1)’s grave be moved? And if they moved Daniel’s grave from the Old Brower Cemetery, why didn’t they also move Stephens? This doesn’t seem logical. 

The Brower Cemetery is located just across the county line into Preble County at the intersection of 70 and Enterprise Road, shown on the map below as 4092-4498 Enterprise Road, West Alexandria, Ohio.

Daniel Miller, Stephen, Brower, Sugar Hill

Another piece of evidence, although this could be hearsay, is the undated NGS Quarterly page, below.

Daniel Miller NGS

This article, which does not give sources and has other incorrect information, such as Daniel’s father being Richard, states that Daniel died near West Alexandria. This could also have been presumed because of the Sugar Hill burial location. Unfortunately, no sources are provided.

Wayne Webb, a researcher with an interest in Brethren history, has a different theory, that Daniel was originally buried in a cemetery just half a mile from Stephen’s house, called the Troxel Cemetery, not to be confused with the Troxel Cemetery that is located on the original land owned by Daniel Miller in Jefferson Township. Truly, those two cemeteries are not connected and I drove myself crazy for months chasing that red herring. Daniel must have had a good laugh. This Troxel Cemetery is in Jackson Township.

From Wayne:

The place I gave you is the half acre tract which is the cemetery called Troxell’s in Jackson and which is no longer there.  That is the “other” Troxell you could not find (because it’s no longer there).  Stephen lived SW¼ R4E T4 S35.

Family lore says, as related by Merle, that Daniel died while on a trip to his son Stephen’s.  Then you have the “Farmersville” notation.  I gave you where Stephen lived.  The Troxell cemetery (NE¼ R4E T4 S36) is within a half mile of Stephen’s house.  I think some of Stephen’s children are living by him but not much is known about all of them and I’ve never taken the time to document them all.  Diamond Mill north-south, Farmersville-West Carrollton east-west.

Daniel Miller Stephen land

Stephen lived on his home farm in Jackson township all his adult life.

Wayne went on to say that there used to be a Brethren church in the same location with the cemetery.

The church is located on section 36 where the Troxel cemetery is located (basd on a map from 1875-76.)

Wayne’s mother who grew up in this area said this cemetery, then with markers, is located on Farmersville-West Carrolton Pike the NE section of section 36, T4 R4 – cemetery is 300 feet south of the road behind the house, 4/10th of a mile west of the Diamond Mill Road. Church was inactive in 1983 – the owner in the 1990s said he bought it in the 1940s.  There were stones then but they had disappeared by the 1990s when Wayne actually visited and walked out in the cemetery and saw that there were no stones visible.

Daniel Miller Troxel church

Wayne said that part of the church foundation is near the road behind the house, and the location of the cemetery is at the arrow towards the bottom of the photo. The road is just beyond the top of the photo.

The map below shows a better general location.

Daniel Miller Troxel church location

From Wayne:

Probably Steven’s original farm. This, above is 4-4-35 near Twin, Steven Jr. lived in 26 and the church was on 36 in the corner. SW corner 4-4-35 southwest 156 acres. Given the comments about going and getting Daniel in Farmersville, this may be the location of where Daniel was buried.

Daniel Miller Troxel to Stephen

You can see on the map below that the present address of the location of the old Brethren Church and cemetery is literally just about 1000 feet west of the easternmost location of Stephen’s land. Of course, if Stephen’s father Daniel was buried here, why then was Stephen not buried there as well? Instead, he was buried in the Brower Cemetery a few miles away in Preble County.

Daniel Miller Stephen Troxel addresses

The Montgomery County 1827 tax book, shows the landowners of 4-4-36 where the church and Troxel cemetery is located is as follows:

  • John Meyers ne section 200 acres
  • Jacob Bowman 4-4-36 NW 166
  • Michael Meyers 4-4-36 art of N 1/2 14 acres
  • Jacob Meyers Se part 140
  • Jonathan Meyers Sw part 143 acres

The cemetery listing from Wayne’ mother’s notes show mostly Troxel burials.

  • Samuel Troxel d 1836 age 35
  • Sarah wife of John P b 1808 d 1833
  • Unknown Linda d 1831
  • Stone in the base of the tree
  • Lewis b July 1828
  • Mary unknown
  • Christian d May 1814
  • Troxel, ?rail – no dates
  • David –
  • David Showe Jr b Oct 25
  • Abraham Shupe b 1818

We know that the cemetery existed in 1822 because two of the burials are prior to that date.

Here’s a second theory from Wayne relating to the Old Brower Cemetery, also possible.

The original German Baptist Brethren church in this area was called simply the Twin church in homage to the creeks by that name. The best evidence of the existence of an early congregation, and it lies just one mile from the Widdows Henderson tract of southwestern Jackson town­ship, Montgomery county, but in Lanier township, Preble county, is the Brower cemetery (the smaller of the two in the region) in which are interred members of the Baker, Brower, Holderman, Karn, Miller, Petry, Wirts, Wise and Yost families.

The photographs, taken in 2006 by this writer, demon­strates the deplorable condition of this early con­gregational burial ground. Evidence is suggestive that at one time there was a small log cabin serv­ing as a meeting-house.

It is likely that Elder Daniel Miller (1755-1822), as well as Elder Jacob Miller (ca. 1738-1815), of no known relation, visited this region during their pastorates preaching to the young congregation.

Daniel Miller Brower cem

One of the stones in this cemetery is that of Stephen Miller, Daniel (1)’s son.

My Opinion Regarding Daniel’s Burial

The only actual evidence we have of where Daniel was originally buried is the information from Samuel Miller who was born in 1834 and helped his father Daniel (4), who died in 1879 and is buried at Sugar Hill, locate and move Daniel Miller (1)’s grave. Samuel said they went to Farmersville. Unfortunately, Stephen’s land is about as far east of Farmersville as the Brower Cemetery is west of Farmersville.

Daniel Miller entire route map

The map above shows all of the relevant locations to this discussion, as follows:

  • Daniel Miller’s Randolph Township Property – 3705 Old Salem Road
  • Stephen Miller’s Jackson Township Property – 5001 Farmersville West Carrollton Pike
  • Troxel Cemetery – 10360 Farmersville West Carrollton Pike, just west of Stephen’s property in Jackson Township
  • Old Brower Cemetery – 4092-4498 Enterprise Road, Preble County
  • Sugar Hill Cemetery – just east of West Alexandria, Preble County

Daniel (4)’s father, Stephen, who died in 1851 was buried in the Old Brower Cemetery in Preble County, so I think it’s unlikely that Daniel (4) would have moved the older Daniel (1) away from his son, Stephen, in the Brower Cemetery. In other words, if Brower was good enough for Stephen, Daniel (4)’s father, it would have been good enough for Daniel (1), Daniel (4)’s grandfather as well.  If not, Daniel (4) would have moved them both.

I think it’s much more likely that Daniel who died in 1822 was buried in the Troxel Cemetery, with no other Millers, which would have prompted the move to a location with other Miller family members.

The grave would have been moved probably sometimes after 1854 when Samuel would have been 20, and sometime before 1879 when Daniel (4) died. Daniel (4) would have been 25 years old when his grandfather, Daniel (1), died in 1822, so he would have known where to look for the grave.

Looking at these two stones on either side of Daniel (1)’s final resting location at Sugar Hill, Sarah died in 1831 so that grave would already have been there. Hannah didn’t die until 1876, so she might have been buried after Daniel was moved. However, I actually kind of doubt that, because I think if she were buried after Daniel’s grave was moved, her grave would have been further away. The space between Sarah and Hannah is only about 18 inches or so, not large enough for another burial. Clearly, if Daniel’s remains were moved in the 1870s, after his death in the 1820s, there would only have been a few bones left, so he would have “fit” between Hannah and Sarah’s stones, not needing a full space.

Given this deductive reasoning, which is really all we have to go on, I suspect that Daniel (1) was moved to Sugar Hill between 1876 when Hannah died and 1879 when Daniel (4) died. Samuel, who moved the grave, would have been about 42 at the time, which explains why he did the digging and moving and not his father who was born in 1797 and would have been 78+ at the time.

I wonder what happened to that original marble slab with D.M. engraved. Perhaps they moved that with him and today’s contemporary stone replaced the small marble slab.

Daniel’s DNA

Ironically, although we don’t know where Daniel was in August of 1822, nor where he was buried for roughly 50 years, we do know about his ancestors and where they were. DNA testing has been a huge blessing for us and different kinds of DNA tests provide a great deal of information about our ancestors.

We’re fortunate that another Reverend Miller in the family, Richard, has been incredibly helpful and sharing with his information as well as his DNA to represent our Miller line, for which I am eternally grateful.

Richard took the Y DNA full 111 marker panel test, plus the Big Y test at Family Tree DNA.  He is also a member of the Miller Brethren DNA Project whose goal is to unravel the various Miller Brethren families.

Our Miller DNA markers from 12-111 are rare. Our only matches at any level are to other Miller men, with the exception of one poor misplaced Morgan at both 25 and 37 markers whose ancestor is reportedly from Wales. The Morgan gentleman did not test above 37 markers, so we don’t know how closely he would match above that level, but I have to wonder if Mr. Morgan is actually a Miller.  It’s worth noting that Maugans in some cases was changed over time to Morgan.  Things that make you go hmmmm….

When our Miller STR panel results first came back, years ago, I chalked up few matches to the fact that we were early in the testing game. Over the years, as more Miller matches were added to the list, but no other surnames, I realized that our lack of matches outside the Johann Michael Miller line was actually a blessing, because we have rare DNA that acts as its own filter.

One of the services I provide to Y DNA clients is a chart showing each of their markers and the frequency with which their marker value is found within their major haplogroup. I did the same thing for our Miller STR results, showing only the rare and very rare results in the chart below.

I have indicated very rare allele values below with red, bold and underscore. Six percent or less of the R1b (M343) population will show these values on these markers. The next group is rare markers, indicated by black bold. Less than 25% of the R1b (M343) population will match on these values. The Miller men have a very high number of rare and very rare marker values, especially in the first (yellow) panel.

Daniel Miller STRs

Each panel is color coded, so the first panel of 12 markers is shown as yellow. As you can see, 7 of the 12 markers in that panel are either rare or very rare values, meaning that for anyone to match the Miller DNA at 12 markers, they would have to carry all of these same rare or very rare values. Unless they descend from a Miller male, that’s very unlikely to happen. Happening simply by chance or convergence is extremely unlikely.

Of course, the next question was why the Miller DNA is so rare. Were they simply isolated in a mountain valley, never spreading the Miller DNA outside of that village, for hundreds or thousands of years? Surely, eventually, men of other German surnames from that same village will emerge, unless they died in battle or daughtered out in the intervening timeframe.

In hopes of understanding our deep ancestry better, Richard Miller agreed to take the Big Y test. The Big Y test scans over 35,000 locations on the Y chromosome that may carry mutations, called SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms. SNPs are mutations that have been found previously and given a name, like Richard’s terminal SNP, R-CTS7822.

Prior to Big Y testing, Richard’s estimated SNP was R-M269, which was accurate, but Big Y testing shows us every branch of the haplotree that is relevant to Richard. In fact, the only way to discover every branch is with the Big Y test.

For our Miller men, all of our branches below M269 are:

  • M269
  • L150
  • L23
  • Z2103
  • Z2106
  • Z2109
  • CTS7822

Not only did we confirm M269, we added another six branches between M269 and CTS7822, Richard’s terminal SNP, meaning the one at the end of the line providing the most granularity.

Furthermore, the Big Y test also provides information about additional mutations called Novel Variants. Think of Novel Variants as mutations that are not yet named, because not enough is known about them yet. Either few people have been found with this mutation, or we don’t know yet exactly where it fits on the tree.

In Richard’s case, he has a total of 607 known and named SNPs and 37 Novel Variants, SNPs waiting to be placed on the tree and named.

Most of Richard’s Novel Variants are quite rare, meaning that none of the men he matches share them.

Richard has a total of 8 Big Y matches, and of those men, the closest match has three SNPs difference and only shares 4 of his Novel Variants. That means that Richard does share a common deep ancestral relative with this man, but not in a genealogical timeframe.

In fact, it would appear that most of Richard’s Novel Variants are rare, because he has no matches with 33 of 37. That’s actually quite unusual.

Haplogroup R is the most common Y DNA haplogroup in Europe, with about 45% of European men being some flavor of haplogroup R, meaning they share a common ancestor thousands of years ago when haplogroup R was born. However, there are still very rare sub-haplogroups, and Richard’s is quite rare. Maybe our ancestors truly were isolated in that mountain village.

Another benefit of the Big Y testing is that Family Tree DNA provides matching to other Big Y testers.

In Richard’s case, he matches 8 men. Not all matches have included their oldest ancestor information, but as best we can tell, the 8 men’s location history or surnames are as follows:

  • Bulgaria
  • Possibly Sweden
  • Austria
  • Moorman?
  • Seymer
  • Spain
  • Blair
  • Russia

However, none of these men share our terminal SNP of CTS7822.

Big Y matches are shown if there are 4 or fewer SNP differences.

In the R1b Basal SubClades Project, the Miller DNA is grouped both by STR marker values and SNP results entirely with Russian samples.

Daniel Miller Basal subclades

One of the samples carries the same terminal SNP as our Miller, but obviously they have more than 4 nonmatching SNPs, because they do not show as a Big Y match. Of course, many people who test don’t join projects.

Looking next at the project map for this subgroup, we discover that only one other individual has entered their geographic location information.

Daniel Miller project map

Fortunately for us, the person who DID enter their geographic location is the only other CTS7822 found in the project, whose ancestor is from Russia. By zooming in, we discover that what looked like one marker balloon is actually 3, 2 of which have the same surname.

Daniel Miller project map locations

Turning now to the SNP map at Family Tree DNA to view additional locations where at least two individuals have been identified within a radius of 1000 miles with the SNP of CTS7822, we see the following:

Daniel Miller SNP locations

CTS7822 has been found in a smattering of highly scattered locations in Europe. Keep in mind that these locations don’t just include individuals who have CTS7822 as a terminal SNP, meaning the end of the line for them, but includes individuals whose individual haplotree includes CTS7822, but who may have different additional SNP(s) further downstream, that the Miller line does not have.

Fortunately, one of the project’s volunteer administrators is a geneticist, Dr. Sergey Malyshev, from the Institute of Genetics and Cytology of Belarus National Academy of Sciences. He assembled a phylogenetic tree that shows the various SNPs found in ancient DNA on the M269 branch, as shown below.

Daniel Miller ancient

You can see that our CTS7822 is a major branching point which Dr. Malyshev estimates to have been born about 6,100 years ago.

Daniel Miller ancient branch

The Miller DNA is not a part of the branches of this tree above CTS7822. There are no known SNPs in our results that came after CTS7822, so, along with a few Russian men, we stand alone. As more becomes known about the Novel Variants, we may indeed discover that one or more variants are a new branch of the tree, but until more people test and match those variants, we wait.

What we know now is that our DNA is quite rare. We do not descend from the Yamnaya, but our ancestors and that of the Yamnaya culture found along the Volga River in Russia descend from a common ancestor who developed SNP Z2109, born also about 6,100 years ago, probably someplace in central Russia, perhaps along the Volga.

Additionally, Z2109 is also found among the Pathans, people who live in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, illustrated in the 1825 painting below. Our Miller men, the Yamnaya represented by the Burzyan Bashkirs in Russia today and the Pathans of Afghanistan and Pakistan all share a common ancestor in antiquity.

Daniel Miller Pathan

Noting that within the R1b Basal project grouping, the only match to our terminal SNP is Russian, that within the project matching, our group is entirely Russian, except for our Miller ancestor, and that the SNPs found in ancient DNA also point unquestionably to central Russia – I think we may have the answer to why our DNA is so rare. There may or may not be much, at all, in Europe. As more Russians test, it’s likely that we will find addition matches – and perhaps more in Germany and the areas of Europe that were most affected by the invasions or migrations from Asia.

It has been a long journey from the Russian steppes, some 6,100 years ago, to Sugar Hill Cemetery in Montgomery County, Ohio. The Miller DNA and descendants have been dispersed by the winds of fortune further yet.

I would love to know the story of the chapters of those lives from 6,000 years ago. Who were those people? Where did they live and how did they get from Russia to Germany, a journey of more than 3,500 miles?  What prompted that migration, or was it just another frontier – the seeming story of the Miller men.  Perhaps they come by that honestly, the legacy left to them by 6,000 years of ancestors.

To me, it’s simply amazing that we can tell this much of the Miller story through the DNA passed from those Russian ancestors to the Reverend Richard Miller today.  And just think, we would never have known “the rest of the story” had the Reverend Richard Miller not tested.


I originally constructed a timeline of events in the life of Johann Michael Miller’s life utilizing various sources which I have referenced in this document:

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

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 and the first two generations of his descendants, aside from my own research.

Wayne Webb’s research is referenced in some places in this article as well. Unfortunately, his ideas were never brought to a logical conclusion, as he failed to provide research that I paid to have completed.

For Brethren Research, I strongly recommend the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio. I have contributed my research to the Center.

Suffice it to say that all of these sources don’t always agree – and in fact some contradict each other. So I’ve sifted 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.  I hope that others will continue the research and add to the body of information we have compiled about the Miller family.



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