Johann Michael Muller and Johann Jacob Stutzman – Half Brother Saga, It’s Complicated – 52 Ancestors #194

Long ago in a land far away, in a village called Steinwenden in Germany, there was a young boy, Johann Michael Mueller (the second) who was born on October 5, 1692 and baptized in the local church. He was the sixth child baptized by his parents, the first five having already died during the preceding 6 years. Would this child live?

October 5, 1692 – Johann Michael, parents: “Michael Müller, Irene from Steinwenden”, Godparents: Johann Michael Schumacher; Balthasar Jolage; Christina, wife of Hans Bergter (Bergtol) from Krodelbach (Krottelbach).

It was believed that Johann Michael Mueller’s mother, Irene, subsequently died and his step-mother, Loysa Regina raised him, after his father, Johann Michael Mueller (the first) died on January 31, 1695. At two years and two months of age, this young boy had lost his five siblings and both parents, becoming orphaned. What a rough start in life.

Multiple baptismal and other records prior to Johann Michael’s birth in 1692 showed that indeed, Johann Michael Mueller’s mother’s first and middle names were Irene Charitas, so when the widow of Johann Michael Miller listed by the first and middle name of Loysa Regina remarried to Johann Jacob Stutzman on November 29, 1696 in Krottelbach, it made sense that Irene Charitas had died sometime between Johann Michael Mueller (the second’s) birth in October of 1692 and Johann Michael Mueller (the first)’s death in January of 1695.

Further suggesting this sequence of events, no further children were born to Michael Muller through either wife from October 1692 through his death. At least one more child would have been expected about the end of 1694 or into 1695, or even born after his death. Women generally conceived another child about 9 months after a birth if the child lived.

At some point between October of 1692 and January of 1695, Johann Michael Miller (the first) had apparently remarried. Otherwise, how could his widow be named Regina Loysa and not Irene Charitas? Apparently Michael and Loysa Regina hadn’t been married terribly long, because there was no child born to Loysa Regina either before or after Michael’s death. This all made logical sense. Right?

In November 1696, a year and 10 months after her husband’s death, Loysa Regina married Johann Jacob Stutzman.

Marriage Entry No. 61

Hanss Jacob Stützman, surviving son of Jacob Stützman from Switzerland with Loysa Regina, surviving widow of Michael Müller from Stenweil(er) (Steinwenden). Married on the 29th of November 1696 in Ohmbach.

Source: Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Konken (BA Kusel), Bavaria Church records. LDS Familysearch Microfilm No. 193926 item 1.

The names Irene Charitas and Loysa Regina aren’t similar in any way and don’t even sound alike, so they had to be two different wives of Michael Muller.

It was odd, however, that there was no death record for Irene Charitas in the Steinwenden church records, and no remarriage record for Johann Michael Mueller (the first,) even though there are no missing church records during that period.

It was also unusual that Johann Michael Mueller (the second) was raised by his step-mother, Loysa Regina, and his step-mother’s subsequent husband, Johann Jacob Stutzman, which would have been a step-step-father, I guess, rather than by the godparents at Michael’s baptism. After all, in Germany at that time, that was the whole purpose of godparents. They, in front of God and the congregation which meant the entire village, swore that if something happened to the parents that they would take the child and raise the child in the church.

But that’s not what happened in the case of Johann Michael Mueller (the second.) Now, it’s easy to think that Johann Michael’s step-mother had fallen in love with this sweet baby boy that she had been raising as her own. It’s touching to believe that maybe the cooing baby reminded her of her deceased husband, and out of the kindness of their hearts, the church elders allowed Regina Loysa to keep and raise the child. After all, she loved him and perhaps she had no other children.

I say perhaps, because, we know nothing at all about Regina Loysa before she appears in the church record in 1696 marrying Johann Jacob Stutzman. In Germany, in the 1690s, single women didn’t just “magically” appear in a village without an indication of who they are or where they are from. Who was this woman?

Jacob Stutzman and Regina Elizabetha, as she was recorded in the Kallstadt church records, had a daughter on November 26, 1699, almost three years after their marriage, a son on June 12, 1702, another son on January 31, 1704, and finally, son Johannes Jacobus Stutzman on Friday, January 1, 1706. Happy New Year!!!

Now, Johann Michael Muller (the second) would have step-siblings, if that’s what you call the children of your step-mother and her next husband. Regardless, Johann Michael Muller (Mueller/Miller) would establish a life-long bond with his baby “step-brother,” Johann Jacob Stutzman, even though they were 14 years apart in age. They became inseparable, leaving Germany together October 2, 1727 from the port of Rotterdam, arriving in the Philadelphia on the ship “Adventure” where they had to sign an oath of allegiance before disembarking in what was then the colony of Pennsylvania.

Michael Muller/Mueller/Miller and Jacob Stutzman were never far apart in their lives, probably as close as any “real brothers” could have been. They remained a part of the Brethren/Mennonite Berchtol/Ulrich/Miller/Stutzman group that left their motherland and arrived together in 1727, even if they didn’t always live in exactly the same location.

Michael died in 1771 in Frederick County, Maryland which must have pained Jacob greatly.

Two years later, Stephen Ulrich witnessed the will of Jacob Stutzman in 1773 in Cumberland County, PA, so even some 46 years after arrival, these families were still closely allied, trusting into death the same people they had trusted with their lives. I’m sure they reunited joyfully on the other side.

With that, the story of the two step-brothers, raised by the same mother – biological mother to Jacob but in essence an “adopted” mother to Michael comes to a close. The curtain drops.

What a wonderful woman to raise her step-son as her own after his father’s untimely death. Extra special kudos to Loysa Regina, the mystery woman, whoever she was.

Doesn’t this story just tug at your heartstrings? Make you feel warm and fuzzy all over? Well, enjoy that for a minute, because it isn’t true!

Loysa Regina isn’t at all who you think she is, or isn’t.

However, to tell this story properly, we first have to visit the Stutzman family history.

Go and get yourself a nice cup of hot tea, because you’re going to need it for this one!

To quote my German genealogist friend, Tom, who played an instrumental part in the unraveling of this ball of string, “The theory of relativity is probably easier to follow!”

Yes, seriously! It’s complicated.

A Little Background

First, I’ve written a few articles about these people previously, but beginning two or three years ago, new puzzle pieces began to be scattered on the table. We didn’t know if we had all of the pieces for the entire puzzle to be assembled, or if the cats of time had permanently batted a few pieces off of the table, forever missing in the cosmos, along with all of those socks from the dryer. Neither is there a picture on the front of the puzzle box, AND, the genealogy gods have a wicked sense of humor.

So, it has been for months on end.

From time to time a puzzle piece drops into place, causing us to excitedly run around the entire table of pieces trying them all over again. Occasionally, we discover that some piece we thought fit, doesn’t.

I just published a retraction article about Irene Charitas Schlosser, because, ahem, she isn’t a Schlosser – she’s a Heitz. Yes, that’s really embarrassing, but I’m just grateful that my friend Chris discovered the REAL puzzle piece and Chris and Tom together put that section together, because I certainly couldn’t have. Give me genetics any day, not incomplete German records in medieval script!

Steinwenden, the Family Village

Steinwenden, the ancient village at the heart of this story, and these families, was entirely abandoned during the 30 Years War when everything in this part of the countryside was destroyed.

Resettlement occurred slowly. Eight years after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, according to a 1656 tax list, still no one lived in Steinwenden. In 1660, two men were rebuilding the mill, and Swiss Protestant immigrants, many Calvinist, lured by the promise of no or low taxes began to arrive in family groups.

Piecing together these groups from partial church and other records is quite challenging, especially when trying to find their origins in Switzerland or even nearby France.

In 1684, Steinwenden only had 6 families and 25 residents. By 1791, long after our families left, the population was a whopping 305. Steinwenden has always been a small village where nearly everyone is related – and most probably already were related when they arrived from Switzerland. The challenge is, of course, that we don’t know how.

In 1980, Steinwenden celebrated its 800th anniversary. Historian Roland Paul wrote an article (in German) about the Steinwenden families who emigrated, based on the Steinwenden church books beginning in 1684. Note that families who stayed aren’t mentioned, an incredibly frustrating omission. Neither, of course, are families from surrounding villages.

Farms during this point in history weren’t arranged like farms are today in the US. For protection, farm houses were tightly packed into a small village, often sharing walls with each other, which provided an added measure of protection.

You can see the remnants of that structure in the old part of the village, yet today.

A village or city wall might also have been built around the village, with the fields laying for a mile or two outside the village. Farmers would tend their fields daily, but return home to the village in the evening. This means that it wasn’t unusual at all to look around and see several church steeples in the distance, given that the next village in any direction was probably only two to five miles away.

Relevant Steinwenden families mentioned in Mr. Paul’s book include Berchtold, Muller and Ringeisen.

Berchtold is also Berchtel, Berchtol, Bechtol, Bechtel, and probably more.

Susanna Agnes Berchtol born in 1688 to Hans Berchtol and Anna Christina would marry Johann Michael Mueller (the second) in 1714.

While Muller is mentioned, given that we don’t know where Johann Michael Muller came from before he arrived in Steinwenden, we can’t identify which of these Muller families, if any, are relevant to Michael. Our Johann Michael Mueller (the first) died in Steinwenden in 1695 and his children are listed.

Lastly, Jacob Ringeisen is identified in records as a cousin to Michael Muller. Jacob is from Erlenbach, in Canton Bern, Switzerland. Is Michael from there too? How is he a cousin to Michael? Does cousin literally mean “first cousin,” or should this relationship be interpreted more broadly as “related?”

Conspicuously missing is Johann Jacob Stutzman. He would marry the widow of Johann Michael Mueller in 1696. Where was Jacob? Did the Müllers and the Stutzmans migrate from Switzerland together?

The Stutzman Saga Continues

There’s some great irony here. The people who research the Stutzman line have agonized for years about the Stutzman genealogy in Germany and Switzerland. More than once, I was silently grateful that I didn’t have to deal with that. While my Michael Müller (the second) was raised by Loysa Regina and her second husband, Jacob Stutzman, and their story after their marriage was also Michael’s story – the Stutzman family history really didn’t concern me because Michael wasn’t biologically related to either Loysa Regina or Jacob.

So I thought.

Kind of like karma paying me back for those smug thoughts, the Stutzman genealogy reached out and tapped me on the shoulder. Oh, I tried to ignore it. I graciously wrote an article for the Stutzman family about the various different genetic lines, according to Y DNA. Then, when the Stutzman Y DNA surname project at Family Tree DNA needed an administrator, I decided I could adopt that, honoring Michael Miller’s love for his step-brother, even though there was no blood relation between Michael and Jacob.


I wasn’t the only one the Stutzman genealogy tagged. Right alongside me, or maybe leading the way, the Stutzman’s also ensnared my retired German genealogist friend and cousin, Tom. I have no idea why he found this mystery so intriguing, but he did. I’m blaming Jacob Stutzman, personally. Bless Tom with his infinite patience and wisdom because I did not receive that trait!

But that wasn’t all. Next came Christoph, my young German friend in Berlin. Jacob Stutzman somehow recruited him too!!!

Obviously, Jacob, Michael and the clan knew I needed help, because I clearly wasn’t going to unravel this maze of confusion on my own.

They were right too. I had absolutely NO PRAYER without Tom and Chris.

So while I’m writing this saga, it’s really Tom and Chris’s story to tell. Tom has been working on this for at least two years now, building on the previous works of other Stutzman researchers, but adding substantial discoveries of his own. Then Chris came along and pretty much knocked our socks off with one gargantuan discovery that would prove us wrong. That took a few days of getting used to, I’m telling you!

When he first began, I wasn’t convinced that there was anything in the Stutzman records that would be of value to the Miller story. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

In fact, Tom unearthed two records that prove the identity of our mystery woman, Loysa Regina.

Let’s go to Switzerland and Germany and visit the Stutzmans, in mostly Tom’s words with additional translations and clarifications by Chris. Colorful commentary by me😊

The Stutzman Clan

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image

By the late 1660’s, the brothers, Hans and Hans Jacob Stutzman, sons of Peter Stutzman of Erlenbach im Simmental, Canton, Bern Switzerland, had migrated from their native village to the Geislautern, Saar region, Germany.

Looking at the map below, the great irony is that I lived in the small village of Versoix, about 5 miles north of Geneva, on Lake Geneva, in 1970, and fell in love with the region. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t have a clue that my family had also lived nearby in the not-so-distant past.

This journey was not for the faint of heart, crossing mountains and traveling for about 450 km. A trip of 6 hours by car today was a trip of weeks then. Some, but not all of the trip could have been on, or parallel to the Rhine River.

A Hans Jacob Stutzmann, born October 2, 1676 in Geislautern, believed to be the son of Hans Jacob Stutzman born in 1650, was found in research by Gunter Stopka in 1998 in the resource: Stutzmann, Rupp, Carl, Lichti. Schweizer in der ehemaligen Grafschaft Saarbrücken vor 1700 In: Saarländische Familienkunde 31, 1998, S. 318-323.

This Hans Jacob Stutzman, Jr. (born 1676) is believed by us and was suggested also by Francis C. (Bud) Martin, editor in the excellent publication, The Peter Stutzman Family Story by Daniel T. Stutzman, Sr., editor and Francis C. (Bud) Martin, editor, 2011 (available for download at the website,) to be the father of all the early Stutzmann children who married and lived in Konken, Bavaria at the turn of the 17th century.

Hans Jacob Stutzman, Sr. migrated from Geislautern and obviously settled in another village after 1676 and before 1682 when he fathered a child in Birkenfeld, Oldenberg, Germany.

After the death (1685) of Hans Jacob Sr. at the age of 35/40, his children would relocate to the Konken, Bavaria area between 1685-1696.

Hans Jacob Stutzmann Sr.’s brother, Hans and wife Ursula (nee Leuenberger) finally settled in Hinsberg (Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin (Alsace), France where their family records appear.

Although France sounds far from Germany, it actually isn’t far from Konken.

Both brothers are the sons of Peter Stutzmann and Catharina Burginer of Erlenbach im Simmental, Bern Canton, Switzerland.

Records, Beginning in 1667

Hans Stutzman married Ursula Leuenberger in April 1667.

On Monday, the 22nd of April, 1667, from Bettborn were to be blessed (in marriage), Hans Stutzman, legitimate surviving son of the late Peter Stutzman from Switzerland and Ursula, legitimate surviving daughter of the late Jacob Leuenberger of the Bern region, Switzerland

Source: Evangelische Kirche Finstingen, (Elsass-Lothringen) now called Fenetrange, Sarrebourg, Moselle, France. Film No. 637090, Item 2, Mittersheim, Postdorf, Niederstinzel, Neunkirchen (Kreis Saargemund), Taufen 1658-1685; Heiraten 167401679; Tote 1672-1685.

Hans Stutzmann and his wife, Ursula Leuenberger had a family consisting of:

  1. Christina, born ca 1668, probably in Nassweiler, Saarbrucken according to Gunter Stopka.
  2. Johann Jacob, born ca 1671, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France.
  3. Magdalena Margaretha, born ca 1680, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France
  4. Hans Nickel, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France
  5. Anna Catharina, born ca 1686, probably in Hinsbourg, Bas-Rhin, France.

The parish of Waldhambach, Bas-Rhin, France contains many of the marriage records of these children as well as their deaths.

Johann Jacob Stutzmann (son of Hans Stutzmann, above, not Hans Jacob Stutzman) married in Diemeringen parish nearby. The records of Waldhambach begin in 1683. No baptisms of these five children, above, have been recorded there. They may have been born elsewhere and Hinsbourg (Hinsberg in German) may have only been the place of residence.

Ursula Leuenberger Stutzmann died on January 21, 1729 in Hinsbourg, aged 83 years. Her husband, Hans Stutzmann, died between the years 1695-1700. This is implied by the marriages of Christina Stutzmann who married Hanss Neser (Neeser?) of Schingen, Bern Canton, Switzerland (note: probably the surname Neeser of Seengen, Canton, Aargau, Switzerland). Her father is noted as a subject of Hinsberg. At the marriage of Hanssmann Janss of St. Stephan (Bern), Switzerland and Magdalena Margaretha Stutzmann, daughter of the late, Joh. (Hans) Stutzmann on 17 May 1701, Hans Stutzmann is noted as deceased.

Please note that the Johann Jacob Stutzman, above, the child of Hans Stutzman carries the same name as Johann Jacob Stutzman who married Loysa Regina, son of Hans Jacob Stutzman, but these are two separate men.

Waldhambach, Bas-Rhin, France Records

Translated records found in Waldhambach, Bas-Rhin, France are included in this article, because they provide information that, thread by thread, weaves this family together.


Tieffenbach – Date of Marriage: 1 Feb 1695

Groom: Hanss Neser a journeyman weaver from the village Schingen/Sehingenin the Bern Region (probably village of Seengen, Canton Aargau), son of Friederich Neser from the same place.

Bride: Christina, legitimate daughter of Hanss Stutzmann, presently a subject of Hinsberg.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 129

This tells us that Jacob Stutzman Sr. is still living.


Date of Marriage: 23 February 1700

After 3 proclamations were married Johann Jacob Stutzmann, surviving legitimate son of the former subject in Hinsburg, Lutzelstein Herrschaft with Anna Maria, legitimate daughter of the late Peter Stöcker.

Diemeringen – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1665-1715 – 3 E 94/2 – page 86

Former subject probably tells us that his father, Hans is dead and that his father probably lived in Hinsburg at his death.


Date of Marriage: 17 May 1701

Groom: Hanssmann Janss, unmarried bachelor, legitimate son of Peter Janss from St. Stephan, (Bern), Switzerland.

Bride: Magdalena Margaretha, surviving, unmarried daughter of the late Joh. (Hanss) Stutzmann, subject in Hinsperg (Hinsberg).

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 131

This tells us that Hans Stutzman is definitely dead.


Date of Marriage: 11 May1706

Groom: Benedict Janns, unmarried bachelor, surviving legitimate son of the late Peter Janss, citizen in St. Stephan, (Bern), Switzerland).

Bride: Anna Catharina, surviving legitimate daughter of the late Hanss Stutzman from Hinssberg.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 133


Tieffenbach Date: 1707

Groom: Hanss Nickel Stutzmann, surviving legitimate son of Hanss Stutzmann, former resident in Hinsberg.

Bride: Salome, legitimate daughter of Peter Janss, former citizen in St. Stephan, Bern region, Switzerland.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1683-1720 – 3 E 514/1 – page 134


Hinssberg – Date of Death: 21 January 1729

Decedent: Ursula nee Löwenberger, surviving widow of Hanss Stutzman, former resident. Her age 83 years.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de mariages sépultures 1720-1772 – 3 E 514/5 – page 120


Date of Death: 8 July 1729 Hinssberg

Decedent: Anna Catharina, surviving widow of the former resident Benedict Janss of Hinssberg. She died on the 8th of July and was buried on the 9th of July. Her age: 43 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days.

Waldhambach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de mariages sépultures 1720-1772 – 3 E 514/5 – page 121


On the 30th of November 1736 died, Jacob Stutzmann, the farm steward for the Herrschaft here and on the following day, the first of December was buried. His age 65 years.

Diemeringen – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1716-1778 – 3 E 94/3 – page 224


Date of Death: 29 November 1739

Died Nicolaus Stutzmann, citizen in Hinsberg and on the 30th thereafter was buried.

Date of Death: 11 December 1739

Died Christina Nesser, legitimate wife of the late Johannes Nesser, former citizen and steward in Tieffenbach and on the 13th was buried.

Tieffenbach – Registres Paroissiaux (Avant 1793) – Paroisse protestante (Avant 1793) – Registre de baptêmes mariages sépultures 1734-1764 – 3 E 491/1 – page 224

Note that the two adult siblings, above, died within 12 days of each other. I wish causes of death had been recorded.

Quote from The Peter Stutzman Family Story:

Dufner lists a Hans Jacob Stutzmann, born 2 Oct 1676 in Geislautern, son of Hans Jacob Stutzmann, Swiss citizen, born 24 Mar 1650 (son of Peter Stutzmann and Catharine Burginer.) There is a Geislautern in the Saar, near Saarbrucken, about 14 miles SW of Ottweiler. Could it be that these two men, one born ca 1676 and the other born 1676, are the same person? I have not included the Hans Jacob (born 1676) of this note in any other place in this genealogy.

Co-editor, Francis C. (Bud) Martin, 2011, “I believe you have correctly connected to the Johann Jacob Stutzman, progenitor with his unknown wife, of the Stutzman family of Krottelbach/Konken. This information ties in well with the information uncovered recently from Birkenfeld, Oldenberg, Evangelische Church not far from Krottelbach, Konken.”

Let’s take a look at the Birkenfeld records and follow the Stutzman family.

Birkenfeld Records

We find the next chapter of the Hans Jacob Stutzman family in the Birkenfeld records with family residing in Einschiedt.

Thankfully, the two sons, Hans Stutzman and Johann (Hans) Jacob Stutzman settled in two different places. Otherwise, I don’t know how we’d ever tell their children apart. Like most families, they recycled the same names, which are surely hints to their ancestors as well…if the early records just existed.

By the way, for those not familiar with German naming patterns, Hans and Johann (Hans) Jacob weren’t really examples of two sons with exactly same name. In Germany at that time, most boys were given two names. The first one was typically, but not always Johann, often called a “saint’s name” and the second name was the name they were called in the family. It’s not at all unusual to see the entire list of boys in any family with Johann as the first name, but with different second names…unless one died then sometimes a second child would be given the exact same name. However, when you see a male with just one official name, Johann or Johannes, that IS his given name. He is often called “Hans,” the nickname for Johann or Johannes.

While Hans Stutzman and wife Ursula Leuenberger settled in HInsberg, and thankfully stayed put, his brother Hans Jacob Stutzman, wife unknown, probably started out in the Geislautern area in 1667 or so, then moved to Birkenfeld in 1682, dying there in 1685. His family except for the apparent oldest son moved on to Konken by 1696, although we don’t know why. I wonder if his widow remarried and moved there, but we found no records to indicate that was the case.

Despite Hans Jacob Stutzman’s young death, he had 7 children who lived, although every record managed to stubbornly avoid the mention of even his wife’s first name!

  1. Dominic (1670-1748)
  2. Johann Jacob Stutzman born 1673/76 (Geislautern) -1739, married Regina Loysa (1654-1729), widow of Johann Michael Muller in 1696 in Ohmbach
  3. Johann Christian born 1682 Birkenfeld married in 1702 in Asselheim
  4. Catharina Ursula born 1684 and found in Konken records in 1698
  5. Johann Philip in 1696 married Maria Margaretha in Ohmbach
  6. Anna Barbell in 1702 married Peter Jacob in Ohmbach
  7. Anna Elisabetha is found in the Konken records in 1697, married in 1750 in Asselheim


Entry No. 235

Johann Christian Stutzman (#3 above)

The 4th of January 1682 Hans Jacob Stutzman, a Swiss, from Einschiedt (Einschieder), a young son was baptized and named: Johann Christian. Godparents were: Catharina Jacobi; Johannes Meyer, Christel, the Swiss, from Nohfelden; Johannes Roth, foreman? in the ironworks, Anna Escherin?, the Swiss.

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.


On the 21st of March 1683, Velten Pfaltzer, …….? and his wife, a young son was baptized and given the name: Hans Jacob. Godparents: Hans Adam Finck from here; Hans Jacob Stutzmann, the Swiss from Einschiedt; Margreth Sch…?, a young lady from here and Anna Liess Numweyler?, young lady, .?

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.

This is the only entry where Hans Jacob Stutzmann or any Stutzmann is found in Birkenfeld as a godparent.


Catherine Ursula Stutzman (#4 above)

The 29th of the same (May) 1684, Hans Jacob Stutzman, the Swiss from Einschieder and his legitimate wife, a daughter was baptized and received the name: Catharina Ursula. Godparents were: Nicolaus Ma..(margin), a Swiss, from Zweybrucken (Zweibrucken); Catharina Schupfflin, a Swiss; ………ookenthal?, housewife and Ursula Stutzmannin, legitimate wife of Hans Stutzman from Feldtling? (probably Völklingen) in Amt Saarbrücken.

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.

This entry above, clearly ties Ursula, wife of Hans Stutzmann of Folkling, (Volklingen) Saarbrucken (about 40 miles from Hinsbourg) to Johann Jacob Stutzmann of Birkenfeld. This would make sense if Hans Stutzmann and Johann Jacob Stutzmann were brothers.


The 8th of April 1685 was buried, Hans Jacob Stutzman, a Swiss, from Einschiedt (Einschieder). His age about 40 years.

Source: Evangelische Kirche Birkenfeld (Oldenburg). LDS Microfilm No. 492996.

This is Hans Jacob Stutzman, progenitor of the Konken branch of the Stutzman family, so this explains why his death record was not discovered in Krottelbach. Tom searched high and low for that record.

Hans Jacob Stutzmann and his unknown wife, had 7 children before his death. If he married at age 19 or 20, there is enough time after their marriage to account for these children. It is perplexing that the Birkenfeld church books do not record the name of the mother of the child; only the father’s! No death record for Hans Jacob Stutzmann’s wife could be found in Birkenfeld nor a remarriage. She remains a mystery for the Stutzman family to unravel.

Perhaps in time, additional records in Germany, may yet reveal additional information on this extensive migratory family.

The Konken/Krottelbach Stutzman Records

It should be noted from the outset that no death entries were found for Hans Jacob Stutzmann, (the elder’) wife (name unknown) in the registers of Konken. The first record of this family is found in Konken with the 1696 record of Johann Jacob Stutzman (the elder’s) marriage to the widow Muller. It appears that son Dominic never moved to Konken. He would have been about 25 or 26 by the time the family group moved, so old enough to stay behind in Zwiebrucken where he lived and died.

The Konken records are indeed where life begins to get interesting.

Looking at the map, both Steinwenden and Konken are on the road between Zwiebrucken and Birkenfeld.

Konken and Steinwenden aren’t terribly distant from each other – about 18 km or so. However, that’s also not close.

In 1692, when Irene gave birth to Johann Michael Muller (the second,) the Muller family lived in Steinwenden. Johann Michael Muller (the first) died there in 1695, and in 1696, up the road 18 km, Loysa Regina, Johann Michael Muller’s widow, married Johann Jacob Stutzman (Jr.).

How did they meet? How and when did she decide to move from Steinwenden to Konken? Why did the Stutzman clan decide to move to Konken?


Entry No. 61

Hanss Jacob Stützman, surviving son of Jacob Stützman from Switzerland with Loysa Regina, surviving widow of Michael Müller from Stenweil(er) (Steinwenden). Married on the 29th of November 1696 in Ohmbach.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 100 Mikrofilm 144  

Jacob Stutzman and Loysa Regina weren’t married in Konken, even though the marriage was recorded in the Konken Church. They were married in Ohmbach, a few miles down the road. Jacob Stutzman was 20 years old and the widow who was married to Johann Michael Mueller would have been reportedly about, um, about 42. That’s pretty unheard of, but we have her previous marriage and death record that provides an age.

Her later death record gives an age that subtracts to a birth year of 1654, but could be wrong of course. Let’s assume she was 20 when she married Johann Michael Mueller in 1684, instead of 30. That’s still a pretty big spread – 12 years between Loysa Regina and Jacob Stutzman, but corroborated by the fact that her last child was born in 1706, when she would have been about 42. If she was born in 1654 instead of 1664, her last child would have been born when she was 52. Not impossible, just highly improbable.

While we’re in shock over the age disparity, note that for a 20-23 year old, Jacob Stutzman had a lot of miles under his belt, literally.

We know that the Johann Jacob Stutzman’s wife is the same person who was married to Johann Michael Muller from Steinwenden, because the marriage record tells us. Then, sure enough, on February 3, 1697, the couple was back in Steinwenden for a baptism where the child is named Irene Elisabetha.

Generally, the child was named for the godparents, so Irene made sense, but only if Loysa Regina’s name was actually Irene.



That can’t be, because Jacob Stutzman married Michael Muller’s widow, Loysa Regina. Irene was dead and buried, and Loysa Regina and Jacob Stutzman were raising Irene’s baby boy, Michael Miller – right?

If that’s the case, why was Jacob Stutzman’s wife called Irene in her HOME CHURCH? Konken wasn’t her home church and Ohmbach wasn’t her home residence, but Steinwenden assuredly was – where Irene had given birth and buried 5 children between 1685 and 1692. Two in one week and another just a few months before her husband died. Her sixth child, Johann Michael Muller would live to establish the Brethren Mueller/Miller dynasty in the US.

But Irene herself died, right?


Or did she?


February 3, 1697

Child: Irene Elisabeth

Parents: H. Samuel Hoffmann, Maria Magdalena from Steinwenden

Godparents: Irene, Jacob Stitzman’s wife from Krodelbach (Krottelbach); Elisabetha, Balthasar Jolage wife and Dominicus Stutzman, unmarried.

Steinwenden Evangelische-Reformierte, Kirche. Landesarchiv Speyer > Steinwenden > Taufe 1684-1698, Taufe 1698-1738, Taufe 1724, 1738, Trauung 1684-1780, Beerdigung 1685-1780, Konfirmation 1685-1779, Bild 17

(Please note that is a paid archive service but does NOT allow customers to use the images for publication, so, unfortunately, I can’t share them with you unless I can find the image elsewhere.)

If Irene died, then how do we explain this baptism record where Jacob Stutzman’s wife is called Irene, and the child named after her is named Irene as well? It’s clearly not a mistake, not a slip of the pen of an elderly forgetful minister. The Steinwenden minister knew Irene very well. He had buried all of her children and her husband.

OK, back to Konken, where we find our next baptism record. What does it tell us?


No. 201

Hanss Peter

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

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 103 Mikrofilm 114

Back to Regina Loysa, except her names are switched from Loysa Regina to Regina Loysa.


1 March 1699 at Steinwenden Ev. Ref. Kirche, Bavaria

Maria Magdalena

Samuel Heitz & Catharina Appollonia of Steinwenden

Godparents: Magdalena, Herr Samuel Hoffmann’s wife, Anna Maria, Hans Cunrad Ausinger’s daughter from Turkheim (Bad Durkheim); Jacob Stutzmann from Weylach.

Landesarchiv Speyer > Steinwenden > Taufe 1684-1698, Taufe 1698-1738, Taufe 1724, 1738, Trauung 1684-1780, Beerdigung 1685-1780, Konfirmation 1685-1779, Bild 19

Look, Jacob Stutzman is back again two years later, in Steinwenden, but now he’s noted as being from Weylach. This tells us that he has moved. He’s also the godfather for the daughter of Samuel Heitz, Irene Heitz’s brother. That would be his wife, Irene/Regina, of course.

As it turns out, Weylach is about 3 miles north of Bad Durkheim. Chris tells me that it in early records, Durkheim was often spelled Turkheim. It’s a fairly long way from Konken to Bad Durkheim. What was Jacob Stutzman doing that he could afford to just pick up and move from one place to another?

Our Jacob Stutzman, with his wife Irene, Loysa Regina or Regina Loysa, whatever her name was, had clearly moved again. But most importantly, Johann Jacob Muller (the second) was with them.

Johann Jacob Stutzman may have moved to Weylach, but his siblings continued to create records in the Konken church records. Let’s begin with Jacob’s brother, Johann Philip and look at the records for each sibling separately.

Brother Philip Stutzman Family of Konken


IMAGE 99 – Entry No. 54

Johann Philip Stutzman, surviving, legitimate son of the late (blank) Stutzman, from the Bern region with Maria Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Hans Düke, a Swiss. Married on the 6th of March 1696 in Ombach.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 99 Mikrofilm 144


IMAGE 101 – No. 185

Hanss Peter

Johann Philip Stutzman & Maria Margaretha his legitimate wife from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a son was baptized on the 9th of February 1697. Godparents were: Hanss Berchtel, a Swiss; Peter Daubert, a Swiss and Anna, Christian Joggi’s surviving widow.

Source: Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Konken (BA Kusel), Bavaria Church records. LDS Familysearch Microfilm No. 193926 item 2. Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 101 Mikrofilm 114

Berchtel is my line too. Johann Michael Mueller would one day marry Suzanna Berchtel, daughter of Hans Berchtel. Was 5 year old Johann Michael Miller playing with his future wife, Suzanna Berchtel while this wedding was taking place?


IMAGE 105 – Entry No. 218

Johann Ludwig

Johann Philip Stutzman, a Swiss, from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Maria Margaretha his legitimate wife a son was baptized on the 6th of June 1698. Godparents were: Hanss Jacob Zimmer; Johann Ludwig Dik, a Swiss; Anna Margaretha Morjans, the pastor’s legitimate wife and Elisabetha Stutzman, the late (no name), surviving daughter.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 105 Mikrofilm 114


IMAGE 118 – Entry No. 328

Johann Theobald

Philip Stutzman, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Maria Margar(etha) his legitimate wife, a son was baptized on the 19th of July 1702. Godparents were: Joan. Theobald Dauber, legitimate surviving son of the late Herr Joan. Daniel Dauber; Jacob Ringeisen, from the Bern region; Maria Gartha, legitimate wife of Peter Mellinger, censor from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach); and Margaretha, legitimate wife of Hanss Zimmer, the same (of Krottelbach).

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 118 Mikrofilm 114

In another record, Jacob Ringeisen is mentioned as being the cousin of Johann Michael Muller, so this may be the best indication of where Michael Muller was actually from before arriving in Steinwenden, given that Jacob and Michael were cousins.


IMAGE 132 – Entry No. 488

Johann Christian

Philip Stutzman from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a Swiss from the Bern jurisdiction and Maria Margaretha his legitimate wife, baptized a son on the 15th of August 1707. Godparents were: Martin Genpert; Johan Christian Dick; Susanna, legitimate wife of Kilian Kennel, baker from Brücken; and Barbara, legitimate wife of Peter Joggi, all born in Switzerland.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 132 Mikrofilm 114

Brother Peter Jacob Stutzman & Anna Barbell Family of Konken


IMAGE 104 – No. 98

Peter Jacob, legitimate, surviving son of the late Christian Jacob, from Zweysimmen in the Obersiebenthal (Obersimmental), Bern region with the young lady, Anna Barbell, legitimate, surviving, beloved daughter of Jacob Stutzman from Erlenbach in the Obersiebenthal (Niedersimmental), Bern were married on the 12th of January 1702 in Ombach.

Source: Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche Konken (BA Kusel), Bavaria Church records. LDS Familysearch Microfilm No. 193926 item 1. Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 104 Mikrofilm 144

Beloved daughter that grew up without her father. How his heart must have ached to leave her.


IMAGE 148 – Entry No. 623

Hanss Jacob

Peter Jacob, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Anna Barbara, his legitimate wife, a son was baptized on the 28th of March 1712. Godparents were: Hanss Michael Müller from Weylach (Weilach); Henrich Berchtell, legitimate surviving son of Hanss Berchtel; Maria Elisabetha, legitimate daughter of Hanss Zimmer of Crofftelbach (Krottelbach); Anna Margaretha, legitimate wife of Niclos Keyser of Crofftelbach (Krottelbach).

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 148 Mikrofilm 114

Here, we find Hans Michael Muller stated as being from Weylach (Weilach), the same location where Jacob Stutzman was noted as being from in 1699. In 1712, Johann Michael Muller would have been 20 years old. By this time, he might have seriously been courting Susanna Berchtel, as they would marry 22 months later, on January 4, 1714, in Crottelbach (Krottelbach).

Susanna’s father has died, and Henrich, her brother, stands up with Michael Muller as the godparents of Hanss Jacob.

I bet Michael made it a point to return often. How I wish we had a photo of this couple.


IMAGE 69 -Entry No. 172

Hans Peter

Peter Jacob, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a son died on the 28th of May 1713 and was buried on the 29th of May 1713. Joyfully ascending. May the Lord be merciful.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 69 Mikrofilm 144

Never, in all the records I’ve seen until these have I seen the comment “joyfully ascending” written in conjunction with any death, let alone that of a child. I’m sure it was meant to bring the mother comfort, but it just doesn’t – let alone three times in 3 weeks.


IMAGE 69 – Entry No. 173

Maria Susanna, ? (adjective) Peter Jacob’s daughter, on the 7th? of June died and on the 11th of June 1713 was buried in Ombach. Joyfully ascending. May the Lord be merciful.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 69 Mikrofilm 144


IMAGE 69 – Entry No. 174

Hanss Jacob, son of ? Peter Jacob on the 18th of June 1713 died and on the the 19th of June was buried. Joyfully ascending. May the Lord, Jesus Christ be merciful.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Sonstiges 1653-1729, Bild 69 Mikrofilm 144

The loss of 3 children within 3 weeks is devastatingly heartbreaking. There was no “joyfully ascending.” There was no joy at all.


IMAGE 158 – Entry No. 705

Maria Christina

Peter Jacob, a Swiss from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) & Anna Barbara his legitimate wife, a daughter was baptized on 1 November 1714. Godparents were: Hans Peter, legitimate son of Philipp Stutzman; Dominik Stutzman from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach); Caecilia, legitimate wife of Elias Daubert, schoolmaster? in Ombach; Maria Elisabetha, legitimate wife of Christian Zimmer from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) & Anna Christina, legitimate daughter of Peter Gürtner, a Swiss.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 158 Mikrofilm 114

Sister Anna Elisabetha Stutzmann of Konken


IMAGE 100 – Entry No. 182

Anna Elisabeth

Johannes Geyer and Anna Ottilia, his legitimate wife from Crofftelbach (Krottelbach), a daughter who was baptized on the 21st of January 1697. Godparents were: Herr Peter Mellinger, censor; Hanss Jacob Wagner, legitimate son of Johannes Wagner, censor of Ombach; Gertraud, legitimate wife of Hanss Jacob Motzen; and Anna Elisabeth, legitimate surviving daughter of the late Hans Jacob Stutzman.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 100 Mikrofilm 114

Daughter Anna Ursula Stutzmann of Konken


IMAGE 105 – Entry No. 224

Ursula, Hans Nickel Hesse?, cowherder in Crofftelbach (Krottelbach) and Margaretha his legitimate wife, a daughter was baptized on the 11th of December 1698 in Ombach. Godparents were: Peter Mellinger, censor; Jacob Zimmer; Maria, legitimate wife of Wilhelm Grosklos; Ursula, legitimate daughter of late Jacob Stutzman, a Swiss.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 105

Mikrofilm 114

Stutzmann Entries in Asselheim, Bavaria:


11 January 1700

Joh(ann) Michael Bernhardt, legitimate son of the master baker, mayor and “bandsetzer”? from here Hanss Jacob Bernhardt.

Anna Elisabetha, legitimate unmarried daughter of the late Hanss Jacob Stutzmann from Erlenbach in the Nieder-Siebenthall, Switzerland.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Grünstadt > Asselheim > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Sonstiges 1666-1743, Bild 171 Mikrofilm 23


9 June 1702

Joh. Christian Stutzmann, surviving son of the late Hanss Jacob Stutzmann from Erlenbach in the Nieder-Siebenthall, Switzerland.

Maria Margretha, legitimate daughter of Hanss Jacob Bernhardt, daughter of the master baker, mayor and “bandsetzer”? from here were married on a Friday during the praying hour”. (It was noted) they had premarital sex.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Grünstadt > Asselheim > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Sonstiges 1666-1743, Bild 173 Mikrofilm 23

Seriously, did they really HAVE to record in the church record the legacy of their premarital sex? It’s likely that she was visibly pregnant.

The entries clearly establish that the father of the earliest Konken Stutzmann children from the late 17th century is Hans Jacob Stutzmann of Erlenbach im Simmental, Bern, Switzerland.

These records would seem to link him as the son to Peter Stutzmann and Catharina Burginer, born on 24 March 1649/1650. The only other candidate is one Jacob Stutzmann, born 26 July 1657, son of Peter Stutzmann and Christina Koller, who would be too young to be our Hans Jacob who had Dominic about 1670 and Johann Jacob 1673/1676.

Dominic Stutzmann of Zweibrucken


IMAGE 0434563-00178

The 10th of March 1733, Dominic Stutzmann, farm steward, legitimate surviving son of the late Jacob Stutzman, farm steward in Crottelbach, Lichtenberger Oberamt with Catharina, daughter of Burckhard Brändl of Roding (Reutigen), Bern (Switzerland).

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at


IMAGE 0434558-00304 – No. 3159

Johann Jacob

16th December 1735

Dominic Stutzmann, local citizen and his legitimate wife, Catharina, a son. Godparents: Jacob Bergden, councilman in Crottelbach (Krottelbach); Christian Stutzmann, farm steward in Dirmingen; Anna Margaretha Dickin from Aischberg?; Anna Margaretha Jacky from there.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at

There is clearly an unknown link with Krottelbach given that the councilman traveled to Zwiebrucken to stand as the godparent for Dominic’s child.


IMAGE 0434558-00313 – No. 3345

Christian Carl

The 20th of April 1739 Dominic Stutzmann & Catharina a child. Godparents were His Highness Duke Christian IV and Her Highness Princess Carolina.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at

This is a very interesting record given that the godparents were royalty. Christian IV was the Count Palatine of Zwiebrucken, born in 1722, so would have only been age 17 at this time. His sister, Princess Carolina was born in 1721, so she would have been 18.

The purpose of Godparents was to take the child and raise them, specifically in the church, in the case of the demise of both parents. There were no other godparents, so this begs the question of whether the Count and Princess were actually going to take this child to raise if something happened to her parents.

It’s hard to say if this was a token courtesy, or if this was a genuine committment, especially given the occupation of Dominic, as stated in the following record.


IMAGE 0434558-00336 – No. 3602

Maria Juliana

1 May 1743

Dominic Stutzmann, citizen and daylaborer from here and his legitimate wife, Catharina, a daughter was baptized. Godparents were: Johann Georg Ross, estate cooper; Daniel Gehring, citizen and b.(margin) here; Anna Barbara, wife of Adam Romer, citizen and baker here; Juliana, wife of Balthasar Krullen, citizen and hof….? here.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at

Given that Johann Ross was an estate cooper, I wonder if Dominic too was working on an estate.


IMAGE 0434559-00373 – No. 4069

29 June 1748

Joh(ann) Dominic Stutzmann, burger (citizen) from here. 84 years old.

Zweibrucken Evangelische Kirche Records online at Source: Germany, Lutheran Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1564-1938

Tom commented:

I would doubt Dominic Stutzmann’s age at death. More likely was in his high 70’s. He was either the eldest child or 2nd eldest.

He married in his 50’s which is rather old. It is doubtful that his wife or children would have reported his age correctly.

Dominic would have been the son of Hans Jacob Stutzman who died in 1685 in Einscheidt. Konken is another waypoint for the Stutzmann siblings. Our branch moves to Kallstadt and other branches remove to Asselheim and Zweibrucken. They all had the “wanderlust.”

And yes, in case you’re wondering, there is a genetic mutation (DRD4-7r) associated with “wanderlust.”

My Branch of the Stutzmann Clan

The first child of Johann Jacob Stutzman and Regina Loysa was born in Krottelbach and baptized in Konken.


No. 201

Hanss Peter

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

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Kusel > Konken > Taufen, Sonstiges 1664-1756, Bild 103 Mikrofilm 114

By March of 1699, Jacob Stutzman, his wife Regina Loysa, her son Michael Muller, and their firstborn had moved from Konken to Kallsdtadt where Jacob became the tenant and administator of a manorial farm.

We don’t know for sure what was grown on the farm, but given that this is heavily a wine region, if I had to guess, it would be grapes.

I recent years, Kallstadt has gained somewhat unwelcome notoriety based on the fact that the Heinz family, of ketchup fame, along with the Trump family are both from Kallstadt. Trump’s grandparents immigrated from Kallstadt, but there is no known relationship to the Stutzman or Miller families.

It’s interesting to note the roses planted by the grapevines in the above photo. During my trip to Germany in 2017, I noticed the same thing. The vintners said that roses, which thrive in the same soil and climate conditions as grapevines are an early warning system for vineyards. Roses attract aphids before the vines do and also get fungus before the vines. Mildew isn’t the exact same between the plants, but the conditions that favor rose mildew are the same conditions that favor grapevine mildew. In other words, healthy and beautiful roses means healthy and beautiful grapevines.

Not only that, but roses offer habitat for bees and other beneficial insects and their thorns discourage horses, needed to work the rows, from cutting corners and damaging precious vines. Plus, roses enhance the beauty of the vineyards, as an added bonus.

The Kallstadt Stutzman Families

The church in Kallstadt was the closest church to Weilach, home of Johann Jacob Stutzman, Regina and her son, Michael Muller.


Page 136 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Tuesday, the 21st of November, Hanss Jacob STURTZMANN, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his legitimately wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young daughter came into the world and on the following 25th Sunday after Trinity, the 26th of November (1699) received Holy Baptism. The Godparents were Maria Catharina, wife of Peter Clonstt??, co-farm administrator for the Manor in Weilach; Maria Eva, wife of Johannes Rauscher?, citizen in Turckh(eim) (Bad Durkheim); Hanss Jacob Bernhard, citizen of Asselheim. The child received the name: Maria Catharina.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 70 Mikrofilm 437

Tom and I both searched for Turkheim, but Chris is the one who figured out that Turkheim is really Bad Durkheim, today. Of course, it’s right next door, right under my nose.

The earliest documented appearance of the name of Bad Durkheim is in the Lorsch codex of 1 June 778, as Turnesheim. A letter of enfeoffment from the Bishop of Speyer in 946 mentions Thuringeheim. So apparently Turkheim was an amalgamation of today’s Durkheim and the earlier spelling.

This is also the first record of Hanss Jacob Stutzman in Weilach, noted as a steward for Herrschaft, Lord of the Manor.


Page 146 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Monday, the 12th of June (1702), Hanss Jacob STOTZMANN, farm administrator (steward) at Weilach and Regina Elisabetha, his lawfully wed wife, was born to them a young son who was baptized on the 1st Sunday post Trinity, the 18th of June (1702). The godparents were: Joh. Michael Be…(margin), citizen from Asselheim, Samuel H..(Heitz?)(margin) from Stenweiler (Steinwenden) im Westrich; Elisabeth, wife of Hanss Michael Schum..(margin) from Ramsen. The Christian name of Johann Samuel was given.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 75 Mikrofilm 437


Page 150 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Thursday evening, the 31st of January 1704, Hanss Jacob STOTZMANNEN, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) and his lawfully wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young son was born and was baptized on Sunday Estomihi (Quinquagesima Sunday), the 3rd of February 1704 at Weilach. Godparents were: Johann Christian Stotzmann and Matthaeus Krauss from Ungstein and Joh. Daniel Schumacher, citizen from Ungstein and wife, Anna Margretha. The Christian name given was Johann Matthaeus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 77 Mikrofilm 437


Page 156 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Friday, the 1st of January in the year 1706 of the new year, Johann Jacob STOTZMANNEN, farm administrator (steward) of the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weylach and his lawfully wed wife, Regina Elisabetha, a young son was born which on Tuesday, the 5th of January 1706 was baptized. The godparents were: Johann Jacob Schick; son of the honorable master, Johann Georg Schicken, butcher and citizen in Durckheim; Anna Elisabeth Beerin, legitimate daughter of the late Johann Martin Beer. The Christian name given was Johannes Jacobus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 80 Mikrofilm 437


On the 29th of January 1708 at 1 am on the fourth Sunday after Epiphany to Franz Ludwig Einde..?, a daylaborer on the Herrschaft of Weylacher Hof from his legitimate wife Anna Clara, two children, twins were born, a daughter and a son who were baptized on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost godparents of the daughter were: Catharina Margaretha, daughter of Johann Wendel Ulm, citizen and innkeeper here; Anna Catharina M(aria) legitimate daughter of Lorentz Lotz and Johann Michael, stepson of Joh(ann) Jac(ob) Stotzman, steward and farm administrator for the Lord of the Manor at Weylacher Hof. The child was named: Catharina Margretha.

The godparents of the son were: Johann Adam […?], wagoner and citizen from here and Johan Philips Schmidt, citizen from here and Anna Veronica, wife of a quarryman from Weylach, Conrad Brüls, who named the child: Philippus Adamus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 84 Mikrofilm 437

The most important aspect of this record, for my research at least, is the fact that Johann Michael (Mueller) is noted in 1708 as the STEPSON of Johann Jacob Stotzman, the steward of the manor at Weylacher Hof. Michael would have been 16 years old.

Step-son, of course, tells us that Johann Jacob was married to Johann Michael’s mother, and Jacob Stutzman is recorded as being married to Loysa Regina in Ohmbach, the widow of Michael Muller of Steinwenden in 1696. In 1697, back in Steinwenden, Jacob’s wife is recorded in a baptismal record once again as Irene. In 1699, 1702, 1704 and 1706 in the Kallstadt records, she is recorded consistently as Regina Elisabetha.

She seemed to be very flexible about her name and probably answers to anything that sounded remotely familiar.

The next three entries are from “The Peter Stutzman Family Story by Daniel T. Stutzman Sr. and Francis C. (Bud) Martin, Editors, 2011

77 iii. Anna Regina Stutzmann. Christened, 27 Feb 1706/7, in Asselheim, Grunstadt[119]. Godparents of Anna: Anna Catharina, wife of Johann Nicolaus Trommer; Regina, wife of Johann Jacob Stutzmann, “Hofmann at Weylach”; Zacharias Stein, inhabitant in Albsheim, “married since 1702 to Margaretha Jacobea Bernhardt,” according to Item 2 from Levente Pasztohy.

Daughter of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

78 iv. Johannes Stutzmann. Christened, 13 Mar 1708/9, inAsselheim[120]. Died, 6 Jul 1712, in Asselheim[103]. Godparents of Johannes were: Johann Jacob Stutzmann “Hofmann at Weylicher Hof near Tiirckheim”; Margaretha Jacobea, wife of Zacharias Stein, citizen in Albsheim. In his death record, Johannes is called Johann Jacob.

Son of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

70 v. Johanna Catharina Bernhardt[105]. Christened, 8 Jan 1709/0, in Asselheim, Rheinpfalz. Godparents: Johanna Catharina, wife of Johann Georg Naumann, miller in Asselheim; Catharina, wife of Johann Andreas Schecht, inhabitant in Asselheim; Johann Jacob Stutzman, “Hofmann at Weylich near Tiirckheim.”

Daughter of Anna Elisabeth Stutzman Bernhardt of Asselheim (Tom’s note).


Page 189; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Friday morning the 17th of January 1716, Johannes Schumacher, cow herder at the Weilach Farm and from his lawfully wed wife, Catharina, a young daughter was born which on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, the 19th of January was baptized at Weilach due to severe cold. The godparents were: Regina Elisabetha, legitimate wife of the farm administrator (steward) of the most esteemed Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor), Jacob Stotzmann; Susanna, wife of Hans Michael Muller, the farm administrator (steward) (refers to Jacob Stotzmann above mentioned), son in Weilach; the master Johann Daniel ?, citizen and smith in Callstadt (Kallstadt). The Christian name of Susanna Elisabetha was given.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 96 Mikrofilm 437

In this record, Michael Muller is recorded as the son of Jacob Stotzmann, the farm administrator.

I wonder how many workers the estate employed. So far we see evidence of cowherders and dayworkers. Plus the administrtor and apparently his son-in-law and probably his sons as well as they became old enough to work.

In 1714, Johann Michael Muller (the second) married Suzanna Agnes Berchtol of Ohmbach in Krottelbach. Even though the villages of Weilach and Ohmback are distant, these families clearly kept in touch. You can’t marry who you can’t court.

In 1715, they had a son, Johann Peter Muller, baptized in Konken, near Ohmbach, but by 1719, Johann Michael Muller (the second) and his young family had joined his mother and step father on the estate in Weilach. Michael‘s step-father was the farm steward, so assuredly, there was work and probably some level of prestige for Michael as well. Now that we know where to look for him, we can document additional children for Michael, ones only hinted at in the land records of Maryland.


On Wednesday, the 20th of May 1716 was born a young son to Johann Michael M(uller), the co-steward at Weilach and his legitimate wife, Susanna. The son was baptized on Exaudi Sunday (24th May) at Weilach. Godparents: Johann Ja(cob) Stotzmann, steward for the gracious Lord of the Manor at Weilach, the child’s grandfather; Nicolaus Leist from Wachenheim an der Hardt; Catharina, legitimate wife of Andreas Neuer.burger? from Callstadt (Kallstadt). The child was named: Johann Jacob.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 97 Mikrofilm 437

Here, Michael Muller is listed as co-steward and Jacob Stutzman is listed as the grandfather. Johann Michael Muller was truly lucky to have Jacob Stutzman in his life. This child was clearly named in Jacob‘s honor. I wonder if this child lived to adulthood. We have no further records.

I also wonder why the child was baptized on the farm estate rather than in the church in Kallstadt.

More from Stutzman & Martin, 2011:

81 vii. Margaretha Jacobea Stutzmann. Born, 24 May 1716, in Asselheimf123]. Died, 5 Jul 1716, in Asselheim[103]. Godparents of Margaretha were: Margaretha Jacobea, wife of Zacharias Stein, citizen in Albsheim; Johann Jacob Stutzmann, “Hofmann at Weylacher Hof”.

Daughter of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).

82 viii. Maria Felicitas Stutzmann. Christened, 16 Jan 1717/8, in Asselheim[124]. Godparents of Maria were: The honorable Johann Friedrich Bernhard, citizen in Lautern; virgin Maria Catharina, daughter of the honorable Johann Jacob Stutzmann, “inhabitant in Weylich, in the jurisdiction of the Count of Leiningen”.

Daughter of Johann Christian Stutzman of Asselheim (Tom’s note).


Baptism: page 194 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Monday, the 30th of August 1717, Johann Michael Muller, farm administrator (steward) for the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach and his lawfully wed wife, Susanna Agnes, a young daughter was born and was baptized on the 15th Sunday post Trinity, the 5th of September 1717. The godparents were: Jean (surname in margin), the esteemed Count (margin) at Hardenburg; Regina Maria, wife of Nicolai Ceston, ? from Wachenheim. Johannes Cornelius Neu, citizen in Callstadt (Kallstadt); Maria Catharina, legitimate daughter of Johann Stozmann from Weilach. The child received the name Regina Maria Elisabetha.

This is the first reference to Michael Muller as the farm administrator. He would have been 25 years old.

There is no further record of this child but that doesn’t mean that the child didn’t survive.


Page 198 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

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

IMAGE: 0488294-00106 Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 101 – Mikrofilm 437

Not only do we find the next child born to Michael and Susanna, we find yet another confirming link between Michael and Regina as his mother, the wife of Jacob Stutzman.

The records later in the US indicate that indeed, there is a Michael Muller the third. This child, or a namesake, clearly lived.


Baptism: page 204 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

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

IMAGE: 0488294-00109 Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 104 Mikrofilm 437

It appears that the Stutzman’s family may be career farm administrators. Philip Stutzman is the administrator for another farm, the Kohlhoffin. This record also tells us that the name Ludwig or Lodowich as it’s known in the US came from the Stutzman family, not the Miller line directly.

Not only do we next find Lodowich, whose real name was Johann Ludwig, we also find a confirmation as to the real identity of Regina Loysa, aka Irene, aka Irene Charitas.

This record links Eva Catharina, daughter of Samuel Heitz to Michael Muller and the Stutzman families. Samuel Heitz was the brother of Irene Liesabetha (Irene Charitas) Heitz who married Michael Muller, (the first) who died in 1695 in Steinwenden. Yes, Irene Charitas was actually Irene Elisabetha Heitz, who was then known for some reason when she married in a church away from where she lived as Regina Loysa, then Loysa Regina, and then in yet another church in another village as Regina Elisabetha.

Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha’s brother traveled all the way to Kallstadt to stand up as her grandchild was baptized. And thank goodness that he made that trip, almost 300 years ago, because it provides us with confirmation of the identify of Jacob Stutzman’s mother.

Johann Michael Muller (the second) is now listed as the farm administrator in his own right in this record.

We are fortunate enough to find one more record for Johann Michael Muller and his wife Suzanna that links him to his next destination.

Baptism: page 206; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

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

This last record connects Michael Muller with Jacob Stutzman once again, as well as tells us that he is now a Lambsheim resident.

Did these people ever stay put in one place?


Beginning in 1799, Johann Jacob Stutzman and his wife, Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha (take your pick of names) lived on the estate Hofruine Weilach, owned by the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) in Weilach, a member of the Leininger Counts, a noble family. Jacob Stutzman was a steward of the farm, as was Johan Michael Muller who co-administered the estate, and then apparently administered the estate.

In a 1982 article written in German by Otto Gödel about the Weilach Hof, a list of the administrators is given, as follows:

  • 1578 Lampert Ott
  • 1614 Jacob Min
  • 1651 Theobard Klein
  • 1669 Peter Georgens
  • 1684 Christ Ulrich (This name causes me pause, because Ulrich is one of my family names that we find with Muller both in Germany and in the US, and this is the first time I’ve seen it associated with a common location with the Miller line. However, Ulrich isn’t an somewhat uncommon German name.)
  • 1699 Hans Jacob Stutzmann
  • 1716 Hans Michael Muller
  • 1727 Johann Samuel Stutzmann also Mithofmann
  • 1769 Peter Becker and
  • 1785 Johannes Becker

This is interesting, because we know unquestionably that Michael Muller was in Lambsheim in 1721. Where was Jacob Stutzman afer 1716?

Michael Muller probably had only vague memories of living elsewhere. He would have been 4 when his mother remarried and 7 in 1799 when Jacob Stutzman became the farm administrator.

Michael clearly maintained ties with the family near Steinwenden, because he married Suzanna Agnes Berchtol in Ohmbach in 1714. They obviously lived there for a short time given that their first child was born there the following year, but shortly thereafter Michael and Suzanna would return to Weilach and join Jacob Stutzman as a co-administrator of the farm. At that time, Jacob Stutzman (Jr., now referred to as “the elder”) would have been about 38 years old. It occurs to me that Michael was only 14 years younger than his step-father, and he then was 14 years older than his half-brother, Jacob Stutzman (the third, referred to as “the younger”) – exactly half way between father and son. Michael may have been more close friends with his step-father than anything else.

Weilach was Michael’s childhood home, where he grew up with his much-beloved half-brother, Jacob Stutzman (the younger), and where he would begin raising his own family as well.

What do we know about Weilach?

First of all, it was very difficult to find today, becuase it’s in ruins. However, Tom did find these maps from about 1898 where Weilach is actually still shown.

Weilach and Kallstadt maps about 1898, above and below. Weilach is located about half way between Kallstadt and Bad Durkheim.

Weilach was a farm first documeted in 1381 as Weilacher Hof and was in posession of the Leininger Counts. The area is notorious for wet pools and willow trees, and thereby received it’s name. Beginning in 1490, the estate was managed by a series of 10 tenants until 1790 when the farm was burned by a gang of robbers. The steward’s daughter hid in a kennel and recognized one of the miscreants, leading to justice. The farm was never rebuilt, the ruins remaining today in a mountainous area popular for hiking, marathon runs and bicycle racing.

A well was located in the middle of the yard. Opposite the house stood a shepherd’s house.

The wall remains of the ruined courtyard. That wall was extremely thick, so I suspect it was a form of fortification. I do wonder why the holes or indentations were present in the wall.

Here’s a YouTube video of the estate as it exists today, nestled in the forest.

My heart longs to visit, to walk there, to tread where Michael, his wife and his mother stood. I want to trace their footsteps 300 years later – to share their experience and absorb everything possible.

The area is very hilly, located on an outlier of the Haardt Mountains. This photo shows a view of the Upper Rhine Plain from west to east from a vineyard near Neustadt with Mannheim in the background. This is very similar to what Michael would have seen from the landmark hill close to Weilach.

By Myself (user Alex Ex) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Today, the old Wielacher Hof can be located by first finding the Peterskopf tower, also known as the Bismark tower. There’s a restaurant there, so finding this location shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Peterskopf tower hill lies 3 km northwest of Bad Dürkheim on the eastern edge of the Palatine Forest on the forest estate of the municipality of Kallstadt; the actual village being in the northeast, 4 km away. On the southeastern slope of the hill, 700 metres from the summit, are the ruins of the Weilach farmstead first mentioned in 1381. The River Isenach flows past the Peterskopf to the southwest before entering the town of Bad Dürkheim.

View from the Felsenberg-Berntal Nature Reserve looking southwest over Leistadt to the Peterskopf tower on top of the hill. The manoral farm where Jacob Stutzman was the administrator, raising his family, would have been on the other side of the hill, to the left.

Here’s a video of a beautiful fall walk near the tower and the view from the top of the tower. Another video here and here with amazing views of the countryside and the Rhine.

The tower is marked on the map below with Peterskopf.

Satellite view of the tower.

700 meters translates into 2296 feet, so the Hutte in der Weilach which is a small eatery seems to be located very close to the car park and the ruins themselves. The ruins (former farm) would have been located on a road.

I notice there is a crossroads there, and it looks like the ruins may have been nestled in vineyards, if that’s what the terracing and rows in the photo are. (Excuse me while I go get a glass of wine.)

Being young boys, rest assured that both Michael Muller (the second) and Jacob Stutzman (the younger) climbed that very hill and stood on top, surveying the Rhine River Valley and perhaps dreaming of one day whey they would float away on that distant, barely visible, Rhine river, beckoning them to embark on the adventure of their lives.

A few years later, that dream came true. But first, Michael Miller would go to Lambsheim.


In the three months after the April 1721 baptism of his son, Johann Ludwig, Johann Michael Mueller and his wife moved to Lambsheim, only about 12 miles distant, where they lived until they left for America in 1727.

The following snippet (#1371) documenting Michael Muller being from Weilach, living in Lambsheim, and leaving for America in 1727 is from this Muller-Familien site in German by Dr. Hermann Muller.

I can’t help but wonder why Michael moved to Lambsheim, because assuredly Jacob Stutzman wasn’t getting any younger and needed help on the farm. The actual estate records are confusing during this time. Perhaps a conflict arose or maybe Jacob Stutzman preferred working his own son who he probably assumed would follow him as the farm administrator.

Jacob Stutzman (the younger), Michael’s brother, now age 15, would have been living at home in Weilach. His half brother Michael moved a few miles away, so they would have kept in touch.

Let’s take a look at what we know about Michael‘s move to Lambsheim.

The city of Lambsheim is in the middle of the wine region, seen here in the distance, across the vineyards.

By The original uploader was Romantiker at German Wikipedia – Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0,

The middle of the village today. Churches are always someplace near the center of the old medieval villages.

Lambsheim was a fortified city, with the gatehouse still remaining.

Von Joachim Specht – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

This former hunting lodge in Lambsheim was built in 1706, originally as a moated castle with gardens, so would have been new when Michael Miller lived here. He may have climbed those very steps. Today, this is the town hall!

Von Altera levatur – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

You can see more historic and architectural photos here. I am utterly enchanted seeing buildings that I know my ancestors saw with their own eyes, maybe even walked in – connecting me to Michael and Suzanna in some small way through time and space.

An article in Pennsylvania Folklife in the Winter 1973-1974 issue tells us about Lambsheim during the time when Johann Michael Mueller would have lived there.

Lambsheim wouldn’t have looked much different in 1721 than it did when this map was created in 1672. You can see the city wall and gatehouse.

The history of Lambsheim includes an interesting nugget about religion. The town includes Reformed, Lutheran and Catholic families, along with a few Jewish families as well. After 1705, the Catholic and Reformed congregations shared a church building, a rather remarkable arrangement considering that religion had been such an contentious factor in the 30 Years War which had ended only a generation previously.

The town wasn’t large, but it included churches, schoolhouses, inns, bakehouses and more. Michael and Suzanne lived someplace on these few streets.

Looking at the town today, you can see the same map outline, with Marketstrasse the main east-west street and Hauptstrasse the main north-south.

The churches and steeple. I know Michael saw this, every single day, and certainly was inside this building, probably many times.

Gathering Place

The Ulrich, Berchtol, Miller and Stutzman families are all found in the Steinwenden, Krottelbach, Konken and Ohmbach area of Germany beginning in the 1680s when the Swiss migrated and began settling the German lands vacated and abandoned during the long 30 Years War. That’s an entire generation, and few families would be in a position or have the desire to return. The older generation was gone.

This entire driving route is about 17 miles and would take about 35 minutes today.

As we’ve seen, the Swiss/Germans tended to migrate quite a bit within Germany. With no generations deeply rooted, and still no ability to own land outright, there was no reason NOT to go elsewhere and try your hand. After a generation or two, that just seemed normal, I’m sure.

We already know that Jacob Stutzman came from Erlenbach im Simmental, Bern Canton, Switzerland. Many families in this region originated near Geneva, Switzerland. We also know that the Berchtol, Miller and Ulrich families were Swiss before becoming German, although the exact location of their roots has yet to be firmly established.

They all settled in the Konken/Krottelbach/Steinwenden region in Germany, but some of the next generation moved on. In this case, “on” seems to be Lambsheim where we once again find records involving these same families. In some cases, we know it’s the identical family, because we can actually connect the dots, but in others, we’re not so lucky. Lambsheim also seems to be where the Miller family connects with the Ulrich line.

The Pennsylvania Folklife article provides interesting information about some of the Lambsheim residents who immigrated.

In 1727, Jacob Stutzman, Michael Miller, Jacob Bauman, Johannes Ullerich, Christian Ullerich and Peter Rool (Ruhl) arrived in Philadelphia on October 2, on the ship “Adventure.” One Christ Ulrich held the lease on the Weilach estate from 1784 to 1799, just previous to Jacob Stutzman. Is this the same line?

Also immigrating at a later date from Lambsheim was one Maria Katharina Bechtold, widow of Zacharias Bechtold, son of Hans Stephan Bechtold and Anna Elisabetha. Is Bechtold the same as Berchtol? I don’t know. The author seems to think so and provides additional information about Hennrich Bechdolt from Lambsheim arriving as well, in 1738.

Michael Muller is mentioned as having been born at Steinweiler in the Oberant Lautern. When he became a citizen in Lambsheim in 1721, it was stated that he was formerly on the farm property at Weilach which belonged to the counts of Leiningen. There is no question about this being the same Michael Muller.

We don’t know if or how Peter Ruhl was related to the Miller/Stutzman clan, but he too was on the ship “Adventure” with the Lambsheim contingent in 1727. His entry in Lambsheim is interesting because it says that he paid his emigration tax. He was a wineloader and nightwatchman who was a nonhereditary tenant on a farm.

I wonder how much emigration tax cost, and if it had to be paid for every person, or just for the head of household or males of a certain age. Was it meant to dissuade migration, or just one more way to make a few last dollars off of someone who was leaving anyway?

Johannes Ulrich became a Lambsheim citizen on November 10, 1721, a few months after Michael Muller, and one Johannes Ulrich arrived on the same ship with the Miller/Stutzman group. So did Christian Ulrich.


I’ve never been clear on when or where Johann Michel Muller and Johann Jacob Stutzman became pietist. They were both very clearly Brethren in the US, documented in both of their family histories along with the Brethren history. Their ancestors were Swiss, then Lutheran or Reformed, but in Europe, not even a hint of Pietism. However, on this side of the Atlantic by 1738 for Stutzman and 1744 for Miller, we know they were pietists, but we don’t know exactly when or how that happened.

I do believe we may have found at least part of the secret, in Lambsheim.

Lambsheim seemed to have a mesmerizing draw in the person of charismatic John Philipp Boehm, born in 1683, a Lambsheim resident who had been an innkeeper prior to becoming a teacher and then a clergyman in the Reformed church. Not without controversy, he is considered the father of the Reformed Church in America.

According to the Pennsylvania Folklife article, in 1702, several men in Lambsheim were accused of pietism, including Matthaus Baumann, another man who would immigrate. Baumann and several followers were convicted in 1706 and sentenced on a subsistence of bread and water to clean out the town ditches (think raw sewage including human and animal waste), at which time most of them took the oath of allegiance. Bauman however, a radical pietist, testified that he had no written confession and that he believed in God alone, with whom he had spoken and who had sent him to call people to repent. Making matters worse, he declared that the clergy of the state churches preached false doctrine.

Many of the men who refused to take the oath were subsequently banished from the town and province in 1709, 1714 and 1719. This was the beginning of the Lambsheim immigration to America. Eventually 1133 people left between 1832 and 1877, and clearly more left between 1709 and 1832. That’s a very large number for a small village, even though the exodus took place over more than a century. It tells us that there are probably a lot of people in the US today descended from Lambsheim.

Baumann was one of the first to leave in 1714, settling in Berks County, PA, where many others would follow and settle in the Oley Valley among other Germans.

Skabat169 – Own work This panoramic image was created with Autostitch

In 1742, both Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman filed for land grants on the same day in Berks County.

I wonder what the impetus was for leaving Lambsheim in 1727. Jacob Stutzman (the younger) would just have been coming of age. Jacob, the youngest child, of Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha was leaving with her oldest child, Michael Muller. Clearly, Irene/Regina knew unquestionably that she would never see them again in her lifetime. She had already buried at least 5 children and now her youngest and oldest were leaving too, by choice.

Irene/Regina was no spring chicken either. In 1727, she would have been about 63, a ripe old age in that time in Germany. I can’t help but wonder if something happened in 1721 when Michael Muller moved to Lambsheim, the same rift that would allow him to leave in1727, taking his brother with him.

Both of those men knew they would never see their mother or Jacob Stutzman again.

On to America!

In 1727, when Johann Michael Muller arrived in Philadelphia, now age 35, his previous place of residence was listed as Lambsheim, Pfalz, Bavaria. He was a resident in Lambsheim from 1721-1727 and became a citizen in Lambsheim on June 4, 1721, listed as formerly residing on the grafl. Leining Hofgut at Weilach. The ship’s manifest reports his birth as Steinweiler Oberamt Lautern and his arrival on October 2, 1727 on the ship “Adventure.”

This means that Michael and Suzanna likely had children born in 1723, 1725 and perhaps 1727 in Lambshein. Unfortunately, Lambsheim church records for this timeframe no longer exist. Nothing prior to 1800.

We know positively that Philip Jacob Miller, son of Michael Miller and Susanna Berchtol, was born about 1726 and there are other possible children as well.

What else do the Kallstadt records tell us?


Page 395; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Tuesday, the 18th of February 1721, following the announcement of 3 banns were officially married in church: The shoemaker, Johann Adam Schmidt, legitimate son of the master shoemaker and citizen, Johann Jacob Schmidt with Maria Catharina, legitimate only daughter of Johann Jacob Stotzmann, the farm administrator for the Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weilach.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 201 Mikrofilm 437

Johann Adam Schmidt would probably assist his father-in-law, Jacob Stutzman (the elder,) as a farm administrator. In 1721, Jacob is still listed as the administrator of the farm, so the records indicating that Michael Miller took over in 1716 are incorrect. It appears they were co-administrators until Michael moved to Lambsheim.


Tuesday morning at 4 a.m. on the 22nd of April 1721 was born to Tobias Schragen, citizen here, a young son from his legitimate wife, Gertraud. On Friday the 25th of April he was baptized. Godparents: Johann Jacob Stotzman, steward for the Lord of the Manor at Weilach; Anna Margretha, legitimate wife of Johannis (Johann Christian) Stotzmann from Asselheim. The child was given the name: Johannes Jacobus.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 104 Mikrofilm 437


Thursday evening [“24 October” added to the right] at about 8 to 9, a young daughter was born to master shoemaker Johann Adam Schmidt, now living on the Weilach manor with his father-in-law Stotzmann, with his lawfully wed wife Maria Catharina, which was baptized on the manor on the 27th, 19th Sunday after Trinity. Godparents were: Master Johann Jacob Schmidt, citizen and shoemaker from here, grandfather of the child, Anna Regina, lawfully wed wife of Johann Jacob Stotzmann, steward for the lord of the manor, grandmother of the child, who gave the child the name Johanna Regina.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 115 Mikrofilm 437

Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elisabetha is beginning to see her grandchilden born, being their godmother and witnessing their baptisms.


Thursday, the 9th of October 1727 was born to Johann Samuel Stotzmann, steward for the Lord of the Manor at Weilacher Hof and his legitimate wife, Anna Maria, a young daughter, who was baptized on the 12th, 18th Sunday after Trinity at the Weilacher Hof. The godparents were: Johann Jacob Stotzmann, steward at the manor with his legitimate wife Regina Elisabetha; Anna Elisabetha, legitimate wife of Joh(ann) Adam Walter, steward for the Lord of the Manor in Durckh[eim]. The child was named: Regina Elisabetha.

Johann Adam Walter was also a godfather. (Note added in the row below.)

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 116 Mikrofilm 437


Page 515 of the Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

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

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 261 Mikrofilm 437

Clearly, as late at 1729, Jacob Stutzman is stil the farm administrator at Weilach.

If Regina was 75 years old, she was born in 1654, a decade before I thought possible, given that Jacob Stutzman, her husband, was born in 1673/6, making her 22 years older than him when they married. He was age 20 according to his birth record. This would also mean that by 1706 when her son Johann Jacob Stutzman Jr. was born that she would have been 52. That’s certainly not unheard of, but it’s not exactly normal either. Ages given at death are often incorrect. I don’t exactly know what to think about this informatoin.

Irene/Regina is probably buried in the Kallstadt churchyard, carried outside after her sermon. I can hear those churchbells ringing to celebrate her life.

Her first 5 children died young. Her only other Muller child, plus her youngest Stutzman child had departed for America two years before. Irene/Regina still had six children to attend her funeral, her husband and several grandchildren. She may have had surviving siblings as well, along with nieces and nephews. I’m sure the church was packed to the gills that day!

You can view additional photos of Kallstadt here.

I find it unusual that Johann Michael Muller left Germany before his mother passed away. He was her oldest living child. She died just 2 years later. News must surely have reached him by letter, many months later, if ever. Of course, that news would have meant as much to Jacob Stutzman as Michael Muller, then Miller, as she was his mother as well.

The next year, their brother, Samuel, also the farm administrator died too, a few months shy of his 28th birthday, joining his mother in the churchyard. I can’t help but wonder why. Was he injured on the farm?


Page 515 Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Saturday, the 4th of February 1730 in the evening died: Johann Samuel (Stutz)mann, son of the citizen and farm administrator for the count of Leiningen-Hardenburg. His age 27 years, 8 months and was buried on Monday the 6th of February in Callstadt (Kallstadt).

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 261 Mikrofilm 437


Page 401; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Tuesday, the 12th of July 1730, Johann Jacob Stotzmann, farm administrator (steward) for the most gracious Herrschaft (Lord of the Manor) at Weilach with Louysa, the surviving widow of master baker and local juror, Tobias Lunge from here after receiving dispensation from …. the mourning period……………

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 204 Mikrofilm 437

When you’re as old as Jacob Stutzman, if you don’t waive the mourning period and just pay the fee, you just might not live long enough to marry. I don’t know how long that mourning period was supposed to last, but he waited 16 months. Neither Tom nor Chris are familiar with the custom of a fee to waive the mourning period. Neither had even hard of a mourning period? Was the purpose to be sure a merry widow didn’t remarry the next week, or was this a fundraising opportunity for the church?

Jacob is still the farm administrator.

Life marched on with more births to the Stutzman children.


Page 250; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

The 27th of October in the afternoon was born to Johann Adam Schmitt and his lawfully wed wife from here, Maria Catharina nee Stutzmann(in) a daughter and on the 31st of the same (month) was baptized. The godparents were: Jacob Stutzmann and his lawfully wed wife, Louisa Margaretha. The child received the name Louisa Margaretha.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 127 Mikrofilm 437


Page 257; Kallstadt Evangelische Kirche, Bavaria

Monday, the 4th of February 1737 between 9-10 a.m. was born to Adam Schmitt, local citizen and his wife, Maria Catharina, a son, who was baptized on the 6th [Iof February. The godparents: Jacob Stutzmann, farm administrator (steward) at Weilach with his legitimately wed wife, Louisa Margaretha, the child’s grandparents on the mother’s side. The child was named: Jacob.

Note added:

“During the erection of the church building on 17th of June 1772 he fell down and died.”

I’m presuming here that the note pertains to Jacob who would have been age 35 at that time. I wonder if “fell down” meant from the top.

Jacob is still the farm administrator and is now in his 60s.

Zentralarchiv der evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz > Bad Dürkheim > Kallstadt > Taufen, Trauungen, Bestattungen, Konfirmationen, Kommunikanten, Sonstiges 1656-1739, Bild 130 Mikrofilm 437 IMAGE: 0247601-00355


6 September 1739 in Friedelsheim-Gonnheim Ev. Ref. Kirche

On the 6th of September 1739 was buried, Jacob Stutzmann, his age 66 years.

Jacob Stutzman Sr. lived for another 9 years after his remarriage. Sometime between February 1737 and his death in September of 1739, if we are to judge by where his death is recorded, he retired from farm administration. Friedelsheim is about 10 kilometers from Weilach.

Someone would have written the sad news to both men in a letter which would have arrived in Pennsylvania weeks or months later, perhaps not until the spring or early summer of 1740.

The story of Michael Mueller (the second) and Jacob Stutzman (the younger) doesn’t end with the death of their mother and the man who raised both his biological son and step-son.

Their bond would continue in America for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania

On October 2, 1742, Michael and Jacob both obtained land warrants for 100 acres each on Saucony Creek, Maxatawney, Philadelphia County, PA, now Berks County. I do wonder if they bought that land with their inheritance from Jacob Stutzman.

This is now Berks County, shown below, within about 5 miles of Allentown, PA.

Maxatawny Township is shown here, with Saucony Creek running through the middle of Kutztown.

The warrant information for Michael Miller says that he vacated this land. I wonder why.

Michael also applied to patent 200 acres in the same location on June 11, 1734, which he also vacated.

The survey for this land can be found in book A84, page 144, although it provides exactly no additional information.

Jacob Stutzman applied for two claims of 100 acres each in 1742 on the same day as Michael entered his second claim. Jacob also abandoned one claim.

According to the Pennsylvania State Archives, one of Jacob Stutzman’s warrants was vacated and replaced by a warrant to Michael Christman (See Berks County Warrant Register, Surnames beginning with “C”, warrant no. 28). The other warrant simply refers to the vacated warrant (no. 128). No further action appears to have been taken with the second warrant. This is rather disappointing, because I was hoping to be able to pinpoint the location of these men during a someone fuzzy time.

I wonder if either man ever actually lived on this land. We found Michael Miller in Chester County for some time, then he begins paying taxes in York County by 1744, involved with the Ulrich group who helped found the Little Conewago Brethren Church. At some point, Stephen Ulrich sold his original Lancaster, then York County land to Jacob Stutzman, but that deed was never recorded. The only way we know about it is due to a transaction another generation later.

In York County, we do find Lodowick Miller who surveyed 250 acres at Mt. Joy and received the warrant on March 22, 1749. That survey wasn’t returned until May of 1864 in his name. No, that’s not a typo.

Was this Ludwig Miller, son of Johann Michael Miller/Muller, born in April 5, 1721 in Kallstadt. He would have been 28 in 1749, so it’s certainly possible. Note that there is also a Lodowick Solomon Miller who warrants York County land in 1769, after our Lodowich is in Maryland. Unfortunately, Miller is a very common surname and the only way we know the Michael Miller in Philadelphia (then Berks) County is our Michael is because Jacob Stutzman registered land at the same time. The chances of those two names appearing together on the same day in the same place, but not being those two men is vanishingly small.

By 1745, this group was buying land across the border in Washington, now Frederick County, Maryland and by 1752 the entire congregation had moved to escape ongoing border wars in that part of Pennsylvania.

This group of German Brethren families established the foundation for the next many generations of Brethren as they moved across the frontiers. Many of these families remain Brethren to this day.

What About DNA?

You might have noticed only the passing mention of genetics up until now.

We have three types of DNA that we can utilize.

  • First, Y DNA, passed only from father to son, is entirely irrelevant to this mystery, because we already know that Johann Michael Muller and Johann Jacob Stutzman don’t share a common paternal line.
  • Second, mitochondrial DNA descended from Irene indeed could under some circumstances be relevant, but because mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to all of her children, with only females passing it on, it’s not useful in confirming that Michael Miller and Jacob Stutzman were half siblings. Neither man passed mitochondrial DNA to his children, so that option is off the table.

Mitochondrial would be very interesting if we could find someone today who descends from Irene/Regina through all females to the current generation, which can be male. That would tell us a great deal about Irene/Regina, but not whether Michael and Jacob were half siblings, unless we dug them up, of course. (PS – No, we really can’t because we don’t know where they are buried.)

  • Third, autosomal DNA is inherited by children from both parents – half from each parent. Each parents’ autosomal DNA is effectively halved in each generation, so he child only received part of the DNA of each parent. The child may not receive exactly 50% of the DNA of each ancestor in each generation, but on the average, the following grid shows how much of each ancestor’s DNA you carry back 7 generations in time.

Compare this chart to the pedigree below that shows my descent from Irene:

  • The first issue we have is that the relationship begins as a half-sibling, which means that Jacob and Michael only shared half as much common DNA as full siblings would share.
  • The second problem is that we are two generations beyond the 7th generation where the average amount of DNA drops below 1%. At 9 generations to a common ancestral couple, we would expect to see slightly less than .2%, and with half siblings to begin, that has now dropped to .09%. In other words, to have a large enough piece of common DNA after this many generations beginning with half siblings, we’d have to be extremely lucky several times over. Not impossible, but also not common.
  • The third challenge is that on my side, we have an unknown wife. Magdalena, married to Philip Jacob Miller, sometime around 1751 in either Pennsylvania or about the time they moved to Maryland. Regardless, in true Brethren fashion, the marriage is not recorded. They may have been good Brethren, avoiding any government at all, but those practices drive genealogists nuts!
  • The fourth challenge is that we don’t know who Jacob Stutzman’s wife was, so for all we know, Jacob’s wife and Philip Jacob Muller’s wife could have been sisters or otherwise related. It was, after all, a small Brethren community.

One thing we do know beyond a doubt is that Philip Jacob Miller’s wife, Magdalena would be Brethren, or at least pietist, and so would Jacob’s. So, perhaps Mennonite. Otherwise, the couples would have been excommunicated from the church.

Therefore, it’s certainly possible that Magdalena’s lineage is found in Jacob Stutzman’s descendants, or Jacob’s wife’s line in Philip Jacob Millers descendants, or both. At that early date, about 1750, the number of Brethren families in the Little Conewago congregation was quite small and records were very poorly kept, if at all.

Jacob Stutzman would have married someplace in the US after arrival, but that’s about all we know. His wife might not have been Brethren when he married her, because we don’t know for sure when Jacob became Brethren.

Furthermore, because the Brethren are so closely aligned, eschewing those not of the Brethren faith, they tended to migrate together, as displaced Swiss to Germany, as Germans to the colonies and later, as Brethren marching across the frontiers to new lands. Endogamous groups are defined by intermarriage for many generations, and we certainly see that phenomenon here.

Therefore, if the descendants of Jacob Stutzman had DNA matches to the descendants of Johann Michael Muller/Miller, we would have no way to determine if that match was because of Irene’s contribution, or because the descendants are related through an unknown ancestral line.

Unless by some miracle we can identify both Jacob’s wife and Magdalena’s surname and family, we will never be able to utilize autosomal DNA effectively, with one possible exception. If we can find descendants of Irene’s siblings or family members not descended through Irene, and they triangulate to Irene’s descendants, that too would suffice. Never say never. The stars might align and I might just win the genetic genealogy lottery.

After all, Tom and Chris have pretty much already done the impossible, so why not hope for yet another miracle!

  • If you descend from Jacob Stutzman, but have NO descent from the Miller, Berchtol or Ulrich lines, please let me know. If your DNA matches with a Miller descendant, we might be able to tentatively identify a few segments of Irene/Regina’s DNA, even yet today.
  • If you descend from Regina through one of her Stutzman daughters through all females to the current generation, which can be male, you carry her mitochondrial DNA. I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.
  • I would also encourage any male Stutzman who carries the surname to take the Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA. Additionally for Y test takers, and any other descendants of either gender, please take the Family Finder autosomal DNA test at Family Tree DNA. Then, join the Stutzman DNA project as well as the Miller-Brethren project so you can compare your results to known descendants to see if your DNA matches. Once a project member, you can compare directly to other known descendants within the project.

Descendants of Johann Michael Muller/Miller are encouraged to join as well. After all, thanks to Irene Charitas Loysa Regina Elisabetha, the Millers and the Stutzmans in the US are finally proven to be related by blood.


It was complicated, and frustrating, but it’s so worthwhile now.


I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Tom who has been working on the Stutsman Saga now for at least two years. Also to Chris who joined our little team in the past year. Tom suggests that Bud Martin deserves the credit for his work on the early Peter Stutzman lineage including the two sons, Hans and Hans Jacob. Tom adds that the superb work of Klaus Dufner and Uwe Porten were tremendously important in sorting through the Stutzman generations. I would like to add that there is a great deal of new information here for the Stutzman cousins, even those not related through Irene Charitas Regina Loysa Elizabetha, or whatever her name really was.

Related Articles

This article provides information not included in the following articles, and corrects some earlier information – for example, the Schlosser family is NOT an ancestor to the Johann Michael Muller/Miller line. However, all of these articles contain relevant historical information pertaining to the area in Germany where all of these families lived before immigration. They also explain how these mistakes arose. I’m hopeful thta leaving the information will prevent it from happening again and allow future researchers to step through the process.

The stories of the individuals involved are contained in their own biographies, listed below:



Irene Charitas/Schlosser/Heitz


Believe it or not, we aren’t yet finished with this series. I’ll be writing about Irene Heitz’s parents, Michael Muller (the first)’s father and the Ulrich family soon.

Barbara Jean Ferverda (1922-2006) and Her “Suitcase of Life” – 52 Ancestors #193

It’s Mother’s Day, of course. Mother’s Day falls within a week or so of the anniversary of mother’s passing. The year she passed away, I spent Mother’s Day cleaning out her apartment and moving the furniture I was keeping, along with several boxes, home, in a rented truck. Clearly, that was one of the most miserable Mother’s Days ever. Talk about a tough day.

After Mom passed away, as I was cleaning out her closet, I found her old dancing suitcase, the handle cracked with age and hundreds of performances. Mom lived out of this suitcase for years, her ever-present companion.

The metal latches were worn smooth with her fingers, packing and unpacking costumes across the country, needles and pins still clinging to the inside for quick fixes. That sojourning suitcase with all of its secrets, now “retired” and packed full of “stuff” that she had saved for me.

Thanks Mom. Such a wonderful gift.

The Suitcase of Life

Mom called it her “suitcase of life” and after I opened the suitcase, on top, greeting me was a note written on an envelope in her handwriting.

How my heart ached for my mother’s suffering when I saw that.  Had I know about this a few days sooner, perhaps I could have given her some sort of assurance or comfort.

A few days, you ask? A story was unfolding, even as she died, a tragedy that reached back some 65 years.

The first thing that struck me was the apologetic timbre of the note, along with the fact that it was incredibly sad that she felt her life was in any way “bad.”

Mom’s life was difficult. She was an accidental pioneer.

No, her life wasn’t all bad – in fact, it wasn’t’ “bad” at all, but it was anything but easy. She was a soul placed on this earth before her time – seldom in sync with the society and location in which she found herself living, trying to survive, at the time.

Mom often endured criticism for both her own choices and circumstances that dragged her along, over which she had no control. Sometimes when you’re marching on life’s road, the only way is forward, no matter where it leads.

I knew that somehow this gift was a combination treasure chest and Pandora’s box.

What treasures did she leave?

There were certainly some surprises, let me tell you! Things I never suspected. Things I suspected and could now confirm. I’m just as sure that there are secrets I’ll never know – that she took to her grave with her. Secrets too personal, or painful, to leave behind for scrutiny.

One of the best gifts was a treasure trove of photos, with at least a few from her childhood. Let’s start there.

Baby Barbara Jean

In many ways, my mother, Barbara Jean Ferverda, was typical for the time and place in which she was born. The tiny town of Silver Lake, Indiana in 1922 was a conservative Brethren crossroads community in Kosciusko County, Indiana with far more horses than cars. The “town” was all of three blocks wide and about as long, streets were dirt, and a cornfield grew beside their house.

Notice the horse and buggy in the upper left hand side of the photo.

Her parents, Edith Barbara Lore and John Whitney Ferverda owned the last house at the edge of town – the only home they ever owned and where Mom lived her entire life before leaving entirely.

Edith, third from right in front, worked at the local chicken hatchery as a bookkeeper until sometime after 1940.

A working wife was highly unusual and not well accepted. John was the stationmaster at the railroad depot, beginning in 1910, within sight of the house.

That was, until John bought a hardware store in 1916 and then apparently sold the business about 1922. The family oral history says that he went bankrupt during the Depression. I’m not sure which is true, or perhaps some combination of both.

One way or another, by 1930, John had lost the hardware store and sold tractors and trucks at the Ford dealer until no one could afford to purchase tractors and trucks anymore.

Mom remembers that when she walked the 3 or 4 blocks to school as a child, she would go another half block beyond the turn to go to school and ask her father for a nickel for a candy bar. Then, she walked another half block where she would promptly purchase a Hershey bar at the drug store on the corner, beside what used to be her father’s hardware store. Her mother wouldn’t have approved of the candy, but her dad just pretended not to notice. She loved Hershey bars literally until her dying day.

By the 1940 census, the family raised chickens and had a large garden along with fruit trees and berry bushes – which was all that stood between them and hunger during the Depression years. John listed himself as a chicken and fruit farmer.

Mother cleaned chickens and was paid a nickel for each one she cleaned. She hated cleaning chicken as long as she lived – but during the Depression, everyone did anything and everything they could to contribute to the common good.

In some ways, mother was very different from the other children as she grew up. Aside from having a working mother, the major difference being that contrary to her family’s Brethren background, mother danced. You can bet that was the talk of the town – but it didn’t happen in quite the way you might imagine.

Mother’s life seems to have been divided into compartments or chapters, and in many cases, she did her best not to let those compartments intrude into each other. So, I’ll tell her story the same way she lived her life – in sections – starting with life in Silver Lake.

Early Pictures

Mom with her mother in 1923 where Mom looks to be maybe 3 months old or so. She was oh so cute. I’d love to hold and snuggle that baby. Especially today – Mother’s Day.

Mom’s maternal grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore McCormick, James Martin on trike, her brother Lore Ferverda and Mom in February 1923.

What is it about my family and pixie haircuts for the girls? If Mom hadn’t been wearing a dress combined with a name on the photo, she would look like a little boy in this picture taken in September 1925.

Mom was 2 years and 9 months old in her first portrait.

Photography in the 1920s was very much a luxury. Cameras and film were both rare and expensive. Therefore, we have very few photos of Mom before she began dancing.

This picture, where Mom REALLY looks like a boy, was taken at Tridle’s, her babysitter’s house, playing with or feeding the chickens.

Mom looked every bit as unhappy with her bangs cut to her hairline as I was a generation later when Mom gave me the EXACT same haircut. I think this was an outgrowth of conservative frugality when no one was about to waste money having a child’s hair cut when you could do it easily at home. Mistakes? Don’t worry – they grow out!

One thing that struck me about these photos is that Mom was blonde as a baby. I never knew her as anything but a brunette, until age lightened her hair once again.

Mother had an older brother, seven years her senior, Harold Lore Ferverda, known as Lore, sporting his new bicycle in the photo below.

This series of 3 photos looks to have been taken at the same time. In the photo below, Mom looks to have been crying. Older brothers will do that to you, just saying…

Mom always loved dogs, and Lore probably told her the dog didn’t like her or some other “brotherly” thing meant to irritate his baby sister. It obviously worked.

If Mom looked unhappy above, she looks smug as a bug in a rug below, with her brother, center, and cousin, James Martin at right.

In the photo below, Mom is in front of the house where she grew up in Silver Lake.

It’s somehow prophetic that Mom’s feet are front and center in this photo, because one way or another, they were her focus for the rest of her life. On the day she had the massive stroke, we found her, having crawled somehow into the closet, wearing her dress shoes and little else. Priorities!

Mom with an unnamed friend, but one I spotted in several photos. Her socks are rolled to her ankles. It looks like a warm day and the girls probably got hot.

In the next photo, on a much smaller bicycle, Mom looks to have been 7 or 8. The house on the right is the side of the Ferverda home where Mom grew up and her parents lived for more than 40 years – maybe as long as 50 years. I was about 6 years old the last time I was in that house, but I remember it vividly.

The double set of windows beside my Mom to the right was the music room where the piano lived and my grandmother would play. The floor was hardwood, so dance practice and lessons could easily take place. My grandmother died when I was 4, but I remember her at the piano and the cactus in pots those windows. I managed to get tiny cactus quills in my hand and they burned like fire. The music room was joyful, filled with singing and fun. Well, except for those evil cactus.

School Pictures

The schoolhouse in Silver Lake included students of all ages, so class pictures were really more like school pictures, meaning multiple ages in each photo. In later years, there were enough students to have several classrooms.

Thankfully, tucked into Mom’s “suitcase of life” were a few school photos. I have cropped Mom’s pictures from the larger group pictures, below.

The photo above on left was labeled 1932, so she would have been 9 years old.

On the back of that photo, Mom wrote the names of each of her classmates, along with her own, in her sweet little-girl handwriting.

Of course, there were no years written on most photos, but the last picture appears to be older than the first three.

I have to laugh at Mom’s crooked bangs, because it tells me that Mom obviously inherited her bang-cutting skills from her mother and later, practiced them on me.

In her last class photo, she looks to be 15 or 16.

I think the family bought a camera when mom was about 10 or 11, based on the following photographic record of at least a portion of Mom’s life, thanks to dancing.

Dancing Begins

Dancing. How romantic it sounded to me as a child. Mother had been a ballerina! A REAL ballerina! I saw glittery consumes and stage lights, but I never knew Mom when she danced nor did I have any inkling of the story behind her dancing.

And Mom, well, she wasn’t talking. However, there was a suitcase full of photos and another full of costumes to tell the tale. That tale was far more tragic than I ever knew or could have imagined. In fact, I never knew the details until after her death – and I probably still don’t know them all.

As a child, I could never understand why Mom didn’t teach dancing. She certainly could have. She was imminently qualified. I would only learn much later that she really didn’t like to dance, it wasn’t her passion, and it was not a love in her life. In many ways, it was a forced march, a necessity – one that captured her and refused to let go.

Instead, Mom was relieved to be “past” that stage in her life – to shed it and leave it behind. Indeed, she was somewhat embarrassed by her career, as she tried to fit back into the life and lifestyle that she left. She just wanted to be a “regular” wife and mother. Typical wives and mothers certainly didn’t dance, and neither did well-behaved church women. Discrimination and stereotyped assumptions about dancers plagued mom when she danced and forever after.

We never had any photos of Mom’s dancing years anyplace in evidence when I was growing up. She strove to be a “normal” person, not a dancer or a retired or former dancer. Mom’s dream had been to be a bookkeeper, not a dancer. Dancing claimed her, not the other way around.

Mom was obviously very talented. Most people don’t achieve the level of professional acclaim that she did without a love and passion for the art. But then, nothing mother ever did was done in the normal fashion, or half way, and dancing wasn’t any different.

So how the heck did the daughter of a Brethren man come to be a professional ballet and tap dancer with a renowned dance company?

Rheumatic Fever

Mother never chose to dance. It wasn’t a hobby she selected. Her health demanded it and her parents arranged for lessons. When Mother was someplace between 7 and 9, she developed Rheumatic fever. She recalled that her arms felt too heavy for her body and it hurt her to even hold her arms at her side. She needed to lay them on pillows to relieve the pain. She clearly couldn’t attend school.

Today we know that Rheumatic fever is the result of an untreated streptococcal infection, manifesting itself about 3 weeks after the person has had either strep throat or scarlet fever. Unfortunately, rheumatic fever is much worse and involves the heart, causing congestive heart failure, mitral valve prolapse and a host of other issues including heart murmurs, which mother had. The doctor told her parents that she needed to dance to strengthen her heart which was damaged by the disease. I don’t know if that was accurate or not, but regardless, it set the stage, pardon the pun, for the rest of her life.

Today physicians recommend another 5 years of low grade antibiotic treatment to prevent a relapse which is all too common. It was during this time that Mom began to have recurring nosebleeds which too are a symptom of rheumatic fever, although I doubt she was aware of this because she never mentioned the connection. She likely had a low grade infection for years, until the nosebleeds stopped sometime in her teens.

Mom was lucky to have survived, as many of the early victims before the use of antibiotics did not.

Rheumatic fever is so named because of its similarity in terms of painful joints and extremities to rheumatism. Mother commented several times about how terribly sick she was and the unending, unrelenting pain. She said that she was too sick to be able to read books, which she loved to do, so her father would carry her down the stairs in the morning, position her on the couch so her body was not bearing the weight of her arms and legs, and would read to her to comfort her throughout the long days. Mother always had a very close and special relationship with her father.

Sometimes her recently widowed Brethren grandmother would come to stay and care for her as well.


It was about this time that Buster came into mother’s life. My grandparents got Buster to help Mom through her illness and with loneliness during the long recovery. Mother loved Buster devotedly and never really got over his passing. Buster was born in 1932 and passed away in 1945 while mother was gone.

Buster’s death was one of three “great griefs” that tumbled one upon the other about that time that would forever shape mother’s life.

Buster was Mom’s constant companion and a full fledged family member.

Mom always felt that her traveling was somehow responsible for Buster’s death, as he grieved so terribly when the suitcases would come out of the closet. Mother’s niece, Nancy, told me when I visited her in 2008 that Buster began drooling and they thought he had rabies, so my grandparents had him put to sleep. Mom kept his photo on her dresser or on the counter in the kitchen throughout her life, literally, until the day she died in 2006 – more than 60 years. That’s devotion! She never stopped missing Buster and I’m glad to know they are reunited now.

The Outhouse

There was no note along with this photo, but Mom loved cats her entire life too. Fluffy was her beloved cat as a teen, and she was heartbroken when Fluffy disappeared. Inside cats weren’t a “thing” at that time like they are today.

I’m not quite sure what was going on in this photo, but I do recognize “the facility” to the left. Homes at that time didn’t have inside plumbing, although by the time I was born, a bathroom had been added on the side of the house in Silver Lake.

Before that, it was a long cold walk to the outhouse in the middle of the night!

The Scrapbooks

Mom kept a scrapbook. Scrapbooks were popular then, and her mother, Edith, probably started it for her. It had wooden covers and leather laces which have deteriorated and are broken now. I scanned each of the pages. The scrapbook held a great deal of dancing related memorabilia. You could tell that her parents were proud of Mom’s accomplishments, and probably relieved as well that she was physically able to succeed. They came close to losing her altogether.

Dancing was the 1930s equivalent of physical therapy in tiny Silver Lake.

Pictures were reserved for special events, as film had to be developed and printed. This 1937 snow storm apparently qualified.

As Mom got older, towards graduation, the scrapbook contained photos of other family events, such as a 1938 trip to Lookout Mountain and Rock City, both in Georgia. I’m not sure Mom went along, because the photos are only of her parents and another couple.

I always wondered about Rock City, having seen the signs for years on barns across the midwest and south, and I finally saw it myself in Mom’s scrapbook.

The family obtained their first camera about this time. I’ve always wondered if it was in trade for chickens. My grandfather took just about anything in payment.

A second scrapbook held mother’s Chicago and professional dancing photos,  newspaper clippings and such, but this article only covers the years before she became a professional dancer when she moved to Chicago, about 1944.

The front of the photo album was actually wood, shown above. The pages inside were thick brown paper, some deteriorating with age.

Dancing 1933

The earliest dancing photograph of mother that I’ve been able to find is the one above, dated 1933. She would have been nine and a half years old and looked rather stilted and nervous. She was probably weak from months of recovery from Rheumatic fever.

The programs from the various dance recitals don’t begin for another 2 years, so she may have switched teachers or perhaps there was no program printed, or it wasn’t saved. Given the costume above, there was obviously a dance recital or performance of some type.

The following photograph is undated, but given her age, it appears to be early.

The Courthouse Lawn Performance

It would have been about this time that my mother’s brother painted her face – black – with paint used to paint the porch screens at the house. By the way, this is back in the day when paint required turpentine and scrubbing to remove – if it could be removed at all and didn’t just have to “wear off.”

I’ll let mother tell this in her own words, written before her passing:

One summer when I was about 9 or 10, I was supposed to dance on the courthouse lawn in Wabash Indiana for a holiday celebration. Every spring, the screens on the front porch were reinstalled for the summer. Lore painted the screens with black paint in the garage. Some kittens came to visit and were annoying Lore. He put black paint on the nose of one of the kittens, at which time, I moved in rather loudly to rescue the kitten and took a swing at my brother who swung back and hit me on one check with a paint brush full of black paint….at which time I went running and screaming to the back door telling mother “Lore put black paint on me!!!”

Mother lost it and was chasing Lore with a broom – she was so livid. It’s funny now but was very serious at the time. The turpentine was in the basement and Lore was trying to get there but he couldn’t get past her swinging the broom.

In the meantime, I was trying to remove the paint with a wet wash cloth. That paint was not water soluble, none was at that time, and the wash cloth smeared it even worse. After a few minutes we got most of the paint off with very little loss of skin.

The neighbors heard my mother a block to the church and across the street. I was able to dance after all was said and done.

Of course, Lore painted the entire side of Mom’s face including her cheek, ear and hair. Thankfully, he didn’t get any IN her eye. And she had to leave to dance in a few minutes.

My grandmother began wiping paint from my mother with her ever-present apron. My grandfather went to find gasoline and busily began removing paint from my mother’s face while my grandmother nearly killed her son. They washed mother’s hair with gasoline or turpentine in the driveway, then in the sink. Performances don’t wait and dancers can’t have paint on their face (unless the role calls for paint) nor can they smell like turpentine or gasoline. They all 3 left in the car with my mother in tears, and without Lore who was in BIG trouble.

My grandfather drove while my grandmother continued to soak my mother’s skin in gasoline to remove the paint which had sunk into her pores. Then, my grandmother applied layers of makeup to cover mother’s bright red (and black) skin on one side of her face.

Mother’s face and eye began to swell, and by the time she was finished dancing, she covered herself with a shawl to hide and went to the car immediately. It was perceived as a celebrity exit, but it was anything but.

I don’t think Mom ever forgave her brother, not just for painting her face, ironically, but for painting poor Fluffy’s nose. Indeed, it made a great story for years and she got mad at him all over again every time she told it. He, on the other hand, desperately wanted to forget the entire episode. I think he came out on the short end of that stick in multiple ways!

Unfortunately, we have no photos of that memorable event.

Dancing 1934

The following photo is dated 1934, and again, no program. Were it not for these dance photos and scrapbook, we would have no photos of mother during this period of time.

Violet Reinwald

Beginning in 1919, the newspapers in northern Indiana begin proclaiming the talent and beauty of Violet Reinwald, mother’s dance instructor. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette said, “Miss Violet Reinwald, principal among the soloists was a dancer of rare grace and beauty. Miss Reinwald has won Fort Wayne audiences before, but her appearance last night in new numbers has acclaimed her the mistress of her art; her reputation as a danceuse is made.” She is described a few months later as an instructor in interpretive dance. In 1920, she opened a school of “Fancy Dance” and her “Revues” are covered in newspapers for at least the next two and a half decades.

This 1936 program provides additional information about Violet. Her Chicago connection may be the link between mother and her professional career, launched at the upscale Edgewater Beach Hotel there during World War II.

Ironically, Violet herself suffered from mitral valve stenosis, a condition caused by untreated rheumatic fever. She passed away in 1952, at age 50, still listed on her death certificate as a dance teacher. Perhaps her personal experience with rheumatic fever, and unquestionable recovery, is why my grandparents chose Violet as mother’s instructor.

Violet also became mother’s mentor and advocate.

Dancing 1935

Beginning in 1935, when Mom would have been 12, turning 13 the second to last day of the year, we begin to find programs for her performances.

Most years, two performances were given around Memorial Day, one in Huntington, Indiana and one in Fort Wayne, with the Fort Wayne performance seeming to be the larger one. The performances, at least initially, were entirely different. The programs for the Fort Wayne recital appear to be more professionally produced and included ads, which probably meant that Violet had to pay for the theater in Fort Wayne, so had to raise revenue one way or another.

Below, the program for the Violet Reinwald Revue, Huntington – Tuesday, June 11, 1935.

Fortunately, we have photos to go along with the 1935 performances.

With what I’ve heard about my extremely conservative grandmother, I’m totally amazed that my mother was allowed to wear a skirt this short for any reason whatsoever – costume or not!

The Russian act was performed in Fort Wayne, listed in the program below.

This costume was also worn in the recital in Fort Wayne.

Mom truly looks happy in these photos.

Kicking It Up a Notch

In May of 1935, things change a bit and it looks like Violet Reinwald went upscale, scheduling a performance at the Shrine Theater in Fort Wayne, Indiana, complete with professionally printed program and advertising. The stage, above, is where mother would have performed as my grandparents sat in the audience.

The Huntington event was only a couple of weeks later, so Violet’s students would have been practicing two entirely different programs at the same time. That’s an impressive undertaking!

The Shrine Temple in Fort Wayne was constructed at 431 West Berry Street in 1924 with an eye to professional theater production. This building is shown above as it originally appeared and below, as it appears today.

Mother returned to Fort Wayne with me in 1994 to hang a special exhibit at the Allen County Public Library titled “Seven Generations of Hoosier Needlewomen.” She never mentioned to me that she danced in performances, for years, just across the street and down a block or so.

It is ironic that in the spring of 2009, three years after mother’s passing and 70 years after Mom danced in this building, I stayed in a hotel across the street from the Shrine Theater as I taped several segments about DNA for the Allen County Public Library and their cable television station. Little did I know.

Those DNA presentations were open to the public at the library. After I finished speaking, a lady approached me and told me that she knew my mother and had been mother’s dance student at one time. She had no idea when she decided to attend my presentation that it would include my mother, or that she had any connection at all. Talk about a small world. It thrilled me to no end to meet someone who remembered my mother so fondly some 65 or 70 years later. The lady mentioned that mother gave her a costume that mother had once worn, and she would check to see if she still had that costume tucked away someplace.

Dancing 1935

Based on this program, we know where Mom was on Tuesday, May 21, 1935.

The ads in the program are as interesting as the program itself. The phone numbers all begin with a letter plus 4 numbers. Later that letter would translate into digits and ultimately into contemporary 10-digit phone numbers.

In Fort Wayne in 1935, you could get steam permanent waves in your hair by Joseph or could purchase Rosemary butter, Fort Wayne’s favorite. I surely have to wonder about those steam waves. And what was Rosemary butter anyway?

You could go to the Town House for special Sunday Noon dinners from 12-2 or visit their beverage room after the theater. Now that’s a nice way to say “bar.” You could probably order a Berghoff beer, still available today, in the beverage room as well.

Packard Piano was a very large and well-established business, building and shipping both pianos and organs, but they went bankrupt during the depression, as did so many others.

A cab ride to seemingly anyplace would cost you twenty-five cents. Heating was done by coal or coke, and that’s not the drinkable type.

Mom danced two roles during this performance, the Russian and another group dance. It’s fun to see the photos of the costumes she wore.

The ads provide us with a glimpse into life at that time in Fort Wayne.

Of course, while mother danced in Fort Wayne, the family lived 40 miles distant in Silver Lake. My grandmother or grandfather drove Mom back and forth for years, which also meant, of course, that they waited while she took her lessons and practiced. They had only one car, which both adults as well as my uncle shared. Driving a car as well as gasoline was expensive and scarce during the depression which lasted for 10 years, not ending until 1939. The cost of dance lessons and driving back and forth to Fort Wayne must have been a real commitment for this family.

They were probably greatly relieved when mother became good enough to receive even minimal compensation by teaching younger students.

The Double Exposure

You might notice the name of Mary Louise Woerner in the programs. Mary Lu was Mom’s long-time dancing partner and friend.

The following double exposure was one of Mom’s all-time favorite photos and was taken about this time. I wrote about “Mom’s Joyous Springtime “Mistake” and the fond memories of finding this photo in the photo box at my grandmother’s table as a child.

I thought this was Mom hand-standing on her own behind, but Mom said it was her and Mary Lu, goofing around as they practiced in the yard. Yes, they practiced dancing outside in the yard, on sidewalks, everyplace.

Dancing 1936

In the 1936 dance recital, mother was an acrobat and danced in the music segment for the Reinwald Revue. There were two performances, one at the Shrine Theater in Fort Wayne on May 26th and one later in Huntington on June 4th.

In a second performance she was also a gypsy.

This year, Mom appeared in a featured dance duet with only one other person, a notch up from a group performance.

I couldn’t help myself, and had to laugh at this ad.

If my child looked like that, I think she’d need more than glasses. I wonder how they convinced that child to cross her eyes like that. This was before the days of photoshop. Mom always told me if I crossed my eyes, they would stay that way! Maybe this is why.

Note that the students had a contest to see who could sell the most tickets.

Dancing 1937

In 1937, a third recital venue was added. The Reinwald Revue held in Bluffton, Indiana on May 27th was sponsored by the Sigma Phi Gamma sorority.

In this production, Mom danced in the ballet Moonlight Interlude and then danced the role of the Emerald in the jewelry store. I would like to have seen that costume, in color. However, color photography was years distant and I don’t believe there is any photo of her portraying the emerald.

It appears there was a Huntington Revue this year as well judging from the program.

For the first time, Mom is wearing toe shoes, a much-coveted rite of passage for a ballerina. Judging from the look on Mom’s face either the sun is in her eyes or her feet hurt, or maybe both.

Apparently that hedge was a favorite photography location, because Mom’s picture was taken there for years.

I wonder if the Moonlight Interlude is the dance associated with the photos of Mother and Mary Woerner in their identical costumes, below.

Mom would have been about 15 at the time. I notice her hair style is different from the Music photos above too, and Music is also listed as a dance in the 1936 program.

The following photos are of mother’s friend, Mary Lu who passed away in 1961 at age 45, also having been a professional dancer for her entire life.

Mary Lu was 6 years older than Mom, and you can tell that she has been dancing a very long time by looking at the muscle development in her legs.

Below, the 1937 Reinwald Revue at the Shrine on May 25th, two days before the performance in Bluffton. It was a busy time of year for Mom.

I have omitted the program pages that do not include mother.

Dry cleaning deliveries are still free, but now permanents are oil instead of steam and cost $1.

Mother was once again an emerald. A new advertiser is City Light, above. Interestingly, the Light Company was owned by the residents.

Ankle socks in plain or gay stripes are 17 cents or 3 for 49 cents. How could you resist?

The Student Becomes the Teacher

About 1936, Mother began to teach dancing at the ripe old age of 14. Her mother, Edith provided the music in the music room at home by playing the piano and mother gave dance lessons to young students. As the teacher, Mom was responsible for having a “Revue” for her students as well, and indeed in 1937, she held the first Barbara Jean Ferverda Revue, although the location isn’t mentioned. Clearly, it had to be someplace with seating for all of the parents, grandparents and families who would dutifully attend.

How I would love to turn back time so I could attend. Mom must have been so excited!

Mom’s brother, Uncle Lore was even involved, although I’m betting it wasn’t voluntarily. Maybe he was still doing penance for the paint brush incident.

One of Mother’s students sent her the card below and Mom always kept it. This may have been her student who passed away. Mom was crushed when that happened.

Although mother danced a lot, her life did not stand still and she had other interests outside of dancing. Mom also played the piano, as did her mother, who I’m sure taught mother.

Mom’s Best Friend – Frank

Mom had a diverse group of friends including Frank Drudge, literally the boy across the street who was 6 months younger, a cheerleader, a dancer at the same dance school as Mom, and Mom’s best friend.

Frank was being raised by his aunt, Carrie and her husband who had no children. Mother was particularly close to Carrie who became almost like a second mother. I’d wager that the two families shared driving back and forth to Fort Wayne for dance lessons.

I remember when Carrie died in 1963. Mom was visiting friends in Silver Lake after her parents passed away and called Carrie to see if she could stop in and visit. Carrie didn’t answer the phone, which Mom found odd, but she tried again a few minutes later. Mom subsequently discovered that Carrie fell and broke her hip on the way to answer the phone, and a few days later, died. Mom felt terribly responsible, even though she knew logically she didn’t need to. Mom lost both of her parents, Carrie and my father within a 3 year span.


Mom’s Brethren Grandmother was Evaline Louise Miller who married Hiram Ferverda. Hiram died in 1925, but Evaline lived until 1939. Pictured in the 1937 photo above, Evaline (upper left) with her son John Ferverda (lower right), Mom with Buster, and Evaline’s daughter, Chloe standing beside her, with her daughter and husband. This was taken in front of the house where Mom grew up in Silver Lake.


It comes as no surprise, I’m sure, given that Mom danced, that the family was not Brethren, attending the Methodist church just two doors away in Silver Lake.

A much better photo of the church, today.

Mom was baptized here when she was 11.

Epworth Forest

Mom had a group of church friends that she either met or met up with at Epworth Forest, the Methodist Church camp. Epworth Forest still exists today. Mom would have been 15 the summer of 1938

Mom is on the far left in the above photo.

In the next photo, Mom is sitting in front of the group.

I’m surprised at how much she seems to have matured between July and November. She was still almost two months shy of her 16th birthday.

Unfortunately, Mom didn’t tell us the names of her friends. This is the third photo with hose rolled down to the ankles of the girls, so I’m beginning to think this was a fashion statement.

Looks like Frank and Betty just might have been a couple.

The Bicycle

Mom rode a bicycle, literally until she couldn’t anymore. Notice that she is wearing a dress, and her hose or socks are once again rolled down to her ankles. Females simply did not wear pants at that time, and for a long time in her adult life, at least until the 1980s, she refused as well. I was forbidden to wear blue jeans, which equated to poverty for Mom. It wasn’t until she was well into her 70s that she owned a pair of jeans herself – and then only “dress” jeans, NOT Levis.

Dancing 1938

The Reinwald Revue in 1938 was again held at the Shrine Theater. By now, Mother is dancing solo performances, according to the program. She is 15 and obviously coming into her own as a performer and a young woman. In the 1938 Revue Mom danced a solo number as the Beachcomber and with a group doing the Military Toe Dance.

Unfortunately, we have no photos of 1938 or 1939.

There was no Huntington or Bluffton program in those years, but there was something new.

Infantry Recognition Party

Below, the Infantry Recognition Party program from 1938. The beginning of World War II is generally held to have begun on September 1, 1939, but the nation was ramping up and preparing prior to the official date when war was declared.

Mom gave two performances, just shy of age 16.


You knew this was coming, right?

By 1939, Mom was dating Dan and would marry him 4 years later. She noted in her scrapbook, “One winter afternoon out at Dan’s.”

Dan was Mom’s only known boyfriend. The earliest photos of Mom at Dan’s are in 1939, where she is pictured with his dogs at his parents’ farm. They may have been dating earlier.

Mom would marry Dan in 1943 when he was on leave from the service. World War II changed the lives of many, but the War was also responsible for ending the Great Recession – quite the double-edged sword.

Dancing 1939

The Reinwald Revue was once again held at the Shrine Theater on Tuesday, May 23rd in 1939. While we don’t have any photos of mother, the program tells us that she danced one solo, the Mardi Gras Queen, and one duet, the Moonlight Serenade with Mary Lu Woermer. She also danced a group number called “On Revival Day.”

Dancing and Graduating in 1940

By 1940, Mother was reaching adulthood and graduated from high school on April 22nd at age 17. Tradition held that the girls married the next month, but that wasn’t the path mother chose.

Mom told me she wanted to go to college, or at least business school in Fort Wayne, but she was afraid and no one encouraged her. Of course, her brother Lore had gone to college, but those days were different and it was pretty well expected that women would marry out of high school and start a family, not go traipsing off to college. Her parents told her that they had paid for one college education (for Lore) and they weren’t paying for another one. The Depression was just ending, money was still scarce, and they had already paid for years of dance lessons. Mother couldn’t ask for more. It’s somehow ironic that Mom’s mother, Edith, attended Business School in Cincinnati, paid for by her aunt, before she married Mom’s dad. Edith’s bookkeeping skills are what sustained the family when John was out of work.

I’ve always wondered how far mother would have gone had she followed her dream to college – but that fork in the road was only peered down and longed for. There were no scholarships then, at least not for women. Student loans hadn’t even been dreamed of.

Mother disliked her senior picture, below, but I always thought it was stunning and that mother looked beautiful. There is a photo of me and later, one of my daughter about the same age that are strikingly similar.

On May 28th, just a few weeks after graduation, Mom would once again dance at the Shrine theater in Fort Wayne. No individual photos, but Mom danced a solo, American Melodies.

I suspect that mother is one of the older students in this picture from the program, but I can’t identify her.

Dancing 1941

In 1941, the Reinwald Revue was held at both Fort Wayne and at Huntington High School. The program was the same in both locations, and Mom danced a Moonlight and Roses solo along with a group piece titled Bucking Broncos Tap.

1942 Baer Field Review

Mom, second from right, supported the war effort in June 1942 by dancing for a fundraiser at Baer Field in Fort Wayne.

Mom would turn 20 in December of 1942.

1942 – Dancing Professionally

In 1942, Violet Reinwald’s Shrine program focused on patriotism. The country was backing the war, and our soldiers. Everyone was a patriot and everyone was involved one way or another – there was simply no question about that.

Mother performed 3 solos, Blues in the Night, My Melancholy Baby, United Nation – Russia, and a group number titled Salute to the US Armed Forces.

I would love to have seen these performances. In fact, I would love to have seen mother perform anything, at all, ever.

1942 would be the last year that mother would dance with the Violet Reinwold Revue.

By now, Mom had been dancing at least 9 or 10 years and teaching for at least 6. She was two years out of high school and most of her classmates had married and already started a family. She would turn 20 that December. It was time to do something.

I don’t know why, but Mom chose to branch out beyond Indiana, a decision that was viewed with a great amount of skepticism by those in Indiana. I suspect it may have had to do with the relationship with Dan cooling. For some reason, they had chosen not to marry immediately after high school, as was the local tradition, nor did they marry during the next two years. These choices didn’t follow the expected pattern.

In the summer of 1942, Mom performed in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, as well as other locations on the East Coast with a touring troupe, traveling by train.

In July 4, 1942, Mom was in Atlantic City. There were several pages in her photo album which recorded her day at the beach.

I wonder if the location where they were performing was one of the buildings in the background.

Mom never shared the back story to the photos below. Let’s just say that she was beautiful and single, and the men in uniform weren’t Dan.

That looks positively dreamy.

The legend at the bottom on the photo says that this is “John Shiver, myself, Walt.”

Let’s just say that look definitely qualifies as flirting. I think Walt got left out. In fact, I don’t think John and mom even know Walt is there.

Looking back, I wonder about John Shiver, Charles Sharp and Walt. Did they remember Mom? Was this a chance meeting or something more?

I think Mom liked men in uniform.

World War II and Marriage

The war was escalating, and Mom’s life was about to change, dramatically and forever.

I’m don’t know whose car this was, but Mom looks stunning!

Back home in the fall, Mom was dating Dan again just before he joined the military on October 14, 1942. Below, Dan in uniform but without his shirt.

Mother didn’t know it yet, but when Dan left, she was pregnant. She would make that discovery a few weeks after Dan was already gone. In the photos above and below, I can see my brother and my nephew’s faces so clearly.

Like so many young couples, Dan took a leave from the service as soon as he could, came home, and Mom and Dan were married, not in Indiana, but in Joliet, Illinois. I suspect this location was chosen to cover the fact that their child was “premature” and that the pregnancy predated the marriage. Today, there is little or no judgement about couples living together before marriage, but at that time, this “situation” was embarrassing for everyone involved, with a great deal of condemnation for the young woman.

Would Mom and Dan have married otherwise? I don’t know, but suspect probably not, since they hadn’t already married and seemed to have been living very different lives. Dan stayed at home on the farm and Mom was dancing and touring. She obviously came home to say goodbye to Dan, given the timing involved. Maybe it was the uniform!

Unfortunately, they spent very little time together as husband and wife, because Dan had already shipped out. Mom stayed home with her parents to wait when they received a small bundle of joy in the form of John who was born while Dan was serving his country. Mom continued to live at home with her parents and wait for Dan’s return. His tour of duty wasn’t scheduled to end until October of 1945 – but things would change long before that.

Oh, those garter belts. They were just awful, torturous devices, but if you wanted to wear hose before panty hose came along in the 1970s, this was the only way to do it.

Today, it might look like Mom is posting for a pinup photo, but she probably wasn’t as it would have been considered VERY risqué. Hose were a luxury and a rarity during wartime, so it’s very likely that Dan actually brought Mom these hose and she is showing off the fact that she has hose to wear. I don’t know, but suspect this photo may have been taken when they were married.

1943 – John Arrives

Clearly, Mom didn’t dance in 1943, as she was busy with other things, namely one named John.

Dan and Mom holding John right after he was born.

A Sad Divorce

Sadly for Mom, Dan and John, the stress of being young and apart was too much for the young couple to survive, and their marriage deteriorated before Dan came home from the war, although their divorce was not final until in 1946. In reality, they never had the opportunity to live as a married couple. Perhaps if they had, the outcome might have been different.

When Dan came home on leave shortly after John’s birth, it became obvious that marriage wasn’t the answer. Ironically, mother said very little about this time. However, given the small town grapevine environment, I heard both sides, from multiple people, and let’s just say that being married to each other simply wasn’t going to work.

At that point, Mother knew that she had to go to work because she had a young child to support and she realized no husband was going to be “marching home” from the war. The divorce decree only called for $4 per week child support, and they had been living apart for their entire married life, so child support for John didn’t begin until he was three when his parents’ divorce was final. Otherwise, it fell to Mom and my grandparents.

Dan filed for divorce when he was discharged from the service in 1945, and custody of John was agreed to be awarded to Mom’s parents, John and Edith Ferverda. Mom had already gone to Chicago to dance, the only thing she could do to earn enough to support herself and her son.

The hard feelings and divisions generated between individuals and families during this time never healed.

Dan came home, married his second wife and settled down to farm. Mom continued to dance in Chicago, but a sense of sorrow had inched its way into her heart and she became very sad, missing her child, wanting a life she couldn’t have, and feeling consuming guilt about her parents suffering the consequences of her choices. She couldn’t win, but she never stopped trying.


I asked mother one time if she had any regrets. Her first answer didn’t really surprise me, but her second and third ones did.

Little did I know what a landmine this question would turn out to be. It’s also the perfect, or imperfect, lesson in how things aren’t always as they seem.

The First Regret – Not Enough Time With Johnny

Mom said that she was sorry that she hadn’t been able to spend more time at home with “Johnny” when he was little. She did not want to leave to dance, but it was the only skill she had and she felt that she owed it to my grandparents. I know she felt incredibly guilty, and not without some encouragement from my grandmother about the fact that her parents were burdened with raising her child.

I never knew the rest of the story until I found the papers in her suitcase and John revealed the story he had been told by his father after he found papers in the attic when he was about 10 years old, which didn’t exactly match the story conveyed by legal documents in the suitcase. These two events occurred within about a month’s time of each other, during and after mother’s death. In other words, too late to ask her any questions – but at an incredibly emotional juncture.

It was a shocking revelation, at least to me.

At one time, Mom and Dan jointly agreed to adopt John privately to a physician and his wife in Chicago, but both sets of grandparents petitioned the court, together, to prevent the adoption.

Eventually, the stigma of being a “bad mother,” meaning willing to place her son for adoption, was laid on mother’s shoulders alone. Dan disavowed his part in the decision when approached by John after John found the papers in the attic, claiming that he had no knowledge of the adoption because he was in the service at the time. However, the court papers were in the “suitcase of life.” Dan had been discharged from the service and he, along with mother, JOINTLY agreed, before the court disallowed the adoption, granting custody to my grandparents who subsequently raised John.

Perhaps John’s question caught Dan unprepared. Nonetheless, his answer irreparably damaged both John and his relationship with mother.

Dan lived nearby with his new family, paying $4 a week in child support. Mother danced in Chicago, lived with the dance troupe, in essence with a house-mother in a supervised facility, and sent her money home to her parents for John.

No More Shame

That judgmental mantle of guilt and shame because the parents were willing to place a child for adoption should never have been laid on anyone’s shoulders, and certainly not on mother’s alone. Mother and Dan were doing what they jointly thought best for John under the circumstances. The fact that the grandparents prevented the adoption cast mother in a villainous light and haunted her forever, especially after Dan managed to “forget” his role, leaving mother to suffer alone.

I feel compelled to state unequivocally that placing a child for adoption is not the manifestation of the absence of love – it’s often the demonstration of a greater love for the child. It’s the essence of doing what is right for the child, no matter how badly the mother, or parents, wish that circumstances were different. Unfortunately, in mother’s case, she was condemned for both being willing to place her child for adoption, and for not placing the child for adoption and burdening her parents with that child. John resented her for both choices, but never shared with mother why he was so cold and bitter towards her, while his father was absolved and cast himself in the role of co-victim along with John. Mother was never afforded the opportunity to provide an explanation, or her side of the story. My brother only heard one side, and it wasn’t complimentary towards mother.

Clearly, in retrospect, it would have been better if this chapter hadn’t been kept secret by all parties involved. Mom could have shared the reasons why they thought adoption would have been a better option for John, but how to you explain that adoption doesn’t mean that the child “wasn’t wanted.” Perhaps John could have understood that the choice didn’t reflect that his mother didn’t love him. But then of course, in the telling of that part of the story, the rest of the “shame” story would have emerged – you know – like sex before marriage. Of course, for whatever reason, the majority of the “shame” falls to the female who was sinful and didn’t resist, while desiring sex is “normal” for males in a time and place that still embraced very Puritan thinking.

This part of the story has too long been shrouded in shame. Shame of having sex before marriage. Shame of having to “go away” to get married. Shame of dancing, especially in an extremely conservative community and family. Further shame of going to Chicago and dancing professionally. Shame of being beautiful and NOT being correspondingly demure about it. Shame of, god-forbid, wearing makeup to make yourself even more beautiful and irresistible to men. Shame of having an illegitimate child. Shame of even considering adoption, let alone beginning down that path. Shame of having to have your family “stop the adoption,” and finally, shame of being labeled as “unfit,” alone, with the husband who also agreed to the adoption later utilizing that joint decision to turn the child against the you.

Dan and his wife both encouraged John to have some level of relationship with mother, “because she is your mother,” which probably unintentionally continued the narrative of mother being unworthy. He should continue the relationship even though she didn’t really deserve it.

I’m done with shame. I recognize mother for her brave decisions. She was human. She did the very best she could under the circumstances, for all of the right reasons and continued to do so in the face of insurmountable barriers. I’m sorry she had to live with such toxic judgement and I’m ending that cycle here and now. No more shame. Mother had nothing to be ashamed of. Full stop.

Mother clearly loved John as was evidenced throughout my life. Enough to have him, enough to keep him, enough to choose adoption when she thought that would be best for HIM, not her. Enough to send money home to support him and to spend as much time in Silver Lake as possible, withstanding the wagging tongues of shame that never stopped. Enough to make him things, food he loved, attend his functions and all of the grandma events too. And ultimately, enough to leave him fully half of her estate at her death. She never understood why her affection was not returned in kind, but it didn’t matter – she loved him unconditionally, chalking it up to “John just being John.”

The Second Regret – Not Enough Education

Secondly, Mom regretted that she had not gone to business school or college, and that she had been too fearful to go after high school. She already felt guilty about the sacrifices the family made for her dancing, and didn’t dare to ask for anything more. Mom felt that if she had attended college, then she would have had the skills to be able to stay in Silver Lake with John and would never needed to leave to dance, starting that cascading effect.

It’s amazing to me that the stage didn’t frighten her one bit, but fear of the unknown, of college or “business school” which is what women who insisted on obtaining a higher education were encouraged to attend at that time prevented her from furthering her education. Changing that one decision would have made such a tremendous difference in her life.

Third Regret – Not Trying Harder With Dan

Third, surprisingly, Mom said she was sorry that she and Dan didn’t try harder to work things out. I would say that this regret is tied to the other two.

Mom and Dan were never able to live together to even attempt to have a marriage in anything but name alone. By the time Dan got out of service, their marriage had suffered from separation and youth, and was unrepairable.

According to my grandfather and cousins, Dan had come home on leave and not told Mom he was home. My grandfather was quite surprised to run into Dan, in the company of another female, and the situation deteriorated from there, as one might imagine. I heard Dan’s side of the story from others, and it didn’t resemble the same story at all. His story was focused on Mom going to Chicago to dance, not on what caused her to go to Chicago. Regardless, the situation was quite sad because what began as a high school romance became a classic tragedy. A beautiful ballerina, war, broken hearts, a child, infidelity, a divorce and a tragic death. All the makings of a soap opera.

Except this soap opera was mother’s real life.

The Three Great Griefs

All I can say from the distance of decades and a long generation is that mother was very hurt by what she perceived as betrayal while she waited for Dan to return. She felt terribly vulnerable and alone. While she was the woman shamed for being pregnant out of wedlock, he was a hero fighting for his country. There were no options for single women at that time, except to quickly marry someone, anyone.

I know she loved Dan and truly wanted that marriage to work. Discovering that your husband was home on leave, and you didn’t know, must have been devastating, especially under the circumstances.

The loss of her marriage was one of the three “great griefs” mother encountered between the beginning and end of WWII. The unraveling of her marriage which had at one time seemed so full of hope unraveled the rest of her life along with it, leaving her as a single mother in a time when women had very few viable options. At least she had one – she could dance.

Mom hated the fact that her parents were burdened with raising John, but there was no other alternative. She could not raise John alone in Chicago and there were no jobs in Silver Lake. Her parents had chosen to raise John by stopping the adoption, but proceeded to complain about his behavior, hoping mother could intercede.

Sadly, my brother came to view my mother’s absence as both abandonment and rejection. He dreaded her frequent visits as she tried to convince him to “shape up” for my grandparents. The phrase “wait until your father comes home” apparently had “mother” in place of father at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother complained incessantly to mother about how difficult John was to raise – even though they had petitioned the court for exactly that situation. There were no winners – only losers.

The story conveyed by my brother’s valentine to his mother detailing the myriad ways that he got into trouble sums the situation up pretty well.

The second grief was the death of Buster in 1945, for which Mom blamed herself, and indirectly Dan because she would not have been traveling to dance if her marriage had any prayer of being solvent. Buster was the only “person” to love mom unconditionally and without criticism or judgement.

The third great grief, another death, happened while mother lived in Chicago. Mother found a new love, Frank Sadowski, her hope for the future, who died tragically, fighting for his country just before the end of the war.

You can read about Frank in the following articles:

Frank Sadowski (1921-1945), Almost My Father – 52 Ancestors #73
Frank’s Ring Goes Home – 52 Ancestors #106
Sadowski WWII Scrapbooks, Salvaged From Trash Heap, 52 Ancestors #149Frank Sadowski Jr. – Bravery Under Fire, 52 Ancestors #162

Warning – you’ll need an entire box of Kleenex!

In essence, Mom lost two men to the war, in two very different, tragic, ways. Her son wasn’t adopted, but she lost his love just the same. I often wonder how different John’s life would have been had that adoption been granted. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so hurt, resentful and bitter. Discovering that his “mother” had tried to “give him away behind his father’s back” colored his perspective, incorrectly, for the rest of his life, and hers.

The Next Decade

Mom never fully recovered from the war years and the three great griefs. She carried her regrets forever, but she put one foot in front of the other and marched forward. That’s who she was. These tragedies helped form that resilient part of her.

Mom continued to dance in Chicago and throughout the eastern half of the country for the next decade before meeting my father.

But first, she would meet and marry a one…nope, nope, I can’t tell you. You’ll have to join me in a future article for Mom’s next decade, as told by the “suitcase of life” and my subsequent genealogical sleuthing.

Believe me, mom’s life was full of surprises!

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

This is that week.

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

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

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

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

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

Hope is in the air.

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

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

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

Yesterday’s Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Photography

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

By comparison, digital photos today are wonderful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some weren’t entirely in focus.

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

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

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

The first photos went pretty well.

Until they forgot entirely about winding the film.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still approach life that way today.

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

Whoever would have thought that it would transcend 5 generations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I saw amazed me, for two reasons.

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

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

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

  • Haplogroup J1c1e – 28
  • Haplogroup J1c3b -1

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

What’s the Difference?

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

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

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

There’s a hidden gem here.

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

Look, she does.

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

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


What can we learn about the origins of haplogroup J1c1e?

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

The top 3 matches have taken the full sequence test.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Just Ollie’s Haplogroup

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

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


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

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

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

Never give up.

Never stop checking!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas McNeil’s will:

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

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

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


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

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

Were Thomas and George Brothers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please note: You can click to enlarge any graphic.

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

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

Matches Happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Is Thomas George’s Brother or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ferverda Bible – 52 Ancestors #186

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

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

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

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

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


Had Cheryl been holding out on me?

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

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

Never, almost never, my line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church today probably incorporates the original building.

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

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

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

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

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

Next, we find births.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Secret Family Tragedy

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

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

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

Well, this is a bit delicate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures in the Bible

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

Thank goodness there’s a name on the back!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Again, nothing on the back of the photo.

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

Who is Henry P. Lentz?

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

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

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

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

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

More Reunion Pictures

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

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

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

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

Three Ferverda brothers serving in WWI.

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

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

Eva’s Mitochondrial DNA Legacy  

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

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

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

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

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

Eva had 4 daughters:

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

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


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

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

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

Dear Dave: I Found Your Father – 52 Ancestors #184

My Dearest Brother Dave,

It’s been 6 years last week that you left, departed this side, leaving your broken earthly vessel behind.

Six very long years. I thought the sun would never shine again, but somehow you arranged a gloriously sunny day to celebrate your funeral, and today as well. A fitting gift from a long-haul truck driver.

Since you can’t call me anymore as you crisscross the country in your big rig named The Black Pearl, I’ll just have to write to you and hope that the same airwaves that used to bring me your voice now transport my message to you.

You see, I finally found your father, or have at least narrowed the candidates and discovered your surname.

I remember how many years you searched, painfully and fruitlessly. DNA was the key, now that enough people have tested.

In 2004 when I finally found you, you explained how your mother had teased you with the names of at least three different men that were supposedly your father. How you tracked them down and arranged to visit. They were nice, understanding and sympathetic, but they weren’t your father.

I suspect that perhaps your mother didn’t know, considering the circumstances. We won’t revisit that, except to say it saddened me greatly to see you suffer so based on activities you had no part in. Worse yet, she left you an envelope hidden in a drawer with your name on it after her death in which you were positive you would find the answer. You ripped it open, but once again, no answer was forthcoming. A final disappointment. The first of two words that come to mind is heartless.

Our introductory phone call when I explained my understanding of who your father was – my father – which explained why you carry the Estes surname was one of the most emotional days of my life. You were finally found. A hole filled. The gap of almost 50 years gone.

You told me how you opened the envelope I had sent with the photos of “our” father, whom you already knew as a family member, but not as your father. I sent photos because I didn’t want you to think I was some crazy lady, or that my letter was some kind of scam.

You’d discover soon enough my own personal brand of crazy😊

Of course, at that time, I didn’t understand who in that family was actually your biological mother – and what that meant in terms of complex family dynamics. You’re so fortunate that, for the most part, your grandmother raised you, at least reducing your mother’s damage.

A few days after our first phone call, we met for the first time, talking for hours like we had known each other forever. Time and place simply disappeared and we floated on our own wave of giddy happiness. I still have that photo by my desk, with your arm around me. You watch over me every single day, right beside me.

You shared that I was your only living family member, except for your children, and how you had always longed for a sibling.

I knew in that moment what family meant to you, and that if needed, you would die for me. Literally.

I loved you instantly and completely.

I came to know you as a grizzled, hard-driving, long-haired tattooed trucker with a short temper for injustice – to animals or people. God help anyone that abused someone you loved, anyone in need, or an animal.

You told me you never said “the L word,” love. Tough as you were, love would make you vulnerable. Your wife of many years confirmed that to me. I just smiled. Love doesn’t need words.

As I said goodbye the second time, a few weeks later, you hugged me and whispered softly, almost inaudibly in my ear, “Love you, Sis.”

“What?,” I asked and you grumbled, “You heard me,” afraid that someone else would hear. I just smiled and hugged you again, tears running down both our faces. Except, yours were just allergies of course.

You told me every time we talked after that, because as a truck driver, we never really knew when our last conversation would be. Our last words spoken, always, from that day forth, were “love you.” I smiled through tears every time and I suspect you did too.

Danged allergies.

We had already missed so many years.

I still hear that Dave, and I know the next time I meet you, I’ll hear it again.

Damn, I miss you.

I knew before you died that we weren’t half-siblings after all. The original two paternity/siblingship tests we took suggested that, but they weren’t conclusive and needless to say, we certainly didn’t want to believe that message.

Our next clue was when I was eliminated as your liver donor candidate, although the medical team would not confirm why. However, the “new” autosomal DNA tests we took not long before you died proved it beyond any doubt.

I never had the heart to tell you.

It would have broken both of our hearts and we were already indelibly bonded as family. Nothing, no DNA test would ever change that.

Remember that half heart I gave you to protect you on your journeys?  You took half of my real one with you when you left.

For the sake of honesty, I tiptoed around the siblingship subject, testing the water. The limited commentary you did make told me that perhaps you already suspected, but were strongly rejecting that possibility out of hand. End of subject.

The truth could wait until the afterlife.

However, I made a vow to you that you never knew about. One day I would identify your father. I would find that puzzle piece.

Now herein lies a great irony, the best irony of all. I have to tell you – you’re going to love this story. Hope you’re sitting down on a cloud.

Your grandmother raised you in the Catholic church and sent you to Catholic school. You left the church in high school, but those childhood teachings have a way of taking hold permanently.

During your last days in the hospital and then in hospice, you requested a priest to do a “Last Confession” and whatever rituals are completed in the Catholic religion to prepare for death.

The hospital called the local priest. Then, hospice called the local priest.

No response, at all.

Then, your wife called the local Catholic churches.

Still no response, at all.

Then I called.


When I saw you that day, I knew the end was very near.

Still no priest to do your Last Rites.

I’m sure you remember that Jim, my husband, a former Eucharistic minister in the Catholic church before he sinned by getting divorced and continued sinning by remarrying to a non-Catholic heard your last confession. He performed the anointing of oil, (my chapstick) and holy water, (bottled water from my purse,) both of which I blessed with my very own hands. HERESY!

Jim was horrified and was just certain I was going to be struck dead by lightning on the spot for my heretical actions, but I did what needed to be done. Just like you would have done for me. Whatever you and Jim did in that room together with the chapstick and Dasani holy water brought you great peace. That’s all that mattered.

And I survived to tell the story.

Love you Brother, and I surely hope you’re not stuck in purgatory because of my last minute battlefield fox-hole improvisations. 😉

Your wife was a Baptist, which might have been part of why the Priest never showed up, or even called. Clearly, there wasn’t going to be a Catholic funeral for any number of reasons, not the least of which was because you were cremated by that time.

Yes, I know, yet another “sin.”

Oh well, we just added it to the long list and St. Peter will have to blame us because you really didn’t get to vote, being dead and all.

You had volunteered at the Baptist church, refinishing the basketball floor and other odd jobs, so your wife invited the Baptist preacher to “preach your funeral.”

Being in the middle of the winter, we worried about the weather, with me arriving from out-of-state and many truckers that had known you for decades driving hard to get back in time. We scheduled your funeral for 4 on Friday to accommodate their schedules so they could arrive in time and didn’t have to sacrifice pay to attend.

I remember hearing those big rigs parked outside the funeral home, lined up, up and down the street, their running lights turned on, with their engines all running in a rumbling trucker-tribute to you.

I smiled then to think about how much you would have liked that. The neighbors must have been mortified.

The room at the funeral home was full, standing room only, overflowing into the lobby and outside when it was time for your funeral to begin. Your photos were on the table in the front, and everyone was seated and waiting.

But, there was no preacher.

Another 5 minutes passed. Then 7. Then 10.

The preacher didn’t answer his cell phone.

Everyone was shuffling and shifting restlessly.

The funeral home said they couldn’t help.

I looked at your wife, who was in no shape to do anything.

She looked at me and said, famously, “You have to do something.”


Were you there with us? Do you remember how I started your funeral?

I just walked up front, picked up the microphone and said:

“Hi, I’m Dave’s sister. I bet most of you never knew Dave had a sister. Well, he does.”

I told about how we met.

I told them how much I loved you.

And how much you loved me.  Sorry, your secret is out!

I told them that your gruff and tough exterior disguised a soft soul afflicted with pain.

I told them how you rescued animals.

Not everyone knew the story of how you acquired Dio, your abused Rotty, literally rescuing him from the hands of his abusers. But, most everyone knew he rode with you for years. Dio had more miles than most cars. It does my heart good to know the two of you are riding together once again, across the rainbow bridge.

I remember how inconsolably devastated you were when he died as you were fighting your own battle.  He went to wait for you and I know the reunion was one of sheer ecstasy.

I told them that I discovered you had taken that awful mountainous Idaho potato run so that you could see me because the drop-off terminal was about 10 miles from my house. Of course, you would never have admitted to that!

I was amused to discover that they thought your “sister,” who you stopped to see regularly, was code for a different kind of relationship. Perhaps because they teased you incessantly about loving your sister😊

That’s Ok, so did the manager at the hotel down the road where you would park your rig while we went to eat and came to the house to visit for awhile. I explained that you couldn’t get turned around on my dead-end road but he didn’t believe me. Remember the time we finally pulled out both of our IDs and showed him we were both named Estes? The shocked look on his face said it all.

Those were such good days and wonderful surprises when you’d call to say you were coming through.

I miss them so.

I still look in every black truck I see. I know better, but old habits and rituals of love die hard.

I told them how you announced you would sell your house and move up here to care for me when you thought I had cancer. Thankfully, I didn’t have cancer, but that proclamation meant the world to me. You’ll never know how much. Ok, well maybe you know now.

I told them how much you loved your children and how living long enough to walk your daughter down the aisle was your motivation to live for many months while you waited for the transplant that never arrived. I never told them that you didn’t get to.

I told them how much you didn’t want others to make the same mistakes you had – because love you as I do – you weren’t exactly perfect. None of us are.

So, that day, I became at once the comforter and the preacher. I gave you the ultimate loving send-off on that spectacular sunny winter’s day six years ago. Much like the beautiful day outside today. I always feel that these lovely sunny winter days that melt the snow on the roads are a gift from you.

“Preaching your funeral” was an honor, and one I could never have adequately prepared for. Maybe impromptu was better.

But there’s one thing I didn’t share with them.

That you really weren’t my biological brother. It didn’t matter. I don’t know how I could ever have loved you more.

In spite of thinking your surname really was Estes, biologically, it wasn’t.

Because you were on the “other side” by then, you already knew the truth. You also knew that it was out of love that I spared you that pain here on earth.

Before you passed over, you didn’t know that I had secretly sworn an oath to you as well, that one day I would unearth the truth.

Dave, that day is today.

And now, the ultimate irony. Karma at it’s very best.

You see, you never needed a priest. Despite all of our unsuccessful efforts.

Because you are one.

For years at Family Tree DNA, you’ve had matches to multiple Y DNA surnames.

Recently, two men tested whose surname was Priest, descended from John Anderson Priest born in 1798 in North Carolina.

They are your closest matches, but still, given the variety of surnames that you matched, I paid it little mind.

That is, until today.

Your autosomal DNA returned a match to a first cousin, whose surname just happens to be Priest. Looking at your matches in common, I saw several people with that surname. About 4 hours later, I had the relationships mostly unraveled!

So yes, indeed, you, my dear brother, are a Priest.

I can hear you laughing heartily.

Estes can be your middle name now.

David Estes Priest, with no comma. Our new private joke, even if you do have to enjoy it from afar.

I hope you can truly rest in priest, er, peace now. It’s solved. The last tie to bind you here is gone.

Fly free.

I’ll see you overhome.

Love you.

“Heaven,” from Dave’s rig.