Most people know Easter Eggs as those white hard shelled items that parents buy from the store that get painted and decorated by their children every year in the springtime or the plastic ones that have candies inside that get hidden for the children to go searching for.
The Easter Eggs I’m talking about are a little different. The first time I heard the term Easter Eggs being applied to something other than the original intention was back in the ’90s, when I was a PC gaming enthusiast. There were some PC games that had some hidden secrets or codes that would be described as Easter Eggs. Some action or keyboard shortcut, usually only known to the author of the game upon its’ release, was included in the game. Most of the time, the Easter Eggs were either leaked by the software company employees, or figured out by some know-it-all that could break the program code of the game to see the secrets, and then gain accolades for being a “Master of the Universe”.
I’ve taken the liberty of applying the term Easter Eggs to those little hidden secrets about our ancestors that, whether you are purposely looking for them or not, might pop up in your everyday searching.
One of the best ways I have found to find Easter Eggs is to use Newspapers.com. Some of the best kept secrets are usually not found on Ancestry or FamilySearch, simply because certain events in a person’s life, other than the typical birth, marriage and death events, are sometimes hidden away in newspaper articles.
Here is a prime example that happened for me.
Easter Egg #1
One of the first times I found an Easter Egg, I was doing some random searching in Newspapers.com on my great-grandmother, Jane (Harris) Miller (my great-grandfather was Raymond Miller). I found this article in the Harrisburg Daily Independent, dated Jan. 20, 1910:
The thing that immediately caught my eye was the fact that it said “and son”. Now, here’s what I knew at the time. My great-grandparents were married June 1st of 1909 and only had two children. A son, my grandfather, Ralph Miller, who was born in 1911 and a daughter, Elizabeth Miller, born about 1920.
I thought, how could this be?
Then I kept looking and found this article from the Harrisburg Telegraph, dated Jan. 28, 1910:
Okay, who is John and why have I never heard about him or seen his name before?
I promptly went to Ancestry, and there I found my answer.
This is the death certificate of my great-grandparents’ son, John E. Miller (I assumed the E. stood for Edward, since my great-great-grandfather was Edward Harris. Raymond’s father was also John, so this son was probably named for both):
This was a bit of a shock, not particularly on my behalf, but on my grandfathers’. Did he know that he had a brother? Chances are he didn’t.
This revealed another Easter Egg to me…since my great-grandparents were married on June 1st of 1909 and John was born on Dec. 13th of 1909, it means one thing. My great-grandmother Jane was already 3 months pregnant when she and Raymond were married. This was not a total shock to me as I had already found some other ancestors that were in similar situations.
Easter Egg #2
Now, I don’t know if you would consider this next example an Easter Egg, but it was something that was hidden from me and when I found it, I was surprised (the last part of this sentence should be nominated for the “Understatement of the Year Award”!).
Well, you could have tipped me over with a feather when I found this one!
I was doing some research on my mothers’ family, specifically my great-grandmother, Sara V. (Hair) Lentz. Sara’s parents were William Hair and Alice Fair. Alice Fairs’ parents were John Fair and Cecilia Sykes. John Fairs’ parents were Conrad Fair and Susanna Fenical. Fenical? Fenical? Now where have I seen that name before?…also, Conrad and Susanna lived in Perry County, PA! I knew the name and location from somewhere!!
Then it dawned on me…the book I have entitled “Matthias Miller and his 17 Children” by Floyd R. Mason. In it, my 6th great-grandparents, Johannes (John) Mueller and Justina Brossman are listed with their children. One of their daughters, Justina Mueller, born 1760, was married to John Adam Fenical (Fengel).
In another document, dated the 19th of May, 1798, all of John Muellers’ and Justina Brossmans’ children (which also gives the names of the husbands of their daughters, including Justina Mueller’s husband, John Adam Fenical) are clearly mentioned, giving their witness and approval for a tract of land being transferred to the eldest son, John Mueller, based on the will, dated 29th of October, 1796 of John Mueller, Sr., late of Tulpehocken Township, Berks Co., PA. At some point, John Adam and Justina Fenical, moved to Schaefferstown, Berks County, (now Lebanon County), PA where they had a son named Johannes (John). Eventually, John Adam and Justina Fenical settled in Perry Co., PA, where they lived for the remainder of their lives.
I now needed to verify what I was finding out, so I went to Ancestry and FamilySearch, and I found the birth record for Johannes Fengel (Fenical):
I then went looking for Susanna (Fenical) Fair, widow of Conrad Fair, and I found her will, dated 17th of November, 1877. In it, I found a pretty rare item that is usually not found in a will, that being the parents of Susanna Fair being named as they are below:
Here is the transcription of the above portion of Susanna Fair’s will:
“I order and direct that all my just debts, funeral expenses and charges of this proving my will be in the first place fully paid and satisfied, as soon as conveniently cab be after my death, by my executors herein after named: Who shall also have a good plain tombstone put at my grave as soon as conveniently can be had with the following inscription thereon Viz:
In Memory of Susanna Fair, daughter of John and Margaret Fenical, who was born August first A.D. 1811 and departed this life…….A.D………aged………Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”
So now I have confirmed Susanna Fair’s parents. In the same document, the children are named, which includes John Fair, who was married to Cecilia Sykes (who were my mothers’ great-great grandparents):
So, technically, my parents are 6th cousins, 1 time removed. How does this work? Does that make me and my Mom and her sisters (my aunts) cousins too? Am I my own cousin? Can the term “double cousins” apply for any of my other Lentz and Miller cousins?
No matter what the season, there are Easter Eggs hidden all over the place, so go find those elusive goodies, because you never know what might “turnip”…you may find a gem with a lot of “carrots”. See what I did there…you know, Easter Bunny…
From our family to yours…Have yourselves a Happy Holiday, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
A thank you to all of those people who have helped me and encouraged me over the past year. And last, and certainly not least, a special thank you for my one true love, I have known her for 48 years now, and have been married to her for 33 years…Cheryl, thank you for everything.
Brian S. Miller