In the last few posts, I had discussed my 6x great-grandfather, John Miller (1733-1796) and his family, who lived in Berks County, Cumberland County and Perry County, Pennsylvania. Now, I’d like to “flip the coin” so to speak, and discuss my wife’s John Miller (1735-1826), who lived in Indian Creek, Monroe County, Virginia (WV). You may or may not have already guessed where I plan on going with this, but just to confirm your suspicions…yes, I am going down the “rabbit hole” that is the confusion of many a Miller descendant from both of these John Miller families. I will be attempting to try and untangle the truth from the folklore that people have attributed to these two John Millers. I have already proven my John Miller’s life, and now, I will be doing the same for my wife’s John Miller. This may prove to be a bit more difficult as the records in Virginia and West Virginia can be a tad more scant and sketchy for the time period I am searching in than those found in Pennsylvania, but I will try to flush this out as best I can.
Before I move on, just a point of information here…any mention of John Miller from this point forward, will be for the express purpose of addressing my wife’s John Miller, unless I specifically make mention of my John Miller for any reason. It will be noted as my John Miller. The same applies for Jacob Miller.
I just wanted to make that clear distinction so as to alleviate any confusion about which John Miller or Jacob Miller I am talking about. Also, I will try to stay away from hearsay and folklore spread across the internet unless it is something I am refuting with actual records of John Miller.
Okay, here we go…
First off, this is not my “first rodeo” in researching my wife’s Miller family, so I am already fully aware of what actual records are available and which ones are not and what’s out on the internet. The majority of recorded information regarding John Miller and his family that tends to fill in some gaps, comes from a book called “Genealogy of Jacob Miller and his Descendants” by Everett W. Miller (who is also descended from John Miller), 1953. I applaud Everett Miller for his valiant efforts in trying to record as much information as he possibly could for future generations. Any further mention of John Miller’s family, (parents or siblings), is solely based on Everett Miller’s book, unless noted otherwise. I also know that there are some other books that were published regarding this family, but the Everett Miller book is the only one I will be referencing since this is an exercise in research techniques and not an exercise in futility.
According to Everett Miller, he clearly states in his book the following at the end of Chapter 2:
I just wanted to make it clear that for the time period at which the information in Everett Miller’s book was collected and compiled, Everett Miller and Sigfus Olafson should be applauded for the records that they were able to acquire in Washington, D.C that were used in this book.
Now, my first inclination has always been to try and find a will for John Miller’s father, Jacob Miller, Sr.
So, no big surprise, I have never found a will for Jacob Miller. In Everett Miller’s book, the author makes no mention of a will nor a death date or place of death for Jacob Miller. He only mentions that, at some point, Jacob Miller, Sr. took his family to Rockingham County, VA. The author also mentions a fire that destroyed the Rockingham County courthouse, thus destroying all the county records that were held within.
There are many places on the internet (too many to reference here), that have Jacob Miller dying on 18 Dec. 1772. I have my doubts about this date of death for Jacob Miller, as this is the very date that my 7x great-grandfather, Jacob Miller died in Berks Co., PA.
Is it possible that these two Jacobs share the same date of death? Anything is possible in genealogy, but I have my suspicions since the date used for John Miller’s father has no actual record source.
I next looked for a birth record for John Miller…again, no luck. Based on Everett Miller’s book, John was born about 1735 either in VA or at Faulkner’s Swamp, PA. Now, if you are a descendant of John Miller and you are basing your information about him using the following sources, there is some doubt about the validity regarding the birth information that is presented:
Find A Grave – Pvt. John W. Miller (1733-1826)
Wikitree – John Miller, Sr. (1733-1826)
Both profiles indicate that John Miller was born on 9 Nov 1733, which is in conflict with what Everett Miller’s book says. However, it does match my John Miller’s birth record.
The Find A Grave biography and the Wikitree profile also state that John Miller was christened at the Tulpehocken Lutheran Church in Berks Co., PA on 23 Nov. 1733. I can only surmise that the persons presenting the information are referring to the Christ Little Tulpehocken Lutheran Church in Berks County, PA that my Miller family attended.
I have all of the available Rev. Johann Casper Stoever’s baptism records for the Christ Little Tulpehocken Church and the only John Miller record I have ever found is this one, for my John Miller:
Recorded Stoever Baptisms – Taken from Notes and Queries – Historical, Biographical and Genealogical Relating Chiefly to Interior Pennsylvania – Edited by William Henry Engle, Annual Vol. 1899
Harrisburg Publishing Company – 1900
Notice the remark “…and bap. by Philip Boehm, Ref. minister on (at) White Marsh”? That means my John Miller wasn’t actually baptized at the Tulpehocken Church, which I already knew. Rev. Stoever simply recorded the birth and baptism record for my John Miller.
My next search was for a marriage record for John Miller. Again, no luck…I did find a marriage record for John’s brother, Jacob:
Courtesy of Ancestry©
I then began a search on John Miller’s military service in the Revolutionary War. I used this link for the DAR under Sources on the Wikitree profile (mentioned above) for John Miller to see his service information.
I also found a Revolutionary War application on Ancestry for his service. Although these types of applications are interesting and can be used as a secondary source, I have run into my fair share of problems with these applications simply because the information in them is given by an informant (which I have discussed in previous posts). Both the DAR record and the Revolutionary War application indicate John’s birth year as 1735.
Now, the obvious choice of my next step would be to track down and show census records here, but I’ve decided not to go down that path simply because it really won’t shed much light on what I’m really after, which is the truth about John Miller and his life, and the records that show it.
I have also found land transaction records for Millers in Rockingham County that are intriguing, but nothing that really stands out and screams confirmation of anything.
In the end, the best is always saved for last…
The Will of John Miller (see the Wikitree link above for the transcription of the will on John Miller’s profile)…I also have the actual images of the will itself. This record source is by far the one that clearly confirms information in Everett Miller’s book for John Miller, his wife and children. Since the will and the death of John Miller is 30 years after my John Miller’s death, we can make a clean separation between these two men. They clearly lived separate, unique lives and share a bond only by the mere fact that I, the descendant of one John Miller is married to a descendant of the other John Miller, our subject of discussion.
With very little remaining to go on, all that is really left is what the thousands of people out on the internet want to believe. What we are after here is the truth. The truth about an ancestor’s life, the unique identity and legacy that John Miller left behind. I am not here to disparage the name or the life of John Miller. On the contrary, I am here to be his champion. To honor his memory for the courage and the fortitude he had and the sacrifices he made in bringing his family into an untamed wilderness full of unknowns…to honor the differences in his life from that of my John Miller. We should all aspire to be champions for our ancestors, so that the truth of their lives is what we have to pass down to the next generations.
Find A Grave©
Genealogy of Jacob Miller and his Descendants by Everett W. Miller-1957
Colton’s New Topographical Map of the States of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland & Delaware and Portions of Other Adjoining States – Published by G.W. and C.B. Colton & Co. – 1876
My wife, Cheryl, whose ancestors are just as interesting and unique as my own…I love you Sweetie!