Silence in the Library…Broken

Anyone that is a fan of the British TV show, Doctor Who, will understand the reference to the first part of the title of this post.  I am hoping as you read this post, you will get the meaning behind the entire title, which I believe you will.  Since I have been doing this type of research, I have gained experience in finding the sources and resources that are unique to each state I am doing research in.  Each state’s unique sources of information only adds to the diversity of the online tools that are available, and when those online tools are free, that’s even better.

Some of the best online tools come from our nations’ libraries.  Each one, no matter how big or small, is a quintessential warehouse of the written word, which can include the documented events of our ancestor’s lives.  Even the study of ancestry has become more prevalent within their hallowed halls.  Such is the case for a unique set of records held at the Library of Virginia.  More specifically, the Chancery records that have been digitized and indexed and are available online for free.  More than once, I have found information within their texts that I would not have been able to find most anywhere else, even if I knew where else to look.  What is a Chancery case? – See here.

Thus began my search into one of my wife’s ancestors, Valentine Miller (1762-1851).  Valentine Miller was born and raised in Loudon County, VA and died in Monroe County, VA (WV).  Valentine Miller’s Revolutionary War pension application and case (#R7227) speaks for itself, as I have poured over it many times.  I also have his will.  The one thing I have not found is the proof that Valentine’s parents are Theobald Miller and Catherine Ensminger.  I did find a book called “The Ensminger family, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Illinois” by Raymond Martin Bell – Revised 1961 (a compilation of previous pamphlets about the Ensminger family from 1945, 1958 and 1959 with some new data added).  In the book, Theobald Miller and Catherine Ensminger are mentioned as “(Catherine) Elizabeth Ensminger b Sep 1-1742 d bef 1785 m Nov 30-1762 Theobaldt Miller” on page 13. 

Susannna Ensminger, the wife of Valentine Miller is on page 12, and is mentioned merely as “Susanna Ensminger b c1762 m Miller”.

Since the pension case and the will of Valentine Miller say nothing regarding Valentine’s parentage, I thought I would look at the Chancery records at the Library of Virginia.

As I had said before, I have used the Chancery records in times past, and on one occasion in particular, it was as if the flood gates had opened up. I was researching for a friend, and there on one of the pages in one of the cases for the friend’s ancestor, was the entire listing of the family tree being recited under oath by the ancestor.  I was dumbfounded.

I had to find out if there were any cases involving Valentine Miller.  My first search was to see if Valentine was a plaintiff.  I typed in his name as seen below:

I then clicked Search.

There are other search criteria you can plug in like a year range below the plaintiff and defendant fields.

Just a note here…there are some great search tips here for searching the index.

Here was the result of this first search:

When you get results, you can click on the “view details” in the upper right corner of each indexed case.

I clicked on the first case view details, and I was able to see the surnames that were involved or are mentioned in the case:

It will also mention if there is a will or a plat just below the surnames.  Next, there were several things I could do here…I could have just started looking through each page of the document (I do recommend using the Open in full view for better reading).  I prefer to download the entire case in a ZIP file which contains each page of the case individually as a PDF.  For me, it is a better means of viewing what I want or need to view:

As I perused through this first case, I realized that this couldn’t be my wife’s Valentine Miller.  This Valentine Miller was from Augusta Co., VA, which by the year of 1804 (the year of this case), Valentine and his family were living in Rockbridge Co., VA.

I went to the next case of 1808…now this Valentine Miller was from Rockbridge County, VA, but no mention of family.  One thing to take note of, and this is something I have experienced a number of times, it does seem on a more consistent level, that family members are usually mentioned when the ancestor is the defendant and not the plaintiff (that’s not always the case, but it seems to be the trend).

I went back to the search page and switched the surname and first name of Valentine Miller over to the defendant fields, and here were the results:

I clicked on the view details for the first case of 1810 and what do you know, in the list of surnames, I see the Entsminger, Insminger, Fink, Plott (Platt), Skeggs (Skaggs) and Vance surnames…all surnames associated with my wife’s Valentine Miller:

Now it was time to dig into this case and see what I could find.

As I went through each page, it truly gave me an insight into the lives of my wife’s ancestors.  I found myself being caught up in the events of what was going on at the time versus just seeing what family members were mentioned.  The extent of this case was basically this…a bill of complaint was placed against Valentine Miller by his son-in-law Henry Platt in regards to a bond and a piece of land owned by Platt and taken by Ulrich Hostater after Platt left the county (Ulrich Hostater was also a plaintiff included in this case against Valentine Miller).  As I read on, I got to the pages of the depositions given by members of Valentine Miller’s family, John Vance (Valentine’s brother-in-law), Elizabeth Skaggs (a daughter of Valentine’s) and Katy Fink (another daughter of Valentine’s)…this was encouraging.

Then I got to page 14 of the case, the deposition of Katy Insminger (Ensminger), taken on the 20th of June, 1808…the first question was given by the defendant, Valentine Miller.  The next six questions were given by the plaintiff, Ulrich Hostater.  Question six is the one I honed in on…”Are you related to the defendant and if you are in what manner are you (next page 16) related to him?”

Answer…”Yes. Defendant is married to my daughter.”

These are the types of confirmations we are all looking for…this one question and one answer verifies that the deposition that was being given was that of Catherine (Kessinger) Ensminger, the widow of John Philip Ensminger (1727-1807) and the mother-in-law of Valentine Miller.

I rallied through the rest of the case pages, but to no avail.  I did not find any reference or mention of Theobald Miller or Catherine Miller.

I also went through the rest of the cases and none of those cases were related to my wife’s Valentine Miller.  I also, on a whim, did a search for Theobald Miller and Mueller…again, I came up empty handed.  Although disappointing, I was not dissatisfied with this experience, because I knew that if I can find these types of confirmations of family relations, than you can too!

If you have ancestors that have lived in Virginia in the past, this is one great tool to utilize if you are at a loss in finding out more about your ancestors on Ancestry© or FamilySearch©.  I’ll grant you that there is no guarantee that you will find the answers you are looking for on this site, but you will not find out if you don’t look!


Library of Virginia (all images courtesy of the Library of Virginia)


Related Sources:

Library of Congress

The Allen County Public Library – Genealogy Center (Ft. Wayne, IN)

Featured Image:

Inside the Library of Congress – courtesy of the Library of Congress


My wife, Cheryl…thank you for being my anchor and letting me get on with it! Oh, one more thing…

“Hey, who turned out the lights!”

Love you Sweetie!

4 thoughts on “Silence in the Library…Broken

    • Cathy, I too love the Chancery Records. Yesterday, I reached out to one of the main contributors of the book, Ensmingers from Pennsylvania and Alsace by Raymond Martin Bell in 1994. There were 3 contributors to this book for revisions and additions that have been republished up to 2018. Brendan Wehrung, Dale Edward Ensminger and John Kurt Entsminger. I am now FB friends with John Kurt. He has read this post and said “Well done”! He and I will be corresponding on my new discoveries for my next post! Stay tuned…Brian


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