It took me many years to unravel clues to sort out my husband’s Miller and Whitmer families and I’ve written about them extensively in the past. Martin Miller, born about 1785 in Pennsylvania, married Catherine Whitmer in Botetourt County, Virginia and migrated with her family to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky around 1812.
From that time until today, there have been hundreds and hundreds of German Miller descendants in that area of Kentucky and, in the early to mid-1800s, they tended to be quite clannish, intermarrying into other local German families.
Therefore, when Martin and Catherine’s son, Michael, married Elizabeth Hendricks, I figured that tracing her family line would be a walk in the park. Wrong assumption! Definitely the wrong assumption!
Elizabeth’s maiden name was known through family lore and genealogical work had begun by Miller descendants living in Kentucky back in the 1950s and 1960s. However, I could locate no marriage record for Michael and Elizabeth, even though Muhlenberg County records are quite complete.
Michael and Elizabeth would have married about 1836 or 1837, as their first child, Mary Catherine, was born about 1838. Her parents, again according to family lore, were Joseph Hendricks and Mary Lewis.
I have found nothing to dispute that; in fact, the 1850 census shows Joseph and Mary Hendricks living only three farms from Martin Miller and four from Michael and Elizabeth. Further, the will of Joseph Hendricks, dated 1 February 1862 and proved in February 1864 names his eight children and Elizabeth Miller is one of them. Therefore, I am satisfied that Michael Miller married the daughter of Joseph and Mary (Lewis) Hendricks.
Now to the mystery about Mary Lewis. As no marriage has been found for Michael and Elizabeth Hendricks Miller, no marriage has been found for her parents either, although they apparently married about 1813, probably in Kentucky.
Michael and Elizabeth Miller were the parents of ten children and I wondered about a couple of their names, as the Miller and Whitmer families seemed to keep fairly close to German naming patterns and used the same given names through the generations. A couple of Michael’s and Elizabeth’s children’s names stood out from the crowd:
- Mary Catherine – born c1838
- Sarah J. – born 1841
- Louisa – born 1842
- Wilson Turner – born c1844
- James L. – born c1846
- Joab – born 1848
- Leonard – born 1850
- Jacob -born c1854
- Benjamin F. – born c1856
- Elizabeth – born c1858
The girls’ names were all quite tradtional, but the boys’ names not so much. Wilson Turner, James (rare in the Miller family), Joab, Leonard and Benjamin most definitely were not typical Miller or Whitmer names. I wondered where they came from.
I think I found some answers. In the 1840 and 1850 censuses, there is a Wilson Turner who married Elizabeth Noffsinger. Wilson was born about 1804 in Virginia. They lived doors away from the Millers and I suspect he must have been a highly regarded neighbor with a special tie to Michael Miller, who was born in 1815, although I have no idea what that might be. However, Michael’s first son was named Wilson Turner Miller, born in 1844. Although Wilson’s wife was of German background, the Turners had no ties by marriage to Martin Miller’s family, as far as I have been able to determine.
Next name on the list is James. While the Whitmers and Millers didn’t have that name in their families, it is way too common to read much into it, except that it may have been the name given to a relative of Elizabeth Hendricks.
Then we have Joab and Leonard. Not only are these not Miller or Whitmer names, they are not very common given names in that area and that time period. After digging around, it appeared that the Hendricks and Lewis families lived in Warren and Simpson Counties in Kentucky before settling in Muhlenberg.
The Simpson County Historical Society (and Archives) had family folders on some of the Lewis families. One man jumped right out at me – JOAB Lewis – whose wife was – Catherine LEONARD. Each was born around 1770, so easily the right age to have children born from the mid 1790s onwards. Unfortunately, Simpson County is a badly burned county. There are no surviving county courthouse records before 1852 and, even after that, there are many gaps.
However, the ladies at the Historical Society were most helpful and they mailed me copies of family information.
Joab Lewis was born c1760-1769, per the 1830 census. Wife Catherine Leonard was born c1770-1779 and they married around 1793. Unfortunately, this family also lived in South Carolina, where Joab reportedly married Catherine Leonard. There are no marriage records for the 1790s in that area.
The Lewis and Leonard families will take a lot more research to document the members, where they lived and died, and how they lived their lives.
However, I think I have satisfied my curiosity about how Joab and Leonard entered the Miller family as names. Joab was Elizabeth Hendricks Miller’s grandfather and Leonard was her grandmother’s maiden name.
Do I have documentation to meet the genealogical proof standard? Nope, but I have a very promising bread crumb trail to follow to try to meet that standard.