Category Archives: Miller

New Clues: Sarah (MNU), Wife of Rev. War Soldier Jacob Miller of Franklin Co., TN

Revolutionary War soldier Jacob Miller has hundreds, if not thousands of descendants today. As far as I know, though, no one has any idea of the maiden name of his first wife, Sarah, who was the mother of some of his many children born to his two wives.

Very little is known about Sarah. She was born in the late 1750s or early 1760s, as her first child, son Martin, was born on 6 July 1785.

No marriage record has been found for Jacob and Sarah. However, Jacob served in the Revolutionary War and with a child born in mid-1785, the couple probably married 1783/84. Whether they married in Northampton County and then moved to Philadelphia or married in Philadelphia is not known.

Her place of birth is also not known. It was probably in Pennsylvania, but it’s also possible she emigrated from Europe with her parents when she was a child.

We do know that Sarah was alive on 11 April 1797 when ‘Jacob Miller and Sarah his wife’ sold land in Botetourt County, Virginia to John St. Moyer (Botetourt Deed Book 6:195) and that she had died before 11 June 1805 when Jacob married (2) Elizabeth Ritter in Botetourt County, Virginia.

That deed was the only primary document that gave the name of Jacob’s wife.

As I already mentioned, Jacob’s and Sarah’s oldest child, Martin, was born on 6 July 1785. That date is on his gravestone and the 1850 census gives his birth place as Pennsylvania.

More recently, church records from St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have appeared online. I was quite elated to find this entry:

3rd Entry on Right Page
Source: Ancestry

On 7 August 1785, Johann Martin Muller, son of Jacob Muller and Sara, his wife. Born 6 July 1785. Godparents: Johann Martin Danberger and Maria Hetzel

How can I be sure that this entry pertains to my Martin Miller? First, what are the odds that another Jacob and Sarah Miller had a son named Martin born in Pennsylvania on the exact same day? While their names are all common, the odds of this combination on the same date that Martin gave for his birth date being some entirely different family are slim.

Second, while my Jacob Miller entered military service in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, his pension file reveals that after his first tour of duty, he re-enlisted in – – – –  Philadelphia! In the 1780s!

Therefore, I can place Jacob in Philadelphia in the right time period.

Here is a quick timeline of Jacob’s whereabouts:

1759 – Birth; aged 73 in 1832, place unknown
1775 – Enlisted in Allentown, Northampton, PA for 3 years; PA Continental Line
1777, 16 July – Battle of Stony Point, Rockland County, NY
1777, 17 September – Battle of Brandywine, Delaware County, PA
1778-1781 – Served with Light Dragoons, attached to General Washington’s headquarters; often rode express with messages from the Army location to Philadelphia
1794 – Received a land grant in Botetourt County, VA
1813, 11 November – Purchased land in Franklin County, TN
1832, 17 July – Applied for a pension in Franklin County, TN
1832, 10 November – Died in Franklin County, Tennessee

I am quite confident that this young family is the correct Muller/Miller family.

This church record provides two new clues to uncover the maiden name of Sarah – the two godparents named in Martin’s baptismal record.

I excitedly began searching the church register for more entries pertaining to Johann Martin Danberger and Maria Hetzel.

Sigh. . . . . . Ugh. . . . . .!!!

Not only is there no other entry for Johann Martin Danberger, there isn’t even anyone else in the index with his surname.

A check of the 1790 census with a wildcard search (D*nberger) only brought up one hit, a Frederick Dunberger in upstate New York. I repeated the search substituting a T for the D, as the spelling of German names can be confused when written phonetically. No hits at all!

Nor did I find anything on Mr. Johann Martin Donberger on FamilySearch or MyHeritage. Nothing, nada, zilch!

Next, I tried looking for Maria Hetzel. There is no way to know whether she was married or not from the baptismal entry. Well, just like Johann Martin Danberger, Maria has no other mentions in the church book.

There are several other Hetzel entries, though, and the 1790 census of Germantown includes “Barnit Hetsel.” At home were one male over 16, three males under 16 and two females.

It’s estimated that this Barnet (Bernhard) Hetzel was born c1750. If correct, then I think the only option for Maria, if she was part of this family, is as the wife. A daughter would have been too young in 1785 to be a godparent if Barnet was actually born c1750.

Unfortunately, Barnet aka Bernhard Hetzel married Catherine Schlotterer on 23 November 1784 at St. Michael’s Church in Germantown.

He and Catherine had a daughter, Anna Maria, born 18 November 1795 and baptized on 1 January 1796 at St. Michael’s. Catherine was the sponsor for her own daughter!

Whether he had a sister Maria I don’t know and I’ve been unable to learn anything else about her.

There is one more tantalizing entry in the church marriages – Johannes Muller who married Sara Schworerin on 12 February 1784.

Could this be Jacob and Sara? Many German boys were named Johan(nes) + middle name, but went by their middle names. Johann Martin only went by Martin as an adult. Could this entry be a Johannes Jacob and the minister only wrote down Johannes?

I wish I could answer that question, but there are no baptismal entries for children of this couple, so I guess it is possible. Of course, no one has a family tree for this couple, nor can I find any other records pertaining to them.

Three dead ends, for the moment. And I had such high hopes for a new discovery – the maiden name of Sarah, who remains (MNU) Miller.






Rev. War Widow Elizabeth Miller & the Case of Her Missing Marriage Record

One of my husband’s ancestors is Revolutionary War soldier Jacob Miller. Jacob made his claim for a pension application in the summer of 1832, but died in November of the same year, before his application was approved.

Jacob Miller’s war service was never in question. He served in Captain Trasbough’s Company, part of the 2nd Regiment in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1775 and served for three years, taking part in the Battles of Brandywine and Stony Point.

He enlisted a second time with Captain Van Heer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, joining the Light Dragoons from 1778-1781. Part of this service was under General George Washington and Jacob swore in his application that he often rode express from his army company back to Philadelphia, carrying messages.

Jacob Miller was rich in family, having somewhere around fifteen children, but he was definitely not rich in worldly goods and the family likely struggled economically as his widow did not remarry.

By 1848, Elizabeth Miller, still a widow, made her application for a widow’s pension, filing her claim in Franklin County, Tennessee, the same place where Jacob had died. Her application was not approved and the matter dragged on again from 1853 until 1859. Remember these dates, as they are important!

First, a bit of necessary background:

Jacob Miller married (1) Sarah, probably in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, as their first known child, Martin, was born in Pennsylvania c1785. They removed to Virginia by 11 June 1794, at which time Jacob was granted 243 acres of land. He sold a portion of that land on 11 April 1797, with Sarah releasing her dower rights, so she was still living at that time. In addition to Martin, Jacob and Sarah were also the parents of Henry, born c1788, Jacob, born 1 July 1790, Catherine, born c1792, Michael, born c1794 and William, born c1796.

There were also four females identified in Tennessee censuses born 1797-1800. Whether they were Sarah’s daughters or Elizabeth’s daughters or other relatives/friends living in the household is unknown.

From this, all we know about Sarah’s death date is that she was living on 11 April 1797.

Next, Botetourt County, Virginia has excellent records, including (as far as is known) complete marriage records. Why, then, did Elizabeth have so much trouble proving the day she married Jacob Miller?

She stated in her application that the family Bible had been destroyed and she had no paper document to prove her marriage, which she said took place in Botetourt County, Virginia about 1798 or 1799.

Several residents of Franklin County, Tennessee made oaths that they had known the Millers for many years, that their oldest child (as of 1853) was more than 52 years of age. Most of her supporters were men in families into which the Miller children had married.

Some of their statements were more than questionable. Linsfield Berryhill, for example, is found in the 1850 census of Franklin County, Tennessee. Lin, as he went by, was enumerated as being 50 years old. In the home were his (apparent) wife, quite a few children and an Elizabeth, aged 70, who was likely his widowed mother.

Linsfield Berryhill stated in his affidavit that he was 70 years old (so he aged 20 years years between 1850 and 1853) and that he was at Jacob and Elizabeth’s wedding and he left Botetourt County in November 1798, after their marriage.

Taze W. Newman, a young man and a lawyer, worked in Elizabeth’s behalf to get her application approved for a pension. From one of his letters to government officials comes the myth that Elizabeth was “Betsey Allen” before her marriage.

Because Elizabeth had no paper proof of her marriage to Jacob, someone (probably Taze Newman) wrote to the Botetourt County, Virginia county clerk, requesting a copy of their marriage record.

The reply from Virginia had to have been a disappointment to Elizabeth as the county clerk stated that no marriage for Jacob Miller (Muller) to Elizabeth around 1798 or 1799 could be found.

The only record that the clerk found was for JOSEPH Miller to Betsey Allen on 24 March 1796.

One more detail needs to be shared about Botetourt County marriage records. There IS a marriage record there for one Jacob Miller and Elizabeth Ritter, who married on 11 June 1805. Ritter is a German surname and it is a surname also found in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. I will come back to this in a minute.

However, several decades ago, I did extensive research into all of the Millers/Mullers in Botetourt County from the 1780s to 1820. There were very definite English speaking Millers living there, as well as Millers/Mullers/Muellers who most definitely of German background. Joseph Miller who married Betsey Allen, daughter of Hugh Allen, was part of the English/Scots group and was not the same person as Jacob Miller.

Now, for those online website surfers who cited Taze W. Newman’s statement that Elizabeth was Betsey Allen, here is the page from Jacob Miller’s pension file:

See the darkened area in the middle? It says: . . . . and I did not pretend to claim the marriage of Joseph Muller to Betsey Allen as proof atall (sic) [at all}.

Besides his children with Sarah, Jacob had quite a few children with Elizabeth, aside from the four females born in the 1797-1800 time period.

Jacob’s probate file lists further children: Nancy, Eve, Elizabeth, Barbara, Sarah, Rebecca, Leanna, Daniel and Susannah.  The family was apparently not literate (aside from the fact that Jacob Miller signed his name to his pension application) and the ages of these children vary somewhat from record to record.

However, the earliest birth year for any of them is c1805 and the latest year is c1823.

Yet, Elizabeth stated in her application that she and Jacob married about 1798 or 1799.

Yes, they might have lost two or three children, but there is another possible answer – Elizabeth and those who made statements about attending the Miller wedding and their oldest child in 1853 being more than 52 years old might have LIED!

Remember I mentioned a marriage record for a Jacob Miller and Elizabeth Ritter in Botetourt County in 1805? I have long believed that is their marriage record, but why would Elizabeth and her family members all have made oaths which were lies and they knew it?

It comes down to the law of the time.

On 7 July 1838, a federal law granted five-year pensions to widows whose marriage had taken place BEFORE 1 January 1794. (Elizabeth wasn’t eligible according to the 1838 law even when claiming her marriage year as 1798.)

However, this law was updated on 29 July 1848 and Congress allowed life pensions for widows of veterans who were married BEFORE 2 January 1800.

Restrictions pertaining to the date of marriage were not removed until 3 February 1853.

All the pieces of this mystery puzzle now fit. Elizabeth first applied for her widow’s pension when someone, probably Taze Newman, was aware of the legal requirement to have married before 2 January 1800.

I tend to believe that Sarah didn’t die until 1800 or a bit later, as Jacob would have remarried much sooner with small motherless children at home.  If Jacob Miller married Elizabeth Ritter in 1805, it also makes sense that their oldest child was born c1805.

Finally, Taze Newman might have become aware of the pension law change later in 1853 or possibly not until 1854 and Elizabeth renewed her quest. She not only received a pension, she also was given a bounty land warrant.

There is no way to know if Taze Newman was in on this apparent deception, but if he met any of the men who gave oath on their affidavits, he had to have realized that 50 year old Lin Berryhill was not a 70 year old man and that the other men who filed statements were family members with a vested interest in the outcome.

As Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist, always reminds us, it is necessary to know what the law was at the time of an event! Excellent advice!


Louisa Miller (21 September 1842-22 June 1883)

Louisa Miller, my husband’s 2X great grandmother, has been a bit overlooked in my research, so I decided to take a new look at her life.

Louisa was born on 21 September 1842 to Michael Miller and Elizabeth Hendricks in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. She was the third child, and third daughter, out of ten children born to her parents. She joined sisters Mary Catherine and Sarah J., and was followed by Wilson Turner, James L., Joab, Lenard, Jacob, Benjamin F. and Elizabeth.

I never really thought about it until now, but Louisa married John Williams on 13 September 1871 in Nevada County, Arkansas, down in the southwest corner of the state. John lived next door in Hempstead and Lafayette Counties with an extended Williams clan, but what was Louisa doing in Arkansas?

By 1870, Louisa’s family had long left Kentucky and migrated to Hopkins County, Texas. They actually moved in 1855. Their travels would have taken them through southwest Arkansas, but many years before Louisa married.

Louisa was still at home, unmarried, in 1870 in Hopkins County:

I have not located John in the 1870 census, but their marriage record shows they were living in Nevada County when they married a year later. Nevada County was formed in March 1871 from portions of Hempstead, Ouachita and Columbia Counties.

I suspect that Louisa made a trip to Arkansas to visit her sister, Mary Catherine, who had married James Burkhart in 1865 in Hempstead County. How Mary found a husband in Arkansas I don’t know, but I’ve answered my question about how Louisa would have met John.

It’s also interesting that Louisa was almost six years older than John. That was a bit unusual, but John must have been quite taken with Louisa and they settled in Hopkins County, Texas, near the rest of the Miller family around 1873, bringing baby son (James) Bennie with them.

John and Louisa Williams and family only appear in one census record together, that of 1880:

Williams Family, Hopkins County, Texas 1880

Williams, John C., 31, born AR
Louisa, 37, born KY
James B., 7, born AR
Louella J., 5, born TX
Minnie M., 1, born TX

However, baby Levi, born in 1877 and who died 8 September 1879, is missing from the family. In addition to the loss of little Levi, Louisa passed away on 22 June 1883, cause unknown. It is certainly possible that she died giving birth to a child who didn’t survive either.

Bennie grew up and spent his life in Hopkins County, marrying Louie B. Snyder, and passing away in Sulphur Springs on 1 April 1936. Louella married Benjamin Hullender in 1899 and they lived in Lincolnton, North Carolina where he died in 1922 and Louella died on 9 March 1937. They would have only been 2 and 4 years older than Minnie here, so definitely not out living on their own. Perhaps Louisa was ill at this time and the older children were living with relatives nearby?

John Williams went on to marry (2) Ellen Connor on 15 November 1883.