barry miller

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

DNA Results are in

In General on March 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm

At least the first 12 markers are. I’m identified as a 12 for 12 match with several hundred others who’ve taken the test, but only one with the last name Miller. According to Family Tree DNA, that means there’s a 50-50 chance that our recent common ancestor lived the last seven generations.

There is still so much for me to learn about this new tool.

Tests at 25 and 37 markers are due soon. We’ll see how that affects things.


Evidence 2.0

In Evidence on February 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I have to credit a family member, albeit a distant one, for making me think more rigorously about genealogical evidence. The thought occurred while I was reading about another family—the Leverings (who married into the Dehavens, who married into the Millers), in Col. John Levering’s book Levering Family History and Genealogy. The link is to a copy of that book in the Google Books library. It is free.

Google Books is a fantastic resource, and has a number of genealogy books in digital form. Some are free; others cost money. I was fortunate to find two free books on the Levering family history on Google Books. Less fortunate was the author of the first book Horatio Gates Jones, who was scorned by Col. John for his less-than-rigorous approach to assessing evidence. Col. John describes Mr. Jones, on the first page of his preface, as a “boyhood friend.” That friendship did not compel Col. John to give a good review to Mr. Jones’ work:

I contemplated an easy start in the genealogical feature, by beginning where he ended, save supplying the poverty of dates which characterized his publication. I found this a difficult undertaking. A third of a century had elapsed since he gleaned the field. A generation had passed away, and the scent had become cold. Notwithstanding these advantages, the emendations must be undertaken, as his work needs clothing.

Mr. Jones was not the only family member who earned Col. John’s wrath. As most authors do who write a preface, he devoted part of it thanking those who had helped him. Unlike any other author I ever read, the Colonel added a section berating those who had not helped:

Adversely, there are others whom I might name, but who should be grateful to me for the several return postage stamps which each absorbed. When I addressed educated, cultured persons, I felt sure of a prompt return, but my very numerous letters of inquiry exposed the existence of some mere bas-reliefs in the connection; lacking individuality.

In all well regulated families there are persons, who, when weaned as calves, have Topsy’s idea of parentage. The Bible says of such: “For he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”

I might dip my stylus in gall and draw pen pictures of a few, but perhaps I had better—don’t!

Levering Family History, Preface, p. 11.

I can only applaud Col. John’s restraint. Imagine the scolding that his unhelpful correspondents might have received if he hadn’t held back.

But the Colonel’s anger was one that all family researchers must feel at some time. They seek the truth about their family’s history, and sometimes the truth resists finding. Like the Colonel, they keep looking. He went a long way toward explaining why we keep looking by quoting Daniel Webster: “Men who are regardless of their ancestors and their posterity are very apt to be regardless of themselves.”

It helps my review genealogical evidence to wonder whether my conclusion would satisfy Col. John.

Genealogical Evidence

In Evidence on February 17, 2011 at 9:35 pm

As the “about” part of this blog says, I practice law. I deal with questions of evidence every day. Genealogy was a hobby, and I don’t like letting work and leisure overlap. That kept me from seeing the obvious: I might be able to make headway on some of my roadblocks if I started thinking like a lawyer about genealogical evidence.

There is not a complete overlap between the evidence used in trials and the evidence that genealogists use. But some of the ways lawyers are trained to think about evidence might benefit researchers.

In particular, researchers should understand that the law does not speak in terms of conclusive evidence. Generally, a judge will allow a jury to hear evidence if it tends to prove or disprove an issue that is relevant to the case. It is the jury’s role to decide what weight to give that evidence in reaching its conclusion.

Too many of my genealogical endeavors have been hampered by the search for one piece of conclusive evidence, rather than assessing several pieces of evidence, some of which may by contradictory, and reaching a verdict. I blame this on the fact that, while I’ve spoken to juries, I’ve never actually been on one.

The family researcher must learn to play all  the roles. Like advocates, they must discover evidence. Like judges, they must decide what evidence is “admissible”—that is, relevant to an issue that is of consequence to their research. And like juries, they weigh that evidence and make a decision.

A difficult research question may be resolved if the researcher stops to consider which role they are acting in at a particular time. Do they have enough evidence? If not, time to gather more. Don’t worry about the effect of the evidence; just gather all you can. Then put on your judging robe and review each piece of evidence. Does it make any fact that you would like to establish more or less probable? Or is it attractive because it makes a good story, but doesn’t really prove anything. Finally, get in the jury box, weigh the admissible evidence, and make a conclusion.

Juries are not always right, but I am convinced that most of them do the best they can do to arrive at the truth. Some genealogical questions will never be resolved conclusively. We just make the best-informed guess at the truth that we can make.

Unlike a trial, however, genealogical is not a linear process. It is iterative. You can never be certain that you have all the evidence. Neither can lawyers. They just know that they have a court-imposed deadline after which they have to stop looking for evidence. After that it’s time to try the case. Genealogists have the luxury of going back to look for more evidence, starting the process over again.

We’ll see  if this method helps me reach a better conclusion about Barney.

DNA test

In DNA on February 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Because Barney is on my direct patrilineal line, one tool available to me is a DNA test. After some research, I settled on the test from Family Tree DNA. There are already two related group projects through Family Tree DNA: The Mueller DNA Project (also researching Mullers and Millers); and the Miller DNA Project, also researching the names Millar, Millard, Muller, and Mueller. There is one other project that I haven’t joined yet, the Germanna Project, which is tracing families whose ancestors lived in the Germanna Cololny, in Spottsylvania County, Virginia. While I have ancestors in my father’s line from Germanna, they are not direct patrilineal ancestors. So I don’t know yet how much help my test will be to that project’s members, and how much they may be able to help me. But I don’t expect that test to have any bearing at all on the Barney Miller questions.

DNA tests do not provide family trees. But they may help link you with other folks who are researching the same lines. There are more than 100 Millers/Muellers/Mullers participating in the Mueller DNA Project, so I’m hoping that increases the chance of finding a match. And Family Tree DNA keeps your test samples and results. As the popularity of DNA testing increases, this also increases the chances of finding a match.

I’m expecting my results in four or five weeks. Then I get to spend some time learning how to use them.

My direct line from Barney

In General on February 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Barney Miller was born about 1764.

Matthias Miller, the son of Barney and Mary, was born 11 January 1790 in Tazewell County Virginia. Matthias married Isabel Howard on 7 January 1822. He died 12 October 1876 in Breckinridge County, Kentucky.

Charles Miller, the son of Matthias and Isabel, was born 29 August 1825 in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. He married Ailsey (“Alice,” Elsie”) Dehaven on 7 December 1848. He died 29 May 1898 in Breckinridge County, Kentucky.

James W. Miller, the son of Charles and Ailsey, was born 6 April 1856 in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. He married Minnie (Allie) Robbins Walker about 1900. He died 24 December 1934 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Charles R. Miller, the son of James W. and Minnie, was born 14 August 1903, in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. He died  28 July 1980 in Louisville, Kentucky.

The reason for this blog

In General on February 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Like all family researchers, I hit roadblocks. This blog is to help organize my attempts to resolve one particular roadblock named Barney (or “Barnett,” or “Barnard”) Miller.

This is not the BarneyMiller of TV fame. This Barney was a revolutionary war soldier, who joined the army in Virginia (where he had moved from Pennsylvania); lived in Breckinridge County, Kentucky in the 1790s; then moved to Spencer County, Indiana, where he died sometime after 1835.

That’s what I know about him. Here’s what I don’t know, and the questions I am trying to answer:

  • Who was Barney’s wife? Did he have more than one? He had at least one wife named Mary, but varying information lists her surname as Keysacker (Keesecker, Kiesecher), or Houston.
  • Who were Barney’s parents?
  • Where was Barney born. Contradictory information again. Some researchers are convinced he was born in Josephstown, Pennsylvania. Others are convinced that he was a German emigrant.

I hope other Miller researchers find this blog helpful, or at least interesting. And if anyone can supply information on Barney I’ll certainly be happy to receive it.