This is the second article in a six-part series about the case of Joseph Peter Miller (1814-1895).
The first article introduced our challenge. The next four articles present our research about important aspects of the work involved in the case. The sixth article critiques our work program.
Links to the full series follow.
a. OooO, Joe. Could this be a match made in (wiki) heaven?
b. Research Part 1 - Joseph Peter Miller takes a bride
c. Research Part 2 - Sticky Dates and Aha! Moments
d. Research Part 3 - "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"
e. Research Part 4 - Stories of Christmas Past
f. Wacky, wiki wonders
Note: The four research articles are also intended to provide examples to technologists who are working to develop evidence models that support the research process.
Joseph Peter Miller takes a bride
"If you search for 'facts' among the 'facts,' you will often miss the evidence."
-- Humble Bear
-- Humble Bear
The target of our Oh, Joe! Miller-mystery is Joseph Peter Miller, born 5 July 1814, died 1895, married 1835 at Stark County, Ohio, to Rebecca Thoma, the daughter of Jacob and Nancy (Tomlinson) Thoma. We want to identify Joseph Peter Miller’s parents and prove whether or not he is the son of Peter and Mary (Stewart) Miller, Joseph Miller born 6 August 1814.
Yes, we want to know if a Joseph Miller born 5 July 1814 is the same Joseph Miller who was born 6 August 1814.
This is why folks prefer not to sit with the family historian at holiday dinners.
We had all been working from the known to the unknown, so that at the outset, there were really two sets of research materials. The materials were mostly organized such that distinct identities were apparent for both Joseph Miller and Joseph Peter Miller.
Jack Stover had been working back in time. He was using a certain body of evidence about Joseph Peter Miller, his wife and children to connect Joseph Peter Miller to a set of parents.
My side of the research group had been working from a good base of information about Peter Miller, his wives and children to extend those families forward in time.
Our files contained only some of the same resources. In the process of posting and commenting about the materials, everyone benefited from what had been our different perspectives. We were able to spot more clues (and more inconsistencies). This led to learning more about the source materials, and it paved the way to further extend the research.
Logic among the chaos
Our objective was to take a fresh approach to the separate evidence about the two distinct identities, Joseph Miller. We began with the most compelling evidence and progressed to that which was the most challenging (generally, the most in conflict).
If the most compelling evidence had turned out to be less so, we might have rethought our research plan. That was not the case, and …
Things began on an up-note
The marriage was recorded, but the bride's name, "Rebecka Toma" has been indexed as Lonca. Also, the indexed location calls out Canton (Ohio), though that detail was not found in the record.
The 1835 news item called both Joseph Peter Miller and his wife "of Paris township."
Paris township is the location of the farm that Peter Miller purchased in 1816; it is where he lived in 1835. In 1840, Peter sold 101 acres of the farm to son-in-law, George Coblentz, after which time Peter moved to a smaller Paris farm. He died at Paris in 1845 and is buried there. (For more details on these facts, see Clifford T. Wig, Canton, Ohio, "Family Tree of Daniel Miller and Lucinda Baker," 1986, FHL film no. 1321475, item 8.)
The Neighboring Farm
Next up was some "oh-so-sweet-I-want-one" family tradition about Joseph and Rebecca (Thoma) Miller, written by their grandson. In 1954, John I Miller wrote, "... grandfather ... was born in Stark County .... his father [was] Peter Miller ... Grandmother, Rebecca Thoma was born on a farm neighboring the Miller farm. She was the only girl grandpa ever went with and he was her first and only sweetheart."
Using Stark County deed indexes and deeds, we traced the ca1835 locations of the Miller and Thoma farms at Paris township. We also compared our research specifically about the Peter Miller farm to similar research conducted in the 1980s by Clifford T. Wig and presented in "The family Tree of Daniel Lucinda (Baker) Baker" (1986; 31 pp.).
Peter Miller purchased all but 15 acres of this farm (94.66 acres) in 1816; he owned the farm continuously until 1840.
The Thoma farm was situated on land acquired by patent deed issued in 1812 to Jacob Thoma's father, George, and news items of the day indicate the family did settle early at Paris Township.
One Miller farm is never enough
The 1840 U.S. census index at Ancestry.com contains entries for more than 2,000 Miller households. There were almost 100 such households reported at Stark County. Many of those Miller families owned land at 1840, and even more had owned land there at one time.
Our research about the neighboring farm came to be focused on a zone around the Thoma property. Their farm was located in the northwest quadrant of Section 10, Paris Township, and we researched about Sections 2-4 and 8-11. That zone was later expanded to include Section 15, where Joseph Peter Miller may have owned land, 1837-38. The graphic below shows where Paris Township is located within Stark County. Our focused geographic research zone is highlighted in red.
Other Miller neighbors and extended Miller kin appeared in the early land records. The graphic below is representative of the parcels sold under patent deeds. The location of Jacob Thoma's 1835 farm is highlighted in pink on the graphic; the 1835 location of Peter Miller's property appears highlighted in blue.
The parcels highlighted in yellow represent patents issued to a Miller, someone married to a Miller or someone related to a Miller by an identifiable extended kinship.
We worked with Stark County's "Range Record" collection, and some of this work continues today. The range records do not contain as much information as the actual deeds, but more contextual detail than might be found in a deed index. Each set of records contains the transactions for a given township. The entries are likely arranged by recording date, but a general chronology is apparent and the records are easy to work with. From these county range records, researchers are able to track most of the changes in land ownership that occurred over time.
Like dust bunnies. The more we worked with the Stark County maps, land records, census, and other materials, the more Miller and kin we identified about the area of the Thoma farm.
The orange and green highlights in the graphic to the left indicate just how many other farms our work identified.
Many of the land owners could be further identified as the extended kin of Peter Miller (orange highlights). The names of those owners included George Baum, Simon and his brother, Anthony Miller, Jr., and the Freed and Pincheon families.
The green highlights in the graphic represent the land interests of Michael Miller and his son-in-law, Samuel Bosserman, both of whom acquired their Paris land by patent (Samuel, in 1812; Michael, in 1814).
Michael Miller's Paris Township patent was located in the southeast quadrant of Section 3; Samuel Bosserman's, at Section 4--their interests straddled the northern boundary of the Thoma property (pink highlight on the graphic).
About Michael Miller
For our purpose, we identified this early Paris Township land owner as Michael Miller of Nimishillen Township, who left a will dated 1817.
The will named wife Mary, daughters Catherine and Mary, and sons Jacob, Jonathan, David, Michael and Joseph. The executors were son-in-law Samuel Bosserman and son Jacob Miller.
Separately, Samuel Bosserman married 1812, at Stark County, to Mary Miller.
The will did not provide much indication about the children's ages, including no mention of "minor heirs." As an apparent widow, one Mary Miller resided Nimishillen at 1820. There were minor children in that household, but none recorded under the age of 10 (thus none born after 1810). The household included four free white males, one aged between 10 and 16, and the others, all aged 16-26. Two females resided in the home, one age 16 to 26 and the other, aged 45 and older.
Before 1830, Michael Miller's patent land had been sold to Jacob Walker, with whom the title remained for many years. Working principally from Stark County tax records, it seemed likely that several of Michael Miller's sons had property interests before 1825 at Paris Township, but not the son Joseph. It at least seemed Joseph might have been (could have been) the youngest of Michael's children or so reported in the 1820 census of the widow.
Our work about the area of Stark County did not much further identify the Joseph Miller who was Michael's son. That not much was known about Joseph Miller, the other, changed how we came to weigh different bits of evidence contributing to a conclusion.
Learning about the other Joseph, however, did not negate that Joseph Peter Miller was likely "of Paris township" at the time of his marriage, and that indeed, the farm of Peter Miller (?1779-1845) had adjoined the farm of Jacob Thoma, where Joseph Peter Miller's wife was raised.
-------Of note: Our many thanks to Stephanie M. Houck and others in the Stark County District Library, Genealogy Division, for the professional assistance we received, especially in the course of our land record research.