This is the third article in a six part series about the case of Joseph Peter Miller (1814-1895).
The first article introduced the challenge, and
the next four articles present research about
different aspects of the case, working generally
from the most compelling evidence through to
that which is more conflicted. The sixth article
critiques our work program. Links 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 developing evidence models that support the research process.
"Don Quixote sought purpose, beauty and order from chaos. I like to think he found peace in an honorable reality."
-- Humble Bear in Armour
Sticky content" is developed onto a website for the purpose of causing users to spend more time or return more often to the site. [Wikipedia, "Sticky content."]
Using that analogy, one could say both Joseph Peter Miller and Peter Miller's son have "sticky dates," for we found ourselves returning to review the various birth and death information over and over again.
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, whose son Joseph Miller is reportedly born 6 August 1814.
Grab your spectacles, don the armour and hide the children. We are about to review the birth information associated with two unique identities--that of Joseph Peter Miller (1814-1895) and of Peter Miller's son, Joseph, b. 1814.
Each side (the two perspectives) feels good about the research they bring to the table. Descendants of Joseph Peter Miller have a variety of different sources suggesting their man was born about 05 July 1814 at Stark County, Ohio. Those researching Peter Miller's son, Joseph, have few sources, but these include a Columbiana County (Ohio) baptismal record, reporting "their" Joseph was born 06 August 1814.
Since the same man cannot be born on two different dates, if the information holds up under our scrutiny, this work could advance a belief that these were two different men, Joseph Miller.
For many, family manuscripts are a treasured part of a family history, particularly when the writer has memorialized first hand experiences and oral family tradition. Such is the case of a published sketch and two family manuscripts that were written about Joseph Peter Miller (1814-1895).
The sketch was included in a book published about 1964, The Ancestors of Richard Allan Moore and Calvin Cooper Moore. One of the authors, Ruth (Miller) Moore, was the great granddaughter of Joseph Peter Miller. About Joseph Peter Miller’s birth, the authors report he was born 05 July 1814 at Knox County, Ohio; the names of his parents are not provided. For the various details about Joseph’s birth, the authors cite "Personal records of John Israel Miller..., a grandson." (Ruth Miller Moore, born ca1898, was the daughter of John Israel Miller.)
Though we continue to search, an archive of John I. Miller’s personal papers has not been found. We do know something of the man, and Jack Stover located two family manuscripts John had written--one in 1954 and the other, 1962.
About John I. Miller. John I. Miller (1870-1963), was the son of Joseph Thoma Miller and his wife, Catherine Rial. John wrote the following passage about himself in the 1954 manuscript: "I taught school 16 years. Practiced engineering and [surveying] 17 years-practiced law 18 years and was Postmaster 15 years (was County engineer 2 terms and Prosecuting [attorney] 3 terms)."
The two John I. Miller manuscripts generously memorialize some family tradition; he writes about his own recollection of Joseph.
John's manuscripts include family names and some birth and death dates. In reporting about Joseph Peter Miller’s birth, both manuscripts report he was born 05 July 1814 at Stark County, without further attribution. The earlier manuscript reports his father was “Peter Miller.”
John I. Miller's 1954 record is the earliest notice we have found about Joseph Peter Miller’s date of birth (as opposed to other information located from which his birth date might be inferred).
We don’t know how John I. Miller came to record the birth information about Joseph Peter Miller. Joseph would have been about 56 years old, living at Knox County, Ohio, when his grandson, John I. Miller was born there. Joseph Peter later moved Van Wert County, Ohio, and still later, John I. Miller moved to Van Wert. John would have been about 25 years old when his paternal grandfather died.
The graphic that follows puts the lives of the authors/writers/family relationships in the context of key events in Joseph Peter Miller's life as it is mostly set out in the family manuscripts.
Though we have three family manuscripts, there is only one informant, and no source or reference was provided for the birth details he provides. The Don Quixote in us all wants to know how 140 years after the fact, grandson John came to record the details of Joseph's birth, birth location and parents.
 John I. Miller (1870-1963), "Miller Family History," , 2 pp; digital images, supplied by Jack Stover, e-mail to GJ ca13 Jan 2003. Date of manuscript calculated on basis of his reported age ("I will be 84 in a few months").
 One informant or source can become the basis for many reports. This is one reason that "preponderance of the evidence" is no longer part of the Genealogical Proof Standard. See Helen F.M. Leary, "Evidence Revisited: DNA, POE, and GPS"; Board for Certification of Genealogists (accessed 1 June 2012).
John I. Miller twice wrote that Joseph Peter Miller was born at Stark County, 05 July 1814. His manuscripts report that Joseph and Rebecca were childhood sweethearts, and that Rebecca was born on the Thoma family farm at Stark County. We knew the Thoma farm was located at Paris Township, and when Joseph and Rebecca married in 1835, they were both "of Paris Township." 
We sought the history and then church records from Paris Township in the hope of finding a baptismal record for Joseph Peter Miller.
In 1814, the area of Paris Township was still part of Osnaburg Township, but Rudolph Bair had already laid out the town of Paris; "two acres of land within its limits" had been set aside for the German Reformed and Lutheran Congregations' church and cemetery. A "log building," early erected on the site, served as both a church and schoolhouse. 
According to Dr. Daniel J. Grimminger, former church archivist and Paris author, baptisms and marriages were performed for the Paris congregation by about 1812. The earliest services were provided by traveling preachers, but at least some early records were kept by the congregation. Sadly, the earliest record books of the church at Paris are lost. The records available today begin in about 1829.
Most of the Ohio 1810 census was destroyed, so the impact on our research of the lost church records extends beyond the matter of researching about Joseph Peter Miller's birth.
 “Married,” news item concerning Joseph Miller-Rebecca Thoma wedding; digital image, supplied by Jack Stover (Ohio), e-mail to GeneJ, 2012, cites The Ohio Repository, Thursday, November 19, 1935. page 3, column 5; “On the 10th ... Mr. Joseph Miller to Miss Rebecca Thoma, both of Paris township.”
 William Henry Perrin, ed., History of Stark County with an outline sketch of Ohio (Chicago: Basking & Battey, 1881).
 Daniel Jay Grimminger, Phd., Images of America: Paris (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2010).
 Dr. Grimminger, interview by GeneJ, 2012; telephonic.
 Dr. Grimminger, interview by GeneJ, 2012; telephonic; confirms what Jack Stover had learned in about 1999.
Joseph Peter Miller and his family were enumerated in each of the four censuses between 1850 and 1880. With the exception of the 1850 census, Joseph was reported born at Ohio.
The ages reported for him in the censuses were reasonably consistent, suggesting a birth 1814-1815.
In the context of census-based information, we considered the variations in the reported ages for Joseph Peter Miller to be minor. The information in these records was helpful in evaluating other documents located about the couple, including differing reports about their ages in published obituaries.
The 1850 census reports Joseph Peter's birth location as "unknown." It appeared to us more errant or uninformed than in conflict. This includes that the census listed the woman we believe to be Joseph's wife, Rebecca, with the name Nancy.
We have yet to prove where Joseph Peter Miller and his family lived at the time of the 1840 U.S. census. Research continues about a "J. P. Miller" reported 1840 at Jefferson Township, Knox County. Information about this entry appears in the graphic below.
 Family tradition, according to John I. Miller's 1962 manuscript, suggests Joseph Peter Miller spoke Pennsylvania Dutch until he was 25 years of age. Could this have been an influence on the results reported in the 1850 census? See also the "Speaking Pennsylvania Dutch," [?2012, original air date unknown] part of the series, "Amish: Out of Order"; video, National Geographic Channel (accessed June 2012).
Fast forward. R. I. P. Joseph Peter Miller
Joseph Peter Miller and his wife, Rebecca died in March 1895 at Van Wert County, Ohio--three days apart. Both deaths were recorded. Rebecca died on 07 March 1895; Joseph, on the 10th. Both were reported born at Stark County.
About the source: The register did not identify the informant(s). Sometimes it is possible to generally characterize the apparent knowledge of the informant (and information) by learning about the record collection or observation of the record book or page. The latter is especially so in this case, as the source is a form containing various fields.
Was the record timely? Based solely on an observation of the record page, the deaths appeared registered in a timely manner. The date "1895" is reported at the top of the page (part printed, part penned) and entries thereon have surnames beginning with the letter "M"; death dates ranged from early 1894 to mid-1895. Joseph's death was reported as the first line item (penned as no. 1); Rebecca's death was listed second.
The form does not contain a field for "birth date"; rather for reporting how old each person was at the time of their death. Detailed entries were given for both Joseph and Rebecca (he, ae 80 years 8 months and 4 days; she ae 79 years 7 months and 13 days).
Was the record complete? There are fields for names of the decedents' parents. Of the 24 entries on the record page, only six (25%) so provide parents' names; Joseph and Rebecca's parents' names were not provided. Reviewing the record page carefully, we find some logic--the column header contains a descriptor, "Names of Parents when an infant without Name."
In each case, a cause of death was given--Rebecca died of "Consumption" (tuberculosis ); Joseph, "Lagrippe" (influenza ).
Sigh. If my mother, first grade teacher and Don Quixote had collaborated on the Van Wert County death register form, things would be different. I doubt we would be in want of a column, "show your work." Then we would have information about both the date of birth assumed by the calculation and the details of that calculation.
 See "names_illnesses."
The family had located two obituaries remarking about both deaths. Neither of the obituaries calls out a date of birth for either Joseph Peter Miller or his wife, Rebecca. As for their ages at death, the earlier of the two obituaries (penned, 12 March 1895) seemed simply errant (she, "aged 76" and he, "aged 72"), at least when considered together with death and census records known about them.
According to the earlier obituary, Rebecca "died Thursday ... Funeral held on Sunday, at 11:30 a.m."; Joseph "died Sunday ... 12 o'clock."
From the same obituary, "While the funeral of Mrs. Miller was in progress, her husband closed his eyes in death."
The second, later published obituary provided more detailed information about the ages of both Joseph and Rebecca Miller.
Published obituaries report that Joseph and Rebecca were buried at Taylor Cemetery. In 1999 correspondence to Jack Stover, one cousin, C. Deyo, reports about her visit to Taylor Cemetery. She relays some second hand information ("I was told that...") by which we learn that while no headstone marks the graves, Joseph and Rebecca may be buried at the cemetery next to son Joseph Thoma Miller and his wife, Catherine (whose graves are marked ).
For our purpose, we have confirmed that the graves are unmarked. From conversations with Union Township trustees we have confirmed the cemetery is still active (receiving burials); we learned the cemetery books and records do not document Joseph and Rebecca's burials (the records in the cemetery books do not cover the period prior to 1900).  Work continues to learn if a deed exists for the purchase of the cemetery lots.
On the basis of the various information we had gathered about the burials, FindaGrave memorials were created for Joseph and Rebecca.
Sigh. Suffice it to say, we did not learn more about Joseph's date of birth from a tombstone record or cemetery record book.
 See Joseph T. Miller, FindaGrave memorial 33675975 .
 Marcia Weldy (reference librarian, Brumack Library, Van Wert County, Ohio) to GeneJ, interview regarding unmarked graves at Taylor Cemetery, June 2012; file memorandum privately held by GeneJ, Arizona. Marcia first consulted the Van Wert County OGS cemetery inscriptions (ca2000) and then referred us to the township trustees.
 Michael McOmber, Union Township trustee, to GeneJ, interview (telephonic) of 20 June 2012; file memorandum. Confirmed the cemetery is active; referred us to Richard Perry.
 Richard Perry, Union Township clerk (fiscal officer), to GeneJ; interview (telephonic) of 22 June 2012; file memorandum. Reports there are no cemetery records for burials prior to 1900.
Birth as a "Calculated Affair"
In the later of the two obituaries (penned, 14 March 1895), Joseph Miller ("Father Joseph Miller") is reported to have died 10 March 1895, [separately, a Sunday] then aged "80 years, 8 months and 4 days." Notably, this is the same date of death and age at death as had been recorded in the Van Wert death register. 
Using the death record/obituary data, Joseph Peter's date of birth calculates as ca06 July 1814 (graphic below).
The date of birth recorded by John I. Miller in the various family manuscripts, 05 July 1814, seems one day earlier than our calculated date of birth.
Could this ever so slight difference (between our inferred date of birth and John I. Miller's reported date of birth) lend credence to an argument that John I. Miller's record was based on knowledge of an actual date?
Not so fast, Don. Measure twice; cut once.
 We find the same "data" (death date and age at death) in the later obituary and the death register, but that doesn't mean there were two informants or even two calculations. The information from one person, even the same calculation, may have served as the source for both reports. It is noteworthy that in the same obituary and same death register, there are differences in the age of death given for Rebecca (Thoma) Miller.
Manuscripts, another take
We hoped to find some reason why John’s 140 + years-after-the-fact-record about Joseph’s birth differed from that we had inferred from records created 60 years earlier, at the time of Joseph’s death. Lacking access to John I. Miller’s work papers, we took another look at the manuscripts he had written.
We found that while both John’s manuscripts, 1954 and 1962, reported the same birth date for Joseph Peter Miller (05 July 1814), they differed in the reporting about his date of death. The earlier manuscripts reported Joseph died 09 March 1895—one day earlier than the date memorialized at the time of his death (10 March 1895, a Sunday, while the funeral of his wife was in progress).
Realizing there was a date of death discrepancy changed how we came to view the specificity/detail in John I. Miller’s record about his grandfather’s birth date. It seemed possible that in 1954 John I. Miller had inferred details about the 1814 birth from some notation about Joseph’s age at death (rather than create a record based on his recollection of family gatherings or such).
If then, but what. So-so. Sigh.
Reality check. We are hoping to discover information about Joseph Peter Miller’s birth that might advance a belief that he was a different man than Peter Miller’s son, Joseph.
Depending on your perspective, we aren’t making much progress, and there is yet ….
More to the story
Wikipedia describes Aha! effect as the "human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept." [Wikipedia, "Eureka Effect."]
Those researching Peter Miller's son, Joseph, have few sources, but these include notice of a Columbiana County (Ohio) baptismal record, reporting "their" Joseph was born 06 August 1814.
Placing the research about Joseph Peter Miller’s birth in the context of the research about Peter Miller and his family at that time, we find Joseph Peter Miller may have been born (date inferred) exactly one month earlier than Peter’s son, Joseph.
Most of the events we have documented between 1813 and 1814 are closely connected with St. Jacob’s church (Leetonia, Columbiana County, Ohio) and Eureka! Look more closely. The recorded birth for Peter and Mary’s son Joseph—06 August 1814--is only about 7 months beyond the parents’ marriage.
We had to consider that the date of birth entered for Peter’s son Joseph at the time of the 1814 baptism might have been subject to some reporting bias.
Oh me, oh my. It seems we have not been tilting at windmills.
From our work, we had discovered an honorable reality. At least for this research team, we accepted that the different dates of birth represented for the two identities did not exclude a possibility that the men were one and the same.
Many outstanding questions and conflicts remained, however, and the research continued.
-------Of note: Our many thanks to Marcia Weldy, Brumback Library, Michael McOmber and Richard Perry, Union Township (Van Wert) Trustees; and John Lybarger, Knox County (Ohio) Recorder, for the professional assistance we have received. Also our thanks to Dr. Daniel J. Grimminger, former Paris church archivist; Rev. Jenna K. Brown, St. Jacob's (Leetonia), especially for their interest in advancing the work to relocate the various early baptismal records that we have sought.