Tuesday, June 27, 2023

About Those Millers


There are some genealogical questions for which DNA testing is simply not suited to answer. Filling in the blanks in all the lines of descent from my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather, Mathias Ambrose, is one such instance. Especially when it comes to Mathias' daughter Barbara, whom we can tell from his 1804 will was already married to a Miller, I'm afraid I will have to call off the chase for more information—at least for now.

Here's the problem: Barbara's husband is not named in her father's will. Searching for a woman in that time period—the early 1800s, following her father's death in Bedford County, Pennsylvania—is already a challenge, as women were next to invisible during that time period. Although Mathias did mention the name of one grandchild in his will, that child was not the son of Mr. Miller, whoever he might have been.

Even though Barbara's husband was not named, if he had gone by almost any other surname—Smith or Jones being the obvious exceptions—we might have had more of a chance to discover his given name. But Miller? 

Then, too, I have yet to discover where Barbara herself fit into the Ambrose family constellation. True, the tradition was to name one's children in birth order when listing them in a will, so in that case Barbara would appear to have been right in the middle of the birth order, or even among the youngest ones. She was named as the third daughter, but that was after mentioning three sons, so it is hard to tell whether they all were listed strictly in birth order. I tend to think not.

If she was among the younger Ambrose children, my next task would be to search for marriage records in Bedford County, rather than back in Maryland, from where the family had moved. With this month almost over, that will need to go on my to-do list for the next time I explore this Ambrose family. Searching for a Miller without a given name is simply too challenging for that time period. If Barbara and the rest of the Miller family had moved westward, as did her married sisters Elizabeth and Susannah, the chances of locating the right Miller family would decrease even more precipitously.

As for the other sisters, even they present research problems. The start of the problems in finding these descendants grows first from the very handwriting on Mathias' will, which is next to impossible to decipher. Adding guesses to surnames, combined with missing given names for those husbands, compounds the research problem. Perhaps that is the prime reason why there are no ThruLines results for the descendants of those other daughters.

My temptation, seeing how close we are to the close of this month, is to set aside this research project for another year. Among the tasks I'd like to pick up upon my eventual return to Mathias Ambrose's puzzle would be to locate and study the probate records for the administration of his estate. As disbursement of liquidated property would involve signed records of the named Ambrose children having received their portion of the inheritance, I already have seen that some such receipts would actually be signed not by the named daughter herself, but by her husband. If so, that might be a mystery instantly solved for the actual surnames of the husbands—some of whose names may have been mangled phonetically in the will—not to mention, a big reveal for the missing given names of those men. A search like that, however, may take quite a bit of time.

With that, we'll jump ahead to the research project planned for July, and start tomorrow with a brief introduction of the challenge we'll face as we move from my mother-in-law's family lines to those of her Irish-American husband.


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