Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I have mentioned a couple of times that I have a DNA match named Herbert Archie Miller. Aside from my brother, he is my largest match, at a 2nd cousin level. We share 134.68 cM's. At a 2nd cousin level, I couldn't understand why I didn't know him or any of his surnames, which were mostly German. He hadn't posted a family tree but using the surnames he'd listed, I found a tree on that I thought was his Miller family.

Then this weekend I had a revelation. (Wrongly, it turns out.) Maybe Mr. Miller was one of the Germanna descendants. Miller (or Mueller) wasn't one of the listed surnames, but maybe one of the other surnames on his tree was a Germanna name. So--I looked on for the tree I found before. I have got to start saving stuff like that on Ancestry's Shoebox feature. Of course, I couldn't find it again.

So I googled "Herbert Archie Miller."

And guess what? I got a hit--to a beautiful, extensive website devoted to the Miller and related families. It's called Troy's Genealogue and is the work of Troy Goss. I emailed Mr. Goss, and true genealogist that he is, he emailed me right back and asked for places and surnames that he could try to connect to Mr. Miller, who is his cousin. I really didn't have much hope since I couldn't figure out how my family and his family could ever have crossed paths, but I sent him a list of surnames and places.

"Ming" was the magic word. In my list of surnames from my mother's side of the family was the surname Ming. And Ming was the maiden name of Herbert Archie Miller's grandmother.

Troy even sent census records. The first one, in Crawford County, Arkansas, in 1850, was my 3rd great-grandfather Thomas Ming's family. And, it turns out, Mr. Miller's family, as well. Mr. Miller's great-grandmother was Francis, age 15. My great-great-grandfather, William F. Ming, her brother, was already out on his own. By 1860 he had his own family. That was the second census report. In 1860 William F. Ming was living in Grayson County, TX, with his wife and children. His youngest child, (Cynthia) Francis, my great-grandmother, was one year old.

The third census report listed the members of the Craig family of Sonoma County, California, in 1870. They included John W. Craig, age 44; Fannie M. (Ming), age 35; and three little girls under the age of 3. Lulu May would come along in 1872. According to notes given to Troy Goss by Herbert Archie Miller's daughters, which I quote here with their permission:

"Lulu May (Craig) Miller was one of seven children born in San Jose, May 6 1872, of John Craig, a California pioneer and gold miner and wife whose maiden name was Ming. The mother had been married first to Robert Craig, John's cousin, a butcher by trade, who had died of blood poisoning. There were no children by her first marriage. John Craig mysteriously disappeared in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and was never heard from again. The mother died soon afterwards. Her seven small children went to live in an orphanage in San Jose until they were put up for adoption. May Craig (as she was called) went to live with a family by the name of Sykes who had a ranch near Davis in the Sacramento Valley. She lived there until she was 20 years old. May's younger sister, Ida, had gone to live with a family named Johnson in the same area. When she came of age, Ida married a son of that family, Will Johnson, about 1890. Will and Ida had taken up farming in the San Luis Obispo area. A while after this, when May Craig was visiting her sister, she met John Miller, a neighboring rancher. John and May were married not too long afterwards. Shortly after they homesteaded land near Parkfield in southern Monterey County where several of their 12 children were born."

"John Valentine Miller died in his 84th year, April 13, 1940. Lulu May Craig Miller died in San Jose shortly after her 88th birthday on July 2, 1960."

Herbert Archie Miller was the youngest of the 12 children of John Valentine Miller and Lulu May Craig Miller. Thomas Ming was our common ancestor. Mr. Miller's line is Thomas Ming to Francis Ming to Lulu May Craig to Herbert Archie Miller. My line is Thomas Ming to William F. Ming to Cynthia Francis Ming to John W. Wheat to Ida Belle Wheat to me. That makes us 2nd cousins, twice removed.

Thanks to genealogist Troy Goss I have found three new cousins: Herbert Archie (who goes by Herb and will be 99 on his next birthday!) and his two daughters, and I am reminded again how very difficult were the lives of our ancestors. 

Herb originally tested to add to information about the Miller side of his family, so that is why Ming wasn't in his list of surnames on FTDNA. (Troy plans to add Herb's maternal surnames to FTDNA soon.) Because of further testing that didn't prove fruitful to his Miller relatives at the time, he showed up as my biggest match on FTDNA. Almost by accident I found Troy's website and my connection to Herb Miller. Troy calls it "serendipity," and it truly was. Herb's daughter Sandy hopes this blog post will help us discover other relatives. Let's hope some serendipity happens again.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Germanna Colony

In the last week I've discovered a whole new group of ancestors. Not only that, but they are connected to something historic, and that's one of my favorite things about genealogy. History comes to life when you know that your ancestors were part of it.

It all started back in August when my new Huff cousin Barbara heard from one of her DNA matches and discovered that she had ties to the surname Wilhoite (spelled in various ways, including Willhoit, Wilhite, Wilheit, and even Wilhoyte.) As she began to discover that more of her previously identified Huff matches had Wilhoite connections, she even set up a separate tree on since she didn't know how they connected with our Huffs.

Just before Christmas we both got a new match named Pickler. Now this seems random, but believe it or not, it's all going to come together in a minute. Barbara emailed Mr. Pickler who sent her the name of his ancestor from McNairy County, Tennessee. Tennessee sounded promising, so I looked up the ancestor's name on I found a tree posted by someone whose name I had seen as a match on Family Tree DNA. I emailed her and found out that two more of my matches were her mother and brother, and another was someone she had matched who had similar surnames. Five matches accounted for!

Using some of the tools on FTDNA and Gedmatch, I verified that all the Pickler matches indeed had DNA in common with my Huff matches. Still didn't know how, but it was definitely there. I looked at the family trees posted by my new Pickler relatives and was confused by the fact that the surname changed from Blankenbaker to Pickler in one generation. I thought it might be a mistake, until I found out that the Pickler surname was originally Blankenbuhler or Blankenbaker. Pickler apparently was a more easily pronounced translation and contraction. I came across a great explanation of how that happened, but of course, I can't find it now. And yes, Kellie Pickler is a descendant of this family.

Doing research on the Wilhoites and Picklers, it's hard not to stumble across the Germanna Colony, because those two surnames are associated with Germanna, especially what they call the Second Colony of 1717. At about the same time that I found Germanna online, Barbara heard from another Wilhoite match who told us about the many books and articles that have been written about the Germanna Colony.

I'm certainly no expert on the Germanna Colony. Heck, I'd never heard of it a month ago. What I know I've learned online on Wikipedia and websites like What I've learned is that Virginia Governor Alexander Spottswood brought 42 colonists from Germany in 1713 to create a mining industry in Virginia. He named the colony Germanna, combining "German" with the name of Queen Anne, the ruler of Britain at the time.

The so-called Second Colony arrived in 1717, and their story is truly bizarre. The ship's captain they hired to bring them to America used their fares to pay off his own debts, then sold the passengers (who thought they were headed to Germantown in Philadelphia) to Spottswood as indentured servants. The surnames of the 20 families, who came from the Palatinate region of Germany, include Wilhoite, Blankenbaker/Pickler, Clore (originally Klaar), Broyles (originally Breuel), and Yager. Once we knew to look for them, these names popped up everywhere in lists of surnames from our DNA matches. Using the Chromosome Browser feature on FTDNA, I think I have found the point at which dozens of us match on Chromosome 7 from position 86131629 to position 87246282. The colored lines below represent five of my brother's matches who have Germanna surnames. They line up exactly at these positions on Chromosome 7.

Since so many Huff cousins from different branches seem to have these same matches, we think that perhaps the Germanna lineage came into our Huff family with Susanna or "Sookie," the wife of William Nathan Huff. For years and on many trees, Susannah was given the maiden name Toney, but no-one ever seemed to have any proof of that. We know that branches of the Wilhoit and Broyles families lived in Greene Co., TN, and so did someone that eventually ended up in Jackson Co.--Barbara's ancestor Enoch Carter. He was a neighbor to the Huffs in Jackson Co. and had a relationship later in life with Sookie. Barbara thinks that Sookie may have been a Wilhoit or Broyles who came to Jackson Co. with Enoch and his wife, perhaps as a servant. There she met and married William Nathan Huff.

Some of my new relatives also match in much larger segments on Chromosome 19. Remember when I said I had found a dozen new cousins who matched on Chromosome 19? Well, it turns out they are also Germanna descendants.

We still have ends to tie up and further data may bring us to different conclusions, but we would never have known without DNA that we had any connection to Germanna's Second Colony. My brother and I even plan to modify our trip to North Carolina this summer and travel north into Virginia to visit the site of the Germanna Colony, about an hour and a half south and west of Washington, D.C. 

Germanna Visitor Center