How to find parents of Elizabeth Meyers (1820-1880), wife of the Amish Benjamin Miller in 19th Century Pennsylvania?


Amish and Amish Mennonite Genealogies (Gingerich & Krieder, 1986) gives an Elizabeth Meyers (born 13 Oct 1820 and died 17 Oct 1880) as the wife of Benjamin Miller (1816-1888, of the Christian Miller lineage). She was born and died in Somerset County, PA, and buried at the Miller Burial Ground in Paint, PA. Benjamin Miller and Elizabeth were married in about 1837. But, I can't find anything more about her or about her parents, other than the 1880 US census where it's noted that both of her parents were also born in Pennsylvania.

Husband Benjamin's ancestry is well-documented, but it's always harder to follow these maternal lines. I can't find anything obvious in census or other information. Does anyone have further clues, or suggestions for where to find them?


Posted 2013-12-15T19:03:25.657

Reputation: 231

A note on the title edit: although Benjamin Miller and family were almost certainly Amish Mennonite, their daughter Mary married neighbor Peter Ott, a Lutheran. It's therefore possible that Elizabeth came from outside of the church group as well. – mattdm – 2013-12-24T09:49:35.513

I see the memorial you linked to at Find A Grave for Elizabeth's burial has three other people listed as this couple's children (calculated relationships). You said in another comment you had children's marriage records -- it might be useful to add a list to your question a list of all the sources you have that mention Elizabeth by name. If we can see more of what you have on the entire family, the easier it is to spot clues. See for an example.

– Jan Murphy – 2013-12-24T18:37:03.813 is a good online tool for evidence management. – Jan Murphy – 2013-12-24T18:40:44.580



Take a look at the answers to How to find wife's maiden name in New England in the 1700s? -- my answer has general tips on finding records about women, and some of the other answers about finding female ancestors, or looking for the people's parents, may give you ideas about other record types to look for. The FamilySearch Research wiki on Pennsylvania has links to many major repositories and articles on several record types.

What searches have you tried so far?

For some of the people I'm researching, I was not able to find records about them which listed their parents, but I was able to find out by examining the records of their siblings. Does Elizabeth have any siblings?

Evidence about friends, associates, neighbors (or what some genealogists call the 'cluster') can also be useful for solving this kind of problem. You can see some examples on Elizabeth Shown Mills' website for her book Evidence Explained -- see her Quicklesson 11: Identity Problems and the FAN principle.

Edited to add: even if you can't find records for siblings, it may help to broaden your study and look at more of the local community. See the question How can I determine what records are available in a particular locale? What other resources exist for studying Amish and Mennonite communities? Look for general information about what records survive, whether or not they are indexed and available for a name search. A Google search reveals the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society website and the Selected Church and Religious Genealogical Resources at the Indiana State Library. What other repositories might have records about the community Benjamin Miller lived in?

In really tough cases, you can't depend on being able to search record collections by the name of the person you are looking for. Even when the person you're seeking does appear by name, the name may not be indexed at all, the index may not match what the document actually says, or the name may not be spelled in the manner you expect. And if you don't know the historical context or the community, you may miss important clues because you won't recognize their significance. If you can find case histories of other people working in this area and around this time frame, read what they did and note what record collections they used, and what research methods they employed.

Jan Murphy

Posted 2013-12-15T19:03:25.657

Reputation: 22 994

I've looked on Ancestry and Family Search. There's good evidence of Elizabeth Miller being Elizabeth Meyers (for example, children's marriage records), but none I can find of her birth or family -- nothing about siblings or anything. Some of the other answer applies, but a lot of it doesn't, since Pennsylvania is not New England (especially western PA). – mattdm – 2013-12-16T13:42:27.377

The Hidden Half of the Family and other works on researching female ancestors can help in building a checklist of record types to search for. In tough cases like this, it helps to search individual databases rather than using global searching, and to keep in mind that you won't necessarily find someone by searching for their name. – Jan Murphy – 2013-12-16T16:39:01.113

Yeah, unfortunately, the only things I can find are the gravestone photographs and records, plus the book reference I mention in the question. There's not much to go on. – mattdm – 2013-12-16T20:28:09.657

Is the book authors' source for her dates likely to be the stone from the burying ground? Is there a bibliography in that book? What sorts of records do they find for other people? – Jan Murphy – 2013-12-16T23:08:16.030

What about searching the archives of any Amish and Mennonite related mailing lists?

– Jan Murphy – 2013-12-17T01:43:02.530

Good suggestion on the mailing lists. Unfortunately nothing there either. – mattdm – 2013-12-17T18:25:00.327

I'll have to check on the bibliography -- the actual book is at my parents' house and I just have copies of a few relevant pages. That is also a great suggestion that I should have checked already. – mattdm – 2013-12-17T18:26:42.320