The more I studied Kim’s account, the draft family tree and the letters, the more I began to perceive anomalies, not least the difference between Lewis’ statement that his brother Hyman had been born in Russia and was aged between two and three when they arrived in Hull and the birth certificate of Hyman Miller in Hull in 1881. The tree which Linda had drawn up also appeared to have errors. And so I set out to prove all the information. For two months I forgot all else and I lived and breathed Hyman Miller and his family, with surprising results.
Henry married Linda Annie Udy on 4th January 1922. He said that he was aged 40, which implies that he was born in 1881. He said that he was born in Glamorgan, Wales. His parents were Arthur Phillip Miller, a colliery engineer. His mother was Rose Miller, maiden name Martin.
The Udy family tree gives Henry’s date of birth as 15 December 1881, the day and month confirmed by Lewis.
The birth certificate found in the family archives is for Hyman Miller, born in Hull, England, on 24th September 1881. His parents were Jacob Miller, a house painter, and Rachel Miller, formerly Horwich.
I didn’t know when Jacob had died but knew that Rachel had moved to Philadelphia with her children, so once logged on to Findmypast, I searched the 1891 census for Rachel Miller, in Wales, born in 1856 +/- 2 years (as Lewis had indicated she was 35 when the father died).
The search returned a nil result. I widened it to +/- 5 years. Again, there was nothing. Hmmm. My confidence that I could find the family began to fray a little at the edges.
I searched for Lewis. His age was one of the anomalies, so I searched for a birth date of 1878 +/- 2 years.
The search returned two results, one born in 1877 and living in Monmouthshire, the other born in 1879 and living near Pontypridd, Glamorganshire. Eagerly I clicked on the Glamorganshire entry and found:
5 April 1891: 32 West Taff Street, in the parish of Llanwonno, near the town of Porth, in the county of Glamorgan:
|Rose Miller||head of family||widow||aged 40||glazier||born in Russia|
|Barnet Miller||son||aged 17||glazier||born in Russia|
|Jacob Miller||son||aged 15||glazier||born in Russia|
|Lewis Miller||son||aged 12||scholar||born in Russia|
|Hyman Miller||son||aged 10||scholar||born in Russia|
|Hannah Miller||daughter||aged 19||born in Russia|
|Flora Miller||daughter||aged 3||born in Glamorgan, Llanwonno|
|Ada Miller||daughter||aged 11 months||born in Glamorgan, Llanwonno|
Well, it seems that at least one piece of information on Henry’s marriage certificate had been true. His mother’s name was Rose. At least, it was in 1891. People do have a disconcerting habit of changing their name, so presumably Rose had once been Rachel, the name on the birth certificate? Perhaps Rachel was her registered name and Rose was the name by which she was known.
Or, knowing the rate of mothers dying in childbirth in those days, perhaps Rachel was Hyman’s mother, she’d died after his birth and Jacob had married again. And Rose was Hyman’s stepmother.
Would Lewis have mentioned it if it was their stepmother who had taken them to America, not their mother. Perhaps, but both Lewis and Florrie had been very clear that their mother had been dreadfully upset at leaving Hyman in London and not seeing him again.
No matter how I tried to rationalise it, the Rachel / Rose puzzle was disconcerting.
Of course, I’d seen that census entry months ago but then I’d been looking for a Rose Miller with a son Henry who had been born in Glamorgan, not a Hyman who had been born in Russia.
So the 1891 census confirmed Henry’s connection to Glamorgan but also confirmed Lewis’ statement that Hyman was born in Russia.
It also appeared to confirm that Hyman, aged 10 in April 1891, was born in 1881 (making him 40 at the time of his marriage, as entered on the certificate).
But if, as Lewis had said, Hyman had been 2 and a half when he came to England, he must have arrived in England in 1883 or 1884. So why was there a birth certificate for Hyman, born in Hull in 1881?
Searching for the family members buried in Merthyr
Somewhat bemused, I decided to set aside the anomaly of Hyman’s birth for the moment and began to consider the death of Hyman’s father.
Originally I had wondered if Henry had made up a name for his father because he’d lost his father when he was young and couldn’t remember his name, as often happens, but from the birth certificate it seemed that his father’s name was Jacob and, from the letters, that Jacob had died when Ada was born. According to the census, Ada was eleven months in April 1891 and had been born in Glamorgan.
I searched for Ada Miller, born 1890. Two entries came up: one in 1888 in Monmouthshire, one in 1889 in Cardiff, Glamorganshire.
Births are registered where the birth takes place, so if the mother had been on a trip to Cardiff, the capital of Wales, when she unexpectedly gave birth early, the birth would have been registered there. But… Lewis had said that his youngest sister had been born on the day that his father’s body had been carried out of the house. It seemed unlikely that she would have been in Cardiff at that time, seventeen miles away. Nevertheless, I took a gamble and ordered the birth certificate. It did not pay off. The parents were Edward and Beryl Miller, not the ones I was hoping for. Having failed with one, I did not bother to order the birth certificate from Pontypool. That birth seemed too far away geographically.
I decided to search for the death of Hyman’s father, Jacob. Lewis had said that his father was 44 when he died, so I was looking for someone who had died around 1890, the supposed time of Ada’s birth, and therefore was born c1846.
The registration district for Llanwonno and Porth was Pontypridd. Lewis had said his father was buried in Merthy Tydfil, which would have been the nearest Jewish cemetery to Llanwonno and Porth.
There was no likely death registered in Pontypridd but there was a death for a Jacob Miller in 1889, in Merthyr Tydfil, which was where the death would have been registered if Jacob had died whilst visiting the town. And it was reasonable to think that he could have been there on business.
Unfortunately, there was an eight years difference in date of birth, which would have made him 51 when he died but I know that, depending on how well the informant knew the person, ages didn’t always get recorded correctly when somebody died. I ordered the certificate. The man had been a general labourer working in the steel works and was living in the workhouse when he died. The death was reported by the master of the workhouse and so there were no details of relatives. My instinct told me that this was not the Jacob I was looking for.
This was beginning to be like my work the year before, when I had spent a lot of money ordering certificates for the elusive Henry Miller. Now I’d found Henry, or rather Hyman, but I couldn’t find his father’s death or his sister’s birth, both of which were meant to have happened in Glamorganshire. Indeed, according to the census, Ada had been born in Llanwonno, near Pontypridd. Llanwonno is about equal distance from Pontypridd as Porth is, but along the next valley.
In family history terms, I had hit a brick wall.
Now what? Where did I go from here? Give up?
I am a Taurean, which makes me a trifle stubborn or, as I prefer to call it, somewhat tenacious.
And not for nothing did one of my family history clients describe me as being like a terrier dog which wouldn’t give up when on the scent of a quarry.
I was going to find more about this family no matter what, though I was beginning to think of buying some hair colouring to cover the grey hairs which I was rapidly acquiring.
I was looking for the death of Hyman’s father, who may or may not have been called Jacob, which had supposedly happened during Passover, at the same time as Hyman’s sister Ada was born. She, who may or may not have been called Ada, was, according to the census, born in 1880.
Clearly conventional methods would not work. I had to ‘think outside of the box’, widen the scope of my search.
People’s ages were often entered incorrectly on censuses, depending on who provided the information. And sometimes people were economical with the truth concerning their age for particular reasons, such as narrowing an age gap between husband and wife. This is often frustrating for family historians as it means there are inconsistencies in ages through consecutive censuses.
In those days there was not the same need as we have today to keep track of ages but it seemed to me that whoever said that Ada was eleven months in April 1891 would have been pretty close. And that meant that she was born in 1890.
I Googled for the dates of Passover in 1890 and so began looking for possible Miller births and deaths in April 1890. Such events would have been registered in April, May or, at the latest, in June. Either way, they would show up in the record index for the 2nd quarter of the year.
A death record for Abraham Miller, born 1845, death registered in the second quarter of 1890, in Pontypridd, appeared on my screen. It was the only one for Pontypridd. Not daring to tempt fate by saying Eureka! out aloud, I ordered the certificate.
Next I looked at the births for 1890 and rapidly scanned the list which came up. There were 25 Miller births registered in Glamorganshire. I refined the search. Four, all girls, were registered in Pontypridd. I looked at the index. Only one of the births, that of Bessie Miller, had been registered in the second quarter of 1890. Not daring to breathe, I ordered the certificate and sat back to wait.
I’m not good at waiting for certificates to arrive. Depending on how busy the General Register Office is (and it is often very busy after an episode of the television show ‘Who Do you Think You Are?’) it can take an average of two weeks for the certificate to arrive. In my view, patience is an over-rated virtue and one I sadly lack. Finally the two envelopes arrived. With a mixture of eagerness and dread, I opened the envelopes.
Date of death: 9 April 1890 Address: 32 Taff Street, Porth Name: Abraham Miller Age: 45 Occupation: Glazier Informant: Coroner for Glamorgan following an inquest on 10 April 1890
Date of birth: 14 April 1890 Address: 32 Taff Street, Porth Name: Bessie Miller Father’s name: Abram Miller Mother’s name: Rosa Miller formerly Mierson Father’s occupation: Glazier Informant: Rosa Miller, mother, making her mark [indicating that she could not write]
The address on both certificates was 32 Taff Street, Porth, neatly matching them to the address at which the family was on the night of the census in 1891.
It is only as I was typing all of the above that I realised that I could have short circuited the search for the name of Hyman’s father by ordering Flora’s birth certificate. According to the census, she was 3 in April 1891 so she must have been born in 1887 – 1888. She is known to us as Florrie, the writer of the letters. There is a birth record for Flora Miller, birth registered in the 3rd quarter (July to September) in 1887. There is also a record for a Florence Miller, in the 1st quarter [January to March] of 1890. Evidently that birth was too close to that of Bessie/Ada [who was born in April 1890] so the correct one must be Flora in 1887.
[Update: with the new searchable General Register Office births database, I’ve been able to confirm that Flora Miller’s birth was registered in the June to September quarter of 1887, mother’s maiden name Maerson.]
There was still Lewis’ baby brother to find, the one who was buried in Merthyr Tydfil. No name, no dates, no idea of how old he was when he died. How was I to identify him?
Perhaps he was born between Flora and Ada. Or maybe he had been a twin brother of Flora or Ada. I searched for a Miller birth registered in Pontypridd in 1888 +/- 1 year. Ten names came up. Omitting the girls left me with five boys. How was I to identify which was the one I was looking for?
I listed the names and years and then searched for a matching death, extending the search up to 1891, knowing that he was not on the April 1891 census.
I was left with two possible candidates: Cyrennus George Miller, birth registered 1887, death registered in 1888, and Isaac Miller, birth registered in 1889, death registered in 1891.
Cyrennus’ birth was registered in the 4th quarter [October – December] of 1887. Surely, if he had been Flora’s twin, the two births would have been registered at the same time? If they weren’t twins, it would have been a physical impossibility to have two children so close together. I ordered the birth certificate for Isaac.
Date of birth: 13 May 1889 Address: 32 Taff Street, Porth Name: Isaac Miller Father’s name: Abrom Miller [sic] Mother’s name: Rosa Miller formerly Miller * Father’s occupation: Painter Glazier Informant: Abrom Miller, father
* I have seen this sort of error before, with the surname of the mother repeated as her maiden name. It is possible that Abrom [sic] misheard or misunderstood the question or that the registrar simply made a mistake. Never mind, we have Rose’s maiden name from Bessie/Ada’s certificate.
There was one person left to find.
Lewis had written that his grandfather was buried in Methyr as well as his father and baby brother. Having no idea if it was his paternal or maternal grandfather I chose to start with looking for a suitable Miller.
Abraham (Abram/Abrom) was 45 when he died, so his father would surely have been at least 20 years older. I started with looking for a Miller who died in 1886 +/- 5 years, who was born between 1820 and 1830. None of the results were male and so I looked for Rose’s father. On the 1891 census she was noted as 40 but Lewis had said that his mother was 35 when his father died, which we now know was 1890. I assumed her father was at least 20 when she was born and searched for an appropriate Mierson death.
The name Benjamin Mierson appeared, born in 1826, death registered in Pontypridd, in 1890. I crossed my fingers and ordered the certificate.
Benjamin Mierson died on 28 July 1890, aged 64, he was a glazier, living at 6 Foundry Place, Porth. His death was reported by J. Isaacs who was a cousin living at the same address. Another family to note.
Okay, it might be circumstantial evidence but Benjamin lived in Porth and, like his son in-law, daughter and two eldest grandsons, he was a glazier. I’d found Lewis’ grandfather.
All of the above gives us:
|Flora||birth registered July to September 1887|
|Isaac||birth 13 May 1889, death registered in the 1st quarter 1891|
|Abraham||died 9 April 1890|
|Ada (Bessie)||born 14 April 1890|
|Benjamin||died 28 July 1890|
My elation at having found them all was tempered with the realisation of what it meant.
In the three years leading up to July 1890, Rose gave birth to three children, one of whom died less than two years old, and she’d lost both her husband and her father. What a dreadful time she’d had! How was she to manage? She was unable to write, possibly couldn’t read either, she may not have been able to speak English very well. And she had a family to care for.
Was it any wonder that when her brothers wrote from America, suggesting that she send the two older boys to them, she agreed to the suggestion?
Voyaging to the United States of America
Lewis had written that the boys went to America in 1891 but the shipping records show that Barnett, aged 19, and Jacob aged 17, left Liverpool (the main port for emigration to the USA) on the Steamship ‘Gallia’ in March 1893, arriving in New York on 14 March 1893. On the shipping list they were described as labourers but on arrival they were described as painters. Their ages were consistent with being two years older than the ages given in the 1891 census.
According to Lewis, after his older brothers left, Rose and the others had moved to London, where Hyman was in school. And then Rose had taken Hannah, Lewis, Flora and Ada to America, leaving Hyman in school because he had refused to have his education interrupted. His father’s relatives were living in London, so he wouldn’t be left completely alone.
The family left Liverpool on the Steamship ‘Majestic’ on 28 June 1893, bound for New York but they were destined for Philadelphia. According to the shipping papers, the voyage would take 32 days.
On one page:
Mrs Rose Miller, wife, aged 41
Etty Miller, dressmaker, aged 21 [presumably Hannah]
Lewis Miller, tailor, aged 15
On another page:
Flora Miller, aged 6
Ada Miller, aged 5
Just below Flora and Ada’s names, I spotted those of Florie and Phinny (a boy) Mierson, aged 5 and 3 and a half. Were those two related to Rose, to Benjamin?
Yes, I think they were and I explain the connection with the Mierson family here.
Now it was time to regroup and assess what I’d found.
From the 1891 census I had confirmed the names of the Miller family per the letters from Lewis.
I’d found the death of Lewis Miller’s father, Abraham Miller, the birth and death of his baby brother Isaac and the death of Lewis’ grandfather, Benjamin Mierson,.
Rose Miller’s maiden name was Mierson but had also been noted as Maerson. This was probably due Rose being illiterate and not knowing how it was spelt plus the registrar writing what he thought he heard. It was a common occurrence.
In March 1893, Barnett and Jacob had travelled to Philadeplhia.
Just four months later, Rose and her family had travelled to New York, destination Philadelphia.
It seemed clear that Henry Miller (known as Harry) from New Zealand was indeed, as Lewis and Florrie had written, their brother Hyman Miller who, according to Lewis and the 1891 census, was born in Russia, c1881, not south Wales. Everything pointed to their parents being Abraham and Rose Miller.
So why did Henry have with him a birth certificate for Hyman Miller born in Hull in 1881, with the parents Jacob and Rachel Miller?
Next: The other Hyman Miller