Who was Ella McMillen?

+5 votes
182 views

Who's up for a challenge?  This young woman appeared in two US Censuses living with a family I've been working on.  She was definitely not a 'sister' as shown on the 1880 Census, but probably an orphaned niece or cousin.  The family taking her in were the siblings and children of Samuel McMillen and Mary Jane Durant, who died around 1850 in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  The family migrated to Warren County, Iowa about 1872.  I'm certain Ella was related to them, but I don't know how.  Any ideas?

WikiTree profile: Ella Symes
in Genealogy Help by Herbert Tardy G2G6 Pilot (605k points)

2 Answers

+2 votes
It appears you have 2 Samuel McMillen's related to the Iowa area.  See Find A Grave memorial ID 119113290, who had a daughter Ella, born 1881 in Iowa.
by Anonymous Nagel G2G6 Mach 2 (29.7k points)
edited by Anonymous Nagel
Thanks!  Neither Dennis nor Brobst sound familiar (which doesn't mean they aren't somehow connected).  That has to be two different Samuels.  The linked Samuel died at 42 in 1852, and left a will (linked in his profile) that mentioned no wife. The five minor children included in his will all have profiles.  One died at 31 in 1870, and the other four moved to Iowa with their uncle James.  Young Ella seems to have gone with them, but her trail goes cold in Iowa (for me so far, anyway).

I have not researched all of Samuel's sibs yet, only the ones closely involved with raising his kids. One of them might have died and left another orphan in James's care.  It would take digging through unindexed wills, and some luck, to prove it.  Or possibly making contact with someone who has already done that - you never know who might turn up on G2G!

Eleanor M Dieterich

 in the Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

Name: Eleanor M Dieterich
[Eleanor M McMillen] 
Gender: Female
Race: White
Age: 66
Birth Date: 28 Jan 1862
Birth Place: Pennsylvania
Death Date: 31 Dec 1928
Death Place: Carnegie, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, USA
Father: John McMillen
Mother: Ewing
Spouse: Henry J Dieterich
Certificate Number: 115450
Search for Eleanor M Dieterich in Pennsylvania Wills & Probates collection

Thanks, Betty!  Looks like a possibility.  I can't find the connection to Iowa.  In the 1900 Census, it says they got married in 1883 (don't know where), and their only surviving child was born in Pennsylvania in 1895.

The 1870 Census has an Eleanor, d/o John McMillen in Allegheny, born 1862.  I would guess that's the future Mrs Dietrich.  The mystery Ella lived in Buffalo, Washington, Pennsylvania in 1870 and moved to Iowa around 1872, and was in Iowa in the 1880 Census.

Mrs Dietrich?

"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZL8-LN6 : 12 April 2016), Eleanor Mc Millen in household of John Mc Millen, Pennsylvania, United States; citing p. 10, family 67, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,798.

Another clue is that the 1870 census has Ella born in Ohio.  She lived James McMillan (head of household) , Margaret 50 years old, Margaret 33 years old, Nancy 28, John 23, William 51.  Of these, they were all born in Pennsylvania, except for John (and Ella of course).

The 1880 census has her born in Pennsylvania and living with Maggie 37 years old and head of household, Lizzie 35 years old.  Note that none of her housemates match up between the 2 census a decade apart.

Saw some chatter (not exactly sourced) on ancestry message boards that says that William, James, and Margaret were the caretakers of their nieces and nephews from in 1860 and 1870 in Buffalo, PA, since Samuel and Mary (their parents) died early. Then James (one of the 3 caretakers) took the nieces and nephews to Iowa.
Thanks Anonymous.  All true and correct.  As I've been piecing this together, I've put the info in the various profiles, but it's not all in one place.

In his will, Samuel called for James and Margret to care for his children, and made William his executor (will is linked in his profile, and the image is clear and the handwriting legible).  As far as I can tell, the McMillen family lived in Buffalo, Washington, Pennsylvania from before Samuel was born until three of Samuel's children and their uncle James moved to Iowa around 1872.  Samuel's daughter (Maggie and Lizzie's sister) Nancy stayed in Pennsylvania with Samuel's siblings William and Margret until they died, then she moved to Iowa about 1902.

The 1870/1880 housemates don't match up exactly, but I don't think that's much of a problem.  In 1870, Samuel's children Maggie (shown as the younger Margaret), Nancy, and John lived with the three older McMillens and Ella in Buffalo.  I don't know where Lizzie was at that time.  By the 1880 Census, uncle James had died, brother John was married (in Iowa), Nancy had stayed in Pennsylvania with William and Margaret, and Maggie, Lizzie, and Ella lived together in Indianola.

One of the family oddities is that some of them (Lizzie and John, for example) reported being born in Ohio rather than Pennsylvania, and some of them, like Ella, switch back and forth.  Buffalo Township is close to the Pennsylvania/Ohio line, for what it's worth.  I haven't found any Ohio state documentation for any of them.

I've made contact with a McMillen descendant who has posted some great info on FaG.  She doesn't know who Ella was, either.  Ella can't be the daughter of Samuel or his brothers John or David (they died too early).  James and William never married as far as anyone knows.  William's will left everything first to his sister Margaret, then to his nieces and nephew.  I'm told James also left a will in Iowa, but I haven't looked it up yet.  If Ella was the daughter of one of Samuel's sisters, her last name McMillen needs some explaining.  Timing-wise, she could have been the daughter of any of Samuel's children, but again that would need some explaining.  I am beginning to suspect Ella was born out of wedlock.

There also seemed to be a lot of dying young in the family.  Samuel's daughter Mary Ellen died of TB in 1870, which probably explains that.  Maybe that also explains why Ella disappeared after the 1880 Census?

Edit to add - James McMillen died intestate in Warren County, Iowa in 1877.  Probate docs are on Ancestry.  His only heirs were his siblings William and Margaret, and his nieces and nephew Margaret, Nancy, Elizabeth, and John McMillen.  No mention of Ella.

Eleanor Mcmillen

 in the 1870 United States Federal Census

Name: Eleanor Mcmillen
Age in 1870: 8
Birth Year: abt 1862
Birthplace: Pennsylvania
Dwelling Number: 69
Home in 1870: Upper Saint Clair, Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Race: White
Gender: Female
Attended School: Y
Household Members:
Name Age
John Mcmillen 33
Martha Mcmillen 27
Sarah Mcmillen 12
Andrew Mcmillen 9
Eleanor Mcmillen 8
Rachel Mcmillen 7
Margaret Mcmillen 6
Robert Mcmillen 30

Betty, that's the Eleanor who I think later married Mr Dietrich.  The Ella in the question is this one, living in a different part of Pennsylvania in 1870:

"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZ22-2LM : 12 April 2016), Ella Mc Millan in household of James Mc Millan, Pennsylvania, United States; citing p. 23, family 173, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,961.

The Eleanor Dietrich (not the Ella in question) has come about in my study, and I've created a profile.  Doesn't solve your question, but maybe will help through process of elimination.  See McMillen-808 .

Thanks, Anonymous!  There are some sources here for Mrs Dietrich, like the death certificate Betty posted, that would go well on your profile.  smiley 

I have pretty much given up on Question Ella's parents, having ruled out all the nearby McMillens I worked on.  This was a project I took on for fun rather than personal interest, and hopefully I left enough foundation for future WikiTreers to expand.

One thing I would like to do is to get the full background, as described in my earlier post, onto someone's profile.  Since it involves several different people, few of whom are parents and children, I wasn't sure how best to do that.  Pick one profile for the full story, and refer to it from the others?  Copy/paste the whole thing onto every profile?  What do you think?

When I hit brick walls, I like to do peripheral research and create those profiles (people who may or may not have been related to or known the individual).  Usually helps flush out some new information that I didn't realize existed.  One suggestion would be to maybe just do a McMillen name study and see where it leads.
Great advice.  Thanks!
+1 vote

One of the "sisters" from Washington County, Pennsylvania who was too old to be a birth sister was Nancy Hannah McMillen. I found Nancy's obituary in the Lacona Ledge, Iowa April 16, 1917. 

The obituary names one of her sisters as Mrs. Fred Symes of Harveyville, Kansas.  That person turned out to be Ella McMillen. A bio of Ella's husband as well as his obituary said his wife had been Ella McMillen (with the bio saying she was from Washington County, PA). Some Indianola, Iowa, newspapers reveal that Ella was a teacher. I haven't found how and when she went to Kansas to marry Fred Symes.

The Kansas information about her reveals her birthdate was 18 May 1862 and that she died April 26, 1933. She married Fred Symes April 26, 1933. They had four children--two died young. The older two were Neva and Don. She is buried in Harveyville, Waubaunsee, Kansas.

She could have been an orphaned child from another McMillen. How she came into the McMillen family is still not clear; however, we know whom she married and when she died.

by S McMillen G2G Rookie (230 points)

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