John Miller obit – 1901

As readers of my blog know, I create trees using information off of old newspaper items. Once I create the tree and attach a screen print of the news item, I then try to find a family tree for the person or persons featured in the news item. If I am unable to find family tree for the person I then put the file into a folder titled “No LUCK”.

Just recently I have been cleaning up my files and going back to those old “No LUCK” files and reviewing them to see if I can now find family trees. One such file I reopened was: “John Miller Obit 1901 – Penn Family Tree”


Tree - John Miller 1823-1901

This Blog posting will explain why you must:

  1. pay attention to spelling of town names and
  2. pay attention to location of said towns.



The John Miller obit that I found in an 1901 newspaper was this:

Obit - John Miller Feb 1901

I wrote it up like this:



John Miller

age 78

[born: abt 1823]

oldest residents of Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania

[Philipsburg, Fayette County, Pennsylvania]

died at home # 191 Washinton St.

this morning Wed 21 Feb 1901

Easton, Northampton, Pennsylvania, USA

Enlisted in the Third New Jersey Cavalry for three years and served during the Civil War.


son: Jesse Miller of Trenton

dau: Mrs. W. E. Harwig wife of president of the local Board of Education.

Member of J. G. To… No. 50 G.A.R.


Tree Created:


John Miller Obit 1901 – Penn Family Tree


Easton, Pennsylvania

Easton Free Press

Feb 22, 1901



See to the right of this link for the Obit:


Link to full paper:


Sent to Family Trees:


NO Trees Found !


I was unable to find any other records for John or his family which should have raised red flags but I did not pay attention. I never got a hint of a family tree. This was back in July of 2014 when I found the obit, created the tree and finally put it into the “NO LUCK” folder.


Today in Dec of 2015, while reviewing the information, I did a search on Family Search for “W. E. Harwig with spouse Miller”. This type of search, usually bring up some files that contain the husband and wife names. In this instance I got five (5) hits, but the records were located in New Jersey not Pennsylvania.

I went back to the original obit newspaper, to see if maybe I got the state wrong; New Jersey instead of Pennsylvania, but no the newspaper was from Pennsylvania and not New Jersey.

front page Easton newspaper 1901

I then took a look at the original obit in the newspaper to see I might have missed a mention of a state.

Obit - Phillipsburg - in Easton Free Press 1901

If he died in Phillipsburg as the newspaper says then why is it being reported in Easton. I went to a map to see if Phillipsburg is located near Easton.

map - Easton Penn

Here I noticed that Easton, Penn was on the boarder of New Jersey, so maybe the Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Harwig of New Jersey were the correct couple.

map Phillipsburg New Jersey

Then it occurred to me that I may have concluded wrong about where he died. I wrote down Phillispsburg, Penn as place of dead but maybe it was Phillispsburg, New Jersey.

I went back to the map and did a directions search, Phillispsburg, Penn to Phillispsburg, New Jersey and I got this:

map - Philipsburg PA to Phillipsburg NJ 1

The two towns are 209 miles apart and Phillispsburg, Penn is no where near Easton, Pennsylvania. In fact the town name is spelled differently: Philipsburg, PA and Phillipsburg, NJ.

I went back to the tree and corrected John Miller’s death place from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Having done that I got record hints.

Remember at the beginning of this long posting I said I had created the tree but did not get any record hints?

Well, if I had paid attention to that fact, I may have found my Penn vs. NJ error. I also should have paid attention to the town name spelling because in the newspaper the town was spelled differently than what was giving me for the Penn town. Furthermore I should have noticed that he enlisted in New Jersey to go fight in the Civil War. If I had looked at a Pennsylvania map and found Philipsburg on it then I would have noticed that it was 200 miles from the New Jersey boarder. I should have paid attention to all those clues “red flags” that told me I was not getting records because I had him dying in a different state.

I went back to the family tree and corrected Pennsylvania to New Jersey and now have many new records to look at. One even confirms the family and gives me names that I can confirm with the obit or new names I can put on the tree:



1870 United States Federal Census

Name: John Miller

Age in 1870:       45

Birth Year:           abt 1825

Birthplace:          Pennsylvania

Home in 1870:   Phillipsburg, Warren, New Jersey

Race:     White

Gender:               Male

Post Office:        Stewartsville

Household Members:

Name    Age

John Miller         45

Catherine Miller              45

Emily Miller       16

Jesse M Miller   4

Mary Stoll           13



In the 1901 obit I have: son: Jesse Miller of Trenton ; a name which is on this 1870 census record.

Also the Emily Miller in this census record fits with the Emily Miller who is wife of Wm E. Harwig on this Family Search page:

This FS record is for New Jersey births and Christenings for a child named Carl G. Harwig; a new name I will be able to put on the tree.


So, as you can see, if I had paid closer attention to spelling and map locations when reading the obit, I may have been able to find a family tree for John Miller back in July of 2014 and would not have put him in the “NO LUCK” folder.


I hope this posting will help you with your family tree and will make you go back to that one relative who does not seem to come up in any records. Maybe he/she is listed in the wrong state?


Thank You.


Jose from Clarkston, Michigan

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