A Y-DNA Mystery: Henry Ward Beecher’s Father is Actually a Weihmiller


ClThis page will be constantly revised as more is learned, so check back.

Henry Ward Beecher (1887-1950) of York, Pennsylvania, is a well-known businessman who operated the Katharine Beecher Co. created by his wife Katharine Beck Jacoby Beecher in her kitchen during the depression. In 1949 the firm moved into a modern factory in Manchester, Pennsylvania, and in 1974 the firm was bought by Pennsylvania Dutch Candies.

In 2017, a grandson of Henry Ward Beecher of York  took a Y-DNA test as part of the Bucher/Beecher genealogy project at FamilyTreeDNA.com

It was expected to match the Y-DNA of the many other males who descend from Bücher/Beecher ancestors who immigrated in Pennsylvania in 1751, but shockingly it did not.

Born 28 July 1887 in Seven Valleys, York County, Pennsylvania, Henry Ward Beecher was christened a few months after his birth on 10 November 1887 at Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Glen Rock by John Henry Beecher (1858-1927) and his wife Ella M. Godfrey (1858-1891) who were believed to be his parents.

Because Y-DNA traces only Henry Ward’s father’s father’s father’s line, since Y-DNA is only passed from a father to his sons, it identifies in his past any male sharing a common male ancestor with your surname (or variant spellings). But the test for Henry Ward’s grandson showed his haplogroup was not the I-M253 that Pennsylvania Beechers have; it is R-M269, so they cannot be related.

Henry’s father’s real surname was revealed in May, 2018, when the Y-DNA test matched a Weymiller in Iowa — a 67-marker match — a very certain conclusion.

This immediately made sense, because in the late 1800s in York County, two Weihmiller brothers from Germany were living with, marrying, and even employing the Beecher family!

Later in this article we’ll discuss the Iowa Weymiller relation but first let’s  review the Weihmillers and Beechers in Pennsylvania.

Following are all the facts. Can you help solve the mystery of who the real father is?

Beecher – Wheimiller Relations in York County, PA

Henry Ward Beecher (1887-1950) was baptized with his father listed as John Henry Beecher (1858-1927), who was the son of Paris Epler Beecher (1825-1909). Click to see the tree of Henry Ward Beecher (1887-1950).

Because John Henry was born in 1858, and the Weihmiller brothers did not emigrate from Germany into the United States until 1869, it is safe to assume that John Henry was truly a Beecher and son of Paris. So, John’s son Henry Ward will be the one to actually have a Weihmiller father.

The Weihmiller brothers and Beecher families lived as neighbors and even in the same household at times, near Seven Valleys in Springfield Township in York County. They were closely related as follows:

  • William Frederick Weihmiller (1847-1934) married 2nd Anna Elizabeth Beecher (1853-1900), a daughter of Paris Epler Beecher. Click to see William Weihmiller’s tree.

  • In the 1900 census, Paris Epler Beecher was living with daughter Anna in the household of William Frederick Weihmiller.

  • Charles Augustus Winemiller (1858-1934) and his brother William Frederick operated a cigar factory that employed Paris and John Henry Beecher at times.

  • Some of the Beechers and Weihmillers were married or members at Emmanuel Methodist church in Glen Rock.

Family History Timeline for the Beechers and Weihmillers

John Henry Beecher was born 14 January 1858 in Wrightsville, which is 24 miles from Seven Valleys. He appears in the 1860 census: Parris E. Beecher [sic as indexed in census], 35, tailor, is listed in the 1860 Census in Lower Windsor Township in York County with real estate valued at $0 and possessions worth $100. Living with him is Rebecca, 27; Ann Aliza, 7; daughter Jesiah, 4; John Henry, 2; and Sarah, 7 months in July 1860 when the census was recorded. Everyone was born in Pennsylvania.

In 1869, William Frederick Weihmiller emigrated from Germany, according to his 1900 census column regarding citizenship.

In the 1870 census, William Frederick is boarding at 430 Fifth St. West in Philadelphia recorded as Wm. Whilemiller [sic], 23, living with wife Roseanna, 21; and daughter Anne, 2. The census taker failed to record birth places for everyone on this census page.

W. F.’s wife Roseanna probably came from Germany with him and in addition to daughter Anna, born 9 Feb 1869, gave birth on 16 May 1871 in Philadelphia to their son Herman. (After 1870 no further record of Roseanna has been found, and in 1880 the children are living with their father and his second wife.)

In the 1870 census the Beecher family remained in Lower Windsor Township: Parris Beecker [sic], 45, farm laborer, was living with wife Rebecca, 36; Annie, 19; Kesiah, 14; John, 12; Sarah, 10; Charles, 8; Elise, 6; and Howard, 4.

By 1876, Parris Beecher’s daughter Annie became the 2nd wife of William Frederick Weihmiller, and their daughter Louisa Helen “Lillie” was born 18 November 1876. We have not yet found their marriage record.

In the 1880 census Paris Beecher is still in Lower Windsor Township: Paris Beecher, tailor, 54, was living with wife Rebecca, 47; daughter Keziah, 24; Howard, 12; Allen, 9; and Jacob, 5.

Paris’ son John Henry Beecher in the 1880 census was recorded as a single man, age 22, in Dover Township working in a mill. He was boarding in the home of Gabreal [sic] Emig, 55, and his wife Eliza, 49.

John’s future wife, Ella Godfrey, in 1880 was with her parents in a home on Walter Street in Glen Rock: John Godfrey, laborer, 62, living with wife Matilda, 51; son Charles, baker, 27; daughter Ella, 22; and granddaughter Ida, 9.

The 1880 census in Springfield Township, probably Seven Valleys, recorded William Weihmüller, cigar maker, 32, living with wife Anne E., 26; daughter Anna C., 11; Herman, 9; and Louisa H., 3. William and his parents were born in Württemberg. Anne E. and her parents and her children were born in Pennsylvania.

We have not been able to locate Charles Augustus Weihmiller in the 1880 census. He was not in recorded in Springfield Township as we’ve inspected every census page there. In fact, we cannot find him in any census; perhaps he always gave another name, but not Weihmiller/Winemiller/Whymiller and other variant spellings we’ve searched.

On Christmas Day, 1882, an ad in The York Daily: Wanted – Five or ten good cigar makers. Apply to: W. H. Weihmiller, Seven Valley, York Co., Pa.

John Henry Beecher and Ella Godfrey were married on 20 September 1883 at Emmanuel Methodist Church in Glen Rock.

William F. Weihmiller purchased the following properties found in the deed index in York County…

  • 2 Nov 1883 from Sarah A. Bott, Deed Book 7 D page 254
  • 27 Jun 1884 from Henry Bott, Deed Book 7 H page 367
  • 13 Mar 1885 from Sarah A. Bott, Deed Book 7 I page 455
  • 23 Mar 1885 from Alex Klinedinst, Deed Book 7 J page 447

On 23 December 1883 at Emmanuel Methodist Church the Seven Valleys Class was formed and members included William F. Weihmiller and wife Annie E.; and John Beecher and wife Ella. (Later members in 1884 were Keziah (Beecher) Meinel, in 1885 her father Paris Epler Beecher, and her brother Howard Beecher.)

Of 4 May 1884 in Emmanuel Methodist Church Ella Godfrey Beecher was baptized as an adult, that record also stating she was born 11 November 1858.

On 8 June 1884 Louisa Helen, daughter of W. F. and Annie Weihmiller, was baptized at Emmanuel Methodist Church. On the same day was baptized Rebecca Alverda Kinard, born 25 February 1884 as the daughter of Charles Kinard and Sarah Rebecca Beecher. Sadly, mother Sarah had just died 29 May 1884 so her sister, Annie Beecher Weihmiller and husband W. F. raised Rebecca as a Weihmiller. (She is living with them in the 1900 census reported below.)

In 1886, the book History of York County, Pennsylvania was published and contained the following: “August Weihmiller, cigar manufacturer, was born in Württemberg, Germany, January 28, 1858, and is the second son of the three children of M. and Margaret (Kimmel) Weihmiller. He came to America when twenty-three years of age. In Germany he received a first class education. On his arrival here he learned the cigar making business, in Seven Valleys with his brother, remaining two years following his trade until January, 1884, when he removed to Shrewsbury, and engaged in manufacturing cigars for himself. Mr. Weihmiller is a member of the F. & A. M., of Shrewsbury Lodge, and of Zion’s Lodge K. of P., of Seven Valleys, York County. He employs seven hands and manufactures about 300,000 high priced cigars yearly.”

The 1886 Young’s York County Directory listed:

Beacher, John, cigarmaker, Seven Valley
Beacher, Paris, laborer, Seven Valley
Weihmiller, August, cigarmaker, Shrewsbury
Weihmiller, William F., cigar manufacturer, Seven Valley

On 25 February 1887 in the York Daily: “The following assignee accounts will be presented to court by Prothonotary Hoff on Monday, March 21st: Account of Nathan Glatfelter, assignee of W. F. Weihmiller and wife, of Springfield township.”

The Birth of Henry Ward Weihmiller

On 28 July 1887 Henry Ward Beecher was born and on 10 November 1887 he was baptized in Emmanuel Methodist Church with John and Ellen Beecher listed as parents. (But as we know from Y-DNA, Henry’s father was actually a Weihmiller. 


Who Was Henry’s Father?

Henry’s mother, Ella Godfrey, lived in Glen Rock where in 1883 she married John Henry Beecher and baptized Henry Ward Beecher in the Methodist church.

Following her marriage the 1886 York County Directory has John and Ella Beecher living in Seven Valleys, which is about 6 miles northwest of Glen Rock. Also living there in 1886 is John Beecher’s father Paris Beecher and William Frederick Weihmiller.

William’s brother, August Weihmiller, according to the directory and history book, had moved in 1884 to Shrewsbury to practice cigar making, which is located 4 miles southeast of Glen Rock and 10 miles from Seven Valleys.

Henry Ward Beecher was conceived about February, 1887, and his records state he was born in Seven Valley. It therefore seems more likely that William Frederick is his father, rather than August Weihmiller. But we also note August was a lifelong bachelor with no marital obligations.

Did William F. Weihmiller have an affair with Ella Godfrey Beecher, either with or without her consent?

Or did William’s wife Anna Elizabeth Beecher give birth to Henry Ward Beecher and the child was adopted by her brother and sister-in-law?

We are searching court records in York County to see if any orphan’s court records identify an adoption, or court cases for bastardy exist.


Deaths, Debts, Deeds and Courts

In February 1889 W. F. and Annie Weihmiller are listed in the roster of the Seven Valleys class at Emmanuel Methodist Church.

There are no listings from the 1890 census as it was destroyed in a fire in Washington D.C.

On 4 September 1890 in New Freedom, York County, Grace Rebecca Beecher was born. When she died in 22 December 1955 her Pennsylvania Death Certificate lists her parents as John Beecher and Ella Godfrey.

On 24 October 1891, Ella Godfrey Beecher died. The York Daily on 27 October 1891 reported: “Died at Baltimore — Mrs. Ella Beecher, of New Freedom, died at the John Hopkins hospital, Baltimore, on Saturday. Mrs. Beecher was suffering from a blood tumor and was taken to that institution for the purpose of having an operation performed a week ago. The operation was performed, but she did not recover. The deceased was 30 years of age and leaves two children. She was a daughter of the late John Godfrey, of Loganville.”

Anna E Weihmiller purchased the following land in Seven Valleys:

  • 1 Oct 1892 from John W. Kohr, Deed Book 9 K page 230
  • 28 Sep 1893 from Moss Rose Council #292, Deed Book 9 S page 504

On 4 Apr 1894 Herman Weihmiller purchased real estate in Seven Valleys from his mother Anna E. Weihmiller and on the same day sold it to his father William, Deed Book 9 W page 691 and Book 9 X page 662.

On 26 March 1896 in the York Daily: “The cigar company of West Manchester are doing a large business. W. H. Weihmiller, formerly engaged in the cigar business at Seven Valley, but at present connected with the above firm appears to be the right man at the right place.”

In the August 1897 Quarter Session Court in York Sallie Klinedinst filed a charge of seduction, fornication & bastardy against Herman Weihmiller, the son of William F. Weihmiller.

On 26 October 1897 in The Gazette: “Seven Valley News: The cigarmakers of W. F. Weihmiller’s factory are kept very busy at present. Twenty five hands are employed on full time.”

On 30 Jul 1898 Charles August Weihmiller purchased land in Seven Valleys from William F. Weihmiller and on the same day sold it to Anna E. Weihmiller, Deed Book 11 L pages 645 and 648. This appears to be an attempt to keep William’s creditors from seizing his land?

On 3 October 1898 in the York Daily: “Sheriff Brodbeck levied on the personal property of W. F. Weihmiller, cigar manufacturer, at Seven Valley. The seizure was made on an execution of $1,300, issued by Jacob Diehl, of the same place.”

On 15 April 1900 Anna Elizabeth (Beecher) Weihmiller died. On 17 April 1900 the York Daily: “Death at Seven Valley. Mrs. Annie E., wife of W. F. Weihmiller, died at her home at Seven Valleys at 2:30 o’clock Sunday. Death was due to paralysis of the heart, following a sickness of three weeks. Mrs. Weihmiller was between 45 and 50 years of age and was a prominent member of the Evangelical church at Valley. The funeral will take place Wednesday morning with services at the Evangelical church at 10 o’clock. Mrs. Weihmiller is survived by her husband, a daughter and a step-son and step-daughter.”

The mentioned daughter would be Louise Helen Weihmiller. The step-daughter would be Rebecca, adopted by Annie when her sister Sarah Rebecca (Beecher) Kinard died a few months after birthing Rebecca. The step-son would be Herman, W. F. Weihmiller’s son by his first marriage.

The 1900 census recorded in Seven Valleys, Springfield Township: William Winemiller [sic], widowed, cigar manufacturer, 53, born Sep 1847 in Germany, living with others born in Pennsylvania: daughters Louise H., 24, Nov 1876; and Rebecca A., 16, Feb 1884; and father-in-law Paris Beecher, tailor, 77, Dec 1823. The census column reports William immigrated in 1869 and had become a U.S. citizen.

The 1900 Census listed in York city: John Beecher, age 38 born Jan 1862, married for 6 years to Bertha, 34, born Aug 1865. She had 3 children with 2 still living in 1900. He is a cigar maker. Living with them is Ward H, born July 1888; and Grace R. born Sep 1890 and John C. born Sep 1896.

On 10 Oct 1900 William Weihmiller filed with the Register of Wills a renunciation to be the administrator of wife Anna E. Weihmiller’s estate and requested that Jacob Diehl be given the letters of administration. This indicates that William owed Diehl money and put Diehl in position to collect the debt by selling Anna’s property.

On 23 Oct 1900 Henry Bott and Nathan Folkamer appointed to appraise the property of Anna E. Weihmiller, late of Seven Valleys, filed a report that they inspected her premises and found no property of value other than the real estate.

On 26 Nov 1900 the orphan’s court ordered Jacob Diehl could sell two lots of real estate in Seven Valleys owned by Anna E. Weihmiller, and Diehl reported he sold the two lots on 29 Dec 1900 for $1925 to Ammon F. Koller.

On 4 April 1901 Jacob Diehl filed with the orphan’s court an account listing 23 debtors who were owed a total of $1925 from the estate of Anna Weihmiller, mostly small amounts paid to cover her medical, funeral, court, etc. costs, but with $1534 paid to Diehl himself for “judgement and interest.”

On 3 Sep 1901 Bertha Beecher residing at 391 S. 2nd St. in Steelton, PA appeared before C. F. Keech, York Alderman, and swore a signed statement that: “John H. Beecher, her husband, has by his barbarous and cruel treatment, mad life burdensome and home unbearable, and has driven his said wife and their minor child John Carson Beecher five years of age from their home, and has neglected and refused to properly support and maintain their said minor child the said John Carson Beecher.”

On 23 Sep 1901 the quarter sessions court ordered John H. Beecher to pay $150 bail conditioned that he pay to his wife the sum of $1.50 per week for the support of his child.

On 17 Jan 1902 Mrs. Bertha Beecher filed with the court that she and John H. Beecher were living together at 105 E. Princess Street in York for the last two weeks with their minor child and that the said Beecher is supporting said child at home with $1.50 a week payment to Bertha.

The 1910 Census recorded John [sic], janitor, 45, was living with Bertha, cleaning homes, 45, and John, 13.

In 1910 Henry Beecher, printer paper factory, 22, single, was a boarder in the household of William Bett, 64, and his wife Sarah, 60. Other workers in the paper factory are living with them.

A list of divorces published in The York Daily on 1 April 1913 included Bertha V. Beecher from John H. Beecher.

On 26 April 1913, Henry Ward Beecher married Katharine Beck Jacoby.

The Weihmiller – Weymiller Relation

The Y-DNA test proves that Henry Ward Beecher’s father was a Weihmiller who shares a common male ancestor in the past with John Edward Weymiller born in Allamakee County, Iowa, April 11, 1930. We know from family trees their common male ancestor must be 8 or more generations ago.

Using the TIP calculator at FamilyTreeDNA.com on this 67-marker match shows the chance they shared their common male ancestor since 1780 is 78% and the chance since 1740 is 90%.

Where were the Pennsylvania Weihmillers from?

The History of York County published in 1886 revealed “August Weihmiller, cigar manufacturer, was born in Württemberg, Germany, January 28, 1858, and is the second son of the three children of M. and Margaret (Kimmel) Weihmiller.”

We find in German records…

Karl August Weyhmueller was baptized 31 Jan 1858 in Faurndau, Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg. Father Johann Michael Weyhmueller and wife Margaretha Kuemmel.


Wilhelm Friederich Weyhmueller was baptized 19 Sep 1874 in Faurndau, Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg. Father Johann Michael Weyhmueller and wife Margaretha Kuemmel.

See Google Map of Faurndau

The parents, Johann Michael and Margaretha,  were also born in Faurndau, as were their many other children. Some records are transcribed as Weÿhmüller. (We will need to inspect the original German church record pages and interpret the Germany script handwriting to understand what the actual surname spelling is.)

Johan Michael Weÿhmüller, the son of Johan Michael and Anna Maria Weÿhmüller, married in the Evangelische Kirche (Protestant Church) in Faurndau on 20 June 1847 Margaretha Kümmel, the daughter of George and Maria Magdalena Kümmel.

On 2 February 1773 in Hundsholz, Johann Michael Weÿhmüller married Anna Maria Mängle. Hundsholz, today known as Adelburg, is a village just north of Faurndau.

Where were the Iowa Weymillers from?

The ancestry of John Edward Weymiller is easily documented. Published in the Waukon Democrat on 23 May 1906 is the obituary of the Iowa family’s immigrant, Frederick August Weymiller…

“Frederick August Weymiller passed away on Saturday, May 12, at the age of 80 years, 5 months and 24 days. The deceased was born November 18, 1825, in Pausa, Saxony, the second son of Frederick L. Weymiller. He emigrated to America in 1845, and settled in Germantown, Pa. On August 21, 1847, he married Wilhelmine M. Gable. In 1852 he went to California where he remained for two years. He came to New County in 1854 and farmed until 1886, when he removed to New Albin, where he has resided ever since. He was the father of three sons and three daughters, one of whom preceded him to the beyond.”

Pausa is a town in the Vogtlandkreis district, in the Free State of Saxony, Germany. In 2013 it merged with Mühltroff under the name of Pausa-Mühltroff.

See Google Map of Pausa

It is 214 miles between Pausa and Faurndau! That’s a 7-day trip by horse in the 1800s. So, these families obviously migrated from an earlier location where their common male ancestor was in the late 1700s.

We’re now seeking records in Germany that will tie the two family lines together.

German families had a tradition of naming sons and grandsons for their ancestors. It is not a coincidence that the Pennsylvania Weihmillers have given names Frederick and August and so do the Iowa Whymillers. 

Check this page in the future when we’ll have lots more!

Frederick August Weymiller

23 Jun 1846: Sailing on ship Augusta from Bremen arriving New York: Passenger Fredk Weinmuller, male, 20, occupation weaver, birthplace Germany.

The 1850 census recorded on July 31, 1850 in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Frederick Weiermuller, stocking weaver, 23, living with wife Wilamina, 27. They were both born in Germany.

Wilhelmina Eva Katherin Geipel was born 21 January 1823 and died 28 June 1913 in New Albin, Allamakee, Iowa.