The Search Is On! Ya'll ready for this.
Twyla Edwards - Prillaman history detective, genealogical adventurer and possibly mad scientist. She has been known to pick people's brains; visit cemeteries; call total strangers in the US and overseas; request DNA samples; travel back roads with cousins; run from stray cows; collect library cards, books and papers; spend days reading; study new and old maps; read historical highway markers; publish websites; and ask many questions in pursuit of family history.
2005 - The Torch is Passed
In 2005, I met with Norris Prillaman Miller, co-author of the Prillaman Family Book (and my mother's first cousin), to discuss genealogical leads on the origins of the Prillaman surname, immigration records, and Maryland records. That day she shared an entry from the book List of 18th Century Emigrants from the Canton of Schaffhausen to the American Colonies, 1734-1752 by Ernst Steinemann. The book listed a Hans Jacob Brüllmann leaving Switzerland in 1747 and she asked me to do what I could to find out if this was "our" Jacob. While there, I took photographs of her family heirlooms and videotaped an interview with her and my Aunt Madgie Atkins. She passed away the next year, a great loss for the Prillaman family.
2006 - The Answer Was in Front of Us All Along.
What a shock! Jacob Prillaman signed his will as Jacob Brüllmann. The Sowder family had shared previously that Jacob had signed his name as Jacob Brüllmann on his daughter Ann's marriage bond and I was at the Franklin County Courthouse in Virginia to look at that record and view this signature. While there, I decided to look at the will. I had read the will over and over again in the Prillaman book and had never thought to question the transcription of his name as Jacob Prillaman in the book. Upon seeing his signature shown as Jacob Brüllmann, I was surprised to think we were still asking the question about the origin of the Prillaman surname when the answer had been there in front of us all along for over 200 years. That summer, inspired by reading Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak and with a few volunteers to get us started, the Prillaman DNA project began through Family Tree DNA. Could we make a connection between the YDNA of the Prillaman family in America and the YDNA of the Brüllmann family in Switzerland?
2007 - DNA Project Confirms Brüllmann/Prillaman Kinship
Exciting year - YES, WE MATCH! The American Prillaman surname closely matches the Swiss Brüllmann surname. A huge thanks to the male DNA volunteers who made it possible. Our haplotree is known as R1b1a2a1a1b3c or R-L2 and is found fairly frequently in Switzerland. Out of seven project members, we have four descendants from Daniel's line (third son of Jacob) and two from John's line (second son of Jacob) to compare to the Swiss line. We have 35 out of 37 markers that match between one of the descendants of Daniel and our Swiss cousin (a mismatch of only two). As seen below, 34 out of 37 markers match between three other descendants and the Swiss line; and 33 out of 37 match between one Prillaman and the Swiss line. Ya'll ready for this - we have Swiss ancestry and our original surname is Brüllmann. Take that Ancestry.com! (Ancestry.com erroneously states that the name Prillaman derives from the surname Brillerman.) Who knew that genealogy was a competitive sport.
2007 - NY Public Library Provides a Home Run
Based on the book entry given to me by Norris Prillaman Miller in 2005, I had been searching passenger lists for the year 1747 for a Jacob Brüllmann but was unable to locate that name. Several transcriptions of passenger lists are available online with the closest match for 1747 being a Hans Jacob Grüllmann on the ship Lydia transcribed from A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and other Immigrants in Pennsylvania From 1727 to 1776 by Daniel Rupp. I had read that some researchers had found errors in Mr. Rupp's transcriptions of German handwriting. The Pennsylavania German Society had published three volumes of the ships records with Volume II containing tracings of the actual signatures from List "C", the Oath of Abjuration for the ship Lydia. If I was going to find out if Hans Jacob Grüllmann was "our" Jacob Brüllmann I needed to find that book. A trip to New York City was coming up and I decided to stop at the NY Public Library to look in Volume II. I brought my copy of Jacob's signature and turned to page 390. Pretty exciting - the signature on the ship's list matched the signature of Jacob Brüllmann in the Franklin County, Virginia records. This was a great day in the pursuit of Prillaman history (and I must say included a little silent cheering and dancing for joy in the library). Woo-hoo! Jacob, we found you. For the second time, our family has been rewarded by checking an original source. I believe the transcription by Daniel Rupp and others for the Lydia in 1747 to be inaccurate; it is not Hans Jacob Grüllmann but Hans Jacob Brüllmann.
2008 - New Cousins
The Prillerman family tested the YDNA of two males through our Prillaman DNA project believing there to be a connection between the two families. Project members were descendants of brothers Byrd Prillerman (1859-1929) and James Harvey Prillerman (1850-1941) of Sissonville, West Virginia. The two brothers were born into slavery in Franklin County, Virginia to Charlotte whose husband Franklin, a blacksmith, had been sent before the Civil War to work at his trade in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. Though the YDNA of Byrd Prillerman does not match that of the Prillaman/Brüllmann family, the YDNA of his older brother James Harvey Prillerman does. We can conclude from the DNA evidence that either James or his father Franklin were fathered by a Prillaman during slavery times. The matriach of the family, Nancy brought to Virginia from Nigeria, stated that her daughter Charlotte was also fathered by a Prillaman. We have no way to establish proof of that through DNA testing as we are not able to trace Charlotte's line through her daughters but if that is the case then Byrd Prillerman is also related to the Prillaman family through his mother.
The Prillerman family took the name Prillerman after emancipation to establish their branch of the family tree. Though we know that Jacob Prillaman Sr. did not own slaves, it has been known from the records for many years that some of his children and grandchildren did.
2009 - The Women take the Helm
Two children of Elizabeth Helm Snidow married children of Jacob Prillaman and his wife Waltpurgelly; son Jacob Prillaman Jr. married Catherine Snidow as his first wife and daughter Barbara Prillaman married Philip Snidow as her first husband. Family lore has often repeated that the two women were sisters and Waltpurgelly is often listed as a Helm in family records. I decided to use MTDNA (mitochondrial DNA) to determine if Waltpurgelly, the wife of Jacob, was a sister of Elizabeth Helm Snidow. The DNA results from the two female project members does not show that Elizabeth and Waltpurgelly are sisters though they may be related in a different manner. As there is some discussion about whether our DNA project member representing the matrilineal line of Elizabeth Helm Snidow descends from Jacob Jr.'s second wife Sarah Bradley versus his first wife Catherine Snidow, we need to find a descendant of Elizabeth Helm Snidow with a more definitive line to prove or disprove the connection. Waltpurgelly and Jacob took in Thomas Helm and his mother Mary "Polly" (whose maiden and married name are said to be Helm) after the death of her husband Jacob Helm in 1780 leading some to surmise these two women may have a Helm relationship as well. Waltpurgelly's MTDNA results show her belonging to the J2a1a1b haplogroup, Elizabeth's is U. Further testing is needed.
2010 - The Lost Years
Although we have many records of Jacob Prillaman in Virginia beginning around 1772, we have little information about his whereabouts between his arrival in the colonies in 1747 and his move to Virginia some twenty years later. The Prillaman book states that Jacob sold land in Maryland in 1763 in anticipation of his move to Virginia. He actually subleased the land as a tenant - he did not own it. The land belonged to Lord Baltimore and was part of his Conococheague Manor (Maryland Records, Brumbaugh). I asked for clarification on the record and received a reply from genealogist and author Paul Drake as shown below. On my way to Virginia from New York for the annual Prillaman Reunion, I visited the Washington County Historical Society in Hagerstown, Maryland to find out more about Conococheague Manor and to look for other records on the Prillaman family there. I found an article in Catoctin History Magazine mentioning an inventory of Lord Baltimore's land but not the actual inventory which may include information on Jacob Prillaman's acreage and dwelling in Conococheague Manor. On the way back home from the reunion, I got off of 81 and drove through Williamsport, Maryland, a part of Conocoheague Manor in colonial days, to view the area and imagine where Jacob and his family may have lived, farmed, and worshiped.
2012 - The Inventory
Through correspondence with Maryland researchers in Washington County, I finally received a transcription of the Inventory of Conococheague Manor. It includes a description of Jacob's land and house in 1767.
2013 - Journey Abroad - the Swiss origins of the Brüllmann family
In June of 2013, I journeyed with two of my sisters to Italy and Switzerland. After communicating long distance via email and phone with our Swiss Brüllmann cousin since 2004, we were finally able to meet him and his family in person. We spent two days in and around the Canton of Thurgau and near St. Gallen where the Brüllmann and Brühlmann surnames originated. Our cousin arranged for a private tour of the historical museum in the village of Amriswil. It was a wonderful experience. In the photo on the left, our tour guide Herr Burkhart, is pointing to an area near the village of Amriswil where Brüllmann's and Brühlmann's farmed. Herr Burkhart was informative, entertaining, humorous, and generous. He supplied several documents (in Swiss German) documenting the origin of our surnames. Through his research before our arrival, he believes the two surnames, Brüllmann and Brühlmann represent the same families with Brüllmann being the older spelling and Brühlmann a more contemporary spelling. As shown below, the village of Amriswil has been around since 799, though with different spellings of the village name over the years.
Imagine our excitement when Herr Burkhart supplied us with a picture of our family crest.
Imagine our excitement when Herr Burkhart supplied us with a picture of our family crest.