Genealogy, DNA, and the Discovery of Wilfred Miles

For several years I have dabbled on and off with genealogy. When I took my Ancestry DNA test last summer I transitioned from occasional hobbyist to ardent life long genealogy enthusiast. 

The discovery of Wilfred Miles (about 1770-1825), my 5th great grandfather, marks the precise moment I became hooked. 

The magic of genealogy rests in the power of shared knowledge and discovery. I was fortunate in this regard to find Wilfred Miles. Several others (distant cousins) had already found him. Chunks of his life were well documented. The new DNA evidence greatly improved my confidence in this discovery.   

An early contact I made through my Ancestry DNA connections directed me to a book that described Wilfred Miles and the many early settlers, mostly Catholic families, that helped found settlement in Casey Creek, Kentucky. 

From a used bookstore in St. Petersburg, FL I was able to track down an out of print copy of Historical Sketches of the Parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux on Casey Creek Clementsville, Kentucky, by John A. Lyons. Here is a quote from the introduction:

Historical Sketches of Case Creek
"Casey Creek is a small stream which has its origin in Casey county and, joined by several brooks, meanders in a southwesterly direction, through a valley hemmed in by a towering range of hills, until it flows into the Green river.… At the turn of the nineteenth century, this territory was still a wilderness and dense forests covered the rugged land. Wild beasts roamed the wooded hills and ridges, leaving a trail from their lairs to the water course below, and through the valley was a well-worn path that had been made by the Indians on hunting expeditions."
From "Historical Sketches of the Parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux on Casey Creek Clementsville, Kentucky" by John A. Lyons.

Many of the details of Wilfred’s life remain incomplete, but here is what I know: 

Wilfred Miles was born about 1770, possible in Maryland. He married Priscilla Speaks and they had seven children together. He also likely had a son from an earlier relationship, though this remains unclear. He died about 1825, in Kentucky, at the age of 55.

Here are the two pages in the book that describe him. 

"Historical Sketches" by John A. Lyons (page 5)

"Historical Sketches" by John A. Lyons (page 5)

"Historical Sketches" by John A. Lyons (page 6)

"Historical Sketches" by John A. Lyons (page 6)

And here is a description of the direct lineage from Wilfred Miles to me.

Wilfred Miles (about 1770-1825) and Priscilla Speaks (1766- ??) married and had my 4th great-grandfather, Hileria Miles (1797-1855). Hileria’s wife, Mary Frances Clements (1800-??) gave birth to my 3rd great-grandfather, Patrick Miles (1834-1903).

Clara Rachel (Miles Myers) Sears (1875-1934)

Clara Rachel (Miles Myers) Sears (1875-1934)

My research suggests that Patrick Miles married Nancy Anna Burch Walker (I am still working on documenting this relationship). Together they had my 2nd great-grandmother, Clara Rachel Miles (1875-1934).

The story takes an interesting turn here. Clara Miles and Oliver Edgar Myers (1870-1935) had a son, Arthur B "Sears" (1900-1964), my great-grandfather. It is unclear if Clara and Oliver were married, although Clara and Arthur did take the Myers name, briefly. Oliver had been married before, but it appears that his first wife died. What is clear is that both Clara and Oliver had other marriages after they had Arthur. 

Clara married John Sears (1861-1951) and they had several more children together. At some point Arthur took the Sears last name and on one census was listed as the step-son of John.

Family stories had always hinted at some cloudy, perhaps even controversial details about Arthur’s birth father. The most I had ever heard from those who knew him is that he talked about being “adopted” but not much else. I’ve often wondered about his experience as a child and what, if any, relationship he had with his birth father. 

Regardless, Arthur married Ida Rhoads (1900-2002), my great-grandmother. They had my grandmother, Elizabeth “Betty” Grace Sears (1924-1981). She married my grandfather, Michael John Hanley Jr. (1924-2015).

Michael and Betty had my dad. He married my mom. And, voila, this blog post was born.  

As with most genealogy discoveries the more you find out the more questions that arise. 

Think of it this way: Wilfred Miles is only 1 of the 128 5th great-grandparents that I (or any of you) have! 

I have some work to do. Care to join me?


What are your family stories? Do you think about the lives of your ancestors and how they have influenced your own? Are there mysteries in your family that have been alluded to but never explored? What was it like to settle in a new community in the early 1800s? How does adoption change your genealogy search? 

If these questions are important to you consider joining The Psychogenealogist by signing up below. I look forward to hearing from you!