The Billman/Bielmann Story (The Dewalt Dilemma)

The resolution of the Dewalt Dilemma was reproduced with kind permission of Dr. George E. Billman  coordinator of the Billman Surname Project.

In summer 2002, I received the results of the Y-Line analysis for the Billman Surname Project and believe that we can finally put to rest a controversy about the origin of at least one branch of the Billman Family in America. The background to the controversy has become known as the Dewalt Dilemma.

An amateur genealogist first traced the Billman family history in the 1930’s. Using the limited records available at that time, they concluded that the founder of most of the Billman family in America was a man named Hans David Billmann (also spelled Bielmann) who emigrated from Biberach in Germany to Pennsylvania in 1732. Based only on tax records, it was concluded that Hans David had three sons that survived to adulthood: Conrad, Jacob and Hans Dewald or Dewalt (his actual name was Hans Theobald, which would sound like Dewalt in English). The problem was that this educated guess has since become dogma.

' I began to research my family line about four years ago and soon found that the paper records simply could not support this conclusion. While there was good evidence that both Conrad and Jacob were, in fact, sons of Hans David, I could find no support for Hans Dewalt being one of Hans David's sons. A Hans Theobald Billmann emigrated from Ingolsheim in Germany to Pennsylvania in 1752 and, as chance would have it, he settled in the same area of Pennsylvania as Hans David Billman. My research lead me to believe that Hans Theobald was not related to Hans David and that the early researchers had simply mistaken Hans Theobald for a son of Hans David. As I descend from Hans Theobald, I was very much wanted to ascertain whether or not the two "Hans" were related. I, therefore, started the Billman Surname project.

The five samples submitted for analysis were as follows: one "confirmed" Conrad descendant (by written records), one "confirmed" Jacob descendant (by written records), one suspected Conrad descendant, and two "confirmed" Hans Theobald descendants (by written records).

Oxford Ancestors' Y-Line analyses showed that the "confirmed" Conrad and Jacob Billman descendants matched exactly at all ten markers, while the suspected Conrad descendant only matched at 7 of the 10 markers. In a similar manner, the two Hans Theobald descendants matched each other exactly. However, the Y-Lines of the Hans Theobald descendants failed to match the Conrad or Jacob descendants at even one marker! The conclusions that I have drawn from these data are:

  1. The "confirmed" Conrad and Jacob descendants very probably share a common paternal ancestor within the last 250 years. The written records indicate that this is most likely to be Hans David Bielmann.
  2. The suspected Conrad descendant probably shares a common paternal ancestor with the two "confirmed" Conrad and Jacob descendants, but most likely at some time point prior to when Hans David lived. There is a less than 9% chance that he could descend from Hans David. It is much more likely that he shares a common paternal ancestor from some earlier time period (roughly between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago).
  3. The "confirmed" descendants of Hans Theobald very probably share a common paternal ancestor within the last 250 years. The written records indicate that this is most likely to be Hans Theobald "Dewalt" Billmann, the 1752 emigrant. Furthermore, the DNA data demonstrate that it is highly unlikely that these men are descendants of Hans David.
  4. When the written records and the Y-Line data are considered together, it is extremely unlikely that Hans Theobald was a son of Hans David. Thus, I believe that the Y-Line analysis has solved Dewalt Dilemma.'

Reproduced with kind permission of Dr George E Billman coordinator of the Billman Surname Project.