The Ups and Downs of Mini-Me
There are some popular family names among the many Amish and Mennonite families who emigrated from Switzerland and Germany to the U.S.A. in the 1700s and 1800s. They include names like Blough, Bontrager, Gerber, Hershberger, Hochstetler/Hostetler, Kauffman, Keim, Mast, Miller, Mishler, Schrock/Schrag, Stutzman, Troyer, Weaver/Weber, and Yoder/Joder, among others. Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter is descended directly from the Blough, Gerber, Kauffman, Miller, and Weaver lines, and in addition she has all the other surnames in her family tree. You can read in other histories about her Weaver lineage and Kauffman lineage.
If your surname is included in that long list of family names, it's quite possible, given how large Amish and Mennonite families typically are, that if you look hard enough, you'll find a personal family connection (sometimes several!) to Sharon.
Such is the case for the late actor, comedian, and 2-foot, 8-inch-tall stuntman Verne Jay Troyer (1969–2018), best known for his depiction of Mini-Me in the second and third Austin Powers films. Verne was related to Sharon in an amazing number of simultaneous ways:
- Sharon's 5th cousin 1x removed,
- 1st cousin 3x removed of the husband of Sharon's 1st cousin 2x removed,
- 2rd great grand nephew of the wife of Sharon's 1st cousin 3x removed,
- 3rd great grand nephew of the wife of Sharon's 2nd great granduncle,
- 1st cousin 3x removed of the husband of Sharon's 1st cousin 3x removed,
- 1st cousin 5x removed of the husband of Sharon's great grandaunt,
- 2nd cousin 4x removed of the wife of Sharon's 2nd great grandfather,
- 1st cousin 4x removed of the wife of Sharon's 1st cousin 3x removed,
- 1st cousin 5x removed of the husband of Sharon's 2nd great grandaunt,
- 4th great grand nephew of the husband of Sharon's 3rd great grandaunt,
as well as many many other lines! You can see some of the connections visualized graphically. In fact Verne Troyer was the 7th great grandson (at least seven different ways!) and 8th great grandson of the Jacob Hochstetler (1712–1776) whose family was profiled in the history The Hochstetler Attack: Life on the Frontier.
Verne Troyer was born with a rare genetic disorder called cartilage-hair hypoplasia, which limited his growth to only 2 feet, 8 inches tall. He was brought up Amish in Sturgis, Michigan in a family of three kids, but his parents Reuben and Susan (née Yoder) Troyer left the Amish faith when Verne was a child. He still had a considerable Amish influence from his grandparents and uncles and aunts, whom he visited often. In later interviews, he recalled riding horse-drawn carriages and taking part in other Amish customs.
He credited his parents with teaching him to be "optimistic and independent." Some quotes: "They made me feel that I could do anything I set my mind to, which has really helped me." … "They didn’t make allowances for me because of my height. I had to do everything my brother and sister had to do, including raising our animal menagerie that included cows and chickens."
Verne's career began as a stunt double in movies in the mid-1990s, ultimately leading to his Mini-Me role a few years later. He played characters in a variety of other movie and TV roles. He unfortunately had a difficult personal life, with long bouts with alcoholism, which ultimately led to his tragic death 5 years ago by alcohol poisoning.