Saturday, May 17, 2014

County Lines - Michigan

I'm in the process of writing a story about our relations journey from New Jersey to Michigan, and promptly managed to get myself confused about where certain family groups actually settled.  Some bought a land patent in Oakland county, but then lived in Macomb county, and vice versa.  After much studying, it's very clear that Summers family groups lived right on the county live between Macomb and Oakland.  And the Mann's too, it would seem.  For some reason, the elder Ernest Mann settled in Washington, Macomb, Michigan while all his adult children purchased patents in Oakland county.  All the while, they were hardly 20 miles apart.  Whew!

But now I've realized even one more county line in the picture. I found several deeds in Lapeer county (Hadley) from the heirs of Samuel Axford of Macomb to various Mann members: namely George, Ernest (III), and John P. Mann. Hadley is just over 14 miles from Oxford in Oakland county where many of the Mann family lived. And just in case we think these land transactions were completely random, we should remember that Samuel Axford Jr. married Phebe Summers, daughter of Jacob Summers and Mary Hiles.

Introducing John Sommer, M.D.

Well, there's good news and bad news after my most recent trip to SLC. Good news: I was able to locate a will for Jacob Sommer of Moreland, PA written in 1823 and codicils added in 1824 and 1825, and sworn statements added in Feb. 1827 which confirms that timeframe as the time of death of the person we believe to be one and the same as Judge Jacob Sommer. Bad news: It does not mention a son named Jacob, so my theory that Jacob Sommer Jr. of Michigan could be the son of Judge Jacob Sommer was incorrect. Wrongwrongwrong. Sigh.

However there is also some new news: the will does name son John Sommer, practitioner of Physic. So!  A new character is in the picture. I have seen previous brief mention of a Dr. John Sommer, who married somebody named Louisa, and they had a daughter named Mary Adelaide Sommer who married Howard Newcomb Potts in 1851. This is significant because nearly 80 years previous, our direct ancestor, George Summers, bought property in New Jersey from a sheriff named Thomas Potts. That's a long stretch in between events, but it's still possible that the connection between the Sommer and Potts family might go back farther than we realize.

And here's some additional inconclusive news. The will mentions that if the son, John, was deceased without issue, then the estate of Jacob should go to "my father's brother's grandchildren." Well, my theory is that Jacob's father was Johannes Sommer, brother of my 6th g-grandfather George Summers, which is our line that migrated to Michigan and there were plenty of grandchildren there. Or Jacob's father had another brother, Martin Sommer, of whom we know almost nothing.

So now we wander into yet another new area of research. So far I've not been able to find much of anything about Dr. John Sommer, and would love to correspond with anybody who might have some ideas or clues.

Meanwhile I am still holding to my belief, which is only that, that Judge Jacob Sommer of Byberry (Moreland), Philadelphia, PA was related to my line. Why would I think that when there is still no documentation that supports the idea?  Well, there is no documentation in Philadelphia. Yet. The only reason I entertain this idea AT ALL is because a) the age for Judge Jacob at time of death matches exactly for the Jacob Sommer, son of Johannes Sommer, and b) the story recounted in more than one county history in Michigan that refers to a judge of records in Philadelphia named Jacob Sommer. If not for that, I would have no reason to look or consider this person at all. Why in the world would multiple accounts of the Summers family in Michigan refer to a Judge Jacob Sommer in Philadelphia if there were not some connection?  Mixed up as the details in the Michigan history are, I keep thinking there must be somewhere a nugget of truth. It's a matter of weeding out fact from fiction, and I'm not yet ready to consider Judge Jacob as a fictional character to this family's history. Maybe I'm just stubborn :-/


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jacob Summers, the PHL Judge - Sources

There's been a good deal of confusion about a Summers relation in Philadelphia who we might never have known about except for repeated references in histories recorded in Macomb county, Michigan!  Enter Jacob Summers, judge of records in Philadelphia. Here are the sources that seem to pertain to him:

Martin's bench and bar of Philadelphia : together with other lists of persons appointed to administer the laws in the city and county of Philadelphia, and the province and commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Rees Walsh, 1883; by John Hill Martin, page 79, and Philadelphia History, 1609-1884, page 1572.

These two sources say basically the same thing, that the District Court for the City and County of Philadelphia was organized in 1811 and abolished in 1873, and that Jacob Sommer was an Associate Judge who was commissioned on June 3, 1811.  This account says that Sommer was not a lawyer and he died in February 1857 at the age of 69. What's remarkable - for us - is that in the Martin source, somebody crossed out the 5 in 1857 and wrote 2, making the result 1827. If Jacob the Judge was 69 and died in 1827, then he as born in 1758, which is exactly the year of birth of Jacob Sommer, son of Johannes Sommer, brother of my ancestor George Summers. Note that I am still looking for additional documentation that will verify an exact death date for Jacob the Judge.

The Colonies and early Republic - Volume 2 - Page 738

 "...the District Court was created in 1811 with three judges described as a president and two assistant judges.  This was the same number of judges constituting the courts of common pleas in other judicial districts in the state.  The first president judge of the District Court was Joseph Hemphill and the two associate judges or "wing judges" as they were called in that day were Anthony Simmons, a goldsmith, and Jacob Sommer, a farmer, who appears to have devoted little time to his judicial duties."

 Frank M. Eastman, Courts and Lawyers of PA, A History (1922)

 "Jacob Sommer, the other lay judge, was a farmer, and lived in Byberry Twp. He was of Pennsylvania German descent, and discharged the duties of his office with the patient good sense and modesty that characterized his race. Probably owing to his residence in the country, he does not appear from the minute-books to have given as much time to his duties as the other judges, but was nevertheless reappointed in 1817, and continued to sit until the expiration of his commission in 1821. In 1823, he was appointed a judge of the peace for Bristol, Germantown and Roxborough, after which time I have not been able to find any trace of him."

 A History of the townships of Byberry and Moreland in Philadelphia, Pa., from their earliest settlements by the whites to the present time by Joseph C. Martindale, p. 223

"Somerton, the largest village in the township, is situated on the Bustleton and Somerton turnpike road, about three miles from the former place, and thirteen from Philadelphia. It is partly in Moreland and partly in Byberry, and extends a quarter of a mile along the turnpike...." The end of the paragraph has a footnote that says "The village is named in honor of Judge Sommer who dwelt on the property now occupied by Enoch Taylor. It was previously called Smithfield, but assumed its present name at the beginning of the nineteenth century."

We should note that an early church record for my ancestor, George Summers, said he was "of Smithfield" so it would not be a surprise that his brother Johannes also settled there.

 Finally here is another description of Somerton from a history website:

 "The name Smithfield was changed to Somerton sometime between 1862 and 1876. The change was prompted by the control that Judge Sommers exercised over the region in owning substantial property on both sides of Bustleton Avenue where Leo Mall stands today."

So this is more information than we have about all our New Jersey Summers families combined! Given these clues, we should be able to find even more, especially from deeds, so stay tuned.  Meanwhile I have located who I think could be this Jacob Summers in the 1800, 1810, and 1820 census of Moreland township in PHL county. If indeed, those census' do show a snapshot of this Jacob Summers, then he had several other family members.  Who were they, his wife and other children? 

Let me here note that there was a Jacob Sommer and other Sommer relations who lived in Germantown and they were carriage makers.  So far I have not been able to connect that family with ours, but they were in the same general neighborhood!

I am happy to correspond with anybody who'd like to discuss the points related to this post!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Straw Church is Alive!

On January 30, we (via Cousin J) received an interesting email from two of the most lovely people who are representing the Straw Church's newly formed Historical Committee. We had sent the church several inquiries over the last few years trying to find out if they still hold the original church records, to which we never received much reply. But the new Historical Committee is full of friendly and helpful energy, and they were writing to inquire about our 6th g-grandpa Georg Sommer who was being considered as possibly the earliest member of the Straw Church congregation. Isn't it a miracle how some things don't actually get lost and eventually do come back around?

Well, we happily provided the Historical Committee with everything we've discovered about our Sommer family over the past couple years. But the question of whether Grandpa Georg was the earliest member depended on, we felt, a current analysis of the original record that recorded his obituary, most probably written in German. We (and probably any other Sommer descendant) have been working from translations handed down to us, one of which comes from the wonderful website called Raub and More:

Raub
1785, Aug. 8.  John George Summer, born in Freystadt in Elsas, April 23, 1721. He was a member of this congregation forty-two years* and had eleven children, and blind for eight years, age 64 years, 3 months and fifteen days.

A slightly different translation was on file at the Straw Church, which they provided to us as:

New Straw Church
1785, Aug. 8, Johann Georg Summer, born in Freystadt in Alsace on Apr. 23, 1721. Father of 11 children. Blind for the last 11 years. Died Aug. 6. Age 64-3-15.

We asked if the new Historical Committee could provide us with a digital image of the original record? Yes they could and they did, twice in fact, the second time in a better resolution for zooming in! From there, my very talented Cousin J did her magical translation performance, and came up with:

1785, Aug. 8. John George Summer, born at Freystadt in Elsas, April 23, 1721. He was a member of our parish, forty-two years married, eleven children raised, he was eleven years with cataracts until he became blind, died Aug. 6th, lived 64 years, 3 months and 15 days.

Well, this new translation is interesting indeed! I immediately sent the image of the church record to my archivist friend in Freistett, and he confirmed the interpretation that Georg was married 42 years rather than in the congregation for that long. This particular point was important for us since we feel certain that Grandpa Georg arrived in Philadelphia in 1752, which would be 9 years later than 1743 when he would supposedly have been attending the Straw Church. Also given that we found Grandpa Georg's marriage record in Freistett in 1745, we can agree that he was married at least 40 years when he died.

And to top it off, the Historical Committee has impressively asked their own translation expert to re-examine this obituary record carefully.  Here are this expert's translation and comments:

English:   1785, Aug. 8th.  Johann Georg Summer, born at Freystadt in Alsace, April 23rd 1721.  Had as (a) member of our congregation in a 42 year marriage raised 11 children.  Was eleven years (with) cataract(s) (at) his end blind.  Died Aug. 6th.  Lived 64 years, 3 months and 15 days.

In the translation I tried to preserve most of the original syntax, adding a few words that would make it easier to understand in English and changing word order only where really necessary.

It’s interesting that the wording could let you assume that the membership and marriage were both 42 years, but I’m sure that’s just the scribe’s sentence structure.

So here we are, 229 years after grandpa Georg died, still arriving at a better understanding of the few details left behind about his life. And certainly we can also learn alot here about how our ancestors stories unfold:

  • It's ALWAYS worth it to seek out original records whenever possible, which in itself can take time and effort, but once available still requires a high level of commitment and determination to attempt deciphering and understanding as objectively as possible. There was no quick answer to any question we have ever posed about our Sommer and Menge relations - we've had to keep asking the questions, sometimes in just slightly different ways, we've had to ask for help, we've had to wait, we've had to spend hours/days/weeks/months teaching ourselves at least parts of another language written in a script that is long ago faded and only because we really want to know that badly.
  • It's my experience that genealogy work simply does not happen in a vacuum. Sure, we can thank all the unknown volunteers who are out there helping to digitize and index genealogical records so that we can sit in the comfort of our homes and discover all kinds of previously unknown details about our ancestors. (Thank You!) But this episode illustrates genealogy generosity in a personal way. This very minute there are complete strangers to us in New Jersey who want to know the history of their church better, and in their learning have reached out to help those of us descended from their church members so that we can all share the story together.  Does it matter to me that our grandpa Georg Sommer may not have been the earliest member of the Straw Church? Not one bit. I am thrilled with this process and that we can all benefit from seeking clarification together. It's a wonderful story all told, and it surely belongs to all of us.

Finally, let me here add a plug to send any donations you can to the Straw Church Historical Committee. They did not ask for money when we asked for their help, but we all know that any efforts at historical preservation need some financial support. If you're like me, you'll find great satisfaction in contributing so that our New Jersey story can live long into the future.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ochmig Bird's Uncle John Oliver

I did a fair amount of hunting on the topic of Ochmig Bird (mentioned in a previous post here) while recently at FHL in SLC. I might be closer to determining how John Oliver, who died in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1869 and who is possibly my relation, could be Ochmig's uncle. Here is an update of my findings.

First, I was able to locate the deed in Luzerne, PA where Christian Oehmig Bird and his wife Ann sold the land that had been acquired for him in trust by Abram Bird. I noted that Christian O. Bird was of Wayne, Allen, Indiana. It seems obvious now, but it took me awhile to realize that Christian Oehmig Bird is our Ochmig Bird! Ochmig Bird married Ann Suttenfield in Ft. Wayne on 9 Oct. 1838. They sold their Luzerne county land to Henry Oakley on 7 Aug 1855. If there was any lingering doubt that this Ochmig Bird was named for Christian G. Ochmig of Kingston, I think that doubt has evaporated. But the question does still remain how Christian Ochmig was associated with the Bird family, a topic still worth investigating because for the Bird family to name a son for Mr. Ochmig means their connection must have been a close one.

So who was Abram Bird, the person who put the Luzerne County land into trust for Ochmig?  According to the Michael Shoemaker book (pgs. 723-724; thanks to fellow researcher K. for finding this reference), Abram was the son of John and Rebecca Bird, and his siblings were James, Thomas, Derrick (Richard), Sarah [Harding], John, Margaret [Swetland], Elizabeth [Shafer], Mary [Van Camp], Jane [Philips], and Rebecca [Goodale]. 

Two key things could be learned from the deed where Abram purchased the property he put into trust for Ochmig Bird.  One was the date of the deed:  29 Apr 1830. The other was that C. Oehmig Bird, the person the trust was for, was noted as being of Eceter.

So what Bird families were living in the area at that time? When looking at the 1820 census of Luzerne county, there were two Bird names of interest, both brothers of Abram:
  • Thomas Bird of Exeter; he had two males under 10 in his household.  He was married to Polly Hill in 1811 and he died 7 Jul 1828.
  • Richard Bird of Kingston; he had one male under 10 in his household. He was married to Elizabeth Space (we're not sure when), and he died 22 Aug 1831.
Ochmig seems most likely to be a son of Thomas Bird because: a) the land trust acquired for him by his uncle, Abram Bird, was acquired shortly after the death of Thomas and before the death of Richard, and b) Thomas Bird lived in Exeter, which is the town where John Oliver and wife Miranda Hutchins also lived. 

But how could John Oliver be the uncle of Ochmig?  I have been concentrating on the OLIVER side of this picture, guessing that maybe John Oliver had an older sister we didn't know about. That theory, however, was going to be very difficult to prove given the dates of the deeds found in New Jersey which listed names of the Oliver children who were heirs to the estate of Ernest Mann. But what if Ochmig's familial connection was to John Oliver's wife, Miranda HUTCHINS?

Here let me paraphrase what the Michael Shoemaker book has to say about Polly Hill, the wife of Thomas Bird, who I propose was Ochmig's father:  Polly was the daughter of Gamaliel (1770-1796) and Christanti Hill (1769-1810). The second husband of Christanti Hill was Henry Hutchins of Kingston township. [again my thanks to researcher K for pointing out this reference]

So hmmmm. If Henry Hutchins was the father of Miranda, wife of John Oliver, then Miranda Hutchins would be a half-sister of Polly Hill, who married Thomas Bird. In this case, assuming Ochmig Bird was the son of Thomas Bird and Polly Hill, Ochmig's maternal uncle and aunt would be John Oliver and Miranda Hutchins! We still have to find any kind of documentation to prove this theory, but at least this theory provides a framework that *might* actually be possible!

After all this, I should also add that my previous guess that Ochmig and James Bird, both of whom ended up in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, were brothers has changed. If they were brothers, both orphaned when Thomas Bird died in 1828, wouldn't their uncle Abram have bought a land trust for them both? The fact that Abram set up a land trust for only Ochmig, suggests to me Ochmig and James were not brothers. Instead, James was probably a son of Richard Bird, and Ochmig and James were cousins. This agrees with data presented at birdgenealogy.org (a great site, by the way).

And finally, the obit of John Oliver in 1869 also mentioned the name of William Lytle as being a close relation. The only Lytle (also spelling of Little) I could find in Luzerne deeds hailed from Hanover and Dennison townships. But again I must credit fellow researcher K for observing that Ochmig Bird died in his residence at 146 W. Berry in Ft. Wayne, the same residence as William Lytle!

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have comments and/or information that supports or refutes any of the suggested claims in this post!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

John Mann of Milford, MI - A Junior Jumble

I am researching John Mann of Milford, Oakland, MI believing that he could be connected to my Mann family tree. All the Michigan research done so far for my family accounts for the Mann's who migrated from New Jersey, but we did not fully realize how close those New Jersey residents were to Pennsylvania (just across the Delaware River), and that indeed some of our Mann family had moved across the river, specifically to Luzerne County. They lived there during the years of the early 1800s, and then, I believe, also followed the trek to Michigan.

There is more to be told in this story, if I can prove it to be so, but in the course of my research to determine if my theory is right or not, I hit a snag. The only reference to John Mann that I can find is in an Oakland County history book, which says he settled on section 5 in Milford and he was the father of Sarah O. Mann Honeywell. All other documentation I have found - which is to say deeds - refers to John Mann Jr. - lots and lots of reference to John Mann Jr., enough to confuse me to no end.  So this post presents my analysis and theory about the preponderance of John Mann Jr.'s in Oakland County from 1830-1860.

==================
Starting with the land patent in 1835, I think that John Mann Jr., of Washtenaw County, MI who acquired the patent near Milford was the son of John Mann and Agnes of Luzerne, PA (see [B] in age chart below).  I am guessing that he came out to Michigan before everybody else to scope it out and he acquired the land in Milford at that point.  I am thinking he was born some time before Sarah Oliver Mann, which is probably 1795-1805. We don't know who his spouse was. Why he was listed as being from Washtenaw County is a subject I am still considering. He might have come with other Mann relations we don't know about or he might have stayed there temporarily because Washtenaw was a center of German culture in Michigan at that time. Research is ongoing on this point.

As for the two other land patents acquired in 1837 by a John Mann Jr., I'm thinking they were made by John Mann, son of Earnest Mann and Catherine Cruts, 1814-1885. These people are ALL my New Jersey relations. See the following patents, all granted in Oakland County, Michigan:

Anna Mann 14 Aug 1837 5-N 11-E 32
Earnest Mann 10 Aug 1837 5-N 11-E 34
Earnest Mann 14 Aug 1837 4-N 11-E 4
John Mann 14 Aug 1837 5-N 11-E 32
John Mann 2 Nov 1837 5-N 11-E 29
Rebecca Mann 18 Aug 1837 4-N 11-E 3
George Mann 12 Aug 1837 5-N 10-E 19

All the patents listed here were made by siblings, children of EM and CC, all acquired within the same timeframe, all state they are "of Macomb County, MI" which is where their parents settled, and all patents were located near one another in the Oxford/Addison area of Oakland County.

The next question is WHY was the 1837 John Mann referred to as Junior since the NJ family did not have a John Sr.?? One possible explanation is that the NJ Mann family traveled out together with John Mann from PA (b. 1790s, see [B] in age chart below), and since he was the elder of their group, they had to differentiate. Certainly the Jr. designation did not always indicate father-son relationship at that time, only that there were both an elder and a younger person of the same name in the area at the same time.

I maintain there was also a third John Mann Jr. involved in this story, born about 1819 in PA (see [C] in age chart below), but he would not yet have been old enough to be acquiring land patents in 1835 or 1837.

So now let me put aside the John Mann Jr. associated with Oxford/Addison (he was not from PA, but NJ), and present a simple layout of the Pennsylvania John Mann's involved. It must be noted that this familial association is only a supposition at this point as we have no documentation that states the parents of [B] and [C] below.  With that said, their family tree MIGHT look like this:

[A] John Mann b 1775 + #1 Agnes + #2 Mary
[B] John Mann Jr b 1790 + ???
[C] John Mann Jr b 1820 + Adeline

Here are the ages of each John Mann starting with first patent in 1835:

1835 1840 1850 1860
[A] 60 65 75 85
[B] 45 50 60 70
[C] 15 20 30 40

So let's see how all this works out:

1840 census of Milford fits for [B] (50-59) and [C] (20-29) - where was [A]? I think he did not migrate until later with his daughter Sarah's family.  The Honeywell family were still in Dallas, Luzerne, PA in 1840.
1840 deed from [C] to David S. Mann - where was David before this - maybe he moved from PA later?

1850 census of Milford fits for [A] (79), living near daughter Sarah's family
1850 census of Highland fits for [C] (31)
1850-51 deeds from [C] selling Milford properties
Have not yet been able to locate [B] in this census!

1860 census of Milford fits for [B] (70), again near Sarah's family
1860 census of Osceola, Livingston, MI fits for [C] (40)

Possible Scenarios:

1.  [A] died in PA and did not migrate to MI, in which case the Oakland Co. County History book is mistaken about Sarah Oliver Mann Honeywell's father - instead the reference would have to be to Sarah's brother.

OR  [A] did migrate to MI but probably after 1840. His daughter Sarah does not appear in Milford until 1850. [A] probably died in MI sometime after 1850.

2.  [B] is the guy who acquired the land patent in Milford 1835. He appears there in 1840 and 1860 - not sure where he was in 1850. We really don't know anything of him or his family (if he had one, but I am assuming that [C] was son of [B] because of deeds naming [C] and wife Adeline in the Milford area in 1850s). Also there could be some confusion between [A] and [B] in 1850 and 1860 census because the ages are off somewhat. This John Jr. deserves much more investigation.

3.  [C] appears throughout, and according to another family tree, he died in 1863, but so far no documentation of that.

Please contact me if you have feedback about this analysis, and especially if you have any documentation that might support or refute these ideas in any way!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Birds of a Feather

I've been corresponding with another researcher who works on the line of John Oliver and Miranda Hutchins.  This is a line I believe my family connects to by way of Nathaniel Oliver and Sarah Mann Oliver, both of whom died early leaving orphans:  Daniel, John, Mary, and Peter.  Later Orphan Court records in New Jersey tell us that John Oliver resided in Luzerne County, PA which is where John Oliver and Miranda Hutchins raised their family before later moving to Indiana.  The evidence seems good although admittedly circumstantial.

But there's also the matter of a pesky Indiana newspaper obituary found for John Oliver in 1869.  Aside from dramatic description of a tragic end (hit by a train), the article states John was "an uncle to Hon. Ochmig Bird of this city, and a near relative to William Lytle, Esq."  It seems to me that answering the question of these relationships might be the ticket to confirming the connection to my Mann family.

But where to start?  I know about New Jersey, but little about the PA side of things, and even though there are some Bird connections in NJ, they are not very near to the main branch of my tree.  Still, the name Ochmig Bird made it to a blog entitled "The Strangest Names in American Political History"  so it should be easy to find information about him.  Oddly enough, just the opposite is true.  So I started working backward from Indiana.  What I quickly came to was the realization there were TWO Ochmig Bird's!

1.  Ochmig, b. 1813 - this is the guy featured on findagrave and supposedly the nephew of John Oliver

2.  Ochmig, b. 1850 - this is the son of James and Matilda Bird, also referred to as Ochmig L. Bird.  In tracing his parents, James Bird was born in PA about 1818 and married Matilda Eyck (with different spelling variations), their children were (apparently) Emilie, Thomas, and Lucy born in PA, and starting in 1850 Ochmig L. and then James S. born in Indiana.  There is a family tree on rootsweb that makes Ochmig #1 and this James Bird brothers.  That tree can't really name the parents of these brothers, and I don't have any documentation to confirm the thesis, but it seems at least possible.  It appears that Ochmig and James, both born in PA around the same time (1810s), arrived in Indiana around the same time (abt 1850) and they settled in the same area (Allen County, IN).  The younger brother (if he is that) named his son Ochmig.  Seems plausible these two Birds were closely related.

Still, where can we go with this but not far? What was bothering me most was the actual name, Ochmig.  Where did that come from?  Bio's of Ochmig said he was of German descent (yes I agree), but I have searched high and low for any German with a given name of Ochmig and just came up blank!  Finally I decided to search newspapers on genealogybank, entering 'ochmig' as a given name and nothing else but a place of PA.  What came up were two small notices about letters left at the post office, which included the name C. G. Ochmig in Luzerne. Oh my gosh - of course! Ochmig is a surname assigned as a given name, which naturally carries significance - it can indicate the mother's family name, famous people of the time, or "a couple might also name a child after a respected friend."

So now we can find loads of information about Christian G. Ochmig, abt 1764-1839. He was definitely a German, his name is in the 1788 militia rolls of Luzerne County, PA, and he lived many years in the Kingston area. His wife was Esther Gallup and they had 4 children. As for Birds, there was a John and Richard Bird in Kingston, Thomas Bird in Exeter, and Sylvanius, James and James Jr. in Catawissa (Catawissa and Kingston are 50 miles apart (or so) and looking at a map, both places are on the river, so travel between the two places was probably not difficult).

And yet for all this, can we do anything more than hypothesize about the connection between Christian Ochmig and the Bird family? Happily, I found an  answer to that in a source called the Michael Shoemaker Book. On page 712 it says this:

Isaac Shoemaker Jr. and Elizabeth Chapin sold a small piece of land adjoining the Exeter line to Archibald Knight in trust for Elizabeth Landon.  April 29, 1830 they sold about one acre adjoining this other parcel to Abram Bird in trust for Christian Oehmig Bird for $26.23.  Christian Oehmig Bird and his wife Ann sold this land to Henry Oakley of Benton twp, Luzerne, PA.

So Christian Ochmig did have some definite connections with the Bird family. That explains how Ochmig Bird got his name, but the question still remains, how can Ochmig Bird (b. 1813) be the nephew of John Oliver? My only guess is that Mary Oliver, daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah Mann Oliver of NJ and sister of John Oliver who came to live in the Catawissa area of PA, had a first marriage to a Bird - who that might have been, we currently have no idea - and she had two sons, namely Ochmig and James. That marriage ended for whatever reason, and Mary's second marriage was then to Nathan Cleaver. It does not appear at first glance like the Cleaver's raised the Bird boys.

Even I can see how my theory wobbles.  On the surface it all seems far-fetched, and I'm certainly not willing to make any claims one way or another about anything.  More than that, I suppose this is an awful lot of effort just to see if a guy with a common name like John Oliver who died in Indiana really has any connection to my German family in New Jersey.  But with names like Ochmig and Bird in the story, how can I not be curious?  I just can't help being curious....now I wonder who William Lytle was....