Sunday, February 7, 2016

Matthias Sommer of Moncton, New Brunswick?

As we know, I've recently been looking at the possibility of other Freistett Sommer relations having come to America, in particular, the oldest brother of our family group, Matthias Sommer. I've been going over my previous studies of men named Matthias, and so many of the same questions still remain.

But given that the names of Matthias and Christina appear as sponsors on the first-born child in America to my ancestor Georg Sommer, I started looking again at that story. A number of people have done some wonderful research on the subject of Matthias Sommer and wife Christina who went from Philadelphia to Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada in 1766. Is it possible that Matthias Sommer was the oldest brother from my Freistett family group?

Well, I say a definite maybe!  A couple of clues have surfaced which I wrote about here.  I would love to hear from other researchers about these ideas. This might be a tough case to prove, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jacob Sommer - A Footnote

Since this blog is meant to record not only discoveries, but also lessons learned, let me share with you a real head slap: Whenever I find a source mentioning my ancestor, LOOK FOR THE FINE PRINT!

When I previously recorded in my blog the sources where I had found mention of Jacob Sommer who served as a judge in PHL, I was operating under the assumption that the occupation of judge was Jacob's main lot in life. Now we know that Jacob was a judge toward the end of his life, but before that, he was many other things. Piecing all that together has been rather painstaking, I'll admit.

And then I stumbled upon a source I had missed previously. Here is the citation:

Mitchell, James T., “The District Court of the City and County of Philadelphia, An Address Delivered at the Final Adjournment of the Court, Jan. 4, 1875”, Report of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Bar Association held at Wilkes-Barre, PA, July 6 and 7, 1899; pp. 273-284. Mitchell was one of the judges of the Philadelphia district court, and the address was reprinted with his permission and with some additional notes by him.

On page 283 of this new source begins a description of Jacob Sommer that can be found, almost verbatim, in some of the other sources I have mentioned. It's entirely possible that I saw this source 'in passing' during various searches, but I saw only the snippet that matched text I knew had been used in other sources. But this time, thankfully, I looked more closely. Unlike the other sources, there is a footnote in the description of Jacob Sommer - not one, but three footnotes, the last of which reads:

There you have it. Except for the detail about Jacob being a prisoner in the Revolutionary War, the story of our Jacob Sommer is all there, and with a few additional details thrown in. And when I followed up on the Westcott's History of PHL reference, the detail about Jacob having been taken prisoner was confirmed. All my digging and analyzing and documenting about the life story of Jacob Sommer of Moreland can, in the end, be largely substantiated by this single footnote which I previously failed to notice or read.

So the lesson is, Beware of Snippets when you're looking at search matches. If the source title is different from others you've used, take the time and really look. I can't say I would trade the journey I've been on to find Jacob's story, but knowing about this footnote might have saved more than a few long hours while in the pursuit.

Sarah Summers HoH

I doubt that anybody ever dreams of becoming a HoH - Head of Household - but once you are one, it's official that you're in charge of something! And in looking over the 1830 U.S. census, there were a whole lot of men in charge, and for those very few households headed by women, we modern onlookers often assume those women were widows. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't?

Case in point: the 1830 census of Oxford, Warren, New Jersey shows Sarah Summers sandwiched between Jacob and William Summers, with John Summers just two doors down. So given that three Summers brothers are listed in the census, and two Summers brothers had died by then, and one of the deceased brothers (George) had a wife named Sarah, then we almost have to assume that Sarah Summers in the census was George's widow.

But the 1817 Orphan's Court record that made John Summers (Sr) guardian of 2 boys and 2 girls, orphans under 14, didn't quite make sense when compared to the 1830 Oxford census. I figured the very youngest of George's orphans, 2 boys and 2 girls, would have been 14 in 1830. But what do we see in 1830 in the household of Sarah Summers?  3 boys 5-15 and 1 girl 15-20. How could those be the children of George and Sarah?

As mentioned in my post Testimony, we recently found more court records that tell us, among other things, that Sarah remarried to John B. Innis in 1818. Then six years later, Innis died in 1824. Did Sarah change her name BACK to Summers by the time of the census? Even if she did, who are all the kids? Even taking into consideration Sarah's kids, Innis' kids from previous marriage, some kids dying or marrying, new kids being born, still I have not been able to make sense of the household of Sarah Summers in 1830 Oxford. Who the heck was Sarah Summers????

When I realize I'm asking the same question over and over again, and the answer isn't getting any closer, either I'm asking the wrong question, or I'm asking the right question but I'm already anticipating a certain answer in my head. Hmmmm. In this case, the only Sarah being considered was the wife of George, and there was the expectation blocking my view.

Start over. Looking over the Michigan deeds, the censuses, and maps yet one more time, I started to see possible connections between some Summers family members that I wasn't expecting, so I started some shuffling around on the tree. It seemed that two males who I thought might belong as sons of William could possibly have been sons of David. And then a new name, Alfred Summers, might also have had connections into David's family. So a little Musical Chairs, shuffle, shuffle, and now the family group of David Summers - the one who died in 1825 - contained 8 children, 7 boys and 1 girl. And who was the girl? She jumped off the page at me - SARAH! Yes, Sarah H. Summers who would have been 19 years old in 1830, the age category of one of two females in the 1830 Oxford household of Sarah Summers.

Let's look at that 1830 census just one more time. If David had 8 kids when he died, where did they go? Checking his brothers' households, sure enough, Jacob's household had two "extras", both males. We also know that Charles Summers petitioned for and was granted a guardian (William R. Longstreet). So that's three males added to the younger males in Sarah's household, which accounts for all the males in David's reshuffled family except one of the oldest, who we might expect was off on his own at that point. Suddenly it all fits.

In all likelihood, the 1830 Oxford household of Sarah Summers was really the household of Polly Horn Summers, widow of David Summers. Even though Polly was in fact enumerated in her own household, for some unknown reason, the census taker wrote down the name of Polly's only daughter, Sarah. Maybe Sarah was the one who answered the door that day of the Oxford census, and maybe she was pretty and easy to talk to. Or maybe Sarah was standing there in a Supergirl pose, the oldest sibling in a home with 3 little brothers and a recently grieving mother, and it was clear that Sarah Summers was the acting HoH.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Third Time Charm

By my calculations, the five sons of John Summers of Sussex, New Jersey, namely George, John Jr., William, David, and Jacob, had 40 children between them, and the majority of those (34-35) came to Michigan. Given the scarcity of records at the time - oh those darned pioneers, not stopping to record every little thing! - it's no wonder that piecing together which children belonged to which families has been a seemingly endless challenge.

So this post is about one of those many children, Jacob Summers 1808-1885, referred to during his lifetime as Jacob 2d. Which of the five Summers brothers was his father? Here is the history of me trying to find the connection:
  1. Jacob Summers 1787-1864 was the father of Jacob 2d. The death record of Jacob 2d stated that his parents were Jacob and Mary Summers, so that's clear enough. The problem is that a) we don't know who reported that information, and b) Jacob and Mary Summers were married in 1811 while Jacob 2d was born in 1808. Of course Jacob 2d could have been born out of wedlock, but there seemed to be cause to look more closely. Who else might have been the father of Jacob 2d? 
  2. No, John Summers Jr. 1784-1843 was the father of Jacob 2d. John Jr. was my next choice because:
    • I came up with the bright idea that the older Jacob Summers was called "Uncle Jake" because he was truly the uncle of Jacob 2d 
    • besides Jacob, John Jr. was the only other brother to live long enough to migrate to MI (this particular thought was, it turns out, flawed - it doesn't matter if the father of Jacob 2d lived to migrate to MI....)
    • John Jr. and his wife Jane were married in 1807, and the first child who we believe belongs to this couple was born in 1810 - so there was room for Jacob 2d to fit into this family group. But the more time we've spent looking at probate records and deeds associated with John Jr., the less and less likely it seems that Jacob 2d was his son. Now what? 
  3. No, no, David Summers 1782-1825 was the father of Jacob 2d. David was one of three brothers who died in New Jersey before the family migration to MI. He married Mary Horn in 1806, and again, the first child who we believe belongs to this couple was born in 1810, so again, there is room for Jacob 2d to fit into this family group. And what other evidence do I have to support this idea? The process of elimination. If not Jacob and not John Jr., then of the brothers who died in NJ, I can make a case for why Jacob 2d was not the son of George or William. That leaves David. To read more details about this latest and greatest theory, click here
So there is my third swing at determining the parentage of Jacob Summers 2d, having already two strikes against me. If this one is a swing and a miss, I shall have to say I Tried. If it's a hit but a fly ball or a throw-out on first, I shall have to say Oh Well. If it's a hit that's headed past the outfielders, then I'll join the spectators in cheering for the home team. For all we know, perhaps one of those spectators is Jacob 2d himself.


Some time ago, I stumbled across a link at the Monmouth County Historical Association, which listed a number of sources, including this:

COURT OF CHANCERY, 1822-1828; John B. Innis vs Sarah Innis and John Summers, report of matters, [1822 Nov 9].

Well, Monmouth county is nowhere near Sussex/Warren county where my Summers family lived, and what was Chancery Court, any way?  I nearly skipped over this sideline clue but the Innis name was ringing a faint bell. I remembered finding a reference in Sussex county court files that referred to John B. Innis and wife Sarah vs John Summers. I never understood that reference, and the Monmouth reference seems strikingly similar. So I got online and ordered a copy of the Monmouth county case. The folks at MCHA were friendly, accommodating, and quick. They sent me the best genealogical Xmas present ever, a preliminary transcription of which can be found here.

There are two facets to this court case. One is that it brims with genealogical specifics. It names names, places, and dates - can't get much better than that. Here is the basic take-home pay from this document:
  • George Summers, son of John Esq., died 1 Oct 1814.
  • The wife of George Summers was Sarah Hoagland, and they had five children together, two of whom were twins.
  • The Summers family helped take care of Sarah and some of her children after the death of George until Sarah remarried to John B. Innis in 1818. For reasons not explained, however, Sarah then separated from Innis and again returned to the Summers family for room and board. At some point, Innis came to retrieve Sarah. The case had to do with who owed who what for her upkeep.
  • One of the witnesses was Sarah's daughter, Ann. Additional research has told us that Ann later married Alexander Innis and they joined the migration to Michigan.
Unlike most other genealogical sources, however, this one contains personal testimony from a number of witnesses, most of them from the Summers family. We get to hear about all manner of details from food and furniture and one particular cow, to how "the defendant John Summers frequently sent flower to Mrs. Innis by a black man". Then there's my favorite tidbit about the loom, the spinning of wool, and the making of sheets and blankets: "she wove 52 yards for uncle John Summers 30 for Mrs Innis and between 30 and 40 for her grandfather and 15 for Mrs. Lomeson and 17 for William Summers". Details like these abound along with sad observations like this one made by daughter Ann in reference to Sarah, "her mother was scarce of the necessaries sometimes which was the reason she assisted her".

It's been a very long time since I got to experience the very words, or very close to the very words, of the ancestors themselves. Testimony, it turns out, is like a second-hand letter filled with details and insights specific to the time, thus giving us some depth to the historical human experience, which is, maybe, not so different from our own.

This particular story is about one woman's loss, her destitution, her struggles to carry on in a family obsessed about financial justice, and her return to a second marriage that was apparently less than ideal. But at the same time, these testimonies also give us personal moments flung from 1820 to 2016: the picture of Sarah Hoagland Summers Innis and Ann Summers Innis Trim, mother and daughter, sitting together weaving. This is not a fact that requires citation; this is part of the precious legacy we can only hope to preserve.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Wives of Charles Summers

Charles Summers was, apparently, a son of David Summers and Mary "Polly" Horn. David was one of the five sons of John Summers Esq. of New Jersey, and David died in NJ in 1825. His widow, Mary, removed with her four children to Michigan in the 1830s when the most of the other New Jersey Summers decided to relocate.

We have known, or thought we've known, that Charles Summers married Laura Tower, mostly by virtue of her gravestone in Michigan which states her maiden name. But recent correspondence from a Tower researcher has lead us to realize that Laura was probably the second wife of Charles Summers. We have located the marriage record of Charles Summers to Laura Gibbs in 1839 in Michigan (see familysearch), which seems to suggest that Laura Tower was previously married to somebody with the Gibbs surname (we don't know who). But it also appears from the 1850 census that there was a son in the Charles Summers household named Samuel who was born in New Jersey. This would mean that Charles Summers probably also had a first marriage in New Jersey.

And as long as we're on the topic of Charles Summers, it is worth noting that he is the one and only Summers who has SOME connection to the surname LONGSTREET. The Longstreet surname has long haunted us, because when I first started this Summers research, every crowd-sourced family tree out there claimed that my 6th g-grandfather, Georg Sommer, was married to Anna Barbara Longstreet. This claim is very widespread, but after years of hunting, I can find no source other than DAR/SAR applications. What the documentation does support is that Georg Sommer married Anna Barbara Rub in Freistett, Germany and they had several children prior to emigration to America in 1752. Georg died in NJ in 1785, and perhaps Anna Barbara remarried to a Longstreet, but so far, I've not found any documentation to support that idea.

But then three generations later comes Charles Summers. In 1828, Charles petitioned the Orphan's Court in New Jersey requesting William R. Longstreet as his guardian, and indeed in the 1830 census of Vernon, Sussex, New Jersey, we find William Longstreet enumerated with what appears to be a young couple, which could well be Charles Summers and a first wife? Speculation, to be sure. But it was not random that Charles Summers requested William R. Longstreet as a guardian. William R. Longstreet seems to have had connections with the Van Deren family, the family name of Charles' grandmother, Anna Van Deren. Hmmmm.....

So there we have it: Charles Summers requested William Longstreet as a guardian AND additionally, apparently, had a first marriage and a son in New Jersey before moving to Michigan. The Sommers surprises just keep on coming....

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Martin Summers of Waggoner's Alley

Here is yet another report pertaining to my quest to better understand the life of the youngest Freistett brother, Martin Sommer, who died in PHL in 1799. It was my initial belief that of the several children born to Martin and his wife, Margaretha, at least two sons survived him, namely Martin, a blacksmith who died in 1811, and George, a grocer and blacksmith who died in 1810. After churning through lots of records with the names Martin and George, it is still my belief that these two blacksmiths probably belong to our Freistett clan via Martin Sommer who died 1799.

So this post is about Martin Summers, the blacksmith. A 1794 deed indicates that Martin purchased a lot on the east side of Waggoner's Alley in South Mulberry ward in PHL, and he is found in the city directories in that location thereafter, at least until his death in 1811. What's been frustrating is that the last census that shows this Martin shows that he had seven children in his household, four of them males under 10, so this Martin appears to have had descendants, but what happened to them?

Introducing Cecelia Kinderman (sp?). In 1831, she petitioned the Orphan's Court with the following information:
  • that Cecelia had been affirmed as guardian of Sarah Somers, minor under 14
  • that Sarah had nothing but was entitled to one-fourth of real estate on Waggoner's Alley (!)
  • that Sarah was the minor child of John H. Somers, and he had been dead one year
  • that Cecelia was Sarah's grandmother
The thing that ties this find to Martin-Blacksmith, in my mind, is the mention of real estate in Waggoner's Alley. So given the information recorded by the grandmother Cecelia, the picture we are getting is this:
  • One of the sons of Martin-Blacksmith was John H. Somers
  • John H. Somers married a woman who possibly had the maiden name Kinderman. I think it seems that she must have predeceased John.
  • John H. & wife probably had 4 children who survived them because of the reference of “one fourth” that was due to Sarah.
So far, the only additional information I've found about John H. Somers (or Somer - notice the spelling of the surname seems to have morphed, dropping one "m" and sometimes the ending "s") is an 1827 deed where John is noted as being of Dauphin County, PA, he was a house carpenter, and he was selling his share of a piece of ground on the east side of Waggoner's Alley to Peter Smith. The history of the parcel is then given, going back to Martin Somer who left a will bequeathing his properties to his children of whom the said John H. Somer was an heir. All of which is interesting but a tad confusing, because in 1831, Cecelia was saying that her granddaughter, Sarah, was entitled to one-fourth of rents being collected at Waggoner's Alley. If John H. had sold his share, how did his daughter still have rights to real estate in Waggoner's Alley? Maybe there was more than one property at that location in the family - research continues.

And just in case we wonder where Waggoner's Alley was, we can again thank another Sommer-Researcher/PHL-Expert who informed me that location is presently under the PHL Police Dept. Headquarters. Maybe they can find these missing Sommer relations?