Friday, November 30, 2012

Update On Catharina Menge

I had previously posted that Catharina Menge who married Peter Sommer was a sister of our Ernst Menge.  But as our understanding of both the Menge's and the Sommer's has grown, I realize that Catharina was born too late to be a sister of Ernst.  So - ooops!  See how easily mistakes creep into the storyline?  It must happen to everybody doing this work, I think...

So who WAS Catharina Menge, if not a sister?  First we could go back and question whether she was a Menge relation at all, but then I revisit the fact that Catharina named her first child Johann Ernst Sommer and he was sponsored by Ernst Menge and his wife Maria.  There was most definitely a connection.  What I think now is that Catharina was a niece of Ernst Menge, and the daughter of Ernst's older brother Henrich.  From the village genealogy we have of the Menge family in Sodel, Germany, we know that Henrich had a daughter named Anna Catharina who was born in 1751 - which is the exact right age for our Catharina Menge - so she must have made the journey to America as a very small child.  Catharina's father Henrich died in April, 1773, just a month before the birth of her second child.

So there we have it, at least for now.  It's not that this correction represents revised history because after all, the relationships and events of 260+ years ago are not different from what they were.  Rather the story I tell about them is revised based on my ever-deepening understanding of who they really were and how they lived their lives.  As it turns out in this case, the story of Catharina's life as I told it previously does not change greatly because I am realizing she probably had different parents than I thought she did.  It remains that Catharina came from the same family group from the same area of Germany, and her life story continues to give us a wonderful view of the female experience in Philadelphia during Revolutionary times.  Thank goodness.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sommer Homes

Cousin Janice and I recently returned from a fun-filled week at the Family History Library in SLC.  One of the highlights of our digging was finding the home village for our 6th great-grandfather, Johann Georg Sommer.  Georg most likely came from the village of Freistett in Baden, Germany, just across the river and northeast from Strasbourg.  His parents were Matthias Sommer, an innkeeper, and Anna Barbara Huebster.  Georg had several other siblings, and we think two of his brothers, namely Johannes and Johann Martin, came with him to America.  There is still some question about exactly when Georg came to Philadelphia, and specifically whether he married and had children before he emigrated from Germany or after.  That part is still being researched.

Our second discovery was confirmation of something we already suspected, and that is that Hermann Sommer emigrated to America with five sons, namely Philip, Henry, Martin, Mattias, and Peter.  There has been so much confusing and contradicting information on the internet about this line, but we believe we might have settled it!  We did that by tracing this family to the village of Hoch-Weisel in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany.  A village genealogy we found clearly spells out the family of Hermann Sommer and his wife Anna Elisabetha Anschicks, and their six sons, one of whom remained behind in Germany.  The youngest son, Peter Sommer, would end up marrying (and divorcing) Catharina Menge, thought to be the niece of our Ernst Menge. 

So it appears, at least at this moment in time, that these two Sommer lines are not related except that they both married into the Menge family in America.  This is all very exciting because it gives, finally, a much clearer picture of where these families came from and how their paths crossed in America.

See our article Differentiating Sommer Surnames, which can be found in the library on my research website.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Visit to New Jersey

In September, I found myself in New Jersey with some time to kill.  It's a long story about how that should happen in the first place, but all I can tell you in lessons learned is this:  [A]  When going on a research trip, expect the unexpected to happen.  This would probably apply to life in general, but it was especially true on this particular research trip.  [B] If you don't have a back-up plan, you must be willing to fly by the seat of your pants.  Yes, m'am, time to make friends with your GPS.

So there I was in Phillipsburg, NJ which is just across the Delaware River from Easton, PA.  From the research we've done to date, we know that the Mann's landed in Philadelphia and made their way up the Delaware, mostly settling on the New Jersey side.  Having no plan whatsoever, I decided to drive around looking for old cemeteries.  This was mostly inspired by knowing that we have no idea whatsoever where our original family are buried, which is to say Earnest Man and his wife Maria Magdalena Summers Man.  So here's where I went:

1.  The St. James Lutheran church was in Phillipsburg and the church is still there (whether it's the original, I'm not sure), and still operating.  The cemetery is just across the street which is quite a busy road and very noisy, so not at all peaceful.  The really old graves are right up to the fence where the road is - I can only imagine that they had trouble convincing authorities to preserve the cemetery at all.  In any case, many many of the gravestones in there can no longer be read, and there was no apparent place to ask for locations.  My guess is that maybe there is a church record saying gggggg-grandpa George Summers was buried there, but without the location and/or a stone we can read, we don't know where.   And it's hard to say whether we have other relations in this cemetery, Summers or Mann's.

2.  Next I drove north along the Delaware River to a place called Ramsayburg (the village is called Delaware I think within the township of Knowlton).  In any case, I picked this cemetery because this is where Andrew Banghart is buried, a good friend of our Ernest Mann and husband of Maria Summers' sister Catherine.  This cemetery was ALSO on a noisy road, which annoyed me for some reason - because this cemetery was chock full of people we know and the graves are all so old, it just seems like they should have a little peace and quiet!  In any case, even though we already have pictures of all the graves I took pictures of, it was still very cool to see them in person.  And lots of names we know:  Banghart, Brands, Kirkhuff, Angle, Allison and more.  Again, this cemetery does not have an office for locating graves, so I just wandered.  Many stones here also can no longer be read, but not as many as are at the St. James Cemetery.  In any case, if there are Mann's buried there, I did not find them.  It was a very good try though!

3.  From Ramsayburg, I drove back south, this time looping over to Washington township.  Didn't see much there of any interest to speak of.  So I set the car back toward Phillipsburg and a few miles out of town I passed a street sign that said Montana Road and screeched and veered until I was doing what?  Yes, going UP the windy road of Scotts Mountain, the birth place of gg-grandma Sarah Mann - unbelievable!  It is very densely wooded so the road is like going through a canopy of leaves, which are just starting to turn colors.  I finally got to the top of the mountain where the view seemed to open up a bit, and I randomly turned left and immediately screeched to a stop again.  I was sitting in front of the old Montana Methodist church and its old graveyard.  Very small cemetery, but it is essentially full of names we know:  Deremer, Fangboner, Rush, Beers, and even one of our own:  Elizabeth Mann, the only one of the 2nd generation Ernest Mann family not to survive to have her own family or travel west to Michigan.  I loved this cemetery.  It is in such a beautiful location and it is wonderfully peaceful.  It's worth noting that we are pretty darned sure that the first generation of Mann's were Lutheran, but that many of this second generation were Methodist.  Or were they?  I have in my tree that 2nd-Gen Ernest Mann was a trustee of the Scott's Mountain Presbyterian Church in 1815.  I was told on this trip by a town historian that Presbyterians and Reformed churches often exchanged members, but those churches in particular frowned upon the Methodists.  So what religion were the Mann's practicing??  I suppose it's fair to say God Only Knows.

So that was the extent of my cemetery-hopping.  The next day, by a complete fluke, the research library operated by the Sussex County Historical Society was open in Newton, so off I went.  What a wonderful place.  The people were very friendly, and I spent two hours looking at a deeds database with one of their volunteer experts.  What a treat.  I came home inspired to account for all the Mann and Summers land deeds in hopes of coming upon more clues that might lead to a better understanding of their life in New Jersey.  And as always, what I'm most watching for is some clue about the Knofts.  Still looking for those pesky Knofts....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Three Sisters Knofts

Anybody who knows me and my cousin Janice knows that we're both rather obsessively dedicated to researching the Mann line. And why not? It's been so full of brick walls and if you're curious enough and stubborn enough (as apparently we are) then the challenge becomes invigorating. And see how invigorated we are??

One of those brick walls has been the wife of Ernest Mann II, Catherine Knofts. The Knofts name has been making us crazy for years. Nobody in America has or had that name, which might not be exactly true, but it's very nearly true. So what to do? Well, cousin Janice just keeps looking, day after day after day, even when it seems that surely we must accept never knowing. And what happens? The brick wall might be starting to wobble.

For the sake of keeping our research discoveries out for everybody to find, I am including here parts of a write-up posted by Janice on her website. (If you're interested in seeing her tree there, let me know and I will put you in touch with Janice.)

This family has been a challenge as difficult to solve as the Mann family line has been. I found Knop, Knopeck, Knopf, Knoph, Knopman, Knopr, Knopp, Knops, Knopt, Kanoff and even Caganovsky listed as possible alternatives to the same name!

In New Jersey Marriages, 1684 to 1895, there were 3 Knofts women married between 1796 and 1797:

1. Wife: MARY KNOFTS [born about 1778 in Pennsylvania]
Husband: ABRAHAM FINEKBONAN [Abram Fangboner] Executor of his will was Earnest Mann.
Marriage: 25 Oct 1796 - Sussex, NJ [she was age 18]

2. Wife: DERNETHA KNOFTS [born about 1773 in Pennsylvania]
Husband: DAVID CUTCHOLEN [David Cutcheler]
Marriage: 6 Nov 1796 - Sussex, NJ [age 23]

3. Wife: CATHARINA KNOFTS [born November 15, 1770 in Pennsylvania]
Husband: EARNEST MAN [Earnest Mann]
Marriage: 1 Mar 1797 - Sussex, NJ [age 27-seems old for a first marriage]

All married by John Cline.

We've seen the original marriage documents, which is where we get the Knofts spelling. But it seems likely these women would not have known how their names were spelled because they were most likely illiterate. But the man who wrote the information down gave us a great clue by spelling the names exactly the same. These girls were sisters! All married within five months of each other! Two of them ended up relocating to the same area in Michigan, as did several of the children of the third.

The thing is we've always suspected these women were related. Janice's recent discovery was finding Dernetha (aka Dorothy) Cutchler in Waterford, Michigan! And now Janice is chasing the possibility that there was a fourth sister, Easter NOFE married to John NETCHEY/Nitchie on October 30, 1796 in Sussex Co., NJ, listed with the same marriage records as the other girls.

Finding Dernetha (for which Janice deserves all the credit!) has renewed our interest and resolve to figure out this Knofts surname. Even as we continue the research, we've ordered several death certificates of the descendants of these women thinking that one or all of them will list their mother's maiden name. I'm running out to my mail box every day with high hopes. So stay tuned - there might be light at the end of this tunnel yet!