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.