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. It 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 (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

Note: This blog post has been updated from the original post. Generally I prefer to leave original posts intact, unless my information turns out to be wrong or potentially misleading. Based on what I know today, I found this post contained too much confusing speculation, so I have reduced that speculation to a theory that can be more easily considered by other researchers.  MAS, July, 2017

I am researching John Mann of Milford, Oakland, MI believing that he could be connected to my Mann family tree. Here are the clues I have:
  • Johannes "John" Mann was the son of Ernst Menge and Maria Magdalena Sommer, born in Philadelphia in 1775.
  • In 1816, there was a New Jersey deed from John Mann to David Mann, conveying John's interest in his share of property from his deceased father, Ernest Mann. John Mann was noted as being of Kingston, Luzerne, PA with a wife, Agnes.
  • In 1823, there was a PA deed from John Mann and wife Agnes of Dallas, Luzerne, PA to Abraham Honeywell, the latter is thought to have been a brother of Joseph Honeywell who married Sarah Oliver Mann and relocated to Milford, Oakland, MI.
However, in the course of my research to determine if this John Mann also came to MI, I hit a snag. The first reference I found to John Mann in an Oakland County history book says that 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 land patents and deeds, refer to John Mann JUNIOR - lots and lots of reference to John Mann Jr., enough to confuse me to no end. So this post attempts to summarize my analysis and ideas about the preponderance of John Mann Jr.'s in Oakland County from 1830-1860.

1.  Starting with the land patent in 1835, we find John Mann Jr. of Washtenaw County, MI who acquired 40 acres in Section 5 in Milford twp. If this John Mann was related to my Menge family, I still have no reasonable explanation for why this John was referred to as "JR" or what he was doing in Washtenaw county other than that was the center of German culture at the time. Even if we suppose this was the John Mann Jr. (1819-1863) who married Adeline Hayes, that John would have been only 16 in 1835, which doesn't seem a likely age to acquire a land patent.

2.  As for the two other land patents acquired in 1837 by a John Mann Jr., I've thought they were acquired by John Mann, 1814-1885, son of Earnest Mann and Catherine Cruts. See the following patents, all granted in Oakland County, Michigan, to people presumed to be my New Jersey relations:

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 Jr  14 Aug 1837  5-N  11-E  32  
John Mann Jr   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 acquired by, presumably, 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 first rather obvious question is with all these Junior's, who was the Senior?  And following that, were John Mann Jr. #1 and #2 the same guy, or different men?

The New Jersey Mann family, to my knowing, had only one adult member named John, the son or Ernest and Catharine.  One possible explanation is that the NJ Mann family traveled out together with John Mann from PA (b. 1775, the brother of said Ernest), and since the latter was the elder of a group with two men of the same name, 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. But presuming the older John Mann settled in Milford, we can't explain why the 1835 patent named him as a Junior.

So this particular case remains bothersome.  Milford and Oxford in Oakland County, Michigan are roughly 35 miles apart. The guy who settled in Milford did so, apparently, by himself, away from all the other NJ Mann relations.  Hmmmm. It seems completely possible that the John Mann in Milford is not related to my Menge family at all, even with all the clues leading from Ernest Mann's son John to Luzerne County, PA to Milford. Research goes on!

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 I wonder who William Lytle was....

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Michigan Summers

Another Summers researcher recently discovered children we didn't know about belonging to William Summers and Mary Horn, namely David and Emby (and I'm so curious about the origins of the name Emby!).  It appears they also migrated to Oakland County, Michigan, as did their mother Mary.  Wow - great find!

This discovery lead me to review my family tree regarding the Summers relations who migrated to Michigan, and it's clear that in piecing together that puzzle, there was no shortage of confusion for me!  But I think I have finally untangled it - or at least I'm closer.  Here's the (current) low-down.

John Summers Sr., son of Georg and Barbara Sommer, married Anna Van Deren.  They had 5 sons:  George, David, John Jr., William, and Jacob.  Of those, George, David, and William died before the 1830s when the migration to Michigan happened.  The families of John Jr. and Jacob migrated to Sterling, Macomb, MI and later settled in Shelby.  The descendants of David and William migrated to Oakland County - specifically they were found in Oakland and Avon townships.  But what about the descendants of George who died in 1814?  It appears that George might have had two wives:  Sarah Hoagland with whom we think he had 4 children, and Clara Johnson with whom he had a daughter named Matilda.  We still don't know anything about the children George had with Sarah, nor the mysterious Clara Johnson, the person listed on Matilda's death certificate as the mother.  Research continues, but it appears that Matilda married Smith Scudder in New Jersey in 1831 and they traveled with Matilda's uncles to Macomb County, Michigan.

As for the question that originally made me realize that Summers had migrated to MI in the first place - that being the last will and testament of Ernest Mann (1773-1846) where he named his cousin Jacob Summers as executor and which at the time caused me to go HUH? - the answer is that Jacob Summers Sr. (1787-1863) was the son of Ernest Mann's mother's brother (Ernest's mother was Maria Magdalena Summers and her brother was John Summers Sr.), and thus first cousin of Ernest Mann.  Aren't we glad that's all cleared up?

There's probably even more to the story of the Summers family and their migration from New Jersey to Michigan.  But this seems like a pretty good snapshot!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Study of Grotz/Crutz/Cruts

Well, it has been exciting to discover our 4th g-grandma's family was Cruts, but I can hardly believe the research road I have traveled in the last month or so trying to piece together who this family was.  It's quite an adventure!  In any case, you can read about it here: Grotz-Crutz-Cruts Families of Early PA-NJ-NY.  Please do send me a message with feedback or inquiries.

And in case you're wondering, I'll probably rest awhile before tracking this family back to its German origins!

Monday, June 17, 2013

CRUTTS - New York Pioneer?

With the majority of early census records in New Jersey destroyed, research of the early days there is a challenge.  Somehow in my searching for other sources, I stumbled across an article from a book called Genealogical and Family History of Central New York compiled by William Richard Cutter.  On page 102 of Volume 1 is a description of Jacob Crutts who was one of the first settlers in Dryden, NY, and how he came there around 1802 with 32 others from Oxford, New Jersey, mostly those of the Snyder family.  The book does not name the wife of this Jacob Crutts but other sources have been found that name Catharina Snyder as his wife, which easily explains why Jacob traveled with the Snyder family to relocate in NY.

So here's where I started to wonder. My theory is that anybody with the name Cruts in the Oxford area of New Jersey before 1820 came from the Grotz family in Pennsylvania, and more specifically, they would be related to the ANDREW GROTZ line. Why?  Two reasons. 
  1. In mapping all the descendants of Andrew's brother Jacob Grotz, Jr., it so far appears that Jacob Jr.'s immediate descendants remained on PA side of the river prior to 1820.
  2. I have deeds that show Andrew Grotz sold his land in Forks Twp, PA and Andrew Crutz Sr. (presumed to be same person) acquired land in Oxford Twp, NJ in 1793.
Theoretically we should be able to test my theory with this case of Jacob Crutts who relocated to Dryden, NY.  Let's see how we do.  First, according to the NY-Jacob's age at death (apparently given on his gravestone in NY), he was 88 in 1855, making his birth about 1766.  I have located a baptism record for a son of Andrew Grotz, Johann Jacob, born in 1766. 

Second, most of the family trees out there say this Jacob Crutts was born in Oxford, New Jersey, but I think they only know that he came from Oxford before he arrived in New York.  Unfortunately all the early census' do not tell us the birth place of those enumerated until we get to the 1850 census.  In 1850, Jacob was 84 and living with his son Jacob at the time, but that census nevertheless records the older Jacob's place of birth as PA.

Third, I located a will abstract for Christian Snyder who died in Oxford in 1797.  It lists a daughter named Maria Catharina.  One of the witnesses to the will was Andrew Grotz.

Finally the 1810 census of Dryden shows Jacob GROATZ living next to Christopher Snyder.  I realize that spelling of names on a census doesn't count for much, but the appearance of this particular spelling does support my ideas of this Jacob's origins.

So there is my case as it stands now.  I think the Jacob Crutts who was a pioneer in Dryden, New York was a son of Andrew Grotz Sr. of PA and a brother of my 4th g-grandmother Catharina.  He moved to Oxford, NJ from Forks Twp., PA around 1793 with his father, and shortly after 1800 he was moving with the Snyder family to New York. More research is called for, but I think the possibility is there!  Please contact me with any feedback or further discussion.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sommers at St. Michael's

Another place I visited on my recent research trip was the Lutheran Archives in Germantown, PA.  I went there in hopes of finding the original church records for any of "our" Lutheran churches, specifically the "Straw" church in Philipsburg, the Oldwick church, and St. John's and Christ Evangelical in Easton.  Sadly, it did not take long to determine that the archives does not hold any original records from any of these churches.  The librarian said that the churches themselves probably still hold the records, and in fact he said that the Oldwick church had recently contacted them asking for advice about how to store their records.  So, it was disappointing.

But I did notice while looking at their bookshelf that there were books pertaining to two St. Michael's churches in Philadelphia.  I am most familiar with St. Michael's Lutheran and Zion Church where we found a treasure trove of records pertaining mostly to the Menge family and to a lesser extent to our Sommer family (both our Freistett and Hoch-Weisel families).  But there was another church called St. Michael's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germantown.  I asked the librarian about it and he gave an excellent accounting of the two different churches, which I'm sorry to say I cannot recount in very much detail thanks to apparent memory overload.  But I did take a gander at and make copies from the book pertaining to the Germantown church.  What should I find but, among other things, the baptism record for Johannes Sommer, son of Johann Georg and Barbara Sommer, born 1759, sponsored by Jacob Brown and the mother.  How cool is that?!  We had been guessing that John Summers, Sr. might have been born in Germany or even enroute to America, but now it turns out that he was the baby of his family and born in America!  So the visit to the Lutheran Archives did meet with some success.

As a side note, this is not the first time we've seen the name of Jacob Brown. First, there was a passenger on the same ship Brothers that arrived in 1752 whose name was Jacob Braun.  And second, we located a baptism record for Johan Jurg, of Jacob Brown and wife Catharina, born 1755 in Philadelphia, sponsors Jurg and Anna Barbara Sommer.  The identity of Catharina has a couple of possibilities.  She could be the sister of Georg Sommer, born in 1726. OR she could be the sister of Anna Barbara Rub, given that another researcher located a Freistett marriage record between Jacob Braun and Catharina Rub in Freistett in 1751. Research is ongoing, but the Braun connection gives us another lead back to Germany - yeah!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Picker in the Will of George Summers Jr.

As mentioned in the previous post, one of the themes of my recent research trip was to fill in the gaps for the children of Ernst and Maria, our original immigrants.  That has been especially hard to do for the girls, which is no surprise I guess.  Anna Mann, born in 1781, was the first of the Menge children born in New Jersey, and she was baptized at the Straw Church in Greenwich township.  She was not yet married when her father wrote his will in 1804 where he referred to her as Anny Mann (mistaken by some transcribers as Amy).  We have found later deeds that identified her spouse as James Picker or Pickering - but beyond that, we have known nothing - another lost family.

So here's the part where I want to say it's so nice to be soooo familiar with this family now that I can recognize clues when they flit across my field of observation.  Here's how it happened this time.

First I have to thank an ancestry user who posted some information on George Summers Jr., giving the exact will book reference where the will for George could be located.  So I made a note of that knowing I was going to Doylestown, the county seat of Bucks County, PA.  When I arrived and inquired at the courthouse for the will book, the kind person there told me that I would probably prefer to look at the probate packet since that had the will in it among other things.  I almost declined that offer, thinking "all I need is a copy of the will."  There was a long pause, but then I said Oh OK.  Sometimes I can be a dope.  This time I was only almost a dope.

So out come the packets, one for both George and another for his wife Ann (which I would not have seen otherwise), and the packets contained the wills, the inventories, and the accounts paid from the estates.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the name of James Picker in the accounts paid list.  Hmmmm.

After coming home, I was working on adding all the interesting updates to George Summers Jr. on my family tree, and I saw again that name, James Picker.  So I turned to ancestry search and typed that name with a place of PA.  Up pops James Picker living in the exact same place as George Summers - Warrington, Bucks, PA.  In fact, he lived there a long time.  And in the 1850 census when you can finally see the names of people he is living with, there is somebody who could be a wife and her name is Anna.  Hmmmmm.

And now to end the tale, the moral is to KEEP looking for records beyond the census.  It seems that ancestry is adding more and more all the time.  And what came up tonight were records from the Neshaminy Presbyterian Church in Warwick, Bucks, PA.  And there, amazingly, were baptisms for the apparent children of James and Anna Picker:  Sarah Picker, George S. (Summers?) Picker, John Picker, and Ernest Mann Picker.  Ta Da.

All I can say is that I never would have dreamed of looking in Bucks County for any member of the Mann family from Sussex, New Jersey.  But the Mann's and the Summers' were very intertwined, and to trace one on either side has often yielded clues about the other.  It's amazing.  And I learned, once again, to stay curious over being impatient when I think I just want what I came for.  If I had looked only at the will book, Anna Mann Picker's family would remain a mystery for who knows how long.  I just have to keep open, keep questioning, and keep noticing.  Sometimes these thin leads mean absolutely nothing, and sometimes they are the key. Click.

Oliver's inDeed!

I have recently returned from another trip to the east coast in search of Mann family history.  One of my goals this time around was to fill in some of the missing pieces about the children of our original immigrants, Ernst and Maria. To the best of our knowledge, their first child together was Salome, or Sarah or Sary as she would be known in her life.  She was born and baptized in Philadelphia in 1768 where her Sommer grandparents were present as witnesses.  After that, we have known almost nothing of Sarah's life until she is mentioned in her father's will, which was written in Oxford, Sussex, New Jersey in 1804.  She is mentioned there as Sary Oliver, but no marriage record for her has yet been located. In 2011, we had located an Orphan's Court record dated in 1826 where an application was made by a Daniel Oliver listing himself and three others (John, Mary (Cleaver) and Peter) as heirs-at-law of Sarah.  But still we've had no idea who Sarah's husband was.  T'was one of the ongoing mysteries.

So this trip yielded two documents which have helped tell more of this particular story.  One was a guardianship assignment made by the Orphan's Court in Sussex County in 1818 assigning Nathaniel Oliver, the father, as guardian of Daniel, John, Mary, and Peter.  Aha!  Finally we know the Oliver father.  In addition this document gives us an approximate idea that Sarah probably died shortly before the time of this document (1818).

But then one has to drive from Newton, the county seat of Sussex County to Belvidere, the county seat of Warren County, to follow the trail and there more treasures were waiting to be found.  Specifically a deed dated in 1827 from all the Oliver heirs selling their inheritance of their part of their grandfather's estate to George B. Voss.  This document not only further identifies Daniel, John, Mary, and Peter as Sarah and Nathaniel's children, but it further states that Nathaniel died before the Mann estate was divided, so some time between 1818 and 1827.

And there was one more nugget yet to be found.  In reading this deed all the way through, at the end were two proclamations from judges in PA, affirming the identities of three of the Oliver children.  Specifically, John Oliver was noted as being from Luzerne County, PA, and Mary Cleaver and Peter Oliver were noted as being from Columbia County, PA.  It's my assumption that Daniel Oliver was living somewhere in Warren County at the time because there was no special proclamation of his identity further noted.

Soooooo, what does this mean?  It means that I started looking in Luzerne and Columbia counties in PA for Oliver's and I have not been disappointed.  There are in fact some family trees out there that go from present day back to John Oliver and stop there because of not knowing his parents.  And now here I come, working from the other direction, having the parents and am just now discovering their children.  Isn't it amazing how this genealogy work comes full circle?  I must admit I love nothing more than to watch the pieces of my puzzle falling together with the pieces of somebody else's.  It sure makes every second of doing this work worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

*Wildcards* on a Whim - Blue Mountain!

The next greatest thing to indexed digital documents is the ability to search with wildcards. The results of such a search can be startling and can even lead to some doors that have been waiting and waiting to be found. You didn't find them before because you could never dream of some spelling variations in a name both in original recording and later transcriptions. But wildcards can account for some of those variables, and bring to the foreground records that have previously remained unfound in plain sight.

Take last night. Cousin J. and I were trying to fill in some holes in our tree and the suggestion of trying wildcards flew across the late night wires. Then at 1:28 a.m. comes an email from cousin J. entitled "Oh my!" and in it was a link to a document from a database we have not looked at before, namely Pennsylvania, Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952. Here is her transcription of the record found:

Ernst Menge of Phila. Inholder[?my question]
On a small Easterly Branch of a creek, known by the name of Bear Swamp Creek, within a mile or two of Henry Miller's saw mill and within two or three miles of the foot of Blue Mountain 300 acres
Northamton County.

The date of this document is 26 Aug 1767. We believe it is a warrant application rather than a land warrant, mostly because it does not indicate that the land was paid for. Did Ernst get the land? That's a question remaining to be answered.

But this document begs many other questions. Blue Mountain is today in Lehigh County about 25 miles northwest of Easton.  In 1767, Ernst had just been married to Maria for a year. And we know in 1769 Ernest Mann who was also a stocking weaver was taxed on 5 1/2 acres in Philadelphia. It would not be until 1776 that we find him making a tavern application in Oxford, New Jersey. So in the meantime, where did he get the means to be applying for 300 acres in the Poconos? Was it a wedding present from his father-in-law, George Sommer? Was it an inheritance from his parents in Germany? Could he really have been doing that well with the tavern he must have inherited from the estate of his first wife's husband? Or was it simply a matter of land speculation, as we know that even George Washington took interest in?

Maybe the bigger question is to wonder why in the world we have not been looking for Ernst more in Pennsylvania? Because of our assumptions. We have assumed that he lived only in Philadelphia before moving to Oxford, NJ. Indeed five of his eight children with Maria were baptized in Philadelphia. But clearly, Ernst was traveling outside the city, and it would seem that he had his mind and/or his heart set on acquiring some land of his own. Did he acquire the land warrant for this particular 300 acres? We don't know yet, but thanks to wildcards, the hunt has moved to Northampton County!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Knofts NO MORE!

From the day we found the marriage record on telling us that Earnest Man married Catharina Knofts in 1797 in Sussex, New Jersey the brick wall appeared.  How long ago was that?  At least three years, and what feels like a heck of a lot longer.  Now, in the closing hours of Mother's Day 2013, we know why we could never find any family before or after Catharina named KNOFTS.  Her maiden name was never Knofts, it was Krutz, for which there is a long list of spelling variations.  But let me tell the story of this brick wall crumbling.

When we could find no trace of the Knofts name, it wasn't hard to suspect that ancestry had made a transcription error.  After a visit to the New Jersey State Archives, we were able to locate the original marriage records, recorded by John Cline, the Justice of the Peace:

It sure does look like Knofts, doesn't it?  And on the same page are marriages of two other Knofts women, Mary and Dorothea, and the Knofts surname looks just the same.  Hmmm.  So not a transcription error.

Then we were able to locate the Bible belonging to Earnest Mann, which seemed almost too good to be true.  But what did we find?  A giant ink blot over Catherine's maiden name.  No way!  About the only thing that could be determined was that the maiden name seems relatively short based on the size of the ink blot, and the name appeared to start with a "C" and end with "ts".

So everywhere we have looked for the last many years, we check for Knofts, as well as any surnames starting with C and ending with "ts" of which Coats and Cruts were always our favorites, but for which we could never find any links. Then last fall, I visited Sussex County and met a man who is an expert on land deeds there, and he inspired me to do a study of all the Mann and Summer deeds we could find.  One in particular really jumped out, that being a deed from John Summers granting 414 acres (his father George's estate) to Andreas Crutz Sr.  Well, look at that!  There is a name that meets our search criteria!  And then it got better.  In 1802, Mr. Crutz sold half that land to Abram Fangboner, the husband of Mary Knofts.  Now we are getting really warm.

In the meantime, cousin J. had figured out that Dorothy Knofts Cutchler had also migrated to Michigan.  What was significant about Dorothy is that she only had one child, a son named Andrew Cutchler.  We felt just sure that this son might have been named for Dorothy's father, possibly Andreas Crutz.  But still we had no links.

So we've been pouring over all our notes, and here is where I will give a giant plug for Evernote. Every scrap of related information we've unearthed in the last three years is there, and all I have to do is search for "Crutz" and all those notes pop up in date order. Isn't it a wonder to be doing genealogy in this day and age? In any case, I saw some old notes that suggested Northampton County, PA as a location where Andreas Crutz might have come from before Oxford, NJ.  After visiting the area last fall, it's much more in my mind that PA. is very close to Oxford, just west and across the Delaware River. So I started searching Northampton records in the new ancestry database, Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, and what I found made my heart skip: a Confirmation for Dorothea, daughter of Andreas Krotz in 1786, and another for Catharina, daughter of same in 1790. Holy moly. Now we have a connection and the dates fit perfectly!

And now just for fun, let's look at that marriage record penned by John Cline again. After staring hard at old German script for the last several months, we start to recognize better what is there. The letter after the "K" is not an "N", it is an "R". The end of the word seems to clearly be "TS", but what is that preceding descender letter? We have thought all along it was an "F" partly because ancestry transcribed it that way, and partly because we have to agree that it looks that way. But it is not an "F". It is a "Z". In fact, the Germans had a special character to represent "TZ", which is why it appears that a "T" precedes the "Z". John Cline wrote the surname Krotzts, where he was using all the letters he could to represent the sound "TZ". He wrote it not once, but three times very neatly on the same page.  We just couldn't read it.  For three years!

And now that we examine the Lutheran church records in Northampton, we see in the very early days, the name was spelled GROTZ ("G" sounds like "K" in German) and later KROTZ.  By the time Andreas moved to Oxford, he spelled it CRUTZ.  And from the looks of the descendant names that remained in New Jersey through the mid-1800's, the name morphed once more into CRUTS and CRUTTS.  And the name inscribed in the Mann Bible is almost certainly CRUTS as the Bible was purchased in 1832 and the names were inscribed after that time.

Of course we will continue the effort to hunt down more church records, but we suddenly feel that all the pieces are falling together.  Our fourth great-grandmother, wife of first-generation-born-in-America Earnest Man, was named Catharina Cruts.  She was the mother of 10 known children, 7 of whom would make the journey with her in her 60s to a new home in Michigan.  And now Catharina is somebody we can really get to know, now that we are no longer distracted by the surname KNOFTS, which in fact, never existed.  This is one brick wall that I'm not going to miss.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More About Straw Church

Cousin J sent me the following info which was written quite some time ago but is great in its summary of the churches in that area back in the early days.  And since I can't seem to keep it straight in my brain, I thought I would post it here, which always helps me remember better!
From: Diane Ward <>
Subject: St James Lutheran Church, Greenwich, Warren County
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 13:14:15 -0400

Since Warren County was a part of Essex County, and there is no Warren County mailing list yet, I have decided to provide a few facts here about this church. I am a lookup volunteer for Warren County as I have the cemetery inscriptions and yesterday, I added the Baptisms beginning in 1770 - 1836 and a list of communicants from various dates.

The article which was in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey in Volumes 8 and 9 talks about the early church.

It says that the early records of the church..those from about 1750 to 1769 have been lost. Originally there was a union between the German Reformed and the Lutheran Churches but the German Reformed church fizzled out by people moving away and deaths. The church, early on, was affiliated with St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Philadelphia.

Traditions has it that the first church was constructed of logs and thatched with straw..this is how it became known as "The Straw Church".

The second church was built in 1790. The third building was built in 1834.

The first pastors beginning in the year 1770 were Christian Streit and Peter Muhlenburg. Peter Muhlenburg, at the time, was the resident clergyman of Zion Lutheran Church at New Germantown (now Oldwick)Hunterdon county. This was the same Peter Muhlenburg who became famous as the Revolutionary General. Christian Streit was also the pastor of a Lutheran church at Easton, PA.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Menge Baptisms in Soedel

One of the strategies we had in our recent drive to find Ernst Menge's baptism in Germany was to figure out what other family groups were associated with the Menge's and if possible, what other locations might also be associated with them.  So we decided to go through the list of children that WERE recorded for Johann Ernst Menge (the church elder) and his wife, Anna Catharina Riess.  Here's what we came up with:

  • 1713 Georg:  looks like the godparent was Georg Stoll.  It can be noted that Joh. Georg Stoll m. Anna Marg. Riess (b 4.12.1680, m 23.2.1702, d 12.7.1726), daughter of Clemens Riess, sister to our Anna Catharina
  • 1715 Henry:  looks like godfather was Joh. Henrich Roder, who was a son of Anton Roder, of Marlbach (or something like that)
  • 1718 Anna Margareta: looks like named for somebody named Anna Margareta from Machstadt (this place was different from Marlbach - ends in STATT)
  • 1727 Caspar: looks like named for Caspar Wohd.  
We're still doing research into these new names and places, but every little clue helps to paint the bigger picture!

George Summers and The Straw Church

One of the main records that helped us track our Sommer family was the obituary for George Summers in the St. James "Straw" Church in Greenwich, New Jersey in 1785.  That record told us about all of his married children, and even was kind enough to mention the place where he had come from.   Wonderful stuff.  But the internet being what it is, it's not enough to read these things - we find ourselves wanting to read the original records!

In my latest trip to the FHL, I was in hopes of finding such records, but again, found only transcriptions.  Curiously, one source (film 1029740) is a typed copy of the original church record, apparently done by the Easton Public Library in 1921 covering the years 1769-1865.  I found no Menge names and only two occurrences of the Summers name, one being the just-mentioned obituary.  It's interesting to note that there were pages of communicants and confirmations and so on, and yet the Sommer names does not appear.  Even though his obituary claimed he had been involved in the church for over 40 years, I didn't find much evidence of his involvement in the Straw Church in the church books.

The second source I checked (film 823737) contained the grave records for St. James Straw Church, 1771-1923.  The cover of this source said information had been copied from church records and the date on the cover was 1924.  The surprise is that the Summer name appears nowhere (yes, looking for various spellings).  So it would appear that even though George Summers' death was noted in the church records, he was not actually buried in the Straw Church Cemetery.  Of course, this could use more investigation, but one has to wonder if grandpa George wasn't buried on his farm in Oxford Township.....

Sommer's in PHL Lord's Supper Records

The Lord's Supper records have produced some interesting clues for our research, so I'd like to record some of those findings here.  But first let me give a little background about how we came upon these new records.

I have to give credit for continuing the effort to expand their database collection.  Just when we were feeling pretty satisfied with our findings of both Sommer and Menge families in Philadelphia church records, suddenly there were new hints showing up on ancestry.  They have recently brought a new database online called Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985.  That database contains lists of people attending the Lord's Supper at the St. Michael's Zion and Lutheran Church (among other churches), and it has proven to be rather instrumental in helping us to narrow down the arrival dates and the birth years of our people because these new records show three important things about people who were attending the Lord's Supper:
  • how many years they had been in the country
  • number of children
  • current age
But there was also a last column of information in these records which we haven't been able to fully decipher.  When asked about it, the experts at the FHL thought the last column pertained to Current Place of Residence.  So with that, let's see what we have in a few key examples:

1759 - Johannes and Anna Eva Sommer - can't yet read the whole entry, but ends with mention of Frankfort
1762 - Maria Magdalena Sommer, 21, living with Johannes Sommer of Frankfort
1763 - Maria Magdalena Sommer, serving Mr. Hooks

For Johannes and Anna Eva, let me remind (myself mostly) that we're talking about the brother of our Johann Georg Sommer who also arrived on the ship Brothers in 1752.  Johannes and Anna Eva married in Germany and had at least two children there before coming to America.  The record mentioned above is one of several for the couple as it appears that they attended many Lord's Suppers.  We still haven't deciphered everything pertaining to them in these records, but the word Frankfort can be easily detected.  And then Frankfort appears again in the next record for Maria Magdalena.  What's that about?  Just when we think we have determined that our Sommer family is from Freistett, now they're from Frankfort?  Which is nowhere near where we thought they were from?

Ah, but this reference is not to Frankfort, Germany, it is to the borough of Frankford in northeast Philadelphia County.  The history of Frankford is itself quite interesting.  So now we know where one of the Sommer brothers was living.  (We have seen other reference that our grandpa Georg was living in Smithfield, a village in Moreland township.)

Now for the 1762 record for Maria Magdalena (MM).  We should take note here that if this is our Maria Magdalena, she is apparently living with her uncle.  Why wouldn't she be living with her parents?  There might be all kinds of reasons, but the question remains.  I would also like to make another reminder note that MM's age here is 21, and that age does not coincide with the age of the daughter that Georg and Anna Barbara had in Germany before emigration (see my previous post on this topic, Maria Magdalena and An Emerging Theory).

Finally for the 1763 record for MM.  This record definitely says she was SERVING Mr. Hooks.  The word "dienet" is colloquial for "to serve."  The FHL expert did not think that was necessarily indentured service, and he said it was common for young girls in Germany as well as in America to earn $$$ being a house servant.  As another side note, we don't know who Mr. Hooks was, but the Hooks name does show up in other PHL records.

And just one more thing to add about this topic.  What's with all these lists of people attending the Lord's Supper?  Lots and lots of people going to lots and lots of Suppers!  Well, ancestry has another source, a digitized book called "Persons Naturalized in the Province of Pennsylvania, 1740-1773".  On page 3 of that book it talks about the rules for being naturalized according to King George:  you lived in the colony for 7 years and did not leave the area during that time for longer than 2 months, and you had to produce Court Certificates that you had taken the sacrament of the Lord's Supper in a Protestant or Reformed church within the last 3 months, and all of this is before you could take the oath to become a citizen of Great Britain.  So there you have it.  Everybody who wanted to become a citizen of the New World was going to Supper!

Saturday, April 27, 2013


The Menge family, both in Germany and early Philadelphia, were stocking-makers - Strumpfmacher.  For reference, I want to add this very interesting link on this topic.

Also the Soedel village genealogy has a cross-reference index by occupation.  Here are all the surnames associated with anything strumpf (strumpfmacher, strumpffabrikant, strumpfwirker, strumpfweber):

  • Christoph Conrad Bender, b 21.03.1727
  • Joh. Henrich Bender, b 17.06.1733
  • Joh. Martin Diehl Jr., b 13.03.1741
  • Johannes Jung, b 10.03.1753
  • Joh. Philips Klein, b 30.05.1719
  • Joh. George Menge, b 27.03.1713
  • Joh. Martin Diehl, b 03.12.1751
  • Joh. V. Vath Jr, b 16.10.1750
  • Joh. Martin der Altere Diehl, b 24.09.1727
  • Joh. Christoph Rohn, b 05.02.1730
ALL of these people were born in Soedel.  So it would appear to me that Soedel could support a whole lot of people making stockings! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Finding Grandpa Ernst In Soedel

Finding focus is wonderful when it happens, isn't it?  For varying reasons, we've decided that it's time we try (again) to locate our 5th great grandpa, Ernst Menge, in Soedel with the family group we believe he belongs to, namely Johann Ernst Menge and his wife Anna Catharina Riess.  It's not like this question doesn't swim around in the back of our mind all the time, but we've never really had a plan for how to approach the problem.  So we came up with a plan and headed once again for Mecca (I mean Salt Lake City, of course).

So with the goal of finding a record for our Ernst Menge (either baptism or confirmation) in Germany, one that hopefully ties him to the family group we believe he belongs to, the plan was to:
  • sift through every Soedel church record carefully
  • sift through church records of surrounding parishes
  • ask for translation help of the old German script whenever possible
Well, I executed the plan over the course of two 12-hour days, and got nowhere.  I amassed a whole lot of information that got uploaded so my cousin and I can study in more depth later, hoping we can spot a clue that we missed initially.  But on first glance, we still could not place grandpa in Germany, never mind with his family group.

So I was set to go home, but then decided to stay just one more day. After all, I have folders of odds and ends that can be looked up at the FHL. I went into the library with nearly NO expectation, and headed for the International floor even though I really had no reason left to go there. Maybe it was my lack of agenda that allowed me to just casually approach the expert desk and ask them for help. I described our problem as succinctly as possible to somebody who really knows and cares about what they're doing. They gave me a couple of very constructive suggestions, one of which was to check the baptisms of Ernst's brothers' children. I had already done that for Henry but not for the brother who did not come to America, Georg. It turns out that Georg and his wife had twins who died almost immediately. Their baptism record is a bit complex and so all the experts at the expert desk pulled together and came to agreement about the following (rough) translation:
The father was Joh. Georg Menge and mother Elisabetha Catharina. They had a little son but it was weak and so there was an immediate baptism (emergency baptism). The sponsor was Ernst Christian Menge, the brother of the father and the unmarried son of the church elder (Kirch Senioris), Joh. Ernst Menge. At the end of the record is a Note Bene - saying there was another baby boy that came (the twin) and it was baptized by the midwife before it also died.

The gist of this appears to be that the sponsor and namesake of the first-born boy was our ancestor whose name was Ernst Christian Menge! I immediately told the experts that we found reference in PHL that our ancestor's name was Joh. Ernst Menge, but they all shrugged and said that doesn't mean much. The expert to whom I had explained our brick wall just looked at me and said "that's your ancestor".

How could we have missed this?  Partly, we might have been dealing with translation errors.  First the author of the Soedel village genealogy book correctly got the part about twins, but he entered one baby's name as Ernst and the other as Christian, which was incorrect.   Then familysearch created just one record for Ernst Christian Menge, son of Georg, when in fact there were twins born.   Clearly this record generated some degree of confusion all along the way.  But in any case, we clearly should have seen the name ERNST as a great big clue.

So there we have it. We might still wish for Ernst's baptism record but this baptism record of his twin nephews clearly identifies Ernst and his place in the family group. Why we can't find Ernst's own baptism record is still a question. We did find a couple of baptism pages at the end of 1728 and the start of 1729 that were torn and missing - maybe Ernst was in those missing pages? And we still suspect that Ernst might have been named for Joh. Ernst Christian Kreuter who has already been identified as having connections with the Menge and Riess families. Finally we still haven't found any German record for Ernst's older brother Johannes, supposedly born in 1722. Nevertheless I think we managed to achieve our overall goal this time around: to tie our Ernst Menge to the family group of Joh. Ernst Menge and Anna Catharina Riess.

Lessons learned?
  1. Don't be afraid (or too proud) to ask for help.  If you can state your issue in less than 5 minutes to somebody who is really listening and who has the skills to offer constructive advice, it's silly not to get a fresh perspective on something you think about even in your sleep.  Be open to every suggestion even when it seems like ground covered.  Try to see the problem as freshly and as detached as your expert listener does.  This alone is worth more than money.
  2. I can't say enough about embracing the obvious.  Every little detail that is sitting right in front of you should be carefully held in hand and examined minutely.  My mantra for everything I'm thinking is "how do I know that?"  And yet when the mountain of information starts to build, it quickly becomes harder to sort what you know and how you know it.  The mountain itself becomes what is obvious, but am I climbing it or falling over the edge?  Maybe just sitting on the mountain quietly can tell me what I want to know.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the trees sway in the wind.  Everything is right in front of me if I can just see it.  This is probably too philosophical for words, but the obvious can often be that way.
And as usual, cousin J was tuned in the whole time.  It's not like she has nothing else to do in her very full life, but she always finds time to reply, to support, to encourage, and to add insights from her own work, which she does secretly in the middle of the night.  It's hard to imagine doing this work on this family line without her.  I have my own curiosity driving me, of course.  But having cousin J as a research buddy has made it all a fun adventure.  Perhaps the truest gift in doing this work is finding such a friend.

So with this latest development, we have a new emerging picture of grandpa Ernst.  He was the youngest child, a stocking weaver, the son of a church elder, a godfather to his brother's dying babies when he himself was probably barely 20 years old.  He then crossed the ocean with his brothers, never to return again, married two women, fathered and adopted probably a score of children, became a tavern keeper, and then farmer who gave foodstuffs to Washington's Continental Army during the Revolution, finally dying over the age of 80 with quite a sizable estate of his own in Oxford Township, New Jersey.  Johann Ernst Christian Menge to Earnest Man.  What a life.  What a rich and wonderful life.....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Jersey Research

Maybe if I write this down in my blog, I will eventually get it into my thick skull.

1790, 1800, 1810, 1820

Unfortunately, these censuses in New Jersey were not saved for posterity. Before the counties were required to submit their census schedules, one supposes that they were locally processed to produce raw statistical output, were otherwise unappreciated, and were destroyed. The only thing that has survived is the 1800 Census for Cumberland County.

So maybe I will stop looking and looking and looking for something not there, and then when I do remember, maybe I can stop refusing to believe such a thing could be true.

Mann Families in New Jersey

Today I was going through trying to fill in some of the several gaps I have for the children of Ernest Mann and Maria Sommer.  I decided to start with Peter Mann, for whom I have no birth or death, two marriages, no children, and tons of questions.  So this lead me to some investigation which can be summarized here:

There is documentation on familysearch of two marriages for Peter Mann, one in 1810 to Mary Hummer, and one in 1813 to Mary Kerr.  There are two documents pertaining to the marriage of Peter and Mary Kerr, one stating that Peter was from Hardwick.  Other family trees claim this couple subsequently moved to Lawrence, IL.  And meanwhile, I believe the Peter Mann marriage to Mary Hummer is the one I'm looking for because the HUMMER surname has appeared in some of the land records pertaining to my Ernest Mann.  Thus, I believe there were TWO Peter Mann's in the Sussex area in this time frame, and I am looking for the Peter Mann who married Mary Hummer.

But this exercise brings to mind some important research that I've done in the past but my conclusions for which have remained only inside my own head!  When I first started doing Mann research in New Jersey, I acquired a copy of a book called Descendants and Ancestors of Adam Overpeck and Elizabeth Mann of Sussex & Warren, New Jersey, Bucks, Northampton, Pike & Bedford Counties in PA by Norris Philip Wood.  The pages related to Mann are few, but it describes descendants of Phillip Mann born about 1748 in Bucks County, PA.  Phillip purchased land in Knowlton, Sussex, NJ in 1757 and he also had a tavern license from 1777-1779.  Phillip's children were, apparently, Phillip Jr., Jacob, John, and George, some of whom moved to Hardwick twp.  George of Hardwick twp and his wife Anna had several children, the oldest being Peter Mann, born 30 Aug 1793.  So here is, I believe, the Peter Mann who married Mary Kerr in 1813. Whether this couple eventually moved to Illinois is yet to be determined.

My point is that I have studied this book until I am blue in the face (!) and have never been able to make a  clear connection to my Ernest Mann line.  This is not to say there isn't one.  It might be considered that our Ernest Mann came to America because he already knew family that had arrived earlier, and potentially that was Phillip Mann, although I must say I have not seen the name Phillip in any of the lineage of the Menge family from Soedel.  If there is a link between the the two families, it's not obvious.  More research could be done on this topic, but to be honest, I haven't made it a priority.

But I do want to share and acknowledge that there were most definitely more than one Mann family group in the Sussex area in the late 1700's and early 1800's, probably both of German origins and associated with Lutheran churches.  For my research, however, they are so far separate families.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Maria Magdalena and An Emerging Theory

Maria Magdalena Summers (Sommer) is our 5th great-grandmother, and was the wife of Ernst Menge (aka Earnest Man). Over the past couple years, we've been able to piece together that Ernst came from Sodel, Hesse, Germany, arriving in Philadelphia in 1754 aboard the ship Edinburgh. We know that Ernst married first a widow named Catharina Klockner, and shortly after she died in 1766, Ernst married Maria Magdalena Summers. She would later be referred to in both her father's and her husband's will by her Americanized name, Mary.

But we have never known much of anything about Maria Magdalena (MM). We have no records indicating either when/where she was born or when/where she died. We have solely a marriage record in Philadelphia in 1766, and four subsequent baptismal records for 4 of her 8 known children with Ernst. In addition to her own children, she was also step-mother to a daughter from Ernst's previous marriage, as well as several young children from the first wife's previous marriage to Johann Georg Ernst. It's fair to say MM had her hands full.

Now that we think we're zooming in on the Sommer origins as Freistett, Baden, Germany, we've been using old church records from the village to piece together the story. We think we have established that her father, Johann Georg Sommer, married Anna Barbara Ruben in 1745. We have found baptismal records for three children born to them in Freistett, one of which was Maria Magdalena, born 11 Feb 1749. Great! So now we know when MM was born.

But wait.  If MM was born in 1749, she was 17 years old when she married Ernst Menge, who was, according to our best guess, exactly twice that age, 34, at the time of his second marriage. There are plenty of examples of older men marrying younger women, especially during that era.  But still, it seems rather young to me. 

Then I noticed there was another Maria Magdalena Sommer born in Freistett.  She was born 21 Aug 1740, the daughter of Georg's older brother Matthias. So here's that story. Matthias' wife, also named Maria Magdalena, died in 1741, a year after her daughter was born. It's not entirely clear whether or not Matthias remarried. But the idea suddenly comes to me that maybe the girl was adopted by Matthias' brother Georg and his new wife Anna Barbara. Well, maybe!

So now let's try this on for size. If MM was born in 1740, then she was 26 years old when she married. Let's add to that some new evidence we have found in Philadelphia church records. One record in 1762 says that MM was 21 years old and had been in the country for 11 years. The second record in 1763 lists her association with somebody named Mr. Hooks.

What might I conclude from these records? Well, the 1762 record confirms an arrival around 1752, which is when Georg Sommer arrived in PHL. And an age of 21 in 1762, means a birth year of about 1741, a date that is closer to 1740 than 1749! As for the 1763 record, I suspect that MM was a servant, and quite possibly a Redemptioner, meaning that she had to work to pay for her passage to America. Perhaps that obligation kept her from marrying until she was in her mid-twenties.

And what does all this mean for our family story?  For one thing, it could mean that MM was not the daughter of Georg Sommer, but his niece. Certainly he referred to her as a daughter in his will, but I don't think he would refer to her any other way if he adopted her from his brother at an early age.  Our family story would have to be rewritten slightly to say we are descended from Matthias Sommer rather than Johann Georg Sommer. And yet, does changing the family tree change the fact that Maria Magdalena Sommer came to America with Georg and Anna Barbara, and they were her only family?  No, it does not.

We certainly have a long way to go to prove any of this theory, if indeed it can ever be proved at all.  But it's once again amazing to me how our family stories continue to evolve the more we just keep being curious.

Sommer Marriage in Germany

There have been two major questions surrounding the marriage of Johann Georg Sommer.  First is that his wife's name was Anna Barbara Longstreet.  That her name was Anna Barbara, we have no doubt, but we have never found even the slightest clue about the surname Longstreet.  Second, we have debated whether Georg married in America or in Germany.  We think we are coming closer to an answer for both questions.

To address the second question first, we would need to know when Georg arrived in America.  When he died in 1785, his obituary stated he was a member of the congregation for 42 years.  This obituary was among records found for the St. James Lutheran Church in Greenwich, New Jersey.  To be a member for 42 years, would mean he was in America from about 1743.  Unfortunately, we've not been able to find any passenger records for that time that show his arrival.  What we have found is a passenger list for the ship Brothers which arrived in Philadelphia in September, 1752.  On board was Hans Georg Sommer, as well as Johannes Sommer and Hans Martin Sommer, names of younger brothers of our Georg.  So we are leaning toward a 1752 arrival.  Meanwhile we are still trying to locate the actual obituary to see if there might have been a transcription error.  Even if there was not, Georg Sommer might have been a member of a Lutheran congregation that started in Germany.  At this point, this investigation is still open.

But let's just go with the idea that Georg arrived in 1752.  He would have been about 30 years old at the time.  And given that we know his oldest son was born in 1747, this would most certainly suggest that Georg was already married when he arrived.  So we started looking for a marriage in Freistett.  Sure enough, on 19 Jan 1745, Johann Georg Sommer, son of Matthias, married Anna Barbara Ruben.  And sure enough, on 23 Apr 1747 their son Georg Jr. was born.

So, wow.  Georg Sommer WAS married with children when he arrived in America.  And his wife, Anna Barbara, was not originally a Longstreet!  How in the world did the name Longstreet ever get associated with her??  My current theory is that she remarried after Georg died in 1785.  But so far, we've simply not been able to associate the Sommer family with the Longstreet name.  And like so many of our women relations of this early time period, we have no idea whatever became of Anna Barbara from Freistett, Germany.

Some Great Research Tools

I wanted to make mention of a tool that was used to help us in our search for the home village of Hans Georg Sommer.  His obituary said he as born in Freystadt, Elsas.  The people at the international desk at the FHL immediately used the Fuzzy Gazateer:

This site helped us investigate which of the matches that came up for Germany was closest to the Alsace region.  Freistett in Baden was a Bingo!

I'd also like to make mention of some tools for helping in the rather daunting task of trying to read old German script.  We had already run into some documents from early Pennsylvania written in German, but now that we're looking at actual German church records, the simple task of reading at times seems next to impossible to me.

So first I want to say I am currently using a great online tutorial for learning German script.  It includes animations for how the letters are formed, downloadable practice pages, and reading tests.  Considering how much I have been struggling with reading the German script, this is a lifesaver for me!

Assuming one can make out a word written in German script, there is then the job of translation.  The best online reference I've seen is from familysearch:

So, as always, I deeply appreciate the internet for helping researchers like me.  Without tools such as these, this line of my research would pretty much be over.