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 ancestry.com 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 < dsives@ROOTSQUEST.com>
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 ancestry.com 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!