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!

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