Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Wives of Charles Summers

Charles Summers was, apparently, a son of David Summers and Mary "Polly" Horn. David was one of the five sons of John Summers Esq. of New Jersey, and David died in NJ in 1825. His widow, Mary, removed with her four children to Michigan in the 1830s when the most of the other New Jersey Summers decided to relocate.

We have known, or thought we've known, that Charles Summers married Laura Tower, mostly by virtue of her gravestone in Michigan which states her maiden name. But recent correspondence from a Tower researcher has lead us to realize that Laura was probably the second wife of Charles Summers. We have located the marriage record of Charles Summers to Laura Gibbs in 1839 in Michigan (see familysearch), which seems to suggest that Laura Tower was previously married to somebody with the Gibbs surname (we don't know who). But it also appears from the 1850 census that there was a son in the Charles Summers household named Samuel who was born in New Jersey. This would mean that Charles Summers probably also had a first marriage in New Jersey.

And as long as we're on the topic of Charles Summers, it is worth noting that he is the one and only Summers who has SOME connection to the surname LONGSTREET. The Longstreet surname has long haunted us, because when I first started this Summers research, every crowd-sourced family tree out there claimed that my 6th g-grandfather, Georg Sommer, was married to Anna Barbara Longstreet. This claim is very widespread, but after years of hunting, I can find no source other than DAR/SAR applications. What the documentation does support is that Georg Sommer married Anna Barbara Rub in Freistett, Germany and they had several children prior to emigration to America in 1752. Georg died in NJ in 1785, and perhaps Anna Barbara remarried to a Longstreet, but so far, I've not found any documentation to support that idea.

But then three generations later comes Charles Summers. In 1828, Charles petitioned the Orphan's Court in New Jersey requesting William R. Longstreet as his guardian, and indeed in the 1830 census of Vernon, Sussex, New Jersey, we find William Longstreet enumerated with what appears to be a young couple, which could well be Charles Summers and a first wife? Speculation, to be sure. But it was not random that Charles Summers requested William R. Longstreet as a guardian. William R. Longstreet seems to have had connections with the Van Deren family, the family name of Charles' grandmother, Anna Van Deren. Hmmmm.....

So there we have it: Charles Summers requested William Longstreet as a guardian AND additionally, apparently, had a first marriage and a son in New Jersey before moving to Michigan. The Sommers surprises just keep on coming....

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Martin Summers of Waggoner's Alley

Here is yet another report pertaining to my quest to better understand the life of the youngest Freistett brother, Martin Sommer, who died in PHL in 1799. It was my initial belief that of the several children born to Martin and his wife, Margaretha, at least two sons survived him, namely Martin, a blacksmith who died in 1811, and George, a grocer and blacksmith who died in 1810. After churning through lots of records with the names Martin and George, it is still my belief that these two blacksmiths probably belong to our Freistett clan via Martin Sommer who died 1799.

So this post is about Martin Summers, the blacksmith. A 1794 deed indicates that Martin purchased a lot on the east side of Waggoner's Alley in South Mulberry ward in PHL, and he is found in the city directories in that location thereafter, at least until his death in 1811. What's been frustrating is that the last census that shows this Martin shows that he had seven children in his household, four of them males under 10, so this Martin appears to have had descendants, but what happened to them?

Introducing Cecelia Kinderman (sp?). In 1831, she petitioned the Orphan's Court with the following information:
  • that Cecelia had been affirmed as guardian of Sarah Somers, minor under 14
  • that Sarah had nothing but was entitled to one-fourth of real estate on Waggoner's Alley (!)
  • that Sarah was the minor child of John H. Somers, and he had been dead one year
  • that Cecelia was Sarah's grandmother
The thing that ties this find to Martin-Blacksmith, in my mind, is the mention of real estate in Waggoner's Alley. So given the information recorded by the grandmother Cecelia, the picture we are getting is this:
  • One of the sons of Martin-Blacksmith was John H. Somers
  • John H. Somers married a woman who possibly had the maiden name Kinderman. I think it seems that she must have predeceased John.
  • John H. & wife probably had 4 children who survived them because of the reference of “one fourth” that was due to Sarah.
So far, the only additional information I've found about John H. Somers (or Somer - notice the spelling of the surname seems to have morphed, dropping one "m" and sometimes the ending "s") is an 1827 deed where John is noted as being of Dauphin County, PA, he was a house carpenter, and he was selling his share of a piece of ground on the east side of Waggoner's Alley to Peter Smith. The history of the parcel is then given, going back to Martin Somer who left a will bequeathing his properties to his children of whom the said John H. Somer was an heir. All of which is interesting but a tad confusing, because in 1831, Cecelia was saying that her granddaughter, Sarah, was entitled to one-fourth of rents being collected at Waggoner's Alley. If John H. had sold his share, how did his daughter still have rights to real estate in Waggoner's Alley? Maybe there was more than one property at that location in the family - research continues.

And just in case we wonder where Waggoner's Alley was, we can again thank another Sommer-Researcher/PHL-Expert who informed me that location is presently under the PHL Police Dept. Headquarters. Maybe they can find these missing Sommer relations?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I generally like to keep the content of my posts to the details of the families I'm researching, my research process, and my findings, and not so much about general genealogy topics because I figure people can find that information in other places. But this fall while participating in a study group about the genealogical proof standard, the word "provenance" came up in several discussions, and that was a new one on me. I trust that others can still look up what this term means in genealogical context, but I thought I could share here what it means in relation to our Sommer research.

As previously posted in "Sommer Originals," I have located several original documents pertaining to the Moreland Sommer branch of our family. But I was feeling uncertain about how to cite that information "officially," so I wrote to Elizabeth Shown Mills, the author of Evidence Explained, via her website. You can read my questions and her answers here.

I subsequently found myself once again writing to the Hagley Library to inquire about the history of the collection where the Sommer papers were found. Here is the reply I received from the archivist there:
The materials in the Longwood Manuscripts, Group 8, were materials acquired by Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) through either purchase or gift. All of the other materials in the Longwood Manuscripts are items he inherited from various family members.  P.S. du Pont was known as an avid collector of materials concerning the du Pont family, DuPont Company, and the explosives industry in general. Many of the items in the Longwood Manuscripts, Group 8 and other collections in our library were originally acquired through his collecting. 
Specifically, for the Potts materials, his source is listed as “Unknown Source”. So, unfortunately, we have no way of knowing where P.S. du Pont acquired these papers.
And there we have it, the provenance of our precious original papers pertaining to the Sommer family. How in the world did DuPont end up with the scrapbook of Howard Newcomb Potts, 1819-1906? Potts, who had no children, left quite an extensive estate to nieces, nephews, and charities. I've looked to see if there were any obvious connections between Potts' nieces and nephews and the DuPont family, but I haven't found any yet. I imagine that DuPont acquired these papers almost accidentally, i.e., they were part of something he inherited from some family member, which then remained in his collection even though their subject matter was not his primary focus.

Well, if anybody has ideas on this one, how to tie the scrapbook of H.N. Potts to Pierre DuPont, I would appreciate hearing from you. Otherwise, I'm going to have to lean on a lot of logic to make the case that these papers do, indisputably, belong to our Freistett Sommer family. It seems obvious, but this business of proof can be a challenge.

Sommer Originals

As the end of the year approaches, I realize I am still sorting through all the information garnered from the flurry of my Sommer research this year. So it's a good time to belatedly report on a highlight of my research adventures in 2015, and that was a visit to the Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware in late July.

In case you're wondering how I ended up in Delaware, I suppose I have google to thank. Awhile ago, I found a partial index on google books, you know the snippets that tantalizingly don't show you the whole book but just a sentence or two?  The book in question gave hints about Jacob Sommer, but said book can no longer be found, no library within a 1000 miles has it, etc., etc.  So it took some research on that source alone to find that the material being referenced in it currently resides at the Hagley.  It took nearly a year of me writing emails and finding a local researcher (a friend) to go there and make a copy of some things from that collection. What he sent me was enough for me to add the Hagley to my travel list. And boy, was it worth it! First of all, the Hagley is located on the most beautiful grounds in the most beautiful old yet modernized building I've ever worked in. What an absolute pleasure. Second, the box that got delivered to me in the research room was full of original documents written in the 1775 era, most of which had everything to do with our Sommer family of Moreland. This might be one of the few times I can recall having a swooning sensation while doing genealogy research.

While the images I now have of those precious documents cannot be reproduced or otherwise published until I get proper permissions from the Hagley, I can probably share the catalog description of the documents I viewed. I can say that to hold these original documents, which ranged across four generations from 1775 to 1899, to experience the close-to-crumbling paper, some of it appearing to have been scorched, to read the fading ink in the old handwriting, and take in the first-hand words of ancestors who lived through the birth of a new nation, was to be very personally moved. The document that stays with me most was this one:

On 18 Jun 1823, the Democratic Committee of Arrangement wrote a letter to Jacob Sommer Esq. informing him that he had been unanimously appointed to read the Declaration of Independence at the celebration of the 47th anniversary of the national independence. In 1823, Jacob Sommer was himself 65 years old. His parents had been German immigrants who had resisted the British through the days of the Philadelphia Campaign. Jacob, having joined the PA militia, had been captured by the British and held prisoner on Long Island for four years, and then returned home to become a PA state senator and later an associate judge. He had written and delivered addresses that expressed the passion of his belief in national freedom, and he continued to stay active in politics until the end of his life. Jacob Sommer had defined himself as an American Patriot.

Given that the family line of Jacob Sommer ended with his grandchildren, there has been nobody to remember this part of our Freistett family history. But now, thanks to technology and spirit of preservation held in places like the Hagley, we can know and appreciate a legacy that is now ours to proudly pass along.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Matthias Sommer - Oldest Freistett Brother

I don't think it's very often in family histories that the oldest sibling gets lost, but that might well have almost been the case for the oldest brother of our Sommer family from Freistett. We have known all along about Matthias, the oldest brother, born in 1715 in Freistett, but we (I) skipped over him because:
  • The inheritance customs in Germany at that time were for the oldest son to inherit, leaving all younger siblings to make their own way. I therefore assumed that Matthias Sommer had inherited whatever there was to inherit, he stayed in Germany, and the younger brothers subsequently left for America.
  • The list of names on the ship Brothers, which arrived in PHL on 22 Sep. 1752, did indeed include only the three younger brothers - no Matthias - thus supporting my probably-wrong assumption.
But all the research this year into the lives of the younger Sommer brothers in early PA has inadvertently lead me to the possibility that Matthias also came to PHL. Here was the trail of clues:
  • Georg and Barbara Sommer's first child born in America in 1753 was sponsored by Matthias Sommer, Margareta Haas(in), and Christina Sommer(in). So right out of the gate, there is the name of Matthias in direct relation to our family, and whom we have not previously accounted for. Second is the appearance of the surname HAAS. The progenitor of all these Sommer brothers was Matthias Sommer 1690-1732 who married Anna Barbara Huebscher (surname spellings vary). Anna Barbara remarried to one Mathaus Haas in Freistett in 1733. Whether there were any more children from this second marriage is unknown, but you can see why we should have an interest in the HAAS name.
  • Then came the catalyst for looking more closely, the will of Jacob-Moreland written in 1823. The very first item in his will mentioned, ever so briefly, the name of Martin Sommer, and naturally without stating a relationship. For over a year, I have been shaking out all the records I can find trying to identify the mysterious Martin Sommer mentioned in Jacob-Moreland's will, the details of which you can read about here. The highlights of that research to date are:
    • I thought it reasonable to assume that the Martin Sommer mentioned in Jacob-Moreland's will was related in some way to Jacob and to the Freistett clan. This assumption COULD BE INCORRECT, but I decided to start with the idea that was true. So if the mentioned-Martin was indeed related to Jacob-Moreland, how is it that I can find no Martin Sommer of the Freistett clan who was alive in 1823 when Jacob-Moreland wrote his will?
    • I finally remembered the oldest Freistett Sommer brother, Matthias, and when I looked at the known children he had in Freistett, I found that his oldest child was named - wait for it - Martin, born 1737! So if the oldest brother, Matthias, did come to PHL before the other brothers and he brought his German-born children with him, then....? Indeed, the StM&Z church records did show a number of records for a Martin Sommer and wife, Maria, who were having a number of children starting in the mid-1760s. And lo, the last record I find among the American-born children was Martin Sommer, born 1772.
    • All of which leads to a Martin Sommers who recently bubbled to the surface in my recent records search. He showed up in censuses, in Orphan's Court records, and even in the book by G. Byron Summers. This Martin Sommers lived in Oxford Twp., PA and died in 1824. If indeed the Martin Sommer noted in the previous bullet as having been born in 1772 in PHL was the same person as Martin Sommers of Oxford, then he was the grandson of Matthias Sommer of Freistett, and he was both related to Jacob-Moreland and alive in 1823 when Jacob wrote his will.
There are a number of details both to tell and to learn about Martin-Oxford, but at the moment, I consider this scenario to be one well worth considering. And such a scenario would open up our Freistett story in a whole new light, presenting, of course, all kinds of new questions:
  1. When did Matthias Sommer come to PHL? Was he married? Did he bring his German-born children? When and where did he die?
  2. Who was Matthias' son Martin, born 1737 in Freistett? Who was the Maria he apparently married? What happened to the other children from that marriage? When and where did this Martin die?
  3. Then there is Martin-Oxford. According to G. Byron Summers, this Martin married Sarah Copart, and a number of descendants are listed. Was it really Sarah he married? And what of all the descendants?
See what I mean about the Freistett story just got much bigger? We Freistett descendants should all be going back to look over any DNA matches again. There could well be many, many more Freistett Sommer relations in America than we have realized.

Martin Sommer - Youngest Freistett Brother

As we know, I have been interested in rounding out the story of the Sommer family of Freistett, Germany who arrived in PHL in the 1750s. The youngest brother to arrive was Martin Sommer, born 1729 in Freistett, which means he was about 23 years old when he arrived in PHL. Based on Communion records at StM&Z, it appears that this Martin remained unmarried until the early 1760s when baptism records begin to appear for Martin Sommer and his wife, Maria Margaretha. Unfortunately, we still don't know who Margaretha was, but according to the church records, a couple named Martin and Margaretha, presumably this couple, had 10 children between 1764-1784. Among those children were two sons, one named Martin and one named George, who, it appears, both worked as blacksmiths in Philadelphia - but more about the sons later. In this post, I want to focus on Martin Sr. and some interesting details that emerged recently about him.

First, after all my recent research on Jacob Sommer of Moreland, and his father, John (Johannes, one of the three brothers to emigrate from Freistett), I am inclined to associate Sommer/Summers surnames in Moreland with the Freistett clan. Indeed, we find there was a Martin Sommer on Moreland Twp. tax lists for J. Northrop's estate between 1767 and 1780. There was also a Martin Sommer in Northern Liberties tax lists for George Bender's estate between 1779-1787. In the 1780 tax list, Martin was noted as "Smith". I take this to mean our Martin Sr. was, himself, a blacksmith. Interesting!

But where was this Martin Sommer in 1790? The only one I found was in downtown PHL, and there I made a discovery. This 1790 census of PHL listed the address of each person enumerated, and for Martin, it was #46 N. 7th St. For some reason, both familysearch and ancestry indexed this as an enumeration of Water St. East, but if you look at the previous page of this enumeration, it says 7th St. from Market to Race Sts. East. Sure enough, in the PHL city directories for 1791, 1793, and 1794, we find a Martin Summers at that address with occupation as laborer or carter. In the 1800 directory, there is no longer a Summers listed at that address.

So why is this significant? The 1799 burial record of Martin Sommer from StM&Z recorded not only his age at death to the year and month, matching the baptism record we have for this Martin in Freistett, but also that he was living at 7th and Arch Sts. when he died, which is pretty much the address we see in the 1790 census. In fact, this location is also close to the U.S. Mint, and I would almost worry that we have some how mixed up Freistett Martin with H-W Martin, 1740-1804, who is the one we've associated as having worked at the U.S. Mint. But H-W Martin left a will that mentioned both his wife, Anna Barbara, and his Mint job. It can also be noted that the 1806 and 1807 PHL City Directories listed Mrs. Summers, widow of Martin, at 131 Cherry St., which would have been after the death of H-W Martin, and was also very close to the Mint. So the proximity of the Mint to the address in this 1790 census is seemingly a coincidence.

But now we get to the really good part. Thanks to another Sommer researcher whose knowledge of old PHL is fantabulous, I learned that "On the corner of 7th lived the famous David Rittenhouse in his mansion. Next is Martin apparently renting from Rittenhouse (so says the 1798 Direct Tax List). The next person up the street is Eliza Sergeant who is a widowed daughter of the Rittenhouses. The modern day analogy here is that Martin living in Rittenhouse's back yard would be like living at the back of Stephen Hawking's house!"

Here are some notes from my research about all this:
  • The 1798 tax list actually shows Martin was renting from the Rittenhouse widow, David's second wife, Hannah Jacobs, which rang a bell. During my recent research trip to SLC, I had looked up the will of Catharina Wolff Menge (wife of our Ernst Menge's brother, John), who died in 1795. Her will mentioned that she (??) had purchased a plot of ground from John JACOBS situated in Kensington, Northern Liberties. Was this the same John Jacobs, a brother of Hannah Jacobs Rittenhouse? 
"John was the last speaker of the assembly before the revolution, and of him Benjamin Rush reported that he has been in favor of a Republican form of government for twenty years before that time." (from "Bebber’s Township and the Dutch Patroons” page 4). 
  • The other name that jumps out is SERGEANT. We have a letter written from a John Sergeant in PHL to our Jacob Sommer, the PA state senator, and indeed this John Sergeant would himself later become a US Congressman. This John Sergeant was the son of Jonathan Sergeant and Margaret Spencer. After Margaret died in 1787, Jonathan Sergeant remarried to Elizabeth Rittenhouse, the daughter of David Rittenhouse, the mathematician!  
My goodness, look at all the almost-connections! I have looked and looked for some connection between any of the known daughters of Martin Sommer and Rittenhouse, Jacobs, or Sergeant, but so far, nothing. Who knows, maybe the connection was through Martin's wife, Margaretha?  Otherwise, the best I can figure at this point is that Martin Sommer Sr. was somehow acquainted with these PHL families via his nephew, Jacob-Moreland, and was being employed in some capacity. But to be honest, I'm sure the Rittenhouse family had any number of employees, and yet the name of Martin Sommer appears on its own. Curious, eh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Salute to Sommer Revolutionary Pats

Of the three Sommer brothers who hailed from Freistett, Georg, John, and Martin, here is what I know of each brother during Revolutionary times:
  • Georg Sommer, the elder, lived in Oxford, NJ and has long been credited as being the Ensign in Capt. Mackey's company (First Regiment, Sussex). I never questioned this until I realized our understanding of Georg's obituary had been incorrect (click here for more info), and that Georg had suffered from cataracts for 11 years at the end of his life, leaving him blind. This would mean in 1776, he was 54 years old and having sight problems. For this reason, I tend to think that the man from Oxford who served as the Ensign for the New Jersey militia in 1777 was instead the son, George Summers, 1747-1825, who later moved to Bucks, PA.
    • However, if indeed George, the younger, served for New Jersey, maybe it was not he who served as a drummer in the 6th PA Regiment? This article about the fife, drum, and bugle during the Revolution is interesting. What's notable for our discussion is that if drummers were either boys or old men, George, the younger, was neither in 1777 - he was 30 years old. And, we must remember to consider there were likely other men of the name George Summers in Pennsylvania during the Revolution....
  • John Sommer of Moreland did not serve in the military, that we know of, but we do now know two related things about his involvement in the Revolution:
    • John buried his deeds when the British took over Philadelphia, and when he later dug them up, they were so damaged, he had to address the PA Assembly to have his lands recognized again. 
    • John's only surviving son, Jacob, an Ensign in the PA militia, was taken prisoner and held on Long Island for four years; Jacob would later become a PA State Senator. 
  • I have not yet found any indication that Martin Sommer served in the Revolution, and his sons were too young at that time to have served in the military; research is ongoing. 
There's good news and bad news here.

The bad news is that the various approved DAR/SAR applications that claim either George Summers, 1722-1785, or George Summers, 1747-1825, as Revolutionary ancestors are probably incorrect (see my article here) because:
  1. George Summers Sr. was older and going blind at the time of the Revolution - so he likely never served in any military unit, though this point could still use more study and discussion. 
  2. George Sr.'s son, George Jr., had only one son, John, who died in 1791 - so even though we know that George Jr. did serve militarily, we also know he did not have descendants to survive him. 
The good news, in my opinion, is that it's not our association to Revolutionary Patriots that really matters. I consider all these Sommer ancestors Patriots because one and all, women and children included, they participated in a collective desire for freedom which changed history, and continues to influence some of our deepest-felt values today. So thank you to all veterans of military service and their families for embodying the struggle of so many to lead better lives. On Veteran's Day and every day, thank you. 

I dedicate this post to the memory of my father, Major Richard C. Schaefer, USAF, 1933-2009. He did love history.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Philly Sommers

One of the early themes of my Sommer research was to differentiate Sommer families in early PHL, which has lead to the identification of two family groups: the Freistett clan, arriving 1752, and the Hoch-Weisel (H-W) clan arriving 1754. So now all one has to do is go through subsequent records coming foreward from that point, and apply the records we have to each clan. Oh my, where DO I get these ideas?

So to make it "simple," I decided to look ONLY for people (ok, men) with the name George and Martin. Why? Because I would like to know more about the line of Johann Martin Sommer, 1729-1799, the one line from the Freistett immigrants who we know the least about. This Martin Sommer had two sons born in PHL, George and Martin, who apparently survived to adulthood. So, theoretically, I should be able to sit down and find those of the next generation in censuses and other record groups.

With that in mind, I went about creating tables that combine all the characters named George or Martin from both the Freistett and H-W clans, adding a couple more tables to associate ages and locations. The result? It looks to me like a great big mess.

Let's just take one example. To my knowing, of the two Sommer clans, there would be a total of three Martin Summers in the 1800 PHL area who were of the age to be enumerated. But I count four Martin's enumerated, so ????. As for occupations, there was a Martin and a George who were both blacksmiths, George a carpenter, one or more Martin and George farmers, and of course, the Martin who worked at the U.S. Mint. It should be easy to pick out which George's and which Martin's belong to which Sommer clan, but no, a thousand times Nein. Why am I surprised?

At this point, I have the following observations:

Observation one: I believe the data that both Freistett and H-W family researchers have been working with could well be incomplete, and by that I mean there could well have been some additional Sommer/Summers children, sons particularly, who were born along the way to these families for whom no baptism record has been found. I think this problem has impacted the genealogy efforts of researchers of both Freistett and H-W clans. Nevertheless, there is no reason to think, especially during the time period in question, that the list of family members for each clan is necessarily complete.

Observation two: Moreover, there is no reason at all to think that other people with the Sommer surname, i.e., those NOT from Freistett or H-W, could not have arrived from other places and settled in the PHL area. William Penn's offers for land were likely appealing to many, and one didn't have to be a German getting off the boat to apply.

Observation three: It's time to share the collective Sommer/Summers genealogy brain. It doesn't matter whether your roots are with the Freistett clan or the H-W clan, or whether you're unsure or don't know. If you are looking for the Sommer/Summers name in PHL between 1750 and 1830, you have a good reason to participate in this discussion. If you have the time and interest in helping to untangle Sommer family groups, I'll be happy to share research I've done to this point, and coordinate the sharing of whatever additional observations bubble to the top of all our Sommer searching.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

William Summers of Conshohocken

Ever heard of this guy? Born 1833, died 1921, notable all around Montgomery County, PA for his dedication to Summers genealogy? He was a member and librarian for the Montgomery County Historical Society. He subscribed with the Lewis publishing company and ended up having his genealogy published in three local history books. He personally replaced the falling-down grave of Philip Summers at St. John's Lutheran Churchyard, and donated a memorial plaque for George Summers to the Upper Dublin Lutheran Church. He is the guy who inspired A history of George Summers of Douglass and Lower Dublin townships, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania by G. Byron Summers, and probably inspired the Summers Family Association that used to hold reunions in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. (I've only heard bits about this latter part from very old message board posts, but have not been able to find any further information about this group, or who organized it, and when.) There's probably even more to be said about this William Summers that I still have no idea about. My gosh, where have I been?

And yet.....

I've just spent an afternoon writing a genealogical proof that aims to correct William Summers' published genealogy: click here. In essence, William had most of his ancestry right, especially the generations closest in time to himself. But he got the original immigrant to his line wrong: William thought his progenitor was "my" Georg Sommer 1722-1785 of Freistett who arrived in PHL in 1752, when evidence exists to show the progenitor of William's line was Hermann Sommer 1699-1767 of Hoch-Weisel who arrived in 1754. For reasons I don't really understand, Hermann Sommer, who had five sons, at least two of whom served in the Revolution, was all but forgotten in name even though the accomplishments of his descendants were well-remembered. And on the other hand, while the name of Georg Sommer was extolled as being the progenitor of Hermann's five sons, in reality, Georg had moved to New Jersey where he raised his family of two sons (one named George, who also served in the Revolution and later died in Warrington, PA) and five daughters. By the 1830s, the majority of Georg's descendants were on their way west.

What it comes down to lately is me arriving at different conclusions from what has been previously published (see my growing list of misTaken sources), and why is that? It's this thing called the internet, I suppose. Somebody like William Summers probably could have chased the Hoch-Weisel clan back several more generations if he had electronics. He could have had instant access to lots of other family trees and other people researching the same family and satellite maps and spreadsheets and evernote and google and webinars and omg, RootsTech. Maybe he even would have become certified and published in genealogical journals, just to be sure his genealogy was really, truly, officially official. But I would tell William to never mind that stuff. All this genea-hubbub is really just about remembering connections and the stories they create. Our job, to the best of our knowing, is to overcome forgetting, which comes much, much too easily and much, much too soon.

With that said, I think I'm going to adopt William Summers, even though he is not a blood relative of my Freistett Sommer family. I'm going to remember him as well as his example to commemorate those who came before. Sadly though, I see only a partial entry for William Summers and his family on findagrave, Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA. Seems like a situation that could rightly be corrected....

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

1765 Ernest Mange Deed

This blog continues to be the source of unexpected but delightful contact with other researchers. Last week I heard from a Sommer/Summers researcher in Vermont. This person, who has access to a Philadelphia database of deeds (yes, I will be subscribing to that myself sooner than later), decided spontaneously, in the true genealogy spirit, to look up the surname Mange, and then to email the resulting deeds to me!

In a nutshell, we now have a 1765 deed from John Penn to Ernest Mange of the Northern Liberties, "German," who paid around 88 pounds for just under 5 acres in, I believe, the Northern Liberties. If anybody can tell me what 88 pounds would be worth in today's dollars, I'd love to know, but meanwhile, I tend to think it was alot of money. Where did Ernest get that kind of money? The one thing I can think of is that his first wife, Catharina Klockner, was a widow who had previously been married to Georg Ernst, who had been a Philadelphia tavern-keeper. Given that Ernest later applied for a tavern license in New Jersey (1776), citing his experience running a tavern in Philadelphia, perhaps we can assume that the tavern-keeping business was lucrative for him.

We've also discovered a subsequent deed written in 1771 from Ernest Mange and Mary his wife of the Northern Liberties to William Will of the same place and recorded in 1774. The details of this one will have to wait until a future snow day when I have more time and, hopefully, patience to attempt transcription of a hard-to-read document.

And finally, there is also, apparently, a 1770s deed from Ernest Mange to John Mange, who was Ernest's brother. That one would be interesting to find - still looking on that one.

So wow. In 1765, our Ernest Mange was 33 years old, had been in America just over 10 years, and was married to a widow who had children from her previous marriage. It would be less than a year later when his wife would die weeks after childbirth, and Ernest would shortly thereafter marry a 17-year-old young woman named Maria Magdalena Sommer.  And so would begin a new family whose descendant would find herself writing this blog.

Thank you many times over for the generosity of those who share insights and resources associated with discovering and telling these kinds of stories. And may somebody else out there find this story, in turn, of some personal use.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Restoration of the Spirit

I've slowly been learning to expect the unexpected on my research trips, and here is my favorite story from genealogy travels this year.

While visiting Michigan in August, I made an unplanned detour to visit the Mt. Avon Cemetery in Rochester, MI and find the grave of one of my favorite subjects of interest these days, namely Jacob Summers, 1787-1864. We already have pictures of the Summers obelisk, but I always like to look around the area for clues that can't be seen from an internet photo.

So I scoped out ahead of time where to find the oldest graves in the cemetery, but much to my surprise, a number of cars and people were there when I arrived. I was puzzled because I thought it unlikely that somebody recently deceased was being buried in the oldest section of the cemetery. And besides, the people mulling around the graves were not exactly dressed for a funeral. So what was going on?

It took my brain awhile to register what I was witnessing:  gravestone restoration in progress. Broken stones were being plastered back together, and stones that have been blackened with years of lichen and soot were being cleaned, and I mean whitened! I was flabbergasted.

I immediately went to find our Jacob Summers to see if his obelisk had been done, but there it stood, rather darkened and leaning to one side. I found the person in charge to ask if Jacob's obelisk was in the queue to be cleaned, but he wasn't sure because the list of graves to be restored came from the city clerk. Well, it took me about 30 minutes to find a computer and WIFI to send a note to the city clerk to ask about Jacob's obelisk, and by the end of the day, I had confirmation that Jacob's obelisk was indeed to be included in the effort.  Yeah!

So it has taken awhile to get the post-restoration photos, but it's all been worth waiting for. I wish to bestow giant kudos upon Dave Carter at Carter's Cemetery Preservation, Lee Ann O'Connor, city clerk for the City of Rochester, and the citizens of the Rochester community. What a wonderful service has been paid to the past, present, and future to preserve the memory of our Michigan pioneers and settlers in such a way. We can all be proud of such efforts to honor those who came before when turning ourselves to look ahead.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Somerton Story

The research on Jacob Sommer of Philadelphia really picked up this year, especially after a member of the Northeast Philadelphia History Network took an interest in my blog late last year. Based on subsequent correspondence as well as a visit to the area this summer (with a personal tour of Somerton given by my NEPHN history guide, thank you very much), the story that has emerged about Jacob Sommer has, I think, surprised us all. I'm happy to say that the highlights of this collaborative research now appear on wikipedia - check it out here.

In many ways, this story is still evolving, still being discovered, so expect to see updates, which is the glory of the wikipedia model. Meanwhile, the facts we know now give us a wonderful picture of this branch of our Sommer family, who lead such extraordinary lives during a time when our country was just being born. I know I'm supposed to be objective about this work, but sometimes I can't be. I find myself immensely proud of all our Sommer ancestors, and welcome this new story into the rich legacy left for both our family and our country.

Update:  See my article, Jacob Sommer of Moreland, PA in American Revolution for more details about this ancestor of our Freistett Sommer family.  Also see the later footnote posted in this blog.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Judging History

For the record, we now have at least three, and possibly four, in the Sommer family who have been identified as judges:

  • Jacob Sommer of Philadelphia, 1758-1827
  • John Summers of New Jersey, 1759-1827
  • Jacob Summers of Michigan, 1787-1864

To be clear, it is nearly certain that none of these men had any formal education, and most certainly they were not trained lawyers, though maybe they should have been since all three were involved in legal cases. But lay judges were common in England, and for that matter, also in Germany, and thus the practice followed to colonial America and then west with the pioneers. In fact, 30 states today still retain a lay-judge system, including Colorado. Here is a snippet from a 2011 Denver Post article about lay judges:
Clifford Mays, who will retire from the Cheyenne County bench in November, is also a rancher. None of the three people nominated to fill his vacancy is a lawyer: One is a school superintendent, one works for a local historical society, and one is a wheat farmer.
I vote for the one who works for the historical society :-)

Grave Relocation

Because of documentation found in Michigan claiming that Jacob Summers of Macomb was related to a judge Jacob Summers of PHL, I've been doing a fair amount of research in PHL over the past year. The short answer is that Jacob Sommer of Moreland was related to our family, but not directly to the branch that migrated to Michigan. Still, it's interesting to note that the Michigan Summers must have known of their PHL family in order for that detail to have made its way into the family history.

But beyond the story, how to connect the dots between Jacob Sommer of Moreland and our family? The death record of Johannes (aka John) Sommer in 1792 identified him as being of Freistett, which connects Johannes to our family. That same death record said that Johannes had only one surviving child, and the only Sommer name that appears next in Moreland records is Jacob. But without any other records to establish relationships, I decided to resort to my backup strategy, which I call "Act As If." In this mode, I move forward, carefully and only so far, as if I know that Jacob was the son of Johannes and his wife, Anna Eva.

Thus moving forward from Jacob, I found the following descendants of Jacob Sommer of Moreland:
  • Dr. John Sommer
    • Jacob J. Sommer
    • Mary A. Sommer Potts
By the time I got to the grandchildren, Jacob J. and Mary A., I had nearly forgotten that I don't really know if these people belong to my Sommer family or not. But when I looked at the burial record for Jacob J. Sommer, my method found meaning. The burial record shows all the people buried in the Sommer plot at Laurel Hill Cemetery, which included Jacob J., Mary A. and her husband, Howard N. Potts, Louisa M. Sommer (mother of Jacob J. and Mary A.), and guess who? Johannes and Anna Eva Sommer, who were moved on 12 Oct 1874 from 5th and Cherry Sts.

Here is a snippet from the FHL catalog about St. Michael's and Zion Lutheran Church where I believe Johannes and Anna Eva were originally buried:
St. Michael's was built 1743-1748 at 5th and Arch St. and was the only Lutheran church in the city of Philadelphia until Zion Church was built at 4th and Cherry in 1769. By 1751 two pastors served the congregation and also served Zion when it was built. During the Revolutionary War St. Michael's was used as a garrison church by the British who allowed the Lutherans to use it at times; Zion was used as a British hospital. Both churches had to be rededicated after the war. In 1868 the lot on which Zion was located was sold and the congregation moved to Franklin and Race. In 1874 St. Michael's was sold and the congregation moved around until the 1900s when there was an apparent merger of both churches. St. Michaels-Zion Lutheran Church is located at 228 North Franklin Street (1980).
But not so fast. Apparently the above description is talking about the church, but not necessarily the cemetery. I can't find specific sources, but information found on message boards says that around 1861 most of the bodies in the cemetery of StM&Z were moved to Lehigh Ave. between 31st and 32nd. However, some remains were left behind only to be rediscovered when the U.S. Mint was built at 4th & Cherry Sts., which still stands today.

All I can think is that when the StM&Z cemetery was moved in 1861, Johannes and Anna Eva were among those left behind. But when St. Michael's church was itself sold in 1874, the descendants decided to move the great-grandparents to be among family.

All of which has brought me full circle. I have the 1758 StM&Z baptism record for Jacob, son of Johannes Sommer and his wife Anna Eva. I have the paper trail that leads from Jacob to Dr. John to Jacob J. and Mary A. And now we can see that Johannes and Anna Eva were moved from StM&Z cemetery to the burial plot of their great-grandchildren. It's a little more than connecting dots, I think. It's about claiming the remains of the original immigrants for this branch of the Sommer family.

UNCLE Jake Summers

We've had a long-standing question about our Summers family of Macomb, Michigan, which is this:

How was Jacob Summers 1787-1864 related to Jacob Summers 1808-1885?

The older man was a Michigan state legislator, who was also involved in banking, agriculture, and civil service. Two local histories as well as several newspaper articles referred to him as Uncle Jake.

The younger man was mostly a farmer, and was also involved in local civil service.  Deeds, court cases, and even his own will use the suffix "2d" after his name.

It has been easy to believe that Jacob 2d was the son of Uncle Jake because of the Michigan death register that states the parents of Jacob 2d were Jacob and Mary Summers (Mary having been one of three wives of Uncle Jake). But we have no way to know who reported that information, and the fact that Jacob 2d was born four years before Uncle Jake and Mary were married has always bothered me enough to wonder....

Where to go with this problem? First, let's talk about the suffix "2d." Wikipedia has this to say about numerical name suffixes:

“Alternatively, Jr's are sometimes referred to as "II". However, the original name carrier relative of a "II" is generally an uncle, cousin, or ancestor (including grandfather).”

So, hmmmm. Maybe the answer to the question has been staring us in the face. I have been taking the familiar name of “Uncle Jake” to mean that the public somehow saw the older Jacob Summers as a kind and wise gentleman - and how my brain came up with that association, I'm not exactly sure. What I've learned in researching the older Jacob is that his reputation was instead one of being rather eccentric and rough around the edges. So why was he called Uncle Jake?

This would be one of those AHA moments when I always wonder what took me so long to see the obvious. What if the “uncle” reference was literal? Of the two Jacob Summers in the area, the older man was the younger man's uncle! And interestingly, the references to “2d” did not appear in the records until after the death of Uncle Jake's brother, John Summers, Jr. in 1843. At that point, I believe, John Jr.'s son, Jacob, started calling himself '2d,' and others referred to his uncle, Uncle Jake, accordingly.

Considering that John Summers Jr. married his wife Jane in 1807, Jacob 2d could easily have been their oldest child. So this theory holds some water, in my opinion, and while still not proof of anything, I like the utter simplicity of this conclusion: Uncle Jake Summers and his nephew, Jacob 2d were both early pioneers to Macomb County, Michigan. During their lifetimes, there was likely no confusion about the identity of either Jacob Summers or their relationship to each other. But over 150 years later, it takes awhile to collect the puzzle pieces, put them together, and step back to see the big picture! At last, I feel like I'm looking at a picture of two Jacob Summers in Macomb, Michigan that makes sense.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Addressing Misinformation - Michigan Summers

I can't believe it's been four years since I first stumbled upon Michigan historical accounts that included how my Summers family got to Michigan and their various familial relationships. The research journey since then has been interesting but frustrating, involving a good deal of chasing my own tail. And why? Because I initially put much too much value on the assumed validity of said sources.

So in hopes that others may benefit from my tail-chasing, I'm going to list here the sources that researchers of Michigan Summers genealogy (Macomb and Oakland counties) should take with a grain of salt, but only where the narratives about Summers ancestry are concerned. I cannot vouch for the veracity of everything printed in these sources, yet I have found much of the historical content has definite research value.
  1. History of Macomb County, Michigan: containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources, etc., published 1882, pg 738; available on
  2. Early History of Michigan with Biographies of State Officers, Members of Congress, Judges and Legislators, published Lansing, 1888, pg 623; available on google books
What follows here are various details from these sources with my comments inserted. Realizing that a picture is worth a thousand words, I am also including here a simplified diagram of what I believe is true about my Sommer/Summers family (please do not publish or re-use without permission, esp. bcs it is subject to update). To understand better what I'm talking about, compare the diagram to the details given from the listed sources, which include:
  • The head of the Summers family was John Summers. [Depends on how you look at it. John Summers Esq. was first-generation born in America, and the father of the five sons repeatedly mentioned, so in that sense, he was the head of his family. But John Summers Esq. was born in America to his original immigrant parents, Joh. Georg Sommer and Anna Barabara Rub. In this sense, Georg Sommer was the head (one of the heads) of original immigrant families to America.]
  • John Summers came from Germany in 1752. [Incorrect. As mentioned, John Summers Esq. was born in America. HIS father, Joh. Georg Sommer, was one of three brothers who arrived in PHL in 1752 from Freistett, Germany.]
  • John Summers came with five sons, of whom the names Jacob and John are remembered. [Incorrect. John Summers Esq. died in New Jersey, and he had five sons, three of whom died in New Jersey, and two, Jacob and John, migrated to Michigan (thus they were remembered, at least in Michigan).]
  • Jacob was the youngest son of five born to Judge Jacob Sommers and wife Mary Hiles. [Incorrect. We believe Jacob was the youngest of the five sons mentioned, his father having been John Summers Esq. This Jacob, youngest son of John Esq. had three wives, and one was named married Mary Hiles. He became a Michigan state legislator and later in his life, he was an associate judge.]
  • The father of Michigan Jacob Summers was a Judge of Records in Philadelphia. [Incorrect. Jacob Sommer of Moreland (PHL), though related, was not connected to the Michigan Summers. Jacob of Moreland was, coincidentally, a PA state legislator and later in his life, he was also an associate judge. His will named only one son, Dr. John Sommer.]
In summary, the existing historical narratives mentioned here about the Michigan Summers family of Macomb & Oakland counties are full of details that in themselves have some truth, but when combined into the published narrative, the resulting story is altogether incorrect. It almost doesn't matter how the story got so mixed up, whether it was family members who simply repeated family myths or confused multiple people named John and Jacob, or publishers who mistranscribed or misunderstood certain details. What matters in 2015 is that we cannot corroborate these published stories. I would like to encourage other researchers to think twice before you build any part of your family tree based solely on the genealogical narrative published in these mentioned sources.

Missing Daughter of John Summers Jr.

First, I want to say that I've had a busy summer (!) of traveling and have much to post on the subject of Sommer in Philadelphia as well as Summers in Michigan.  But I'm still sorting and analyzing, so the write-up(s) will come soon - stay tuned!

Now on to the subject of the day. In looking more closely at the 1830 (NJ) and 1840 (MI) census for John Summers Jr., I noticed there was a female being enumerated who we haven't really accounted for in John's known children. The missing daughter was of an age in 1840 that she could have married before 1850, so I checked the Dibean marriage index.  Lo, there are two marriages before 1850 that I haven't seen before (additional details are shown in images on familysearch):
  • Caroline Summers, age 19, married H. H. Proctor, both of Shelby, Macomb, MI on 20 Jan 1842.  Witnesses: RM and Elizabeth McCracken. Minister: Abel Warren
  • Maria Summers, age 22, married Francis R. Chapel, both of Shelby, Macomb, MI on 16 Jan 1845.  Witnesses: Charles W. Chapel & John H. Kaple. Minister: F.B. Baug
In both cases, the bride was born in/abt 1823. Which one might have been the missing daughter of John?

It took me awhile, but I finally realized that Caroline Summers was the daughter of William Summers and Rachel Hoagland.  Mr. Proctor must have died soon after marriage because then in 1847, Caroline Proctor of Avon married Calvin Potter, and by 1860, Caroline was a widow (apparently) again.  What's interesting is to note that Caroline was of Shelby Twp in 1842, and her witnesses, the McCracken's were of Avon (just across the county line).

So that leaves Maria Summers. I believe she must have been the unaccounted-for daughter in the household of John Summers Jr. The witnesses to her marriage were of Sterling Twp. in Macomb. And then Maria must have died shortly after her marriage because on 25 Jan 1849, Francis R. Chapel married Freelove Covell. It does not appear that Maria had any children before she died, or if she did, the child probably did not survive.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Peter Mann - A DNA Connection?

Earlier this year, I found an autosomal DNA match that was “Extremely High” in confidence of a match, in the range of 4th-6th cousin. When I looked at the family tree for that person, five surnames matched between our two trees, and of those surnames, the only person that looked even remotely familiar to me was Peter Mann. According to the matched tree as well as other public trees, this Peter Mann was born in or around 1783, probably in New Jersey, and died in 1857 in Lawrence, Illinois. Could this be the Peter Mann I've been looking for?  (See my previous post here.)

I've done a little more digging on the subject, and you can read more details in my research article here.  We haven't proved the case yet, but maybe you have some clues or information that might help?  Feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wandling Connections

As often seems to happen in these times of internet genealogy, stories sometimes cross where details can easily get wrongly attributed to the wrong people/places. I believe a case in point is the Wandling family of early Sussex County, New Jersey. I am going to here add an overview of my research showing connections I believe to have existed between the Wandling and Menge/Mann families.

1. Most crowd-sourced trees seem to agree that the original immigrant to America was Jacobus Wandling born before 1740, and died in 1816 in Columbia County, PA, married to Anna Maria. But right away, there is disagreement about where Jacobus came from in Europe. Some say he was Dutch (original name spelled Van Der Lin), others say he came from the upper Rhine Vally in Germany. As far as I know, we don't have documentation that supports either case.

2. Combined crowd-sourced trees say that the children of Jacobus and Anna Maria were: Elizabeth, Henry, Adam, John, Mary Catherine, and Jacob. Of the sons, Adam stayed on the family homestead in New Jersey while Henry, John, and Jacob migrated to Pennsylvania.

3. The oldest son, Henry, is of particular interest to me. The records of St. James Lutheran Church in Greenwich, NJ show a marriage between Henrich Wendling and Catarina Mange in 1788. But who was Catharina Mange, and who were their children? According to my research, Catharina Menge was born 12 Jan 1766 in Philadelphia to Ernst Mangen (original German spelling was something like Menge, and later in America MANN) and his first wife, Catharina Klockner, who subsequently died only weeks after her daughter was born. Ernst Menge quickly remarried to my 5th g-grandmother, Maria Magdalena Sommer, later in 1766. The Mann family moved from Philadelphia to Sussex County, New Jersey around 1780. There Ernst's oldest child, Catharina, married Henry Wandling in 1788.

4. Ernst Menge wrote his will in 1804 where he bequeathed one-eighth of his estate to Jacob and Mary Vandolin. This bequest was confusing for the longest time because Ernst's daughter Mary was already named in the will as the wife of Andrew Banghart. But then I found New Jersey deeds and orphan's court records that were filed after Ernest Mann died in 1816. Those records refer to Jacob and Mary Vandolin as heirs-at-law, children of Ernest's deceased daughter Catharine. At this point, I realized that Jacob and Mary Vandolin were not a married couple, nor were they children of Ernst Mann, but rather they were his grandchildren by way of his daughter, Catherine, who was born of Ernst's first marriage and who later married Henry Wandling. Because Ernst's will was written in 1804, we must assume that his daughter, Catherine Menge Wandling, died some time before that date.

5. There is some evidence that Henry Wandling/Vandling, who had likely moved to Northumberland County in PA, might have married again around 1810 to Elizabeth or Sarah Follmer, who also must have died prematurely. Orphan's Court records there in 1826 indicate that somebody named Henry Vandling requested that the court appoint a guardian for his children Abraham and Henry Vandling, who were also legatees in the will of George Follmer. It seems likely that Elizabeth Follmer, named as daughter of George Follmer, died before 1820 and her only children were Abraham and Henry Vandling. I have yet to see any conclusive documentation that tells us whatever became of Henry Wandling.

6. Let us now return to the children of Henry Wandling and Catharina Menge, namely Jacob, born 1790 and Mary, born 1791. It was this Jacob Wandling who married Keziah Meyers and died in Morgan County, Ohio in 1847. Mary Wandling married Andrew Seydel and died in Crawford County, Ohio in 1848. All the descendants of these two Wandling families also have roots in the Menge/Mann family of Södel, Germany!

7. The only point that still has me somewhat puzzled is that some family trees state that the brother of Henry Wandling, namely Jacob Wandling, born about 1766 and died 1847 in Chillisquaque, Lycoming, PA, married somebody named Mary Mann. Additionally, in the New Jersey deed records transferring shares of the estate of Ernst Menge in 1819 to Benjamin Hunt, TWO Wandling couples transferred their shares: Jacob Wandling and wife Keziah (son of Henry Wandling and Catharina Menge) and Jacob Wandling and wife Mary. Who is this latter couple? I have not seen this deed myself, but it could be that the transcriber made the same mistake I did when looking at Ernest Mann's will, assuming that Jacob and Mary Vandolin were a married couple. So if the wording does not actually say "Jacob and wife Mary" but rather "Jacob and Mary", then we are still talking about two siblings who were grandchildren of Ernest Mann. I will look this up next time in SLC, so stay tuned.

8. As a final note and aside, a different branch in my family tree includes other names from Sussex County, New Jersey, including the name TAYLOR. In 1791, Jeronemus Taylor wrote his will in Sussex County and named his friend, Jacob Wandling, as one of the executors! Curious, right?

As usual, I hope this information is helpful to other researchers and I welcome any comments.

(Note: in order to help search matching, I include the following spellings in this article: Wendling, Vandling, Vandlin Vandolin, Van Der Lin)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Jacob Sommer - Carriage Maker

I'm seeing more and more family trees where there is great mixing of different Sommer's families. I wish there was an official place to register our family lines so this mixing-up wouldn't happen because I think the mixing-up is a damaging thing to all of us. Sigh. All I can do is try to share my research and perspective and hope that other serious researchers will care as much as I do about getting it right. Let's put our heads together and see if we can untangle things!

Meanwhile, here's an article I wrote with more specifics about the particular question of which Jacob Sommer descended from Freistett, Germany and lived in colonial Philadelphia - Jacob, the Judge, 1758-1827, or Jacob, the Carriage-Maker, 1749-1817?

Update: As it turns out, both of the Jacob Sommer's mentioned here lived in the Philadelphia area and both served in the Revolution. Jacob Sommer of Germantown was the carriage maker, and Jacob Sommer of Moreland was the one taken prisoner by the British, and who later served as PA State Senator. See my article Jacob Sommer of Moreland PA in the American Revolution, as well as the later footnote added to this blog about Jacob Sommer of Moreland.