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.

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