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....

1 comment:

  1. The Montgomery County Historical Society sent me some photos of William's grave - doesn't look as dilapidated as I somehow imagined! I posted to findagrave. Here's to the memory of a devoted family historian.