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?