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.

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