Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sommer Siblings and Their Spouses

Now that the excitement of Canadian travels is over, I look over the pile of other projects calling for attention, and it's hard to know where to go next. But now it's the youngest Freistett Sommer brother, Martin 1729-1799, who has me wishing we could somehow find out if he had any descendants who might have made it into our present world. Even though I have already given a couple years of attention to this question, a fresh look has brought new answers! Here is my research trail:

I was looking one more time at the grandson of Freistett Martin 1729-1799, and son of Martin 1770-1811, the blacksmith of Waggoner's Alley, namely John H. Somers (baptized as Johann Heinrich Sommer), 1800~1830. As we know, a couple of years ago I found an 1831 petition by Cecelia Kinnaman for guardianship of her granddaughter, Sarah Somers, daughter of John H. Somers, who had recently died. I suddenly got newly interested in Cecelia, especially finding her in the 1840 census of Greenwich, New Jersey, which is the very area where my ancestor, Georg Sommer/George Summers, moved to when he left PHL. Following the Kinnaman trail, I found there were a couple Kinnaman families (probably originally German, Kuehneman) in Sussex County (later Warren County). There is a great source about the Kinnamon families (available on ancestry), but ultimately this source cannot place Cecelia (see p. 376). Distraction Alert!

I subsequently found the marriage between John H. Somers and Susannah Ann Kinnemore in Jan. 1820 at the First Reformed Church. So voila, it looks like Susannah could well have been Cecelia's daughter. But what's this? There is another marriage record in 1825, at StM&Z no less, between Jeremiah Bamford and Susan Kinneamann. But it doesn't stop there. Next I found that Jeremiah Bamford had a first marriage to Sarah Sommer in 1818. It just so happens that John H. Somers had an older sister named Sarah. Sure enough, there is record of Sarah Bamford's death in 1821 at the age of 23, an age that fits with her baptism record for this family group.

So the timeline of this relationship scramble looks like this:
  • 1818: Jeremiah Bamford married Sarah Somers (John H. Somers' sister)
  • 1820: John H Somers married Susannah Ann Kinnaman.
  • 1821: Sarah Somers Bamford, wife of Jeremiah, died.
  • 1822: Birth of Sarah C. Somers, daughter of John H. Somers and Susannah Kinnaman.  Was she named for John's beloved sister who had just died?
  • 1825: Susan Kinnaman married Jeremiah Bamford. The marriage record says that both of them were single. Jeremiah was, but was Susan?
  • 1827: John H. Somers, of Dauphin County, PA, executed a deed involving his interest in his father's property on Waggoner's Alley in PHL.
  • 1831: Cecelia Kinnaman filed a petition to Orphan's Court for guardianship of her granddaughter, Sarah Somers, stating that the father, John H. Somers had been dead for a year.
The only conclusion I can come to here is that John H. Somers and Susan Kinnaman divorced very shortly after their marriage, even though they had at least one child together (Sarah). So given all these cross-ties, the relationship formula between the Sommer siblings and their spouses looks like this:  A+B and C+D, where A and C are the Sommer siblings, Sarah and John H. After the Sommer siblings dropped out from death and separation, B+D married and lived happily for many years.

My biggest question is this: why didn't Susan take her daughter, Sarah Somers, born from her first marriage into her second marriage with Jeremiah Bamford? From the census data, Sarah Somers never lived with the Bamford family. In other words, why did Cecelia petition for guardianship of the child, Sarah Somers, saying that the Sommer orphan had nobody and nothing when, in fact, the child's mother was alive and remarried? In addition, the children that Jeremiah Bamford and Susan had together were well aware of their half-sister, Sarah Cecelia Somers – who later married Jonathan Simpkins. (Special thanks to researcher, Andrea Batcho, who had already figured out much of this family arrangement.)

There might be any number of answers to this question, but for now, this is the one I have settled on: Cecelia, whoever she was (probably not German), simply wanted to raise her granddaughter. And it seems very likely to me that Grandma Cecelia was well loved. Why? Because Sarah Cecelia Somers Simpkins named her only daughter Cecelia (later married William G. Harris). Add to that six Simpkins sons, and the legacy of Martin Sommer of Freistett most surely lives on today.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Spelling and DNA

Here's some exciting news, or seemingly so! I am a member of ancestry and took their autosomal dna test awhile ago, but I haven't checked on my matches for a long time. When I did so today, I realized that I have never searched for matches with those who have the surname spelling of SOMERS in their family tree. The surname spelling used by my Freistett Sommer family in America became almost immediately SUMMERS (at least in my branch), although some of the early generations kept the German spelling of SOMMER. But the Canadian spelling eventually became SOMERS, so I wondered if a match might appear between me and somebody with the name Somers in their family tree.

There were 9 matches between me and people who have the surname Somers in their family tree.  Of those, 2 have their family tree locked or unavailable, and of the other 7, one was a descendant of both Anna Catharina Sommer (m. CHAPPELL) and Eva (Magdalena or Salome/Sarah, m. ALLEN), both daughters of Mathias and Christiana! The possible range of this match is 5th-8th cousins, which is exactly right if the common ancestors between Canadian and American Sommer's are Matthias Sommer and Anna Barbara Hubscher of Freistett. Looking more through the family tree of this dna match (a female, btw), most families listed are Canadian going way back, and mostly in New Brunswick. I don't see any other way I could be related to this person except through the Sommer family of Freistett.  Pretty cool, eh?

Two main lessons in this episode:  One. Even though I have taken the autosomal dna test, I have found that it helps my paper genealogy almost not at all. But now I have new respect, especially seeing that the DNA of females does indeed matter to establishing family connections. Two. I've always known that the spelling of surnames can be and often is all over the place, especially the farther back you go. I wasn't, however, remembering that consideration when reviewing DNA matches. It's more work to check every alternative spelling, but if you have some awareness of geographical regions and the married names of your female ancestors, you might recognize and confirm some previously elusive connections.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Connecting Canadian Sommer Families to Freistett

Having just returned from Moncton, New Brunswick where they celebrated the 251st anniversary of the German settlers from Philadelphia landing there in 1766, the genealogy cat is officially out of the bag in announcing my research that confirms Mathias Sommer of Moncton was originally from Freistett. You can read about the highlights on Facebook, or you can access my research article here. I'm happy to say that a shortened version of this article has been published by Generations, a journal of the New Brunswick Genealogical Society (Summer 2017, Volume 39, No 2, p. 3). The shortened version contains an update to my simple Sommer diagram, which you can access here.

To be honest, my head is still spinning from this adventure. Less than a decade ago, I would never have seen myself spending large amounts of time in places like Salt Lake City and Philadelphia, nor traveling to destinations like Freistett or now Moncton. To be sure my eyesight has suffered from so many hours squinting at screen after screen of nearly indecipherable genealogical documents, but the list of correspondents and genealogy friends just keeps growing. I particularly enjoy this networking aspect of the work, and I rather doubt I'd still be doing this without all the myriad conversations leading to insights which have broadened my own horizons and those of all our family tree.

So while I have tried to thank everybody who I met so quickly in Moncton last week, I also send out thanks to all my research kin. It's one kind of gift to just love doing this work, but the gift of making so many diverse connections in this present-day crazy world has been an unexpected gift that touches me deeply.