Menge's of Soedel
It might appear that not much has been going on in this family line of late, but behind the scenes, a whole lot has been happening. There has been some preliminary planning going on for a trip to Germany, which may or may not be happening this year, but certainly if not this year, then next. In any case, the act of planning to be there - IN PERSON - has added a new dimension to this journey!
Where to start? Well, it's one thing to troll the internet looking for information on German websites when one is not a German speaker. We can love all the automatic translation features available now, but they are always just slightly lacking when it comes to understanding the true meaning of what is being conveyed. So I found somebody local to help me learn German, but I quickly realized that I would never learn enough quickly enough to be able to converse intelligently at a German Archives. It's a challenge even in America to walk into an Archives, know how to ask for things, and then understand what they give you to look at. I was sadly beginning to understand how handicapped I would be as a researcher in Germany.
So the next logical idea was to hire somebody who can a) do some if not much of the research before I get there, and b) can escort me around the areas in question and help with any archive work that I want to conduct on my own. Some searching around for such a service made me realize that I would be making a significant investment. The questions were a) how much can I justify spending on my brick wall (and who really cares besides me and my cousin J)? and b) is that cost less than a plane ticket and two weeks of hotel, transportation, food, etc.? Sigh. But what choice do I have if I am truly handicapped by my lack of language skills?
Well, there is nothing like the prospect of spending alot of money to force one to get one's ducks in a row. As I began to write the project description to send to the German researcher, it forced me to focus on identifying, clarifying, and prioritizing my questions. Because we might have an archivist willing to help us with some questions on the Sommer side, that made the primary focus the Menge side. And after writing pages to summarize what we have found and how we have come to the conclusion our Menge family is even from Soedel, the number one question floated to the top. We have documentation in Philadelphia that establishes Henrich, Johannes, and Ernst as brothers, and the sons of Joh. Ernst and Catharina Ries Menge. And we have a Familenbuch for Soedel which outlines the family group of Joh. Ernst and Catharina Menge, and it includes Henrich but not the other two brothers. Where are Johannes and more especially our forefather Ernst in Germany? The Number One question is, assuming that Johannes and Ernst can be found, can they be tied to the family group of Joh. Ernst and Catharina? This is the question I would pay at least some amount to answer.
But as I was staring at that question, I realized there was a whole of work that I could still do here, like combing through the Soedel church records as carefully as possible, plowing through the church records of surrounding parishes, and getting translation help with what I find. ALL of that can be accomplished in one place - Salt Lake City, Utah. This time I decided to drive rather than fly. The results of this particular leg of the journey can be found on my blog!
Untangling the Sommers!
First, you might notice that I have added the surname Sommer to the title of this research, to include the maternal line of ancestors first arriving in Philadelphia from Germany. I've been researching the Sommer line all along, so it's about time that I officially include them as major line of interest to me. Second, cousin Janice and I recently returned from a fun-filled week of research at the Family History Library in SLC. I think we would both say that a highlight of the trip was finding what we believe to be the home village in Germany for Johann Georg Sommer, our 6th great grandfather. And then to add icing to the cake, we also found the home village in Germany of another seemingly unrelated Sommer line that married into the Menge line - specifically that of Hermann Sommer and his five sons. All of the details about our finds can be found in the article I have just added here to my library, called Differentiating Sommer Surnames.
A Visit to New Jersey
In September, I had the great good fortune to go to New York and New Jersey for no other purpose than family history research. But this time around, Mann research was nowhere on my radar since I have a few other brick walls in other research lines to pursue. Unfortunately, the availability of certain resources was unexpectedly curtailed, and I was suddenly left with unplanned-for time on my hands. Gad - what to do?! Thankfully, being in that area meant I was in Mann and Summers territory. See my research blog for a recap of my adventures.
Back To Michigan
First of all, I've been away from Mann research for some time; another branch of the tree has a brick wall that taunts me. While recently in Salt Lake City (yes, again), I finally threw up my hands on this other line - at least for now. So what is my next favorite subject? Yes, gotta love those Mann's!
I've updated my blog with the ramblings that accompany my findings, but here is the summary:
- It turns out I had never actually located the last will and testament of Ernest Mann (1773-1846), the ancestor who late in life pulled up his roots in New Jersey and settled in Macomb County, Michigan working as, of all things, a painter. The surprise was that he named his cousin, Jacob Summers, as executor. This has launched renewed research on the Summers line, given that it never ever dawned on me that several of Summers family groups came to Michigan with the Mann's. Duh.
- By another fluke of renewing this research, I fell across a newspaper clipping that announced this Ernest Mann had actually died in Lockport, NY - crushed to death while enroute from Michigan to New Jersey. Holy cow. This has of course lead to all kinds of research about the Erie Canal, which has been eye-opening to say the least. I'm still digging to see if I can find any more detail about Ernest's demise, but the surprise of how his life actually ended remains.
So going back to Michigan has brought up lots of new interesting details and insight, and I find myself especially reignited in the desire to untangle the origin of the Summers family in America. I've sent out a call - can't wait to see what happens next!
Where to begin? Here is summary:
- Cousin Janice found an application in DAR records by a descendant of Rachel Mann Beers. It verifies much of what I have come know now, but it also posted a few surprises in terms who the children (and spouses) of Ernest and Maria Magdalena were. More interesting was to find out that Ernest himself is considered a Patriot based on two things: a) he was on a jury in several sedition trials and b) he provided supplies to Washington's army (minor though the contribution actually was).
- A record was found in the St. Michaels and Zion Lutheran church listing Ernst Menge and wife Anna Catharina (his first wife) as godparents to Anna Catharine Gillman (or Kilmann) who was born in Sodel, Germany, wife of Adolph Gillman and daughter of Joh. Ernst Krainder (Kreuter) and Elisabeth Ries (both of noble class). A subsequent record was found on familysearch showing the marriage of Joh. Ernst Menge and Anna Catharina Riessin in 1709 in Soedel, Hesse-Darmstadt. There are miles and miles to go before really proving that this information, taken together, potentially takes us back a generation (or more) to Germany. It's a dizzy feeling. And as noted, miles and miles to go.
- Ernst Menge had at least one sister and maybe two living in Philadelphia before and during the Revolution years. Catharina Menge married Peter Sommer, who we believe fought with the Continental Army. What's interesting is that at some point before Peter died in 1783, he and Catharina divorced. And shortly after Peter did die, Catharina remarried to somebody named Nicholas Rash. The various spellings of Rash give us reason to pause and wonder about the RUSH surname - which most definitely does show up marrying into the Mann line a few generations later. Wow.
Closing In On Philadelphia!
The big "find" for this year's research trip to SLC was not in the miles of endless microfilm that dominate that library, but in a five-volume set of newly bound books called 18th Century Church Records of the German Lutheran Church of Philadelphia (St. Michael's and Zion) 1745-1800. It's hard to summarize the treasure trove of information found in these volumes pertaining to our Ernst Menge! From these documents we've been able to determine he had a first wife, Catharine Glockner (Klocker surname is also prevelant so it might be the same family) who died in 1766 and that same year, Ernst remarried to Maria Magdalena Summers. We have baptism records for several children of Ernst and Maria, one of which established George Summers and his wife Barbara as grandparents!
In subsequent research we have found the will of Johanne Menge who died in 1790, specifically naming his brothers Ernst and Heinrich Menge. All three brothers can be found in the 1769 tax list of Northern Liberties, PA where Ernst is a stocking weaver, and his brother John is an InnHolder. This is probably where Ernst got the tavern experience he referred to in his 1776 tavern application in Oxford, New Jersey.
There is so much popping up in the research of this family line, and as always, new and different questions arise. Watch my research blog for more developments!
top burning questions
- Who was Catharina Knofts? There is very little doubt in my mind that the KNOFTS surname is incorrect. I would blame ancestry.com and a transcription error of some kind, but I have myself looked at the original marriage records along with a very experienced librarian at the New Jersey State Archives, and the surname as penned by the Justice of the Peace (John Cline) does appear to be exactly that: KNOFTS. There are two other females on the same page also married around the same time by the same Justice of the Peace: Dernetha Knofts married to David Cutcholen and Mary Knofts married to Abraham Finekbonan (which I translate to Fangboner). But following those families has been unproductive. Even locating the family Bible of Ernest Mann was of no help as there is a gigantic and rather thorough ink blot over Catharina's maiden name! So this is a mystery that has been there since the beginning. Who was Catharina?
- Who was Barbara Longstreet, wife of John George Summers? Once again, this name appears on many a family tree, but there is no trace whatever of her origins. The Longstreet family seems to be fairly well documented and there is no Barbara found in their line, so I start to question whether she was a Longstreet at all. Recent documentation has shown her given name to be Barbara, probably Anna Barbara.