52 Ancestors #11: Eva Magdalena (Sarah) Somers (1753-1824)

For this week’s theme of “Lucky”, I used a random number generator to pick the ancestor I would profile. I asked for a number between 1 and 500, and got #253, which I then compared against an Ahnentafel Report of my ancestors. So by the luck of the RNG, this week’s ancestor is Eva Magdalena (Sarah) Somers. She did have an slight advantage in getting selected, since she is in my tree twice! I’m a descendant of two of her sons, Ephraim Allen and Matthew Allen. Ephraim’s grandson, Isaac Trenholm Allen, married Matthew’s daughter, Miranda Allen. Isaac and Miranda Allen were my 3rd great grandparents, which makes Sarah both my 5th great grandmother and my 6th great grandmother.

Luck comes into this profile in other ways as well. I’ve been very lucky in that other descendants of Sarah Somers and her husband, Benjamin “Shy Ben” Allen, have been researching this line since long before I ever gave family history a thought. Most of what I know of this branch of my family tree comes from the work of others – in particular, Barbara Trenholm-Merklinger, whose website Trenholm.org, published in 1999 and last updated in 2011, is still my first go-to site for sorting out the many children of my Allen and Trenholm ancestors, and Arthur Owen, whose family tree intersects with mine in several places. In addition to his tree on “Our Maritime Ties”, Arthur has documented much of what he knows about these ancestors on WikiTree. I am grateful to both of them for sharing their many decades of research so openly!

The first story I read about Eva Magdelena (Sarah) Somers was on Barbara Trenholm-Merklinger’s site, in her introduction to the Allen family.

The story is told that Benjamin Allen was extremely shy, hence the name “Shy Ben”. One night after returning from a long trip, he found a New Year’s Eve dance in progress at Fort Cumberland. After suitable liquid fortification, he went to the center of the dance floor and said: “I am in dire need of a wife! Who will have me?” Up stepped a hearty lass of German descent, Sarah Somers, who said “I’ll have you, Ben!”. The happy couple were married on the spot by a minister who happened to be in attendance. It is said that any pugnacious tendencies in the Allen female descendants can be attributed to Sarah.

This “hearty lass of German descent”, was born in Whitefield, Pennsylvania in 1753. Her parents were Mathias Somers/Sommer and Maria Christina Null, who were both born in Germany and married in Pennsylvania in 1749. The Somers family was among the original group of German families in Philadelphia who settled the Monckton Township on the Petitcodiac River in what was then Nova Scotia (now Moncton, New Brunswick), in 1766.

On January 1, 1771, a month shy of her 18th birthday, Sarah Somers married Benjamin Allen, some 20 years her senior. They had 12 children, most of whom also had large families – my 4th great grandfather, Matthew Allen, had 11 children and my 5th great grandfather, Ephraim Allen, had 15 children (with two wives). As a result, there are likely thousands of descendants of Sarah Somers and Benjamin Allen alive today, many of whom show up among my DNA matches. Even if the likelihood of matching a 5th or 6th cousin is low, the shear number of them means that I match a lot of Allen/Somers descendants.

How many of them have pugnacious tendencies has yet to be determined.

5 thoughts on “52 Ancestors #11: Eva Magdalena (Sarah) Somers (1753-1824)”

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