Category Archives: Prussia

Marriage Record for Christian Karl and Amelie Schmidt – 28 Mar 1891

It has always been my suspicion that my 3x great-grandfather Carl Friedrich Schmidt died in Posen, Prussia about 1892.  His only son, Wilhelm (my great-great-grandfather), came to America in 1885, and then seven years later, the entire rest of the family (his mother, his five sisters, a brother-in-law, and two nephews) emigrated to Weston, Wisconsin to join him.  The most likely explanation for the sudden migration of the rest of the family was that the father had died and there was no longer anyone to run the family farm (Friedrich had been described as a “Kolonist” or land-owning farmer in all the documents we had for him). Given that the youngest child in the family, Augusta Bertha Schmidt, was born in 1880 in Gornitz, Posen, Prussia (according to her birth documents), and given that the family had listed the town of Gornitz as their “place of last residence” on the passenger list coming to America in 1892, I had every reason to believe that Friedrich Schmidt died between 1880 and 1892 in Gornitz.  I had had one of my collaborators in Poland look for his death record, but she was unable to locate it despite finding many other records for the family in the archives.

Bertha Schmidt & Wilhelmine Winkelmann, 1895

Bertha Schmidt & Wilhelmine Winkelmann, 1895

Then, about two months ago, I had a realization.   Friedrich Schmidt’s daughter Amelie Schmidt had married Christian Karl in Stieglitz, Posen, Prussia in 1891.  Her twin sons were born three months later in Stieglitz.  If I could obtain the marriage record, it would say whether Friedrich Schmidt was living or deceased at the time of the marriage.  If he were deceased, we’d know he died between 1880 and 1891. But if he were living, we’d know he died between March 1891 and April 1892 when the family started emigrating to America.

Amelia Schmidt

Amelia Schmidt

I asked another of my collaborators, Lukasz Bielecki, to look for the marriage record the next time he was in the national archives in Pila, Poland.  After some time, he was able to find the record, and it turned out to be more valuable than I had imagined. Here’s the document [click to enlarge or download].  A translation follows:

Karl / Schmidt Marriage, p1

Karl / Schmidt Marriage, p1

Karl / Schmidt Marriage, p2

Karl / Schmidt Marriage, p2

Stieglitz the 28th of March 1891 Before the registrar, for the purpose of marriage, appeared the laborer (Arbeiter) Christian Karl, of known identity, evangelical religion, born the 29th April, 1863 in Woltin, Kreis Greifenhagen (Pommern), resident of Klebow, Kreis Greifenhagen (Pommern), son of the laborer (Arbeiter) Daniel Karl and his wife Regine née Seeger, both residents of Klebow, and Emilie Franziska Schmidt, unmarried, of known identity, evangelical religion, born the 18th of January 1869 in Karolina, Kreis Czarnikau, resident of Stieglitz, Kreis Czarnikau, daughter of cottager (Häusler) Friedrich Schmidt and his wife Wilhelmine née Winkelmann, both residents of Stieglitz. The following witnesses were published: 3. The Häusler Ferdinand Schmidt, 46 years old, resident of Stieglitz, 4. and the laborer Gustav Wehrmann, 24 years old, resident of Stieglitz. Read over, approved and signed by:

Christian Karl
Emilie Franziska Karl née Schmidt
Ferdinand Schmidt
Gustav Wehrmann

Notarized in agreement with the main register in Steiglitz, the 28th of March 1891

There are many things to discuss here.  First of all, Christian Karl was from Pomerania (Pommern), the part of Prussia near the Baltic Sea where Germany meets Poland today.  In fact, he was still a resident of Pomerania at the time of his marriage.  The Krueger and Kamrath branches of my family were from this same area.  This map shows the towns the Karl family came from.  Klebow is near the top, and Woltin is in the center.

Kreis Griefenhagen showing Woltin and Klebow.

Kreis Griefenhagen showing Woltin and Klebow.

The next important bit of information was that Friedrich Schmidt was, indeed, still alive in March, 1891.  This all but confirms the theory that his death was the reason the family emigrated to America the next year.  More surprisingly, Friedrich and his wife Wilhelmine Winkelmann were both living in Steiglitz at the time of the marriage, not in Gornitz as previously thought.  When Wilhelm Schmidt finished his journeyman carpenter travels in Germany, he returned home to Gornitz, so the Schmidt family was living there at least until 1885.  This means the family moved from Gornitz to Stieglitz (about 3.3 miles West) between 1885 and 1891, then they moved back to Gornitz after Friedrich’s death (remember they listed Gornitz as their residence on their immigration documents).

Map showing Gornitz and Stieglitz

Map showing Karolina, Gornitz, and Stieglitz (near the bottom of the map)

Friedrich is listed as a “Häusler”, or cottager, on the document where in all other previous documents he had been listed as a “Kolonist”, or farmer who owned his own farm.  Basically it means he owned a home with a small bit of land for his own use, and implies he had given up farming.  Thirdly, you will note that one of the witnesses to the marriage was 47-year old Ferdinand Schmidt from Steiglitz.  I was able to subsequently confirm from Poznan Project marriage records that this Ferdinand Schmidt was Friedrich’s younger brother:

Schmidt / Dietert Marriage, 1874

Schmidt / Dietert Marriage, 1874

#7) Marriage of the journeyman carpenter [Zimmergesell] and bachelor Ferdinand Schmidt, age 30, from Stieglitz, son of the deceased property-owner [Eigenthümer] Ludwig Schmidt from Stieglitz, and Miss Wilhelmine Dietert, 22 years old, from Stieglitz, daughter of the deceased master blacksmith (Schmiedemeister) Gottleib Dietert from Stieglitz, Consent for groom: No need for parents’ or guardian’s (Vormund) consent, because groom is of legal or full age (majorenn) according to certificate of baptism. Consent for bride: Guardian’s consent. Neither bride nor groom has been married previously. Marriage Date: 24 Apr 1874.

With this new information a new narrative emerges.  Friedrich Schmidt and his wife Wilhelmine Winkelmann had been farming in Karolina, Posen, Prussia between 1865 and 1872 where their daughters Alvine, Amelie, and Antonie were born.  They then moved to the nearby town of Gornitz, and were living there between 1875 and 1880 when their daughters Pauline and Bertha were born.  They then seem to have given up farming and moved West to Stieglitz at some point between 1885 and 1891.  Friedrich’s brother Ferdinand had been living there since at least 1874, so perhaps Friedrich wanted to be closer to him.  It’s also possible that Friedrich had fallen ill and could no longer do the work required to stay on the farm. Sometime about 1882 or 1883 Wilhelm Schmidt leaves home to become a journeyman carpenter, quite possibly because his Uncle Ferdinand Schmidt had been one, then emigrates to America in 1885 where he soon marries and settles down in Weston, Wisconsin.  Sometime between March 1891 and March 1892 Friedrich Schmidt dies, most likely in Stieglitz.  His newly-widowed wife, Wilhelmine Winkelmann, moves the family back to Gornitz at that point, perhaps to have the support of family or friends in her former home town.  (The Winkelmann family lived in Stieglitz and Karolina, which were both very close to Gornitz.)  Upon learning the news that his father had passed away unexpectedly (Friedrich Schmidt was only 57), son Wilhelm sends the money back to allow his five sisters, his brother-in-law Christian Karl, his two nephews (Amelie and Christian had twin boys in 1891) and his mother, to come to America and join him in Weston, Wisconsin. I am having Lukasz look for Friedrich’s death record in Stieglitz, now that we have a place and a very specific date range.  I hope to have more to add to the story of the Schmidt family in Posen, Prussia very soon.

Wilhhelm Schmidt with his mother and five sisters in 1893.

Wilhelm Schmidt with his mother and five sisters in 1893. DNA Testing

For Christmas this year, I decided that I wanted to get my mother and father DNA-tested through  While it’s true that my family tree is extremely well-elucidated and researched, there are still pockets where certain things are unclear.  For example, I only know back to my 3x great-grandparents on my Krueger side (due to records from Pomerania being difficult to find and the common nature of the family name), so if we matched someone in the world who had Krueger ancestors it would indicate a link between those families despite the absence of documentation.  Similar situations are present for many of the Irish lines of my family due to the scarcity of records from Ireland.

So at Christmas this year my mother spit into a test-tube and sent off an envelope to be analyzed.   Yesterday we got the results back.

My mother’s DNA matched at least 20 people “closely” (5th cousins or better).  I’ll have to investigate each one!

It showed that she has 19% DNA from Scandanavia (that would be the Norwegian side, Hanson and Olson), 32% “Europe East”, which would be the Prussian stuff (Krueger, Hoge, Schmidt, Zierke, Schulz, Winkelmann).  Then 38% from “Great Britain”.  I assume this is the Irish from the Mullins, Hammond, and all the British stuff from the Curtis side of my family.  Then there’s 9% of the DNA marked “Other”.

I have no idea how much confidence to give these results.  I know from my research that my mother’s grandparents break down as follows:

Oscar Krueger: 100% Prussian
Edith Curtis: 50% Irish and 50% English
Olga Hanson: 100% Norwegian
Edwin Schmidt: 100% Prussian

So my maternal grandfather was 50% Prussian, 25% Irish, 25% English, and my maternal grandmother was 50% Norwegian and 50% Prussian.  That makes my mother 50% Prussian, 25% Irish/English, and 25% Norwegian.  The DNA results have much more “Great Britain” than predicted.  No idea what that means.

On the Schmidt side of my mother’s family there was a family rumor that someone in the family brought back and married a “Mongolian Princess”.  Interestingly, my mother’s DNA shows 2% of her genetics are from “Asia Central” which is the area around Turkmenistan and Northern Iran.  Very interesting!

Here’s the full breakdown of her results:

Great Britain 38%
Europe East 32%
Scandinavia 19%
Ireland 4%
Europe West 4%
Asia Central 2%
Finland/Northwest Russia 1%

As time goes on and other people are tested, we can see if more matches are found.

Prussian Social Hierarchy

Cathy Walters, who had sent me the very valuable information on Martin Schulz and his family from the Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, Minnesota, also sent me this email about Prussian social hierarchy.  She told me it would be ok to share it, and I found it very informative:

We tend to think of love and then marriage, but back in that time and in that place, they were mostly marriages of convenience.  Fathers married off their daughters, perhaps keeping one to take care of them in old age.  Some of these girls would then marry after their parents died, but not all families did this.  Brothers at times played the middleman, or if the father had died they would become he head of the family and it was their responsibility to secure marriages.  A dowery was given, but after a time.  It functioned almost like an insurance policy to make sure the marriage was working.   If the family had any money or land it would go to the eldest son at some point, so depending the family’s situation it was usually best to find husbands for daughters.  The younger sons may get some small amount of whatever money or property there was upon the death of the parents, but in general they had to make their own way in life and could not count on any inheritance.  If a father remarried, the children from his first marriage would be protected. 
You could not own the king’s land or any land in town.  Rather, you would rent and pay to make a living.  You would have to donate time, or a portion of your grain, or use of your facilities (if you owned a shop or mill, for example).  It was similar if you were on a noble’s land, everything was contracted.  If, however, a nobleman falls on hard times, Germans would have the first chance to buy his lands.  Only those belonging to the more affluent or nobel classes would try to raise their social standing.  If a man only had daughters, his eldest daughter may increase her social standing through marriage, but the rewards of this increased status would go to her husband.
Mayors on the king’s land were voted in and would get paid more on an annual basis.  Mayors elsewhere may inherit the position, but had to pay for the privilege.  If the mayor died then his son had a chance to buy or sell the job.  The mayor was a top position in social life.
The social hierarchy went as follows: Shepherds on the bottom, then teachers.  A farm owner with own stock is in second highest standing, then mayors.  Going up the social ladder didn’t necessarily mean you were wealthy, just more settled in your life’s position.  My grandfather said he “would rather a son be a pastor than a teacher”, but back in the homeland that pastor or lay person may be an teacher too or a grave-digger.  After 8th grade (age 14) one could be an teacher.  Later you had to be a student teacher for 3 to 6 months (around the 1860’s?).  Teachers before 1772 may not have had to do the obligatory military service.  In Poland, Frederich wanted injured soldiers to be teachers, and thus give these disabled veterans a way to earn a living.

She also added this little bit of information about the Zierke family name:

Zierke is slovic and came from Strals about 1290 A.D. as “Ziricke” and “Sirics”.  There is a Lake Zierker near Neustrelitz.  You may see the name spelled “Sierk” or “Sierich”.