Category Archives: Schmidt

The Prielipp Family and the Prussian Explusion

In the Summer of 2013, I managed to track down a living descendant of Otto Prielipp, whom my great-grandfather had helped come to America. I had a suspicion at the time that his family and mine were related, a suspicion I have since been able to confirm. In fact, it is quite likely that the Prielipps are the reason that my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt decided to come to America.

This living descendant, Donald Otto Prielipp (1929-2015), was my 3rd cousin twice removed.  His great-grandmother, Hanna Auguste Friedricke “Friedricke” Winkelmann (b 1839) was the sister of my 3x-great-grandmother Wilhelmine Winkelmann. She married Wilhelm Friedrich Julius Prielipp in the town of Karolina, Kris Czarnikau, Posen, Prussia on 14 Feb 1864. The couple had at least seven children in Karolina, Gornitz, and Stieglitz (all of which were very near each other). Whereas my branch of the family came to America in 1885 and 1892 and was thus spared the fury of the Red Army at the end of WWII and the subsequent Prussian Explusion (1945-1947), Donald’s family was not so fortunate. Here are his recollections of his family and their story, with additional details added from my research, as he related them to me during our phone conversation.

“My grandfather was Franz Wilhelm Hermann Prielipp, but he went by Hermann.  He was born in the town of Karolina, Kreis Czarnikau, Posen, Prussia on 31 Mar 1865 to Wilhelm Friedrich Julius Prielipp and Hanna Auguste Friedricke “Friedricke” Winkelmann.  Hermann’s wife was Emma Therese Osten, who was born in the town of Putzig, Kreis Czarnikau, Posen Prussia on 10 Jul 1866 to Carl Wilhelm Osten and his wife Henriette Quast.  Hermann and Emma were married on 29 Sept 1890 in the town of Grünfier, Kreis Carnikau, Posen, Prussia where Hermann was listed as an “eigenthümer”, or owner of a small farm.

Hermann was, indeed, a farmer in Gornitz and he owned about 10 acres of land between the small towns of Gornitz and Ascherbude. His father Wilhelm Friedrich Julius Prielipp had owned the land before him, and had built a house, a granary, a barn, and a storage barn on the property.  About 1/3 of the land was Scotch Pine, and they used it for firewood and lumber. Another acre of the land was the farm complex itself with the house and barns and so on. The rest of the land was in wheat, barley, and rye. Hermann worked the farm until he died.  He died in his field of a heart attack before World War 2.  Note: Hermann Prielipp died in Gornitz 25 Mar 1929, per his death record.

My father, Otto Karl Prielipp was born on the farm in Gornitz on 26 Jul 1904.  He had an older brother, Emil W Prielipp (b 26 Feb 1903), a younger brother, Walter Karl Prielipp (b 10 Jul 1907), and at least two other brothers, (Carl and Adolf), and a sister (Ida Hulda Prielipp, b 12 Sept 1899).  My father came to America in 1922 when he was 17 year old aboard the “SS Mount Carroll”.  Your great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt had arranged a job for him working in the paper mill in Rothschild, Wisconsin in the “beater room” with your great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt.  He married my mother, Lillian Mable Pfleiger, in Rothschild, Wisconsin on 5 May 1828, and we lived in Rothschild for many years.

After WWI the province of Posen where the Prielipps lived was given back to the Poles, but the Germans were not displaced and there were no problems with harassment or anything at all. Then when Germany began its rise to power in the 1930’s my dad’s mother wrote to him to ask him to come back to Gornitz. She said that there were lots of jobs and that the conditions were very good. My father Otto said, “no way”. He could see which way the political winds were blowing and wasn’t about to go back there.

At the end of WWII, the Red Army began to sweep through the Eastern Prussian provinces, pushing out the retreating Germans.  The troops had been encouraged to rape, pillage, murder, and destroy everything they could, and this extended to the German-speaking people living in those provinces.   The Russians came through Gornitz and killed almost all the male Germans.  My uncle Adolph was the eldest brother of the family and would have inherited the family farm from Hermann. The Russians tore the house apart and ripped the beds to shreds looking for money, and then they beat Adolph to death with their guns.

Adolph’s mother (Emma Therese Osten Prielipp) was ejected from the house in the middle of winter and they found her frozen to death on the side of the road.  This would have been around January, 1945.  Note: Emma Osten died in Gornitz on 18 Oct 1944 of old age, per her death record.  The Red Army was not near Gornitz at that time, so she could not have been the one killed as described.  Perhaps another woman in the family had her story conflated with Emma’s?

There was a Radtke family in the town, and Otto’s sister Ida Hulda Prielipp (b 12 Sept 1899) was married to Hermann Adolf Radtke. They had a daughter named Hilda Radtke.  I was friends with that family and every other year for 20 years either my family would go to Germany and visit them or the Radtkes would come to the US to visit us in Easton, Wisconsin.

Mr. Radtke was a principal, or superintendent of the school. He got in touch with Hilda, and then when the Prielipps went to Germany one year, they packed up and drove to Poland from the town of Volmersted where Hilda lived (probably Wolmirstedt, Börde, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).  They showed us around their area and we got to know their family very well. Four years later when we went back to Germany, we all went first to Volmerstead, and from there to Gornitz. We spent a week in Gornitz about 1980. It was an interesting linguistic exercise. Our guide was a Hungarian man, who knew German. Fritz knew German and English. We only knew English. Every conversation was three or four languages translated back and forth. That’s how we learned the history of our grandparents and uncles. There was nothing left of Gornitz when we went there. Some private residences remained that were occupied by Polish people.

With the guide who knew Polish and Hungarian and German we could visit with those people and they were very hospitable. With the people from the Radtke family, we all spent 2-3 hours with them and they were very agreeable, and we could ask any questions about our family’s stay in Gornitz.

Then we went to the farm where my father Otto grew up on, where his father Hermann had farmed. Hermann’s father Wilhelm Prielipp had lived on the farm after the first World War, and he was badly crippled from a fall off a ladder off one of the buildings, so he looked like a question mark, all hunched over. He couldn’t work, but he could shuffle around. He lived in the grainary. They had built him a kind of an apartment in there. He and his wife lived in it. When Hermann’s father was young he went to Russia and worked in logging, and did river drives.  Eventually he took over the farm in Gornitz.

Hermann had an older brother named Adolph. There was also a brother Carl and one other brother. One of those brothers was killed in WWI.  Then there was Emil and Otto, and a younger son named Walter.  Walter fought in the german army, was captured by the French, and in a French prisoner of war camp when the allies came through France at the end of WWII.  Emil and Otto brought Walter to the United States and he lived with Otto’s family for a period of time and looked for work and finally found work in Milwaukee, so he went to Milwaukee and worked in a leather tanning factory and was married and has since died. He never had any children.

Emil had three kids. His son Robert was a mathematician and taught at a college in Wisconsin. He had no children. Second son was named Ronald. He was also a mathematician who taught at University of Kansas in Salinas. He still lives there.  He married a woman named Beth, and they have no children. Ronald’s legs don’t work, so he’s in a wheelchair. He lives in a full-care facility. Beth is trying to sell the house. She plans to join him at the facility. Their third son was Walter. He went west and worked for Boeing in Seattle.  He was married with no children, and his wife is a union activist, she’s involved in politics in Washington. Walter died in 2009.

In terms of my immediate family, my brother Russell Prielipp is retired. He and his wife Bonnie have no children. They live in NJ and are doing relatively well. Our sister Marian Prielipp Doddington works for a design firm in Washington DC.”

Donald mentioned that he had an article on the death of his grandfather Hermann Prielipp. It’s in German and gives the date of his death. He was going to try to find it for me, but he passed away before that happened. He also mentioned that he helped build the home of my mother’s first cousin Gloria Johnson on Grand Avenue in Wausau, Wisconsin. This home was right next door to my great-grandparents’ house (Edwin Schmidt and Olga Hanson).


Donald Prielipp

Donald passed away on 23 Feb 2015 in Redding, California.  He was 85 years old.

Edwin F. Schmidt Stock Certifcate – 1936

I came across this today. It’s 8 shares of stock in the “Mathie-Ruder Brewing Company” of Wausau, Wisconsin previously owned by my great-grandfather Edwin F. Schmidt. 

Edwin F. Schmidt

Edwin F. Schmidt

I remember pulling this out of my great-grandfather’s house when I was a kid. My grandmother, my cousin, and I had gone up to Rothschild, Wisconsin to help clean out my great-grandmother’s home when she was moving to a retirement community.  I was probably about 12 years old at the time.  I had no idea I still had the certificate until I found it in an envelope today in my storage area. It is dated 16 Jun 1936 and is signed by John L. Opperman (secretary) and John Ringle Jr. (president).

Like all things, no matter how obscure, the Mathie-Ruder Brewing Company has a Facebook Page.

[Click to enlarge or download the images.]


Postcard From Bertha Schmidt – 1911

My cousin Kathryn Schultz sent me this postcard from her family history archives.  It was taken in August of 1911 at “Grandpa Little’s Cottage near Woodruff [Wisconsin]”.  That would be the cabin of my great-great-grand-uncle Pierre Petit (a/k/a Peter Little), and his wife Lena Schmidt Little.  The photo shows (from left to right): Helen A. Abraham (b 1904), Lena (Schmidt) Little (1875-1953), George Lincoln Abraham (1900-1937), Ernest “Ernie” Little (1901-1951), Elizabeth M. (Proue) Abraham (b 1874), and Adelphia L. Abraham (b1899).


The Abraham Family lived in Minocqua, Wisconsin and were neighbors of the Little family.  The father, George Wilson Abraham, was a blacksmith in Minocqua.  The two families can be found on the same page of the 1920 Census together.  The postcard seems, however, to be from Bertha Schmidt Schneider (Lena Schmidt Little’s youngest sister) to her son John Schneider at the family home in Schofield, Wisconsin.  John was 13 years old at the time.  The postcard also mentions John’s younger brother Harvey, who was 4, and his grandmother Wilhelmine Winkelmann, age 74, who was living with the Schneider family in Schofield.


Minocqua, August 24, 1911

To: Mr. John Schneider (1898-1972), Schofield, Wis.

Grandpa Little’s Cottage near Woodruff.  Helen Abraham, Grandma Little, Lincoln Abraham, Ernie Little, Mrs. Abraham, Adele “”.  Well, Johnnie, are you a good boy?  Is mother [Wilhelmine Winkelmann Schmidt] feeling better?  We got here at 10am.  We are going for a walk so will mail this postal.  Well, good by (sic).  My best of love  to you all.  Write me a letter.  Harvey [Schneider, 1907-1976] was to church this morning.  Bye.  Mama [Bertha Schmidt Schneider].

Bertha Schmidt, 1922

Bertha (Schmidt) Schneider, 1922

My cousin Kathryn adds a nice foot-note to this item:

“I recall meeting some of the Abrahams in the Minocqua area when I was a kid. They were really nice.  We went up to Minocqua at least once every summer to check on the graves of Peter, Lena, and Jenny [their child who died at 8 months of age].  The Abrahams kept an eye on the graves for us during the rest of the year and would often put flowers out on Memorial Day. “

Russell Albert Schmidt – (1920-2015)

Russell Albert Schmidt was my 1st cousin twice removed, the son of my great-grand Uncle Albert August Schmidt (1893-1983) and his first wife, Louisa Ann Margaret Bandy (1897-1995).

Russ Schmidt

Russ Schmidt

Until his passing on 19 Jun 2015, Russ was the eldest member of the Schmidt clan, and probably the only remaining living person who had known my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt.  He was born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin, and moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee at the age of 25.  This post is just going to be a collection of his own words that he sent me by email, or dictated to me on the phone in the course of our correspondence over the years.  Despite frequent claims of his “dotage”, Russ was an eloquent writer and had a lot of interesting stories to tell about the older generations of his family.

Let me introduce myself to my extended family.  I’m Russell Schmidt (Bud), Albert’s son, and possibly the only surviving grandchild of Wilhelm “William” Schmidt and Ottelia Zierke.  I have lived in Oak Ridge, TN since 1945, where I was in the Manhattan Project, working on the design and construction of K-25 (the original gaseous diffusion plant).

Aunt Olga was our best source for Schmidt family history, but I was not into genealogy when I had that opportunity.  I’m learning much more since Charles is leading that search.  My Dad, Albert, seemed to avoid discussions about his family (I suspected an aversion toward his [Prussian] heritage).

William was a pioneer in what became Rothschild and had several land holdings.  Dad spoke of Grandpa and his sons cutting acres of virgin white pine for lumber when he was in his teens.  I have a very early memory from 1925 of walking with my grandfather William and my dad across a plowed field, trying to step into the footprints they had left behind, stretching my legs as far as I could.  I also recall riding in the front seat of William’s open touring car, watching a spinning instrument on the dashboard.  He impressed me as being a friendly, soft spoken man.  He and Dad seemed to have a close relationship.  My parents never spoke about him.  I suspect that my Dad had a leading role in his legal defense when he was charged with murder in 1913.

When my father was a boy I believe the family lived in the house near what became the southern boundary of the village.  I have the impression that may have become the house and farm that Louis and Martha inherited.  I believe that house was later torn down for a subdivision.  I suspect that Grandpa then built the house on the east side of Grand Avenue where he and Grandma live until she died in 1945.  It later became her daughter Margaret Schmidt’s house.  Grandpa must have owned the land between Grand Avenue and the railroad from Schofield to where Grand Avenue and the tracks cross.

Ed and Olga’s home was on the northern boundary.  Later, Mable’s house was built between her parents’ and Grandma’s.  After WW II, the southern part of the strip was subdivided and Uncle Bill and Gertrude built homes.  Dad said that the Wilhelm Schmidt saloon was sometimes referred to as the “halfway house” by loggers traveling the river.  My grandfather Wilhelm owned the saloon when my father Albert was in his early teens.   My father grew up in that atmosphere and didn’t like seeing drunken people and seeing the results of the drinking.  He was practically a teetotaler.  Olga was the same, from what I understand, in terms of not approving of drinking.  I recall Dad telling about cutting ice from the Wisconsin River and storing it in a log structure, covered with sawdust, for keeping beer kegs refrigerated for the saloon.  He also told about driving the team to the brewery in Wausau to get kegs of beer.  From the exterior photo of the building, I would guess it was taken between 1900 and 1905.   The sign [Ritter and Deutsch] on the saloon advertised a major furniture store on Third Street in Wausau.  That store remained there until well after 1930.

Five Mile Saloon

Five Mile Saloon

I believe that William and Ottelia were Evangelical Lutherans.  My parents were married in the Evangelical Lutheran church in Schofield.  Despite that, grandmother Ottelia was a healer.  I personally saw her heal someone years ago.  If I recall correctly, they called it “blowing”.  One time my father was sick in bed and apparently delirious,  Grandma put her hands on him and said words I couldn’t understand.  I would guess I was a little over 10 years old.  I understood that she also did this with a woman from Schofield called Grandma Achterberg.  I don’t recall any more than this episode.  I wonder how Dad might have reacted if he was aware of this activity (being “of the devil”).  My grandmother Ottelia was quite an outspoken character.  We visited her on many occasions.  She lived in Rothschild and the other sons were all living there except for my dad.  Grandma “Mutie” Schmidt seemed to be matriarch of the family.  When I visited with my wife and son when he was very young, my son was crying.  Grandma told my wife, “Give him titty!”  She didn’t mince words.

My father, Albert, had a close relationship with William (who died when I was five years old).  I picture Dad as a maverick in the family, the only son who went to high school in the family  (I believe with William’s blessing).  The other brothers either farmed or went into business.  My uncle Ed Schmidt worked at the Marathon Paper as long as I can remember.  Dad didn’t seem to be as close to his mother, although he respected her.  Dad was tight-lipped about his family and avoided my questions concerning his family life. Ed and Olga’s family were  closest to our family.  Dad and Uncle Bill shared an interest in local sporting events, and were extremely vocal at high school basketball games  (to the point of embarrassment to Mom and Aunt Emma).

My mother Louisa Ann Margaret Bandy grew up on a farm before they built a dam at the paper mill at Rothschild.  Her family had a farm in the bottom land of the Wisconsin River.  When they built the dam they moved to a new farm just south of Rib Mountain.  They called it Rib Hill.  I might mention that after they built the dam it was quite common for people to walk across the dam to cross the river.  Mother’s family the Bandys, and Aunt Olga’s family, the Hansons, had farms that were very close to each other on the south side of Rib Hill.  The road is now County Trunk N… the Bandy family lived on the north side of the road and the Hansons lived on the south side of the road about a mile away.  Perhaps that’s how Ed and Albert courted women in that area.  I guess that Ed had to cross the ice to visit the Hanson farm.  Later, after it was built, Dad could walk over the dam to meet Margaret.

Grandpa Frederick James Bandy was raised in upstate NY near the city of Lisbon.  He was actually born in Wausau, then moved to Lisbon by the age of 9.   I’m not sure how he happened to travel west, but my grandmother Bandy grew up on a farm near Marathon City, it was along the same highway, Cty. Trunk N.  Her family name was Hinze (Hin-zee).  They were married in the catholic church.  I recall hearing that.  My son has my grandmother’s family bible (Dewey Bible) which has some records in there.  I haven’t seen it in some time now, but he does have grandma Bandy’s Dewey bible.  He also has a couple other family bibles.  There was one that was, I guess it came apart and the bookstore that rebound it didn’t put it back in order, and he does have that bible.  I don’t know when it was published.  He also has a German bible that my Uncle Elmer got from one of his fore-bearers came from the area around Austria.  I’m not sure where.  [Elmer’s grandmother Josephine Frenta was born in Austria.]  My son has this bible that was given to Elmer, my mother’s brother.  There was some inscription in it, I don’t recall what it said.

My father courted my mother.  As I said, he would walk across the dam to visit her on the farm where she lived.  I don’t know how they met.  Possibly through his brother Ed visiting Olga and her family, who were neighbors of the Bandys.  Dad wanted to be in the veneer business making hardwood veneers.  He was in NC and he was buying a veneer mill and he had a disastrous fire that destroyed the plant and dad had to find work elsewhere after that.  He had practically all his lifetime savings wiped out when the mill burned.   He was an excellent person for manufacturing hardwood veneers… rotary-cut veneers.  My mother and father lived together in North Carolina.  But about that time they separated.  Mother had friends in NC, she lived in Lumberton, North Carolina with a woman named Mrs. Skinner.  The Skinners were local people… many generations lived there.  They also had a cottage on one of the islands off the NC coast.  When we first went there you had to take a ferry boat to the cottage, but later they built a bridge.  I don’t recall the name of the town where they had their cottage.  So mother lived with Mrs. Skinner at the time.  After the separation she did spend a lot of time living with us in Tennessee.

We saw my mother quite frequently.  She stayed with us and she lived with my sister.  My sister had married and her husband died shortly after they married.  My sister remained a widow and worked at the insurance company.  It was originally called Employer’s Mutual.  Then the Wausau Insurance Company.  Then after her husband died she moved back to Wausau and worked until retirement at the Insurance company and my mother lived with her.  We saw her a couple times a year.  When we went to WI or when she came to stay with us.  She helped us take care of our children and helping around the house.  She was an excellent cook and took an interest in civic affairs in Wausau.    Mother and Olga were close.  They grew up very near each other, so that was natural.

In the earlier years before dad went into the veneer mill business he suffered a nervous breakdown while he was living with us in Oakridge, TN.  He recovered and went into business.  He worked for the Underwood Veneer Company in Wausau and became an officer who managed the operation of the plant.  I don’t really know what caused his breakdown.  He very much wanted to operate his own mill.  Perhaps the stress of that, I’m not sure.

I worked at the paper mill during the summer of 1941 and I recall visiting Uncle Ed[win] in the beater room [where wood was turned into pulp for paper-making].  I found a job where I could during Summer, and that was where I worked.  Ed was a jovial, good-natured fella.  In more recent years Uncle Ed toured the South, visiting his brother Al[bert] in South Carolina, riding with me from there, over the Smokey Mountains to Tennessee, visiting us, and then to visit Edwin [Jr, his son] in Louisiana.  My dad at that time was living on the border of North and South Carolina… in North Carolina.  He went into business several times and had difficulty there.  But Uncle Ed came to visit my dad and I remember, we lived in Tennessee.  I drove over there when Dad and Uncle Ed were together, and I brought Uncle Ed back to Oak Ridge when his visit ended.  But Dad and Uncle Ed did a lot of sightseeing.  I remember driving with dad.  He always had a heavy foot on the pedal, and at his age it kind of scared me.  But this was after my parents were divorced.  We visited the Smokey Mountains and Uncle Ed visited with us for a while before leaving.

My Dad had little contact with his brothers.  Ed[win] and Olga [Hanson Schmidt],  Margaret [Schmidt Voght], and  Norma [Schmidt Krueger] were closest to our family.  We had little contact with Uncle Bill and Uncle Louis.  I believe that the published picture of the family saloon was provided by Bill.

Wilhelm Schmidt in his Saloon, Labor Day, 1908

Wilhelm Schmidt in his Saloon, Labor Day, 1908

I have no recollection of any pictures that their families might have.  Otillia gave each son a large framed portrait of my grandfather, but my parent’s copy was lost during their several moves after Dad retired.  Possibly Uncle Ed’s family still has it.

Wilhelm Schmidt Portrait c1908

Wilhelm Schmidt Portrait c1908

At some time in the later 1900’s, Olga went to Norway to visit family members.  If I remember correctly, they lived near the North Sea Coast or a small island nearby.    I had a copy of her write-up of the trip (and a National Geographic map) that I was going to send to you, but I can’t locate it.  You may have a copy from one of her heirs.  The last time I saw Olga was in a nursing home in Wausau, where my mother also a patient in the 1990’s.  Her father was a lumberjack when she was born.

The Hanson farm was near the Fred Bandy farm and the children went to a little brick country schoolhouse near the county trunk highway south of Rib Mountain (then known as Rib Hill).  I recall attending a reunion at the school in 1937 with my parents.  I haven’t seen the area where the Hanson Farm was for over 10 years.  My mother’s family (Fred Bandy) lived on County Highway N just north of there.

My Uncle Bill did have a gas station on what became US 51.  I don’t recall the one in your picture, but he built one of concrete block that had gas pumps and a lubrication service bay in the early 1930s.  One of the gas pumps sold Red Crown, which I think at that time was distributed by the Wadhams Co.  My Dad who was a bookkeeper, went to this station each year to prepare Bill’s income tax.  Bill also did the lube jobs on our cars.  He named the station “Laughing Gas Service Station”.  The railroad tracks across the road from Bill were CMSP&P (The Milwaukee Road).  The streetcar tracks were closer to the paper mill where the line terminated.  Bill later sold the station to Norman Seipp, and opened a bar north of the gas station.  Bill was also a racing fan, driving to the Indy 500 more than once.

Dad’s brother Louis Schmidt married his parents’ hired girl, Martha Radtke.

Louis Schmidt & Martha Radtke, Wedding Day, 1911

Louis Schmidt & Martha Radtke, Wedding Day, 1911

Helen is the only daughter from that line I’m familiar with.  In addition to Gilbert and Leonard, there was a son Erwin, who died shortly after his birth, and is buried in the family plot.  I also knew Uncle Louis’s son, Gilbert Schmidt.  I didn’t know his wife or children, but was aware of them.  They lived in Rothschild.  Gilbert attended my mother’s 90th birthday party.  His wife was Arlette Hilmerhausen Schmidt.  Gilbert died in 1987 and is buried Pine Grove cemetery in Wausau.

I hope that this note may contribute to the family history.

Russ A Schmidt

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.

Schmidt Fishing Trip – 1909

It was the morning of July 25, 1909, a Sunday, and my great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt [21 years old at the time] had been in church that morning with his father Wilhelm Schmidt, his brother Louis Schmidt, and a bunch of the neighborhood boys.  All the men were still wearing their Sunday best, but a plan had been hatched: the men were going to head off after the service to do a little fishing at a place called “Short Portage”, near Rothschild, Wisconsin.  Wilhelm had stopped at his saloon to grab some beer, and some bottles of whiskey.  They were already packed in a horse-drawn wagon outside.  One of the other men brought a picnic basket full of food.  There were lanterns, fishing rods, and bait… all ready to go.  Nine men set off for their favorite fishing hole, loading their provisions and themselves into three low, heavy, wooden boats once they got there.

When they had been fishing a while, local Wausau photographer J. F. Schreiber must have happened across them.  Schreiber made a living photographing daily scenes in and around the Wausau area.  He’d take photos and then sell copies of them back to the people in the photographs.  You could even have the pictures made into postcards to send to your friends and relatives.  He took one look at the motley crew and knew he had a great photographic subject on his hands.  This first photo shows the men out in the water, rods, keg, and a bounty of fish on display:

[Click on photos to download or enlarge.]

Fishing at "Short Portage".

Fishing at “Short Portage”, courtesy of Jayne Robinson

You can see the photo number on this one is “285”, and the caption says “At Short Portage, July 15, ’09”.  My great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt is on the far left.  His father Wilhelm is in the right-hand boat with the mustache and bald head, and Louis Schmidt is on the far right.  One man was cropped out of the photo on the left, so there were at least nine men fishing together that day.

Another of the photos taken that day was sent as a postcard by Edwin Schmidt to his uncle August Zierke in Montello, Wisconsin on August 10th.  He writes:

“Hello Uncle, I am here sending you a jolly bunch of boys going fishing at Short Portage.  This is the way we got done.  See if you no [sic] me on there.  By by [sic], E. F. S.”

Edwin Schmidt Postcard, 1909

Edwin Schmidt Postcard, 1909

The photo itself is so good I had a hard time believing it was a photo of my family until I realized that Edwin himself said he was in the photo.

Post-fishing party.

“Post-fishing party”, courtesy of Norma Bandock.

The photo number is “289”, and the caption says “We’ve got to go home in the dark.”  I’m not sure what that means except that perhaps they drank enough that they had to wait to go home to avoid getting in trouble.  There are seven men in this photo, so my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm went home along with one other man from the trip prior to this photo being taken.  It also means there were three photos taken between the first photo and this one.

I’d encourage you to download this photo and take a look at it in detail.  You can see that the men have their “Sunday best” clothes on with overalls over them in some cases.  My great-grandfather is on the far left again, with the beer-bottle to his mouth.  The man with the hat on the right is his brother Louis Schmidt.  The other men are not yet identified.  I like how the man in the front looks like he’s on a cell phone, 100 years before his time!

I’d love it if someone could let me know where “Short Portage” was, or where this building was located.  Probably near Schofield, Wisconsin?  At first I thought it was a covered bridge, but I believe it’s a storage building where the boats were kept.  The three boats all have something like “Rothschilds BHSD #1″on them.  It might have been a business that rented the boats out for fishing trips.

A good clue is mentioned in the history of the village of Rothschild:

“Before the dam was built, young men would take long narrow boats, tie them to­gether and the head boat had a motor and it would pull the others down the river to Mosinee, make a turn to the right, and,that is where the good fishing hole was located. Sometimes they would remain overnight in an old barn and the next morning Mr. Hewitt would take his hay wagon, go down, and bring them back to Rothschild with all their fish. “

If this is the same scenario, it means they were likely fishing near Pine Island by Mosinee.