Surname Saturday: Schmeling

My great-great-grandmother was Wilhelmina Schmeling of Prussia.  I have to say, conducting research about a country which no longer exists is quite the challenge!

When my grandmother was ill with lung cancer at the end of her life, she sought out someone to translate some old documents from her grandparents who came from Prussia.  The German teacher at my high school graciously offered to help.  The documents in this post were partially translated by her, but some was written in the (largely) extinct Prussian language.

photo (24)

The text points out that the Schmelings were from a town called Laatzig, near Stettin, which is now called Szczecin and is part of Poland.  The area was known as Pommerania and was part of Prussia.

Wilhelmine (Schmeling) and her husband Franz Friedrich Schohsow (spelled Schessow now) came to the United States around 1884.  Here I have their application to emigrate:


(Click on images to enlarge)

The parts that were translatable on the application to emigrate basically state: they asked permission to emigrate to the USA in 1884.  Franz Friedrich is 28 years and 7 months old and from Laatzig, Pommerania.  His wife, Wilhelmina is 26 years and 9 monhts old.  They have 2 children, Maria Magdalena, 7 years 2 months old, and Wilhelmina Albertine Augusta, 8 months old.

The small print at the bottom is in Prussian and the teacher could not translate it.


The second page is signed by the “Royal Prussian government President”-though I can’t read his name.  The caption at the bottom says “Discharge Document,” so their application was approved.  I think it is significant that 1. they had to apply to emigrate, 2. it was approved, and 3. they went about this in the legal manner, instead of just “fleeing” to the United States.  I can’t make any solid conclusions, other than to say I think that’s significant in some way.

The first record I have of the Schmeling/Schessows in Wisconsin is my Tante (Aunt) Emma’s birth record:

Name: Emma Ida Louisa Schessow
Gender: Female
Christening Date:
Christening Place:
Birth Date: 10 Apr 1887
Birthplace: Juneau, Dodge, Wisconsin
Death Date:
Name Note:
Race: White
Father’s Name: Frank Schessow
Father’s Birthplace: Germany
Father’s Age:
Mother’s Name: Wilhelmine Schenberg
Mother’s Birthplace: Germany
Mother’s Age:
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: C00310-4
System Origin: Wisconsin-EASy
GS Film number: 1302860
Reference ID: item 2 p 48

Citing this Record:
“Wisconsin, Births and Christenings, 1826-1926,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 01 Mar 2014), Frank Schessow in entry for Emma Ida Louisa Schessow, 10 Apr 1887.

(Wilhelmina’s maiden name is incorrect here; I am certain that this is my great aunt’s birth record, for several reasons I won’t bore you with here!)

I know a fair amount about the Schessows, but not the Schmelings.  I don’t know if Wilhelmina (Minnie) had siblings that also emigrated to the USA, or if everyone stayed in Prussia.

The Schmeling surname is one of my brick walls!  Especially frustrating is the fact that I have other documents that might be able to help me, but I can’t translate them.

I found this Youtube video of a person purporting to speak the old Prussian language.  Obviously, I can’t understand him so I have no idea what he is saying and can’t vouch for its accuracy.  It’s interesting nonetheless.

Do you have Prussian ancestors?  I’d love to hear about how you approach this in your research.


3 thoughts on “Surname Saturday: Schmeling

  1. Have you tried finding someone who might be a scholar in the field at a university? Here’s a website I found—maybe it’s worth emailing this person and asking for help? Academics can often be very willing to help—for nothing or maybe a reasonable fee.

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