Please take a moment to read this INCREDIBLE article from National Geographic.
Maybe some of my followers have noticed that I’ve been MIA lately.
Well, I haven’t lost the “genealogy bug”–far from it!
I’ve been thinking of ways to improve the site, improve my research, and use what I’ve learned as a self-taught family historian/amateur genealogist to help others.
In that vein, I will be making a special announcement here next week about what’s next for me and my Hoosier Genealogy Adventure.
As always, thanks for reading, and happy hunting.
Hello fellow family history/genealogy enthusiasts. Life has been busy lately, so my blog has been put aside. I am back to my genealogy research and happy to be sharing more pictures, stories, and ideas with you. Thank you for your patience!
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.
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
Birth Date: 10 Apr 1887
Birthplace: Juneau, Dodge, Wisconsin
Father’s Name: Frank Schessow
Father’s Birthplace: Germany
Mother’s Name: Wilhelmine Schenberg
Mother’s Birthplace: Germany
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 (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XRNF-GV6 : 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.
We’ve all seen them: family trees which purportedly go back over 700 years. Many trace their lineage to Charlemagne or other royals, as those were among the few people who kept track of genealogy. I have seen some that actually “trace” back to Adam and Eve. As in, the first two people to have ever lived, according to Biblical history.
Recently, I got a “match” on familysearch.org giving me the option to link my chart with another one matching a person on that tree. Well, I reviewed it for sources and could find few, but what I did notice was that it went all the way back to 130 A.D. One hundred and thirty years after Christ’s birth?! That would be fantastic if it were true. But, with zero sources linked, I had to say no.
I didn’t attach this tree to mine, and I’m certainly not accusing anyone of impropriety. But, it got me thinking. How far back can really be said to be reliable? At what point do you disassociate yourself from distant ancestors? I personally can’t really relate to anything prior to 1500 A.D.–I just can’t wrap my mind around it.
How far back have you gotten in your research? Can you relate to ancestors from over 500 years ago? Have you ever seen a convincing tree that went back that far? I’d love to hear your opinions on this.
Some of my non-U.S., and even some American readers, might be wondering what a Hoosier is and why I put such a funny word in my blog name. A Hoosier is most commonly used today to describe a person from Indiana, USA.
In the 4th grade, we were required to take a course on Indiana history. My teacher shared with us some of the common myths behind the word “Hoosier.” My favorite was that, when Indiana was a newly settled territory filled with rough-and-tumble types, men would get into fights at saloons or bars. Some of those fights inevitably ended in bloodshed, with men even losing their ears. In the morning, villagers would walk out into the street, find the lost appendages, and cry out “Whose ear?”…which eventually combined to create the word “Hoosier.”
Funny stories aside, the truth is that no one knows for certain how the term Hoosier came to be. The Indiana Historical Bureau has a nice article explaining some possibilities (including a version of my 4th grade teacher’s account):
- “When a visitor hailed a pioneer cabin in Indiana or knocked upon its door, the settler would respond, “Who’s yere?” And from this frequent response Indiana became the “Who’s yere” or Hoosier state. No one ever explained why this was more typical of Indiana than of Illinois or Ohio.
- That Indiana rivermen were so spectacularly successful in trouncing or “hushing” their adversaries in the brawling that was then common that they became known as “hushers,” and eventually Hoosiers.
- There was once a contractor named Hoosier employed on the Louisville and Portland Canal who preferred to hire laborers from Indiana. They were called “Hoosier’s men” and eventually all Indianans were called Hoosiers.
- A theory attributed to Gov. Joseph Wright derived Hoosier from an Indian word for corn, “hoosa.” Indiana flatboatmen taking corn or maize to New Orleans came to be known as “hoosa men” or Hoosiers. Unfortunately for this theory, a search of Indian vocabularies by a careful student of linguistics failed to reveal any such word for corn.
- Quite as plausible as these was the facetious explanation offered by “The Hoosier Poet,” James Whitcomb Riley. He claimed that Hoosier originated in the pugnacious habits of our early settlers. They were enthusiastic and vicious fighters who gouged, scratched and bit off noses and ears. This was so common an occurrence that a settler coming into a tavern the morning after a fight and seeing an ear on the floor would touch it with his toe and casually ask, “Whose ear?””
The fact that no one knows exactly where the term Hoosier came from points, in a larger sense, to the importance of family history and genealogical research. If someone in the 1830’s had written down or collected stories of where the name originated, we wouldn’t be left wondering today.
If I ask myself what “Hoosier” means to me, it is a person born and raised in Indiana who takes pride in their state and its rich traditions. The song “Back Home Again in Indiana,” while not the official state song, was first published in 1917 and is a nostalgic reminder of Hoosier pride. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_Home_Again_in_Indiana
Of course, Jim Nabors’ yearly rendition of this song at the Indianapolis 500 is a much-loved tradition by Hoosiers and race fans alike.
So, the short answer to my original question is “who knows?” Perhaps if better records had been kept, we proud Hoosiers would know more about what exactly it is we call ourselves.
Does your hometown, state, or country, have a term that everyone uses but no one is sure what it means?