Planes, Shuffleboard, and Hats: The Elegant Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961) is my 3rd great aunt. She is the younger sister of my 2nd great grandmother, Fannie Schmidt Ratz (1870-1944). She was known as an elegant woman with a fondness for hats, planes, and jewelry. There is some photographic evidence that she fancied shuffleboard as well.  

  Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

  Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

  Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)  on the right with her grandniece  Joyce Hanley Schnelker (1932-1982)  on the left. 

Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961) on the right with her grandniece Joyce Hanley Schnelker (1932-1982) on the left. 

Here is a twig on the branch of Lydia's family tree.

Lydia Schmidt Tree 1.jpg

You'll see the sister relationship shown between Lydia and my 2nd great grandmother, Fannie. One of Fannie's daughters, Alma Ratz (1894-1979), is my great grandmother. 

Lydia was born in Houghton County in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1876. This was likely only a few years after her parents (my 3rd great grandparents) came to the U.S. from Germany. Her older sister, Fannie, is listed as being born in Germany in 1870.

My records indicate that there were 8 Schmidt siblings, including Lydia. I know a little about some of them and next to nothing about the others (yet!). 

On July 11, 1899, when Lydia was 23 years old, she married Canadian born Peter McNamara (1876-1956) in Hurontown, Michigan in Houghton County.

Peter and Lydia had three children. She outlived all of them - the oldest by 60 years and the youngest by 16 (more on that in a future post).

  • Bernice E. McNamara (1901-1901)
  • Leslie T. McNamara (1903-1945)
  • Edward S. McNamara (1908-1915)

What follows are some photos and notes about Lydia. The notes come primarily from the recollections of Lydia's grand niece and my great aunt, Beverly Hanley Mansour (1929-2009). Beverly is one of Alma's daughters (not pictured in the tree above).

About the very first photo posted above (Lydia wearing a hat) Aunt Bev said:

"Great Aunt Lydia with one of her fancy hats. She admired one of my hats and I was always sorry I didn’t give it to her. I never wore it again, never was comfortable when ever I looked at it."

Here is a photo of Lydia with two of her sisters. 

  Lydia Schmidt McNamara (L) and her sister Fannie Schmidt Ratz (R). Middle woman is likely another sister, perhaps Emma

Lydia Schmidt McNamara (L) and her sister Fannie Schmidt Ratz (R). Middle woman is likely another sister, perhaps Emma


I believe the woman in the center of this next photo is a cousin of Lydia's. That is my great grandmother, Alma, on the right. 

  Lydia Schmidt McNamara (L), Elvira Zenner Gundlach (M), Alma Ratz Hanley (R)

Lydia Schmidt McNamara (L), Elvira Zenner Gundlach (M), Alma Ratz Hanley (R)

This next picture is a much earlier one, probably taken around 1925. Lydia is on the far left. Her sister, Fannie (wearing hat) is next to her. My great grandmother, Alma, is in the center holding the hand of her oldest child, Helen Hanley Toups (1922-1989). The woman behind Alma is her much younger sister, Kathryn Ratz Watchorn (1910-1995). I believe the man in the back to be Ernest Oulette (1898-1957), husband of the woman on the far right, Marguerite Ratz Ouelette (1898-1985), who was another of Alma's sisters.

  Lydia (left) with her sister, nieces, and grandniece

Lydia (left) with her sister, nieces, and grandniece

The next photo appears to be taken at the same event. Lydia is on the far right. Her husband, Peter, is wearing the long tie. The man in the back wearing the bow tie is my great grandfather, Michael John Hanley (1890-1964). My grandfather, Michael John Hanley Jr. (1924-2015) is the young boy holding his mother's (Alma's) hand. 

  1920s Picnic

1920s Picnic

Here is Lydia with my great grandmother, Alma, and my great aunt, Helen.

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Reflecting on the above photo Aunt Bev recalled:

"Great Aunt Lydia-Helen-Mother. I think Peter & Lydia had two sons. There was always a photo of a soldier in uniform on the table in ther living room. Ask Mike [her brother, my grandfather] about this?? The other son was mentally and physically impaired. Lydia took care of him at home until he was 16 years old. He then became too heavy and big for Lydia to handle so they put him in the mental home in Lapear (?) Michigan. Mother said he didn’t live very long after that. May have been just months."


These next two photos were taken in California, presumably at the home of one of Lydia's sisters, Emma Schmidt Withem. 

  Left to right: 1. Marguerite Ratz Oulette (1898-1985),   2. Emma Schmidt Withem (Lydia's sister), 3. Fannie Schmidt Ratz (Lydia's sister), 4. Harriet Ratz (1919 - ?; Alma's niece, Lydia's grandniece), and 5. Lydia

Left to right: 1. Marguerite Ratz Oulette (1898-1985), 2. Emma Schmidt Withem (Lydia's sister), 3. Fannie Schmidt Ratz (Lydia's sister), 4. Harriet Ratz (1919 - ?; Alma's niece, Lydia's grandniece), and 5. Lydia

  Left to right: 1. Emma Schmidt Withem, 2. Fannie Schmidt Ratz, 3. Lydia, 4. Harriet Ratz

Left to right: 1. Emma Schmidt Withem, 2. Fannie Schmidt Ratz, 3. Lydia, 4. Harriet Ratz


These next two photos were taken at what Aunt Bev guessed was Lydia and Peter's anniversary party. My guess is that it was probably a 50th anniversary, putting this right around 1950. Here is what Aunt Bev had to say:

"Anniversary party may have been taken at Cromers’ Restaurant, Flint. Great Aunt Lydia (Grandma Ratz’s sister), Peter Macnamara. Lydia was a classy lady. Peter worked in the Houghton Power House by the Houghton-Hancock bridge. That is the only place he worked as far as I know. Only time I ever saw Peter, he was in a white shirt and tie. Don’t know what his job was. Lydia was very social, played cards etc. (always wore makeup, jewelry, etc.)"
  Peter and Lydia McNamara

Peter and Lydia McNamara

  Peter and Lydia McNamara

Peter and Lydia McNamara


I am not sure when or where this one was taken but it really seems to capture Lydia's spirit, as I imagine it. 

B2-516-5.jpg

Aunt Bev speculated that these next few were taken at the Lansing, MI airport. She said: 

"Lydia was flying back to Houghton. She thought flying was great. Lansing airport—Drove Aunt Lydia to Lansing to fly back to Houghton. I think it might have been her first plane ride? I know she was excited. I think Aunt Rose and Uncle Tim were visitng with us at the time. Tim was having heart problems and was checking his heart out with Flint doctors. They had been traveling with their friends the Rows and their daughter. When Rose and Tim decide to stay in Flint the Rows and their daughter returned to Menominee, MI."
B2-521-4.jpg
  Left to right: Eugene Timothy Hanley (1896-1958), Rose Peterson Hanley (1902-1991), Lydia, Alma Ratz Hanley (1894-1979)

Left to right: Eugene Timothy Hanley (1896-1958), Rose Peterson Hanley (1902-1991), Lydia, Alma Ratz Hanley (1894-1979)

  Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

There is much more to learn and tell about Lydia and her life. I look forward to finding more of her story and sharing with you.

In the meantime:

What do you think, feel, and wonder about as you hear pieces of Lydia's story? What more do you want to know?


This is the 31st of 52 weekly posts planned for 2018. It was inspired by the #52Ancestors writing challenge issued by professional genealogist, Amy Crow Johnson. The challenge: once a week, for all 52 weeks of the year, write about a relative in your family tree.