Genealogy Blogging and the Brick Wall Busting Discovery of My Schmidt Family

The best parts about my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Blogging Challenge (this is week #51!) are the connections I have made with previously unknown relatives.

Enter: The Schmidt Family.

The Schmidt Family

The Schmidt Family

I am very confident that the mother and father of this family are my 3rd great grandparents, Carl Schmidt and Ernestina Zenner Schmidt (d. 1922).

A newly discovered distant cousin of mine found and commented on a post I wrote about my 3rd great aunt: Planes, Shuffleboard, and Hats: The Elegant Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961). Lydia is the girl sitting in the from row on the left. My cousin wrote:

Lydia was my 2nd great aunt. She was the sister of my great grandmother, Wanda Schmidt Fisher. My mother was Wanda Wright Houck. She is shown in your photo of the 50th anniversary party for Lydia and Peter McNamara (she is on the right. Her mother, Florence Fisher Wright is seated to her right). My mother (now deceased) remembered Lydia fondly (as everyone seemed to). I am new to exploring my family past but I do have a photo showing all of the Schmidt siblings and their parents. Would you like to see a copy of the photo?

Um, would I like to see a photo of my 3rd great grandparents and all of their children? Yes please!

She provided the amazing photo above and brick walls in my family tree began to fall. Carl and Ernestina had 7 daughters and 1 son. The children in the back row (left to right) appear to be:

  • Wanda Jane Schmidt Fisher (1872-1932)

  • Fannie Schmidt Ratz (1870-1944) - my 2nd great grandmother

  • Emma Schmidt

  • Delia Schmidt

  • Louie Schmidt

The the three seated (left to right) are:

  • Lydia Schmidt McNamara (1876-1961)

  • Flora Schmidt (1882-1903)

  • Bata Schmidt Hoff (b. 1881)

The names written on the photo match, with one exception, the names I had listed for the Schmidt parents and children, although I was not terribly confident in the information I had. Though the father here is listed as “William” it should in fact be Carl. My cousin confirmed that this was likely just a labeling error, which actually happens much more frequently than I realized.

I am guessing that the family photo was taken sometime around 1890.

Here is photo of my 2nd great grandmother, Fannie, when she was much older.

Fannie Schmidt Ratz (1870-1944)

Fannie Schmidt Ratz (1870-1944)

Fannie married my 2nd great grandfather, Henry Peter Ratz (1867-1934). They had my great grandmother, Alma Ratz Hanley (1894-1979). Alma married Michael Hanley (1890-1964) and they had my grandfather, Michael J. Hanley Jr. (1924-2015). All of these families in my direct line made their way from Houghton County in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to downstate in Flint, MI.

I am very lucky to have made this connection. I am grateful too. It goes to show that telling your family’s story is one of the best things you can do to learn more. Inevitably you will run into a relative who is also researching their tree. Together you can assemble the pieces of the family puzzle.

This new discovery about the Schmidt family has given me lots to work on and explore in the coming months, years, and decades.

What are some of the best discoveries you’ve made from people responding to what you have written? I would love to hear your story!