(Frequently Asked Questions)
Where did these Schmidts come from?
Our Schmidt family descends from Hans Schmidt (1594-1680), a shepherd who lived in the area of Nentershausen and Blankenbach, in the Hessen-Kassel region of Germany. Many of his descendants populated the nearby village of Machtlos, Germany over the centuries. In the 1800s, several Schmidts from the German forest village of Machtlos braved a voyage across the Atlantic. They settled mainly in Iowa, but stretch from Washington state to Washington DC. The American descendants of those immigrant pioneers now number well into the thousands. We reunited for the greatest and most fun reunion in the world, at the one place in northwest Iowa big enough to hold all of us: the spacious Clay County Fairgrounds in Spencer, Iowa.
Why was this reunion in Spencer, Iowa?
The reunion was held in Spencer, Iowa at the Clay County Fairgrounds, the large and well-accommodated home of the “world’s greatest county fair”. Spencer was chosen for 3 reasons: its proximity to West Bend, Iowa, where most of the Schmidts from Machtlos settled; its location near the center of the United States, evening out the travel distances for as many attendees as possible; the ability of its ample facilities to comfortably hold the thousands of cousins coming to attend this momentous gathering.
Just how big was this reunion?
We had an attendance of over one thousand, which included 678 direct descendants (and spouses) of Hans Schmidt (1594-1680). The 2016 Schmidt Reunion surpassed the 1980 Osterhaus Family Reunion (which had an attendance of 900) as the largest family reunion in the history of the state of Iowa!
What did hundreds of relatives do for 2 whole days?
What didn’t we do? Attendees at the 2016 Schmidt Reunion enjoyed authentic German food, drink, and dessert, while bands played live German music. We witnessed fascinating displays and presentations illustrating not just history, but our history. We found our branch of the family on a vast 21′ long family tree that dominated the main hallway of the Clay County Events Center. We brushed up on our German language skills with German language classes and German bingo games, and we attended a historic German church service. We browsed a marketplace of crafters and vendors, and enjoyed plenty of games and activities with the children. We caught up with relatives we hadn’t seen in years, and sparked new friendships with old classmates and neighbors that we had no idea were also cousins.
Who organized this reunion?
The 2016 Schmidt Family Reunion was organized by the Schmidt Family Reunion Committee. The president of the committee was Emmetsburg resident Josiah Schmidt–a professional genealogist and non-profit fundraiser. On the board of directors were Valerie Newhouse of Emmetsburg, Karen Anderson of Graettinger, Denise Lindemann of Oelwein, Becky Dykhuis of Sioux Falls (South Dakota), Deb Schulz of Algona, and Rod Schmidt of Longmont (Colorado).
Was anyone welcome to attend?
Yes! The reunion itself was for descendants of Hans Schmidt of Nentershausen, who lived in the Hessen-Kassel region of Germany in the late 1500s and early 1600s, particularly his American descendants. However, other unrelated Schmidts and non-Schmidts joined us in celebrating and learning about German-American culture and history.