Family History

Machtlos, Ortsteil of Ronshausen Image Source: Mueller, Heinrich Georg. 950 Jahre Ronshausen Leben in Unserem Dorf; Gestern, Heute, Morgen; Festschrift Anlasslich Der Jubilaumsfeierlichkeiten Im Jahr 2011. Ronshausen: Vereinsgemeinschaft 950 Jahre Ronshausen, 2011. p.274.

Our Schmidt family called Machtlos “home” for more than two centuries. Machtlos sits in the middle of the Wildeck Forest near the city of Ronshausen, in the Hessen Kassel region of Germany. This small hamlet’s population grew from a handful of households in the late Medieval Era to a peak of about 300 people in the mid-1900s. The area is first mentioned in 1329 as “villa Mechtolves,” which means “House of the Mighty Wolves”. From the 1100s-1400s, “Machtolf” was a common German male name. Villa Mechtolves was probably named for a man named Machtolf who had a large house there. The land was a holding of the von Baumbachs, an old Hessian noble family. Over the years, the village’s name morphed. By 1348, it was being referred to as “Machtolfes”. By 1585, the town’s name had been abbreviated to “Machtels” or “Machtles,” it had 10 households, and it was part of the Nentershausen district. By 1747, there were 16 households. By the 1800s, the town’s name had become “Machtlos,” which (ironically, considering the village’s original name) means “powerless,” “surrender,” or “rendition.” In 1972, Machtlos was incorporated into the municipal city government of Ronshausen.

Our German ancestors were tar haulers, shoemakers, miners, farmers, linen weavers, house painters, cartwrights, day laborers, tailors, soldiers, church elders, church office administrators, mayors, civil servants, and metal smiths.

The Schmidts of Machtlos intermarried often with a couple of other major families in the village, such as the Lindemanns and the Korzels. The close relationship that the Schmidts had with the Lindemanns resulted in so many marriages that the two families became virtually one and the same. Many members of the Lindemann family migrated to America in the 1800s, mainly ending up in Lee County, Illinois; Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; or Benton, Tama, and Humboldt Counties, Iowa. Some of the Korzels stayed near Machtlos, but a great many of them migrated to the city of Essen, and a handful of them emigrated to America or Australia. (The Korzel/Korzell family came to Machtlos from the Thuringian town of Neuenhof to the East. They may have originated long ago in the Hessian village of Kerzell. The term “Kerzell” indicates that the village was named after a zell [a hermit’s home or ‘cell’]–perhaps “Kerzell” got its name from the home of a hermit named Kurt.)

At one point, the Schmidt family was a very prominent and numerous family in Machtlos, but since industrialization and the two world wars, our Schmidt family has moved to bigger German cities or to America. Today, only a handful of Schmidts still live in or near Machtlos. The town of Machtlos now has a thriving tourism industry, and many vacationers stay there to enjoy the beautiful scenery and quiet charm of the German countryside.

Machtlos village church (Evangelical) Image Source: Machtlos kirche.jpg, Wikimedia Commons, Author: 2micha, Date Created: 23 May 2010, Permission: GFDL

Where Were the Schmidts Before They Came to Machtlos?

Our Schmidt family belongs to the Y-DNA haplogroup R-S1026, which means that our paternal ancestors lived for a long time in Scotland thousands of years ago. Y-DNA testing shows that our pre-German paternal ancestors were related to the old Scottish monarchy. When our Y-DNA is matched with other families’ Y-DNA in genetic databases, the most closely related families to us (who have a “most recent common ancestor” with us from about 1100 AD or earlier) have strongly Gaelic surnames like McCutchen, Harper, Marney, McCray, Brazzell, Riley, McMinn, and Whalen. These families strongly concentrate in the Western Scottish Highlands (around the Hebrides) and Northern Ireland. Families whose Y-DNA connects with ours after about 1100 AD are either German, Swiss, or Italian.

The most obvious possibility is that our paternal ancestor was a Scot who took part in the Second Cruade (or one of the other Crusades or European wars), which took many men out of the British Isles and sent them through continental Europe. Our ancestor may have deserted the army along the way (as desertion rates were very high on the harsh, long journeys across Europe) and settled in continental Europe, or perhaps he had relations with one or two women in the villages through which the army passed, and left behind one or more sons who carried on his Y-DNA in continental Europe. Our ancestor may also have been a Scottish peddler who landed at a German port and peddled his way down to Hesse. The real explanation for how and why we came from Scotland to Germany may never be known.

Our forebears came to Machtlos around the year 1700 from the nearby village of Blankenbach (in the Sontra, Werra-Meissner-Kreis district), which lies just a few miles northeast of Machtlos. There is a branch of Schmidt cousins that remained in Blankenbach through the centuries, some of whom still reside there today. Our Schmidt family was only in Blankenbach for about one generation. They were originally from the town of Nentershausen, which is also very close to both Blankenbach and Machtlos. They migrated from Nentershausen to Blankenbach in the mid 1600s after the end of the Thirty Years War. Other genetically connected Schmidt families are scattered around the Hersfeld-Rotenburg district and the Werra-Meissner-Kreis district of Hesse.

Which American Schmidt Families Trace Back to Machtlos?

Four major branches of the Machtlos Schmidt family in America are currently known. They were founded by three sons and one grandson of Dietrich and Sophia Schmidt of Machtlos.

  • (1) the descendants of Louis Schmidt (1835-1908). Balthasar Ludwig “Louis” Schmidt immigrated to America in 1853 and settled in Boston, Massachusetts. He stayed in Boston and worked as a shoemaker for several years before relocating to Washington, DC, where he got a job as a bartender at the Metropolitan Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and then in 1874 he started his own restaurant at 702 Seventh Street NW. Louis Schmidt married Amelia Barbara Heimerdinger and produced three children: Emma (Schmidt) Hoeke, Maud (Schmidt) Hohoff, and Milton Louis Schmidt.
  • (2) the descendants of Herman Schmidt (1840-1890). Herman Schmidt immigrated to America in November of 1857, going first to Massachusetts, and then to New York City where, in 1861, he enlisted under the alias “Louis Kraus” (so that his siblings wouldn’t know he was enlisting) for a 2-year stint in the 8th NY Infantry during the Civil War, and later settled permanently in Washingon, DC. Herman married Catharine Vogel and they had 6 children: Bertha (Schmidt) Thomson, George Schmidt, Emma (Schmidt) Borbeck, Charles Abraham Schmidt, William Spencer Schmidt, and Herman John “Harry” Schmidt. He managed a restaurant/tavern at the corner of 11th and F Streets NW, which burnt down in a fire on March 4th, 1870. Herman found work as a barkeeper, salesman, and boarding house manager after the destruction of his business. Herman died in Washington, DC in 1890.
    Conrad Jacob Schmidt and Martha Elisabeth (Lindemann) Schmidt Conrad and Martha were born and married in Machtlos. They moved to Essen, Germany where they raised their family, before emigrating to America and settling in Iowa in 1883. They produced thousands of descendants in the West Bend, Iowa area. Photo courtesy of Linda (Lindstrand) Swalin.
  • (3) the descendants of Conrad Jacob Schmidt (1841-1891). Conrad Jacob Schmidt immigrated to America with his wife, Martha Elisabeth (Lindemann) Schmidt, and their five living children (four had died earlier in Germany): Henry John Schmidt Sr., Elizabeth Martha (Schmidt) Lindemann, Herman Louis Schmidt, Anna Sabine (Schmidt) Jergens, and Margaret Anna (Schmidt) Van Loh. They moved up to the West Bend, Iowa area in 1888, and produced thousands of descendants, many of whom still live in or near West Bend, Iowa.
  • (4) the descendants of Georg Karl Schmidt (1864-1933). Georg Karl Schmidt was a nephew of the above-mentioned Balthasar Ludwig “Louis” Schmidt, Herman Schmidt, and Conrad Jacob Schmidt. Georg Karl Schmidt was a son of their brother, Dietrich Schmidt II (who was a son of Dietrich and Sophia Schmidt). Karl immigrated to America in 1881, settling first in Kansas (most likely Ellsworth County). In 1883, after his uncle and aunt, Conrad and Martha (Lindemann) Schmidt, came to America and settled in Dysart, Iowa, Karl moved up to Dysart to join them. (Karl’s brother, Wilhelm Conrad Schmidt, also immigrated to Dysart in 1883, but he died just a few years later of typhoid fever, never having produced any descendants.) In Dysart, Karl married Anna Margaretha “Maggie” Lindemann, with whom he had seven children: William Conrad Schmidt, Elizabeth Marie (Schmidt) Schafer, Edward Dietrich Schmidt, Charles George Schmidt, Michael Frederick Schmidt, Anna Margaret (Schmidt) Krug, and Henry John Schmidt. The family moved up to West Bend, Iowa in 1893 and produced hundreds of descendants who still live in the area.

Two daughters of Dietrich and Sophia Schmidt of Machtlos (sisters of the above-mentioned Louis/Conrad/Herman), Anna Martha Schmidt and Martha Catharina Schmidt, also immigrated to America. Anna Martha “Hannah” Schmidt (b. 1827) immigrated and settled in Boston in 1850, and then sent money for her brother Balthasar Ludwig “Louis” Schmidt to also immigrate to America. In Boston in 1851, Anna Martha Schmidt married a John Rimbach who hailed from Blankenbach (a town just northeast of Machtlos), and they had four children (two of whom died) in Boston, before emigrating back to Germany in 1861. Martha Catharina Schmidt (1837-1913) immigrated and settled in Boston around 1855 and married Philip William Busch (1831-1892), but produced no children.

There is yet another, more distant branch of cousins who settled in Dysart, Iowa, and spread out across Iowa. This branch was founded by Franz “Frank” Raub (1849-1920) and his wife, Louisa (Kersten) Raub (1852-1932). Franz was a great great great grandson of Anna (Schmidt) Raub, daughter of Hans Heinrich Schmidt and Barbara (Rimbach) Schmidt of Machtlos. A few years after marrying, Franz and Louisa immigrated to America, settling near Ashton, Illinois for a few years, and then moving to their final destination of Iowa. Franz and Louisa had 9 children: Adam Raub, Johann George Raub, Carolina “Lena” (Raub) Bohms, Martha (Raub) Hoard, Reinhart Raub, Sophia (Raub) Robb, Amelia (Raub) Schafer, Alfred Raub, and William Raub. Many of their descendants are still in central Iowa today.Even today, many Germans who descend from the Machtlos Schmidt family continue to move to America, and several have married American military servicemen or servicewomen stationed in Germany within recent years, thus continuing to create new branches of the Machtlos Schmidt family in America.