Geneablogy: An occasional Journal about our experiences exploring our heritage

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Charles Schmitt's death certificate says that his father, Robert Schmitt, was born in Detroit. Charles was born in 1880, so his father would likely have been born before 1860, and definitely by 1870. The state of Michigan has placed the Census for 1870 online in PDF format with a head-of-household index. So I searched for Robert. There were no heads of household named Robert Schmitt (or any variations) in the state of Michigan in 1870. So I looked at the PDFs of the census pages for every Schmitt, Schmit, Schmidt, and Schmid in Wayne County in 1870. There was only one Robert Schmitt in Wayne County in 1870 (at least in the census, near as I can tell). He was 13 years old and living in the house of his parents, John and Rosalinda (I think that's her name; it's hard to read, and might be Rosalia) Schmitt. Robert was the sixth of eight children listed. He was born in Michigan, presumably around 1857. His father John was a grocer, and clearly a prosperous one. He is listed as having real estate assets worth $50,000, quite a sum in 1870. John was 49 in 1870, which would place his birthdate around 1821. His birth place looks like Hessen Germany. There are three or four countries from back then with "Hessen" as part of their names, but the blob after "Hessen" doesn't look like any of them. It looks like Germany. I don't think Germany unified until 1871 or thereabouts, though. Go figure.

Anyway, I haven't been able to find Robert in the 1880 census on the Mormons' site. So I figured I would look for John, thinking that maybe Robert and his wife and newborn baby would be living in his father's house in 1880. Sure enough, there is a John Schmitt listed, living in Detroit, 59 years old in 1880, born in Hesse and a retired grocer (good for him!). He's living with his new wife, Anna, age 22, and his son, Francis J. Schmitt, age 14, who was 4 on the 1870 census, so this is apparently the same John Schmitt. And there's nobody else in the house. (Boo hiss!) In fact, I can find hardly anyone who was in the household in 1870 when I look at the 1880 census. Some of these names would be pretty hard not to find. There are only fourteen Cornelius Schmitts in the entire United States in 1880, for example (counting possible alternate spellings). There are only three Leander Schmitts. Unfortunately, none of them match other characteristics from the 1870 census, like age or parents' nationalities. The only possible match I found was a Charles Schmitt, born in about 1848 and with a father from Hessen and a mother from Baden, living in Detroit with his wife Mary and son Walter.

I'm not ready to claim this family as mine yet; I need proof that the Robert in this family is my Robert. But there's something interesting in the names of the children from 1870 that makes me wonder if this might not be them. I've seen the name of my 2G grandfather rendered as Charles Lean Schmitt. Until now, I thought that middle name might be Leon; it wasn't clear in my great-grandmother's handwriting. But looking at this family in the 1870 census, the two oldest sons of John and Rosalinda were Charles and Leander.

Posted at 11:11:32 PM