Paul was born and grew up in Wisconsin. He is married to a Thai and living in Thailand. He has Swiss, German, and Austrian ancestry.
Great-Grandparents Schmidt in 1890
I decided to look into the background of my mother's paternal grandparents after I received a copy of their wedding photo from my youngest sister a few years ago. Henry W. Schmidt and Anna Waldvogel immigrated to the United States from Western Europe in the late 19th century. After meeting and getting married in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1890, my great-grandparents settled in central Wisconsin.
This article first traces the origins of Henry W. Schmidt in Germany, and then the background of Anna Waldvogel in Switzerland. Next, I relate the married life of Henry and Anna Schmidt before concluding with their lives after a divorce.
My sources include U.S. federal censuses, Wisconsin state censuses, Michigan marriage records, Marshfield newspaper articles, and obituaries.
Henry W. Schmidt Family Background
Henry W. Schmidt was born in Germany on April 6, 1859. He was the oldest child of Joseph Schmidt born in 1828 and Jennie Roskie born in 1835. Henry had two brothers and two sisters all born in Oldenburg and Oberstein, Germany. Hamman was born in 1869, George in 1871, Jennie in 1872, and Emma in 1873. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any records about my great-grandfather's life in Germany.
According to an Ancestry census record of George Schmidt, he and the Schmidt family except for my great-grandpa immigrated to the United States in 1878. An 1880 U.S. census record further indicates that Joseph Smith and his family were living in Navasota, Texas. Mr. Schmidt was employed as a jeweler. Henry W. is not listed on this census. Another ancestry record shows that my great-grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in 1881 or 1882. Being the oldest child, perhaps my great-granddad was serving in the Prussian Army when Joseph Schmidt and his family immigrated earlier.
After my great-grandpa immigrated to the United States, there are no records found of him living in Texas. My first record of Henry W. Schmidt living in the U.S. is indicated by his marriage record to Anna Waldvogel in 1890 in Manistique, Michigan. At that time, there was a lot of logging in the Manistique area, and perhaps that brought my great-grandpa up there.
Anna Waldvogel Family Background
My great-grandma, Anna Waldvogel, was born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, on August 31, 1868. She was the third oldest child of Michael Waldvogel born in 1825 and Susanna Mueller born in 1837. Anna had one older sister, Barbara, born in 1867. She also had an older brother, Johann, born in 1864, and a younger one, Albert, born in 1877. Other than her father's death in Switzerland in 1883, I don't know anything about Anna's life before immigrating to the United States.
My great-grandmother's obituary notes that she and her widowed mother, Susanna Mueller Waldvogel, immigrated together in 1890. They immediately went to Manistique, Michigan, where Anna met my great-grandfather, Henry W. Schmidt. According to Michigan marriage records, Henry and Anna Schmidt were married on October 25, 1890, in Manistique.
Married Life of Henry W. Schmidt and Anna Waldvogel
After my great-grandparents got married, they lived in Manistique according to Anna's obituary for about a year before moving to the Marshfield, Wisconsin, area in 1891. There Henry and Anna Schmidt initially lived on a farm four miles west of Marshfield. According to census records and Anna's obituary, my great-grandparents lived on farms to the west of Marshfield for 22 years or until 1913.
During the first 12 years on farms, my grandfather, two great uncles, and one great aunt were born. Great uncle Henry John was born in 1891 followed by Edward Michael in 1896. My grandfather William August was born in 1899, and finally great aunt Elsie was born in 1903.
Based on the 1910 federal census, Henry and Anna Schmidt were living on a farm near Lincoln in Wood County. The census lists my great-grandpa as a farmer and bricklayer, and my great-grandma as a housewife. All of the children were living at home in addition to Anna's widowed mother Susanna Waldvogel.
In or around 1913, the Schmidts moved into Marshfield. During the period 1913-1920, Susanna Waldvogel passed away in 1918, and Henry and Anna divorced on an unknown date.
Although I have not found an actual divorce decree in historical newspapers, I can now speculate on the reason for my great-grandparents' divorce. Based on articles appearing in a Marshfield paper in 1906, 1913, and 1914, Henry Schmidt was arrested for physical violence against his wife Anna. On two occasions he spent 30 days in the Marshfield jail. After being physically abused for so many years, Anna probably had no choice but to file for a divorce. This article will be further edited after I find out more details about the divorce.
Post Divorce Life of Henry W. Schmidt
Although there are no census records, my great-grandfather was most probably still living in Marshfield after his divorce from my great-grandma. According to the 1930 census, Henry W. was listed living in Marshfield as a naturalized citizen. The census notes that he was married, but there was no listing of a wife. Great-grandpa's occupation was that of a laborer in a veneer factory.
Finally, the 1940 census also lists Henry W. Schmidt living in Marshfield as widowed and with an eighth-grade education. Based on his obituary, great-grandpa was hospitalized for a long time before passing away on March 9, 1942.
Post Divorce Life of Anna Schmidt
The 1920 federal census shows Anna Schmidt as divorced and living in Marshfield with her four children. For employment, my great-grandma is listed as a carpet weaver in her home.
Anna Schmidt's obituary indicates that she had stomach surgery in June of 1923 and then died of stomach cancer on January 14, 1924.
Reflections on My Great-Grandparents' Lives
It was a big surprise to discover through my ancestry research that Henry W. Schmidt and Anna Schmidt divorced after about 25 years of marriage. While they were alive, my grandparents, mother, great aunt Elsie, great uncle Henry John, and aunts and uncles never talked about the great-grandparents' divorce. My two living aunts also never mentioned this divorce. Perhaps everyone was too embarrassed to bring up this subject. A few years before her death in 1985, I had the chance to meet great aunt Elsie. How I wish I had been doing family research at that time and had asked Elsie about her parents, Henry and Anna Schmidt!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Paul Richard Kuehn
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 18, 2017:
Yes, tracing my family history has been very interesting. The more I find out, the more I want to discover. Thanks for commenting!
Ram Ramakrishnan on November 18, 2017:
Very interesting story of your great-grandparents.
Tracing one's family history into the past is such a fascinating exercise. There is a sense of intrigue, of achievement, of involvement, of being alive. We begin to recognize ourselves better, as we reconstruct or imagine the inclinations, fetish, temperaments, and mannerisms of those whose lives we endeavor to understand. It almost gives a feeling of having lived endlessly.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 20, 2017:
Thank you very much for your comment, Devika. I am pleased that you enjoyed this article.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 20, 2017:
You shared a great part of your life here and a interesting to read about your grandparents lives.
Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 20, 2017:
Yes, it is surprising that they got divorced back in those days. All of my relatives who knew must have felt bad about it and probably didn't want to talk about the divorce. When did you live in Wisconsin Rapids? Thanks for commenting.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 18, 2017:
That is interesting that your great grandparents got divorced because at that time it was rare to do so. The four years that my husband and I lived in Wisconsin it was in Wisconsin Rapids which was not far from Marshfield.