It is only within the last few years that historians have become fascinated with the everyday lives from the past. Maybe it was inspired by the 2,000 year-old Roman “notes” jotted on stone scraps, used at Hadrian’s Wall for messaging. These showed both how lifestyles have changed and have not changed—historians seek to determine how little or how much. Such comparisons are best measured in the effects and events of every day people.
One of my family surnames is extremely common: Schmitt (or Schmidt). What German descendant does not have a few in dotted through family trees? Fortunately, much is known about this Schmitt branch, through who they married and where they lived. I have endeavored to express their migration through illustrations in “Specific Schmitt: A Surname Biography in Three Images.”
The last of the family German residences, before immigrating to the Midwest, were in Rhennish villages clustered around the ironworks of Züscher-Hammer. This house on Brunnenstraße in Züsch, is chosen to represent the simple 1-1/2 story “hut” construction that made homes fast to build and efficient to maintain. The Schmitt family lived and worked in the area for nine known generations—over 200 years.
It is cool that my family history represents a large percentage of the average American lineage that possess 25% German DNA. Similarly, I’ve always done well in business by being a barometer of comprehension, which helps to develop insight into shared cultures. On the one hand, what makes progression significant requires diverse contributions. But what makes a culture strong requires a commonality of purpose, continuity of effort, and commitment to shared values. So progress becomes a study and a blend of what contrasts and what complements. —always inspired, Liane
The Story of Schmitt: The Series
The history of the Schmitt family is ubiquitous. As their “Schmitt” name is common, they also share experiences that are part of almost every American’s family tree. Schmitt descendants left the oppression of their homeland for the freedom of choice. The patterns of prosperity and devastation had become intolerable—especially when there was an escape. All immigrants to the United States want the same things: opportunity, prosperity, and a better life for the next generations.
The Schmitt family is unique in how much they exemplify these qualities. As people with deep convictions, they stood up for their beliefs and helped to shape their communities. Their achievements, versus their names, can be found in the history books. Theirs is a story of building, developing industry, following opportunities, participating in change, and taking risks. They hold a mirror up to ourselves, as their past is our past. Their story is both worth remembering and honoring:
“Symbolic Schmitt” gives an overview of the series and how it developed.
“Specific Schmitt: Surname Origin” portrays the family origins in an ancient, and preserved, German village.
“Pioneer Schmitt: A Visual Biography” follows the courageous journey of a Schmitt family to the wilderness of the new world.
“Biography in Buildings” summarizes the Schmitt Story in six images—the first three representative and the second three documented.
Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.