Report: Johann Peter Schmidt, b. 25 February 1788.......Literate?

         Description: There has always been a question as to whether the Schmidt name of our lineage was Schmidt or Schmit.............We now know the birth and ancestral name was Schmit(t). The Passport spelling: Schmidt (created by a government clerk in Trier) and the Americanized name Smith.


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Query: Schmidt To reach a conclusion we have three original documents dating from 1810 and 1840 that provide us with direct but contradictory evidence. This report shall therefore address the nature of the historiical creation of each and the existing mind-set of the writers of each document. The oldest Schmidt document is the Marriage Certificate written at the marriage of Johann Peter Schmidt and Anna Maria Bruck on January 21, 1810 in the Catholic Church records at Zuesch, Germany. (you can see this in "Photo's").................... In examining hand written records of this age, 197 years ago and older, it is wise to remember that much of Europe's population, particularly poor farmer's, laborers and peasants could not read or write well...................... In very small towns such as Damflos, Neuhueton, Marboro, Zinserhaughten and Zuesch, village schools may have existed but children were needed for their labor in farming. Also recall that only 348 years earlier, about 10 generations (we have 10 generations in this geneology to get to today) from the birth of Simon Schmidt, the "Black Plague" had killed an estimated 100 million people in Europe half of the population. .................... The Marriage Certificate was clearly written by the Catholic Priest of Zuesch. Only he would have written it in Latin. ............... Now imagine the conversation between the priest and Johann Peter. "What is your name Sir?" "Schmidt" would be the reply. Or would it be Schmit? ..................... What is happenening here? .......... The priest is writing what he hears and then writes what his experience suggests is the correct spelling..........Remember the times............How often does a farmer write his name?.........probably the only time he is asked his name is in conjunction with a government document such as a Census..........So what is the probabilty Peter reads the Marriage Certificate?........It is a document that will stay in the Church Records and never be a personal document of Peter's or Maria's. When you examine the Certificate you will discern that Johann is legible Peter is legible and Schmidt could be Schmidt or Schmitt. ........................................... Its is now March 2, 1840 and Johann Peter is standing in front of the Clerk of Prussian Passports, a government worker who issues many of these documents............... "How old are your Sons, Peter and Jacob?"........"15".........."Ah, you are aware that the boys will have compulsary military service in the Prussian Army when they reach 17?"......."Yes"........."What is your name?"........."Johann Peter Schmidt"................This time we can conjecture that Johann Peter will read the Passport because he shall carry it for years and it is his only legal document of Citizenship. His name, his wife's name, his sons's names and daughter are clearly legible from the script of the Clerk as Schmidt.........Case closed?.......But wait, how does Johann Peter sign his Passport........looks like: "Patar Schmit" (see in Photo's")..........Can Johann Peter really read well?.......The evidence is suggesting that his schooling is very limited.......It would be unheard of to give false testimony in those times....................Now let us view the "France's" Passenger Manifest. A document now required of ship's Master's at each United States Port of debarkation as a result of the 1830 Law passed by Congress.............At the boarding the passenger's passport is taken by the Burser of the ship in order to formulate the passenger manifest............Now let us think here a moment........how is the list to look?............From "A" to "Z" naturally and by family since the wife and children are always on the husbands passport he being the authority of the family. (A mediaevil trait, of course.)............but lo, the actual passenger list is from"A" to "Z" but not by family but rather age..........with the oldest person toping the list. Thus family members are scattered throughout their alphabetic designator age.........In such a scheme therefore all the Schmidt's are listed as "Schmidt" since that is the name on the original source document, the Passport. What do we conclude:......... a. the family name is properly recorded as "schmidt"........ b. Johann Peter Schmidt was a poorly educated farmer from a small Prussian German village.
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