Thursdays are the days when I’m going to tackle the big philosophical questions – who are we?  Where do we come from?  Why isn’t #32 a morning person?  Will I end up like my mother some day? 

I’ll start with the easiest one first – what are we doing here?  And by here, I mean, right here.  On this website.  As opposed to, you know, somewhere else. 

Several months ago, my mother had a small get together for cousins to reconnect with Gabby and Gitta (raise your hand if you remember them!)  What was supposed to be a casual, small get together turned into a large party with lots of food and one assigned seat.  It was very cool and I got to meet some new cousins (five times removed or something) and reconnect with cousins I hadn’t seen in a while.  Towards the end of the night, some of us were going through old photo albums and Cousin* Linda asked if there was somewhere online where we could all share the photographs.    

Fast forward to early January when my parents and I joined the Delaware Schellhardts for their annual family holiday in Ocean City, Maryland.  We sat with Cousins Bet and Maggie and their spouses and we got talking about family history and sharing memories and stories and the importance of preserving that history.  Combined with Linda’s suggestion, I felt the need to do something! 

That’s what we’re doing here:  preserving our family history, sharing our stories, reminiscing about our shared past, and honoring those who are no longer with us. 

This website is not a one gal operation – it is yours to do as you please.  I don’t expect everyone to participate and maybe you’ll want to start your own website – that’s okay.  I mean, don’t expect a Christmas card from me next year but have a great time doing it!      

So, how can you make this a vibrant website?  If you have photos that you’d like to share, send them to  That’s right – I sprung for an email account!  Don’t worry, it was free.  If email isn’t your thing, I’ll send the lady with the magic wand scanner to come scan your pictures.  If you have a story to share or facts to correct, let us know!  If you have recorded an oral history, consider posting it here – I sprung for the audio player!  Whatever it is - we want to hear from you! 

By now, you’ve figured out how the website’s set up – there are pages for photos and archival materials I’ll probably reorganize the photo page so that it’s arranged in chronological segments.  I think it’ll make sense once you see it!  Max and Anna have a page – which offers a broad perspective on the family.  Each sibling’s family also has a page.  I included skeletal biographical information for each sibling.  If you want to flesh some more out – submit the information and I’ll update it accordingly.  Finally, there’s a page about the bar which, obviously, will focus on the bar.

This is definitely a work in progress so it will evolve over time.  Keep checking back to see what our family history looks like!

*Please note – I do not generally call people Cousin So-and-So except in the two cases in which “Cousin” is, in fact, their names.   

Sierra Ventana manifest. Image courtesy of via the National Archives and Records Administration
Grab a life vest and shout Chips Ahoy! ‘cause it’s the first installment of Manifest Mondays!  

Ship manifests are pretty cool because – depending on the time period – they provide neat information about the ship passengers – ages, occupations, physical characteristics.  Early manifests were handwritten and – as we’ll see with the Vaderland manifest – hard to read.  Later manifests were typed and easier to understand!  The manifests were required to be filled out by the steamship lines at the port of embarkation – you weren’t getting a voyage unless your name was on the manifest. 

Today, we’re going to look at Line 9 of the Sierra Ventana’s manifest.  That’s Max’s line.

But first, let me tell you why I don’t think Max and I are related.

So, this might be shocking to some people but I don’t really identify myself as “being a Schellhardt.”  I mean, I know I am…well at least half of me is.  But really, I’m my father’s daughter and am most comfortable “being a Henderson”.  And I am really good at “being a Henderson”.  See, Hendersons are kinda quiet and like to keep to themselves.  This works out well in our family because when you have a mom who’s a Schellhardt, it’s usually hard to get in a word edgewise anyway so we just tend to watch and listen.  And listen some more. 

I think this sometimes bothers my mom – she’d like to see me engage more.  Open up.  Join things.  Every once in a while, we’ll have a little back and forth –

Mom:  You need to get out there and do things.  Meet people.  Join something.
Me:  I know!  But I don’t like to join things!  I’m not a joiner! 

But you know who was a joiner? 

Max Schellhardt. 

See, I'm just a Henderson in a long line of Schellhardt joiners.  


Now, before I get a half dozen emails – yes, I know this refers to Max’s occupation as a carpenter.  According to a joiner is a carpenter, especially one who constructs doors, window sashes, paneling, and other permanent woodwork.

This portion of the manifest indicates that the passenger line 9 - Max Schellhardt - was an 18 year old single German male who could read and write and who listed his occupation as joiner.  

Next week - Max's destination and why I'll never get mad about a $25 gift card at Christmas again.  

Starting tomorrow, we’re going to examine the various ship manifests that document the voyages of the Schellhardt and Wissmann families to America.  Here’s a list of the four manifests that I think are important to our family history.  (ARCHIVIST ALERT – listen up, archivists are supposed to be objective and neutral.   I follow that rule in my day job.  I don’t follow that rule here.  Please don’t report me to the Archivist Cops.)  Back to the list:

1.       S. S. Vaderland – Ludwig Wissmann and family, September 1905

2.       S. S. Sierra Ventana – Max Schellhardt, August 1924

3.       S. S. Reliance – Adolf Schellhardt, May, 1926

4.       S. S. Bremen – Max Schellhardt and family, March 1935

Quick notes –

The records themselves are in the custody of the National Archives and all images are from  I think it’s legal to use the images as long as I provide proper citations.  I should probably check first before I end up in Archivist Jail though. 

The manifests record the names of passengers on ships arriving at U.S. ports.  I swore a long time ago I was told that manifests for outgoing ships were not required or retained but some of my archivist pals recently told me that wasn’t the case.  In any event, I haven’t found any outbound manifests.

Each week I’ll examine a manifest – or part of a manifest – to provide a sense of the information that was recorded and the clues that can help us fill some of the missing parts in the narrative of our family history. 

Tomorrow – the Sierra Ventana and why I don’t think Max and I are related.   
Anna Wissmann with her sister-in-law Catherine
Every Friday, I'm going to feature a photograph that I love or just think is really cool!  Please participate and share your favorite family photo so the rest of us can enjoy it too!

The subject of today's featured photo is Anna Schellhardt.  The photos actually come from Aunt Betty Schellhardt's album and I saw it for the first time just recently.  Now, let's talk about Nanny.   Stories about Nanny run the gamut.  Depending on whom, Nanny was a tough old lady who was mean and cranky or she was a generous woman who gave the shirt off of her back to anyone who needed it.  Unfortunately, the "mean" stories outnumber the "nice" stories.  I always imagined an iron-fisted matriarch who kept her brood in line and didn't have time for the warm fuzzy stuff.  Granted, there was good reason - she went through a lot in life.  Her father died when she a baby, she lived in an orphanage for a time, she lost her husband when she was in her 40s, she outlived a son, and on and on. 

When I was little, Nanny was a feeble woman living in a nursing home.  The Nanny I knew was slight and hunched over in her chair.    She wasn't the spirited, domineering woman that I would come to know through the stories told about her.

But before Nanny was Nanny, before she was a mother and a wife, she was just a girl.  A girl who had a pretty smile for the camera.  I can almost here her laughing.

Aunt Anne, a precocious #33, and #32
Sure, I’m #33, probably known most of all for being Aunt (or Great-Aunt) Margaret’s daughter – you know, the one that you know you’re related to but you’re not exactly sure if I’m your niece, or your cousin, or whatever.  I know it’s confusing and believe me it’s led to some awkward situations – like the time when they tried to put my brother (#32) and me in the picture of Uncle Charles’ grandchildren only to realize whoops…we weren’t actually his grandchildren.  And people wonder why I have issues. 

I am Denise the Niece.  Unless I’m your cousin. Or in #32’s case, your sister.     

Maybe some of you remember when I was a little kid.  I was at times precocious, at times a bit shy, and at times a big cry-baby (I have a lot of memories of crying at parties when I was little…I’m hoping they’re just false memories!)  I’ve grown up a lot since then. 

So, who am I now?  And what’s that have to with this website? 

1.       I’m an archivist.  I have a professional obligation to preserve archival materials and ensure that they are accessible to the public.  Seriously.  I took an oath.  What’s that mean to you?  Well, I am responsible for preserving our family records and photographs – at least those in my custody –  but also, it’s my duty to make sure that you, the family, have access to them.  Why should I be the only who gets to see Max Schellhardt’s passport?  Maybe Susie-Q Schellhardt in Dubuque* wants to see it for a school project.  Now, I can’t exactly take the passport on a whistle stop tour through the country showing it to every Tom, Dick, and Harry Schellhardt because that much handling isn’t good for me or the passport.  What I can do though is scan it and put it on this website so everyone can see it.  See, I’m preserving the passport AND giving you access to it.  You know what that makes me folks?  One smart archivist cousin.   

2.       I’m a student of history.  Well, I was.  I mean, I got my degree in history.  What’s a girl with a history degree do?  She works at a supermarket, then a law firm, then an accounting firm, until finally she gets her act together and goes to grad school to become an archivist (see #1).  Anyway, as a student of history, I’m interested in the historical narrative, the trends, the perspectives, the whos and whats and whys.  It’s why I hung out at the adult table when I was a little girl – I was listening in to find out all that stuff.  

3.       I’m a writer who blogs.  Or a blogger who writes.  The chicken and the egg – I’m still trying to figure it out.  I’m a story teller and I like hearing and sharing stories.  That’s what I want to do here – come together and share our stories. 

4.       I’m sarcastic.  I’m getting help for it but it still comes through from time to time. 

5.       I’m obsessed with ensuring other people’s privacy.  My privacy?  Eh, not so much – I blog about my life.  Aside from photos of me in the 90s, I’m an open book.  Most of the pages in this website are password protected so no one makes off with our photographs.  I follow the same rules that the government does – the dead doesn’t have privacy protection.  So, basically, I didn’t ask for their permission to post their pictures.  The rest of you, I won’t post unless I ask or you send me something.  (I have to ask retroactively in a few cases!)   

6.       I’m not a genealogist.  Shocking.  Sure, I like family trees especially if it involves the Kennedys.  But I want to know how Max and Anna met, why they went to Germany in the early 1930s, who got the most presents at Christmas.  I don’t care too much about who Anna’s great-great-great-great grandmother was.  Luckily, we have a branch of the family that’s already figured all that out so we’ll have to rely on their expertise in this area.

7.       I’m not a techie/computer whiz/programmer.  This website is literally a drag and drop operation.  It took me three days to figure out how to make a sub-page.  Honestly, it’s probably not the best format for creating a family website – especially one where we want to share and upload photos from different people.  But I was all hyped up and paid for it before I realized there were better options out there.  We can reassess in a year…if we’re still around in a year.

8.       I have cats.  You just need to know that.      

That’s who I am.  Who are you?  

*For the record, there is no
Susie-Q Schellhardt in Dubuque...
that I know of!

(l-r) Bill and Charles Schellhardt (bkgrd) Bob Schellhardt
Schellhardt Generations is a completely non-political, non-partisan website.  Same deal with this blog.  I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, I couldn’t care less if you’re a member of the Liberation Party, the Tea Party, or even the Donner Party.  Well, actually, I’d be worried if you’re a member of the Donner Party. 

For the record, Anna Schellhardt (Nanny for Cousins 1-33) was a registered Democrat, at least as of 1984.

 I don’t know if either she or Max were heavily involved in the political process and were members of the 29th Ward Democrat Club or if they just happened to be passing by one day and decided to take a picture of their boys in front of the building.  But I think this photograph is appropriate on this day.

Clearly, the kid (Bob Schellhardt) in the back was an Independent.

Can anyone spot the future Republican?     

…and then that one becomes six and six becomes 33 and 33 becomes a whole lotta family.  

What happens when a family tree grows so large and individual branches mature and grow limbs with Schellhardt(y) leaves of their own?  What happens to the root system of that tree?  Does anyone remember that the roots need to be tended and maintained? 

Do the budding leaves of that family tree know about those roots?

Who remembers a German boy named Max and his American-born wife Anna?  Who remembers the tone of his voice, the cadence of her speech, the firmness of his handshake, the sound of her laugh?  Who remembers their dreams, their hopes, their joys, their sorrows?   

Who remembers that before there was all of us, they planted the roots of our family tree? 

What if it’s too late to remember?  What, then, have we lost?    

Recently, at two separate parties with two separate branches of Schellhardt families, there were conversations about capturing those memories and sharing old family photos and the few family records that exist so that everyone in our extended family can understand and appreciate the roots from which we all grew. 

And I thought…well, it’s up to me.  Number 33.  The youngest child of Max and Anna’s youngest child.  The last of their grandchildren.  Maybe it’s true what they say about saving the best for last…

This is my gift to them and to you – the Schellhardt generations – by birth, marriage, adoption, or happenstance.

And I hope you will contribute to this project as we tend to our roots.  So we remember. 

Stay tuned for more information!