Since I left town to go to Pittsburgh back in ’54, we’ve had very few contacts, except for funerals and a couple of marriages, with any of the family (Schellhardts/Wissmans).  We kinda rely on Mom and Mary for all the scoop.”   -- Letter from Al Wissman to Frannie Stephano (the late, great family genealogist)

I came across these words this weekend in a letter written from one cousin to another (well, maybe a cousin once removed) back when people wrote letters to each other.  It was striking because less than an hour after reading it, I was driving my mother to the funeral of a recently-rediscovered cousin-in-law. I thought about those words from that letter during the funeral Mass and I thought about the lifespans of families and how over the years – decades – the natural order of families change.  They expand, they grow upwards and out, their roots nurture, and their branches support and protect all the new branches that grow.  But in all that growing, sometimes families become far removed from shared beginnings – with funerals and weddings being the only occasions when far flung relatives connect, just like Cousin Al wrote.   

So, who was this long lost / recently-rediscovered cousin-in-law whose life my mom and I celebrated on Saturday?  Her name was Frances Wissman and she was married to the late Fred Wissman.  If you are the child or grandchild of Charles, Bill, Bob, Helen, Anne, or Margaret Schellhardt, Fred was their first cousin, the son of Anna Wissman Schellhardt’s brother Alfred and his wife Catherine.  (And to put Cousin Al into context, he was a first cousin too – the son of Alfonse and Louisa Wissman).

My mom thought Frances passed away several years ago; however, a couple of weeks ago when another cousin a few steps removed posted about her Aunt Fran and tagged Fran’s daughter, Betty Wissman, my mom connected the dots and realized that this was a branch of the family tree that we lost track of over time.  She made plans to visit with Betty and Frances. Sadly, Frances passed away before that came to fruition.   

I never met Frances and my mother has few memories of her so I am in no position to write a memorial.  What I know of Frances I learned on Saturday from the priest and daughter who eulogized her.  They spoke of a kind and humble woman who cared about people, especially those who were marginalized.  She led a long life that was filled with love and hope and faith – as all good lives should be. 

I am sad that I never had a chance to meet Frances or that my mother did not get the chance to reconnect with her.  Such is the lifespan of a family. But just as Cousin Al’s words ring true, so do the words included on the last page of France’s funeral program, “Let us not grieve – beyond letting go – for in the Tree of Life, Frances’ roots and ours are forever intertwined.”

Rest in Peace, Frances Wissman.  I hope you were welcomed home by the entire Wissman/Schellhardt clan. 
While I don't have pictures of Frances Wissman, we do have a picture of her late husband and first cousin to Schellhardt siblings, Fred Wissman. He is the boy wearing the tie.
Since I mentioned him, Cousin Al Wissman is on the left of this photo, seated next to his sister Mary (whom he referenced in his letter). Charles and Bobby Schellhardt are next to Mary.
A few weeks ago, we looked at the 1910 Census.  Today, we’ll jump ahead 10 years to 1920 to look at the 13th Census of the United States.  But let’s consider the world of the 1910s.

In 1910, the world didn’t have Oreo cookies, crossword puzzles, Boy – or Girl – Scouts, Pulitzer Prizes,  parachutes, assembly lines, traffic lights, or daylight savings time.  People had to hand-crank their automobiles to get them started.  Women did not have the right to vote.  America only had 46 states.  Monarchies ruled a Europe that hadn’t yet been torn apart by a world war.

By 1920, that had all changed.  People were enjoying their Oreos and crossword puzzles in a post-war world where they had to remember to turn their clocks back every fall…or whatever.  Women had the right to vote but no one had the right to drink.  Ahh, progress is sweet indeed!  Welcome to the Roaring Twenties, folks!

We don’t know much about how Mathilda Wissmann and her children spent the decade between 1910 and 1920.  Or even if they ever ate Oreos.  We do know that - probably early in the decade – the recently widowed Mathilda put her children in St. Vincent’s Home for Children while she attempted to find work to support her family – a common occurrence during this time period.

But by 1920, the family was back together under one roof at 1514 North Leithgow Street, the same neighborhood where they lived in 1910.  They no longer lived with family (Alfred probably married and Edmond returned to Germany at some point) or boarders.  The house itself was located a few blocks northeast of their former lodgings on North Fifth Street and a few blocks away from St. Peter’s Church where Anna Wissmann herself stated that she attended school.  According to, the row-home at 1514 North Leithgow was built in 1920 so it is highly likely that the Wissmanns were the first residents of the house.  

46 year old Mathilda, a widow for over 10 years at this point, rented the home and lived there with her 18 year old son Alfred, 16 year old son Alphonse, and 12 year old daughter Anna.  Having left the cigar business behind at some point, Mathilda listed her occupation as that of housekeeper.  Oldest son Alfred, perhaps following in his father’s footsteps, listed his occupation as a cabinet worker.  Alphonse was listed as a student.  Anna’s occupation was listed as bookbinder.  For years, I thought this was a mistake – that it was Anna who was the student and Alphonse who was the bookbinder.  But then Aunt Helen told me that Anna (Nanny) quit school in the middle of 8th grade – she got a good mark in arithmetic so she figured she’d quit while she was ahead.  So, I guess the information on the census form is correct!  Nanny was a 12 year old bookbinder!         

Unfortunately, there is very little information known about the Wissmanns from 1910 to the late 1920s so the 1920 Census is a nice little glimpse into their lives during this time.  While we don’t know much about this time period, we know that by 1930, everything will be completely different. 

See you on the next Censusational Sunday! 

*Why is it so hard to find the Wissmanns on the 1920 Census.  Blame it on the people who indexed the records.  “Wissmann” isn’t clearly written…it almost looks like “Kissmann”.  So, if you’re searching on, take things like this into account!  

The Wissmann family circa 1920
On April 22, 1910, Census Enumerator Joseph Levy walked down North Fifth Street in Philadelphia’s 16th Ward to record the names and other pertinent details of the street’s inhabitants for the 13th Census of the United States.  For the most part, the street’s residents were German immigrants – with a few Austrians and Russians in the mix.  A few had children born in Pennsylvania – probably the first Americans in their families.  They worked in what, today, we would probably consider blue collar jobs – bakeries, breweries, factories, stables, and shops.  Husbands – if there were husbands – were the heads of extended families that oftentimes included assorted siblings, cousins, or mothers-in-law who were newly arrived in the country and bunked in with already established relatives.  (And now we know the origin of mother-in-law jokes!)  The stories and experiences on this street were probably the same block after block after block in every city that attracted immigrants.   

The story of the 349th family that Levy visited on his rounds of Enumeration District 255 is only special because it is the story of our family.

Come through the doors of 951 North Fifth Street and meet the Wissmanns – as recorded by Mr. Levy.

The head of 951 North Fifth Street was Mathilda Wissmann, a 36 year old white female.  She was a widow – did she tell Mr. Levy that her husband passed away the previous June?  She was a mother of three children – all three still living, which was probably quite a feat in 1910.  She was born in Germany as were her father and her mother and her two older children - her sons with whom she had immigrated to the United States in 1906.  She could speak English and read and write as well.  She was a retail merchant of her “own account” and sold cigars – the pay from which probably went to pay the rent on the property. 

Mathilda’s children are listed next – 8 year old Alfred, 6 year old Alphonse, and their American born sister, 2 year old Anna.  Only Alfred was old enough to be in school – perhaps he was enrolled in the nearby Catholic school.  At this point, the children are still in Mathilda’s household…but in time, she will be forced to put them in a children’s home while she tries to find work in order to support her family.  But in April 1910, the Wissmann family is, luckily, still together.

And they aren’t alone.  Like so many extended immigrant families – the Wissmanns live with relatives – Mathilda’s younger brothers, 22 and 24 year old Alfred and Edmond.  Alfred immigrated to the United States with Mathilda and Ludwig Wissmann in 1906, but Edmond was newly arrived to the country, having arrived in 1909.  The single brothers were both engineers at breweries – perhaps one of the many breweries on Girard Avenue that led to the area becoming known as Brewerytown.  Neither brother had been out of work during 1909 nor were they out of work on April 15, 1910.  While Alfred could speak English, Edmond spoke German – perhaps he was still trying to get the hang of the language in this new country.   

The house’s occupants also included 30 year old Godfried Abt, a Swiss boarder who was a boiler maker in a boiler factory (proving that our connection to the HVAC industry goes way, way back!)  A pair of German widows, 58 year old Pauline Dismark and 54 year old Bertha Remack, also lodged at the home.  Both were seamstresses and made clothing.  Finally, there was Fuconia Kreizer, a 50 year old single female who was finisher at a button factory – and the only non-immigrant (besides little Anna!) in the home.  That rounded out the residents of 951 North Fifth Street.   

Having filled out his ledger sheet with all of the information for the people living at 951 North Fifth Street, it was time for Mr. Levy to move on to the 350th house in his enumeration district.

How much do circumstances and situations change in 10 years?  Well, we’ll just have to wait for the 1920 Census to find out.

(Apologies for the small image!  I'll try to reupload tomorrow!)
Image via
I remember my first time like it was yesterday – the anticipation, the excitement, the thrill of it all.  Filling in those little bubbles on my 2010 census form really made me feel like I counted.  Especially to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Ahh, the census!   It only comes around every 10 years but let me tell you – the information gathered by the Census Bureau is pure genealogical gold.  Even more so, because after the census is taken and the statistical results are tabulated, the information is sealed for 72 years!  If you don’t think the government takes your privacy seriously, you’ve never been involved in a census release!  

Time for a little math lesson – the census is taken every ten years and then released 72 years later so, the 1910 Census was released in 1982, 1920 in 1992, 1930 in 2002, and the 1940 Census was just released last April.  We won’t be seeing another census release for nine more years.  And don’t get all excited about seeing the 2010 Census…that won’t roll around until 2082! 

Now can you understand why genealogists go absolutely bananas when the census is released?!  In the olden days (and by olden days, I mean, pre-Twitter, like 2002), that meant lines out the door at the National Archives so genies could hop on microfilm readers as soon as the census was released at midnight.  Last year, the first time the census was released entirely online, websites crashed left and right as genies across the world tried to track down their great-great aunt Ida or Grandpa Harry on the 1940 Census. 

Before we look at the census records in which the Wissmanns and then the Schellhardts are listed – and the cool information that we can glean from them – I’m going to get all know-it-all archivisty on you because it’s important that I make this crystal clear to you –

The primary function of the census is NOT for genealogical research.  It was a statistical record prepared for statistical reporting purposes.  So, before the age of, you couldn’t just type in great-great aunt Ida’s last name and get all her information – because, well, the Census Bureau didn’t care about her last name as much as they cared about other stuff (like what they were counting – race, sex, level of education, home owners, radio owners, etc.) Basically, the only way to find Aunt Ida on the census was to have some idea of where she lived when the census was taken so that you could determine the enumeration district (ED) that she lived in.  Once you had the ED, then you had to go through pages of population schedules to find her name.  And then bingo…you hit pay-dirt.  So, yes, it’s a lot easier these days, but I feel that it’s important that we appreciate the records and how to use them.

Okay, I’ve said my piece and I feel much better. 

A few things to know – like ship manifests, the census has changed over time.  In 2010, mostly all of us received census forms in the mail, we filled them out, then sent them back to the Census Bureau.  Easy-peasy.  But in the real olden days, the Census Bureau used enumerators – people they hired to go around every city, every town, every census-designated location (those aforementioned enumeration districts) to get a count of all the people in the country.  They filled out population schedules by hand asking the residents of households a variety of questions.  Some towns have a couple of enumeration districts while cities – like Philadelphia – can have hundreds.  Something tells me that the census enumerator who gathered the Schellhardts’ information in 1940 was happy to relax with a beer when he reached Schellhardts Café at the end of the block! 

I love the census because I love seeing the changes from one decade to the next – arrivals and departures; births and deaths; migrations from place to place; family fortunes rising and falling.  When we begin our examination of the census records, we’ll be able to trace the evolution of our family within a thirty year period.  Not bad for a statistical report, huh?

We’ll start with the 1910 Census and work our way up to 1940!  Since next Sunday is Easter, however, you’ll have to wait until the following Sunday to start our censusational adventure!    
Mathilda Horn Wissmann with her children Alfred, Alphonse, and Anna and nephews Joe and Louie Wissmann
Wissmania has returned!  The picture above is in a photo collage that Aunt Helen made for my mom and I always felt bad because the guys on the end didn’t fit in the oval opening that the picture was in so they were effectively cropped out of the photo.  But it was okay ‘cause they were just some cousins. 

Just some cousins.  Kinda like Number 33 is just some cousin! 

When I would ask my mom just who those cousins were, she would try to explain it – they were her grandmother’s nephews, Joe and Louie.  But I always got a little confused because they were the sons of Mathilda’s sister, Ida Horn.  I always got tripped up on how that made them Wissmanns. 

It wasn’t until this past November that I finally connected the dots - or, in this case, connected the relatives.    

Joe and Louie’s mother, Ida Horn, was married to Laurenz (sp?) Wissmann, the brother of Ludwig Wissmann who was married to Ida’s sister Mathilda, the mother of Alfred, Alphonse, and Anna Wissmann Schellhardt.  

Did you follow that?

More importantly, do you know what that means? 

They were DOUBLE COUSINS – related on both the maternal and paternal sides!!!  So, they’re like, really, really related to us. 

Both Joe and Louie came to America in 1923.  For Joe, however, it was a return of sorts as he was actually born in the United States.  Last week, we had a glimpse of the manifest on which Louie (Ludwig) appeared - he came to America in November 1923 on the S.S. Muenchen and was sponsored by Mathilda and Ida’s youngest brother, Alfred Horn. 

Joe came (back) to the States a few months earlier in April 1923 aboard the S.S. Reliance (remember that ship name…we’ll be seeing it again).  Who was he going to join?  His double aunt Mathilda (Horn) Wissmann.    

So – does everyone have it straight?   We come from Wissmanns.  They come from Wissmanns.  We're all Wissmanns. 

And, oh yeah, we're all Horns too. 

Next up – what’s a Horn got to do with it?
Please check out our Family Records page for a few new additions.  I recently added Mass cards for some of our deceased relatives.  They were submitted by Aunt Helen Knuttel.  

Also I didn't post on Sunday but so I have to send a belated birthday shout-out!  Bill Knuttel celebrated his birthday on Sunday.  Happy Birthday Bill!  We're so glad that you're a part of our family!
Continuing our theme of Schellhardt - Wissmann togetherness, today's featured photo shows the Schellhardt and Wissmann grandchildren with their grandmother, Mathilda.  It also shows that kids will be kids whether it's 2013 or ca. 1933.
Front (l-r) - Bill and Charles Schellhardt with Al and Mary Wissmann Back (l-r) - Mathilda Wissmann Schoener holding Bobby Schellhardt and Louisa Wissmann. ca. 1932-1933
I know I told you that we’d meet the other Wissmanns today but I’m not feeling one with the words tonight so I’m giving you a short post that’s related to one of those other Wissmanns – the other Ludwig to be exact.  But first…

My boss is fond of saying that every box at the National Archives contains a story.  And it’s true – some of them are pretty boring but some of them are pretty exciting.  I, on the other hand, am fond of pointing out that you never know who you’ll meet in the records.  One day I’ll tell you about the day I ran into Lizzie Borden.  And boy did she have an ax to grind.

My favorite box – make that file – in the whole entire National Archives is a great example of people I never expected to meet when I opened the folder.  At first, I just thought I was going to find a letter written by the U.S. Marshall in Arizona about pesky cowboys and disturbances at a little place called Tombstone and some guys named Earp who helped to restore order.  I expected that – it was the whole reason I was in the file in the first place.  But then I ran into General Sherman – that General Sherman – who sent a lengthy telegram complaining about cowboys – everybody hated on cowboys back in the day.  Last but not least, I met a grocer in Prescott, Arizona named Morris Goldwater who wrote a letter about a lawsuit he was involved in.  Morris’ nephew Barry would eventually become the most famous Goldwater Republican ever.

You just never know who you’ll meet – or run into – in the records. 

That’s what happened when I was looking at the manifest for the ship that brought the other Ludwig Wissmann to America in 1923.  Ludwig’s on Line 24.  But it was Line 7 that caught my eye. 

Did I run into someone else I knew in the records?  
I’ll be honest with you – I’ve spent a lot of time lamenting my place in the family.  Well, not so much my place because there is definitely something to be said for being the baby.  I think it’s more that I suffered from an “I don’t know where I fit in because all my cousins are so much older than me” complex.  It’s actually something my mom suffers from too since her siblings were and are so much older than she is.  We’re kinda weird in betweeners. 

But really that in between spot is actually the sweet spot. 

In a way, we’ve been made adopted members of every other sibling’s family unit – whether there’s room for us or not!  We cross over the family in a way that doesn’t happen much these days.  So, while it’s been years that most of the cousins have seen each other, I actually see a lot of you at least once or twice a year.  Sure, I’m the quiet one in the corner but I like being there!

And there’s another benefit too.  I get to experience a lot of things that the rest of you didn’t.  Kinda like this day a few years ago when some Schellharts and Wissmanns (and those cross-over Hendersons) got together for dinner.  Sitting on the left next to my dad is Louisa Wissmann – “Aunt Louisa” who was our de facto family matriarch for decades after the passing of our own matriarch in 1987.  Her daughter Mary – “Cousin Mary” – is between our own Uncle Bill and Aunt Betty.  And there I am on the end – that weird in betweener.        

There we were - three generations gathered around a table.  

Just like they were in 1938.

I told you we’d get to know the Wissmanns today so let’s go around the table and get acquainted.

In the center is Mathilda Horn Wissmann Schoener.  As family matriarch, she deserves her own post so we’ll cover her later.  

This is Alphonse and Louisa (nee Hoffeins) Wissmann’s family.  Alphonse was Nanny’s brother – the younger of the two brothers.  You might’ve known him as Uncle Al.  Alphonse and Louisa were married in February 1926.  Seated in front of them are their children – Al and Mary or Cousin Al and Cousin Mary.  

Cousin Al was the oldest of the Wissmann grandchildren – born in April 1927, he edged out Charles Schellhardt as oldest by just a few months.  Hey, we can’t all be #1 all the time!  Cousin Mary was born a few weeks after Bill Schellhardt in December 1928.  At least from the photos, it seems that the Alphonse Wissmann family and Schellhardt family were very close.  And always at the zoo.  We’ll get back to that another day.

This is older brother Alfred “Uncle Freddy” Wissmann and his wife, Catherine (nee Krotock).  Married in June 1926, they had three children who are seated in front of them.  Don’t mind the little girl in the corner picking her nose – that’s just Aunt Helen Schellhardt.  Oldest son Alfred was born in February 1928.  Daughter Kathleen was born in 1933 before being joined by younger sister Eleanor in 1935. 

Like our family, each of these families has branched off and grown into their own strong family trees.

But this picture from 1938 reminds us that we all started out from the same seedlings.

 Tomorrow, we’ll meet the other Wissmanns.  

SS Vaderland Manifest - CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE. Image via via NARA
While I know you’d like to drag out our examination of this manifest over four weeks like I did the last time, I think we can probably cover everything in one post.  Well, I’ll try anyway.  If you get tired of reading, just take a break and come back later.  

We’ve been spending a lot of time on the Schellhardt part of our family – and for good reason, it’s the name of our website!  But it’s time to meet the maternal side of the family – Nanny’s relatives.  The best place to start is with her immediate family - her parents, Ludwig and Mathilda Wissmann, and her brothers, Alfred and Alphonse.  Lucky for us, they just happen to be on the manifest that we’re looking at today!

This manifest is for the S.S. Vaderland which sailed from Antwerp via Dover (the English Dover, not the Delaware Dover, FYI) on September 23, 1905 and arrived at the Port of New York on October 2, 1905.

The Wissmann family is listed on Lines 8-11.  The patriarch of the family, Ludwig, is first.  He’s listed as a 34 year old married male carpenter from Eichenbiehl, Germany.  His wife, Mathilda (or Mathilde) is listed next – a 32 year old married female with no calling or occupation.  She, like her husband, is listed as being from Eichenbiehl, Germany.  Their sons, 3 year old Alfred and 11 month old Alphonse, round out the list.  They could all read and write – although I think this was an over-exaggeration when it came to the boys!  The final destination for all – the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Why isn’t Anna Wissmann listed on this manifest?! 

Let’s see how well you’ve been reading these posts.  

Again, it’s the second half of the manifest that always floats my boat.  The family does not have tickets to their final destination although – unlike Max – they have quite a bit of money in their possession - $400 to be exact.  With inflation, that’s like…a whole lotta coin in today’s money! 

The next two columns are intriguing – it’s kind of hard to make out whether Ludwig was previously in the United States but Mathilda was – and this will be important to remember when we meet her sister Ida in a few days.  So, who are they joining in the States?  According to the manifest, Ludwig’s brother-in-law, W. Pet. Parr at the Delanco Hotel in Philadelphia.  I’ve never heard of the name Parr but where have we heard Delanco before?  Anna Wissmann lived with relatives in Delanco, New Jersey after living in an orphanage as a child.  Delanco Hotel.  Delanco, New Jersey.  Coincidence?  Misunderstanding?  Mistake?   I ended up spending my lunch hour doing what archivists should never do – researching.  I tried to track down the Delanco Hotel without any luck.  So then I did what archivists really shouldn’t do – I started making conjectures.  What if there was no Delanco Hotel?  What if they were confused and meant Delanco, New Jersey?  I haven’t found the answer yet but I will not rest until I get to the bottom of it! 

The rest of the manifest is routine – nobody was an anarchist, a polygamous, or a forced child bride.  They were all in good health and without any physical deformities.  Ahh, the perfect immigrants! 

Tomorrow – a more personal look at the Wissmann family.

Anyone figure out why Nanny wasn’t on the manifest yet?  Come on #19, you know you’ve got this!


We’re celebrating another birthday today!  #20, Karen Schellhardt Bade, is today’s birthday girl!  Happy birthday Karen!  We’re so glad you’re a part of our family!

I often say that I have a small family but a lot of relatives.  My parents, #32, and I are a compact four-person unit that occupies a tidy little branch on a family tree that dangles with a multitude of relatives.    

When I began this website, I intended it to be for and about those Schellhardt relatives – Max and Anna’s children, their children’s children, and now their children’s children’s children (that’s four Schellhardt generations, in case you’re counting.)  It was intended to honor our people.     

But a funny thing happened while I delved more deeply into our family history. 

I started to become acquainted with a whole extended network of relatives who played roles in Max and Anna’s lives.  Most are people whom I’ve never met – they are merely faces in photographs and names on government forms.  I began to realize that those faces, those names, those people were our people’s people.  And that makes them ours too.  

It’s time to get to know the Wissmanns, the Horns, and the Schaefers and their connection to our Schellhardt generations.    

Here's a sneak peak at some of the people we'll meet next week.  
L - Alphonse and Louisa Wissmann with children, Al and Mary, C - Max and Anna Schellhardt, Charles and Bobby, Mathilda holding Anne, Bill, Helen R - Alfred and Catherine Wissmann with children Freddie, Cathleen, and Eleanor