Introduction english

The family history of the Siegerland Stahlschmidt family starts with the purchase of the land of the Niederndorf foundry by Hans König later named Stahlschmidt after his profession on January 4, 1559 from the Count of Nassaucontract that is proved by a contract.

Hans and his wife Nelgen (short name for Petronella) had six children. The four sons of her great-great-grandson Antonius founded their own tribes in different villages of the “Siegerland”.

We don’t know if Hans König is really our ancestor as the church registers start later. Our proven ancestor is Anton from Heisberg near Freudenberg married with Hanna Zeitenbach, daughter of reverend Johannes Zeitenbach.

The following documents of my German website are in English language: Ernest Edwin’s Family Jottings updated by his nephew Walter South and Report on the Stahlschmidt Family Reunion in Brazil , the history of the Frederica colonies (see subchapter of “Dänische” ) as well as Phil Steele’s address to the Family Reunion in Germany on October 23, 2004 that follows hereafter.

“May I start by expressing my heartfelt thanks to Anne Schulte-Lefèbvre and to Bernd Stahlschmidt  for this very special gathering here in the Siegerland today. A welcome home, indeed…

I am astonished by Anne’s dedication and skill in her genealogical research. Trying to keep track of a family’s history is rather like trying to chart a river which never stops, endlessly branching out in smaller streams.

My name is Philip Steele, and my family is here today as well, Linda Rogers and our seven-year old daughter Elin.

My cousin  Brian Harding is here, and his wife Branwen. Also his brother, Chris Harding, who last year attended the Stahlschmidt anniversary in Brazil, and his sister, Diana Harte.

Greetings also from other relatives who cannot be here today, notably my mother Marion Steele, my sister Jenny Scolding and my cousin Nick Steele. My generation are all grandchildren of Edward Steele, born Stahlschmidt,  who lived in South London from 1862 to 1928.  Our own children number nine altogether.

Three years ago, I think it was,  I received an unusual Christmas present: an e-mail from Anne Lefebvre. Some months earlier I had myself posted an e-mail on a website requesting information about my earliest known ancestor, Anton Stahlschmidt who died in Oberfischbach in 1652. As a child I had received from my father a barely decipherable  family tree, which I had copied  out,  and some old  letters.  From Anne in return I now received a wealth of information, a family tree which as if by magic matched the one in my possession, except that it went back a further century,  also documents and  a remarkable paper on the family’s  history by Wilhelmine Stahlschmidt. A  relative I discovered in England, Esme Packer, provided some interesting family jottings from the nineteenth century about the history of the family in Germany and in London.

The story of both the British, Brazilian and Danish Stahlschmidts  might be said to begin in the eighteenth century with Georg Friedrich Casimir Stahlschmidt (1728-1804) , Pastor of Freckleben , by all accounts a remarkably colourful character. If anyone deserves to have a novel written about them, he is the one. Anne, I believe is currently researching his history.

The first Stahlschmidt to move to London was Georg’s eldest son Conrad Christian Friedrich (1754-1812). He was secretary to the Hessian legation which came to London at the time when Hessian troops fought for the British against the American colonists in the American War of Independence. He settled in London and became a sugar broker. His second wife Anne Miller was an early campaigner against  cruelty to animals.

Our direct ancestor however was  Carl Casimir, third son of Georg Friedrich Casimir. He was a successful cloth merchant in Hanover. In 1792 he had a son called Friedrich Ludwig Christoph. Amidst the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars, this young man set out for Hamburg but arrived in London instead,  in  July 1813. Four years later he  married his  cousin  Sophia Stahlschmidt at Shoreditch.  Friedrich Ludwig Christoph established a customs agency at the Port of London. For most of the nineteenth century the Stahlschmidt family was involved with Thames shipping, a business which lasted into the early 20th century.

Friedrich Ludwig Christoph was perfectly fluent in English, a lover of French, German and English literature, an ardent liberal and supporter of  democratic Reform. His son Alfred Augustus (my great grandfather, born in 1825) moved from Peckham to the countryside and strawberry fields at Lewisham. Now of course both these districts have been swallowed up by London. From the early nineteenth century we have correspendence between family members  in England and those in Hamburg, Antwerp and other locations. I have some of those letters with me here today.

We also have some record of the British Stahlschmidts’ lives  in the age of Charles Dickens, of factories and business rivalry, of success and failure. We hear  of a happy family home, with a goose on the table at Christmas, of the young people going to a concert by the singer Jenny Lind, the ‘Swedish Nightingale’.

My grandfather Edward Stahlschmidt was born in 1862 and received part of his education in Germany. He was by all accounts a kindly man with a dry sense of humour. He was a church warden and became a bank manager at Eltham  in 1903. In 1915, in the early years of the jingoism  which accompanied the First World War, my grandfather’s employers asked him to anglicise his name. He was most unhappy about this demand, but was worried for his young family and so he and his wife Hetty changed the name to Steele. Of course,  even the royal family had to change its name at that time.

Edward died in 1928 and the only one of his brothers that we ever knew was the wonderful uncle Lou, Louis Stahlschmidt/Steele, a diminutive and delightful man of great intelligence, who was a missionary in India. Edward’s children, Frankie, Tim, Peggy and John have all died in recent years. Peggy and Frankie worked for the Bank of England.  Tim worked for an insurance company, and John was an officer in the British Army, later in the oil industry. They were some of the best, and I know would have been so pleased by this gathering today.  There are of course many other descendants of the Stahlschmidts living in the British Isles today whom we do not know personally.

I have spoken enough. To close, I would like to ask why we are here  today. Of course, to honour  family members, steel workers, burgomasters, pastors, clockmakers, writers, business people. But also to honour the unknown,  everyday lives, the women and children of those huge families of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the age of high infant  mortality. Like other families we have experienced plague, industrialisation, both historical and terrible modern wars. We have taken part in the big picture of European history.

Today the family has ended up in Germany, Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Brazil, Australia, Canada and the USA. We speak German, English, French, Danish, Portuguese, Welsh. We’re a mini-United Nations, no less, a peacable lot,  I hope,  in a not very peaceful world. So where better to get to know each other than here in the Siegerland, where our story first began?”

In the meantime another family meeting took place in Joinville, Brazil, in 2005 (see chapter “events”).

Since 2013 a chapter “Warsteiner” has been added, as it tells the story of the Warstein US emigrants Anton, Joseph and Adam Stahlschmidt who were of catholic religion.

The only important things in life are the traces of love we leave behind. (Albert Schweitzer)