Schmitsch – Smicz

schmitsch Smicz, Prudnik, Poland

Photo: Freshly plowed fields in autumn, Schmitsch/Smicz, Poland

[UPDATE: April 2014 – I have written an updated post about with further information into the Hindera (and other) families – CLICK HERE ]

Rarely do I visit a place that I have a personal connection with.  The tiny village of Schmitsch/smicz is an exception.  It’s the place where my great-great grandfather, Albert Hindera, was born.  In those days it was part of Prussian Silesia.  Today it now lies in Prudnik county, in the south of Poland.

This history of Schmitch, now named Smicz in Polish, is a complex one.  At the center of Europe, the Silesian region (Schlessien) has fallen under the rule of numerous duchies, kingdoms, and empires throughout the centuries.  By the mid 18th century the Prussians gained control over the region from the Austrian Habsburgs.  In 1871 Silesia then became part of the newly formed German empire (Deutsches Reich) where it remained a part of Germany up until the end of WWII, when a majority of the region was transferred to Poland.

In 1879, at the age of 17, Albert, along with several brothers and sisters, left the German port of Bremen for America.  Landing in Baltimore he took the train to Nebraska, eventually ending up with land in western part of the state.  He built himself a house out of sod and started a farm.  After 5 years, he was awarded the deed to his land, upon which he sold it and bought another farm in the southeast of Nebraska near the town of Steinauer, where the soil was better.  There he married another Silesian immigrant, Anna Lempka and in 1889 my great-grandfather George Hindera was born.  Looking at family records it seems like half of Schmitsch must have traveled to America during that period.  The names of the Nebraska census closely match those from the war memorials, cemetery, and church records in Smicz.

I was granted the privilege to look in the hand written church birth/baptism registry where I saw the names of long forgotten family and the records of their births from centuries past.  Even finding a few new names of my family line further back in time.  It was somewhat difficult to read the old German handwriting.  Especially once I got used to one persons writing style in the book, and then a new person took over with even worse handwriting!

I unfortunately was not allowed to take any photos of the books, not sure why not.  It’s a bit frustrating to realize how much information is locked away in those old books with their deteriorating paper and fading ink.  And there is no real access to it outside of going there, and hopefully having someone who speaks the language of the local priest.  I guess I should also be thankful that my family records have survived two wars and dramatic political changes.  Hopefully I can return in another few years and keep looking back further in time and maybe try and get permission to take some photos.  The records go back to the 1500’s.

Looking at the war memorial in the city center, I guess it is a good thing my family left.  The names Brinsa, Hindera, Mellar, and Peschel are all of direct ancestry to me, and probably nephews/cousins of Albert.  It seems a large toll was taken from this small town of 500 souls.   The cost of the second world war was even greater.

Schmitsch smicz poland bilingual sign

Photo: Bilingual Polish/German city sign.  The region where Schmitsch/Smicz lies is one of the few areas in Poland where German has recently become an official recognized language once again.

Rural road in poor condition, Smicz, Opole, Southern Poland

Photo: Main road into town.  Could use some paving.

Schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: Downtown Smicz.  Other than the asphalt and power lines, it probably hasn’t changed much since Albert left.  When I return I’ll see if the family home still exists.

German war memorial schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: WWI memorial.  A lot of names, both German and Polish, for a village of 500.

17 replies
  1. Di Rizzolo says:

    This is truly amazing discovery. My great grandparents were Florian and Marta (Hindera) Masur
    Great great grandparents Frank and Mary (Brinsa) Hindera. All from Smicz in the late 1800s
    I have distant cousins who are Schuster, Peshcel and the list goes on
    This site is very informative. I have never seen Smicz before
    It is unfortunate that more of us cannot access the descendants if it goes back to the 1500 !!!

  2. Cody says:

    Thanks Di. I tried to go back again this past November, but the priest wasn’t especially accommodating when trying to make an appointment and I never made it. Next time I’ll just show up with a bit of cash in hand and see if that works better…

  3. Nina Loos says:

    Cody,

    I came across your pictures of my ancestor’s home village and was terrifically surprised. Thank you so much for sharing these photos of the beautiful country. You are very talented and all your work is stellar! Again, thanks for sharing.

    My mother and I have been doing research on the Masur family for many years. My GG Grandfather is Lucas Martin Masur, Sr. He married Anna Schmitt. Lucas’ parents are Anton Masur and Rosalie Hindera. They too came over in 1879. We don’t have record of Anna’s parents. We have the cross stitch sampler that Anna was working on while coming to America and “1879” is part of it. I am most sure we are related as the Peschel, Hindera, Masur are in our roots too. We found out about the family struggles just last year. Great Grandfather Julius Masur didn’t know much about the motherland because his parents would not talk about it since it would upset them thinking of what his family had to endure and what family they had left behind. We understand there was not only political turmoil, but religious as well. This part of the family have been strong Catholics since coming to America. Was the church holding family record Catholic?

    The picture of the war memorial showing the family names brought tears my mother’s eyes and we can’t thank you enough. Thank you for sharing your journey since we can be most sure we will never get to see this part of the country. You have brought great joy to us by being able to see through your eyes!

  4. Cody says:

    Thanks for the kind words Nina.

    Rosalie was the sister of my GG grandfather Albert, so ya, it looks like we’re related. Yes, the church is Catholic (Poland is quite Catholic in general), but the Silesians (German or Polish) were largely Catholic prior to the region becoming part of Poland.

  5. Di Rizzolo says:

    Just reading Nina’s comment I also was perplexed as to why no one in my generation seems to know the history of the Masur/Hindera/Brinsa clans back in
    Smitsch. My GG grandfather is Frank and he was a brother to Albert. Nina could you tell us more of the religious struggles during that time?
    Thank you again Cody for your awesome pictures. It is a great joy to see where we came from and imagine their struggles and triumphs over
    many years! cheers!

  6. Cody says:

    HERE is an article on the Prussian Kulturkampf against Catholics which might help explain a few things.

    In what I have of my family story, it says Albert left at age 17 (1879), as he would have had to join the German army when he turned 18. I’m not sure if there were any political/religious objections to doing so, but it must have been of some importance in his decision. I’m not exactly sure who he traveled with, but I think there were a few brother/sisters and maybe a few cousins. There was already some family in Nebraska at the time. Albert’s parents came at a later date.

  7. Cody says:

    [EDIT – I stuck out the info for Marianna Brinsa, this was the incorrect one.]

    Here is what I have of the Hindera/Brinsa/Mellar Family:

    Franz Brinsa
    +
    Susanne Mellar

    Marianna Brinsa: b. Jan 1, 1838. Smicz, Poland- Schmitsch, Silesia

    —————

    Franz Hindera: d. 1916
    +
    Marianna Brinsa: b. Jan 1, 1838. Smicz, Poland

    Albert Hindera: b. June 2, 1862. Smicz, Poland – Schmitsch, Silesia
    + m. Oct 6, 1885
    Anna Lempka: b. 1867?
    +
    Mary Hintz

    Rosalie Hindera
    +
    Anton Masur

    Margaret Hindera
    +
    Valentine Pella

    Felix Hindera: b. Jan, 1867 Smicz, Poland

    Constantine Hindera

    John Hindera
    +
    Anna Hupka

    Falician Hindera
    +
    Frank Weber

    Martha Hindera
    +
    Florian Masur

    Frances Hindera
    +
    Joseph Lempka

  8. Di Rizzolo (Masur) says:

    thankx again Cody. Received your email also vie Ancestory.ca – Martha Hindera and Florian Masur are my great grand-parents! So I see the link clearly.
    Is there another way for a private email to you as I want to ask you about your photographs. Do you have more of the town of Smicz and are they for sale as a print. Let me know.

  9. David Bierek says:

    Thank you Cody for this wonderful page!

    I’ve had a heck of a time just finding “Schmitsch” let alone WHERE it was!

    As you can probably tell my Great-Great Grandfather/Uncle is in your fourth picture of the WWI memorial; as well as a few other relatives by marriage.

    If you have anymore information from your visit; I would LOVE to see it. My email is djlbierek@comcast.net.

    If you ever go back (I hope to go there myself now); drop shoot me an email. Our family has a number of friends in the Catholic Church, I’m sure one of them (specifically Msg. Cihak) could get you access/permission to the documents you need.

  10. David Bierek says:

    @Di Rizzolo (Masur)

    A Mariane Peschel married my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather Franz Bierek. I can only find that they had one son a Jgnatz Bierek born Jan 28 1795.

    Jgnatz Bierek married Hedwiga Rak 1818 and had one son, Vincent Bierek in 1826.

    Vincent married Maria Kohlsdorf 15 July 1857 and had two sons Adalbert and K(C)arl.

    I can’t find any descendants of Adalbert but K(C)arl had three sons; Joseph (Feb 21 1895), Frank (1862 or 1847? Neither of these dates are practical), & Maximillian (unknown).

    Joseph died 15 Feb 1964 and is buried in Gethsemani Cemetary, Portland OR, US.
    Frank died 19 Dec 1909 and is buried in Workman Cemetary near Harrisburg OR, US. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=21291109&PIpi=8095557

    Maximillian died in a WWII Russian Prison Camp in 1944.

    My grandfather is Maximillian Bierek (one of two sons of Joseph Bierek) born 26 August 1934 in Seattle WA, US.
    Joseph married Otillie Glowania and had two sons; my grandfather and great uncle William Bierek.

    So; in a round-about way; we’re related!

  11. Suzy Hintz Gonzales says:

    This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing this Cody!

    Mary Hintz (14 Dec 1874 in Nebraska-17 Jan 1966), Second wife of Albert Hindera was the sister of my Great Grandfather John Hintz (24 Sep 1871 in Smartville, Nebraska – 8 Jun 1955 in Coleridge, Cedar, Nebraska, United States).

    Their parents were Joseph (Frank J.) Hintz 1836 – 1885 and Josephine Rosinski (or Ross) 1846 – 1891

    I have been searching for information on their Prussia Ancestors but haven’t been very successful.

  12. Jeanne Boothe says:

    Hi, Cody, and add my name to those who say “Thank you” for the wonderful pictures of Schmitsch/Smizc, Poland. I have been trying to find anyone who is researching the Pella name. I have a Michael Pella who married Johanna Vesper, probably in Smicz, Poland, where their child, Franciszka Pella was born on 29 Sep 1852. I have no other dates or information on Johanna Vesper or Michael Pella and do not know of other children.

    Franciszka Pella married Thomas Walczyk about 1874 in Smicz, Poland, and on 11 March 1881, they arrived at Port of New York from Bremen Port on Ship Donau. They eventually settled in Texas where they died.
    I know that Valentine Pella (1857-1935) married Mary Magdelen Hindera and that this family lived in Nebraska. Does anyone know of Valentine Pella’s parentage and if he and Franciszka Pella Walczyk were related?
    I also would be interested in purchasing some of your pictures of Schmitsch/Scmicz. Thank you again for a wonderful history lesson.

    Jeanne Boothe

  13. Jeanne Boothe says:

    Cody,
    I have that the parents of Albert Hindera were Paul (or James) Hindera and Johanna Wallczyk. Is this correct?
    Jeanne

  14. Joyce Gardner says:

    Hi Cody & Everyone with Schmietsch ancestry.
    I would like all of you to be aware that the Catholic Church records for Schmietsch have been microfilmed by the LDS (Mormon) church. You will find the records in their catalog listed for 1713-1739 and also 1714-1941. The records for the years 1714-1941 consists of 9 microfilms of baptism, marriage and death records. I know these church records also include the village of Plieschnitz as this is where my husband’s great-grandmother was born while baptized and married in the Schmietsh Church.
    Go to the LDS website at: familysearch.org and click on “search” and then “catalog”. Search by place but put in the now Polish name Śmicz instead of its former German name.
    Check out your nearest LDS church location that has a Family History Center where volunteers can help you and where you would need to view the microfilms that you order.
    I visited this very beautiful church in 2002 and returned to the area in 2005 visiting other Catholic parishes, some of which have now been microfilmed by the LDS at my request.
    Feel free to contact me if you have questions at: jgardner.genealogy@gmail.com

  15. Susan Faessel says:

    Just was browsing the internet and ancestry.com for records on my G Frank James Hindery. GG Albert Hindera. Thanks for the pictures and information. My Mom, Dorothy Mildred Hindery Warden was middle child of 8 of Frank Hindery and Bess Willmore.

  16. Cody says:

    Hi Guys,

    I have written an updated post about Smicz with much updated research into the Hindera (and other) families – I now have hundreds of names going back to the mid 1700’s.

    CLICK HERE

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