My Great Grandfather Mathias Joseph Schneider

by Jerry Thompson

This story about my great grandfather Mathias Schneider is considered a research report summarizing what I think I do and don’t know about him. My main purpose is to identify additional sources to explore and arrive at more proper conclusions.

Much of what I know about my great grandfather Mathias Schneider comes from a book written by Ken and Adah Ebeling , entitled The Schneider Family, which was published in September 1989. The Forward section of that book (page 1) states “This is the story of the Mathias Schneider family who came to this country (USA) from Koblenz Providence of Germany on the 16th of May, 1872. By August 1972, Mathias settled in Stearns County (Minnesota) and had filed for naturalization.”

The reference cited regarding Mathias' emigration arrival time is a copy of Mathias’ Naturalization Certificate included on page 4 of the Ebeling book, see below.

Mathias' Nationalization Certificate

Another source of some information about Mathias Joseph Schneider comes from the Heart of Herresbach book, written by Catholic Preist, Father Juniper Kuefler,published in 1990. On page 59, Father Kuefler diagrams the Schneider brothers families (brothers Mathias and John) and states “the Schneider brothers came in a sailing boat (3 months) to America in 1871.” Hence this claim (sans citation) is in conflict with the Mathias Naturalization Certificate, which states his arrival as May 1872. Father Kuefler's 1871 arrival claim seems corroborated by a NY Castle Garden ship’s passenger arrival record for 9 October 1871 which shows (see below) two passengers (brothers?), Mathias, age 24, and Johann Schneider, age 28 (plus Margarethe, age 30, and an 11 year old Schneider male) who arrived on the sailing ship named the Deutschland .

Mathias' Arrival Papers

Ken Ebling’s Schneider Family book also states that Mathias was born on the 4th of July, 1847, and that “he lived near the French border in Ellis Lorraine, within the Koblenz Provence of Germany” (actually then Prussia). One discrepancy about this claim, is that after 1812, Ellis Lorraine, also known as Alsace Lorraine was part of France (up until the end of the Franco-Prussian war, May 1871) not Prussia, and Mathias was known to be Prussian, since Koblenze Province was part of Prussia going back to 1822. I recently found a birth record for Mathias via the family website stating ” Mathias Joseph Schneider, indexed Catholic Birth Record: “Deutschland, Rheinland, Bistum Trier, katholische Kirchenbücher, 1704-1957, database, FamilySearch ( : 12 September 2019), Mathias Josephus Schneider, 4 Jul 1847; citing Birth, certificate 19, Retterath, Adenau, Rhein, Preußen, Deutschland, Bistumarchiv (Diocese Archive), Trier, Germany.” His birthplace indicated, the village of Retterath, is in the Moselle-Rhine River region of western Germany known as the Eiffel, near the Luxembourg border, and also near Alsace Lorraine, but not within Alsace. Retterath is also not far from the village of Herresbach Germany, which is where Mathias Schneider’s wife Gertrude Kuefler, and her family are from. The original 1847 Catholic birth record from the Trier Kirchenbücher, was also captured via, see page excerpt below. Analysis indicates the language of the entry is not German, but rather a dialect called Luxumborguish, which is a mix of Dutch, French, and German.

Mathias' Birth Record

Ken Ebeling's book also states “Mathias was thought to have served in the 1870-1871 war in Germany before coming to the United States”. This is likely true, since when that war broke out, Prussia quickly raised an army by requiring all Prussian males, age 20 to 25, to immediately join and serve in that war against France, and Mathias was age 23 at the start of the war. Many of the initial battles took place in Western Prussia in the areas nearby and adjacent to The Eiffel, where the Schneiders resided. However recent searches for Prussian military records for Mathias Schneider on and have not turned up any military records for Mathias.

Ken Ebeling’s discussion of Mathias Schneider then forwards to the year 1876, when he married my great grandmother, Gertrude (Anna) Kuefler. Ken states that Gertrude Kuefler had come to the USA at age 10, with her family from Herresbach Prussia in October 1868, and they moved to Stearns County Minnesota in 1869. At the time of their marriage in 1876, Mathias was 29 years old, and Gertrude was only 17, hence twelve years his junior. According to Father Kuefler's Heart of Herresbach book, page 66, Mathias' wife Gertrude gave birth to fifteen Schneider children over the next 26 years. Two of the fifteen children (12th and 14th ) born, died as infants.

During this period, women took considerable risks giving birth. Throughout this time, childbirth was seen as a moment of fear or death instead of joy. Since there was no anesthesia to ease the immense pain of childbirth, women giving birth would lay at home on their bed and perhaps use alcohol to try and ease the pain. A midwife generally assisted in births, but for those that could afford them, doctors were also used. The midwife would often stay with the family for a few days following the birth. If the option of having a midwife was not possible financially, the pregnant woman would have to rely on relatives and neighbors to help with the birth; women therefore suffered frequent complications such as lacerations and permanent damages to their bodies. While there were contraceptives during this time, they were hardly effective., and wouldn't have been used by Catholic families. New inventions, such as the birthing chair, were used to make childbirth easier.

Mathias' wife Gertrude died at age 44 on December 17, 1902 due to complications related to childbirth. Mathias continued to live in the Lake George/Elrosa Minnesota area until age 71 when he died in Elrosa on 21 November 1922. Both Mathias and Gertrude are buried in the Saint Peters and Paul's Catholic Church cemetery in Elrosa Minnesota.

Some further areas to research include reviewing all available census and land records to try to identify where Mathias and his family lived, as well as his older brother Johannes. It is possible that after arriving at NY Castle garden in 1871, the arriving Schneider's then took passage to Canada to stay with their Schneider family already known to be living in Canada. Then in May 1872 the brothers may have entered the USA, to settle in Minnesota. I also have evidence via Facebook that two Schneider families were living in Wanderath, Prussia in 1807, not far from both Herresbach and Retterath. Researching German records may confirm whether the Schneider families there in 1807 were related to Mathias and Johannes.