After reconnecting with so many of my Schumacher cousins on Facebook, Ancestry, and now in person, I have begun to wonder more about the Schumacher ancestry even further back. For a number of years, I have been stuck in the 1800’s on the Schumacher side of the family, just hoping for a break, and I think I may now know why. In researching the name Schumacher, I find that Schumacher or Schuhmacher is an occupational surname. It is, of course, the German word for shoemaker. Both spellings can be used as surnames, with Schumacher being the more common one, however, only the variant with an “h” can also be used as a job description in modern German spelling. That fact is of vital importance to my family’s actual history, and it could be the reason I have hit a wall in my search.
According to my grandparent’s, Carl and Albertine (Henriette) Hensel Schumacher, marriage certificate, Carl’s last name was actually spelled Schuhmacher…the actual job description, as well as an occupational surname. I had long known of the difference in the spelling, because my Uncle Bill Spencer had sent me a copy of the marriage certificate years ago, but I didn’t know the distinction that one letter held. I didn’t know that it changed the name from just a name to an occupation. If, as I suspect, Carl was encouraged to Americanize the spelling when he came to America, then anyone searching for information on Carl Schuhmacher, would most likely hit a wall…just as I have done. Americanizing surnames was a very common practice in early American immigration history, and sometimes the name the person ended up with was nothing like their real name. It is a serious frustration for the family history researcher.
This now causes me to wonder if our family might be related to such notable people as Eugen Schuhmacher (1906–1973), German zoologist and pioneer of animal documentaries, Irma Heijting-Schuhmacher (born 1925), Dutch freestyle swimmer, or John Schuhmacher (born 1955), American football player. Perhaps our search for our roots should be heading in a completely different direction, because unfortunately, no one told the people in the nation these people immigrated from that they should change their name too, so the lineage would be preserved. Perhaps this spelling of the name will open the doors that have for so long been locked. Only time will tell on this matter, as I delve into the research to see where it will lead me. I hope that it will lead me to the next level…the one after Carl’s dad, my 2nd great grandfather, Johann Schuhmacher, and beyond.
It is so hard for me to hit a brick wall in the family history line, because I want so badly to be able to take each line way back. It has become an obsession I suppose, just like it was for Uncle Bill. Once you get started you don’t want to stop until you reach your goal. Ancestral lines can be hard enough to follow, as the records kept were not as good, or have been lost over the years, but when you add the fact that the names were most likely changed, you find yourself hitting the brick wall that I have hit. Just like the grade school child who spells a totally different word for the teacher, you find yourself realizing the importance of one letter.