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Schmidt Family History

After Müller this is the most frequent German surname. There are 235,000 entries under Schmidt in the German Telephone Directories, and at least 150,000 variants of the name therein. So that if one counts the variants (Schmid, Schmitt, Schmitz etc) as well, the name becomes the most frequent German name.

The Schmidt version is widespread, with the regions of Nordrhein-Westfallen, Rheinland-Pfalz (especially around Koblenz), Hessen, Niedersachsen (especially around Hannover) and Schleswig Holstein (especially around Hamburg) heavily represented. Schmitt occurs across much of central Germany. Schmid shows strong in Bayern (Bavaria); and Schmitz rather to the west and north of the Nordrhein-Westfallen.

It is from Middle High German 'smit' or 'blacksmith'. Compound variants, so favoured by Germanic speaking peoples, also exist in great numbers: Messerschmidt (messer-knife,) Kleinschmidt (klein-small), Kupferschmidt, Waldschmidt, Schmidtbauer etc.

Of course, these are all variants of the ubiquitous wielder of hammer on anvil, who from the fiery forge produces metalwork of wonder. The occupation of Smith, perhaps the most universal of Indo-European surnames, is steeped in myth and legend. The Germanic/Norse legends about Wayland the smith (Old High German ‘Wiolant’, Old Norse ‘Velentr’, Anglo-Saxon ‘Weland’) who was the forger of the Ring des Nibelungen, and the magic swords of Gram and Balmung, as in the Nibelungenlied (13th century) and forged into high opera in Richard Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’.

Immigrants bearing the name Schmidt arrived in New York and Pennsylvania during the late 18th and 19th centuries. New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania had the highest percentages of Schmidt in the U.S. in 1920. (U.S. Federal Census).

U.S. Social Security Data shows Schmidt in 171st place in the rankings, with a population of 145, 565.

Two Famous Scmidts

Erhard Schmidt (1876-1959) born in what is now Estonia, became a celebrated mathematician who made a significant contribution to modern mathematics.

Arno Schmidt (1914-1979) born in Hamburg, was an experimental writer who fought in World War 11, albeit reluctantly, and developed a radical individualism in his writing as a result: cf. ‘Schwarze Spiegel’ (‘Black Mirror’) which presents a dystopian world scape post apocalypse.

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