Part III: “Maison dite” Leads to Parents and Grandparents of Magdalena SCHMIDT (1743-1782)

When my sixth great-grandmother Magdalena married Martin BRAUN on 19 April 1761 in the Capella of Berg in central Luxembourg she was seen as Magdalena SCHNEIDISCH. One of the two witnesses was Nicolas SCHNEIDISCH, likely her father.1 The ending of the surname was a red flag and suggested it may have been a maison dite or house name.

House Names and Surnames

What follows in this section is an extract from my blog post What’s the secret of “maison dite” or house names in Luxembourg records? published on 26 August 2017.

Until around 1500 the first name of a person was sufficient enough to identify ordinary people. When pleading someone’s case, it was done orally and normally in the presence of the person eliminating the confusion of identities.

The appearance of the first written documents however required additional distinction. Nicolas, therefore, became known as Nicolas de Steinfort (by his residence), Nicolas le Meunier (by his occupation, i.e. miller), or Nicolas le Petit (by a trait, i.e. small person).

When these extensions to the first names finally became family names transmitted from one generation to the next, they were not, for a long time, patronymic. In about half the cases, the children’s names came from the mother, as the rules of family succession in Luxembourg were based on primogeniture – the right of the oldest child inheriting the parental home without any distinction between males and females.

Luxembourg researchers are confronted with the phenomenon of maison dite or house names shared by all people living under one roof, regardless of their initial name received at birth.  At the time of the marriage, the spouse always acquired, whatever his sex, the name of the house into which he entered. Thus, each couple had only one and the same surname which was transmitted to all their children.

In the course of the eighteenth century when Luxembourg was under Austrian rule, the civil authorities imposed a contrary law, that each individual should keep his birth name – it could no longer be changed during the course of his life, notably at the time of marriage. Each legitimate child inherited his father’s surname.

During the long transition, the coexistence of the two rules and practices, totally opposite, constituted a complication which was the source of errors. The children of one and the same couple sometimes obtained different surnames. The second spouse of a widow or widower may have been known by the surname his spouse had previously taken from his first conjugal partner.

Priests were aware of the problem of the double and triple surnames of their parishioners. Some were careful to note more than one name. The different surnames of one and the same person were juxtaposed and linked together by Latin words: alias (otherwise called), vulgo (commonly called), modo (otherwise), sive and aut (or), dicta (said). Sometimes the correct connection with previous generations can be determined by useful references such as ex domo (from the house) or in domo (in the house). House names were also mentioned in the parish records using the term in aedibus (in house) followed by the name.

Our genealogical research may suffer from the rivalry of these two incompatible rules but I’m finding them very useful.

Part III: “Maison dite” Leads to Parents and Grandparents of Magdalena SCHMIDT (1743-1782)

When her daughters Catharina BRAUN and Therese BRAUN were born in 1765 and 1766 Magdalena SCHNEIDISCH (the surname seen on her marriage record) was seen as SCHMIDT on their baptismal records. After losing her first husband Martin BRAUN in 1766, she married Michel COLLING a month later. When she had children with Michel from 1768 to 1775 she was still seen as Magdalena SCHMIDT even though their marriage record had Magdalena BRAUN as her name. The records for these events were cited in my previous post.

My theory at this point was:

  • SCHNEIDISCH, used at the time of Magdalena’s first marriage, was a maison dite or house name
  • her father must have been a SCHMIDT as she used this name when having children
  • her mother was possibly a SCHNEIDERS and likely the oldest child of a couple who went by the name SCHNEIDERS or lived in a house known as Schneidisch or Schneidesch.

Searching for records to prove the theory

Colmar was a part of the parish of Bissen in Luxembourg. As Magdalena lived in Colmar, I checked for marriages in the parish of Bissen for SCHMIDT, SCHNEIDERS, and variations of these names. This was an easy task as I have access to Luxracines‘ database (members only) for marriages prior to 1800 in Luxembourg.

The database was populated using the  Tables des mariages 1700-1798 (index organisée par l’époux/l’épouse), a card index of marriages performed in parishes of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg before 1800. The microfilm images of these cards are available on FamilySearch in their catalog. I would have had to browse the images of the index cards for Bissen if I weren’t a member of Luxracines. If you are interested in why these marriage index cards were created and by whom, please check out this post: Using the Back Door at FamilySearch for Missing Records.

I did not find a marriage for a SCHMIDT groom and a SCHNEIDERS bride. I searched for marriages in Bissen without a surname which generated a complete list of all marriages in the parish. There are no marriage records for the period from 1721 to 1749. On FamilySearch, I found marriages and deaths for the years 1721-1749 are missing for Bissen as well as baptisms from 1723 to July 1738. It is important to know when records are missing and how to find substitutes for them.

Baptismal records were used as substitutes for a marriage record

Magdalena married Martin BRAUN in 1761 which would indicate she was born 1743 or earlier, assuming she was 18 years of age or older. As a substitute for the missing marriage record for a SCHMIDT groom and a SCHNEIDERS bride, I searched for any children born to a couple with the SCHMIDT and/or SCHNEIDERS surnames. Magdalena’s estimated year of birth was used as a starting point.

As I searched the baptismal records I found there were three couples using these surnames and having children around the time Magdalena may have been born. The couples found were:

  • Nicolas SCHNEIDERS and wife Catharina
  • Nicolas SCHMIDT and his wife Catharina
  • Nicolas SCHMIDT and Catharina SCHNEIDERS

Taken out of context this would look like three couples but I will show they were only one couple.

These are the baptismal records found:

25 January 1741: Joes son of Nicolas SCHNEIDERS and his wife Catharina2
4 September 1743: Maria Magdalena daughter of Nicolas SCHNEIDERS and his wife Catharina3
23 January 1746: Henricus son of Nicolas SCHMIDT and his wife Catharina4
25 July 1748: Martinus son of Nicolas SCHMIDT and Catharina SCHNEIDERS5

The children were born between 1741 and 1748. No children were found prior to 1741. As noted previously, baptismal records are only available from July 1738 for Bissen.

As seen in my previous post, Philippe SCHMIT a married man from Colmar was the guardian of Catharina BRAUN (daughter of Magdalena) and gave his consent to her marriage in 1786. As he was taking care of family business in 1786, I assumed he was the oldest son of the SCHMIDT-SCHNEIDERS couple I was interested in.

Proof: Philipp SCHMIDT was a son of Nicolas SCHMIDT

The 1766 census and cadastre de Marie-Thérèse confirmed my assumption. On the census, Nicolas SCHMIT, a farrier (maréchal), is seen with the following household.

1766 Luxembourg Census of Colmar in the parish of Bissen for the household of Nicolas Schmid or Schmit

In the column on the far right, there is a 2 indicating there were two married couples in the household. The couples were: Nicolas SCHMID and his wife Catherine as well as Philipp SCHMID and his wife Therese. The three young boys (all under 14 years of age) in the household were children of the second couple (baptismal records were found). Mathias WAGNER, Jean MARX, and Elisabeth FRABRITIUS were also in the household and possibly servants as the men were listed as domestics.6

One more person was in the household. Marie Catherine SCHMID, in the 14 years or older category, was born before 1752 (1766 age 14+). She was the daughter of Nicolas SCHMIT and Catharina SCHNEIDERS and would marry Clemens TRAUSCH in 1778. No baptismal record was found for her. The marriage record does not mention the names of her parents. However, baptismal records of her first two children will show the connection in my next post. (Marie Catherine was my 6th great-grandaunt and Clemens was my 5th great-granduncle.)

A section of the 1766 cadastre sheet found for Philipus Schmit mentions he was the son of his father Nicolas Schmit.

A second record was found connecting Philipp and Nicolas. Although the handwriting on the document (click on link to see the entire sheet) is hard to read, the cadastre of Marie-Thérèse dated 31 July 1766, includes the land worked by Philipp SCHMIT and mentions he lived in a building with his father Nicolas SCHMIT.7

I believe my 6th great-grandmother Magdalena was Maria Magdalena SCHNEIDERS born in 1743 to Nicolas SCHMIDT and his wife Catharina SCHNEIDERS. First, this daughter was born in 1743 making her  18 years old in 1861 when Magdalena married Martin BRAUN. Second, Philipp SCHMID(T) who was found to be the son of the same couple would later be named as the guardian of Magdalena’s daughter Catherine when she married in 1786. Thirdly, there were no other SCHMIDT or SCHNEIDERS families in the area during this time period.

Going back another generation

I also searched the marriage database for SCHNEIDERS’ marriages which would point to Magdalena’s maternal grandparents, parents of Catharina SCHNEIDERS. Five marriages for persons with the SCHNEIDERS surname were found in Bissen. A groom in 1695 (from Colmar) as well as four brides: 1699 (from Bövingen), 1704 (from Colmar), 1706 (from Wiltz), and 1717 (from Colmar). The groom and the two brides from Colmar looked promising.

I first looked into the 1695 marriage of Johann Adam SCHNEIDERS and Margarita EICHHORNS. They were the parents of two children: Catherine born 13 April 1697 and Johann born 29 November 1701. At first, I thought Catherine would be a good candidate for the wife of Nicolas SCHMIDT. However she would have been 51 years old by the time the last SCHMIDT child was born in 1748 which seemed very unlikely.

I then searched for children of the two SCHNEIDERS brides who married in 1704 and 1717.

Elisabeth SCHNEIDERS married Nicolas HANSEN on 9 November 1717; a son Johann HANSEN was baptized on 21 June 1719 in Berg, a neighboring village of Colmar. No other children were found as the baptismal records are missing from 1723 to July 1738. As the couple lived in Berg and not Colmar, I considered the possibility of the Elisabeth being related but likely not the mother of Catherine who married Nicolas SCHMIDT.

On 16 November 1704, Marie SCHNEIDERS married Philipp HIRTZ.8 Baptisms were found for two children. A daughter Catharina SCHNEIDERS was born on 24 March 17119 to Philipp SCHNEIDERS and his wife Maria. A son Johann Conrad HIRTZ was born on 27 April 171710 to Philipp HIRTZ and wife Maria both of Colmar. The godmother of this child was Elisabeth SCHNEIDERS of Colmar, likely the woman who would marry Nicolas HANSEN later in the same year.

In 1719 Philipp HIRTZ was a witness at a marriage in Bissen.11 His name was written Phil. HIRTZ sive SCHNEIDISCH – his surname was linked to his house name by the Latin term sive meaning or. This shows Philipp was known by both names and most likely the father of both Catharina SCHNEIDERS and Johann Conrad HIRTZ, i.e. their parents were Philipp and Maria with the surname SCHNEIDERS being used in 1711 and HIRTZ in 1717.

The son Johann Conrad married on 10 January 1741 in Belgium.12 His marriage record indicates his father Philipp HIRTZ was deceased at the time of the marriage. Philipp died before 1741. He may have been living when his daughter Catherine named her first known child Philipp. If a baptismal record had survived for this child, I would not be surprised to see Philipp HIRTZ listed as the godfather of Philipp SCHMIDT.

A final record confirms the HIRTZ-SCHNEIDERS connection

While writing this post and reviewing the records, I noticed I’d overlooked something when reading the baptismal record of Henricus, the child of Catherine and Nicolas SCHMIDT, who was born in 1746.

1746 Baptismal Record of Henricus a son of Nicolas Schmit and Catharine Hirtz, a legitimate married couple of Colmar.

When I first read the record above, I thought the mother’s first name was at the end of the second line and continued on the third line. The priest appears to have run out of ink while making this entry. What I didn’t notice was the name in the third line was HIRTZ and not the ending of Catharine (-rine with a squiggle).

I did not plan on proving the maternal grandparents of my fifth great-grandmother Theresia BRAUN (aka COLLING) when I began to write about her and her husband Remacle TRAUSCH. The research took on a life of its own as I went through the church records of Bissen – several times!

In the fourth post of this series, Remacle TRAUSCH’s parents and siblings will be discussed.

Posts in this series:

Part I: Remacle Trausch (1761-1804) and Theresia Braun (1766-1798) of Colmar

Part II: Why was Theresia BRAUN also seen as Theresia COLLING?

Part III: “Maison dite” Leads to Parents and Grandparents of Magdalena SCHMIDT (1743-1782)

Part IV: The Parents and Siblings of Remacle TRAUSCH (1761-1804)

Part V: A Horrific Crime in the Fortress City of Luxembourg

Part VI: Tying up the loose ends

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. Luxembourg, registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Bissen > Mariages 1750-1757, 1760-1778, sépultures 1751-1754, 1760-1778 > image 13 of 34. 1761 Marriage Record (left, middle). (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9WS-QQ7D?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPX%3A1500938201%2C1501112182 : accessed 15 January 2018). 
  2. Ibid., Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 68 of 162. 1741 Baptismal Record. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99WS-QQ52?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : accessed 19 July 2019). 
  3. Ibid., Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 79 of 162. 1743 Baptismal Record (right page, 2nd enry). (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9WS-QQX7?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : accessed 19 July 2019). 
  4. Ibid., Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 93 of 162. 1746 Baptismal Record (left page, 2nd entry). (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99WS-QQZX?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : accessed 19 July 2019). 
  5. Ibid., Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 106 of 162. 1748 Baptismal Record (right page, 2nd entry).(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9WS-QQCT?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : 19 July 2019). 
  6. Luxembourg, 1766 Dénombrement (census), (images), FamilySearch (Digitial copy of the microfilm of originals in the Archives Générales du Royaume, Bruxelles, includes localities now in Luxembourg and Liège, Belgium), Film #008198978 > Decanat de Mersch > Colmar > Image 152 of 618, page 143, household no. 2. “.” Nicolas Schmid household. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSLL-9932-S?i=151&cat=1184675 : accessed 20 July 2019). 
  7. Cadastre de Marie-Thérèse (1752-1772), Dénombrements des feux, aides et subsides 1473-1806, FamilySearch, Film # 008014724, Regime A, section 14: cadastre de Marie-Thérèse 1767, liasse 175 (Berg, Colmar), 276 image of 676, Sheet No. 34, Philipus Schmit. 1766 cadastre sheet of Philipus Schmit with mention of father Nicolas Schmit.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSX4-B3T8-C?i=275&cat=1152016 : accessed 21 July 2019). 
  8. Luxembourg Church Records, Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 156 of 162. 1704 Marriage Record (right page, last entry).(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9WS-QQQ1?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : accessed 23 July 2019). 
  9. Ibid., Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 40 of 162. 1711 Baptismal Record (right page, 2nd to last entry). (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99WS-QQXR?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : accessed 23 July 2019). 
  10. Ibid., Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 54 of 162. 1717 Baptismal Record (left page, 2nd to last entry). (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9WS-QQV2?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : accessed 23 July 2019). 
  11. Luxembourg Church Records, Bissen > Baptêmes 1685-1722, 1734-1756, confirmations 1691-1704, mariages 1692-1720, sépultures 1692-1702, 1709-1721 > image 162 of 162. 1719 Marriage Record (left page, 4th entry).(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9WS-QQ9L?cc=2037955&wc=STHD-DPF%3A1500938201%2C1501084258 : accessed 21 July 2019). 
  12. Paroisse de Selange, Province de Luxembourg, Belgique, Registres paroissiaux, 1665-1807 (images), FamilySearch (Microfilm produit de l’original dans Archives de l’Etat, Arlon.), Film #616783, DGS #8190977, image 273 of 396. 1741 Marriage Record (right page, 3rd entry). (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSL6-HSZZ-S?i=272&cat=93009 : accessed 21 July 2019). 

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

18 thoughts on “Part III: “Maison dite” Leads to Parents and Grandparents of Magdalena SCHMIDT (1743-1782)”

    1. You know, Linda, it actually does get easier as I get used to the priest’s handwriting and peculiarities of the entries. It’s a bit like all record collections. The ones you use the most are easier. Thank you!

      Like

  1. I’ve said this many times before, but I have to say it again. Your ability to read through all those records and script and find these nuggets just amazes me. Brava on another job well done!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, at least those newspapers are in English and in font one can read! And there are pretty good search engines. I don’t know how your eyes hold up reading all that script (and I know you know the language, but still…)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know about all of Germany and France but I have seen people referred to by other names in family books (the compilations of all families of one town for a certain time period). I know they have something similar in Canada for the French-Canadians. They call it dit names.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, that’s interesting! I keep wishing I had ancestors from Quebec. It appeals to me, but alas, I only have a couple that moved to Montreal from Michigan and then hubby has a cousin who lives there now. But no roots in Quebec.

        Liked by 1 person

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