The VON SCHMALENSEE family has been in existence for well over 700 hundred years. With its ancient roots from the village and lake in Schmalensee in Schleswig-Holstein, from which the family takes its name, until the present-day, it has had a long and colorful history. According to Robert Bergmann in Die Geschichte des Rittergutes Dönnie Kreis Grimmen (The History of Dönnie Manor in the County of Grimmen, Selbstverlag, 1925), the family was living in the village of SMALENSE as members of the yeomanry by 1138, or shortly thereafter. Numerous members of the family appear in archives dated in and around 1300, and the family line can be traced directly back to Bartelt (or Barthold) Smalenze, who lived in the late 14th / early 15th century. He was lord of Dönnie Manor, as well as estates in Bertrammshagen, Boltenhagen, and Zetelvitz, amongst others. Dönnie remained in the family’s possession for over 400 years.

This website is an attempt to bring as many pieces of family history as possible together in a central location. It is a work in progress and the result of many years spent delving into our family history. This also includes deciphering and translating letters, papers and stories that have been slumbering for well over a hundred years, waiting to be awakened. There are hundreds of letters, close to four hundred, mostly sent from Germany to the United States to Friedrich Franz Ludwig von Schmalensee (here referred to as FFL to avoid confusion with other Friedrichs, Fritzes and Freds) and his youngest son, Curt. They provide an intimate insight into the family’s relationship to one another, as well as valuable information on the family, particularly in the late 19th / early 20th century. There is also a collection of short stories and poems written by FFL, who was a military man with a poet’s soul.

In addition to the well-researched volumes on the family written by Robert Bergmann, there is a wealth of information on our family’s over 700-year history, discovered primarily over the internet. This will all be included as additions to an English translation of all of the books and hopefully available here as well, pending approval by the estate of Herr Bergmann.

I have had the letters and papers pertaining to the family for well over 20 years, having found them in an open wooden box along with many old photographs, all virtually disintegrating in our parents’ attic. The very day I found them, I sat down with Dad and had him tell me what he knew about each picture. I also made him promise to keep them in a better part of the house. With his blessings, the letters came back to Germany with me in the hopes of finding a way to decipher them. Old German handwriting, referred to as Sütterlin, is nearly impossible to decipher, even for most Germans living today. So the letters continued their slumber, but at least now stored safely in boxes under our bed.

Years later, long after Mom and Dad had passed, we adopted our dog, a Galgo Español named Diego. Through my daily walks, I struck up a friendship with an older woman named Martina Leitermann, with a very friendly face and a dog named Lizzy. At one point during our regular morning walks, I mentioned the letters and my frustration at being unable to read them. She blinked at me with a big grin. She had learned to read and write Sütterlin in school and would love to read the letters and teach me to read them, as well. Thus began our project of deciphering the papers.

As it will be years until everything is complete, my husband, Thomas, suggested creating a website to make things available as they become ready, rather than waiting for everything to be finished. And so the idea of this website was born. The pages that follow are the result. Much, much more is forthcoming. Your comments, criticisms and certainly corrections are more than welcome. I hope you enjoy getting to know our ancestors as much as I have.