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My grandfather was born around 1890 in a German village in Russia along the Volga River. By the time he was born, many of the Germans were just starting to flee the area their forebears had colonized in the 1760's because of growing hostility from the Russians. They were joining the flocks of migrants to North and South America.

My grandfather had a little brother. They were the only children of their mother. I'm still trying to track down the village church baptismal records to discover the brother's name and year of birth.

One tragic day, it must not have been too long after he learned to walk, my grandfather was supposed to be watching his brother. Somehow the brother got too close to a horse and was on the receiving end of a kick to the head. Needless to say, he didn't stand a chance. My great-grandparents buried their tiny child in a time where it actually was more common (though usually due to disease).

In 1913, with the political conditions in Russia deteriorating, my grandfather's parents urged him to follow his uncle to Canada. But they would not be joining their son on his journey. Even after what must have been 10-15 years or more, his mother was still too distraught over the loss of her little child to leave his grave behind. She was condemning herself to the coming famines and utter collapse of their way of life that they saw coming because her grief was so great she could not tear herself away from the place she buried that little child.

This is what I think of when I try to fathom what those parents in Newtown are going through and will be going through for the rest of their lives. It's what I think of when I look at my own kids (one is a kindergartner himself) and try to stop myself from imagining the horror of losing them.

Originally posted to Jim H on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 11:27 AM PST.

Also republished by Genealogy and Family History Community.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So sad (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim H

    There were young children in my family, like most families, who died far too young in those days. What makes something like Newtown so sad is that we have done so well in eliminating that.

    At least in part of the world, children are far less likely to die at such a young age today than a century ago. Many American parents today fear the worst, but truly expect their kids will grow to see adulthood. And it's all so unnecessary.

    In doing my research I came across people who moved west from New England and did leave behind the graves of young children. I always felt a pang when I realized that and understand how your great-grandmother must have felt.

    Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 10:35:08 AM PST

    •  moving on (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fenway49

      This is what strikes my so profoundly about this woman. She couldn't move on in a time when they always did somehow. I've always wondered if she blamed my grandfather and couldn't let go of that.

      Thanks for reading - this was really just something I needed to get written down and out of my head so I could move on with my day.

  •  Sorry Jim, I only saw this today. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim H

    Heartbreaking, isn't it.  I don't know how so many immigrants were strong enough to leave behind the graves of their children, their parents, their families.  I don't know that I could have.  I also don't know that I could have left those still living, either.

    I had g-grandparents living in Racine WI.  I've mentioned them here before, I think.  My g-grandfather, Peter Becker, was born in Germany, and his wife, Josephine Tanking, was the US-born daughter of German immigrants.  Their very first child, little Freddie, died in 1896 at the age of 3.  From the newspaper notice, it appears he may have died from strep.  At the time, he was their only child, and they buried him in Racine.  Little Freddie's grave is the saddest, sweetest I've ever seen.  Most of the inscription has faded, but below the figure of the little lamb, I can still read, "our darling little boy, our angel ...".  116 years later, you can still feel their grief.

    It was another 2 years before they had their next child.  2 years after that, the family moved to Bancroft Iowa.

    Even though they had 10 children after Freddie, all of whom are buried in Iowa, when Peter died in 1929 and Josephine in 1952, both had their bodies moved back to Racine, and both are buried next to little Freddie so that he would never be alone.

    Bittersweet.

    I can sympathize with your g-grandmother.

    •  very good point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edwardssl

      that I hadn't thought of before.

      when Peter died in 1929 and Josephine in 1952, both had their bodies moved back to Racine, and both are buried next to little Freddie so that he would never be alone.
      My great-grandmother of course would not have been able to have had her body transported back to Russia. Maybe this is more in line with her thinking - that she wanted to be buried with him.

      Thank you for sharing that perspective.

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