Select Page

Bitter realities

Six times.

NuckelsSix times in fifteen years.

On the 28th of January 1892.

On the 22nd of August 1893.

On the 5th of March 1896.

On the 26th of February 1898.

On the 12th of December 1904.

And, 107 years ago yesterday, on the 30th of January 1907.

Those six times in those 15 years, Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Nuckel and his wife Juliane Margarethe (Smidt) Nuckel — The Legal Genealogist‘s great grandparents — went to the cemetery together.

The losses are staggering — the mortality rate simply unimaginable to 21st century minds.

The Nuckels were both from Bremen, Germany,1 and married there around 1888. They had six children that I’m absolutely sure of:

• Son Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm (I), born in March 1889. He was two years and nine months old when he died 24 January 1892. He was buried 28 January 1892 at Reichsburg Cemetery in Bremen.2

• Daughter Marie Margarethe, born 9 February 1891, my grandmother.3

• Son Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm (II), born 1 July 1892. He was one year and 20 days old when he died 19 August 1893. He was buried 22 August 1893 at Bunthenthor Cemetery.4

• Daughter Henrietta Johanna, born around 14 September 1895. She was five months and 16 days old when she died 1 March 1896. She was buried 5 March 1896 at Bunthenthor Cemetery.5

• Johann Friedrich Wilhelm, born around 10 May 1897. He was 11 months and 12 days old when he died 22 April 1898. He was buried 26 April 1898 at Walle Cemetery.6

• A daughter, stillborn on 10 December 1904, and buried 12 December 1904 at Walle Cemetery.7

There were three more than I’m fairly sure of — daughters Adelheid and Gretel and son Gerd — but German privacy laws have thus far stumped me in figuring out how to obtain documentary proof of those three, so getting their full names and birthdates is still on the “to-do” list.

They’re the survivors you see in the photograph here. Adelheid married Heinrich Thoms and had a daughter Henni; Gretel married Amko Lauterbach and had a daughter Erna; Gerd married Sophie and had children Wilma and Friedel.8

So the first trip my great grandparents made to the cemetery was to bury their first-born in 1892.

The second was to bury his namesake, their second born son, in 1893.

The third, to bury Henrietta in 1896.

The fourth, to bury their next son Johann Friedrich in 1898.

The fifth, to bury their stillborn daughter in 1904.

And the sixth… oh, the sixth… that last and final trip together to the cemetery in 1907.

That one was different.

Not because of the kind of burial. It was a fourth class burial — with the hearse drawn by two horses draped with black, eight black-clad attendants wearing triangular hats, the coffin draped in black,9 but some of those earlier burials had been fourth class as well.

Not because of where it was — Buntenthor was one of the cemeteries used by the family before.

But because, on that cold day in January 1907, my great grandparents did not come home together.

That was the day when Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Nuckel came home from the cemetery alone.

Leaving behind Juliane Margarethe (Smidt) Nuckel, aged 42, mother of as many as nine children and probably four surviving, in her own grave at Bunthenthor Cemetery.10

The losses are staggering — the mortality rate simply unimaginable to 21st century minds.

And the only comfort that can be offered by this American descendant to her Bremen ancestors is the knowledge that, after the family arrived in America, there have been no more losses of this kind.

We have never buried a child.

We have never buried an adult in her prime.

We are so very fortunate.

And your experience teaches us to treasure every minute of our good fortune.


  1. For Carsten, see Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister 1811-1875 (Bremen city registry office, civil status registers 1811-1875), Geburten (births) 1860, Reg. Nr. 1931 (13 Nov 1860), p. 973; FHL microfilm 1344170, Family History Library, Salt Lake City. For Juliane, see ibid., Geburten 1864, Reg. Nr. 2367 (15 Nov 1864), p.1177; FHL Film 1344173.
  2. “Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875 – 1939” (The Funerary Records of the City of Bremen, 1875-1939), book 1892, page 59; online database, Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen ( : accessed 30 Jan 2015).
  3. Bremen birth certificate, attached to visa application, Form 255, 4 December 1924, Marie Geissler; photocopy received 2004 via FOIA request by Judy G. Russell from U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
  4. Bremen Funerary Records, book 1893, page 451.
  5. Ibid., book 1896, page 117.
  6. Ibid., book 1898, page 234.
  7. Ibid., book 1904, page 871.
  8. The names and marriage information were written on the back of the photograph you see here. The annotation is in my father’s handwriting; the caption heading is “Mom’s Folks Bremen 1932.” If you’re a descendant of one of them, please contact me!
  9. “Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875 – 1939: Vierte Klasse” (The Funerary Records of the City of Bremen, 1875-1939: Fourth Class), Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen ( : accessed 30 Jan 2015).
  10. Bremen Funerary Records, book 1907, page 99.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email