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Facing those deaths

One hundred and 71 years ago today, on the 22nd of August 1844, right about 11:30 in the morning, a little girl was born at home at Buntentorsteinweg 64, in the City of Bremen, Germany.

Her name was Hinnerina Sievers,1 and she was the third child — and third daughter — of The Legal Genealogist‘s third great grandparents, Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers and Metta Huthoff. Her father was a 23-year-old laborer; her mother was 24 when she was born.2

And there is so little more that we know of this child.

We know she was baptized on the 15th of September 1844, by Pastor Hanffstangel in Bremen.3

Graveyard Angel StatueAnd we know she died on 12 March 1845 — 10 days shy of being seven months old.4

The fact that that is all we know about this child is unspeakably sad, and the tale is sadder still when you look at the child mortality in this family.

Her oldest sister, the first-born child, Maria Margarethe Sievers lived only 15 days after her birth in 1841.5 Her younger brother Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers was not yet two when he died in 1848.6

But what just breaks your heart about all of these babies and their untimely deaths is one simple fact.

Civil registration was introduced in Bremen as a form of registering vital statistics in 1811.7 Births, marriages and deaths were reported to the city registrar’s office — the Standesamt — and in the case of births and deaths the person making the report was most commonly a member of the family.

When these babies were born in the Sievers family, it was their father who went to the Standesamt to report the births.

But when little Hinnerina died in 1845 — when her older sister Marie died in 1841 — when her little brother Carsten died in 1848 — each time one of the babies of this family died… it was their grandmother, their father’s mother, my fourth great grandmother Maria Margarethe (Storch) Sievers who had to perform that sad duty.

Maria Sievers was a 42-year-old widow when she traipsed down to the city registrar’s office in 1841 to report that her first-born granddaughter had died. She was shown as 48 when she made that same sad trip down in 1845 to report Hinnerina’s death. And the records list her as 50 when she went to report little Carsten’s death in 1848.

And I know those weren’t the only times she had to make that trip. She was the one who reported the 1843 death of another little Carsten Sievers, just a few months old, son of 21-year-old Hermann Sievers.8 And there may be others I haven’t found yet.

It is unimaginable to us here in the 21st century to lose so many babies in any of our families. To even lose one — as my family did earlier this year9 — is heartbreaking beyond what any words can begin to convey. As a family researcher you want to hold every one of those babies close to your heart… to make sure each and every one of them is remembered.

But it is way past unimaginable to consider Maria Margarethe (Storch) Sievers. Beyond what our minds can comprehend to even try to put ourselves in her shoes.

To think of what it was like for that woman — time after time after time — standing in front of some city official, and saying that yet another baby had died.

She was one amazingly strong woman.

And as one of her family researchers, I want to hold her close to my heart… and honor her for that strength.

I’m not sure I could have done the same.


  1. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Geburten (Bremen registry office, civil status registers, births), 1811-1875, Hinnerina Sievers, Geburten 1844, Reg. Nr. 1171 (26 Aug 1844), p. 574; FHL microfilm 1344160.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Todesfälle (Bremen registry office, civil status registers, deaths), 1811-1875, Hinnerina Sievers, Todten 1845, Reg. Nr. 541 (13 Mar 1845), p. 48; FHL microfilm 1344223.
  5. See ibid., Maria Margarethe Siefers, Todten 1841, Reg. Nr. 144 (13 Feb 1841), p. 72; FHL microfilm 1344222.
  6. See ibid., Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers, Todten 1848, Reg. Nr. 95 (22 Jan 1848), p. 48; FHL microfilm 1344224.
  7. FamilySearch Research Wiki (, “Bremen Civil Registration- Vital Records,” rev. 16 Mar 2011.
  8. See Bremen Standesamt, Zivilstandsregister, Todesfälle (Bremen registry office, civil status registers, deaths), 1811-1875, Carsten Hinrich Wilhelm Sievers, Todten 1843, Reg. Nr. 96 (25 Jan 1843), p. 48; FHL microfilm 1344223.
  9. See Judy G. Russell, “Mourning Adam,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 20 June 2015 ( : accessed 22 Aug 2015).
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