Living and losing
She was born just about noon that Friday, the 27th of October, 162 years ago yesterday. The year was 1855, the place most likely the little village of Bad Köstritz in what is now the German State of Thüringen. Her father was Johann Christoph Gustav Graumüller, her mother Auguste Wilhelmina (Zimmermann) Graumüller.On the fourth of November, she was baptized at the Lutheran Church in Bad Köstritz and given the name Emma Louise.1
From the available records, Emma was the second of the seven children born to her parents, who had been married in that same church in 1852.2 She had one older sister, three younger sisters and two younger brothers.3
Emma grew to adulthood in Bad Köstritz and, in the same church where her parents had married and she and her siblings were baptized, she married Hermann Eduard Geissler, a bricklayer in Bad Köstritz, on 22 June 1879.4
It couldn’t have been a comfortable wedding. Emma’s father was by then a deacon of the church. Hermann, the illegitimate son of a woman who later married someone who never gave her son his name.5 But it was a long and fruitful marriage: it lasted until Emma’s death in January 19296 and produced seven children that I know of.
Her birthday present in 1881 was her first daughter, Emma Hedwig, called Hattie, born just a day before Emma turned 26.7 Six more children followed — four daughters and two sons — each of them baptized in the church of their parents and grandparents in Bad Köstritz.8
Emma’s life must have been filled with family, surrounded by her children.
And then — one by one — they began to disappear.
First, it looks like daughter Paula didn’t survive. I haven’t found the death record yet, but there are no records of this child after her baptism in April of 1890.
And then, only months later, came what I suspect was the perhaps the hardest parting of all. That birthday-present first-born daughter, Hattie, sailed for America in the summer of 1890, sent to live with Emma’s sister Auguste (Graumüller) and brother-in-law Frank Schreiner in Chicago.9 Auguste had no children; Emma had all those mouths to feed; you can imagine the letters going back and forth with promises of a good and rich life.
I can’t imagine what Emma went through that summer. How she must have stood on a train platform or a ship’s dock and watched her baby girl — not even nine years old — leave her for a life so far away. Oh, there were visits later, but much later. The first record I can find suggests that Hattie didn’t visit home again until 1899.10
And then came the other losses. One by one by one…
• On the 22nd of June 1915, Emma’s son Arno was killed in Galicia, in what today is probably the modern Ukraine. A casualty of the First World War.11
• In January 1923, daughter Elly emigrated to the United States, joining other family members in Chicago.12
• In March 1923, daughter Martha also emigrated to the United States, also settling in Chicago.13
• And in early 1925, her baby, my grandfather, Hugo Ernst Geissler, and his family emigrated to join the others in Chicago as well.14
Only daughter Agnes remained behind in Germany. And only Agnes was there to join my great grandfather Hermann in mourning Emma when she died on 3 January 1929, at Gera, Germany, at the age of 73.15
A full life. A rich life. Years of living. Years of losing. The strength of bidding farewell, over and over and over.
You were an amazing woman, Emma Louise.
I wish I’d known you…
- Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taufregister, Seite 110 Nr. 52 aus 1855 (Church book, Baptismal Register, Page 110, no. 52 of 1855); digital image of entry in the possession of JG Russell. ↩
- Ibid., Trauregister, Seite 434 Nr. 11 aus 1852, Marriage Record of Johann Christoph Graumüller and Auguste Wilhemina Zimmermann. ↩
- Ibid., Taufregister, Seite 57 Nr. 35 aus 1855 (Ida Emma Graumüller); Seite 162 Nr. 64 aus 1857 (Auguste Pauline Graumüller); Seite 216 Nr. 83 aus 1859 (Henrietta Louise Graumüller); Seite 313 Nr. 19 aus 1863 (Ernst Gustav Graumüller); Seite 414 Nr. 42 aus 1865 (Karl Emil Graumüller); Seite 10 Nr. 54 aus 1867 (Anna Emilie Graumüller). ↩
- Ibid., Trauregister, Seite 11 Nr. 11 aus 1879, Marriage Record of Hermann Edward Geissler and Emma Louisa Graumüller. ↩
- Marriage record, Evangelische Kirche (Lutheran Church), Ossig, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, 13 Feb 1859, Friedrike Geissler-Johann Gottlieb Stecher; Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1799-1874, Staat-Archiv, Magdeburg (FHL microfilm 1335489). ↩
- Death Certificate, Nr. 7 (1929), Emma Luise Geisler; Standesamt Gera, 4 January 1929 (photocopy provided by Stadtarchiv Gera, 2011). ↩
- Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taugregister, Seite 23 Nr. 52 aus 1881 (Emma Hedwig Geissler). ↩
- Ibid., Seite 34 Nr. 4 aus 1884 (Martha Pauline Geissler); Seite 41 Nr. 45 aus 1885 (Arno Werner Geissler); Seite 48 Nr. 8 aus 1887 (Ida Agnes Geissler); Seite 57 Nr. 89 aus 1888 (Elly Marie Martha Geissler); Seite 64 Nr. 21 aus 1890 (Paula Ida Geissler); Seite 69 Nr. 21 aus 1891 (Hugo Ernst Geissler). ↩
- Manifest, S.S. Rhein, August 1890, page 7 (penned), passenger 329, Hedwig Geisler; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication M255, roll 48. ↩
- Departure list, S.S. Fürst Bismarck, October 1899, page 1691, Augusta Schreiner and Hedwig Geisler; digital images, “Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2010), citing Staatsarchive Hamburg, 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 105, Seite 1792 (Mikrofilm Nr. K_1785). ↩
- See Judy G. Russell, “Death on the Eastern Front,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 26 Jul 2012 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 27 Oct 2017). ↩
- Manifest, S.S. President Harding, January 1923, p. 131 (stamped), line 1, Elly Nasgowitz; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3244. ↩
- Manifest, S.S. President Arthur, March 1923, p. 125 (stamped), line 2, Martha Benschura; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3269. ↩
- Manifest, S.S. George Washington, Jan-Feb 1925, p. 59 (stamped), lines 4-6, Hugo, Marie and Hugo Geissler; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 March 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3605. ↩
- Death Certificate, Nr. 7 (1929), Emma Luise Geisler. ↩