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Celebrating a beginning, mourning an end

They probably wouldn’t have been exchanging a bone china gift that folks today might exchange for a 36th wedding anniversary.

It’s true that their German homeland is probably where the idea of specific anniversary presents originated, but it was still pretty much limited to the big milestones: “A couple’s friends might give the wife a wreath made out of silver to commemorate 25 years of marriage (the silberne hochzeit) and, should the couple reach 50 years together, a gold one later.”1

And it’s true that bone china is recognized today as the gift for a 36th anniversary.

bone china

But the notion of a specific gift for each specific year came later: “It wasn’t until the 20th century that an exhaustive yearly list was invented, and even then it’s been subject to change.”2

So there probably wasn’t that sort of gift-giving on that June day, 103 years ago, when The Legal Genealogist‘s great grandparents marked the 36th anniversary of their marriage.

They’d exchanged their vows in a Lutheran church in the bride’s home town of Bad Köstritz. Emma Louisa Graumüller had been born there and was baptized in that church in 1855.3 Her husband, Hermann Edward Geissler, came from nearby Sachsen-Anhalt to become a bricklayer in Bad Köstritz by the time of their marriage on 22 June 1879.4

Over the years, they’d baptized seven children in that church: Emma Hedwig in 1881;5 Martha Pauline in 1884;6 Arno Werner in 1885;7 Ida Agnes in 1887;8 Elly Marie in 1888;9 Paula Ida in 1890;10 and Hugo Ernst in 1891.11

They’d moved to the city of Gera, then the capital of the Principality of Reuss-Gera, by the turn of the century.12 So maybe they went out on the town for a bier and bratwurst. Or maybe they visited with one or more of their daughters — Martha had married Paul Benschura in Gera13 and had two little boys, Alfred and Willy.14 And what I’ve found of the records so far suggest that Elly was still living locally too.15

It isn’t likely that they would have visited with daughter Agnes — she was living in Bremen, where she’d married Franz Oskar Oettel16 and appears to have had two boys as well, Ernst and Herbert.17

It isn’t so much that it was a distance from Gera to Bremen — it’s about 435 kilometers, or 270 miles — but because of something else that was going on at that time. Both to the east and the west of the city where they lived, their homeland, Germany, was at war. And both of their sons, and at least one of their sons-in-law, had gone off into the German Army.

You can’t help but wonder what Hermann and Emma were thinking that day in the summer of 1915. The news generally from the war was good — a German offensive on the eastern front had broken through the Russian lines in Galicia and the German Army was pushing the advantage for everything it was worth.18 But any time you have children at risk… well, you know it had to have been hard.

I can hope that they were able to put it out of their minds for a time that day in June 1915. That they had an afternoon of sunshine and joy with family and friends. That they were able to think of their family as safe and whole.

Because it was the last time they could have thought that.

It was on that very day… 22 June 1915… the same day as they celebrated their 36th anniversary 103 years ago yesterday… that Hermann and Emma lost their oldest son, called Werner, in those battles far to the east in Galicia.19

A month later, son-in-law Franz Oskar Oettel also perished, on the western front of the war, in a battle called the Barrenkopf.20

Only the youngest, my grandfather Hugo Ernst Geissler, came home from that war, and he never lived at home again. He married in Bremen in 1918,21 and emigrated to the United States in 1925.22

Still, I can hope… one last afternoon of comfort. One afternoon, perhaps… maybe not of bone china but not yet of bone dust…


  1. Merrill Fabry, “Now You Know: Why Are There Special Gifts for Each Anniversary,” Time Magazine, posted 6 July 2017 ( : accessed 22 June 2018).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Taufregister Seite 110 Nr. 52 aus 1855 (digital image of entry in the possession of JG Russell).
  4. Kirchenbuch Bad Köstritz, Trauregister Seite 11 Nr. 11 aus 1879, Marriage Record of Hermann Edward Geissler and Emma Louisa Graumüller (digital image of record in possession of JG Russell).
  5. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 23 Nr. 52 aus 1881, Baptismal Record of Emma Hedwig Geissler.
  6. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 34 Nr. 4 aus 1884, Baptismal Record of Martha Pauline Geissler.
  7. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 41 Nr. 45 aus 1885, Baptismal Record of Arno Werner Geissler.
  8. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 48 Nr. 8 aus 1887, Baptismal Record of Ida Agnes Geissler.
  9. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 57 Nr. 89 aus 1888, Baptismal Record of Elly Marie Martha Geissler.
  10. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 64 Nr. 21 aus 1890, Baptismal Record of Paula Ida Geissler.
  11. Ibid., Taufregister Seite 69 Nr. 21 aus 1891, Baptismal Record of Hugo Ernst Geissler.
  12. Adreßbuch der Haupt- und Residenzstadt Gera… 1901
  13. Marriage record, Paul Alfred Benschura and Martha Pauline Geißler, 31 Jul 1906; Ahnenforschung Familie Geissler u. a. in Gera, Stadtarchiv, Gera, 22 Jun 2009.
  14. For Alfred, see Naturalization petition 71107, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Alfred Benschura, 11 Feb 1929, approved 23 May 1929; FHL microfilm 1468268. For Willy, see Gera Standesamt, Geburten (Gera registry office, births), Willy Walter Geissler, Geburten 1905, Reg. Nr. 557 (6 May 1905).
  15. Her first husband, Max Nasgowitz, was still listed in the Gera City Directory as late as 1922. Handbuch der Stadt Gera… 1922 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Karl Bauch, 1922), 163.
  16. Bremen Standesamt (City Register) 1908, Nr. 1390, Bd. 3, Heiratsregistereintrag (Marriage Register entry) Oettel-Geissler; “Standesamtsregister,” (City Register), Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen ( : accessed 21 Dec 2015).
  17. Ernst’s birth and marriage are noted on the marriage record of his parents in Bremen. Ibid. The evidence as to the second son isn’t overwhelming — a carpenter named Herbert Oettel was living at the same address as Agnes Oettel in 1939 (Einwohnerbuch Stadt Gera… 1939 (Gera, Germany : Verlag Kanitzsche Buch- und Kunsthandlung, 1939), 507) — but it’s a working theory at this point.
  18. See “1915 : A Global Conflict,” The History Place: World War I ( : accessed 22 June 2018).
  19. Verlust-Liste Nr. 0596 (20 Jul 1915), World War I Casualty Lists, 1914-1917, digital image, ( : accessed 27 Jul 2012); citing Deutsche Verlustlisten 1914 bis 1917, Berlin, Deutschland : Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt).
  20. Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875 – 1939” (Funerary Records 1875 – 1939), entry for Franz Oskar Oettel, citing Bremen Standesamt 1915, Seite (Page) 968, Nr. 3334; database, Die Maus – Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen ( : accessed 22 June 2018).
  21. Heiraten (Marriages), p. 41, nr. 5, Geißler-Nuckel, 14 Feb 1918; Kirchenbuch (Church Book), Evangelische Kirche St. Jakobi, Bremen, Heiraten 1911-1930; FHL INTL microfilm 953,273.
  22. Manifest, S.S. George Washington, Jan-Feb 1925, p. 59 (stamped), lines 4-6, Geissler family, 4; “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, ( : accessed 22 June 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T715, roll 3605.
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