Darlene Foster's Blog

The Other Side of the Family

Posted on: August 2, 2015

I shared information about my mother´s mother´s family (Hoffman) so I think it only fair I  share something of my mother´s father´s side of the family (Mehrer). Both families were German immigrant farmers from South Russia and came to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century to help populate and develop the prairie provinces.

Great-grandparents Andreas and Katerina Mehrer and family

Great-grandparents Andreas and Katharina Mehrer and their children

While in Calgary last month I stopped in to visit my grandfather’s only living sister, Meta, and her husband Lex. They  still live in their own home and put out a garden every year. At 91, Great Aunt Meta is in great shape and shared a wonderful story about her parents, my great grandparents, when they first settled on the homestead in southern Alberta.

As told to me by Meta (Mehrer) Davis

April 1912
Father was out turning sod, when he had some trouble with the horses. He called to Mother, who came across the road, leaving the little ones in the house, thinking she would only be a few minutes. It took a long time before she returned – to an empty house. Panic-stricken she rushed out, calling the little ones but all that greeted her was silence. After searching the yard she returned to the house wondering what she could say to their father.
In the Kitchen, on one of the walls there were six large hooks on which to hang heavy garments. On one of these hooks hung the long, black wool coat that Dad had brought from Europe. A long bench sat underneath. As she entered the kitchen she noticed a slight movement of the coat. She pulled it to one side and there sat four little people, sleeping and perspiring. John holding the baby and a little girl on each side of him.
He explained to his mother that she was gone so long that he decided to keep them safe in case someone came to take them away.

Note: It was not uncommon for children to be abducted in Europe in the 1800s and John had heard these stories. Their ages at the time Baby (Frieda) one year old, Martha 2 ½ years, Beth 4 years and John 5 ½ years.

It was my dear grandfather, John, who protected his siblings all those years ago. He is the gentleman sitting on the far left in the family picture. Aunt Meta is standing beside him. He married my grandmother, had six children, thirty-two grandchildren and many great grandchildren. I remember him as a kind and caring man, always making sure his family was safe.

I also had the opportunity to visit my grandfather´s only surviving brother, Great Uncle Paul. (He is the little boy between the great grandparents in the family picture above). He is 86 years old, the same age as Mom. He also lives in the same care home as my mom so she gets to see him often. He, along with his brother, Great Uncle Andrew, farmed the original homestead, until fairly recently. He also had many interesting stories to tell me.

Mom and her Uncle Paul

Mom and her Uncle Paul

Great Uncle Paul with a team of horses

Great Uncle Paul with a team of horses

The barn on the homestead painted by Great Aunt Hilda

The barn on the homestead, painted by Great Aunt Hilda

I wrote about the 100 year celebration of the Mehrer family here  if you wish to learn more about this side of the family.

It was so wonderful to spend time with my grandfather´s siblings and hear stories about him and the family. I just wish I had spent more time with him when he was with us, as Grandpa loved to share stories.

Do you have any old timers in the family that enjoy sharing stories of the past?

29 Responses to "The Other Side of the Family"

What a precious, precious story!

Are you familiar with Katie Funk Wiebe? She is a Mennonite writer from Canada now in her nineties and known for her books of memoir and writing tips (non-fiction).

These posts are a treasure trove for your readers here and for your family.

I´m so pleased you enjoyed this story. I was not aware of Katie Funk Wiebe so I checked her out. Her books look intriguing. Thanks. A book I loved was The Russlander by Sandra Birdsell (another Canadian Mennonite writer). It made me think about what life would have been like had my great grandparents not immigrated to Canada when they did.

What a sweet story Darlene. If you are ever in Calgary again do let me know. Would love to meet in person!

I would love to meet you too. I will for sure connect the next time I´m in Calgary. I think you were in South America when I was there last. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Sounds like a plan. I will look forward to the opportunity!

I’m really enjoying learning about the family, both from the past and the current. It’s been great fun seeing what you’re posting about! My great-uncle (by marriage – his wife was my grandmother’s sister) vastly preferred plowing with the horse versus using a tractor. He wasn’t a very successful farmer, but he sure was happy. My aunt, not so much, as she had to work to pay the bills and keep the cows fed!

I wrote about them here:



Thanks for the link. I see you have other stories about your family as well. Your great-uncle sounds like an interesting man and my dad would have enjoyed chatting with him. Glad you like these posts.

You know so much about your family, it’s great that you have such close connections with both your mother’s mother’s side and her father’s side. How lovely for your mom and her uncle to live in the same place, too. Do you have a paper copy of your family tree? I imagine it would fill a lot of space.

The only old timers in my family now are my parents, and I like it when they tell me stories from the past. Sometimes they remember something I’ve never heard before and I’m amazed that they can still dredge up new stories from their memories.

Yes we are lucky. We have a family tree and history books that are updated from time to time. You are also lucky to be able to spend time with your parents and hear the stories first hand. I suggest you write some of them down if you haven�t already. Is your mom feeling better?

I think it marvelous that you have these stories to pass down, not many of know these things about our ancestors. Wonderful photos too!

I do appreciate these stories as I know many who know very little about their ancestors. Glad you liked the photos.

What a wonderful, sweet story Darlene! He was really very brave…

He was and at not even 6 years old. But then he had crossed the Atlantic to come to a new country which was also brave.

What a special story for your family. Love the photos. Listen to the stories now, as when they are gone, so are the stories. Wished I’d kept my paternal grandmother’s and great aunt’s letters about their life (German descent). Lost them years ago. But, have a cousin who has researched my mother’s side of the family going back to the 1500s in England and Wales. In fact she handed me the book of the family trees over the weekend. Special to know some of your roots.

I agree, it is special to know your roots. I do wish I had listened more to my grandfather´s stories and am glad I still have his brother and sister here to share some with me. Enjoy reading about your family history.

I am forever amazed how you keep in contact with your immense family …so lovely Darlene . I do not keep in contact with mine apart from my sister and her husband , my son and his girlfriend . That is it . They are very pr

I must be heavy handed because messages go too soon . As I often say to our lovely Marian …you have me in two halves today lol
My small family are very precious to me …ooh just remembered my lovely nephew and wife …hey my family is expanding as we speak . I have family on my husbands side but we are talking our personal family .
I did make contact with a cousin once but she just stopped email so I have to respect her wishes . Enjoy your jumbo family .

Family is precious no matter what the size. My British husband has a small family as well. I believe it is the immigrant families in North America that grow so large and keep in touch as a way of preserving the culture. There was a time when that was all they had was each other to depend upon. I love that you call it a jumbo family!

Hello Darlene, How wonderful for your mom and her great Uncle Paul to be in the same care home. Was that pure luck or part of the reason for her choosing to live there?
I’m researching my family at the moment so I’m really enjoying your family stories. I do wish I had some older relatives left to speak to but they are all gone so I’m busily searching out newspaper articles and anything else I can find. It’s great fun.

I am pleased you are enjoying these posts. Paul is my Great Uncle and Mom´s uncle (although they are the same age). It was pure luck as we had no say in which care home she was placed. We were so happy it worked out that way!
Have fun researching your family. It is always amazing what one can discover.

Our family “old timers” would be my two older brothers. The elder of the two has done a lot of genealogical research. I think it’s great your family keeps in touch all these years. I imagine the story has a much happier ending since yours emigrated to Canada, rather than stay in Russia.

It is wonderful that you have your brothers to pass on the family history and to do research. It is actually my younger brother that has done the research for us and traced the family back to Eastern Europe in the 1600s. Yes, life would have been much more difficult and dangerous had the family stayed in Russia at that time. (two world wars against their own people and a political revolution they didn´t agree with) Thanks for your interest in my family.

What wonderful family history you have! You must be ever so proud!

I a proud to be part of this wonderful family. We aren´t perfect by any means but we share much love.

Is any family perfect? Not guilty, your Honour! 😉

Cool! 🙂 My great-grandfather was in WWII, and he would tell of his sight-seeing overseas (he never talked about being in the war though). He started telling me a bit before he passed on.

I am sure your great-grandfather had some interesting stories to tell (and left out the unpleasant stuff) You are fortunate you had a chance to hear some of them. 😀

[…] have blogged before about my amazing great grandmothers here and about my Mehrer great grandparents here. I consider myself blessed to have had ancestors with the fortitude and vision to embark on a […]

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