Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Germans from Russia

I am fascinated by graveyards, always have been. The older the better. I visit them wherever I go, including Canada, the US, England, Spain, Holland and ancient sites in the United Arab Emirates and Malta. I love to wander the site and think about the individuals buried there. I don’t find them spooky, but rather peaceful, often sad and full of stories. When I was visiting my granddaughter in southern Alberta last summer we went for a drive in the prairies and discovered a well-kept, old cemetery not too far from her place. There were only about a dozen gravestones but what we found was amazing. This was the final resting place of my great-great-grandmother on my father’s side, Juliana Wegner Frisch.

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We found my great-great-grandmother buried here in the Eagle Butte Little Plume Cemetery

 

 

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German translation – Mother Juliana Frisch, born Wegner, born Jan 27, 1852, died Sept 17, 1927, Age 75 years, 8 months and 21 days

I have written quite a lot on this blog about my mother’s side of the family but we don’t know as much about my father’s side (Frisch) except that they were also German people who immigrated to North America from south Russia. They arrived in the late 1800s and many settled initially in the United States. My brother and my dad’s cousin have done some research and from what they discovered, Johann Frisch and his wife Juliana Wegner were both born in south Russia in an area what was, at the time, called Bessarabia.  They emigrated from Hamburg, Germany on April 20, 1898, arriving in New York on May 6, 1898, on a ship named “S.S.Scotia.”  With them were all seven of their surviving children, including my great-grandparents, John Frisch and Sophie (Schlect), who had already met and married in Russia. Johann and Juliana homesteaded in southern Alberta and later moved into the town of Irvine to set up a livery stable business and later a mail delivery business.

After retiring to the city of Medicine Hat, they split up in 1917.  Julianna lived the remainder of her life with her daughters until she passed away in 1927. Johann moved to the US where he passed away in 1928 on a “poor farm” in Portland, Oregon where he is buried. I can´t help but wonder why they went their separate ways.

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It was an awesome feeling to be there, at the place where my roots in Canada began. But even more amazing was the reaction of my seven-year-old great-granddaughter who was totally aware of the significance of the place. She was very serious and solemn and asked good questions. This woman was eight generations from her and resting only ten miles from where she lived!

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Standing beside the grave of her 5 times great-grandmother and feeling emotional

All the graves, although old, were in good repair. Apparently, other members of the family are buried there as well, some without gravestones.

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Always sad to see a baby’s grave.

There was a church nearby and I assume the congregation must look after the graveyard.

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And in amongst the dry grass, I found little flowers blooming and it made me think of how life is created and carries on no matter what. How a woman with seven children arrived in a new country, thrived and is responsible for so many descendants. I looked at my great-granddaughter and thought of how her legacy lives on.DSCN0193

The only picture of Juliana I could find was in the Frisch Family Tree book, painstakingly compiled by my dad’s cousin, Reuben Frisch. In the book, nine generations are documented and 1153 people listed (including spouses). In the front cover he wrote,  Thanks to these two people, Johann Frisch and Juliana Wegner who came to Canada, with their children, we get to live the good life.

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Thank you, Juliana Frisch. May you rest in peace.

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?

11071564_10153267314708936_3092559696858088784_n[1] (2) A couple of posts ago I showed this picture of my great grandparents, Henry and Katharina Hoffman taken when they arrived in Canada in 1909. They came from South Russia with three children, had one on the way to the homestead in Alberta (my grandmother) and had seven more once settled. 11659330_398384047028968_6797137594108185426_n This picture was taken much later with the surviving children. My grandmother is standing, third from the right. 11659330_398384040362302_2468084364640730572_n This picture of Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather Hoffman at their 50th Anniversary, in 1954, shows all the children and their spouses. My grandparents are the second couple on the right. The only one still with us is Great Uncle Tony, married to my grandmother´s sister Ann. (First couple on the left) The descendants of these brave, hardworking people have been meeting every five years for the past 30 years at The Hoffman Reunion. The reunions are organized by a different family group each time. This year the reunion was organized by the Raymond Becker family, descendants of Great Aunt Lindina, one of the little girls on the original picture. It is a lot of work and they did a great job. I am so glad I crossed the Atlantic to attend.

Descendants of Henry and Katherine Hoffman at the 2015 reunion

Descendants of Henry and Katharina Hoffman at the 2015 reunion

It was so great to see all my many cousins, aunts and uncles.  We ate fabulous German food, caught up on news, reminisced, played cards and board games, looked at old pictures, shared hugs and ate some more. Being together was all that mattered.  Family pictures were taken and loved ones no longer with us fondly remembered.  I brought my 14 year old  grandson and my 8 year old great granddaughter, who had a fabulous time. I was able to take mom out of the nursing home for a couple of hours to attend. At 86 she was almost the oldest person there. 136 attended this reunion; out of over 250 descendants spread all over the world, that is a good turn out. The youngest was 11 days old, the oldest 91.

My great granddaughter with my cousin´s granddaughter. We think they are 5th cousins

My great granddaughter with my cousin´s granddaughter, 5th cousins.

Mom with her brother and sister

Mom with her brother and sister

Great Uncle tony at 91 with some of his family

My Great Uncle Tony, at 91, with some of his family

A popular event, after the German meal and Hoffman Olympics, is the silent auction.  Family members donate items and others bid on them to raise funds for the next reunion in five years.  The bidding is fierce as everyone vies for cherished items such as hand knitted afghans, homemade wine, jams, pickles and many other treasures.  There is much friendly competition, no one gets hurt and most leave with something to take home.

Hoffman Olympics sack race

Hoffman Olympics sack race

Emma making a home run at the baseball game

Emma making a home run at the baseball game

Fun and games

Fun and games

You can see my great granddaughter had a lot of fun and met many relatives she didn’t´t know she had.

Lining up to eat (again)

Lining up to eat (again)

Everyone takes turns cooking

Everyone takes turns cooking

Memories

Memories

Every time I attend these events, I feel so blessed to belong to such a large loving family that stays in touch with each other, no matter where we live.

Some of my grandmother´s family

Some of my grandmother´s family

Sharing fond memories with cousins

Sharing fond memories with cousins

Someone made a special cake Note: not all the pictures were taken by me. Some were taken by cousins!

It´s now day 5 of the Five Day Challenge. This is how it works: Post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge.

This is my picture for day 5

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Family Picture 1909

This is one of my favourite family pictures. As you can see it is very old. It is of my Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother, Henry and Katherina Hoffman, my great Uncle Gust and Great Aunts, Tillie and Lindina. Great Grandmother is expecting  my grandmother in this picture. The family had just arrived in Canada from South Russia. As Germans living in South Russia, they could no longer stay due to the political climate at the time. After crossing the Atlantic in a cattle ship, they were about to travel by train across Canada to their homestead in southern Alberta. The journey was delayed by a stop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where my grandmother, Lydia, was born. Once settled on the prairies, Great Grandmother gave birth to nine more children. I remember her as a strong, hardworking woman who always put family first.

This will be my last blog for a couple of weeks as I am travelling to Canada soon to attend a Hoffman family reunion in southern Alberta where the many descendants of these hardy, brave individuals will celebrate with food and stories, and carry on the tradition of family get-togethers. I expect to see well over one hundred relatives. We are all forever grateful that these incredible people made the decision to immigrate to Canada when they did.

Now I would like to nominate Marylin at Things I want to Tell my Mother Marylin writes wonderful stories about her mother, before the onset of Alzheimer´s, in a compassionate and often humorous style. You will enjoy her blog.

Thank you so much for following these posts.

Jesse reading my book

Yes, that is Jesse, my ten year old grandson reading Amanda in Spain. He says his friends can’t believe he has a grandmother who writes books. That is worth millions in book sales!

I have just returned from a wonderful visit to Alberta. It was so great to see my Mom, my son and his family as well as old friends (not old in age but in having known them for a long time)

Mom and Me

It was also a special time as my mom’s father’s family celebrated being in Canada for 100 years. It was the centennial of their immigration from South Russia to the Canadian prairies where my great grandparents set up farming on the Alberta and Saskatchewan border. The homestead is still in the family as an operational farm, although no one lives on it anymore.

We celebrated with a full day of activities organized by my cousin Jean Sanders and her family. The day started with delicious fruit kuchen, coffee/tea and a chance to catch up. There are currently 188 direct descendants of my great grandparents, Andreas and Katherina Mehrer and 81 of us attended this special event.

They arrived in Canada with four small children in 1911. My grandfather John, the eldest, was 6 years old and his baby sister Frieda was only 6 weeks old. Andreas and Katherina went on to have nine more children. The surname Mehrer is derived from a Middle High German word meaning “to increase”. The name is most appropriate as100 years later there are 188 descendants, many of them children. There were five generations at the reunion.

Katherina Mehrer acted as a midwife and delivered more than 60 babies in between looking after her own large family and helping out with the farm work. She was a tiny woman with incredible strength and endurance.

Andreas Mehrer was known as a great storyteller and many of us have the gift of the gab, passed on from him no doubt. I was seven when he passed away and he only spoke to me in German but I remember him as a kind old man. I think he would be pleased to see my grandson reading my book, proof that the storytelling tradition has continued.

Happiness is also being part of a huge loving German family that loves to get together and share stories over good food.


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