Saturday, March 26, 2022



There is a tradition in Mexico that speaks of the three deaths.


The first death is when you take your last breath.

The second death is when you are returned to the earth.

The third death, that final consignment to oblivion, occurs the last time your name is spoken.


On September 13, 1904, Emma Gleffe Schröder, my great grandmother, gave birth to her second child, a son, in Groß Gansen in the Pommern region of what was then Germany but is now part of Poland. Paul Albert Carl was baptized on September 22 as a member of the church of Budow. This was the same church that his mother Emma, his father Leo, and his older brother Willi, were all baptized. There are records indicating that little Paul’s ancestors had been baptized at the church in Budow from at least, the early part of the 18th century. (Paul’s ancestors were probably both Kashubian and German, as the liturgical services were spoken in both German and Kashubian until 1795.)

Paul’s baptism on that day in September of 1904 listed his sponsors as Albert Bacher, Frau Karoline Gleffe, and Franz Gleffe all residing in Groß Gansen. Paul’s baptism occurred on a Thursday, not the usual Sunday, indicating that the child must have been ill. On October 3, 1904, Paul Schröder died.

In 1906, when Leo and Emma along with their sons Willi and Max arrived in the United States, I can imagine their excitement, and their sadness. Leaving your mother, your father, your siblings, your cousins, and your friends had to be difficult. But I cannot discount, the sadness Emma must have felt leaving behind her son’s grave. As a mother of a deceased child, I know the small comfort of standing at my child’s final resting place. The bittersweet joy of placing flowers to honor that piece of my lost heart. The rough feel of the cold marble as I trace the letters of her name. I feel a kinship with Emma, not just of blood, but of a shared sorrow.

Paul’s parents are both long gone from this earth. His eight siblings, too, have found their final resting place. There are no children or grandchildren to remember, Paul. Today as I type his name - Paul. Albert. Carl. Schröder – I say his name aloud, for Paul, for Emma. One more day Paul’s memory lives. One more day oblivion cannot claim him.

Say his name.



A Thank you.

I have been blessed in my research of my German ancestors, with the kindness and generosity of many. Today, I single out one of them. My German friend, Siegfried Krause. Siegfried reached out to me over a decade ago after he read my blog. He not only helped me with research, but he also sent me pictures and videos of my ancestral towns. Thankfully, he spoke and wrote English very well, as I do not read or write German. (A complication my German friend, Jörg, could attest to.) Siegfried is the one who explained the German custom of having three baptismal sponsors. The Evangelische church allowed for three sponsors, any more than that, and you had to pay an additional fee. It is rare to see any 19th century or early 20th century German church registers listing more than three, but they do exist

I learned several years ago that my friend Siegfried had passed away. I think of him often. I say his name aloud, Siegfried. Krause. I promise you, Siegfried, while my brain still functions and I have a breath, your name will be on my lips. I miss your wisdom and kindness, my friend.



1. Siegfried Krause, numerous email correspondence

2 Evangelische Kirche Budow Taufen, 1904/88

3. Manifest for the Ship, Amerika, first found on Website for Ellis Island in 2003 – now listed as

4. Kashubia, Home of the Baltic Slavs – written originally in Polish by Jaroslaw Ellwart, translated to German by Peter Oliver Loew, and abridged and supplemented English translation by John M. Hingst and Liesel Herchenroether Hingst, 2000. PDF version found online, 20 July 2020.


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