Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Book That Speaks (Part II)

In my last post, I shared a bit about a book that I received.  Now I'm going to tell you why the book is so special to me.

First, when I opened the cover, I saw that my grandfather, Cornelius Siemens, stamped his name in the book in red, so it's a nice memory from him.  It's actually the only thing that I have from him.  He died in 1950, twenty-one years before I was born.  Plus, he had 26 grandchildren, and I was born second-to-last, so all his things had been divided long before I was around. 

 But when I got to the back of the book, I was amazed.  The book was signed by Cornelius Janzen #6468 (1848-1873) of Neukirch, Molotschna Colony, Russia, in 1866.  He's not my relative, so why should I care?  Because he was the first husband of my great-grandmother Aganetha Klassen.  They married in about 1871, and he died suddenly in March 1873 at age 25.

He signed the book at age 18, which is about the age that he would have been baptized.  Probably, it was an influential book in his spiritual growth as he matured into adulthood.  He was a school teacher also, so he would have been respected as an intellectual as well.

But how did the book come to my grandfather?  Presumably my great-grandmother Aganetha kept the book after her husband died.  She re-married four months later, in July 1873, to my great-grandfather Gerhard Siemens.  And the book must have been important enough for her to bring it as one of a few possessions that would have fit into their trunk of freight when they immigrated to Canada in August 1874.  And then my grandfather Cornelius Siemens was born in 1884 in Manitoba.

The next notation in the book is that it is a gift from to my grandfather with wishes from his parents in 1890.  The date 1890 is significant because that is when my great-grandmother Aganetha died in childbirth.  So the book was a memory saved for my grandfather Cornelius from his mother - he was only 5 years old when she died.

And then my grandfather signed his name in the back of the book.

Not only is this a memory of my grandfather whom I never met - it's a memory of my great-grandmother and of her first husband.  It's a memory of what spiritual life was like in Russia for them.  When I hold the book, I hold something that was dear to my great-grandmother.  The book was surely a bittersweet memory for her, a memory of the man she loved in her youth and a memory of how he was taken from her all too soon.

Cornelius Janzen left no descendants, but when I hold this book, I count myself a spiritual and intellectual descendant of his.

1 comment:

  1. That is beautifully written. Many times I come across books or photoalbums in flea markets, antiquariats, or on line, and my heart breaks. To someone searching for their ancestors this would be a treasure.