As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family, I was thinking of past holiday gatherings from my childhood and remember all of the family members who are no longer with us. As time goes by, the memories of those lost loved ones are less painful than the first year without them. The memories also bring joy as I reflect and realize that the love we have lasts forever because they remain with us in spirit through our memories and the stories we share.
I count myself blessed to work with and see my parents on a daily basis, and to have previously worked with two of my grandparents. This week, as we took pictures of the local artwork we have hanging throughout the funeral home, I began studying more closely the German documents and an old picture we have on the walls. The picture shows my great grandparents, Walter Douglas Hansen and Helene A. Bruenger, from either their confirmation or grade school graduation at St. James Lutheran Church (it would have been St. Jacobi at that time).
Hansen Family History & St. Jacobi Lutheran Church
My great-grandparents, Walter & Helene Hansen were the first of four generations of our family to graduate from St. James Lutheran School. Quincy’s rich German heritage is reflected in our family documents that I have been examining. St. Jacobi Lutheran Church was founded in 1851 by German immigrants from Herford. The change from services in German to English began prior to World War I. The first confirmations in English occurred as early as 1897, and English worship services began shortly after 1910. As you can see from the confirmation certificates for Walter & Helene, the church still had German language documents in 1915. It was during World War I that the name was officially anglicized to St. James from St. Jacobi.
Walter was orphaned and adopted by Friedrich Christian and Helena (Ernst) Hansen. They immigrated to American in 1881 from Northern Germany (Bönstrup & Bremerhaven).
Helene’s parents, Peter Heinrich Bruenger and Friedrika Wilhelmine Siebrasse, immigrated to Quincy shortly after they were married in Enger, Germany (near Herford in North Rhine-Westphalia) on April 30, 1882. The marriage certificate is the final document we have on display, it is a certificate of the marriage information filled out and verified on April 26, 1883 by Rev. William Hallerberg at St. Jacobi Evangelical Lutheran Church in Quincy.
Preserving & Passing Down Family History
I did not have the pleasure of knowing my other great-grandparents, but I was very fortunate to have known and remember grandma and grandpa Hansen. Looking at these documents and the details, thankfully my wife, Kristin, provided German translations, is something I enjoy. Knowing our family, labeling and preserving pictures, cherishing our heritage and passing that knowledge on to others in our family is something that just seems natural at Thanksgiving. (Especially since it is what we do every day with the families we serve.)
There is much to be thankful for and not least of which is our families, even those we never knew but learn about and remember through stories and pictures.
I hope you take the time to visit, share stories and enjoy your family gatherings this Thanksgiving.