I've been working on my family history, trying to write a narrative based on genealogical information that my mom and other family members have collected. Who would have thought that doing genealogy could feed the soul...? But it did.
Aunt Celia's memoir says that Verena (her mother) was born in Dubendorf, Switzerland and there married Jacob Riser. Two children were born and died in infancy in Switzerland. A third child, Gottlieb, was two years old when the Risers came to America. Two more children, Eliza and Adolf, were born after arrival in America. Jacob Riser died a couple of years after arrival in America.
John Schneider's parents are listed in a Schneider genealogy which covers the descendants of his brother, Joseph. Their names were Nickolas Schneider and Verna Baumberger. John was born in Langau, Switzerland, in 1840. He came to America in 1867, spending six weeks at sea.
John and Verena lived in a Swiss settlement in Elgin, Iowa, and never learned English. According to Celia's memoir, they spoke a Swiss dialect and read and wrote in German. The children learned English in school, which they attended for a few weeks each winter. However, they continued to speak Swiss wit "the folks" until their parents' deaths. Some of the children lived for many years after their parents died; and Celia says that she did not remember much Swiss later in her life.
John and Verena's first child, Lena, died in infancy. Their other children (Lydia, Adeline, Fred, Celia, Lucy, and Mary) lived into adulthood, and most lived well into their 90s. I remember meeting three of them as a very young child, and Mary was still living at age 102 when I was a college student.
Reading Aunt Celia's writing, I can hardly begin to imagine what life was like for the Schneider family. They spent most of their time working at basic tasks related to survival: farming chores, housekeeping, etc. Childbirth was done at home, and experts weren't on hand--Aunt Celia remembers being called to assist with a birth when she was a young teen! I live a very affluent life compared to them. I have lights in my house that I can turn on and off whenever I want, machines to do my washing, doctors to visit when I am sick, cars and ambulances to take me there in plenty of time. It is very rare for a young person to die giving birth to a baby now or to lose a husband. Widow? That's an old person! But Aunt Celia lost her sister to childbirth at age 21 and was a widow at age 23--and she didn't have a counselor or psychotherapist to help her learn to cope with her emotions!
Is it any wonder that the Schneiders became such strong people of faith? They NEEDED God! They had no one else to lean on, no other answer for their grief and weariness. They were just country folk, new to the land, trying to survive. And so it was that the preacher from Anderson, Indiana, came to town, and introduced them to Jesus. The date is unclear, but since Marie was born in 1907 and there is later mention of a move in 1911 I'm guessing that this happened in 1909 or so--Aunt Celia says that she wore black for three years following her husband's death and cites her conversion to Christianity as the turning point in her grief process.
There is a note that Paul Anderson worked a year for the Gospel Trumpet Company (1925?) My Phillips relatives have strong roots in the Church of God, and some also worked for the Gospel Trumpet. Maybe this is just name dropping, but it doesn't feel like it. It helps me to feel connected somehow to the past and to the faith that those family members passed down to my parents and my parents passed down to me. My early hardship experiences--I call them "pit experiences"--were a bit different from those of my ancestors; but connecting with my ancestors helps me to understand the value of faith and the potential for my life when I surrender it to His will.