Apr 23, 2015

The Old Churchbell Falls Silent --

I learned this morning that the church that has figured most strongly in my family history, Christ Evangelical Lutheran of Ozone Park, New York, will be closing its doors as of May 24th.  The church has been struggling for a few years now, and they have decided to combine its small congregation with two others, in the hope of creating a church that will be reinvigorated and will thrive.

This article from a local paper explains the story.  But I stopped at one sentence and wondered, is this really true?  Rev. Herbst from the New York Synod said this:

        But Herbst said the physical building has very little impact on the faith of a congregation.
        "It's not about the building, it's about how we're serving the community," he said.

In one sense, I guess he's right -- that whether services are held in a historic building or in a storefront wouldn't affect the faith of the people who attend.  But in another way, it is about the building, when so much of your family's history is so tied up in that particular structure, that particular place. Besides attending the regular services, the Ortmans and Berneburgs had many significant events take place in that sanctuary:

     1895:  The baptism of my grandmother, Mary Siegler
     1921:  The wedding of my grandmother,  Mary Siegler, and my grandfather, William J. Ortman
     1925:  The baptism of my father, William J. Ortman, Jr.
     c. 1937:  The confirmations of my mother, Waltraud Berneburg, and my father, William J.                              Ortman.
     1949:  The wedding of my mother, Waltraud Berneburg, and father, William J. Ortman, Jr.
     1950:  My baptism, on October 1st.

Besides this, I'm sure there were numerous funerals, both my grandfathers, my grandmother Mae Ortman, my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, George and Tilly Siegler.  My great-aunt, Dorothy Siegler, married Ernest Meyer, whose father, Dr. Hugo E. Meyer, was the minister of the church; Ernest Meyer took over the ministry when his father retired and then presided over all of the family events listed above.

        The interior of the old church

I think I'm feeling a kind of mourning today -- when an iconic place like Christ Lutheran disappears, it leaves a tangible hole in your heart.  I can't help think about how we all must pass from this earthly plane, people and buildings and gravestones and written records, wedding dresses and pocket watches, diaries and letters, eventually everything that says "I existed.  I was here."  It's inevitable.  We must make our peace with it.  But today, that doesn't feel easy.

I wrote an earlier post about Christ Lutheran here.

The Prodigal Returns

I've been on a little hiatus for the past couple of weeks, as that thing called "real life" interfered with my desire to post on the blog.  But I'm back and will be posting regularly, I hope!  I've got work to do before the Genealogy Jamboree at the beginning of June!

Apr 4, 2015

When I Was Young: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings asks us to answer five questions this week:

1)  Do you (or your parents) have any memorabilia from when you were a baby? (ie. baby book, lock of hair, first shoes etc.)
2)  Do you know if you were named after anyone?

3)  And do you know of any other names your parents might have named you? 

4)  What is your earliest memory?

5)  Did your parent/s (or older siblings) read, sing or tell stories to you? Do you remember any of these?  


1)  I have pictures (quite a few), some teeth (yuck) and a pony tail that was chopped off.  Tied with a blue ribbon.

2)  I was named after Miss Rheingold (beer) of 1949.  Her name was Elise Gammon, and my mother thought she was so pretty and her name was so pretty.  What interests me is that she had never heard the name before, but when I go back through my ancestry, I do find women named Elise.

3)  If I had been a boy, they would have named me Alan.  That seems so weird to me now.

4)  It's hard to know what one actually remembers and what one has heard from stories told in the family.  I think I do remember when my mother came out of the hospital with my baby sister -- I moved over next to my dad on the front seat of the car and put my arm around him, as if to say, the lines are drawn between me and this stranger.  I remember my grandmother putting little pieces of cheese on the edge of the table, and I would pretend to be a mousie and sneak them off.

5)  There was always singing in my house.  I remember "I'm a little teapot," and "Jesus loves me," and many other songs.  There was a little German game called "Hoppe, hoppe Reiter."  I remember books about Rootie Kazootie and Polka Dottie, and other kinds of Golden Books.  The first books I can remember reading myself were the Nancy Drew books.  I loved them so much.

Can't wait until the next five questions --   

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