Monday, January 13, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #2 ~ Emma Zaugg

Written for Amy Johnson Crow's Challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. (click on the icon in the sidebar for details at Amy's blog) 

Emma at 16

First, just the facts:
Name: Emma Zaugg
Born: 13-Sep-1860, East Union Twp, Wayne Co, Ohio
Married: Rudolph Graber, 15-Mar-1881, Apple Creek, Wayne Co, Ohio
Died: 07-Apr-1919, Wayne Co, Ohio [Find-A-Grave memorial]

Relationship: Great-great-grandmother
I am descended through:
- her daughter, Ella Rosa (Graber) Saurer (1883 - 1963)
- her daughter, Lela Mabel (Saurer) Ritchie (1913 - 1991)
- her son, my father, Donald John Ritchie (living)

As you can see from this, Emma never went very far from home that I've ever been able to discover.  While all her family, parents, aunts and uncles and even her paternal grandparents all came from Switzerland (mostly together) in the mid-1800's, once they got here they stayed.  Emma was surrounded by family in Wayne County as she grew up.

In 1881 she married a young man, Rudolph Graber, who was himself a recent immigrant from Switzerland. [picture to the right is likely a wedding picture or taken close to that time]

 I blogged previously about the extraordinary coincidence of the man who performed that wedding ceremony turning out to be an ancestor of my best friend.  It's amazing because it's not like we grew up together in the small town in Ohio - Apple Creek - where this wedding happened.  We met in St. Louis as adults.

One thing that I'd love to know is how much English was spoken in Emma's home and how much German. I can remember my own grandfather once teasing my grandmother (Lela Saurer above) that she didn't speak English until she was 5 and went to school! Now certainly that's not true - but it's interesting how many generations that carried down since my grandmother would have been Emma's granddaughter.

I do know that the German Reformed church where Rudy and Emma were married still conducted services in both German and English. While Emma was born in Ohio, I wonder what her first language really was? Did she speak English at school and German at home, or were there so many other children such as herself that German would have been spoken in the school yard? Which language would she have spoken naturally and most comfortably? With her husband being a native German speaker, did Emma and Rudy speak German to their children? They did have a German bible but I don't know much else.

It's one of those "if I only knew then what I know now" things because while my great-grandmother, Ella Graber, the oldest girl in the picture below, died when I was not quite 5, her youngest sister Laura was alive until I was well into my 20's. She would have know at least some of the answers - I just never thought to ask her. At the time, as I was getting into genealogy I was so fascinated with just finding more ancestors I didn't give as much thought to their stories.

This picture I believe to have been take in 1891 as I've identified the baby as Edna Graber who was born Jul-1891.  I've always thought that the family looks sad in this picture but that's probably because I know that they lost a young son, Elmer in 1890.  I blogged previously about finding Elmer's gravestone.

The Graber farm
At this point Emma is a young mother, 30 years old, who has had six children with four now living. I wonder what an average day was like for Emma and how many of those days she fell into bed exhausted? She was, by all accounts, a typical farm-wife. She raised her children (there would eventually be 8) and kept house on a farm in rural Wayne County, Ohio. With her first child being born when she was 21 and her last when she was 40 that's a lot of year to be dealing with young children.

Later, at roughly my age now (early 50's) she would have still had four children at home (based on the 1910 census for the family) with the youngest being 8. I'm sure the demands of keeping house and looking after children and all the hard work associated with living on a farm occupied her every waking minute. I often feel that I have so much to do and yet I can still find time to sit down at my computer every day. I imagine that Emma had very little time to herself during this time in her life.

"Graber" farm today taken in 2007
The farm where she and Rudy raised their brood is still standing. While the picture above is titled, "The Graber farm" to my own father it was always "Grandma & Grandpa Saurer's farm" with Grandma Saurer being Emma's & Rudy's oldest daugher, Ella Rosa Graber and her husband John F Saurer.

I've wondered why Ella ended up with the farm and not one of her two brothers.  It's true, she was the oldest child, but still I would have expected one of the boys to end up with the farm.  As you can see from the more modern picture of the farm, the area is still very rural.

Emma died in 1919, a year after her husband and I'm fortunate to have this obituary from my grandmother's things.  It's so neatly trimmed that no indication is given of the newspaper in which it would have appeared.

Reading her obituary gives the sense of a peaceful, fulfilled life which in many ways I'm sure is true. But in that one short sentence, "Eight of the ten children born to them survive her." I'm also sure there is more heart break than the writer has indicated.

One of those children who did not survive her was her first child, Clara Emma Zaugg. Clara was born on December 14, 1881 and died the same day. From reading the records it isn't clear if this was actually a stillbirth or if little Clara cried in her mother's arms before she was gone. Emma had been married less than a year and surely felt that same expectant joy that so many first-time mothers-to-be feel. How devastating to lose her first child. The other child who did not survive her was her second son, Elmer born on October 22, 1889 only to die when he was barely 6 months old on May 7, 1890.

However given that times in which she lived, she was very fortunate to be able to raise most of her children to adulthood.  This family picture [probably maybe between 1908 - 1910 based on the youngest girl having been born Jul-1901] shows a large and prosperous family. The youngest daughter, Laura, will write later, in a biographical sketch of her father, "He has an excellent little farm which yields a very comfortable income under his able management. He has a cozy home and everything about the place has an air of contentment."


  1. A fascinating account of Emma's life. I enjoyed reading about her background - love the name Apple Creek, it conjures up such an image - and you were lucky to have some evocative photographs that make so much difference to a family history story, i

    1. Thanks so much Sue!! ~ and I am all about the pictures...I really think that is what sparked my interest in genealogy when I was young.

    2. How I agree with you about the importance of old photographs! It was the shoebox of photos at my grandfather's house which sparked my interest at the age of 12, notably a photograph of my great grandmother who features heavily on my blog. I was immediately drawn to her and wanted to find out more.

  2. I'm not sure it the Zaugg's were really bug woman and grandpa said or if they just had big hair! The hair in tha last picture could rival some 80's hair!

  3. I'm thinking about going with that one hairstyle on the right...the biggest one!!!


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