Monday, December 15, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 7, My Maternal Grandmother

Margaret Austel, born 1894, Bürglen, Canton Thurgau, Switzerland; died 1963, Alexandria, VA; buried St. Mary’s Cemetery, Alexandria, VA.

The Pedigree ornament above shows the German-printed Himmelsleiter which once belonged to my maternal grandmother. Literally, it translates “Heaven guide” but essentially, it is a prayer book, with prayers about Holy Communion, Stations of the Cross, and certain other litanies of the Catholic Mass. The picture is captioned, “Der Liebe Jesusknabe” which even I can translate, “the dear child Jesus”. But that’s about as far as I can go. My grandmother was born Margaret Austel, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, in Canton Thurgau, in the village of Burglen. The village is named after a small castle (Burg) which dominates the hill overlooking the town. Margaret immigrated to America with her family when she was about eight years old; thus, German was her native language. Undoubtedly, a mixture of German and English was spoken in their home in Braddock in the early days. In any case, Grandma could speak German when she wanted to, even though I rarely heard anything around her house other that an occasional “Gesundheit”. Apparently, she could also read the Gothic German quite well as evidenced by the Himmelsleiter which she often brought to mass.

Let me interject a biographical note here. Grandma was fortunate to be able to bring a little black book to Mass which she could read and understand. However, when I was brought up in the Catholic Church, parishioners brought little black books (missals) which were printed in Latin. And the priest prayed in Latin. I don’t think I ever understood what was really going on. I guess that all changed later on when the liturgical vernacular was changed to English.

Margaret Austel married Charles A. Gailliot in Braddock, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1917. Unfortunately, she lost her husband in 1948, when he was only 54, and she was the same age, as they shared the same birth year. I was six years old when grandpap died; so, Grandma was a widow for most of the time I knew her. Grandma Gailliot was the grandparent I spent the most time with as a youngster, especially when our family lived within walking distance of her house. We continued to visit Grandma on most holidays, even after we moved further away and had to drive the car. When I went to high school and college, my visits to grandma became far and few between. Now that I am a grandparent myself, I can see I missed a lot. As they say, wisdom is wasted on the old.

A Remembrance Card

I was leafing through the Himmelsleiter in preparation for this blog entry, when I came upon a remembrance (Andenken) card wedged between a couple of pages. It had a picture (see below) of a priest (Hochw. Herrn Pfarrer) named Josef Zündt. The text mentioned that he was a Kaplan in Bruggen, Appenzell and Gonten, between the years, 1880-1920. Appenzell was a town also located in Canton Thurgau. I wonder what the relationship of this priest was to Grandma. Was he the family’s priest, a friend, or maybe a relative? I will leave it here for the Google surfer to find, and hopefully, provide a comment.

The Pedigree ornaments for my grandparents have now been posted. Tomorrow, I will begin posting Pedigree ornaments for my eight great, great grandparents. To see all the Pedigree ornament in this series, click on the tag "Xmas-2008" in the far right-hand column of this web site.

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