A Family Mystery

Somewhere in the back of my mind I hear the sweet sound and the lilting lyrics of Judy Collins’ Secret Gardens,

Great grandfather’s house is still there,  but it isn’t the same. I drive by and strangers live there. They are kind and invite me in. I go from room to room as we talk. I wish they could see what I see.

“A tangle of summer birds
Flying in sunlight
A forest of lilies
An orchard of apricot trees
Secret Gardens of the heart
Where the flowers bloom forever ”

And on the hills overlooking Graffigny, where cherry trees grow, two little girls, my grandmother Marguerite and her sister Paula, small and happy, with arms stretched out, jump and grab the low hanging branches, and shaking the ripened cherries, so that their mother Laura will make them a pie for dinner.

Postcard, Graffingy-France, 1909
Postcard, Graffingy-France, 1909, town square, on the left behind the wall, the carriage house


A family mystery with few clues. He has no photograph, no place of birth or death.  No occupation, no guess as to who or what he was. First, let’s give him a name, Charles William Meine, but that is not entirely accurate. He was German and so, it is better to call him Karl Wilhelm Christian Meine.

Clue number one.

The baptismal record of my grandmother, Margaretha Tony Lilly Meine, the child of Charles William Christian Meine (Karl Wilhelm Christian Meine) and Julia Laura (Chevallier) Meine, born on the 26th of April, 1890 and baptized on August the 24th, as written and recorded on page 205 in the Lutheran Baptismal records of the Elbe-Weser region, made available online by Ancestry.com.

Column three is the name of the baptized child, Margretha Tony Lilly Meine.


The next column gives the parents’ names, occupations (rank), and residence. It starts out Karl, Wilhelm, Christian, Meine.


Next, comes his occupation. I am going to guess the spelling goes, “Jug…” The “J” clearly matches the “J” in “Julia”. The “u” and “g” look clear. The rest is lost to me.

and wife, …Julia Laura, born Chevallier,

and living in Hannover at number 12, Wolfstrasse.

Clue number two.

Three years later, a second daughter was born, Paula Johanna Maria Meine. The same hard to decipher old German script tells us not much more.


Column four again gives the parents’ names and the father’s occupation, which is again, unfortunately, indecipherable. The father’s occupation appears to precede his name and the first letter looks like “R”, but I am clueless to the rest. The last line give a change of address.


What does one to do?


I do not know what my great grandfather’s occupation was. I know next to nothing about him, except that by the outbreak of World War I he was dead, and his family, his wife and two daughters, were then living in Graffigny, France.

The house is two stories and is located across from the church on the main town square of this village of less than 200 souls. A tall wall surrounds the house and gardens. A carriage house is next to the main house.

There are a few old scattered photographs including the one to the left. This one shows my great grandmother Laura standing to the left of the house. Other photographs show an unidentified family perhaps my distant German ancestors and cousins, but who knows?

What does one do when one doesn’t know?


Translating from Old German to English


Take a shot at translating the Old German cursive script. This section is from Paula’s baptism. I believe the father’s occupation (stand) is the first word, followed by his name, Karl Wilhelm Christian Meine.

Karl Wilhelm Christian Meine




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