When my Beine German immigrant family went to America in 1880, they left their oldest daughter Christina behind. She was eleven years old. This is her story...
My great great grandparents, August and Christina Beine, came to America in 1880 with seven of their eight children. They had one more child, William, after they settled in Missouri. Their oldest child, named August after his father, is my great grandfather. Their second oldest child, named Christina after her mother, was left behind in Germany. She was eleven years old. She was apparently betrothed to someone, and I'm assuming she lived with relatives, possibly one of her father's siblings, until she married. Christina celebrated her 12th birthday in Germany a month after the rest of her family arrived by ship in Philadelphia.
August Beine, my great great grandfather, was born in a German village called Grosseneder in 1839. At some point he moved to Katernberg, a suburb of Essen, Germany, where he became a coal miner. In 1865 he married my great great grandmother, Christina Walter, in nearby Essen-Stoppenberg. Christina was born in 1840 in Siddinghausen, a village about 60 kilometers from Grosseneder. I don't know how my great great grandparents met. Christina Walter, after losing both of her biological parents, moved from her home village to a place called Mengede, a suburb of Dortmund, which is a city about 40 kilometers from Essen. She was a maid servant before marrying August Beine in 1865.
For a long time I didn't know much about Christina's daughter who carried her name and was left behind. But I did know the younger Christina died before her father because August Beine's will from 1911 refers to her as "Christina Jakob deceased daughter." Her share of the Beine estate went to her children, who are named in the later probate record. In 2010 I contacted the pastor of the St. Nikolaus parish in Stoppenberg, where Christina was baptized, and asked if he could find a marriage record for her. But he was unable to find anything.
At that point I assumed I might never know more about Christina. Then on the day after Christmas in 2016, I received a fascinating email from a man in Germany named Peter Wieners, who told me he was descended from the girl they left behind. Peter had seen an online article I wrote in 2010 celebrating the 130th anniversary of my Beine immigrant family arriving in the USA. He later sent me all sorts of information about Christina, including a photograph of her and her husband with their two oldest children.
Christina married Bernhard Jakob in 1885 when she was 16 and he was 31. The marriage took place in the village of Grosseneder where Christina's father was born. She had six children and four of them died young. Two of her sons, Klemens and Johannes, served in World War I. Klemens died in 1915 while fighting on the Eastern Front. He was initially listed as missing in action. Four years later, a Prussian commander reported his death to the civil registration office in Grosseneder. "Klemens Jakob...was wounded in the battle at Krasnopol (Poland) on 29 March 1915, and on 31 March 1915 died in the field hospital at Suwalki." His brother Johannes survived the war and died in 1964.
Christina's oldest daughter and namesake, Christine Jakob (1887-1967), married a man named Friedrich Wieners. They had one daughter, Josefa. Friedrich died in 1915 while fighting French and British forces in France during the war. His daughter was born two months after he died. In 1919, Friedrich's widow, Christine, married Friedrich's cousin, August. Peter Wieners, who sent me the email on the day after Christmas, is their grandson.
Christina (Beine) Jakob, the girl they left behind, died in Grosseneder at the age of 29, nine months after giving birth to Johannes. She is my great great aunt. Her husband died in 1924 at the age of 70.
Two of my great uncles, Ollie and Frank Beine (brothers of my grandfather August), were in the U.S. military during the time of World War I. Ollie was drafted, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. Frank lied about his age--he was 16--and enlisted in the navy. He fought for America in World War I. Two of his first cousins, Klemens and Johannes Jakob, fought for the other side.
Sometimes we only have fragments of a person's life, a few old handwritten records, maybe some letters and photographs. It's especially difficult to put the fragments together into something that might resemble what the person was like, and how they lived, and what they thought, if we didn't know them or they lived before us. But we still put the fragments together and try to imagine what the world must have been like for them. And we have questions.
What did Christina think when she turned twelve, knowing her parents and siblings were in America beginning new lives without her? How did her mother feel about leaving her young daughter behind? And then losing her at the age of 29, after not seeing her for 18 years?
And what did Christina's mother think during the war, knowing three of her grandchildren were fighting on opposing sides? Maybe someday we can end wars and stop putting cousins against cousins, people against people...
Along with a travel companion, I visited the St. Nikolaus Catholic Church in Essen, Germany in February 2018. The church was built in 1907. Its twin spires overlook a tram line and the Stoppenberg neighborhood. Just up the road is the coal mine in Katernberg where my great great grandfather worked. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site called the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, and no longer a working mine.
Up on a hill called Kapitelberg, 100 meters behind the St. Nikolaus Church, is a smaller church called Maria in der Not (Mary in Need) that is currently part of a small Carmelite Monastery. It was built a thousand years ago and still stands, still solid. Inside, it is serene and a little mysterious. This is where my great great grandparents, August and Christina, were married, and where their eight German-born children were baptized. They lived somewhere nearby. I even know the house number, Stoppenberg No. 86/2, but the old numbers don't correspond to modern street addresses. And the city was devastated from heavy bombing in World War II. The nearby houses looked maybe fifty years old.
Due to dwindling attendance, the 110-year-old St. Nikolaus church was closed in 2020. A group of Iraqi Chaldean Catholics are now using it, so the church will continue as a place of worship. The thousand-year-old church on the hill behind it will remain with the Carmelites.
The kind parish priest, Father Linden, told us that we were probably the first Americans to visit this place. It's not exactly a tourist attraction. A pair of humble yet beautiful Catholic churches in a humble neighborhood in a medium sized German city. But for me this was sacred ground. This was where my ancestors worshipped and lived. And where they made the decision to come to America. And leave a child behind.
-Joe Beine, January and February, 2018, and June, 2022
Three generations of Augusts and Christinas:
August Beine (1839-1913) my great great grandfather
August Beine (1866-1948) my great grandfather
August Beine (1893-1942) my grandfather
Christina Walter (1840-1925) my great great grandmother
Christina Beine (1868-1897) my great great aunt
Christine Jakob (1887-1967) my first cousin, twice removed
Children of Christina (Beine) Jakob and Bernhard Jakob:
Father Norbert Linden and the staff of the St. Nikolaus Parish in Essen-Stoppenberg
Jutta Vonrueden-Ferner of the Essen City Archive
Carmina Cerri, who went on the journey to Essen with me
This article is dedicated to Peter Wieners (1947-2017) and his great grandmother, Christina Beine (1868-1897). Thanks to Peter's wife, Beate.
Sources for this article can be found at: Sources for Christina Beine, the Girl They Left Behind
© 2018, 2022 Joe Beine. Revised June, 2022. May not be reproduced without permission. Photographs of August and Christina, and the Jakob family provided by Peter Wieners. Essen-Stoppenberg photographs by Joe Beine.
About the Author - Joe Beine
Information about Joe’s latest book, Made Out of Trees
A story about Christina’s sister: Lizzie Beine, the Forgotten Mother