I was suddenly in a time that was not my own…   5 comments

When I opened my email this afternoon I was excited to see that my distant cousin, Kurt Bevensee, had sent not one but four emails.   I was anxious to open them because he has been generously spending time locating records for my Bebensee ancestors in Germany.   I couldn’t wait to see what news he may have.   As I realized what he sent I actually started to shake. An overwhelming feeling of sadness seemed to come over me from out of nowhere.   I looked at each photograph, but had trouble focusing as my eyes started to fill with tears.   It was as if I was plummeted to a time that was not my own.   I felt surrounded by people I did not know but, the connection was so strong I knew I belonged. If you have never experienced this it may be hard for you to understand – and yes I know I tend to gush and go on, but this was a moment I did not expect.

I know so little about my Great Grandmother, Maria Charlotte “Anna” Bebensee, nee Sievers that I consume every morsel of information as if it were a feast.   She was born, married, bore her four children in Wandsbek, Germany and lived all her life there and the nearby town of Eilbeck.   Both towns are suburbs of Hamburg.   Anna met my great grandfather, Gustav Bebensee, while working as a servant at the Bebensee home.   A marriage that was not acceptable to his parents.   After my great grandfather and their oldest son emigrated in 1898 to the United States, she made a living by taking in sewing and by all accounts struggled to keep her 3 remaining children fed.   In a letter I have from 1899, I believe she was kind, compassionate and loved her children very much, beyond this I know nothing of her life. What I do know is that my grandpa would tear up when he spoke of her.   I know that his entire life he felt a sense of guilt because he was so excited to get on the ship to come to America that he never told her good bye,  never gave her one last hug nor said I love you one more time.   Possibly the sadness I felt today was not mine but his.

Through the wonderful photographs that Kurt sent I was able to walk past the Friedhöfe Kapella Tonndorf (cemetery chapel),  past the statue of the “Pilgrim”.  I could follow the path, past the graves which are so beautifully kept with flowers.  Then there it was not far from the tall hedges was where my Great Grandmother was laid to rest in March 1920 at the age of 53.   Maybe I’m just sentimental, but knowing this has meant the world to me.   There is a peace in my heart now as the longing for answers has finally come.

My grandfather’s sister, Margaretha (called Grace),  was the only sibling to remain in Germany.   According to the records that Kurt sent she paid for her mothers burial at a price of 60 Reich Marks.  The records also indicate that she was still unmarried at the time of her mother’s death, which provides another small clue to her.  Unfortunately the lease on the grave was only for 25 years, so sometime after 1945 her remains were removed and the plot was resold to another family.   Today there is no one buried in this plot. (I’d almost like to believe she is still there – but, I know that is not the case.)

So to my Oma Maria Charlotte “Anna” Bebensee you are not forgotten – your life will be remembered through the stories past on for generations to come.

Maria Charlotte “Anna” Bebensee
Nee Sievers
February 14, 1867 – March 27, 1920
Laid to rest at Friedhöfe Tonndorf

“This world is not our home. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“We are just pilgrims passing through this world on our way to the promised land.”



I have no words that can fully express my gratitude to Kurt Bevensee for all he has given me by his tireless search for the records of my ancestors.


Posted August 4, 2012 by Terri Kallio/Site Coordinator in Uncategorized

5 responses to “I was suddenly in a time that was not my own…

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  1. That’s a lovely story Terri. I know exactly how you feel about your great-grandmother. What a wonderful day for you!

  2. That was just wonderful, i would love to know more of my German gt. grandfather. Thank you Terri

  3. I could not wait to get to the REAL computer and Monitor this AM to see your beautiful collages. They are gorgeous on the monster monitor! 🙂 Also, this is so unlike the cemeteries I saw when we visited Germany back in 1997. They were packed full of stones, leaving almost NO room to walk. I am so happy for you to have received such a fine gift from your genie angel cousin.

  4. Terri, you have waited so long for this . . . I am so happy for you! Yes, I do know that exact feeling, I had that only a few times but it’s a feeling that can’t be described . . . you have to experience it! The cemetery is absolutely beautiful and very peaceful looking! German cemeteries are very different. I know that my grandfathers grave was way over the 25 year lease a while back, but mom said that in that cemetery anyway, the next deceased person is buried right on top. Mom said that by the time the lease is up, the body has gone back to the earth! I am still shocked over this tradition Germans have! Congratulations, Terri . . . what a wonderful cousin to share such beautiful photos and family stories with you . . . it’s priceless and now you can have some peace in knowing more about Maria!

  5. What a wonderful find! I’m so excited for you. Those pictures are awesome, what a beautiful cemetery. It was fun to read all about it!

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