52 Ancestors: #9 Close to Home and Close to My Heart

Week 9 (Feb 26-Mar 4) – Close to Home. Which ancestor is the closest to where you live? Who has a story that hits “close to home”?

The WILDINGER- PÖPPELREITER Family (1874-1984)

The Wildinger-Pöppelreiter Family (ca. 1909). From left to right: mother Catherine Pöppelreiter, daughter Marie, son Jean-Pierre, and father Johann Wildinger. The little boy in front of Marie and Jean-Pierre is their son Nicolas, my maternal grandfather.

The WILDINGER-PÖPPELREITER family couldn’t get any closer to home. They lived in Echternach, Luxembourg, my hometown, the place I’ve lived for the past 40 years.

My great-grandfather Johann WILDINGER was born on 25 February 1874 in Ernzen, Eifel, Rheinland, Preußen (Germany) to Bernard WILDINGER (1838-1896) and Maria WEIMANN (1839-1915). Johann’s godparents were his maternal uncle Johann WEIMANN and his paternal aunt Elisabeth WILDINGER.[1][2]

My great-grandmother Catherine PÖPPELREITER was born on 16 September 1874 in Mettendorf, Eifel, Rheinland, Preußen (Germany) to Mathias PÖPPELREITER (1843- aft. 1891) and Magdalena WAGENER (1842-1884).[1]

1901marriageJohann WILDINGER and Catherine PÖPPELREITER were married in Ernzen on 4 June 1901.[1] Nine months later their first child, a daughter Marie, was born on 21 March 1902 in Ernzen[3] were the bridal couple lived after their marriage. Almost a year later, on 16 March 1903 Marie’s brother Jean-Pierre was born, also in Ernzen.[4]

The family moved from Ernzen to Mettendorf in 1904.[1] That is where their third child, a son Nicolas, my grandfather, was born on 25 August 1906.[5]

When Nicolas was 8 years old times were getting harder and harder for his father Johann, a mason. In July 1914 the family moved to Echternach, Luxembourg. Johann found a job in Wasserbillig and worked as a mason for ten years in Luxembourg until his death in 1924.

Johann WILDINGER died on 11 January 1924 in Echternach in their house in the Neigass. He was only 49 years old. Two of his neighbors were the informants on his death.[6] His children at the time were 21, 20, and 17 — old enough to support their mother who was also 49.

Photocopy of original death record in Echternach.

After Johann’s death, life went on and in the 1930s his sons married. Jean-Pierre married Suzanne WAGNER before 1933 and went to live and work in Esch-sur-Alzette and then Schifflange. Nicolas married Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE on 26 July 1935[7] and lived next door to his mother and sister Marie.

Jean-Pierre and Suzanne had a daughter F. in 1933. Nicolas and Marcelle had a daughter J. in 1936. These are the only grandchildren born to this family.

010 Papa (back) et Josette (front)
Nicolas WILDINGER playing with his niece Felicie (middle) and his daughter Josette (front)

Wartime came to Europe and Luxembourg in 1939. In 1940 the Germans occupied Luxembourg.

And while life was getting more and more difficult, Catherine PÖPPELREITER, the mother of this family, watched her youngest son get weaker and weaker from tuberculosis. Nicolas WILINDINGER died on 25 October 1941[8] in the hospital in Echternach leaving his widow Marcelle, their daughter J., his mother Catherine, his sister Marie, his brother Jean-Pierre, his sister-in-law Suzanne, and his only niece F.

MRIN01117 1941 Nicolas Wildinger death
1941 Death Record


During World War II Catherine’s oldest child Marie was seriously thinking about renouncing her German citizenship and becoming a Luxembourg citizen. She wrote to family in Germany asking for information on the genealogy of the family and received a reply in July 1942 from her mother’s half-sister Regina. There is one word in the letter that I am not quite sure about and have marked it with question marks in the transcription.

Photocopy made in 1996. Need to scan the original!

Mettendorf den 17.7.42
Liebe Verwandte!
Euern lb. Brief haben wir dankend und mit Freuden erhalten. Wir hätten Ihnen schon länger geschrieben wir wußten die Adresse nicht richtig. Uns geht es noch sehr gut was wir ja auch von Euch hoffen und auch bestens wünschen. Jetzt will ich Ihnen schnell das schreiben was Sie wissen wollen, von Vater seinen Eltern und Großeltern haben wir gestern noch von ?Steuerbuch? bekommen.
Geburturkunde             Standesamt Körperich
Mathias Pöppelreiter ist am 22 Juni 1843
in Mettendorf geboren.
Vater: Theodor Pöppelreiter, Taglöhner
Mutter: Maria Katharina Groelinger.
Geburturkunde                    Standesamt Körperich
Magdalena Wagener ist am 21 März 1842
geboren in Mettendorf.
Vater: Johann Wagener, Schäfer
Mutter: Anna Maria Kaerscht

Photocopy made in 1996.

Sonst kann ich Ihnen ja nicht viel schreiben. Hoffentlich ist der Krieg bald zu Ende.
Also seid hiermit recht herzlich gegrüßt von uns allen besonders von Regina.

In the letter, Regina, who was 45 at the time, greets her relatives saying how happy she and the family were to hear from them. She would have written sooner if she had had an address to write to. She says that they are doing very well (which surprised me) and wishes and hopes the same for her relatives in Luxembourg. She gives information on her father and his first wife (Regina was from his marriage to his second wife). She goes on to say that she doesn’t have much to talk about but hopefully the war will soon end. She sends heartfelt greetings from all, especially from Regina. Imagine! Regina wrote to her sister Catherine’s family living in German-occupied Luxembourg and this letter survived the war and was saved by Marie all these years.

1950 Death Record[9]
Johann WILDINGER’s widow Catherine Pöppelreiter died in Echternach in house number 24 in the rue André Duchscher on 4 September 1950 at 6 in the evening after a short and painful illness. She was 76 years old.[9]

MRIN01118 Catherine Wildinger-Pöppelreiter obit
Obituary from the Luxemburger Wort 6 September 1950[10]
The funeral service was held Thursday the 7th  at 9:30 a.m. She was survived by her daughter Marie, her son Jean-Pierre and his wife and daughter, and her widowed daughter-in-law Marcelle Fournelle and daughter. Catherine’s deceased husband’s name is seen as Jean instead of Johann as French names were more commonly used following World War II.

On 17 October 1950, the family placed an announcement in the Luxemburger Wort thanking everyone for the prayers, flowers, and cards of condolence received following her death.[11]

After the death of her mother, Marie continued to take steps to become a naturalized Luxembourg citizen. By the law of 18 December 1950, naturalization was granted to Miss Marie WILDINGER, born on 21 March 1902 in Ernzen, Germany, and a resident of Echternach. The naturalization was accepted on 23 December 1950, as noted in a report drawn up the same day by the mayor of the town Echternach. This became effective three days after publication on 6 January 1951.[3]

In 1962 Marie’s brother Jean-Pierre WILDINGER who was living and working in Schifflange was also naturalized.[4]

In 1957 when my mother married my father Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY she was the first of the grandchildren of Johann and Catherine WILDINGER-PÖPPELREITER to marry. Her cousin F., the older of the two granddaughters, married the following year in 1958 to Jean-Joseph “Ernest” HOFFMANN (1932-2002).

Everyone in the family was now married except Marie, the oldest child and only daughter of Johann and Catherine. Marie or Tata, as we called her, was never married. She was the person in this family who was closest to my heart and close to home as she lived on the same street we lived.

Tata’s well-used treadle powered Singer sewing machine.

Tata, my mother’s aunt and my grandaunt, became a seamstress and made her living by making, mending, and altering clothes, sheets, tablecloths, napkins, anything made of fabric. She was skilled enough to make coats, suits, and dresses for women from her own patterns. When times were hard she would take apart old pieces of clothing and make a new outfit out of the scraps for clients who needed new clothes but did not have the money to buy new fabric. She had a young woman apprentice, Margarete, who worked for her from a very young age until 1984.

1957 003
Marie WILDINGER standing in the doorway of her home, house number 24 in the Rue André Duchscher in Echternach in 1957.

She turned the living room of her house into her atelier where she sewed for and fitted her clients. It was a long, narrow room with only one window (on the left of Marie in the photo above) which looked out on the street. Two Singer sewing machines with treadle power were set up by the window, facing each other. Near the door that opened into the front hallway was a coal stove that was used to heat the room. Different sized irons used to iron open seams, more fragile fabrics, and press suits and coats were heated up on the top of the stove. Along the opposite wall was a long table that she used as an ironing board as well as a workspace to lay out, pin the patterns, and cut out the material. Against the back wall was a small bench usually filled with bolts of material. In the back corner of the room, she had a little closet to hang the clothes that were being worked on or were finished and waiting to be picked up by their owners.

Irons, scissors, thimbles and darning eggs.

During the many years that Marie worked as a seamstress, there were plenty of people who were happy to pay for her services. Enough for her to support herself and her mother even though her sister-in-law Marcelle, who lived next door, also worked as a seamstress.

From 1962-1966 when my siblings and I were young and living in France we would visit Tata whenever we were in Luxembourg. While she sewed and visited with Mom, she would let us play with her collection of buttons on the floor in front of the oven. Wooden buttons, metal buttons, covered buttons, glass buttons, pearly buttons, sew through buttons, shank buttons, old buttons, plain buttons, pretty buttons, even ugly buttons – none were thrown away. To keep us busy she would also give us a large magnet. We would crawl around her work area picking up pins and needles that had fallen on the wooden floor and into the cracks.

In 1973 Jean-Pierre’s wife Suzanne WAGNER died and was buried in the cemetery of Echternach in the WILDINGER family plot where her parents-in-law and brother-in-law Nicolas were buried.

Tata did not like to have her picture taken. I think this was because she was always working, wearing her apron which was usually covered with pieces of thread, pins and threaded needles, or lint from running the sewing machine. Here she was all dressed up, even wearing a brooch, when she came by for coffee and the traditional Bûche de Noel, at Christmastime in 1978.

1978-12 Tata_edited
Coffee and the traditional Bûche de Noel at Christmastime in 1978
1984-03-22 Marie Wildinger
Clipping from the Luxemburger Wort

My grandaunt Marie WILDINGER died the day after her 82nd birthday. The funeral service was held at the basilica in Echternach on Saturday, 24 March 1984 at 4 in the afternoon. She was buried in the cemetery in Echternach. She was survived by a brother, two nieces, 3 grandnieces and 5 grandnephews.

1984-10 Jean Pierre Wildinger
Clipping from the Luxemburger Wort

The last surviving child of this couple, my granduncle Jean-Pierre WILDINGER died in October 1984. His funeral service was held in the church of Schifflange on Tuesday, 23 October 1984, at 4 in the afternoon. He was survived by his only daughter, his son-in-law, three grandchildren, a niece, 2 grandnieces and 3 grandnephews.

Although his name is on the plaque with the WILDINGER family, he is not buried in Echternach.

MRIN01117 Wildinger grave closeup
Closeup of Wildinger family grave marker.
MRIN01117 Wildinger grave
Wildinger family grave in the cemetery of Echternach, Luxembourg.

[1] Richard Schaffner from Kordel, compiler, Familienbuch 2 der Pfarrei St. Marcus Ernzen bei Irrel, Daten bis 1798 aus den Kirchenbüchern der Pfarrei Echternach (damals fur Ernzen zuständig); mit: Ernzen-Hof, Fölkenbach und teilweise auch Prümzurlay (Häuser der rechten Flußseite) 1680-1899 (compiled in 2000), page 245-246, family #867. Book viewed and pages photographed in Archiv Peter Daus (Wittlich) on 4 May 2013.
[2] “Deutschland, Geburten und Taufen, 1558-1898,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NFD4-6LB : accessed 23 February 2015), Joh. Wildinger, 25 Feb 1874; FHL microfilm 462,714.
[3] Mémorial (Journal Officiel) du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, A N° 1, Samedi, le 6 janvier 1951, online http://www.legilux.public.lu/leg/a/archives/1951/0001/a001.pdf
[4] Mémorial (Journal Officiel) du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, A N° 40, 24 juillet 1962, pg. 617, online http://www.legilux.public.lu/leg/a/archives/1962/0040/a040.pdf
[5] Commune d’Echternach Nr. 13/1935, Wildinger-Fournelle Family Book. This is an official document given to the bride and groom at the time of their civil marriage. It is used to record births, christenings, and deaths of children as well as death of one or the other spouse. Scanned copy of the original, in possession of their daughter.
[6] 1924 Death Record No. 12, photocopy of original page in the death register at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 10 July 1996.
[7] 1935 Marriage Record No. 13, photocopy of original page in the marriage book at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 21 Jun 1996.
[8] 1941 Death Record No. 49, photocopy of original page in the death register at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 10 July 1996.
[9] 1950 Death Record No., photocopy of original page in the death register at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 10 July 1996.
[10] Luxembourger Wort, digitized by Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg; online http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu/webclient/DeliveryManager?application=DIRECTLINK&custom_att_2=simple_viewer&pid=833934&search_terms=catherine%20wildinger#panel:pp|issue:833934|article:DTL387|query:catherine wildinger
[11] Luxembourger Wort, digitized by Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg; online http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu/webclient/DeliveryManager?application=DIRECTLINK&custom_att_2=simple_viewer&pid=835266&search_terms=catherine%20wildinger#panel:pp|issue:835266|article:DTL332|query:catherine wildinger

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Johann WILDINGER
Parents: Bernard WILDINGER and Maria WEIMANN
Spouse: Catherine PÖPPELREITER
Parents of Spouse: Mathias PÖPPELREITER and Magdalena WAGENER
Whereabouts: Ernzen and Mettendorf, Germany, and Echternach, Luxembourg
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: Maternal Great-grandparents

1. Johann WILDINGER and Catherine PÖPPELREITER
2. Nicolas WILDINGER
3. Mom
4. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.


Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

15 thoughts on “52 Ancestors: #9 Close to Home and Close to My Heart”

  1. I read “Steuerbuch”, too, although the c at the end is a bit odd. Let me know, if you find out more about it. Besides that, as always – wonderfully written! I love this beautful sewing heirlooms. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, good idea! I think current photos of places have value as well. I love to scour the internet for photos and feel like I’m “visiting” my ancestral villages, towns, and cities. When my children are older I will definitely need to get a job so I can afford to turn these virtual visits into actual visits. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed your post! What a wonder legacy to have the family stories and the letter to support it. There is something to seeing our relative’s own writings. Thanks for sharing for 52 Ancestors!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic. I don’t know why I never found your “52 ancestors” before today. I am a descendant of Mathiae Poppelrieter (1798 – 1870) who came to American about 1860 after his wife Anna Marie Hau passed away, His son Nicholas came with him and now there are many Poppelreiter descendants in the U.S.
    I love your detailed account of the life of your ancestors . Thanks so much for writing this.
    On Facebook I am “Karen Slachetka Rodde”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear “Cousin” I won’t be able to work on this very much until after Christmas. If you are in Ancestry you shouldn’t have much of a problem finding my line. My mother was Catherine Ricken Slachetka, her mother Katherine Magdalena Poppelreiter, grandma’s father was
        Nicholas Poppelreiter
        BIRTH 16 NOV 1833 • Murlenbach, Trier, Germany (Prussia)
        DEATH 28 NOV 1898 • U.S. Lemont area DuPage county

        Keep me posted – I don’t have time now but is you DNA on Ancestry and what name would it be under.
        Also a “cousin,” Jennifer Spink, and I have a group on Facebook called “Poppelreiter Family” where there are over 120 defendants from this family. If you request to join one of us will approve you. Years ago I “scanned” the original family tree written by Christopher Poppelreiter from Chicago and Jennifer managed to load it on this group site.
        Have a blessed Christmas.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Konzen Genealogy

Tracing the Konzen family line

Laura J. Hanson

City writer with a country view

Look into my eye

Mijn ervaring met Acanthamoeba Keratitis, meer dan alleen een ernstige oogaandoening

Secrets et ancêtres

Généalogie familiale

B&F: Jewish Genealogy and More

Navigating Jewish Genealogy

Through The Byzantine Gate

The Serrapede and Muro Families-From Agropoli to America

Blackthorn Genealogy

tales of ancestral adventure, genealogical pursuit, and greater belonging

Many Branches, One Tree

...Understanding our roots helps us grow

Roots Revealed

Viewing African American History Through a Genealogical Lens

Decluttering the Stuff

Our Journey in Decluttering the Stuff so we can Live a Decluttered Life

Genealogy Bites

Little bites of genealogy.

Past Presence

A site for genealogists and family historians

Finding Progenitors

Ask Questions........Share Stories

Caroline's Chronicles

My family & other oddities


incorporating DNA in genealogy research

This Is Us

The Browns & The Moores, A Few Gauffreaus & Gustins


As my life goes by, the past gets closer and the future further away.

%d bloggers like this: