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.


52 Ancestors: #4 The Plumber/Tinsmith and the Seamstress

Week 4, Closest to your birthdayNot too much to think about here. What ancestor has the birthday closest to yours? (I mean in terms of month and day, not the year ;) )

I checked all my ancestors and none were born on the same day as I was. Since name days were at one time more commonly celebrated in Luxembourg than birthdays and I knew that my grandmother Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE’s name day, January 31, was very close to my birthday, January 14, she fit the bill. If she hadn’t, I still would have written about her and her husband this week!

Marcelle and Nicolas’ monogram on their wedding announcement.


Nicolas WILDINGER who was born in Mettendorf,  Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, on 25 August 1906, the third and youngest child of Johann WILDINGER and Katharina PÖPPELREITER.[1],[2]

Nicolas ca. 1909

When Nicolas was 8 years old times were getting harder and harder for his father Johann, a builder. In July 1914 the family moved to Echternach and Johann found a job as a builder in Wasserbillig.

1909 Birth Record No. 41 [3]
Maria Marcelle FOURNELLE was born at 7 o’clock in the morning on the 17 June 1909 in the house called Mühlenacht (Millenoacht in Luxembourgish) in Echternach. Her father Johann Joseph FOURNELLE, 38, a rose breeder (Rosenzuchter), was the informant for the birth of the child born to his wife Catharina FRANTZ, 36 and without an occupation. Peter STEINMETZ and Mathias PRIM were witnesses and Rudolf BRIMMEYR was the mayor and official who recorded the birth.

Marcelle ca. 1917

 Nicolas and Marcelle Become a Couple and Marry

Marcelle and Nicolas in the 1930s.

At 7 o’clock on the evening of 26 July 1935 Mathias SCHAFFNER, the mayor of Echternach, married Nicolas, a plumber (Klempner), and Marcelle, without occupation. Nicolas was 28 and Marcelle was 26. Nicolas’ mother Catharina PÖPPELREITER and Marcelle’s father Johann Joseph FOURNELLE were present and agreeable to the marriage.

Nicolas’ father had been dead 11 years and Marcelle’s mother a little over a year. The marriage banns had been read on Sunday the 7th of July. A marriage contract was signed on the day of the marriage in the presence of the notary Julius REDING in Echternach.

There were no other witnesses present at the marriage and the record was signed by the bride and groom, their parents, and the mayor.

It is interesting to note that Nicolas’ mother signed as Mrs. Wildinger (Frau Wildinger) which is unusual as women in Luxembourg normally sign all legal documents with their maiden name. In the margin, the death of the groom, who predeceased the bride, was recorded. Below this is the official stamp and the date that the copy of this record was obtained from the records office at the city hall.

MRIN01117 1935 Nicolas Wildinger and Maria Marcelle Fournelle marriage 13
1935 Marriage Record No. 13 [4]
As is the case with all bridal couples in Luxembourg, Nicolas and Marcelle were presented with a Family Book.

MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 1 MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 2 MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 3The Couple Marry in a Religious Ceremony

1935 Announcement of Marriage sent out by the parents of the bride and groom.

Nicolas and Marcelle’s parents sent out announcements of the religious marriage of their children who were married in the strictest privacy in the St. Willibrod Basilica Echternach the following day. The witnesses were Nicolas’ brother who signed P. WILDINGER and Marcelle’s father who signed J. FOURNELLE. Jean Pierre KAYSER, the priest, made an entry in the couple’s Family Book to show that the religious ceremony had been performed on 27 July 1935 in Echternach.

Marcelle did not take her husband Nicolas’ German nationality when they married. She made a declaration on 20 August 1935 to conserve her Luxembourg nationality. This was published in the Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg No. 48 on 23 June 1936.[5]

Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg No. 48.
Mardi, 23 juin 1936.
Page 612
Relevé des Luxembourgeoises de naissance qui ont fait en 1935 la déclaration pour conserver la nationalité luxembourgeoise.
I . Déclaration prévue par l’art. 24 n° 3 de la loi du 23 avril 1934.
Noms et prénoms: Fournelle Marie-Marcelle, épouse Wildinger, Nicolas
Résidence: Echternach
Lieu et date de naissance: Echternach 17. 6. 1909
Date de la déclaration: 20. 8. 1935

Nicolas and Marcelle Become Parents

Ten months later Nicolas and Marcelle’s only daughter was born. Seen here with her father on the front step of their house (left) and playing with her dog on wheels in front of their house (below).

1938 ca. Nic. Wildinger with daughter Josette
Nicolas with his daughter on the front doorstep of their house.
010 Papa (back) et Josette (front)
Nicolas playing with his daughter (front) and another little girl in front of their house.

Nicolas, Plumber and Tinsmith

Nicolas was a master plumber and had his own business. In the 1930s he worked on the gutter of the hospital in Echternach. Little did he know that by the beginning of the next decade he would be a patient in this hospital and it would be the place of his death.

1930s Nicolas Wildinger far right
Nicolas WILDINGER (far right) working as a tinsmith, fixing the gutter of the hospital in Echternach in the 1930s.
Front view of the “Spidol” or Hospice Civil as it is known today. Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

Nicolas WILDINGER advertised his plumbing (sanitary installations) and tinsmith business on this Sphinx Sanitary Ware ashtray.

MRIN01117 Nicolas Wildinger de Sphinx collage
Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

Marcelle Becomes a Widow

Nicolas, diagnosed with tuberculosis, did not have many years to play with his young daughterOn 10 May 1940 German troops marched into and occupied Luxembourg. The Germans insisted on the people of Luxembourg changing their names to the German equivalent of their French-sounding names. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE became Maria Marzella WILDINGER (née FOURNELLE). She signed the death record of her husband Nicolas with this name when she reported his death on 25 October 1941. Nicolas died at 9:40 on the evening of the 24th of October in the Bürgerhospital at Oberhoveleck 2, in Echternach. The civil servant who filled out the death record knew (as noted on the record) Marcelle who said that she was present at the time of her husband’s death. Also seen on the record is the date of marriage of the deceased as well as the number and location of the marriage record. This was cross-referenced in the margin of the marriage record as seen above.

MRIN01117 1941 Nicolas Wildinger death
1941 Death Record No. 49 [6]

Life Continues in German Occupied Luxembourg

Amulette from WWII 1 front
Spéngelskrich or “War of the Pins” amulet

As mentioned earlier, German troops marched into and occupied Luxembourg on 10 May 1940. Nicolas’ widow Marcelle would have been a wonderful subject for last week’s theme – a tough woman. I wrote a short piece on her last year: Fearless Females: Bomi’s Resistance Amulette. This was one of the most interesting times during her life. Please take a few minutes to read more about my grandmother and her Spéngelskrich amulet.

In memory of the evacuation of the city of Echternach on 6 October 1944. Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

On 6 October 1944, the Germans occupying Echternach announced that the people of Echternach must leave the town at 11:00 in the morning. Everyone was to take the same route towards Osweiler where they were met by American soldiers waiting to move into Echternach. The people of Echternach continued their journey on foot pulling wagons with their belongings or in wagons pulled by horses to Bech. Marcelle WILDINGER-FOURNELLE was traveling with her 8 years old daughter and her 73 years old father Joseph FOURNELLE. They remained in Bech a week or two. From there, families moved on to places where they had relatives or friends in other parts of Luxembourg. Marcelle, her daughter, and her father were in Helmdange for a short period of time and then joined a family who had relatives in the Lorentzweiler area.

Echternach in Ruins But No Longer Occupied by Germans

“During the Battle of the Bulge Dec. 1944 this place was heroically defended by soldiers of E-Comp. 12th Regt. 4th U.S. Inf. Div. Their sacrifice delayed the enemy advance and contributed to the final victory we shall remember.” Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

They stayed in Lorentzweiler until May of 1945 when they returned to Echternach, a town that lay in ruins. The living room of Marcelle’s home became a reading room for the American officer in Echternach. Diagonally across the street is a plaque commemorating the soldiers.

May 20th was Pentecost and on May 22nd, the following Tuesday, the famous annual religious procession through the streets of Echternach took place. The basilica had been destroyed by the Germans on the 26th of December 1944 so the procession ended in the Peter and Paul Church (alten Pfarrkirche). Marcelle’s daughter and the other children her age had missed making their First Communion on the Sunday after Easter as they had not yet returned to Echternach on the 8th of April. They had to wait until 22 July 1945 to receive the sacrament in the Peter and Paul Church instead of in the basilica which had to be rebuilt. The rebuilding was finally finished on 20 September 1953.

Marcelle, Works as a Seamstress and Runs a B & B

Marcelle with her daughter, ca. 1942.

Life continued after the war. Marcelle worked from home as a seamstress. Later she supplemented her tiny income by taking in tourists. When her husband was still living he had installed sinks in every one of the 6 bedrooms in the house. She would serve breakfast in the living room that had once served as a meeting place for neighbors during the German occupation and later as the reading room for the American officers.

In  1957 her daughter married an American G.I. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY stationed at Bitburg A.F.B. in Germany. Marcelle had only her elderly father living with her when the young couple moved to the United States. Although she was only 31 years old at the time of her husband’s death she had never remarried. In 1958, a month after the birth of her first grandchild, her father died. She saw her daughter only when her son-in-law was stationed in Europe.

1975-01-21 Granddaddy, Grandma, Mom, Bomi
Fred and Myrtle DEMPSEY, the day after their 52nd wedding anniversary, with Marcelle FOURNELLE and her daughter at the construction site of the New River Bridge in West Virginia.

Marcelle made one trip to America to visit her recently widowed daughter and her son-in-law’s parents, Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY and Myrtle Hazel ROOP. Her daughter returned to Echternach with her children to be near her mother that year.

1971-05-020 Luxembourg
Marcelle Fournelle in 1971.

Twenty-five Lost Years

And this is where the story becomes difficult and maybe biased as it is from my point of view. Marcelle, my Bomi, had become a very independent woman and had always been set in her ways. It was not easy for her to have her widowed daughter and five children in her home. And it was not easy for her daughter and her children to live with a woman who was used to getting her own way. Although there was plenty of room in the house her daughter made the decision to move into a home of her own.

Bomi cut ties between us, my mother and I, because we had met men we were interested in. I wonder if she may have regretted never having remarried. Bomi, my grandmother and godmother, was a very stubborn woman. My mother and I had no contact with her for 25 years. And we married the men who were indirectly the reason for her refusing to speak to us.

One of my brothers, who had remained in contact with Bomi, was in the military and stationed in Germany in the late 1990s. When he knew that he was to be transferred Stateside he sat down with Bomi. He explained that since she was now over 90 she would have to forget her pride and, after he left, accept help from her daughter and grandchildren who lived in Echternach. She loved him dearly, her favorite grandchild. She said that she would if her daughter would.

Making Up For Lost Time

On Thursdays, my mother and I met at the supermarket while doing our shopping. One day Bomi was with her. I came in through the back, they came in through the front, and we met inside. I had been expecting this meeting and my heart was pounding. And what does she say to me after 25 years? “Cathy, I see you won the supermarket contest, 121 bottles of wine. Congratulations!”

What? She had seen a sign in the supermarket with a list of winners when they came in. I had no idea that I had won but it broke the ice. We would meet like this every Thursday, sometimes going back to her house for a few minutes.

Christmas Eve 2001
Christmas Eve 2001

But she did not come to our house until my husband got up the courage to visit her on his own. And he did a good job of pulling her into a plot – removing most of the animosity between them. She loved playing jokes on people. They plotted on surprising us, my Mom and I, by Bomi’s coming to dinner on Christmas Eve at our house. It worked and I believe my husband earned her respect, the respect she should have shown him when they first met.

My children got to know their great-grandmother who they called Bomi-Bomi since my mother was already their Bomi. They loved listening to her tell the stories from the “old days.”

In 2004 Bomi was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. When she had to be hospitalized the headstrong woman did not make it easy for the nurses caring for her. As she needed full-time care she was put on the waiting list of the nursing home  “Am Schleeschen” in Echternach. It is interesting to note how the home got its name – since it is part of her past. During World War II when the Germans occupied Echternach they had their offices in the old building of the present complex. Christian Stock who performed the duties of mayor (Amtsbürgermeister) proudly said “Das ist mein Schlösschen” or This is my castle.” This reminded me of a story Bomi told us. One night she helped three men hang the Luxembourgish flag on the gates of Stock’s Schlösschen during the German occupation – a grave offense if they had been caught. She would never divulge the men’s names even after they had all passed away.

Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE died in her sleep on 24 January 2005 in the nursing home “Am Schleeschen” in Echternach, where she had been a resident for only a few days, at the age of 95 years, 7 months, 10 days.

MRIN01117 Fournelle grave
FOURNELLE family grave
MRIN01117 Wildinger grave
WILDINGER family grave









[1] 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.
[2] 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 the death of one or the other spouse. Scanned copy of the original, in possession of their daughter.
[3] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch, Echternach > Naissances 1903-1923 Mariages 1895-1905 > image 176 of 604. “1909 Birth Record No. 41.” (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32040-10270-1?cc=1709358&wc=M9M6-2V1 : accessed 15 January 2015), (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg).
[4] 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.
[5] Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, No. 48, pg. 260, 23 June 1936. Online http://www.legilux.public.lu/leg/a/archives/1936/0048/a048.pdf : accessed 23 Jan 2015.
[6] 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.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE
Parents: Jean Joseph FOURNELLE and Catharina FRANTZ
Spouse: Nicolas WILDINGER
Parents of spouse: Johann WILDINGER and Katharina Pöppelreiter
Children: Living (one)
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: Maternal Grandmother

1. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE
2. Mom
3. 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.

Fearless Females: 27 Female Ancestors Share My First Name!

This is my entry for Day 3:  Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month

March 3 — Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.

My first name is Catherine and I share it with the following 27 ancestors (mostly maternal, only 5 are paternal and marked with an *):

mother, Catherine Josette WILDINGER
great-grandmother, Catherine PÖPPELREITER
great-grandmother, Catherine FRANTZ
3rd great-grandmothers, Maria Katharina GROELINGER
3rd great-grandmothers, Catherine SCHRAMEN
3rd great-grandmothers, Marie Catherine PHILIPPART
4th great-grandmother, Maria Catharina SCHUMACHER
4th great-grandmother, Catharina HAMES
4th great-grandmother, Catharina CORNELY
4th great-grandmother, Anne Catherine HENNES
4th great-grandmother, Catherine MEUNIER
5th great-grandmother, Katharina KLEIN
5th great-grandmother, Maria Katharina HUSS
5th great-grandmother, Catherine Barbara NOLL *
5th great-grandmother, Catherine SINGER
5th great-grandmother, Catherine ARENT
5th great-grandmother, Marie-Cathérine HASTERT
6th great-grandmother, Catharina RONES
6th great-grandmother, Catherine PLICKENSTALVER *
7th great-grandmother, Marie Catherine [–?–] HUSS (descended from her twice)
7th great-grandmother, Catherine SETON
7th great-grandmother, Anne-Catherine ECKART
8th great-grandmother, Catharina KUENZ *
8th great-grandmother, Katharina B. [–?–] BLICKENSDOERFER *
8th great-grandmother, Catherine LEPINE
9th great-grandmother, Catherine RATZEN
12th great-grandmother, Katherine (Honeywood) FLEETE *

© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.