My dad’s paternal grandparents married young. Very young actually, Gustav Robert Mangels was 18 when he and 16 year old Esther Ingeborg Clarin tied the knot. They were married in a Lutheran church which may explain the embellishment of their ages on their marriage certificate.
Both Gustav and Esther had unhappy childhood homes. Gustav’s father Herman imbibed alcohol to excess and would later took his own life.
Esther’s mother died in childbirth, leaving five year old Esther to help care for her two younger sisters. Their father, Carl Clarin, remarried and soon afterwards his new wife gave birth to a namesake son.
About six months after Gustav and Esther were married, their first child, a son named Ernest Robert, was born. A daughter was born in 1911, she was named Frances Lois. And in 1913, not long before their marriage dissolved, Esther gave birth to Augusta Charles Herman, later called Carl.
A bitter divorce followed and the three children were caught up in it. Esther gave one of the boys to to a farmer in Indiana and the other to a couple in Illinois. Frances, my grandmother, remained in Chicago, living with her paternal grandmother.
Ernest and Carl were lost to each other (and to my grandmother) for decades. There are very few good memories from either of the men’s childhoods.
Thankfully, they both married wonderful women who cherished them and their children.
My grandmother was unhappy too, living with her recently widowed-by-suicide grandmother. But as a child she was wanted and cared for, in contrast to what her brothers experienced during their childhoods. Newly obtained evidence makes it even more difficult to understand why Ernest and Carl were abandoned by both their parents and their grandparents.
In the summer of 2021 I reached out to a second-cousin once-removed; Gustav’s parents Herman and Maria Mangels are our common ancestors. This cousin and I each knew a portion of a story shared by our ancestors and the records they created.
I’d always assumed (and you know what they say about that!) my grandmother’s living arrangement was of the unofficial sort. There are many of those arrangements in my tree, some of which I’ll be looking at more closely in the future. Because, my paternal grandmother had been adopted by her grandmother and there is a paper trail to prove it.
And while that may have been good news for my grandmother, one wonders why she alone was rescued from servitude on an Indiana farm. Grandma Mangels may not have been able to adopt all three children, but those children’s parents went on to start new families ~ why weren’t the boys included somehow?
Over the years I have connected with DNA matches who each know a bit about this branch of our family tree. It is interesting to note the ways in which the story has been internalized by each of the family members impacted by decisions Gustav, Esther and Mary made.
More than 100 years after Gustav and Esther were married, their story continues to unfold and trouble their descendants.
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