Thursday, October 14, 2021

railway families

Four separate lines of my family tree involved a family kept alive by a railway job in the late 19th and early 20th century. The four railway employees were from wildly different geographic areas and never met each other, but they all benefited hugely from the opportunities provided by the railways and there are intriguing parallels in their lives.

I've made separate blog posts about each of them already, but here comes the masterpost bundling the key information for the complete quartet, so I can draw comparisons and have all the links in one place. Arranged chronologically by date of birth we have:

1. Johann Anton Lütkemeyer 1843-1887 from Schwaney
job: railway worker in 1872 / railway guard in 1877, Gütersloh, presumably active from 1860s until he became ill with tuberculosis of which he died aged 44.
family: married Johanna Catharina Charlotte Kosfeld, born 1854 in Gütersloh. Five daughters and two sons born within 12 years of marriage, five children survived him. First son died within three months of his birth, not sure which child was the second to die early, as data are missing on several siblings.
blog entries: the Gütersloh connection

[ No family portrait known. ]

2. Christoph Gottlieb Kauer 1845-1909 from Simmern
job: severely injured in the war of 1870/71, joined new Alsace railways as compensation, moving frequently (children born in Mulhouse, Morhange, Fontoy). Final stop and career step: station master in Adamsweiler from mid 1890s to his death aged 64.
family: married Margaretha Imig, born 1847 Simmern Five daughters and two sons. Both sons died in early childhood, all five daughters lived to ages ranging from 73 to 87.
blog entries: greetings from Adamsweiler; finally, the Kauer clan; Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich

The station master's family outside the station at Adamsweiler, around 1900. The daughters, left to right: Helene, Katharina, Johanna, Auguste, Anna.

3. Richard Groß 1852-1913 from Breslau (today: Wrocław, Poland)
job: railway (office) assistant active in Neurode (Silesia) 1880. Zella St. Blasii (Thuringia) 1882, Stendal-Tangermünde 1886 until his death aged 60.
family: married Maria Louise Mentzel, born 1844, twice widowed; one daughter, one son. Wife also had a son from a previous marriage.
blog entries: Tangermünde railway station 1889; a railway man; once there were emperors

Railway parents seated in the middle, the young folks around them are left to right: their son, Max Heinrich Groß, his fiancee Maria Pfersching, his step-brother Arthur Reim, and his sister Gertrud Groß. Presumably taken on the occasion of Heinrich and Maria's engagement in 1904 (they married in 1908).

4. Heinrich Nagel 1879-1952 from Neesen, today part of Porta Westfalica
job: joined Minden district railways as an assistant around 1900, rising through the ranks to become station master at Minden Stadt by 1914, serving until retirement in 1944. Housed in railway company courtesy flats near that station from 1914 to his death at age 73.
family: married Catharine Luise Lütkemeyer, born 1880, one daughter. Wife was the daughter of 1., but her father was long dead at the point when she found herself a new railway man.
blog entries: railway memories; finding Minden

Heinrich Nagel with his first wife Luise Lütkemeyer and their daughter Frieda.

Patterns and similarities

The first two families both had five girls and two boys each, each lost two children in the early years, at least three of the four casualties were boys. Not sure about the fate of the fourth boy, but there's a real possibility that all four boys died in early childhood and all ten girls survived, which would be a bit spooky.

In contrast, the other two couples only had two children and one child respectively. Each produced a professional musician (Heinrich and Frieda), which is the connection that motivated me to dig deeper into the railway families.

Number 2 and 4 became station masters with very modest stations under their command, but this would still have involved a number of workers to boss around. The status of that job is reflected in the fact that both families bought a massive 17 volume encyclopaedia (Pierer and Brockhaus, respectively). If you're wondering how to become a station master on the Prussian / German Empire railways, Google Books has a scan of the book: "Die Prüfung zum Stationsvorsteher und Güterexpedienten, sowie zum Stationsassistenten im Deutschen und insbesondere Preußischen Staats-Eisenbahndienste."

With an average lifespan of 60 years, I guess they fared about normally for their times, but not better. Note that only number 4 got to enjoy a period of retirement and significant overlap with grandchildren (one great-grandchild even).

All of them had an opportunity boost that has to count as social mobility, compared with their backgrounds. All except number 4, who only moved from his village to the nearest town, also achieved significant geographic mobility, with 2 and 3 ending up hundreds of kilometres away from their respective birthplace.

The wives of 1 and 2 also had railway employees among their brothers and nephews who were perhaps inspired by the precedents. As these two had very modest jobs, I don't think they had any real power in providing jobs for the extended family.

Bottom line, as one of my four grandparents and three of my eight great-grandparents were children of railway families, that makes me a 1/4 + 3/8 = 5/8 railway descendant.

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