Today I am remembering Frieda Hann Loe, my father’s mother.
It was a balmy 48 degrees in Chicago on 30 December 1896, when my grandmother was born at 93 Webster Avenue. Her Austrian father, Gottfried Hann, had just died in October at the age of 35, two months before she was born.
Her Swedish mother, Anna Lovisa Larsdotter Hann, had arrived in America just nine years before. Now Anna faced the new year with two children under the age of 3 and a newborn to support. In these dire circumstances, Anna’s sister, Hedda Larsdotter, left the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to come to Chicago to Anna’s aid. Did Anna also call upon her late husband’s half-brother?
A Catholic Baptism
A month after her birth, Frieda was carried a half-mile from her home to St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church to be baptized. I only know this because I found an index entry in World Miscellaneous Births and Baptisms, 1534-1983, a polyglot, yet revealing, database at FamilySearch. According to the parish records from St. Teresa (see above), she was baptized there on 31 Jan 1897 as Friderica Carolina Martha Hahn [sic].
Her birthdate is listed as 29 December in this record. Could that be the actual date, which was misremembered by the family? Or did the priest enter the date incorrectly? Unfortunately, no birth record survives, so this question will probably never be answered.
A Lutheran Childhood?
Over time, the connection the Chicago Hanns seems to have dwindled, along with any ties to the Catholic Church.
Of my four great-grandparent couples, only Anna and Gottfried had different religions and native countries. Frieda Caroline may have been baptized as a Catholic, but she and her siblings were most probably raised in the Lutheran church of their mother.
The impoverished family moved often. According to census records, Anna worked as a scrubwoman and took in washing to support her family. Her son was at work painting houses in his teens; my grandmother started working in a tailoring sweatshop at 14.
Frieda went on to a happy marriage, two sons, and eight grandchildren, one of whom shares her birthday. (Happy birthday, David!)
Remembering Frieda Hann Loe
Perhaps because of her straitened childhood, my grandmother was one of the most generous and gentle people I’ve ever known. As I research other relatives, a surprising number of them were taken in by my grandmother and nursed until their deaths at her home.
All genealogists have a list of relatives they wish they could talk to again. Until I started the family history, I had no idea my grandmother’s father died before she was born. Why didn’t I know these things until it was too late? I long to know how she dealt with that blow. I wish I could hear about her lifelong profession as a “tailoress.” What was it like to live in Al Capone’s Chicago? And I definitely need her to name all the Swedish relatives in those group photos I have. And I want to tell her how much I admire her for her difficult but wonderful life.
My cousins, sibling, and I keep you in our thoughts, Grandma Loe. Today, like most days, we are remembering Frieda Hann Loe.