Childless and Foresaken in 1914

Sometimes ministers have a way of laying things on the line and sometimes they are just a little too blunt.
But the details always help to paint a picture, even if one has to imagine that picture with some grains of salt spread over it.
This 1914 entry from the funeral portion of the church register of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Coatsburg, Illinois, mentions my aunt Sophia and includes a little commentary from the minister as well. In addition to listing her date of birth and death, he indicated that she “died childless and foresaken by husband…” One almost wishes he had phrased it differently.
The interpretation of “childless” must be done with care. It seems reasonable to conclude that there Sophia had no surviving children. It is possible that she had children who died before she did and that they were not referenced by the minister. This statement cannot be interpreted as indicating Sophia never had children.
The “foresaken” part is a little more difficult to interpret precisely as it covers quite a bit of potential territory. One can safely conclude that they were parted when Sophia died. They may or may not have divorced and he may or may not have survived her. One always needs to take care to avoid concluding things that are not supported by one individual statement.
The minister was apparently so concerned about Sophia being childless and “foresaken” that he got her names mixed up. She was Mrs. Sophia Driesback nee Dirks, not Sophia Dirks nee Driesback. Church records can be just as incorrect as any other record. The transcription of this record should be exactly as it is written. Any “correction” should be done in a way that clearly indicates it is not a part of the transcription–preferably in square brackets [].
This image came from’s “Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940
Note: This post was originally published in 2015 on our old blog, but has been expanded and republished on our current site.

One thought on “Childless and Foresaken in 1914

  1. Kathie Fortner says:

    I feel the same way when I see a child listed as illegitimate in church records instead of with a name. I question the need to be so blunt.

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