I’ve had a kind of difficult time trying to find the gravestones of my great-grandparents. They’re mostly in Canada, but yet I have not managed to locate them all. So you can maybe imagine how I never in my life thought I’d ever stand a chance of seeing my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother’s headstone. And yet… it’s now possible. It’s been found, along with 87 others, in Chortitza, Ukraine (today, Zaporizhzhia).
Have you read the story? Werner Toews tells me that this is the most recent article: Lost gravestones found in Ukraine.
It’s an amazing story of how a young Ukrainian researcher named Max Shtatsky discovered these old Mennonite headstones, which had been used by the Soviets as foundations for their buildings in the 1930s.
Werner Toews sent me a list of the headstones, and I read through the list, looking for any name that would stand out as familiar. There: Gertruda Goosen Epp. I compared in Grandma Online, and sure enough, I’m a direct descendant. She was born in Mierauerald, Gross Werder Prussia in 1783, and immigrated to Chortitza in 1804.
The name “Gertruda” or “Gertrude” had been passed down the family line all the way until my great-grandmother Heinrichs’ sister Gertrude who died young in a logging accident in northern Saskatchewan. (I read of this incident in my great-uncle Danny’s book, which I wrote about here.)
I sometimes wish I had been named Gertrude. I think the name is lovely.
The feature photo here is not of the gravestone. It is simply a fieldstone that I used to sit upon as a little girl. I thought it would be a nice placeholder until I have a chance to see the real headstone someday.
I’m grateful for the work that Max Shtatsky has been doing, and I’m looking forward to learning more!