Reading One of those Family History Books You Probably Threw Out

So… I’ve begun reading some of my family history books. First, I chose the slim, self-published book by Nettie (Unrau) Zacharias, which I found when I was snooping around at my mom’s place. I’d probably had to dust around this book countless times as a kid, but never once opened it. I chose it now because, well, it’s a pretty quick read.

I’ve never thought of myself as an Unrau, but you know, Grandma’s Window says differently, as does this book here.

I think of its author as “Aunt Nettie”, so that’s what I’ll be calling the author as I compose this post.

I first had to confirm that this book wasn’t an accident, that my mom was just holding it for someone or something. But sure enough, Aunt Nettie’s great-grandparents are my great-great-great-grandparents.

She included some photos of surprisingly high quality… and as I peer at them carefully, it strikes me that though these photos were likely taken over a century ago, my great-grandparents (in the feature photo) were likely 15 years younger than I am (at the time the photo was taken).

In the book, Aunt Nettie shared some reflections on what she remembered about each aunt and uncle of hers. Here she shares a reflection following a family reunion: “Neil said at the reunion he could remember quite a few stories that Grandfather had told them. One he remembered very well was how our Great-Grandfather lost his life in trying to save another man’s life.”


Well, I’m not sure who Neil is. (A great-uncle of sorts?) But one thing’s for sure, that’s my great-great-great-grandfather (Abram Unrau) they were talking about. Thanks to Aunt Nettie, I know that he died trying to save someone’s life. Wow.

As I was reading, I was confused… I was not seeing any family names that seemed even remotely familiar. Until near the end: “Aunt Mary Brown was the youngest and only a baby when Grandmother Unrau died and it was mentioned that Grandfather had asked the family should they give the baby away, but they had all cried and said they wanted to keep her; and so Aunt Aganetha took on the responsibility of being a substitute mother to her. I think she did a good job as she was a very lovable Aunt.”

At this point, when I first read this, I let out another, “Whoa…” So… my great-grandmother was the youngest and was a baby when her mother died and she was nearly given away. I’m not sure what the substitute mother situation was like… eldest sister Aganetha evidently kept the family together.

Aunt Nettie continues: “I remember a little of them when they lived on a farm across from Uncle Abe’s about 12 miles southwest of Morden. They moved to the northern part of Sask. around the Melfort & Mullingar Districts. Then the dry years came and they found it hard to bring up the family, and Aunt Mary was sick quite a lot but she had a strong faith in the Lord which kept her to the end. I don’t remember the year they moved back to Austin Manitoba but that made my parents very happy.”

The Aunt Mary mentioned above is my great-grandmother. I really appreciate Nettie’s stories, and her loving tone. I’m grateful for her efforts at recording family history.

Thank-you, Aunt Nettie.