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My Grandmother's Antique German Prayer Book

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Palm-sized prayer book of my grandmother's.

Palm-sized prayer book of my grandmother's.

Antique Prayer Book

Finding my dear grandmother's antique prayer book recently brought back all kinds of warm remembrances of her. This small, palm-sized antique prayer book was safely tucked away in one of my mother's dresser drawers.

Since my mother died earlier this year, I have been working my way through her possessions. This chore is one that most people in my position have to tackle sooner or later.

Since my husband and I and my mother had sold our homes and found one that we could comfortably share, we had been happily living together for the past three and a half years. I had hoped that we could have shared more years, but alas, it was not to be.

My mother was my best friend, and she thought of her mother in the same manner. I dearly loved them both and almost thought of my grandmother as a second mother.

My grandmother's antique German prayer book

My grandmother's antique German prayer book

Antique Status

Did you note the date in my grandmother's prayer book? The year 1905 is now well past the 100-year mark, which is generally the rule of thumb to classify anything as genuinely being "antique."

Her name in this small book was her maiden name, as she was not yet married to my grandfather. It would be twenty years before she would bring my mother into this world as the youngest of three children that she and my grandfather were to have and love.

Two pages of this little prayer book

Two pages of this little prayer book

My Grandmother's Childhood

My grandmother's parents were of German descent, and her dad was a farmer in a small town in the State of Wisconsin. Losing her mother at an early age changed the course of the lives of all her family members.

Her brother stayed at home with his dad to help work the farm, and my grandmother and her two other sisters attended a convent school during the week where they were also boarded. They would be picked up on weekends, holidays and in the summer and driven by horse and buggy back to the farm.

My grandmother enjoyed her convent school experience, and as I was growing up and spending time with her, I got to hear many stories.

Beautiful illustrations inside of my grandmother's little antique German prayer book.

Beautiful illustrations inside of my grandmother's little antique German prayer book.


Although my grandmother's genealogical background was German, and she learned that language at home, most immigrant families back then tried to learn English as quickly as possible. It was a matter of pride!

They carried their memories and traditions from the "old country" and perhaps, if fortunate enough to do so...some possessions as well. But as newly minted Americans, they tried to assimilate into this relatively new country, sharing strengths they knew from the past and forging ahead by blending into the melting pot of America.

Almost every nationality did that with only a few oldsters who could not quickly wrap their minds around learning the new English language, therefore still speaking their former country's tongue. Subsequently, when my grandparents got married, they purposely did not teach their children German.

My mother used to tell me that when her parents wanted to speak and not let the "kids" know what they were talking about, they would talk to each other in German. That did not happen frequently.

Of course, when getting together with friends of German heritage, most everyone could still sing old German songs.

Thus, except for picking up a few words here and there, my mother and her siblings did not learn the language, nor did we grandchildren.

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Funny Story

One story that I heard from my grandmother when I was a youngster and spending the night with her (which was always a special treat) was when she slipped on some ice, and the horse-drawn buggy ran over her while she was staying at the convent school. The carriage was probably light with no riders in it, and she was not injured.

This story impressed me! I was unfamiliar with seeing horse-drawn buggies as a mode of regular transportation. Automobiles had taken over that prime role of moving people from here to there when I was a child.

Many years later, while in a lower grade, I related that story to my favorite nun teacher. One day that nun quietly pulled my mother aside and asked her the following question: "If you don't mind my asking, just how old are you?"

I was relating the story as if it had been my mother instead of my grandmother. My mother and the nun had a good laugh over that mix-up! My mother kidded me about that for many years!


My parents, brothers, and I were so fortunate when growing up that we got to live next to my mother's parents, and after we all moved to Texas together, only one block separated our houses. I loved them dearly.

As I said at the start, finding this little antique prayer book of my grandmother's brought back many happy memories. I have now passed it on to family members who will hopefully cherish it always as an heirloom and keep it in the family for generations to come.

"Ave Maria" Shubert, Most Beautiful Places on Earth...

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 09, 2017:

Hi Roberta,

It is so important for those with families to write things down or record them in some manner. I loved listening to my maternal grandmother's stories. It is her prayer book that I had...and have now passed on to family members who have children and grandchildren. Hopefully they will cherish it.

My paternal grandmother hand wrote a family history for each of her grandchildren such as you are now doing. It is a treasure!

Glad to know that reading this has inspired you to get busy!

RTalloni on December 09, 2017:

How precious to have such a treasure from your Grandmother's belongings, and with so many wonderful memories. I'm so glad she was uninjured by the buggy! Imagine what she would think of your relating it here! I'm sure she would smile but she would be amazed, too.

Thank you for sharing this as it has inspired me to continue work I'm doing for my grandchildren. There are seven of them now and I am trying to write a story for each of them.

I've other works for them, some posted here, and one day I hope to combine all into one book to print for each of them, including some written prayers. They will be older by then, but maybe one day it will be more meaningful to them than I realize now.

Two of the stories have already been well received, and I've begun number three. Whew! Any old ways, :) , this post has encouraged me in this phase of my big project. Thank you again!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 20, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

Yes...we also have some family Bibles but finding this little prayer book printed in the German language was a special find. Thanks for your comment and votes.

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 19, 2013:

What a great find! I have my grandfather's small, leather bound bible. These sorts of things are lovely to have. Voted up and awesome! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 12, 2012:

Hi AnnaCia,

Since we do not have children, after writing this hub and taking the photos, I passed my grandmother's antique prayer book on to some family members who will cherish it and hopefully always keep it in the family. I loved that grandmother dearly...she was like a second mother to me. Thanks for your nice comment.

AnnaCia on March 12, 2012:

Beautiful story. Isn't nice to hold something your grandmother held before? Is like trying to fill her feelings at that moment. The photo production with the Ave Maria is amazing and a great background while reading.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 15, 2011:

Hi Kris,

Hope you find those letters. It will be fun having them decifered after all this time. Who knows what you may find out! :)) Enjoy your holiday celebration!

Kris Heeter from Indiana on November 15, 2011:


Thanks for the website suggestion. It's been years ago (before the internet existed) that we tried to have it translated. I'm not sure which family member has them but that will be a great conversation piece over the holiday!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 15, 2011:

Hi Kris,

I agree that family items like this are priceless. I have passed my grandmother's German prayer book on to family members who will undoubtedly keep it in the family and hopefully cherish it.

Regarding the translation of your German letters...have you tried the website Babelfish? It may be a painstaking process to interpret each word or phrase of the letter, but if the hand-writing is legible, it might be possible.

Thanks for your comment.

Kris Heeter from Indiana on November 15, 2011:

Beautiful book and hub! My grandmother had kept some of her grandmother's letters in German. We tried to have them translated long ago but without great luck - it was a hard dialect to follow. Family history and heirlooms like this can be priceless!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 04, 2011:

Hello moonlake,

It is interesting what ends up in yard sales sometimes. You must like books...collecting even those that you cannot read. I have always loved books and have many shelves filled with them in our home. Thanks for your comment.

moonlake from America on September 03, 2011:

I now know what my little books are I bought them in a yard sale and because I don't read German I didn't know what they said, Prayer Books, each of mine have the person's name in them that once owned them.

Mount Rushmore picture is so nice. E

Love your hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 03, 2011:

Hello NanaDoris,

That is so common a thing. Children often are not interested in history until they are older and what could have been very interesting family stories are then often gone forever. You can do your children and heirs a favor and record YOUR history about how you grew up and what you remember of the past. In the future that will be of great interest to them. Who knows what the future may bring? I am certain that it will be very different from what we know today. Thanks for reading this and leaving a comment.

NanaDoris on September 02, 2011:

This is such a nice, heartwarming story. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents were of German heritage, but my paternal grandpa was the only that came across; he was born in Ludwigshafen and was only 3 or 5 when they crossed the Atlantic and came to America. How sad it makes me that I didn't write down things as he told me, but being young, I wasn't that into 'history' at that time. Now, I would give anything to have all that written down for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to carry forth with them through the years.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2011:

Hello Mrs. J.B.,

My Grandmother's antique prayer book is indeed a treasure that has now been passed on to other family members who will hopefully always safeguard and treasure it. Thanks!

Mrs. J. B. from Southern California on March 05, 2011:

What a treasure you found. I love your stories about your family. They are so interesting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 22, 2011:

Hello funky23,

Glad that you found this hub about my grandmother's antique prayer book of interest. Thanks for the comment.

funky23 from Deutschland on February 22, 2011:

thx that is awesome

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 30, 2010:

Hello Martha Castillo,

So happy to hear that reading about my grandmother's antique prayer book brought back sweet memories of your own grandmother. Thanks for the nice comment.

Martha Castillo from San Diego CA on June 29, 2010:

Wow, I was about to write about my grandmother whose favorite phrase to teach all was, "May the Sacred blood of Jesus protect me and guide me" or us.... This always worked for me in urgent situations. Blessings............

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 19, 2010:

Hi Tony,

Happy to hear that you enjoyed this bit of family history revolving around my grandmother's antique prayer book. Amazing what memories a little thing can spark. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 19, 2010:

Hi katyzzz,

Thank you for the kind words. Your kids may not care now about family things but as they get older sometimes they begin to become more sentimental. You wouldn't believe the people that I have talked to that wish that they had some old family pictures...not to mention other tangible things that used to belong to their relatives. So don't give up on your kids just yet. Am sure you did the best job you could in raising them. They could still come around! :-)

Tony McGregor from South Africa on May 19, 2010:

Thanks for sharing this woinderful bit of family history with us.

Love and peace


katyzzz from Sydney, Australia on May 19, 2010:

Peggy you always beckon me to your delightful hubs and this one is especially compelling. So charming, and I do wish I had been blesses with your loving capacity.

Sadly I'm not and my kids just don't care, I guess I did something wrong.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 18, 2010:

Thanks Micky,

It is indeed a great treasure to have found this prayer book of my grandmothers.

Micky Dee on May 18, 2010:


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 17, 2010:

Hi Dolores,

The same thing happened on both sides of our family. When you think about it, most of the people coming here several generations back all strove to learn English as fast as possible and then used it to communicate with everyone coming from all the different countries. It helped to unify America. It is too bad that they could not have done that and also kept the original languages alive at the same time. As you said, we would all be at the least...bilingual. Thanks for the visit and comments about my grandmother's antique prayer book.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 17, 2010:

Peggy, what an awesome thing to have. The old prayerbook is in such good condition, a perfect keepsake. My mother's people came from Germany in 1902 and the family eventually lost the language. During times of stress, my old aunt would occasionally lapse into German, but could not call the language to mind during normal conversation. I always wished that they had kept the old language alive. If all the old folks had, we would all be bilingual. I'd be able to talk with my husband and best friend in German as their folks came over around the same time.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2010:

Greetings Ign Andy,

A great little antique prayer book it is! No need to be jealous however. You can now experience as much of it as can I since I have passed it on to some dear relatives that will keep it in the family. I still have these photos which you can now see as well as me. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Ign Andy from Green Home Office on May 16, 2010:

I'm jealous, it's a great book.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2010:

Hi Candie,

I have passed my grandmother's little prayer book on to other family members but will pass along this advice to them. It is good advice BTW! Thanks for thinking of it!

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on May 16, 2010:

Peg! What an incredible find! Keep it wrapped in acid-free paper to protect it! Fantastic!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

Will have to go and take a look at your grandfather in that hub. My grandfather resoled his family's shoes after the Great Depression. But he did not do it as a profession. Guess many people back then did what they could do to save money.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on May 16, 2010:

Peggy W

My grandfather was s shoemaker by trade, although he did a number of other things as well.There is a picture of him and his shoeshop (which had been turned into a summer kitchen when I knew them) on my hub"Marie-an episode in immigration and family history-part 9.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

Your family heritage just proves what a melting pot the United States has become and we are the better for it. Also we do not have the rigid class systems as in some other countries where your wife's grandmother would not have been permitted to get married to her choice of a man. People came to America for all kinds of reasons.

Yes, it is too bad that you cannot locate your father's artwork. Your grandfather's shoe tools......did he make shoes for a living or just repair and sole the shoes his family wore?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2010:

Hi sarovai,

I did not intend this hub to be primarily about languages, but guess since the little prayer book was in German it got opened to that discussion. Guess we think alike regarding learning the language of a country in which one chooses to reside. Some people seemingly do not even try to learn. That being said, it is sad however that the German language was not also passed on down the line to us along with my grandmother's prayer book. Would have been nice to have had both languages at our disposal even though where we currently live the German would have had limited usage.

Would have come in handy when I visited my girlfriend in Germany! Fortunately she speaks English and was able to translate things for me. :-)

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on May 16, 2010:

Hi Peggy W

My wife come from a German heritage. I knew her grandmother who immigrated from what, I believe, is now Hungary before the second WW. She didn't speak much English, at least I couldn't understand much of what she said. Oddly to me, they came over to get married as her husband and her came from different social classes and marriage wasn't allowed, so I am told.

My own mother from Canada spoke French before English. My father, a Swede, I don't think he ever spoke Swedish. According to my brother he faked it at family gatherings wher Swedish was spoken. I regret not having some relics of the past t6hat got lost when my father died--such my grandfather's shoe tools and my fathers phot engravings.

sarovai on May 16, 2010:

Hello Peggy W , it is good to learn the language where you are residing, irrespective of your mother tongue. I like those words you wrote in this hub

"Not learning those languages in the country in which we would live is a handicap and why would we wish to remain handicapped?"Apart from this ,Antique prayer book is worth to have and see.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2010:

Hi marijanareynders,

Thank you for the kind words regarding the loss of my mother. I do have so many lovely memories to cherish.

As to the language, if we moved to another country, naturally we would not forget our native tongue but certainly (as you did) one should learn the new country's primary language. It seems that we have quite a few people that live in the U.S. and expect to be taught in their native language, be able to take driver's tests in their native language, vote in their native language, etc. In Texas when it comes to voting, the ballots are in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

So it would seem that it goes by population statistics...those that are favored with easy access to their native tongue. Hungarians, Italians, French and people who come from other countries are not so favored but have to learn English as quickly as possibly in order to comfortably assimilate themselves into their "new" country. And it seems they do it!

By not learning the language of a country in which one chooses to is merely handicapped to some extent. This applies to getting jobs and so many other areas. Sometimes I think that our policy of teaching in these other languages just prolongs the assimilation process and at great cost to the U.S. taxpayers.

Your pets undoubtedly love your sweet endearments spoken and whispered to them in Afrikaans. Aren't pets wonderful! Sounds like you live in a beautiful area surrounded by your pets and wildlife.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 16, 2010:

Hi again Hello, hello,

So you are from Bavaria! I too wish I knew more specifically where my ancestors originated beyond the general area. Of course that is just my one grandmother's side of the family.

As to the older books...they are special. As you say, they were not as mass produced back then and of course were more expensive because of that. This little antique prayer book that belonged to my grandmother seemed that it was produced in Germany for a specific parish in Milwaukee...thus would have had limited production. The paper was very thin and the graphics beautiful as I think you could see from these photos.

Thanks for coming back and letting me know in which part of Germany you live.

marijanareynders from Toodyay, Western Australia on May 16, 2010:

Peggy, a beautiful sentimental walk down memory lane, and you took us with you. Sorry about the loss of your mom, which is always a sad process to work thought. How wonderful that you have these memories to carry with you.

As a matter of interest, I live in an adopted country (Australia) and speak English fluently but having grown up in South Africa, my mother tongue will always be my home language and we speak it here, in the land downunder, and we are surrounded by wildlife and our pets, fully conversant in Afrikaans.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on May 16, 2010:

Thank you, Peggy, I am from Bavaria and what a shame you don't know the proper place. Yes, I can read the words and they are beautiful. I am an old sentimental but I always feel that any old book somehow a feel in it. The new books you can feel they are massproduced and just printed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 15, 2010:

Hi reddog1027,

It is wonderful that you are actively involved in your grandson's life. Close family relationships are the best of all worlds. My grandmother (and grandparents, for that matter) added so much richness to my life and those of my brothers and cousins who were close enough to benefit from their loving ways, wit and wisdom. Sounds like you have a close family relationship. Enjoy!!!

reddog1027 from Atlanta, GA on May 15, 2010:

Peggy, thanks for the great hub. It is nice to see a close knit family down through the generations. It's the reason that I moved to Atlanta, to be actively involve in my grandson's life.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 15, 2010:

Hi Ethel,

That is correct. Obviously as well worn as this little prayer book was, it meant a lot to my grandmother and just knowing that makes it a precious heirloom. Thanks for the visit.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on May 15, 2010:

It is like finding a little pice of the person. Very precious

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 15, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

Thanks for the kind words regarding my mother. You would have also LOVED my sweet grandmother had you known her. As to safeguarding my grandmother's antique prayer book, that is now in other family member's hands. Am sure that they will treat it kindly in the years ahead.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 15, 2010:

Hi Hello, hello,

Yes, there are many of us with German heritage over here in the U.S. Of course there are many from other heritages as well. My maternal grandmother's forebears came from Bavaria...but more specific than that, I am afraid I can't get. Thanks for taking the time to comment on this hub about my grandmother's antique prayer book. You are probably one of a few hubbers who can actually read the words in the prayer book. It it an old style or can you easily read it?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 15, 2010:

Hello jmansson,

Thank you for taking the time to read about my grandmother's antique prayer book. Tim