Grandma’s Adoption 1800s

Adoption History in our Family

Open Adoption 1800s

In our family, adoption was established in 1893 with the birth of my paternal grandmother, Louisa Rosa Abke-Ziegler.  She begins the adoption trail in our family; her story was told to me by my father, her son, Franklin.

30th Anniversary – John & Louisa


Born in 1893, my grandmother was the last of 12 children born to William and Anna Armbruster-Abke.  William Abke was a farmer trying to make ends meet and was having a tough time doing it.  Anna died on February 14, 1893 at the age of 41 shortly after my grandmother’s childbirth, and William, or Bill as he was nicknamed, was without the financial resources to raise another child without her.  Bill went to visit his cousins John and Katharine Zimmer-Ziegler and asked them if they would take Louisa.  The Ziegler’s went by the names of George and Katie.  George and Katie had been childless throughout their 20 years of marriage, but they wanted children.  They said, “Yes.”

Childhood – The Truth can Hurt

Louisa had a relatively normal childhood.  She told my dad that she always looked forward to visits from Uncle Bill.  Sometimes Uncle Bill would even bring her a gift; it was always fun to see him.  Unfortunately, she learned the hard truths about Uncle Bill the wrong way.  Grandma went to school one day and was told by another child on the playground that Uncle Bill was really her dad and that Jules and the other boys were her brothers.  She argued with them and told them they were lying.  The kids all laughed at her for not knowing.  She went home and learned the truth.  She told my dad, “I cried and cried.  Why didn’t anyone tell me?  Why did I have to hear it like this?  Don’t let that happen to Jill.”

The good news for me is that I didn’t hear the message like that.  I would have.  I still recall sitting in the cafeteria at lunch time and the girls at my table whispering around the table.  The story got to my best friend and she made the bold announcement, “Jill knows all about that.  Don’t you Jill?”  The girls were all shaking their heads saying, “No, no, no.”  When my friend looked at me and said, “Jill you know you’re adopted, don’t you.”  My response, “Yeah.”  Immediately one of them wanted to know what it felt like not to be wanted.

Her Sister

Grandma was not raised an only child.  She had a foster sister, Laurie Possow, from the Ann Arbor area.  Unlike my grandmother, Laurie was not accepted by the family or the community and lived with some devastating attitudes.  My father always told the stories like they had been true of her.  He said that his mother always said that you must forgive, and that she forgave Laurie for all her poor choices. Whether or not Laurie had made poor choices, or someone in the community made poor choices will never really be known.  Laurie moved to the New York area when she became an adult.  My grandmother always considered her family (a sister) and her children were instructed to call her Aunt Laurie.

Beauty Pageant Gift – Louisa is engraved in cursive on the other side.

Beauty Queen

Grandma was very outgoing, and was entered into the Ashmore Beauty Pageant where my dad said she won and received a beautiful gold bracelet that was passed down to me.  That was when she caught the eye of my grandfather, John.  Their courtship was a scandal, because Louisa was such a nice well-mannered cultured young lady.  No one in the community could figure out what she wanted with John.  Grandpa could be a bit sultry even as he got older, and he certainly could pop a snide comments now and then.  Plus, he was a few years older than her too.


Part of the dating ritual was attending socials.  Young ladies would put together pretty boxes with a nice lunch inside and the young men would bid on them.  Then they would enjoy an afternoon together.  Folks would gather at churches, homes, and at local establishments and everyone who could play an instrument would bring it along.  John was no stranger to having a good time; he was part of a band and played a mean fiddle at many of those gatherings.  Maybe grandma was a groupie!


John Frederick born in 1886 and died in 1972, married Louisa Rosa Ziegler on February 10, 1915.  Almost nine months to the day, a daughter was born.  In 1915, that meant more scandal.  Premarital sex was unacceptable.  What always amazes me is how many people engage in it, but shun those who get caught.  In those days, every church had calendar counters.  They would get out the calendar and count out the number of days between your marriage and your first child (especially if it were close).  Seems that grandpa and grandma’s wedding date and the date of their daughter were just a bit too close.  My father, called his folks greenhorns, the church ladies called them sinners.  My father, Franklin was the middle son of three boys; their firstborn was a girl.

Married Life

My grandparents were married 43 years.  They had many up times and down times too.  When the depression hit; they were not as poor as some, and my mother said that dad’s family always had meat for supper.  That was really something few people had daily in those days.  My father also recounted the time the local bank was struggling and his parents deposited $5,000 to help them out, but the bank failed anyway.


My grandparents lived on a farm outside of a small rural town only a quarter mile from our house; I remember the old brick farmhouse fondly.  When you walked in the back door you had the choice of going into the basement or up to the kitchen; the kitchen was huge because it was important to have room for all the thrashers to sit during harvest.  My grandparents bedroom was on the main floor of the house, and the kids slept upstairs.  There was a big room for family where grandma would sit in her dark wooden rocker; grandpa always had horehound candy in a dish on the desk.


They had four children: one girl and three boys.  My dad often referred to Abke’s as his mother’s family, and they were.  But when George and Katie Ziegler passed away they left my grandmother their earthly possessions; Abke’s left her nothing.  When I was getting ready to throw a 50th anniversary party for my parents, my dad said to list his mother as Abke.  I said, “No.”  He told me that Abke’s were her real family and that she knew who they were, so leaving out Zieglers was acceptable.  My sarcastic response to that was, “Brook, come over here.  Grandpa is going to explain to you how he wants my obituary written someday.  Take into account that I know who I ‘R-E-A-L-L-Y’ am.”  My daughter stood there innocently looking at him, I stood and glared at him.  We added Ziegler.

Grandpa John, Grandma Louisa, and Jill

My Adoption

In 1954, adopted me came into the picture.  Grandma smiled and had beautiful blue eyes that lite right up with the little laugh lines in the corners.  She had a sunny disposition and was very over weight.  My mother said she was a bit snoopy and had her nose stuck into places they didn’t belong, but my mother never really elaborated on that.  My mother also said that she learned how to cook many items from her, because dad’s family had the money to make them and her own family didn’t.


Louisa died when I was almost 4 years old.  I vividly remember the day. We lived a half mile apart, the phone hanging on the kitchen wall rang; my mother answered it.  She flew to the back door and bellowed to my dad, working in the barn, “Frank your dad just called, there is something wrong with your ma.”  I was watching from the picture window in the kitchen as my dad speed out of the yard gravel flying in all directions.  Next, I saw the ambulance coming out of town and watched it speed down our road lights flashing and siren screaming.  I looked out the kitchen window for what felt like hours.  Then I saw the ambulance going speed limit in the other directions.  I asked mom, “Why aren’t they going fast?”

Grandma died in her sleep and was buried in the Lutheran cemetery a couple miles down the same road a few days later in 1958.

Next, read either My Ukrainian Angels Adoption 2000s or Adoption from Foster Care 2010s

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.  Proverbs 16:31 NIV