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A Signature with a Story: The Death of my Great-Grandmother's Brother

Lene Dræby Kottal
A Signature with a Story: The Death of my Great-Grandmother's Brother

At age 17 my great-grandmother’s brother Otto Anselm Söderlund went to the town bailiff in Odense, Denmark to report the death of their mother. His original signature is in the probate records, where the death report was recorded. I wish I could access the original book. I know that the words are the same, but it would be special to hold the book with the record, which he signed more than 100 years ago.

Otto’s life ended too soon. He was born in 1883 in Finland. He immigrated to Denmark. However, in 1910 he was deported to Finland. His crime was disturbance of the public order and/or unemployment. Back in Finland he worked at various glassworks; lastly Ristiniemi Glassworks in the town Hamina close to the Russian border. That glassworks primarily produced window glass for Russia. On 27 January 1918, civil war broke out in Finland. I don’t know whether Otto was politically active or not, but on 26 April 1918 he was arrested and placed in the Russian prison camp Käkisalmi, where he died three months later, possibly of starvation.

It was a cruel fate and to make matters worse, Otto was married and had a small daughter and his wife was pregnant with their son, who was born on 19 November 1918 and named Åke Paul Anselm Söderlund. Those two children never had a chance to get to know their father. Looking at Otto’s signature makes me sad. I sent the image with the signature to Åke’s son. The signature means a lot to me, but I am sure it means even more to him.

Do you have anything written by an ancestor, whom you never met? What does it mean to you to have that?

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