Grandma Vimmerstedt

In last month’s issue, I reported on our Open House for beginning genealogy or for help with problems, and the fact that I had mentioned the Vimmerstedt Midwife Records 3 times that night. That evening I decided that Christina Vimmerstedt needed to have some light shown on her occupation and her love for babies and their Mamas.

Our infatuation with Christina began when a donation was made by a family member of the records of a local midwife. They were very excited for us to understand the extent of the records they were donating and how proud they were of her dedication. These records are from 1897 – 1922, and have the details of the date of birth, baby’s name if given at the time, father’s name, birthplace, age, mother’s maiden name, age, birthplace, and number of previous children.

There is a chapter in Saga From The Hills, by M. Lorimer Moe, which was written by Jennie Vimmerstedt about her Grandma Vimmerstedt. Read on and be amazed by this lovely woman:

Excerpt by Jennie Vimmerstedt
 from Saga From the Hills

She was Grandma Vimmerstedt to all who knew her, including the hundreds she had ushered into the world. By the time she came to Jamestown in 1887 she was 41, a veteran midwife who had already delivered countless babies in Sweden. In Jamestown she presided at more than a thousand births up to 1927 when she fell and fractured a hip to become bedridden for eleven years. The bone specialist who cared for her thought Grandma would develop pneumonia if he tried to set the bone. He later regretted he hadn’t done it.

She should have been a doctor. She could diagnose illness from talking over a person’s symptoms; while she couldn’t write prescriptions, she would tell people to go down to Winnberg, the well-known Swedish druggist, and ask for the medicine she thought was needed. Often these people stopped by to tell her they felt better. 

Grandma ventured forth in all kinds of weather, many times to Busti farms and beyond. Her pay was anything that was offered; she went wherever she was needed and remained as long as necessary. Sometimes she got $5; sometimes a peck of potatoes or apples.

Anyway, when we were little, we thought Grandma carried babies in the bulging satchel she kept near her at all times. We were certain we saw something move in that satchel; this is how we knew Grandma was going to visit someone soon and present them with a baby.

Once she took us with her on the Erie train to Salamanca and stationed us in an upstairs sitting room with that satchel. We guarded it carefully. We couldn’t believe our ears when we heard a baby cry in the adjoining bedroom – our eyes had never left the satchel. How had Grandma done it? The mystery deepened when Grandma came out to tell us the baby was born tongue-tied and she was going to fix it, whereupon she took a pair of scissors and went back into the bedroom. We peeked into the bag but saw no baby. It was at about that stage in, our development that we agreed with other kids in our neighborhood that babies came from cabbage patches.

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