Jickeli Household Help.

Mrs. Berta Jickeli, center in black (Lisi’s employer who wrote her the
recommendation (Zeugnis-below), and her household help.
Lisi is seated 2nd from left.The little girl she cared for, Berta’s daughter, Lisbeth, is at washtub, right. Dec.,1910.

The above photograph was signed on the back to my grandmother from Mrs. Jickeli, in December, 1910. (For details about what had been unseen for almost a century, written on the back of this photo, see post, Hidden Message Behind Women’s Work.) It hung prominently in my grandmother’s home for her entire life. I can imagine the immense sadness she felt as she prepared to say farewell to this woman and her little daughter, Lisbeth, both of whom she loved like family.

Mrs. Jickeli had taken Lisi under her wing for four years, and now this young woman of 23 was making what seemed to the forty-six year old Berta, a rash decision–taking off for America without knowing how long she’d stay or if she might return.  As she prepared for her journey, Lisi knew she would have to find a job once she arrived in Chicago, married, and settled in with my grandfather, Josef. Besides her Dienstbuch (record of all previous employment – see post: When a resumé worked as a passport, what else could be more important that a personal recommendation?

That’s exactly what she received from Mrs. Berta Jickeli. “Zeugnis” means “recommendation.

It’s a glowing report which must have made my grandmother’s heart swell with pride. She saved it her entire life – and now I have it, this century old tribute to my smart, hard-working grandmother.



The undersigned at the end [of this document] certifies herewith that Eliesabeth [also spelled Elisabetha]  Ebner from Grosspold (Nagy-Apold), Hungary, first worked for me as a parlour maid and later as cook from January 8, 1906 to August 15, 1911.

During this time, she has always been honest, upright, industrious, and faithful, and for every duty has earned my fullest satisfaction. She is superbly qualified for childcare and illness duties and is well-trained in all household work, and I can therefore most heartily recommend her. 

Berta Jickeli, Merchant’s Wife, August 15, 1911.”

Hermannstadt (Nagy-Szeben), Hungary on August 15, 1911

At the bottom, in purple ink, is an official stamp of Hermannstadt, and the document is countersigned by what is our equivalent of a notary. 

I can only imagine the conflicting emotions Lisi must have suffered through as she put all her affairs in order:  excitement, fear, anticipation, and sorrow, knowing she may never return to the beloved Jickeli household, her father, her sisters, and brother. 

She didn’t write about her feelings. Perhaps she thought that was too self-indulgent, but she did record much about her trip, beginning with the delivery of her luggage to the train station in Grosspold–followed by details of her  journey. Coming up: Lisi’s diary — from Grosspold to Chicago.

I’d love to hear from any of you who have a document related to your ancestors in which they (or you) would take particular pride. 

Please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!