Legend: My father told us this story, which he had been told by his grandmother, Helene Andersen Riis. Helene gave birth to a baby boy at home but there was something seriously wrong with the child. Dad’s grandfather, Hans C. Riis, carried the newborn directly to the kitchen and baptized him himself at the tap before the child died.
Verdict: True. It took years of looking, but I was able to confirm the story. I can’t specifically confirm the baptism in the sink, but that much is consistent with Hans being a religious man and a practicing Lutheran. In the Lutheran Church, all confirmed members have the ability to baptize others, especially in emergency situations.
A baby boy was born to Hans and Helene in their home in Holliswood [now Hollis], Queens, on October 7, 1911. Named Kenneth Peter Riis, his birth was never officially registered because little Kenneth died only two days later, on October 9. A death certificate, however, was issued, citing the cause of death only as a “stomach problem.” In 2003 I was able to locate Kenneth’s grave in Maple Grove Cemetery in Maspeth, Queens, where another surprise awaited: Office records show Kenneth is buried with a sister, interred on October 5, 1905, and entered only as “Stillborn Girl Riis.”
The children of Hans C. Riis and Helene Andersen Riis, married September 12, 1900, in New York, NY:
Hans Alfred Andersen “Alfred” Riis, born April 20, 1902, in Bronx, NY
Thorvald Christian Riis, born February 12, 1904, in Morris Park, NY
Unnamed girl, stillborn before October 5, 1905, in Morris Park, NY (?)
Kenneth Peter Riis, born October 7, 1911, in Holliswood [now Hollis], NY
Helen E. Riis, born April 27, 1914, in Holliswood [now Hollis], NY (?)