Aunt Emma’s Two Lives

Emma age 19

Emma age 19

My grandmother had three Aunt’s, Aunt Emma, Aunt Liz, and Aunt Agnes.  Each one had an interesting life.  I wrote about Aunt Liz in my blog dated 4/13/2013.  Today I am writing about Aunt Emma.

Emma Reinhardt was born on June 6, 1885 in Illinois.,[1] [2]  Emma was raised in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois along with her two brothers and four sisters.  Not much is known about Emma’s early life.  In 1910 at age 25 she married Dr. Fredrick L. Orsinger[3] who was 33 years her senior.[4]  He had been married before and had five children with his first wife who died in 1903.[5]

Fredrick L. Orsinger came to the United States from Germany in 1871.  He arrived in Chicago on the same day as the Chicago Fire.  He decided not to stay in Chicago at this time and went to LaSalle, Illinois to work in his Uncle’s bakery.  He later opened a pharmacy in LaSalle and practiced medicine.  He studied medicine and surgery in Zurich, Switzerland and Paris, France.   He later spent five years studying medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago, and later had a years experience working at Cook County Hospital. [6]   He had quite a colorful life too.  I am not going to write about it at this time as I would like to concentrate on Emma’s life.  I will write about his life in more detail at another time.

My grandmother had told me that the Reinhardt’s and Orsinger’s were friends.  I know there was an Orsinger’s Bakery in Ottawa.  I don’t know if they had another one in LaSalle or if the source is wrong about the location of the bakery.  However, Emma would have not been born yet when he came to LaSalle County.  By the time she was old enough to get married he was living in Chicago.  So how they got together is unknown.  I’m guessing that they knew each other because the families were friends.  I still can’t help but wonder how her family felt about the age difference, and how his children felt as some were older than Emma.  My grandmother would say with disgust in her voice, “Aunt Emma married old Doc Orsinger.”  They lived in Chicago and he practice medicine in Chicago. Dr. Orsinger died in 1925.[7]

In 1933 Emma married Iber Mataway in Chicago.[8]  He was from Iran and changed his name when he was naturalized from Isaac Abraham to Iabry Abraham Mataway.[9]  They must have led a quiet life.  I can’t find them in many records.  He was 12 years her junior.[10]  She went from some way older than her to someone quite a bit younger than her.

I’ve had a hard time finding them on any census records.  I do know they lived on a farm in Wisconsin.  I also know they lived in an apartment in Chicago, Illinois.  My mother loved Aunt Emma and she would stay with her sometimes in Chicago and on the farm in Wisconsin when she was young.  I believe they lived in Chicago, then moved to the farm in Wisconsin, and then moved back to Chicago.

I have a letter that Emma wrote to her sister Liz.   I will try to transcribe it as written with mistakes and all. 

Sat Mch. 1 – 1947 

Dear Eliz,

            Just a few lines, as we are trying to get ready to go to Saxon to shop.  We got your package yesterday.  Everything was swell.  And thanks so much.  So what do I owe you for groceries.  The shirts will come in handy this summer at laying time. Even good enough to go to town in as you don’t have to dress up so much around here.  Gosh, I’ve been rushing around, the oil man came first thing this morning, I was just about out of bed.  Iber was milking, then I had to look after him.  By the time he filled all the tanks and checked them, Iber came in for breakfast, and now I just got thru with the dishes, milk pails, and strainers.  Iber has been hauling hay everyday.  He got 4 or 5 tons of hay very cheap, but has to haul it himself.  It keeps a person busy, but it isn’t bad.  Well, I don’t know if you can say March came in like a loin or not.  It was quite warm this morning, but now it has turned a little cooler and is snowing that fine snow.  So I hope it doesn’t get too bad until we get back at least.  Well, I was so surprised at that article of Fred Orsinger.  It was funny, I opened the box and I thought it was just some paper you stuck in for a filler.  Then a couple of hours later, I was straightening everything up, so I looked again and was looking at the man with the alligator.  And, I said to myself that man reminds me of Doc.  He combs his hair just like he did.  So I threw it in with the rest of the papers.  When Iber came in he happened to see it, and asked me what he was doing with an alligator.  I said oh I don’t know let me see.  Well, when I read it, I started to laugh.  No wonder he minded me of Doc.  That was so funny.  He is quite a big shot.  Gosh he is getting old.  I figured he would be about 70. 

I suppose you received my last letter.  I too wish poor Tim could at least be able to go into the other room.  I may be down sometime in the middle of April if nothing happens.  Then he had better get up or I’ll pull him out of bed.  I hope Mrs. Fox is home by morn, poor soul.  I suppose she feels quite alone since he is gone.  Is she going to stay there in the apartment.  Have you heard yet from Mark.  Iber says to tell Tim to keep his chin up.

I do wish Iber could make a trip to Chicago.  Well, we’ll see how things turn up.  He needs a change.  I feel guilty when I go all the time.  I guess Clara is going to stay in her apt. for a while.  Well, if I have forgotten anything I’ll write it next time.  I must get ready.  Iber is almost thru shaving. 

Love to you both and God Bless you as ever.  Emma & Iber 

The Fred Orsinger she mentions in the letter is the son of her late husband.  I am posting the original letter here.

Letter from Aunt Emma 2

Letter from Aunt Emma 3

Letter from Aunt Emma 1Letter from Aunt Emma 4

I remember visiting Aunt Emma a couple of times in her apartment in Chicago.  She made a doll bed for me out of a wooden cigar box.  I wish I had a picture of it.  She painted it white and it had a headboard.  The legs were cloths pins (the old fashioned wood ones) cut down so only the top curved part was used for the legs.  She made a little mattress and pillows.  She made a blanket and crocheted a bedspread for it.  I loved it and had it for a long time.  I found instructions for making one on the Internet, and also found pictures, but none that looked as good as mine.  Mostly what I remember of Aunt Emma was a very nice old lady and the doll bed.

I think the first half of her life was probably more eventful than the last half.  Being married to “Old Doc Orsinger” must have been very eventful from some of the things I have read about him.  Like I said, that is for another time.  The second half of her life being married to Iber, her life was quiet.  Reading the letter, her life was just about the ordinary every day things like the weather, washing dishes, milk pails and strainers.  The exciting time was going to town.  I wish I knew more about her life.  As far as I know, she never had any children to carry on her legacy.  I hope I helped a little to carry on her legacy today.

Aunt Emma, my mom, Aunt Liz 1943

Aunt Emma, my mom, Aunt Liz 1943

Emma died on August 18, 1956, and Iber died in 1974.

Copyright © 2013 Gail Grunst

[1] Emma Reinhart’s birth date June 6 came from Helen Kaiser’s (her niece) date book.

[2] 1900 United State Census entry for Emma Reinhardt.  Original data:  United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900.  Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration 1900 T623 1854 rolls. 1900 United States Federal Census.  [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry Operations, Inc.,2004.

[3] Joseph Seymour Curry, Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth, volume 4 (Chicago:  The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), Pgs. 624 – 628. Digitized by Google.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Find-a-grave website at

[8]  Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1920 – 1960  [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.

[9] Naturalization Record for Iabry Abraham Mataway name chanced at naturalization from Isaac Abraham. US Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791 – 1992 (Indexed in World Archive Project) [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry Operations, Inc., 2010.  Original data: Selected U.S. Naturalization Records.  WashingtonD.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.

[10] Ibid.


Americana, and the icons that represent us!

Read my Son’s blog. He usually writes about photography, but it’s a little different this time after the bombings in Boston. Ienjoyed it, but then I am his mother.

1st Sense Photography


I have always been a fan of American Nostalgia, and what better way to start a blog today than talk about America. Today April 15 , 2013 We as a nation were once again attacked on our own soil. Yet we do not know whether it was a terrorist attack, or a person just trying to gain notoriety by doing something that would harm innocent people. These actions will be vindicated by our government, and its citizens. We as a people have always realized certain things keep this country together, and remembering our past is one of them. Tonight I present an image I took last summer at a car show in Gurnee, Illinois. Chevrolet is an Icon from the late 50’s and 60’s. Chevrolet represents strength in American engineering something we have always been proud of.

We as a nation have never backed down to any terrorist act, and…

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Aunt Liz’ Secret Life

Aunt Liz is the smaller one.

Aunt Liz is the smaller one.


My grandmother had three aunts, her mother’s sisters, Aunt Liz, Aunt Emma, and Aunt Agnes.  I had the privilege to know all of them, some better than others.  Today I’m writing about Aunt Liz as I think she is the most colorful one of the three or led the most secretive life.

Aunt Liz was born Elizabeth Reinhardt on February 10, 1881 in Amana, Iowa[1].  Two Years later the family moved to Ottawa, Illinois.[2]  Aunt Liz had two brothers and four sisters.[3]  Her father worked as a shoemaker and owned a shop in Ottawa.[4]

I knew Aunt Liz probably the best out of the three.  She lived in Ottawa, Illinois with family friends.  We would go down to Ottawa from Villa Park, IL several times a year to visit Aunt Liz.  My parents and grandparents were friends with the family she was living with, and I was friends with their daughter who was near my age.  I went down there for a week or two every summer to visit my friend.  Of course, Aunt Liz was there, and I would talk with her.  This was long before my interest in genealogy so we never talked about her family or her parents.  By the time I knew her she was old, and I would have never imagined that she was a sort of rebel in her youth.

It was always known in the family that Aunt Liz had an illegitimate son, Milton. I wrote about Milton on my blog dated January 14, 2013.  Milton was born in 1900[5] and Aunt Liz kept Milton and raised him.  Unfortunately, Milton died at the young age of 17.[6]  I had heard about her son Milton, but thought OK she made a mistake so what.  I knew she married later and was married a long time, but never had any more children or so I thought.

While researching Milton, I remembered my grandmother talking about how Aunt Liz went to California to visit her daughter.  I’m not sure of time frame, but I estimate that it was around 1964 or 65.  My grandmother was shocked to learn that Aunt Liz had a daughter. Everyone who knew Aunt Liz was surprised to hear that she had a daughter.

I decided to look for information on this child.  I found that she did have another child born in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois. The father is listed as Timothy Farrell on the birth record, and she named the daughter Helen.[7]  I found this strange because Aunt Liz was married to Timothy Farrell.  So why didn’t she keep her?  Now I needed to find out when she got married to Timothy.  The search continued on, and I found she married Tim in 1920.[8]  Now my question was why did she wait until 1920 to marry Tim?  I thought maybe he was married.   I next search the census records for 1910 and he was single, I found him on the 1900 census also single.[9] [10] I found her on the 1900 and 1910 census listed as single also.[11] [12] They lived a couple of blocks apart in Ottawa.  Why did she give up this child and not marry the father when she found out she was pregnant?  She kept one child, but not the other.  I find this odd.  I don’t know if I will ever know the answer.  I continued to search for Helen Farrell.  I found her on the 1920 census living at the Mary A. Judy Industrial School for Girls in Middlefork, Vermillion, Illinois.[13]  An Internet search turned up that the school was for girls who were having a hard time adjusting to foster care or had difficult family situations.[14]  I lose Helen after that.  She probably married, but I have no idea where or to whom and there are a lot of Helen Farrell’s.

In the mean time, my son, who into photography, found a picture I had of Aunt Liz when she was 18 years old with some things I have of hers.  She is in a fancy gown standing on a winding stair case.  It looked like it had been cut out of magazine because it was on magazine type paper.  Someone had written on the photograph Elizabeth age 18. My son knew someone who was into period clothing, and asked her to date the picture.  She said it looked like it was from around 1900 and it wasn’t the kind of dress that you would wear on the street.  It was more like a theatrical dress.  Aunt Liz would have been 18 in 1899.  So this information was correct.  Maybe the picture was from a play bill. What was she doing in play?  What was the play?  What part did she play?  These questions are still unanswered.  She never said anything about being in play to me, and I don’t remember any one else in the family talking about it.

Aunt Liz in theatrical dress

Aunt Liz in theatrical dress


I kept on searching the Internet and found that a Thomas Farrell owned a theater in Ottawa, Illinois.[15]  Now things were starting to make more sense.  At first I thought this was Timothy’s brother because on the census records he had a brother Thomas.[16]  But then when I researched the Thomas Farrell who owned the theater his age didn’t match Timothy’s brother Thomas.[17] Perhaps the Thomas Farrell that owned the theater is an uncle or cousin.  I do feel that they are connected somehow. Maybe Aunt Liz knew Timothy Farrell and this helped her get a part in a play or maybe she met him because she was performing at this theater.  Maybe it was neither.

After Aunt Liz married Timothy Farrell in 1920,[18] they lived in Chicago;[19] and they were married until Timothy died in 1947.[20]  Aunt Liz died on 5 August 1966[21] and is buried in the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery in Ottawa, La Salle, Illinois along side her husband Timothy Farrell and son Milton[22]

Aunt Liz 1963 or 64

Aunt Liz 1963 or 64

Copyright © 2013 Gail Grunst

[1] Birth record for Elizabeth Reinhardt.  Iowa County Births 1880 – 1835 Index, (https//

[2] Family story that they left Amana, Iowa in 1883.  Told to author by her grandmother Helen Bower’s Kaiser in 1979.

[3] Census Record for Elizabeth Reinhardt, parent, brothers & sisters. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry Operations Inc, 2004.  Original Data:  United States of America Bureau of the Census.  Twelfth Census of the United States 1900.  Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Record Administration, 1900. T623. 1854 rolls.

[4] Death Record for Conrad John Reinhardt 6 July 1922, Chicago, Cook, Illinois.  State of Illinois, Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Registration number 17200.

[5] “ Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths 1916 – 1947,” index, FamilySearch ( Milton Reinhardt 28 Mar 1918: citing reference FHL microfilm 1544185

[6] “ Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths 1916 – 1947,” index, FamilySearch ( Milton Reinhardt 28 Mar 1918: citing reference FHL microfilm 1544185

[7] Birth record for Helen Farrell 29 May 1905, Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878 – 1922.  Department of Health, City of Chicago.

[8] “Illinois cook county Marriages 1871 – 1920” index. FamilySearch (  Timothy Farrell and Elizabeth Reinhardt 4 October 1920.

[9] “United States Census, 1910,” index and images, FamilySearch (, Timothy Farrell in the household of Elizabeth Farrell (sister).  Ottawa Ward 5, La Salle, Illinois; citing sheet 14A, Family 291, NARA Microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1374314.

[10] “United States Census 1900,” index and images, FamilySearch(, Timothy Farrell in entry for James Farrell, 1900.  United States Census 1900, Illinois, LaSalle, ED 77 Ottawa Township, OttawaCity Ward 5, Image 6 of 34

[11] 1900 Census entry for Elizabeth Reinhardt. 1900 Untied States Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations  Inc, 2004.  Original Data:  United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900.  Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623 of 1854 rolls.

[12] 1910 Census entry for Elizabeth Reinhardt. Year: 1910; Census Place: Ottawa Ward 5, LaSalle, Illinois; Roll T624_301; Page: 11 A; Enumeration District: 0129; Image: ; FHL microfilm 1374314.

[13] 1920 Census entry for Helen Farrell ; Middlefork, Vermillion, Illinois; Roll T625 412; Page 14A; Enumeration District: 194; Image: 418. 1920 Untied States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.  Images reproduced by FamilySearch

[14] Mary A. Judy Industrial School for Girls.

[15] Ottawa Illinois in 1900; Ottawa, Illinois; E. A. Nattinger Thomas Farrell, page 122.  Reprint by the LaSalle County Illinois Genealogical Guild. 1995 Google books

[16] “United States Census 1900,” index and images, FamilySearch(, Timothy Farrell in entry for James Farrell, 1900.  United States Census 1900, Illinois, LaSalle, ED 77 Ottawa Township, OttawaCity Ward 5, Image 6 of 34

[17] 1900 United States Census entry for Thomas Farrell. Year: 1900; Census Place:  Ottawa Ward 2, LaSalle, Illinois; Roll 317; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0074; FHL microfilm: 1240317. 1900 United States Federal Cencus [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc, 2004

[18] “Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871 – 1929” Index, FamilySearch ( Timothy and Elizabeth Reinhardt, 04 Oct 1920.

[19] 1940 United States Census entry for Timothy and Elizabeth Farrell.  Year: 1940; Census Place:  Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627 947; Page 15 A; Enumeration District:  103-865.  1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

[20] “Illinois, Death and Stillbirths, 1916 – 1947” index, FamilySearch (Https:// Timothy J. Farrell 21 May 1947.

[21] Death record for Elizabeth Farrell. Cook County, Illinois Death Index 1908 – 1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.

[22] Personal knowledge of author from being at funeral in 1966 and visiting graves whenever I am in Ottawa, Illinois.

An Ordinary Life

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about family stories.  She told me that her grandmother had written her life story.  I thought that was so neat, and wished just one of my ancestor’s had written their life story or kept a diary.  She stated that she couldn’t do this because her life is just ordinary, and therefore, she had nothing to write about.  I told her that isn’t true.  Everyone thinks their life is ordinary, but there is plenty to write about.

Just think about it, our kids don’t know what it was like to grow up in the 50’s, 60’s let alone our grandchildren or their children someday.  Think how nice that would be for them to read about your ordinary life in the 50’s.  They don’t know about some of the things that we had in our lives or didn’t have in our lives.  Tell them about the milkman coming and your mother leaving empty bottles for him to pick up with a note in the empty bottle for what she wanted next.  My mother would put the money she owed him in an envelope and put it in the empty bottle with it sticking up enough that he could get it out.  We didn’t have two cars so we would walk to the A & P.  My kids never heard of an A & P or a National Food Store.  One day I mentioned a dime store to my grandson and he said, “What’s a dime store?” I had to explain that it was like a dollar store today.  Actually, I think the dime stores were better.  What about soda fountains in drug stores, you don’t see those around now.  The library was actually a library where you went for books and were told to be quiet.  Now it’s not just for books, but for videos, video games, Cd’s, computer, Internet, programs, etc., and your not told to be quiet.  Television was new then too, just black and white, a tiny screen, and 3 or 4 stations.  I remember thinking that Milton Berle was my Uncle because my dad always said it was time for “Uncle Milty”.   I found out he wasn’t my uncle when I asked my mother why we never saw him and why he was never at grandma’s on holidays.  What about going to the dime store for penny candy?  Where I lived there were little mom and pop stores in almost every neighborhood.  My mom sent me to one near us with a note that she wanted some napkins.  I was about eight years old and I thought I was old enough to buy napkins without a note.  I argued with my mom that I didn’t need a note.  She said, “Just give Eleanor the note.”  When I got there, I asked for napkins and did not give her the note.  When I got home and gave my mother the napkins, she said to me, “You did not give Eleanor the note did you?”  I shook my head no.  What she really wanted was Kotex.  When my brother was little, he found the box of Kotex and thought they were bandages.  He played doctor or Veterinarian with the family dog and bandaged up the dog with Kotex.  My mom would send me to the store with a note for cigarettes. You can’t do that today! Write about your friends, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and first boyfriend. Write about holiday traditions, birthday parties, picnics, your house, and your room.  You could write about how you met your spouse and your wedding day.  I could go on and on, but this gives you an idea about the ordinary things you can write about.  Just stop and think about your life, and it will help you recall the funny and sad events in your life.

Write about the historical events that happened in your life time.  For me it is the assassination of President Kennedy, first man in space, first man to orbit the earth, first man on the moon, Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.  I lived through these things and many more.  My kids and grand kids only read about them in history books.  Wouldn’t it be nice for them to read about what we were doing when these things happened, what we thought about them, and how these events affected us?  I have started my life story, and I hope this inspires you to start writing your life story too.