Author Archives: Gail Grunst Genealogy

About Gail Grunst Genealogy

Gail has been researching her own family since 1979. Her research has taken her back to 1800 Belgium and 1800 England. Gail has worked in a library for the last 20 years and has answered genealogy questions for patrons and helped patrons with their research. In addition to her degree in Library Media Technology, Gail has a two degree in Basic American Genealogy Research from the National Genealogy Society. She has done volunteer work for various Genealogy Societies. Gail teaches several Classes in Genealogy for the Round Lake Area Library, and would be happy to conduct a class for your organization. If interested in a class or if you would like a one-on-one consultation, please contact Gail. Please enjoy Gail's family History Blog



Today’s post is going to stray from my usual family history posts.  I’m in a Blogging 101 Class through WordPress.  The assignment a couple of days ago was to read blogs and comment.  I decided to read blogs that were not about Family History.  They were on gardening, Alzheimer’s Disease, vacations, and self-care.  I commented on all four.  Now today’s assignment is to write about one you commented on.  I chose the self-care.  I wondered if there was a way I could tie this into family History.  The only way to tie this to family is to say that I take after my mother and grandmother, who did not take care of themselves in the same way that I do not take care of myself.  I’m much better at taking care of everyone else, and putting myself last.  The blog I read that has inspired me to take better care of myself is Getting Through Life.

Recently, I have been going through some rough times.  First, it was my brother’s diagnoses of terminal lung cancer last November, and his death in January.  He was single and no children, we have no other siblings. So all his affairs were left up to me, and I was grieving during this time.  My husband is Ill and cannot walk, and I have to do a lot for him, and do the chores he use to do.  In April, I felt so stressed and felt ready to collapse.  I went to the doctor and he found a couple of things wrong, but nothing life threatening. He did tell me I need to take better care of myself.  The first thing I did was to start telling people “no”.  I made some people mad because they were not use to me saying, “no”.  I lost one friend because I could not help her out.  There are only so many hours in the day, and I was doing something for someone else most of my waking hours.  This had to stop.  Then I started eating better, going for walks, and getting more sleep.  Now I am starting to do activities that I enjoy, but stopped doing.  Now I am back to reading, sewing, and of course genealogy.   Recently, I saw how to make a quilted bag on YouTube and enjoyed making one.

my quilted bad

Last weekend made a trip to the Lake Front in Kenosha, Wisconsin on a beautiful summer evening with my son and grandchildren.

Brian Brianna and Connor in Kenosha

My husband and I use to go to the lake front quite often, and we haven’t been able to do it because of his inability to walk.  We use to camp and have a trailer, but no longer can do that because it is just too much for him to hook it up, and I simply do not have the strength.  I miss camping, it use to be my time to recharge. Now I am trying to find other things I can do to replace the camping.  Last night we had a campfire in our backyard.  It’s the time of the year for meteor showers so we sat by the fire, looked at the beautiful sky and watched the meteor showers.  I started out counting, but then lost count.  It was a beautiful summer night and a very relaxing evening.  I haven’t had time to garden this year and now the summer is almost over.  But I can still prepare the yard for next year, and if I keep taking care of myself, maybe I’ll be able to garden next year.  Some of the other things I have planned is to light some candles and listen to music, take a bubble bath, write more in my journal, and visit with friends.  Maybe a trip by myself.  Well, this post was certainly a change for me.  I’m not use to writing about myself. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too!

Home Sources


One of the first steps in starting your family tree is to look around your house and ask your relatives for anything they may have to help you get started.  Some of the things to look for are of course birth, marriage, deaths, and baptism certificates, but also, letters, post cards, pictures, baby books, funeral books, funeral cards, school report cards, diplomas, family bibles, confirmation certificates, membership cards, naturalization records, Journals, address books, date books, and this is just to name a few.  You never know what you information you can get from these things.  Never discount anything.  People sometimes wrote stuff down on little scraps of paper. When I read old letters they will sometimes mention other people, and then I have found myself searching for the people mentioned in the letters.  I have a date book of my grandmothers. Not only did she record every date accurately, she made comments next to each date about the person or event.  For instance, she wrote that her cousin Julius Reinhardt was somewhere in the South Pacific.  She started this date book during World War II.  That not only told me she had a cousin Julius Reinhardt, but also that he was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII.

Here are some of the things that I have in my house that were given to me by my mother a long time ago.

Letter to my Grandmother

Letter to my Grandmother

Aunt Liz in theatrical dress

Aunt Liz in theatrical dress

Grandpa Kaiser's Baptism Certificate

Grandpa Kaiser’s Baptism Certificate

Grandpa Kaiser Certificate from Texico

Grandpa Kaiser Certificate from Texico


Early years at Texico

Fred Kaiser sitting on wheel about 1920.

Grrandpa at  work (Texico)

Grandpa at work (Texaco)

Mom's sixth grade class

Mom’s sixth grade class

I have many more items that I have not scanned yet.  But this gives you an idea of what to look for around your house.

From these documents I can get my grandfather’s birth date, place of birth, where he was born, his parent’s names, where he worked, and how long he worked there.  The pictures tell me what jobs he did while working at Texaco. The letter written to my grandmother gives me her address and an address in Ottawa, Illinois.  It connects her to her Bower side of the family in Ottawa.  The picture of a great aunt shows that she was in some kind of play around 1900.  The class picture shows that my mom (second row, first one on the left) went to Gray School when she was in sixth grade.  Not only do I get the dates, but also a glimpse into their lives.

You might want to check out the following sites to read more about home sources.

Genealogy Today

Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems

What’s in a tagline?


I’m in Blogging 101 through WordPress and today’s assignment is to change the tagline.  That’s line that appears under the title.  My previous tagline was Family Historian.  I have been thinking about what to change it to now for several hours.  I’m not very creative when it comes to naming things or making up slogans.  I wanted it to be creative and catchy but I’m still not sure that I am happy with the new one, My Pastime is Past Times.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, Pastime is that which amuses and makes time pass agreeably; recreation; diversion.  That’s what genealogy is for me, and I enjoy  researching not just when they were born, married, and died, but how they lived and what they did. I love to read history and study how people lived in the 18th and 19th centuries and even early 20th century.  I lived through the second half of the 20th so I guess I know how people lived and what we did.  It’s fun to reminisce, and sometimes I forget that my grandchildren don’t about some things such as dial telephones.  One day, I told my grandson that when I was young we didn’t even have dial telephones, we had to pick up the phone and the operator would come on and say, “number please?”  Then we would tell her the number we were calling. He didn’t believe me!  He thought I was joking.  Then I told him about party lines. He is 12 and couldn’t believe it.  Also, we did without microwaves, VCR’s, cable TV (we had only 4 channels), video games, computer and Internet.  How did we ever get along?  He thinks we must have been bored.  But we were far from bored.  As far as the phone goes, my father did not want us to use it unless it was a necessity.  If I called my friend down the street to see if she could play, he would say, “Why can’t you go down to her house and ask her,”  Now they all have their own phones. This is the kind of information I like to preserve, read about, and imagine what it was like to live in times before I was born.  You could say that I am fascinated with the past, and that is how I came up with the new tagline.  Let me know what you think.  I welcome your comments.

Who am I and what am I doing here?


Genealogy is my passion!  I’ve been doing it since 1979, and I am still working on it as it is a never ending project.  You find an answer and then you have 20 more questions.  I have traced a couple of my lines back to the 1750’s.  One line in England and the other in Germany.  I recently had my DNA done by in hopes of finding distant cousins that were working on the same lines.  But I have to admit it was somewhat disappointing in that area.  I have many, many, distant cousins. Some of them do not share their family tree, and of the ones that do share, I can’t find the common ancestor.  There were no surprises as to what part of the world my ancestors came from, as it was the same as where my research has taken me.

Sometimes, I wonder what is the point in spending hours, days, months, and years researching dead people.  In my family, I seem to be the only one who cares.  They put up with me, and my stories of my latest find.  As I get older, I wonder what is going to happen to my research.  Will my kids just throw it out?  Will my children or my grandchildren care about it someday?   I hope that by having this blog it will help preserve some of it.  I won’t give up, I can’t, it’s in my DNA.  So that’s who I am and that’s what I am doing here.

Happy Birthday Ronnie, I miss you!



Six months ago today my brother passed away.  Tomorrow, July 12, he would have turned 60.  I still have a hard time accepting that he is gone.  Something happens or I hear or see something and my first thought is I have to tell Ron.  But Ron is not here to tell.  It still seems not real to me.  In February we had a memorial service for him.  I was able to speak which surprised me.  Here is what I said with a shaky voice and holding back the tears.

Ron is my little brother by eight years and my only sibling. Not only was Ron my brother, he was also my friend.  I remember the day he was born.  I was so excited to have a little brother and someone to play with.  I don’t think at 8 years old, I realized how long it would be before he could actually play with me.  My mother let me help her bathe him and feed him.  I remember all his milestones, his first smile, the first time he sat up on his own, his first tooth, when he started crawl, walk, and talk.   Although, I sometimes regretted that he learned to talk.  Then later his first day of school, graduation, driver’s license and first job.  I wanted him to be able to play games with me.  So I started teaching him board games at a very young age.  Every Christmas we would get a new game and we continued this tradition as adults.  Every Christmas, I would try to find a new game for us to play.  Our favorite was 20 questions and Ron won most of the time.  He seemed to have a mind for trivia.  He had a great sense of humor and kept his sense of humor almost to end.  In the hospital the nurse was asking him questions and typing his answers into the computer.  He had to go to washroom and while he was in there the nurse said to him I can still ask you questions from here.  So she continued to ask him and he answered.  Then he said to the nurse, “This is the first time I’ve played 20 questions from the bathroom.”  The nurse cracked up.  

Ron and I often reminisced about our family.  We were a close knit family.  Every night the four of us always had dinner together.  My father was a history buff and talked a lot about history, politics, and current events at dinner table.  Both Ron and knew our history and that was thanks to my father.   Our mother and father stayed married to each other until my father passed away in 1984 and my mother followed in 1987.  We lived a few blocks from my grandparents and their home was our second home.  Our holidays were filled with family dinners where there would be 10 – 14 people at the dinner table.  In the summer there would be family picnics in our back yard as well as other places. 

We didn’t have many family vacations, but in 1967, my mother, Ron, and I drove to California.  My dad stayed home because he had to work.  It was quite an adventure for us.  We were two women alone on the road with a 12 year old in a 1962 Rambler.  The road was not expressway like today, but a two lane highway most of the way and sometimes very desolate.  We worried what we would do if the car broke down.  In Utah they were doing road repair and there was about 20 miles of a gravel road.  All of sudden we heard a knocking noise and we wondered out loud what it was and then it went away.  Just as we started to relax that it was gone, it would start again.  This went on for several more times before my mother caught Ron putting his arm out the window and knocking on the roof of the car.  We talked about our trip for years afterwards and my father would say that he didn’t go but he knew every detail as if he had been there. 

 In 1969, I started taking Ron to Cub games.  We would go a couple times a month.  After the game we would stand outside Wrigley Field and wait for the players to come out.  I would take pictures and Ron would get their autographs.  We even made a trip to St. Louis to watch the Cubs play Cardinals and stayed at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel where the Cubs stayed.  Ron would get their autographs in the lobby.  I remember there was a crowd around Ernie Banks and he was signing autographs.  Just as it was about to be Ron’s turn, Ernie said, “No more.”  Ron said, “Please Mr. Banks won’t you sign one more?”  And Ernie signed his autograph for Ron. 

Ron and I had our share of arguments and we would get mad at one another, but it never lasted. Ron and I didn’t need to call each other every day and we didn’t say I love you very often, but we knew it. I knew he was there for me and he knew I was there for him.  We were never any further than a phone call away.  He was a devoted Uncle to my sons, and a great brother.  When Ron was Ill he became my hero because of the way he handled his diagnoses.  He put up a good fight! When he passed he looked so peaceful.  Now he is with my mom and dad, and all our other relatives and friends that have passed.  His passing has left a big void in my life.  I will miss him on holidays and all the days in between.  I miss hearing his voice, and seeing his face.  I miss knowing he was just a phone call away, I miss his humor, I miss him beating me at 20 questions. I read this quote somewhere and I don’t know who wrote it or where it is from but it fit Ron and me.  “Sisters and brothers are the truest, purest forms of love, family and friendship, knowing when to hold you and when to challenge you, but always being a part of you.”

I miss you Ron and I’ll miss seeing you tomorrow on your birthday and celebrating with cake and presents.  I miss you so much RIP!

Happy Birthday, MOM


Mom Dorothy Kaiser

Today, my mother would be 91 years old if she was still with us.  My mother has been gone 28 years, and I miss her as much today as I did when she passed away 28 years ago.  She never made it to 63.   She was far too young to die.  She like my father and brother was a smoker, and I believe that contributed to her death.  I heard and read that we baby boomers were misled with shows like Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best because no one had ideal families like the ones portrayed in these shows.  I believe that mine came close.  No, my mother did not clean house dressed-up like June Cleaver.  She was a stay-at-home mother most of my growing up years.  When I was in high school she got a part-time job.  It was so part-time that it didn’t interfere with her raising us.

She kept a clean, neat home and was there when we got home from school.  She cooked three meals a day for us and as a family she made sure all four of us ate our dinner together.  She washed clothes and hung them out to dry.  Then she ironed them.  In my early years we did not have two cars and my dad took the car to work, so she walked to the grocery store.  She would pull me in the wagon and then I would have to walk back because the groceries were in the wagon.  We lived in Villa Park, Illinois and when we really wanted to do shopping for clothes or other things we would take the bus to Elmhurst or Oak Park.  I have memories of those home permanents that she gave me, and how I hated that!  She was involved in the PTA, Brownies, Girl Scouts, and Cub Scouts.  She was a room mother for my class several times.  Do they still have room mothers?  I always felt (even as teenager) I could talk with my mother.  She was always there for me.

After I was married and had children she was their only babysitter.  Sometimes they would stay with her, just because they wanted to stay at Grandma’s house, not because they had too.  Not only was she a great mother, but also a great grandmother.  I think she would love to know her great-grandchildren, and I know she would be proud of her Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren, and I hope she would be proud of me.

She started the ancestor hunt with me back in 1979 before the Internet when we had to do things by mail, and make trips to libraries, and archives.  I sometimes wonder what she would think about how it’s done today, and what she would think of my genealogy work.  I wish she was here to share all the ancestors I have found and the stories about their lives.  She was not only my mother, but my best friend and confidant too.  I’ll always remember good times and fun we had together.  Miss you Mom.  RIP

Copyright © 2015 Gail Grunst

Remembering Uncle Russ

Uncle Russ

Uncle Russ

Remembering my Uncle Russ today on what would have been his 84th birthday.  Uncle Russ was 16 years old when I was born.  My parents were living with my grandparents when I was born so Uncle Russ was one of the first people I knew as a baby.  He held me, played with me, and walked the floor with me when I was fussy.  We moved to our own place when I was one, but we were only blocks away from Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Russ.  After Uncle Russ graduated from high school, he became a mail man and for a while our street was on his route.  I would wait every day for Uncle Russ to come down the street with the mail.  I would follow him from house to house for a little while and then go home.  Some days he would stop by our house for lunch.  When I was four my Uncle joined the Navy.  I was heart-broken that he would be gone for long periods of time.  He left for Great Lakes Naval Training in November 1951 and completed his training in March 1952.  From there he went to Jacksonville Florida for more schooling and then to Memphis, Tennessee for still more schooling.  I’m not sure what his training or schooling was in, but he ended up working on airplanes and belonged to the Air Transport Squadron and his occupation was crew member.  After his schooling in Memphis he was transferred to Moffet Field in California in September 1952.  He was there until February of 1954 when he was transferred to Hickam AFB in Oahu, Hawaii until his discharge in November 1955.  We saw him periodically during the four years when he would come home on leave.  While he was stationed in Hawaii he did not come home on leave, and we did not see him for a couple of years.  He would send me presents from where ever he was stationed.  He sent me a hula skirt from Hawaii.  He sent my mother a Chinese tea set from San Francisco.  I now have that tea set.  He also sent me dolls for my doll collection, and he never forgot my birthdays.  While he was gone, my brother was born.  So he came home to a baby nephew.

After Uncle Russ came home there was a period of time when he had no job.  He would be over at our house almost every day when I got home from school, and he would play board games with me. I can remember my grandmother talking to my mother about him needing to get a job.  Everyone seemed worried that he wasn’t working except for me.  I didn’t want him to get a job because I wanted to play games with him every day.  But he finally did get a job at B. F. Goodrich changing tires on cars.  He worked there about 5 years when he met his future wife.  She came in for new tires for her car.  A few months later they married.  After they were married he got a job working for TWA.  During his time at TWA he loaded luggage on the plane, loaded the food on the plane, cleaned the planes, and then became a ticket agent. He was married to his first wife for 13 years and there were no children when they divorced. He moved to Phoenix, Arizona married a second time.  They moved back to the Chicago area and they divorced after two years.  He again moved back to Phoenix and then married again.  This time the marriage lasted a year.  After that he said he was done and was not going to marry again and he never did.  My mother and brother moved down to Phoenix after my father died and lived with him down there.  After my mother’s death my brother and uncle moved back to the Chicago area and he stayed in the Chicago area until his death.  Uncle Russ was very competitive when he played games.  He played to win.  He was a wiz at crossword puzzles.  The last few years of his life, he became a recluse and we didn’t see or hear from him often. He seemed to prefer his solitary life. It made me sad that he wasn’t more involved in our lives.  But I have great memories of my Uncle the way he was when I was younger.  Even my kids remember their Great Uncle the way he was before he became a recluse. He passed away on October 4, 2011 alone.  So it is on this day that I think about all the fun my brother and I had growing up with Uncle Russ. He was always there for us.  I miss you Uncle Russ.  RIP.

Copyright © 2014 Gail Grunst