Nice Uncle Ralph

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  topic this week is “Nice”.  The first person that came to mind was my grandmother’s brother Ralph.  Uncle Ralph died when I was 16 years old so I got to know him.  I loved him and thought he was the nicest person I had ever known.  I still think that.  I wrote about him a couple of years ago and decided to repost it.  Here is his story.


Uncle Ralph

Ralph C. Bowers was born 18 June 1897 to Eva Reinhardt and Robert Bowers in Chicago, Illinois[1].  He was my grandmother’s brother and my great uncle.  I remember Uncle Ralph as kind and reserved with a great sense of humor.  I can still hear his laugh even after all these years without him.

I was told by grandma that when he was young he contacted TB and was in a sanitarium for a while.  He had a hard time keeping jobs until he got a job at R. R. Donnelly in Chicago working the night shift.  The night shift was what he needed.  Apparently, he was not a morning person and the night shift worked for him.  For as long as I knew Uncle Ralph he worked at Donnelly.

Uncle Ralph married for the first time to Helen Treppa when he was forty six years old.[2]  He and his wife (Aunt Helen) would come to my Grandmother’s house for holidays and some Sundays in between the holidays.  Sometimes they would come to my parent’s house too.  I always liked going to their house in Chicago.  Sometimes we would just decide at the last moment to go visit Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen.  We would go there unexpected and always got a warm welcome.  Aunt Helen would put out a spread of lunch meats and breads.  It always amazed me that she had all this food on hand.  It never failed they had plenty of food for unexpected company.

We would sit around the kitchen table and there was always great conversation.  Even though I was young, I loved to listen to the adults talk.  I always found it interesting.  Of course I always enjoyed the food too.  Their house was very warm and welcoming.  Aunt Helen’s sister, Martha (Marty) lived with them.  I loved Aunt Helen and Marty as well as Uncle Ralph.  Because Ralph and Helen married so late in life, they never had any children.

My mother loved her Uncle Ralph very much and after he passed away, she would say that he was her guardian angel looking after her.

Uncle Ralph passed away on 5 January 1964 from a stroke[3] and was buried on 7 January 1964 in the Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove, Cook County, Illinois[4]

If he knew I was writing about him, I can hear him say, “Oh, for the love of Mike.”

Copyright©2016 Gail Grunst


[1] Registration State: Illinois; Registration County:  Cook; Roll 1613573; Draft board: 53 U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. {database on-line}.  Provo, UT, USA;  Operation  Inc, 2005.  Original Data:  United States, Selective Service System World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cares, 1917-1918.  Washington,  D. C. :  National Archives and Record  Administration.  M1509, 4,582 rolls.  Imaged from Family  History  Library Microfilm.

[2] Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line].  Provo, Ut, USA: Ancestry.ocm  Operations Inc, 2008.  Original data:  Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records.  Cook County Clerk’s office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008.

[3] From  his sister Helen Bowers Kaiser’s datebook.

[4] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600’s – Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2012.  Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave.


Naughty Great Grandpa

I’m still running a week behind with my post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  Last weeks topic was naughty.  I think I have already written about a few ancestors that were naughty and could not think of a new one to write about.  So I decided to repost one about my great grandfather Rudolph Kaiser.  Some letters were found when cleaning out my grandparents home years ago.  I finally had one transcribed.  Read the story below.

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If you read my last post on Letters from Germany, you will know that I have some letters written in German addressed to my great-grandfather, Rudolph Kaiser.  From the little we could deduce from them, it appeared he had another family in Germany.

Since writing my last post on Rudolf Kaiser, I have done some searching on his Children in Germany.

I researched on and came up with the following:

  • Rudolf Otto Pielenz (Rudolf Kaiser’s son) born 18 February 1890; Mother: Anna Auguste Emilie Pielenz*
  • Ida Bertha Pielenz (Rudolf Kaiser’s daughter) born 19 December 1891; Mother: Anna Auguste Emilie Pielenz*
  • Rudolf Otto Pielenz Married 7 April 1917 to Pauline Wilhelmine Helene Schauer; son of Anna Pielinz and Werner*
  • Anna Pielenz married Friedrich Carl Wagner 24 February 1894.* Anna Pielenz and Friedrich Carl Wagner’s children are as follows:
    • Anna Louise Auguste Wagner born 16 September 1894.*
    • Emma Bertha Wagner born 15 November 1895.*
    • Otto Robert Wagner born 27 July 1898.*

After finding this information, I went back to the letters written in German.  I was able to pick out the dates 18 February 1890 and 19 December 1891. I was also able to pick out the name Warner.   So I was sure that I had the right people.

I wondered why Rudolph would leave a wife and children in Germany, start another life here with a different wife and children.  It appears they were never married as she did not give the children his last name.  Then I thought maybe his intentions were to save some money and send for them.  But before he could save enough money, she moved on and got married.  She married two years before Rudolph got married here in the United States.  Maybe he wasn’t the scoundrel after all.  Then my curiosity got the best of me, and I had the first of the four letters transcribed.  As you will see as you read the letter, she is very upset with Rudolf Kaiser.  Here is the letter from 30 October 1910 transcribed

Berlin, dated 30.10.10

Dear Mr Kaiser!!!-?

Finally, after many, many years I have succeeded in finding out your address. You, dear Sir, will know that the result in 1890 of our relationship was a boy, and then, as a good-bye ! – a step which was so difficult – also a little girl. – And Anna Pielenz is deserted by the most beloved I once possessed, with two children, fatherless, alone. I have carved out an existence with my children in need of a father, and now that they are both grown, it is always the same lament: Where is our father…

My boy, as you know, has his father’s name, i.e. Rudolf Pielenz, born on 18 February 1890. My character and Your face, which was my consolation. Now he is big and a soldier. He is serving in Allenstein and has grown into a handsome young man. But now he is interested and searching for his father, who has treated him so ignominiously, so completely without interest. And the little girl has grown into a young lady. Born on 19 December 1891, her name is Ida and she also had no idea of her fatherless birth. But now

that they are both grown they will probably be in touch very soon and will greet their father by way of a letter, (because), when the boy was 5 years old and the girl 4, I was forced to get married because I could no longer afford the maintenance for the 2 children. It was just too hard for me, so I married without love and had to be content with my lot, because my love belonged only to one person ? , to whom, after all, I gave everything, and to my children. I have been on my own again for years now, and, as I say, I am content, because resentment and hatred grew more

noticeable all the time; because, you’ll know what I mean ?, a marriage without love is like a soup without salt and thus I am on my own with my children, living with my youngest sister. I hope you have not completely forgotten me and that [your] 14 years were happier than mine were. I really only moped around continuously. Maybe you think back occasionally to times past when happiness was still sweet.


Anna Vägner nee Pielenz

Berlin, S.O. 33

Skalitzerstr. 54a

Both children send their greetings

This opens up more questions than it answers.  How did she find him?  How does one find someone across an ocean in 1910?  I started to think how I would go about it.  Now we turn to the Internet or maybe private detectives.  I don’t think she had the means to hire a private detective.  But she probably knew what ship he traveled on, maybe he told her what city he planned to settle in.  She may have known his friends and family in Germany.  So maybe she found him through them.  It sounds like she never got over him.  I also notice that while she tells him of her unhappy marriage, she does not mention the children that were born of that marriage.  She says she hopes he has been happy the past 14 years.  It took me awhile to figure out where the 14 came from.  From 1890 or 1891 to 1910 is 19 or 20 years not 14.  In 1910 Rudolph was married 14 years.  She even knew how long he had been married.

I do not know who is right or wrong and there are always two sides to a story.  Her side is documented with letters, his side is silent.  There are no letters from him, no stories handed down, and so we do not have his side.  When I thought about her contacting his family in Germany, I wondered what happened to his mother and father.  I have their names and that is it.  When they were born or died remains a mystery.  I never heard my grandfather talk about his grandparents.  I don’t even think he knew their names.  When I started doing the family tree, he was still alive and never gave me that information.  I don’t know if he knew about his half-brother and half-sister.  If any of their descendants are around today, I would love to meet them.  I’m sorry that Anna Pielenz was so hurt.  I hope she forgave him and moved on for her sake.  As with all family secrets, they make for a good story, but I think about how sad it was for those children and their mother.  On the other hand if he stayed with them, I would not be here.  While I feel sad for them, I’m glad he had my grandfather.  Rudolph did something good; he raised a good and decent man in my grandfather.  My grandparents were married 58 years, my grandfather served in the United States Army during WWI, and worked at the same place for 45 years.  He owned a home and raised a son and daughter who were also good and decent people, and life goes on in me, my children, and grandchildren.  Maybe somewhere in the world there are sons, daughters, and  grandchildren of Anna Pielenz and Rudolf Kaiser’s relationship.

*Information from Berlin Germany Birth and Marriage Records at

Copyright ©2016 Gail Grunst

Thankful for Carrie


thank you text on black and brown board

Photo by on

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the U.S. What or who are you thankful for finding in your genealogy research?

The genealogy person that I am thankful for is Carrie Schwarz.  Carrie is married to my husband’s second cousin George Schwarz.  Many years ago when I was just starting out on my genealogy journey and trying to get information on my husband’s side, I connected with Carrie.  Originally Carrie wrote to my husband’s brother, Harry, asking for information on the Grunst side.  One day Harry mentioned corresponding with a lady in Pennsylvania about the Grunst Family, and he showed me her letter. I asked if I could have her address and he gave it to me.  I wrote her a letter and she responded. Carrie had done some work on her husband’s side of the family and was more than willing to share the information with me.  Her husband’s Grandmother, Albertine Grunst, is my husband’s Grandfather, Albert Grunst’s, sister. My first letter from Carrie was in February 1979 and we corresponded regularly over the years. Our correspondence not only contained genealogical information, but also personal and current family information.  Carrie became a friend although we have never actually met. So it was through her that I learned about the Grunst side of my husband’s family.  I haven’t heard from Carrie in a couple of years now.  She is in her 90’s so I hope she is OK.  Her husband, George, died in 2011.   Today I want to say, thank-you Carrie for sharing the Grunst Family information with me, for your heart-warming letters, and for being a friend. 

Frightening Stories


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks topic this week is Frightening.  “Any ghost stories in the family? Ever been scared while researching? Been frightened in a cemetery? Or how about sharing a Halloween story or photo? “

We had a relative who passed away a few years ago.  I am leaving out her name to protect the innocent.  She was a wonderful lady and had a heart of gold.  There isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for you.  That said, she told some fantastic tales.  She wasn’t just making them up to entertain us, she truly believed in what she told us.  At one time she was going to write a book about all her experiences. I wish she had written them down because now I can’t remember all the details.  When we visited, our husbands would be in another room watching TV and talking.  I would be in the kitchen with her, and my kids would be playing in the next room.  Unfortunately, they could hear her and on the way home I had to explain that she was just making it up to try to ease their minds.  Some of the tales were frightening and others just unbelievable.  I will try to tell some of them the best I can, but they won’t be the same because Iike I said I don’t remember the all the details.

She claimed that she heard voices coming from upstairs, but no one was home.  She decided to go up there and see where the voices were coming from.  When she started up the stairs the end table next to the stairs said. “Do not to go up there.”  So she stopped, waited a few seconds and tried again.  Once again the end table said to her, “Do not to go up there.”  She became frightened, stopped, and didn’t go up there.  She became convinced that end table was possessed.  A couple of days later she decided to get rid of the end table and asked her son to take it to some antique store.  On his way, he was in an accident and she believed that the table caused the accident.  The fact that her son was in always getting in accidents was beside the point. 

She claimed that she grew a third breast, right between the other two.  She diagnosed herself with Breast Cancer, and sent her son to Mexico to buy some Laetrile for her.  She took the Laetrile until she ran out, and she had to send her son back to Mexico several more times for more Laetrile. After about a year of taking Laetrile, the third breast finally disappeared.  It never returned, and she claimed the Laetrile cured her of Breast Cancer.  She just couldn’t understand why the United States didn’t make it available to cure all Cancers. 

One night she woke up to a bright light that lit up the bedroom.  She tried to wake up her husband, but he told her that she was crazy and went back to sleep.  She got up and went into another room to look out the window.  Her daughter was already there looking out the window, when they both saw a UFO land in their yard.  All of sudden it took off and disappeared.  The next day she told her husband that both she and her daughter saw it, but he would not believe her. 

She said that when she was a child her father had been very sick for a long time and was lying on the sofa, when all of sudden he started to levitate off the sofa.  He hovered there for a few minutes before finally settling back down on sofa.  They tried to talk to him while he was levitating, but he seemed to be in a trance.  Afterwards he was cured of whatever ailed him.

Another time when she was a child, she said, she was walking down the street in the dark, and saw a man coming toward her when he turned into a werewolf.  It was a country road in a wooded area and after turning into a werewolf, he turned and headed into the woods.

There were many more stories, but these are the only ones that I can remember.   She sure made an impression on all of us.  My kids, all grown-up now for many years, still talk about her stories. 

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst


Cubs Win 2016 World Series!!!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  topic this week is sports.  Any athletes in the family tree? How about any big sports fans? This is the week to write about them! 

Two years ago I wrote this post.  I am being lazy this week and posting it again instead of trying to come up with some thing new.  Too bad they haven’t been able to do it again!  Wait until next year!

Wow, the Cubs won the World Series after 108 years.  The Cubs are in my DNA.  My grandfather and father were life-long Cub fans.  I inherited their love for the Cubs, and I am also a life-long Cub fan.  My father watched the Cubs or listened to them on radio every chance he got.  When I was growing up they played mostly afternoon games.  He would get home from work around 3 pm and turn on the Cubs.  He took me to my first Cub game when I was five years old.  I don’t remember much about it and didn’t understand the game.  I was only interested in the vendors.  But as I got a little older that all changed.  He taught me all about the game.  He also taught me how to throw, catch, and bat a baseball.  Back when I was young there was no organized baseball for girls.  So I only played in neighborhood games and at school.  But it helped me to learn the game.  I would go to my grandparent’s house, and grandpa would have the game on too.  Needless to say I grew up with the Cubs.  I was just coming of age in 1969 when the Cubs were in first place most of the season, but blew it and ended up in second place.  I went to a game once a week when they were in town.  My brother and I would stand outside Wrigley after the game by the door the players came out of and walk across the street to their cars.  We would get autographs and take pictures.  We even made a trip to St. Louis to watch them play the Cardinals.  We stayed in the same hotel and got to meet some of the players in the lobby of the hotel.  We rode a bus from the hotel to the ball park with some of the player’s families.   A couple of years later I got married and started a family.  I could no longer go every week to a Cub game, but we did go a few times a year.  I have two boys and they grew up with baseball in their blood too.  They went to the rally yesterday and took my grandson.  When they won the pennant, I cried that they finally made it into the World Series, and when they won the World Series, I cried again.  I thought of all the years my father never got to see this.  He did see them go to the World Series in 1945 but never win one.  My grandfather would have been 12 in 1908. I don’t know if he was a Cub fan at 12 or if he got to see them play in the World Series since there was no TV or radio.  But what really broke my heart was that my brother never got to see it.  He lived and died and he never saw them win a Pennant or World Series.  I can picture all three of them cheering for the Cubs from heaven.  I want to be able to share this with them and hear them cheer and shout with joy.  I’m thrilled that the Cubs finally did it and there is no more waiting till next year.  Too bad it took 108 years and so many fans like my grandfather, father and brother never got to see it.  Go Cubs Go, see you next year!

Randy Hundley, Cubs Catcher  1969


Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst

Grandpa’s Work

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks topic this week is work.

The one person who comes to mind for this topic is my maternal grandfather.  He worked for Texaco his whole life.  He went to work for Texaco in 1915 before the United States entered into WWI.  He left Texaco to enter the Army in 1917 and returned to Texaco after the War was over.  Texaco let  him retain his seniority.


Grandpa sitting above wheel.

He started out as a truck driver and moved up to dispatcher.

Grandpa at work (Texico)

Grandpa at work (Texaco)

Grandpa worked steady even during the depression.  He didn’t believe in taking a day off for a head cold.  He said the way to get rid of a cold was to work it off.  I don’t think he ever missed a day of work because he was sick or just didn’t feel like going in.  When I was young they had a dog, a Boxer, named Ken.  Ken knew what time grandpa would come home and about five minutes before Grandpa arrived home, Ken would go out on the front porch and wait for Grandpa. I guess you could say, we could set the clock by Grandpa’s work routine.

He retired from Texaco in 1961 after 46 years of service.

46 year service award

After retirement, he took a job at the local grade school as a crossing guard.  The children loved him.  When he decided to leave that job after many years, he received lots of cards and gifts from the children.  Grandpa had Alzheimer’s Disease and it was very sad to watch him lose his memory and not know any of us anymore.  He passed away on 6 October 1980 at age 84 years, and 24 days.

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

School Days

Every year it seems the kids start school earlier and earlier.  Now they start in the middle of August.  When I was in school, we started after Labor Day.  September meant back to school with new school supplies, new dresses, and new shoes.  I was always sad that the summer was over, but I always had  high hopes for the coming school year.  It was good to be back and see classmates that I did not see all summer.  Then there was the anticipation of a new teacher.  One I may have heard about from kids that were a year ahead, but was new to me.  Depending on what I heard, it could be kind of scary.  

Back to school time has me thinking about my ancestor’s and their schooling.  My paternal grandmother went to a Lutheran School.  One time I went to the church to look up records.  It was a weekday and they walked me through the school to the church office.  While walking through the school, I thought to myself, I am walking where my grandmother walked.  The school looked old, and I don’t think it changed all that much since she went there.  I never knew my grandmother, and while walking through the halls, I felt especially close to her.  

I have also played on a school playground where a great-aunt taught school, only I didn’t know it at the time.  I have since gone back and walked around the outside of the school and thought about her and what she may have been like as a teacher.  I have already written about her Bowers Family History 1757 – 1955 Part 6 .

I haven’t seen any class pictures in years.  I don’t know if they still do them like they use to do, so here is a sample from the past.


My father’s class (I’m guessing maybe 2nd grade) about 1926.  Dad is in first row on right 3rd one from front.


Mom’s six grade class (about 1936) Mom is 2nd row 1st from left.

My first second grade class_NEW

My Second Grade Class 1955.  I am in the second row 5th from the left.

I’d like to note that I am in touch with several of my classmates through Facebook and a couple outside of Facebook and one that has been a life long friend.  We met in first grade that is now 65 years ago, and we are still going strong.  

This weeks 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks topic is school.

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst