Christmas Family Portrait 1948

Everyday until Christmas, I am going to try to post a picture from a past family Christmas. 

Christmas 1948 Family

Christmas 1948 Family picture

The picture was taken on Christmas Eve 1948 in my parents apartment.  On the left is my grandmother holding a doll, Fran my grandmother’s sister is next to her, my mother is in the kitchen doorway, I am next to my mother, Pat (Fran’s daughter) is front left, my Uncle Russ, and Grandpa.  I assume my father is taking the picture since he is missing.  I always like looking at the background in these old pictures.  In this one you can see a little into the kitchen.  There is an old stove with a kettle sitting on a burner.  The stove has a shelf and on the self is a clock and two coffee carafes.  I remember that kitchen was very small, and there was a small table that fit the three of us. Notice the knick-knack shelf on the wall.  I think my mother had that one and others in all of her houses until the day she died.  I know my grandmother did.  I don’t see them anymore, but they were kind of nice for displaying items.  I know I am always looking for shelf space to display things.  A few of those around would help.  The knick-Knack shelves now are plain square boxes. I love to see how styles of furniture, kitchen appliances, clothes, and hair styles change over the years.  The trees were always real with the bigger lights and tinsel.


Christmas 1948 Opening Presents

Everyday until Christmas, I am going to try to post a picture from a past family Christmas. 

Openng Christmas Presents 1947

Openng Christmas Presents 1948

This is the family opening their presents in 1948.  What a mess!  It looks like our typical Christmas.  One habit that the family had was every one opened their presents at the same time.  No one could see what the others received nor see their reaction to the present.  After I married, I suggested that we open them one person at a time.  For a few  years we drew names to see who would go first, second and so forth.  After the kids came along they went first and then we went by age.  Oldest was the last one.  On the left is my father, and grandmother.  My mother is sitting in front of the tree with a sweater in her hand.  Grandpa is in the corner chair holding up something that looks like it could be a pair of pants. On the right is my grandmother’s sister, Frances, and  her daughter Pat. You can see my play pen in the picture.  Missing from the picture is my Uncle Russ so he is probably taking the picture.

Copyright © 2019 Gail Grunst

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

Lucky Date Book

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The topic this week for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is lucky.  “Do you have an ancestor who was lucky at something? Lucky to be alive? Lucky at cards? Lucky in love? Maybe you have an ancestor with a name that reminds you of luck or fortune. There’s always “luck of the Irish.” Maybe you have a story of how luck played a role in finding an ancestor.”

I have racked my brain trying to come up with a lucky ancestor.  So instead of a lucky ancestor, I decided that I would write about my luck that my grandmother kept good records.  My grandmother kept a date book and sometimes she made comments on the pages.  Her dates are mostly correct, and I love her comments.  This datebook has helped me find her parents, grandparents, and cousins.  Plus my grandfather’s family.

Here are some excerpts from the Date book.

 Inscribed inside:

“To Mother on her birthday Dec. 3rd 1944, With Love, Dot.” 

Jan 1 — Charles Steinhauser 1898 – Fred’s cousin on his mother’s side Aunt Barbara’s son.  Died in 1962.

Jan 2 – Dear Brother Ralph C. Bowers born June 18, 1897 in Chicago, Illinois.  Died on January 5th 1963 after having a stroke on January 2, 1963.  Had heart attack a year or so before.

Jan 4 — Gregory August born on this day – Gail and Bruce’s child weighed in over 8lbs.  One wonderful boy!

Jan 6 – Grandpa Kaiser died on this date in 1933.  He was a kind person and we were sorry to see him go.  69 years old – Rudolph Kaiser

Jan 20 – Grandma Reinhardt – Anna Maria’s Birthdate.  Died June 11, 1910 (nee Schweppler).

Feb 10 – Aunt Elizabeth Louise — Born in South Amana, Iowa 1881.  Aunt Liz passed away Aug 5th 1966 5:20 PM on Friday.  Buried in Ottawa on Aug 9th 1966

Feb 14 – Born Eva Fredericka Reinhardt Feb 4, 1877 Nussellock Germany – Died Dec 23, 1941.

Feb 20 – 1971 Abigail Helen married Bruce A at Calvary U. M. Church at 5pm. In a candlelight service that was beautiful.  May god keep and bless them always.

March 17 –Julius Reinhardt – Cousin – In service 1945

March 28 – Mark Lynn Reinhardt – Cousin – In the Marines, some place in the South Pacific 1945.

April 3 – Our baby Richard was born on this date in 1930. Lived just 11 days.  Premature by two and half months.

April 5 – Birthdate of my father and also Fred’s father.  Robert Bowers. Rudolph Kaiser.

June 11 – Our third baby boy (still born) on this date in 1933.  Very Premature.

July 1 – Birthday of our daughter Dorothy La Von 1924  Born Tuesday 10:35 pm.  Grant Hospital – Chicago, Illinois 6lbs 5 oz.

July 12 – Ronnie’s birthday 1955.  May god guide him in all ways.

July 14 – And they did it.  Dot and George were married here at home at 5:00pm on Saturday by Pastor Beigner of Elmhurst.  Their attendants were Joe and Velma Mitchell a very dear couple.  Guests were Fran and Pat, Ralph and Helen, Liz and Tim, Mr. and Mrs. Manfroid, Mr. and Mrs. Beischer, and Donnie.  Eighteen in all.  And a nice time was had by all.

July 16 – Our anniversary.  Fred and I were married on this day in 1923.  Dr. Fred M. Doyle gave me away.  By Pastor A. Meyer.  Went to Wisconsin Dells for honeymoon.

Oct 9 – Our second great-grandson born at Delnor Hospital this day.  Weighed in at 7 lbs.  Brian Andrew to our dear granddaughter and her good husband.  May god continue to bless all four of them always. First great grandson Gregory A.

Dec 16 – Mother suffered stroke on this day in 1941 and passed away one week later.  Terrible, terrible day.

Dec 17 – Birthday of Grandma Kaiser (Wilhelmina Springer) Fred’s mother.

Dec 23—Mother passed away at the Columbus Hospital at about 1:30 pm on Tuesday 1941.  Can’t begin to say how much I miss her.

As you can see this is a goldmine of information for a genealogist.  She identifies people for example she said Mark Reinhardt – Cousin.  She writes when her mother was born and where.  She also writes when her mother died, in what hospital she died in, the time, and year.  She writes about two premature babies she had that died.  I left a lot out and only wrote a few entries to show how she kept records.  I feel very, very lucky to have inherited this book.  I have used it a lot over the years.  She left other items to me also such as letters, cards, post cards, document, etc.  I wish I had such items from all sides of my family tree.  Thank-you Grandma, and I think you would love some of the information I have gathered on your family over the years. 

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

Dear Grandma

Grandma Manfroid

Helen Desens

I never knew my paternal Grandmother because she died six months before I was born.  For some reason, I have always felt a connection to her even as a little girl.  I thought I would write her a letter to let her know my feelings for her, and the questions I would ask her if I could talk to her.

Dear Grandma,

We have never met, but I hope you know me.  You died six months before I was born.  I wish that I could have known you the way I knew my other Grandmother.  All I have are a few scant stories of you.  My dad said you had a great sense of humor and that you could be sarcastic.  I might have inherited the sarcasm from you.  I wonder how much we are alike.   Do I look like you, is my personality like you?  If we could sit down to lunch and talk, I would ask you so many questions.  What was your childhood like?  How did you meet my grandfather?  How did you feel when my father was born?  Were you happy?  What was it like to have a mentally challenged son?  What were your favorite subjects in school?  How far did you go in school?  Did you work and if so where did you work?  Were you a good cook?  Did you sew, crochet, knit?  You could tell me about your sisters and brothers and your parents.  You could tell me family stories.  What was it like to live though the depression, WWI and WWII? You went to Lutheran School and Church so I guess you would believe in God and Jesus Christ.  Maybe we talk about religion and our beliefs.  I would ask you about your health.  When you were sick were you afraid?  Were you afraid of dying?  Since my dad and his brother are 14 years apart, did you have a hard time conceiving?  Did you want more children, did you lose any children?  I wish I had better pictures of you.  So that I could close my eyes see what you looked like.  I wish I had a recording of your voice so I would know what your voice sounded like. When I was a little kid I would envision you looking down at me from heaven, and I would have conversations with you.  I always felt like my father’s side of the family was missing.  We had so little contact with any of them.  As I do my research, I find that my father had a lot of cousins and they had children, yet I only knew a few.   I wish I had some recipes that you handed down to me.  You could have taught me to cook your favorites or my father’s favorites.  There are so many things I do not know about you.  I would hope that you would like me and be proud of me.  I could introduce you to my husband and your great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.  How can I miss someone I never knew, yet I miss you and have missed you my entire life.  Some day we shall meet.  Until then I love you.  Rest in Peace, Grandma.

Love from your Granddaughter,


A short biography of Helen Desens

Helen Desens was born on March 23, 1901 at home to Carl Desens and Augusta Gabbei in Forest Park, Illinois.[1]  She was the youngest of eight children (5 sisters and 2 brothers).[2]  She was baptized at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Forest Park, Illinois.[3]  She grew up in Forest Park and attended St. John Lutheran School and Church.[4]  She was confirmed at St. John Lutheran Church.[5]  On March 22, 1919 she married George Manfroid in Wheaton, Illinois.[6]  They made their home in Forest Park and later moved to Elmhurst, Illinois.[7]  They had two sons, George and Donald.[8] Helen suffered for 4 years from Chronic Parenchymatous Nephritis.[9] Helen died of Uremia on September 4, 1946 in Elmhurst Memorial Hospital in Elmhurst, Illinois at the young age of 45.[10] Helen is buried at Chapel Hill Gardens, West in Elmhurst, Illinois alongside her husband, George.[11]

Copyright ©2017 Gail Grunst



[1] U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.

[2] 1900 United States Federal 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, 1854 rolls.

[3] U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois

[4] Told to the author by Helen’s Son, George

[5] St. John’s Congregational book 1908 – 1926, Page 227.

[6] Marriage license and return.  Illinois, Dupage, Wheaton, Illinois State Board of Health,  County Clerks Office.

[7] Told to Author by Helen’s son George.

[8] Personal knowledge of Author.

[9] Certificate of Death, Registration Dist. 231, No. # 22743, State of Illinois, County of DuPage, City of Elmhurst, County Clerks Office.

[10] Certificate of Death, Registration Dist. 231, No. # 22743, State of Illinois, County of DuPage, City of Elmhurst, County Clerks Office.

[11] Cemetery Records, Chapel Hill Gardens, West, Roosevelt Rd. at Route 83, Elmhurst, Illinois.

Remembering Grandma

Grandma KaiserI’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot the last few days.  Maybe it is because her birthday was the other day.  Also with just having Thanksgiving, and Christmas fast approaching is a time I reflect on past holidays.  If you have read my past posts about the Bowers Family going back to 1757, then you have read about my Grandmother’s paternal side.  Grandma was born Helen Dorothy Bowers to Robert Bowers and Eva Reinhardt on December 3, 1898 in Ottawa, Illinois. Grandma was the middle child of three.  She had an older brother Ralph born in 1896 and a younger sister Frances born in 1900.  Her mother and father divorced shortly after Frances was born.  My grandmother told stories that her father had nothing to with them after the divorce.   One time her mother saw him walking down the street and pointed him out to her.  Grandma ran up to him and told him she was his daughter.  He said, “Get away from me kid, I have no children.”  His parents would not acknowledge that their son married and had children.  Grandma grew up without ever knowing her father or his family.  She was raised by a single mother back when it was frowned upon. Her mother worked as a maid and a milliner.  They stayed living in Ottawa for a while and then moved to Chicago.  Grandma’s maternal grandparents and aunts lived in Ottawa so she would stay with them for weeks at a time.  I don’t know if it was for financial reasons or not, but Grandma’s mother let her sister Frances go live with a couple in Wisconsin for a couple of years.  When she went to retrieve her, the couple didn’t want to give her back.  There was a big fight over it, but she did manage to get Frances back.

Somehow, my Grandmother grew up to be a great lady.  She married Fred Kaiser on July 16, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois. They had two children Dorothy and Russell.  They lived in Chicago until about 1936 when they bought a house and moved to Villa Park, Illinois.  Grandma and Grandpa lived in that house until 1979.  Grandma and Grandpa’s house was my second home.  We lived only a few blocks away.  Whenever I felt like it, I would just up and go to Grandma’s house.  I could easily ride my bike or walk over there.  I was always welcome and I loved her house.

I loved the smell of Grandma’s cooking and it seemed like she was always cooking.  She canned vegetables from their garden, and made jelly from the fruit that grew on their trees or grape barber.  She had a cherry tree, apple trees, and a crabapple tree.  I liked to climb the cherry tree and they hung a swing on it for me.  She had a flower bed that ran alongside her house and around the perimeter of her yard.  Grandpa helped in the garden as he loved to garden too. She loved to feed the birds and squirrels.  One squirrel that would climb up the side of the house to her kitchen window, and Grandma would open the window to hand feed peanuts to the squirrel.  Grandma had a big pantry stocked with dishes and food.  In the basement she had what she called a “fruit cellar” she had all the food she canned, plus cans of food she bought at the grocery store.

Grandma liked to sew and taught me to sew.  She had one of those old peddle sewing machines.  It took coordination to run one of those, and I never really got the hang of it.  Grandma made quilts out of old clothes.  I had one and everytime I looked at it, I would see squares that were one time my dresses or my mother’s dresses.  Grandma’s sister also sewed.  Aunt Fran did it for a living.  I never had a store bought dress until first grade.  Between Grandma and Aunt Fran I was well dressed.  Grandma also liked to crochet and her hands were always busy when she was just sitting talking or watching TV.

Grandma and Grandpa had a screened front porch where we gathered on hot summer nights.  They had no central air conditioning.  So it was the porch and a fan.  We would sit out there and talk, no TV, no radio, no phone.  Of course it was before the days of cell phones, tablets, and computers.  We actually talked to each other, and I don’t remember running out of things to talk about.  That’s when I heard many family stories that have helped me with my genealogy.  I wish I could remember more of her stories and more details about the ones I do remember.

Holidays were the best!  On Thanksgiving, Grandma would make a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  She had a big dining room with a big table.  Grandpa would sit at one end and Grandma at the other end, along one side would be her sister (known to me as Aunt Fran) and Fran’s daughter, Pat, Grandma’s brother and wife (known to me as Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen) and Aunt Helen’s sister, Martha; along the other side was Uncle Russ, Mom, Dad, me.  In later years my brother and Uncle Russ’ wife were added to our holiday dinners.  The women would be busy preparing the food, setting table, while the men sat and talked or watched TV.  After dinner the men would retire to the living room and usually fall asleep while the women cleaned up and did the dishes.  Then the adults would play cards until it was time for dessert.  On Christmas we would again go to Grandma’s for dinner.  For Christmas, Grandma would make a turkey and a goose, plus all the trimmings, and it was a repeat of Thanksgiving Day.  I can remember walking into Grandma’s house and smell that Turkey cooking.  For some reason, it never smells as good when I cook it now.  Eventually, Grandma got too old to cook and my mom took over and then I took over from my mom.  But by the time Grandma quit cooking holiday meals, her sister, and brother had passed on, so our family dinners became smaller until I married and had children.

I loved Grandma’s Christmas tree with all the old ornaments.  I still have some of them and put them on my Christmas tree every year.  I threatened my kids and grandchildren with their lives if they broke them.  Miraculously, they have lasted through the generations.  One ornament was my great-grandmother’s ornament she brought with her when she came to the U.S. from Germany.  After my kids were born, I would take them to Grandma’s house to visit.   Sometimes we would take Grandma shopping.  Whenever my kids needed something, Grandma would buy it for them.  I am glad she lived long enough to know her great-grandchildren.  She was full of love, and I could feel her love. I still feel her love to this day!  We didn’t need to say anything, but we did tell each other, “I love you” many times. It is not just the holidays that I remember, but all the other days in between that I spent with Grandma.  Grandma passed away on February 9, 1981.  And as Grandma would say, “Come good home.”


Copyright©2016 Gail Grunst