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In memoriam: George F. Astling (1946 – 2018)

George F. Astling, 72

 
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George with his cow at a 4-H show in 1958.

George Frank Astling was born in 1946 in Sycamore, DeKalb County, Illinois, and passed away 19 November 2018 in Sycamore after battling Parkinson’s disease. He was the son of Donald and Vera (Angel) Astling. George grew up on the family farm, and as a youth, was an active FFA member. He often showed cattle at the county and state fairs. He graduated from Sycamore High School in 1964. After high school, he attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale studying Horticulture, and graduated in 1969. Continue reading “In memoriam: George F. Astling (1946 – 2018)”

Christmas on the German Front — 100 years ago

One hundred years ago, my great-grandfather Glenn Kaiser wrote a Christmas letter home to his mother. He had just received his Christmas box that his mother sent. Below is a transcription of that Christmas letter.

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(Click on the image above or this link to read the full letter.)

Continue reading “Christmas on the German Front — 100 years ago”

Film Review: “They Shall Not Grow Old”

A stunning portrayal of soldiers’ lives during WWI

This past Monday, I went to a screening of Peter Jackson’s new WWI documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old. I went into the theater with high expectations, and this film definitely surpassed all of them. It brings to life the old archival footage in a way that has never been seen before. It truly allows you to travel back in time, and to experience history as the soldiers saw it. This film will be the closest you’ll ever be to actually experiencing the life of a WWI soldier on the Western Front, and horrors of war that they saw. It is a fitting tribute to the men and women who lived and died during this war. Continue reading “Film Review: “They Shall Not Grow Old””

My Early Illinois Ancestors

Today is Illinois’ 200th birthday! My family tree has some very deep roots in Illinois. Some interesting Illinois stats from my family tree include:

  • Illinois-home_image-01_byEva_wC-01Three out of four main branches of my family tree have very deep roots in Illinois, spanning at least 5 generations.
  • Six out of my eight great-grandparents were born in Illinois, and 12 out of my sixteen great-great-grandparents lived in Illinois during their lifetimes.
  • My earliest ancestor to arrive in Illinois was William Tompkins and his family, who settled in Champaign County in 1822. (More about him in a minute!)
  • My 4th great-grandfather Alexander Holbrook was another early Illinois ancestor, arriving in probably about 1828.
  • The 3rd great-grandfather Johann Wilhelm Mueller and his family arrived in Chicago in 1856, 15 years before the Great Chicago Fire.
  • The Drake family has lived in DeKalb County, Illinois for over 150 years (and still lives there today!), spanning at least seven generations. They had lived in Illinois since about 1845. My Fish ancestors, who married into the Drake family, also arrived in Illinois about 1846.
  • My Swedish ancestors arrived in Illinois a little bit later, starting with the Johnsons in 1870, and Medine family in 1881.

While many branches of my family tree are rooted in Illinois, I wanted to learn more about my earliest Illinois ancestor, William Tompkins, and his family. Continue reading “My Early Illinois Ancestors”

A Kaiser at the War’s End: 100 years ago

Remembering the end of WWI, 100 years ago today

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Glenn with a group of fellow soldiers near Alsace, France, in about June 1918. Glenn is in the back row, third from the left. The other soldiers are unidentified, but are likely members of the A.E.F. 32nd Div. 127th Inf. (Image source: Kaiser family photos)

One hundred years ago today, the Armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, which ceased the hostilities on the Western Front, and that ended World War One. When the war ended, my great-grandfather Glenn Kaiser had been serving in the Army for 14 months, and had been on the front lines with the U.S. Army 32nd Division for many of the major military campaigns of the war. He was one of about 1,000 men from DeKalb County, Illinois to enlist in the service, and was one of the 4.7 million American soldiers to serve during the war. He was sent to the European front in February of 1918. This photo (right) was taken with some of his (unidentified) fellow soldiers near Haute Alsace just after they arrived in France. Glenn sent it to his mother along with this letter in June 1918. He had participated in battles in the Aisne-Marne Campaign, the Oise-Aisne Campaign, and finally the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. Like many of the soldiers on the Western Front, my great-grandfather could tell that the war was drawing to a close, but was very anxious to see it finally end. Glenn and his unit were engaged in battle until the last hours before the Armistice took effect. He and his unit had indeed been up for two nights getting into battle positions and marching through tough roads. When the guns finally fell silent at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, I’m sure that the men were relieved that the war was over, and also in that moment, relieved that they could get some sleep. He wrote to his mother on Nov. 12, the day after the Armistice took effect, to describe his relief and his commitment to making the peace last.

Below is an excerpt from the letter that Glenn sent his mother the day after the Armistice was signed. See the original letter and read the entire text here.  Continue reading “A Kaiser at the War’s End: 100 years ago”