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Grandpa's Letters 100 Years Later

posted Dec 11, 2017, 10:00 AM by Jeffrey Bockman   [ updated Dec 13, 2017, 8:44 PM ]

 

Look at the Current World from the Old

(by Christian Baujard in the "Le Point Com" Dec 2017 )

(Written in French & translated - with the original text from the letters)


We get used to everything. Our familiar environment is no longer for us, for a long time, a source of wonder. Even when one has a sincere attachment for the soil where one lives, one ends up not seeing the soft undulations of the landscape, this typical alternation of valleys and hillsides, steep forests and large cultivated areas. It is necessary then for a guest, a visitor, a stranger to point the finger at that which we have not seen for a long time.


Such an observer from afar had one day described Is-sur-Tille in his letters to his wife to tell her how amazed and inspired he was by the skyline sighted all around the wooden barracks where he lived. His name was John Stevenson. He was one of the American soldiers quartered in the huge camp installed in the plain of Is-sur-Tille nearby from Marcilly station. A native from Illinois, the region of his birth had rather accustomed him to a landscape of a flatness uninterrupted for hundreds of kilometers.


At the centennial commemoration of Camp Williams at Is-sur-Tille September 24, Jeff Bockman, grandson of John Stevenson, spoke to revive the testimony of his grandfather. He quotes verbatim the letters that his family has been able to preserve for a century.


This part of France is more beautiful than anything I have ever seen in America – hills in every direction – streams of clear, cold water running all around filled with trout, the hills covered with pine.

 

First I want to go to the village (3 miles) & buy a pair of wooden shoes for baby!  As we were marching up from the train I saw a little child her age walking along wearing them – nearly everyone wears them on the street & when they get to where they were going - they leave them on the door step – overshoes.

 

This is a dandy place & the little village near us is very quaint – it reminds me of Venice – as there is a river dashing through it & the houses are built right in the water – so that the women do their washing right from their backdoor – quite a stunt – they have a wooden paddle & beat the wadding out of whatever they are washing on a stone slab.

 

Yesterday was a lovely day - for a change, & I took a long bicycle ride throught the country - it was lovely - but oh boys! My setter is ruined. This county is very hilly - but perfectly beautiful!


I want to stay in the place - it is lovely - & there are lots of other places not so nice.  This is absolutely country with trees, creeks, rivers, hills, etc & the air is wonderful.

 

We are very fortunate in being sent to the post – it is a dandy .. I hope to be stationed here permanently.

 

Dear I would give anything if you could be here to enjoy the air & scenery with me!  You would be so excited over everything along the road ... today I struck a patch of violets a block long – single ones & very fragrant .. I still have blooming fruit trees to look at & tiny gardens, neat as wax in which the vegetables are planted by ruler I guess – every one just in the right place.


Did John Stevenson find a black spot in this idyllic environment? The weather!  Because the spring of 1917 was particularly rainy:


The rain has stopped …  the average is about five rainy days each week and the mud is a fright; our quarters are about two miles from here and nothing but deep slimy, gooey mud to walk on; Don’t be surprised if I come home with web feet

 

John Stevenson returned unharmed to the United States, but died in 1924, and his grandson never knew him. But Jeff came back several times in Is-sur-Tille and if it does not have for our region the same wonder as his grandfather, he is very attached to it
and has many friends among us.



Comments About Grandpa's letters - by Jeff Bockman


My mother was only 3 when he died, so she didn't know anything about him.The letters that he sent home in 1918 while stationed in France let her and then me learn about him as a person, what he liked, and what he thought about things.


In 2011 my wife and I first visited Is-sur-Tille to see first hand what he was writing about and try to walk in his footsteps. We were given a whirlwind tour of the town, the former camp, and surrounding areas to see what they thought he was writing about. Christian and his wife taught English at the middle school and were our translators. Pierre and Denise were our hosts, and we also met and spent time with the mayor and his wife.


In Oct 2011 Christian and his wife visited us during a vacation in the US.


In 2011 The Society Histoire Tille Ignon published translated versions of grandpa's letters (by Christian & Pierre)


In 2012 we retuned for the 8th of May memorial celebration and spent a few more days to really get to see the town and spend time with them. I even attended a city hall meeting.


2017 - parts of his letters were on display at the cultural center exhibit and were quoted in the program given on Friday night (22 Sept). I also read portions at the ceremony on Sunday 24 Sept. that were translated to the audience by Christian.


The early letters are available online at www.alenjes.com. (the rest will be posted next year.)

Needless to say Grandpa has had more than his 15 minutes of fame with the letters.


Be sure to preserve your family's letters. That is a big part of the message in my book


Give Your Family A Gift That Money Can't Buy / Record and Preserve Your Family's History.

Is sur Tille - News Coverage

posted Oct 11, 2017, 8:30 PM by Jeffrey Bockman   [ updated Oct 19, 2017, 4:18 PM ]

Newspaper article 24 September 2017 on page 25 promoting the event.
(see the pdf below)




Video:

- I am at 46 seconds

Is-sur-Tille Commeration

posted Oct 5, 2017, 6:49 AM by Jeffrey Bockman

On 24 September 2017 the city of Is-sur-Tille France celebrated the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the construction of a large supply base that helped the American's eventually end WWI. 
Jeff & Christian Baujard
I was an invited guest and spoke to the four or five hundred people that attended. I was interviewed by the newspaper to help publicize the event and then by France3 TV during the event. I got more than my 15 minutes of fame. It was also a chance to visit the friends that we made during our 2011 and 2012 trips to the area.

The Passing of Jane Bockman

posted Apr 26, 2017, 11:13 AM by Jeffrey Bockman   [ updated Nov 13, 2017, 7:25 AM ]

Jane on 2 April 2017
On April 12th 2017 my mother passed away from complications after a fall the week before.

This photo was taken on 2 April 2017 in Geneva, IL.

A lovely article appeared in the Chicago Tribune 26 April 2017

It is difficult to wrap up a 96 year life on one page but the following is an outline. 

For 30 years between 1966 and 1997 she performed as the Grandmother in The Nutcracker presented by the Chicago Tribune Charities at McCormick Place and the Opera House and never missed a performance. She did not perform in the initial 1965 season because she felt that at only 45 years old she was too young to play a grandmother.

She was born in Aurora, Illinois in October of 1920 to John Gault Stevenson and Viola Johnston. After graduating from West Aurora High School, class of 1938, she held several jobs including one at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago.

She became interested in ballet after seeing a performance by Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She did not start taking ballet lessons until in her 20s. In May, 1947 she started studying with a new teacher, Charles Bockman who had opened a studio in Hyde Park after his dancing career was cut short with a disease later diagnosed as M.S. In early 1948 they were married. Later in the next year they had a son, Jeffrey.

While Charles ran the studio, Jane danced with several music theaters in the Chicago area, a frequent performer at The Chicago Ballet Guild programs, was a solo dancer and toured the country with the Ruth Page’s Opera Ballet Company, and was a solo dancer with the Lyric Opera of Chicago Ballet. One of the more interesting locations where she performed was on a barge anchored off the end of Navy Pier performing in the Merry Widow during the 1960 International Fair.

After a knee injury at the age of 41 she stayed at home and took care of Charles who by then was in a wheelchair, and helped demonstrate for the younger students. She never really wanted to teach but when Charles became bedridden she took over the school and successfully ran it for 12 years until after he passed away in 1983.

Every August from 1955 to 1970 the Bockman family closed the studio, packed up the car and traveled to 44 continental states, the southern provinces of Canada and two trips to southern Mexico. After Charles passed away she was able to resume traveling and over the years visited Alaska, Hawaii, all of Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Kenya.

In 1987 she moved to Naperville and then worked as a hostess at the Oak Brook Interviewing Center for 10 years. She was a coordinator for senior trips for the Naperville Park District. After 80 she started working at Devonshire of Lisle “helping old people” for another 10 years. For 26 years she drove around in her little Honda Civic that had a 4 speed manual transmission.

For the past 10 months she lived at Heritage Woods of Batavia and lived long enough to see the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.

She was preceded in death by her father, when she was three, her husband, mother, and an older sister and brother-in law, Sarah Helen (& Ellis Doane Jr.).

She is survived by her son Jeffrey (& Barbara) of Naperville, three grandsons, Justin, Jeremy, Jason (& Erica), and two great-granddaughters, Alexis & Jessica all near Nashville, TN, a sister-in-law, as well as numerous nephews and nieces.

This article can also be found at:
Hyde Park Herald

Funeral Home


Johnson DNA Project - New Olive Group webpage

posted Sep 18, 2016, 7:16 PM by Jeffrey Bockman

Since the old project webpages have been taken down I have created a new webpage for the Olive Group.
This group contains descendants of many of the people written about by D. Lorrand V. Johnson in his book,
"The Ancestry of William and John Johnson" written in 1942 with revision in 1972 and 1988.

While the family tree described by Lorrand has many questionable connections and some conflicting information it does contain a wealth of information that should only be taken as CLUES not FACTS.

The Johnson Y-DNA project was originally started to try and verify the published family. The founder of the project and the family that my Johnston grandmother claimed both have tested into this group along with a number of others. That is why I decided to create the website for the Olive Group.

Rather than just posting the DNA results and simple lines of descent I have been trying to include supporting information from references to vital records to census notes tying generations together.

Further analysis will be done to really look at any questionable connections especially where the DNA does not match exactly. Is the difference due to a random mutation or are they not really directly related. I have been looking for other descendants from James Seneca Johnson for further testing to try and verify that they are related.

Johnson/Johnston Y-DNA Project - Olive Group

posted Aug 25, 2016, 2:53 PM by Jeffrey Bockman

Over the past several years I have been working on my Johnson Family research and trying to figure out where it fits in. Unfortunately I could find no proof to verify her claims. Several years ago a Y-DNA testing of a 4th cousin connected with members of the Johnson family that my grandmother had claimed 50 years ago. 
 
Unfortunately the entire Johnson Project (all volunteer) has undergone major management changes mostly related to privacy issues and what can be posted on the test results and related project sites.

Behind the scene I have been trying to locate and encourage descendants to be tested to try and determine the ancestor of my Johnson line trying to prove that the James Johnson and Millie Moorman that were married on 1 Sept 1779 in Campbell county Virginia could be my ancestors.

As a result, I am working on an Olive Group page to show some of the known ancestors of the test participants.


2015 Trip to Italy

posted Oct 31, 2015, 1:12 PM by Jeffrey Bockman   [ updated Nov 2, 2015, 9:44 AM ]

So that would not feel so old, we went to visit the Amalfi Coast and then celebrated my birthday in Rome, where I was relatively young by comparison.


Two new travel programs are under development
  • Wander the Amalfi Coast and Capri is scheduled on November 20, 2015 for the Friends of the Downers Grove Public Library - We visit Sorrento, Amalfi, Atrani, Ravello, and Positano as well as Anacapri.

  • Wander Around Rome is scheduled for April 15, 2016.
While we try to visit the major sites we often wander the back streets and alleys getting there and like to share our photos, travel stores, and sometimes adventures.

See Travel Programs for past programs

Missing but still in action

posted May 19, 2015, 10:00 AM by Jeffrey Bockman

From the website I know it does not look like I have been doing much. For the past six months I have actually been doing what I have been asking people to do for years, writing their family stories.

 

Last November my father-in-law passed away and I took a 20 year old interview about his World War II experiences, done for the local genealogy society, and expanded it to include his career with Eastern Airlines and his retirement.

 

The story about my “brickwall” grandfather Alvar Bockman who left the family when my father was five has turned into a 45 page document about his parent’s life in Denmark, coming to Central America banana plantation, getting married in New Orleans, and then moving to Mobile, Alabama, along with information on both of their families back in Denmark. It also details Alvar’s mother Anna Neuhaus turned Alva and all of her various names and ages over the years.

 

In my spare time, there was the analyzing of the Johnson/Johnston Y-DNA project and reviewing and communicating with several matches from my own autosomal DNA test. Most of the matches have come from Slovenian connections.

I am also working on updating my “Drilling Down For DNA” and creating a new lecture “Start Your Digging in 1940” for this August.

There have also been two new articles posted at Genealogy According to Jeff.

Living With Brick Walls

posted May 19, 2015, 9:57 AM by Jeffrey Bockman

My article Living With Brick Walls that was originally published in Heritage Quest Magazine,  Issue #82 - July/August 1999, page 24 has been added to Genealogy According to Jeff.

Genealogy Brick Walls are problems that you may need to live with for many years. By their nature they will not be quickly resolved. There are many techniques that can both help you possibly solve them but also enable you to put them away and then get started again without having to begin back at the beginning.

Additional updates about the developments in my Johnson Family research will be upcoming.

Drilling Down for DNA

posted Oct 24, 2014, 11:42 AM by Jeffrey Bockman   [ updated May 19, 2015, 9:58 AM ]

My article Drilling Down for DNA that was originally published in the Everton's Genealogical Helper September/October 2007 issue on page 28 has been added to Genealogy According to Jeff.

It encourages using Y-DNA testing along with research to verify family questions. It also encourages good research to help identify potential candidates for Surname DNA projects.

Additional updates about the developments in my Johnson Family research will be upcoming.

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