Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The 18th century Brothers sisters.

Before Women's History Month is over, I wanted to post another article, this time about the family of my 6-times great-grandmother Anna Maria Gebruers. Anna Maria was great-grandmother to my 3-times great-grandmother Joanna Gelens. She was also great-great grandmother to my great-great grandmother Joanna Verelst.

In Flemish "gebruers" means as much as "gebroeders" in Dutch, which translates into "brothers" in English. Funny thing is, so far, I've only been able to find sisters of Anna Maria and no brothers at all.

Based on the age mentioned on her death certificate, Anna Maria must have been born about 1757. Her parents were Michaël Gebruers and Anna Peeters. The family lived in the village of Geel, which is in the southeastern part of the present day province of Antwerp in Belgium. At that time, however, Geel was located in the Austrian Netherlands.

Anna Maria's three sisters were named Maria Anna (°19 January 1754), Maria Catharina (°22 October 1756) and Maria Theresia (°28 November 1767).

So, as if naming one daughter "Anna Maria" and another one "Maria Anna" didn't create enough confusion, all three sisters of Anna Maria had the first name Maria...

Tragically, father Michaël died early September 1767, two months before Maria Theresia was born, leaving mother Anna Peeters with the care of her daughters.

Burial registration of Michaël Gebruers (1767)

Anna Peeters died in 1795 and only four years later, also her daughter, my 6-times great-grandmother Anna Maria died at the age of 42.

Death registration of Anna Maria Gebruers (1799)

Anna Maria had married a man named François Gelens in September 1784 and the couple had at least five children: three sons and two daughters. All of the children were born in the 1780's and 1790's.

Marriage registration of Anna Maria Gebruers and François Gelens (1784)

Sister Maria Anna performed day labour for a living and married a man named Joannes Dams. She died in 1825 at the age of 71.

Entry in civil register concerning the death of Maria Anna Gebruers (1825)

Sister Maria Catharina was a lace worker and never got married. She eventually died in 1836 at the age of 79.

Entry in the civil register relating to the death of Maria Catharina Gebruers (1836)

At the time of her wedding, in 1806, the youngest of the sisters, Maria Theresia, made a living spinning yarn. On the entry in the civil register, Maria Theresia's autograph definitely stands out. In fact she was the only person, other than the civil servant, who knew how to write. Because she wrote so beautifully, I assume she received quite a good school education.

Signature of Maria Theresia Gebruers (1806)

Maria Theresia did live to become old, as she died in April 1859, at 91 years of age...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tracing back the mothers line

March is Women's History Month and today is International Women's Day - so plenty of reasons to dedicate a post to some of the women in my family tree.
This time I'm starting in the mid-18th century...
Elisabeth Vereggen was possibly born about 1750. Closest potential match I was able to find so far is a baptism record of 1749 mentioning the baptism of "Elizabetha Vereggen", daughter of Jacobus Vereggen and Adriana Van den Boogaert.
Although I still have to find out more about Elisabeth, I know for sure that she married Antonius Van den Broek and they had at least one daughter called Maria Theresia Van den Broek who was born in 1779 in the village of Budel which was in the Generality Lands of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. More specifically in Brabant of the States, which was the northern part of the Duchy of Brabant.

Entry in baptism records relating to
the baptism of Maria Theresia Van den Broek in 1779

Maria Theresia's daughter, Elisabeth Quanten, was born in 1799, also in the village of Budel. By that time, however, the Dutch Republic had been succeeded by the Batavian Republic. Maria Theresia also gave birth to an additional three children - all boys.
Maria Theresia used to work on a farm, while her daughter Elisabeth first was a maidservant, then a performed manual labour and eventually became day labourer on a farm.

Baptism of Elisabeth Quanten in August 1799

While the baptism record of Elisabeth Quanten shows that she was born illegitimately, she was recognized by her father from the very beginning. In 1828, Elisabeth Quanten had a daughter called Joanna Schreurs, in the village of Sint-Huibrechts-Lille, which, at that time, was in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Birth of Joanna Schreurs in 1828

Joanna was the oldest of five children as she had two youngers brothers and two younger sisters. When Joanna was four year old, her grandmother, Maria Theresia died, aged 52.
Joanna Schreurs, who performed manual labour for a living, had six children, three boys and three girls. The youngest daughter was Johanna Herteleer. Johanna was born in 1869 in the village of Hamont, meaning she was the first one of the female line to be born after the Belgian independence and thus in the Kingdom of Belgium.

Birth of Johanna Herteleer in 1869

Three years before Johanna was born, her grandmother Elisabeth had passed away aged 67 in her house in Hamont. On her death record, her last name was spelled as Kwanten which is phonetically exactly the same as Quanten.
Death record of Elisabeth Quanten in 1866
Johanna Herteleer was the first woman in this line to have had a right to vote, but only on municipal level... She worked as a market vendor and died in the early 1930's when she was about 64 years old.
Johanna's oldest daughter was Maria Broeckx (born in 1893) and was the mother of my great-grandmother Anna Hennebicq (born in 1909) and grandmother of my maternal grandmother, Hilda Sterckx. All three of them were allowed to vote in all elections - so including federal elections - only from 1948 onwards.
My grandmother told me many years ago that she remembered her great-grandmother, Johanna Herteleer, wearing a long black dress and a white, lace bonnet. She would sit in her rocking chair and the children from the neighbourhood would come and sit all around her and ask for her to tell stories from long time ago...

Three generations :
Hilda Sterckx (standing left) and Anna Hennebicq (standing right)
with Maria Broeckx (sitting)
While I already wrote a post about great-great grandmother Maria Broeckx, I still have to write more about my grandmother Hilda and my great-grandmother Anna. I will do that in later blog posts because I have so much to tell about these remarkable women.

My mother, Patricia Brusten, with her mother, Hilda Sterckx
And then of course - after this long history - I obviously have to add my own mother, Patricia Brusten, to the list. I know she will be reading this post with great interest. And of course this post is also largely dedicated to her.
So these are the women, traveling back about 270 years all along my maternal line...
I've read that mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) is exclusively maternally inherited. Well I can genuinely say I'm proud to be part of this gene pool. 

*   *
Maart is Women's History Month en vandaag is het daar bovenop Internationale Vrouwendag - genoeg redenen dus om een blogbericht te wijden aan enkele vrouwen in mijn stamboom...
Elisabeth Vereggen werd waarschijnlijk geboren omstreeks 1750. De meest waarschijnlijke "match" die iheb kunnen vinden is een doopregistratie van 1749 die de doop vermeld van "Elizabetha Vereggen", dochter van Jacobus Vereggen en Adriana Van den Boogaert.
Hoewel ik nog meer moet te weten komen over Elisabeth, weet ik zeker dat ze gehuwd was met Antonius Van den Broek en dat ze ten minste een dochter hadden die Maria Theresia Van den Broek heette en die was geboren in 1779 in het dorp Budel dat zich in de Generaliteitslanden van de Republiek der Verenigde Nederlanden bevond. Meer specifiek in Staats-Brabant, dat zich in het noorden van het hertogdom Brabant bevond.

Doopregistratie van Maria Theresia Van den Broek in 1779

De dochter van Maria Theresia was Elisabeth Quanten, geboren in 1799, ook in het dorp Budel. Tegen dan was de Republiek der Verenigde Nederlanden echter opgevolgd door de Bataafse Republiek. Maria Theresia kreeg nog drie kinderen - allemaal jongens.
Maria Theresia was akkerbouwsterterwijl haar dochter Elisabeth eerst dienstmeid was, dan handwerkster was en uiteindelijk dagwerkster werd.

Doop van Elisabeth Quanten in augustus 1799

Terwijl uit de doopregistratie van Elisabeth Quanten blijkt dat ze onwettig geboren was, werd ze wel reeds erkend door haar vader. In 1828 kreeg Elisabeth Quanten een dochter die ze Joanna Schreurs noemde en die werd geboren in het dorp Sint-Huibrechts-Lille, dat, in die tijd, in het Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden gelegen was.

Geboorte van Joanna Schreurs in 1828

Joanna was de oudste van vijf kinderen en had twee jongere broers en twee jongere zussen. Wanneer Joanna vier jaar oud was overleed haar grootmoeder, Maria Theresia, op de leeftijd van 52 jaar.
Joanna Schreurs, die dagwerkster was, kreeg zes kinderen, drie jongens en drie meisjes. De jongste dochter was Johanna Herteleer. Johanna werd geboren in 1869 in het dorp Hamont, wat betekent dat ze eerste in de vrouwelijke lijn was die werd geboren na de onafhankelijkheid van België.

Geboorte van Johanna Herteleer in 1869

Drie jaar voor Johanna werd geboren, was haar grootmoeder Elisabeth overleden op de leeftijd van 67 jaar in haar woning in Hamont. Op haar overlijdensbericht werd haar familienaam nu gespeld als Kwanten wat fonetisch natuurlijk overeenkomt met Quanten.

Overlijdensregistratie van Elisabeth Quanten in 1866

Johanna Herteleer was de eerste vrouw in deze lijn die het recht had om te stemmen, doch, enkel in gemeenteraadsverkiezingen... Ze werkte als marktkraamster en overleed begin de jaren 1930 wanneer ze ongeveer 64 jaar oud was.
De oudste dochter van Johanna was Maria Broeckx (geboren in 1893) en was de moeder van mijn overgrootmoeder Anna Hennebicq (geboren in 1909) en grootmoeder van mijn maternele grootmoeder, Hilda Sterckx. Zij hadden alledrie stemrecht - ook in federale verkiezingen - maar pas vanaf 1948...
Mijn grootmoeder vertelde me jaren geleden hoe ze zich herinnerde dat haar overgrootmoeder Johanna Herteleer, meestal een lang zwart kleed droeg en een wit kapje op haar hoofd had. Ze zat in haar schommelstoel terwijl de kinderen uit de buurt rond haar kwamen zitten en haar vroegen om nog eens verhalen te vertellen over vroeger. 

Drie generaties :
Hilda Sterckx (staand links) en Anna Hennebicq (staand rechts)
met Maria Broeckx (zittend)
Terwijl ik al een bericht schreef over bet-overgrootmoeder Maria Broeckx, moet ik wat schrijven over mijn grootmoeder Hilda en mijn overgrootmoeder Anna. Ik zal dat in toekomstige blogberichten doen omdat ik veel te vertellen heb over deze opmerkelijke vrouwen.

Mijn moeder, Patricia Brusten, met haar moeder, Hilda Sterckx
En dan natuurlijk - na deze lange geschiedenis - moet ik uiteraard mijn eigen moder, Patricia Brusten, toevoegen aan deze lijst. Ik weet dat ze deze blog leest met veel interesse en uiteraard is dit bericht grotendeels ook bijzonder aan haar opgedragen.
Dat zijn dus de vrouwen, ongeveer 270 jaar terugreizend in de tijd, langs mijn maternele lijn...
Ik heb gelezen dat mitochondriaal DNA (oftewel mDNA) exclusief wordt doorgegeven door vrouwen aan hun kinderen. Wel, ik kan oprecht zeggen dat ik trots ben om deel uit te maken van deze genenpoel. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Great-grand uncle Eduard Bruyns (1939)

Ik ben ontzettend dankbaar dat mijn grootmoeder destijds zo veel namen heeft genoemd die bij al die oude familiefoto's horen. Een opvallende figuur in die foto's is zeker mijn overgrootnonkel Eduard Bruyns, die ook wel nonkel Ward werd genoemd. Met zijn 1 meter 76 was hij, voor die tijd, vrij groot van gestalte. Hij had zwarte haren en kastanjebruine ogen.

Eduard werd geboren op de schrikkeldag van het jaar 1908 in de gemeente Puurs. Zijn ouders waren Sophia Cappaert en Eduardus Bruyns en hij was een oudere broer van mijn overgrootmoeder Maria Bruyns.

Eduard Bruyns

Tegen zijn 11de verjaardag was de Grote Oorlog voorbij. Eduard werd eerst ijzerdraaier van beroep. Hij vervulde zijn dienstplicht vanaf december 1927 en voegde zich bij het 2de artillerie regiment van het Belgische leger. Eind september 1929 was zijn dienstplicht afgelopen en werd Eduard aan de reserves toegevoegd. Enkel in 1931 werd hij nog eens een maand onder de wapens geroepen.

Uit zijn legerdossier blijkt dat Eduard enige tijd gehuwd was met Maria Toelen, doch, zijn burgerlijke staat werd in zijn dossier gewijzigd naar ongehuwd, wat doet vermoeden dat het huwelijk niet stand hield.

Schoonbroers Michael Servaes (links) en Eduard Bruyns (rechts)

Eduard huwde opnieuw in 1939 met Pauline Lenaerts. Dit huwelijk was jammer genoeg slechts van heel korte duur. Volgens mijn grootmoeder was Eduard in 1939 werkzaam bij de spoorwegen. Toen hij op een dag op zijn werk, op een volle maag, een zware last moest optillen, zou hij een maagscheur hebben opgelopen. Dit gebeurde amper drie weken na zijn trouwdag.

Broers Eduard Bruyns (links) en René Bruyns (rechts)

Eduard werd naar het ziekenhuis gevoerd, doch, overleed tragisch genoeg op 31 jarige leeftijd aan de gevolgen van die maagscheur, op 3 oktober 1939 in Antwerpen. Pas een jaar eerder was zijn zus Maria Bruyns overleden op 29-jarige leeftijd.

Op zijn doodsprentje stond vermeld:
Wij betreuren een jongen echtgenoot wier verlies dubbel smartvol is: en omdat het aantal zijner jaren te gering is, en omdat door zijne minzaamheid hij de genegenheid van allen gewonnen had. Hij was de troost, de vreugde van zijn gezin; hij laat een teeder aandenken na aan die hem liefhadden. Heer, Gij hadt ons hem gegeven om ons geluk uit te maken; gij neemt hem na slechts drie weken huwelijk van ons weg. Wij staan hem af zonder morren, maar met een gebroken hart.


*       *

I am very grateful that my grandmother has mentioned so many names that go with all these old family pictures. A striking figure in those pictures is definitely my great grand uncle Eduard Bruyns, who was also called uncle Ward. Since he was 1 meter and 76 centimeters tall (about 5 feet and 9 inches) he was quite tall for those times. He had black hair and maroon eyes.

Eduard was born on the leap day of 1908 in the village of Puurs. His parents were Sophia Cappaert and Eduardus Bruyns and he was the older brother of my great grandmother Maria Bruyns.

Eduard Bruyns

By the time Eduard had his eleventh birthday, the Great War was over. Eduard first started working as a lathe worker. He completed his military service from December 1927 onwards and joined the 2nd Artillery Regiment of the Belgian Army. At the end of September 1929 his military service was completed and Eduard was added to the Army Reserves only to be called back under the arms for one month in 1931.

From his army records I learned that Eduard was married for a while with Maria Toelen, although, his martial status was changed into single in his file, suggesting that this marriage did not last.

Brothers-in-law Michael Servaes (left) and Eduard Bruyns (right)

Eduard married again in 1939 to Pauline Lenaerts. Regrettably this was only a very short marriage. According to my grandmother, Eduard was working with the railroads in 1939. One day he had to lift a heavy load on a full stomach, which resulted in him sustaining a torn stomach. This happened only three weeks after his wedding day.

Brothers Eduard Bruyns (left) and René Bruyns (right)

Although Eduard was rushed to a hospital in Antwerp, he tragically died at the age of 31 because of this injury, on October 3, 1939, meaning he died only one year after his sister Maria Bruyns, who had also died very young, at the age of 29.

On the commemorative cards that were handed out during his funeral, the following text was written:
We mourn a young husband whose loss is sorrowful for two reasons: because the number of his years was too small and because he had won everyone's affection with his lovingnes. He was the comfort, the joy of his family; he leaves precious memories for those who loved him. Lord, You gave him to us to bring us happines; You take him away from us after only three weeks of marriage. We part from him without complaining, but with a broken heart.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The hospital wedding (1875)

I already mentioned in another blog post that great grand uncle Joseph Brusten got married in 1903 on his death bed, in a hospital. Tragically he already died that very same day. Now Joseph was not the only family member to get married in the hospital. In fact, also my 3-times great-grandparents Josephus De Lelie and Joanna Gelens got married in an Antwerp hospital, as early as 1875.

Josephus, who was a coachman by trade, and Joanna had a son, Petrus, who was born in 1873. While Petrus was born out of wedlock, he did get his father's last name at birth.

In January 1875, when Petrus was only a year and four months old, his dad got very sick. Josephus was now a cigar maker by trade, while Joanna was a seamstress. Two doctors diagnosed him with Phtisis, which is a form of tuberculosis. Due to the life threathening condition he was in, the Senior Crown prosecutor granted permission for Josephus and Joanna to get married and waived the publication requirement.

The picture bellow shows the medical attestation made by doctors Bessems and Schaeffer stating that Josephus was in a life threathening situation and that he was being treated for Phtisis.

Medical attestation by Dr. J. Bessems and Dr. M. Schaeffer

Josephus and Joanna did get married in the hospital with several family members attending. The marriage was conducted by politician and town councillor, Arthur Van Den Nest, who later founded an institute aimed at treating and figthing tuberculosis.

Marriage certificate of Josephus and Joanna

Josephus did survive his illness and he and his wife eventually had eight children together. Most of them grew into adulthood, however, one daughter, Charlotta, only lived to become two years of age and passed away in 1880.

Eventually Josephus lived to become seventy years old. He died during the Great War, in February 1918. His wife, Joanna, had passed away in January 1893 already at the age of 41.

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Ik vermelde reeds in een eerder blogbericht dat overgrootnonkel Joseph Brusten in 1903 huwde op zijn sterfbed, in een ziekenhuis. Tragisch genoeg overleed hij nog op zijn huwelijksdag. Joseph was echter niet het enige familielid dat huwde in het ziekenhuis. In feite trouwden ook mijn over-over-overgrootouders Josephus De Lelie en Joanna Gelens in een Antwerps ziekenhuis in 1875.

Josephus, die koetsier was van beroep, en Joanna hadden een zoon, Petrus, die was geboren in 1873. Hoewel zijn ouders nog niet getrouwd waren kreeg Petrus bij zijn geboorte toch al de familienaam van zijn vader mee.

In januari 1875, wanneer Petrus nog maar een jaar en vier maanden oud was, werd zijn vader erg ziek. Josephus was nu een sigarenmaker van beroep, terwijl Joanna naaister was. Twee dokters stelden vast dat Josephus aan Phtisis leed, wat een vorm van tuberculose is. Door de levensbedreigende situatie gaf de Procureur des Konings toestemming om te trouwen zonder aanplakkingsplicht.

De afbeelding hier onder toont het medisch attest opgesteld door dokters Bessems en Schaeffer waarin de levensbedreigende situatie wordt vermeld.

Medisch attest door Dr. J. Bessems en Dr. M. Schaeffer

Josephus en Joanna huwden in het ziekenhuis in het bijzijn van verscheidene familieleden. het huwelijk werd voltrokken door politieker en schepen, Arthur Van Den Nest, die later een instituut oprichtte ter behandeling en bestrijding van tuberculose.

Huwelijksakte van Josephus en Joanna

Josephus overleefde zijn ziekte en hij en zijn vrouw kregen uiteindelijk acht kinderen. De meeste van die kinderen werden ook volwassen, behalve één dochter, Charlotta, die reeds op tweejarige leeftijd overleed in 1880.

Uiteindelijk werd Josephus zeventig jaar oud. Hij overleed tijdens de Grote Oorlog, in februari 1918. Zijn vrouw, Joanna, was reeds gestorven in januari 1893 op de leeftijd van 41 jaar.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tragedy in the 1930's - Great grandparents Maria and Michael

Great-grandparents Maria and Michael with their daughter Sophia

My great-grandfather Michael Servaes was born on the cold, but sunny winter morning of January 22, 1906 in the Belgian village of Hove to a day laborer named Joseph Servaes and his wife Anna Lambrechts. Joseph and Anna had a very large family of sixteen children living into adulthood.
Great-grandmother Maria Bruyns was born three years later on the cold New Year's Day of 1909 in the Belgian village of Puurs, the second of five children of a railroad worker called Louis Bruyns and his wife Sophia Cappaert. More information on Sophia Cappaert can be found in a previous blog post about her.
During the Great War both Maria and Michael were still very young. No doubt the Great War must have had a serious impact on their family life as from the very beginning. On October 3, 1914 Belgian troops demolished the tower from the church of Michael's home village as well as the only wind mill in that village. Only three days later, on October 6, 1914, the German Army started shooting the villages of Hove and Lint on their way to Antwerp.
Without any doubt, similar scenes occured in the home village of Maria, due to the proximity of Fort  Liezele and Fort Breendonk, both fortifications making part of the second ring of defenses built by the Belgian Army to defend the port city of Antwerp. The village of Liezele was burnt down completely by the Belgian Army, while the nearby village of Blaasveld was heavily bombed by German troops.
Great grandfather Michael Servaes
A few years after the war, Michael started working as a factory laborer in the company L. Gevaert & Cie in the village of Mortsel, which was a company manufacturing X-ray plates, photographic paper and film products.
Maria and Michael got married in 1929 in the village of Mortsel and later that year my grandmother Sophia Servaes was born. The young family lived in Mortsel and nine years later, Maria gave birth to a boy named Laurent. Regrettably, 16 days after giving birth, Maria died, aged 29, on May 31, 1938 leaving Michael with the care of their two children.

Great grandmother Maria Bruyns

On her obituary Maria was described as an intelligent, sincere and hard working woman, that took good care of her children.
Tragically Michael got sick and died less than a year after Maria on May 14, 1939 at the age of 33. Before she reached the age of ten, my grandmother had lost both her parents. According to an account by my grandmother, her father suffered from stomach cancer and died during an operation.

I do remember her smiling affectionately as she told me that her dad would wear his hat most of the time when he went out the house.

Although they did not live to be very old, Maria and Michael were never forgotten...
*    *

Overgrootouders Maria en Michael met hun dochter Sophia

Mijn overgrootvader, Michael Servaes, werd geboren op de koude, maar zonnige winterochtend van 22 januari 1906 in het Belgische dorp Hove. Zijn vader was een dagwerker die Joseph Servaes heette en zijn moeder noemde Anna Lambrechts. Joseph en Anna hadden een erg groot gezin met zestien kinderen die uiteindelijk volwassen zijn geworden.
Overgrootmoeder Maria Bruyns werd drie jaar later geboren op de koude nieuwjaarsdag van 1909 in het Belgisch dorp Puurs als tweede van vijf kinderen van een spoorwegarbeider Louis Bruyns en zijn vrouw Sophia Cappaert. Meer informatie over Sophia Cappaert is te vinden in een eerder blogbericht.
Tijdens de Grote Oorlog waren zowel Maria als Michael nog erg jong. Ongetwijfeld had de oorlog echter een grote impact op hun dagelijks leven vanaf het prille begin ervan. Op 3 oktober 1914 vernietigden Belgische troepen de kerkspits in Hove, het thuisdorp van Michael, evenals de enige windmolen die in datzelfde dorp stond. Slechts drie dagen later, op 6 oktober 1914, voerde het Duitse leger beschietingen uit op de dorpen Hove en Lint tijdens hun tocht naar het meer noordelijk gelegen Antwerpen.
Ongetwijfeld deden zich gelijkaardige scenario's voor in het thuisdorp van Maria, door de nabijheid van het Fort  Liezele en het Fort Breendonk. Beide forten maakten deel uit van de tweede verdedigingsring gebouwd door het Belgisch leger ter verdediging van de havenstad Antwerpen. Het dorp Liezele werd door het Belgisch leger platgebrand, terwijl het nabijgelegen dorp Blaasveld zwaar beschoten werd door Duitse troepen.
Overgrootvader Michael Servaes
Enkele jaren na de oorlog begon Michael als fabrieksarbeider te werken in het bedrijf L. Gevaert & Cie te Mortsel. Door dat bedrijf werden platen voor röntgenfoto's vervaardigd, evenals fotografisch papier en filmproducten.
Maria en Michael huwden in 1929 in Mortsel en later dat jaar werd mijn grootmoeder Sophia Servaes geboren. Het jonge gezin woonde in Mortsel en negen jaar later schonk Maria het leven aan een tweede kind, deze keer een jongen die de naam Laurent kreeg. Spijtig genoeg overleed Maria 16 dagen na de bevalling op de leeftijd van 29 jaar op 31 mei 1938 waardoor Michael de zorg kreeg over de twee kinderen.

Overgrootmoeder Maria Bruyns

Op haar doodsprentje werd Maria beschreven als een verstandige vrouw die oprecht was en een werkzame moeder.
Tragisch genoeg werd Michael ziek en overleed ook hij, minder dan een jaar na Maria op 14 mei 1939 op de leeftijd van 33 jaar. Nog voor ze de leeftijd van tien jaar had bereikt, had mijn grootmoeder al afscheid moeten nemen van haar beide ouders. Volgens mijn grootmoeder had haar vader maagkanker en overleed hij uiteindelijk tijdens een operatie.

Ik herinner me wel haar vertederde blik als ze me vertelde dat haar vader meestal een hoed droeg wanneer hij zich naar buiten begaf.

Ook al werden ze niet oud, Maria en Michael werden nooit vergeten...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Warrant Officer Joseph Hennebicq (1916)

Today, November 11, is Armistice Day in Belgium, marking the ending of the Great War. That's why I decided to write one more blog post relating to yet another relative who fought in the Great War, my great-great grand uncle Joseph Hennebicq.
Joseph was born in the city of Antwerp on October 6, 1883 to Maria Jansegers. No father was mentioned on the birth certificate and Joseph carried the Jansegers last name. In 1888, when Joseph was five years old, Maria married a Warchin native named Antoine Hennebicq. On the marriage certificate is mentioned that Antoine officially recognized the child as his own. At that time, Joseph's last name was changed to Hennebicq.

Shortly before Joseph turned seven, in September 1890, Maria and Antoine had a second child. Another son they called Fernand and who is my great-great grandfather. During those days father Antoine was working as a white collar at the national railroad company in Antwerp.

In 1905, when Joseph was twenty two years old, his father died being just 43 years old. Other than that Joseph got married to a woman named Anna De Keersmaker, I don't have a lot of information about his personal life.

While being in the Army, Joseph climbed up to the rank of Warrant Officer (Adjudant).

In January 1916, Joseph was in charge of works being performed by his plattoon at the cemetery of Poelkappelle in Belgium. As they were busy burrying fallen fellow soldiers, a German grenade exploded and Joseph got wounded. Despite his condition, immediately after having been under fire, Joseph had the works continued and only returned back to the base after he had made sure that al works had been conducted as scheduled.

For this show of "courage and persistance" being in charge of a team performing works while under enemy attack Joseph was awarded the title of Knight in the Order of Leopold II and a War Cross.

He was taken to the military hospital Sint Rijckers on January 31, 1916. Because of the pieces of shred metal that had wounded him, Joseph got Tetanus (or "Lock jaw"). It was this complication that eventually resulted in Joseph's death a little over two weeks later, on February 10, 1916.

Joseph was burried at a plot for fallen Belgian soldiers at the municipal cemetery of Bourbourg in France, where his grave marker can still be found today, a hundred years after the facts.

Grave of Adj. Joseph Hennebicq in Bourbourg, France

Belgian military plot at municipal cemetery of Bourbourg, France

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Finding Private Edouard Broeckx (1918)

As we are approaching November 11, Armistice Day in Belgium, I wanted to dedicate a blog post to my great great grand uncle, soldier Edouard Broeckx.
On August 14, 1986 Edouard was born as the second of three children from my 3-times great grandparents Hendrik Broeckx and Joanna Herteleer. Before his birth, his parents were living in the Belgian city of Mol where father Hendrik was a painter. But then, when Edouard was just two weeks old, the family moved to the city of Antwerp. His baby sister Joanna was born in Antwerp, when Edouard was two and a half years old. His older sister Maria was five years old then.

On August 4, 1914, only ten days before Edouard reached the age of 18, German forces invaded neutral Belgium and only two months later, Edouard stopped his job as a mechanic and joined the Belgian army. Edouard was active in the army for almost the entire duration of the Great War. Only from the very end of March 1917 untill mid-July 1917 he spent three and half months in a hospital, to return to the trenches after he recovered.
During the last weeks of the Great War, in the morning of September 28, 1918, the Belgian Army started a liberation offensive. One of the first goals was to take back the town of Houthulst in the province of West Flanders. The point of departure was a little village called Kippe which is about one mile to the north of Ypres. At 2.30 AM Belgian artillery started shooting the German troops. The shooting lasted for three ours before the Belgian troops started moving further. Another thirty minutes later Edouard got killed by hostile fire, in the village of Merkem, as heavy fighting continued.

Only four days later, on October 3, 1918, Edouard was burried in a temporary grave at about 27 yards from the road between Kippe and Nachtegaal. Many soldiers were later exhumed to be moved to their final resting places, however, for unknown reasons, the grave of Edouard could no longer be found...

In May of 1920, the following letter was sent to my 3-times great-grandmother by the Belgian Army:
Dear Mrs. Broeckx,
I have the honour to inform you that your mourned son, soldier Broeckx Edouard of the 3rd line regiment, who fell gloriously on the Field of Honour, will be included in an upcoming Royal Decree, by which he will posthumously be awarded the Cross of Knight in the Order of Leopold II with Palm, as well as a War Cross. As soon as this Decree is published in the Belgian Offical Gazette, these decorations will be handed over to you during an upcoming official ceremony.
On August 2, 1922, my 3-times great grandfather, Hendrik, sent a letter to the Belgian Army to ask why they still had not been able to find the remains of his son. He also asked if perhaps there had been a mix up with Corporal Jan Broeckx who had been burried at the Antwerp cemetery Schoonselhof, however, the army responded that this did not appear to be the case. 

Grave of Corp. Jan Broeckx in Antwerp
Corp. Jan Broeckx was a native from the city of Turnhout and was born as a son of a shoe maker in December 1894. At the time of his birth, his family had already been living in Turnhout for at least fifty years, meaning that there is no closeby relation with the family of Edouard Broeckx that came from the Belgian city of Mol.

The searching for the grave of Edouard continued, and even Edouard's father attended several search actions in February and March 1923. Sadly, the grave was never found again and a death certificate was eventually issued in the second half of 1923.
Schoonselhof Cemetery in Antwerp, Belgium
I haven't found any records mentioning possible reasons why the grave of Edouard couldn't be found. Maybe he was actually exhumed but not properly identified. Perhaps Edouard is amongst the many unidentified soldiers burried in Antwerp...

Four unknown soldiers burried in Antwerp, Belgium

The city of Antwerp did erect a memorial in honour of the Belgian soldiers burried at the Schoonselhof Cemetery.

Memorial in honour of the WWI soldiers burried in Antwerp

Now if we return to September 1918, one day after Edouard Broeckx died on the battlefield, the Belgian army had advanced from Merkem to Houthulst and was able to recapture the forest there, however, not without suffering a lot of casualties. As silent witnesses of the battles in and around Houthulst, stand the many headstones in the Belgian Military Cemetery in Houthulst. Also there, several unknown soldiers have been burried. Perhaps Edouard was one of the soldiers who eventually got interred at the Houthulst cemetery... 

Map showing the locations of Merkem and Houthulst
One name that particularly caught my attention at that cemetery was that of Corp. Albert Hennebicq, because Edouard's older sister Maria, had married a man called Ferdinand Hennebicq, who was my great-great grandfather. The quite rare Hennebicq name will be a topic of a later blog post.
Belgian WWI Cemetery in Houthulst, Belgium
I can already add that I have not yet been able to find a family relationship between Edouard's brother-in-law, Ferdinand Hennebicq, and this Corp. Albert Hennebicq, although both Hennebicq men did have ancestors living in the same small region in the Walloon province of Hainaut, near the city of Tournai wich could be an indication that they were in fact related.

Corporal Albert Hennebicq, a 25 year old native of Saint-Sauveur in the Belgian province of Hainaut, died only one day later than Edouard Broeckx, on September 29, 1918 during the end offensive of Passchendaele, which was a little to the southeast of Houthulst. 

Grave of Corporal Albert Hennebicq

As I was trying to find more information on Edouard Broeckx, I did come across a picture of a Belgian WWI soldier who was named Edouard A. Broeckx and who lived in the village of Hoboken, just to the south of Antwerp.

Edouard A. Broeckx of Hoboken, Belgium

There are quite a lot of indications that this Edouard A. Broeckx from Hoboken was not the same person as my great-great grand uncle Edouard Broeckx, but still I decided to also include the picture of Edouard A. Broeckx here. Perhaps at some point in time I will figure out if the two gentlemen were actually related to each other.
I know my 3-times great-grandparents must have been devastated by the loss of their only son at such a young age. It must have been difficult for them to not be able to visit a grave. Maybe they re-visited the grave of Corp. Jean Broeckx instead, still hoping that it was in fact their son who had been burried there...
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