Adventures in my life usually start with some sort of curiosity that I happen to stumble upon. I like to call it serendipity and then my inquisitive nature just takes over. My accidental journey down the family tree actually began with my sister-in-law talking me into signing up for Facebook so that we could communicate more easily and share pictures of the family as our homes resided over 2,000 miles apart in the States of Washington and Hawaii. Locating family members on Facebook, initially, flowed quite easy as our surname came from a Belgium name that stands out with extra letters of “x” and “y.” An unforeseen development arose, though, when a few people from Belgium communicated in the process of searching for family known to us.
Now, the intense part of this journey commenced. How can we identify whether these European people with the same last name represented members of our family. The expedition back in time now needed to trace the source of our lineage back to Belgium to determine the relationship with these potential new found distant relatives or so we thought this was the intent of our quest.
Now we needed to determine what path to pursue or rather what method to go about searching out the information required. It never occurred to me to explore my heritage before, except to assist my children in their grade school projects to trace the family tree back to their great grandparents. My mother became the logical place to start as the eldest surviving member in the family.
Fortunately, my mother possessed a bound book written by a cousin who traced the family roots back to Belgium. My great-grandfather represented the link to the family line in Belgium. It came as a surprise to find out that my great-grandfather’s brother died a violent death from a beating. The shocking details in the family history book indicated my great-grandfather killed his brother during a drunken brawl.
My great-grandfather arrived by ship at Green Bay, Wisconsin in the decade of 1890s. He spent 15 years in prison for the death of his brother prior to sailing to America. When he left prison, the small town avoided any association with him. He left Europe to start a new life. No one in America knew about my great-grandfather’s previous life in Belgium.
He lived an uneventful life after arriving in America. The family owned a general store in Wisconsin for about ten years until a difficult financial situation arose. A year or so after my grandfather’s birth in 1899, the family moved to a small town outside of Spokane, Washington and opened another general store. My great-grandfather moved to Oregon in the 1920s as the government purchased the land in Washington State to build a dam. Consequently, he purchased land and worked as a farmer the rest of his life.
This discovery certainly threw a damper on our desire to explore our relationship with the individuals with the same last name in Europe. The finding changed my perception about the ability of criminals to undergo rehabilitation and live without further unlawful activity.