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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Friday, September 30, 2016

My grandma's name is Sophia (times 3)

Sophia Servaes
Mijn grootmoeder heette Sophia Servaes. Ze was een ongelooflijk lieve en zorgzame vrouw. Ik heb even de betekenis van de naam Sophia opgezocht. De naam komt uit het Grieks en betekent "wijsheid". Blijkbaar is er ook een katholieke heilige die Sophia heette, Sophia van Rome die vaak wordt afgebeeld met haar drie dochters: Geloof, Hoop en Liefde. Nu ook bij mijn grootmoeder ontbrak het niet aan Geloof, Hoop en Liefde. En daarenboven kreeg ze niet alleen drie dochters maar ook vier zonen...
Hoewel er in de wereld van de genealogie vaak familienaam projecten worden uitgevoerd, heb ik persoonlijk nog nooit een voornaam project gezien. Ik herinner me dat ik moest glimlachen toen mijn grootmoeder me vertelde dat haar grootmoeder ook Sophia heette. Bij het verder uitspitten van de stamboom ontdekte ik later nog een derde Sophia in de familie...
Onlangs plaatste ik een korte enquête met de vraag welk het onderwerp  voor mijn volgende blogbericht moest zijn. De meerderheid van de stemmen ging naar "Mijn grootmoeders naam is Sophia (3 keer)". Hier dus een blogbericht gewijd aan deze drie bijzondere dames...

1. Sophia Servaes (1929 - 2010)

Grootmoeder Sophia werd geboren op 18 juli 1929 in Mortsel als dochter van Maria Bruyns en Michel Servaes. Tot haar 8 jaar was ze enig kind, maar dan werd, in mei 1938, haar jongere broer Laurent geboren. Of het iets te maken heeft met complicaties tijdens of na de geboorte weet ik niet, maar overgrootmoeder Maria overleed wanneer Laurent slechts 16 dagen oud was...
Sophia Servaes
Vader Michel zorgde voor de twee kinderen, maar tragisch genoeg overleed ook hij vroegtijdig, net een dag voor de kleine Laurent de leeftijd van één jaar bereikte. Sophia Servaes was op dat ogenblik nog maar negen jaar oud. De doopmeter van Sophia Servaes was haar grootmoeder, Sophia Cappaert. Het was naar haar dat grootmoeder vernoemd was. Terwijl Sophia Cappaert en haar man, Louis Bruyns, zich ontfermden over de jonge Sophia Servaes, werd haar broer Laurent opgevangen door de grootouders aan vaders kant van de familie.
Mijn grootmoeder vertelde me dat haar grootmoeder, Sophia Cappaert, elke ochtend pannenkoeken voor haar kleindochter bakte.
Sophia Servaes (links) en Sophia Cappaert (rechts)
Spijtig genoeg overleed bet-overgrootmoeder Sophia Cappaert in bezet België, tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog, in februari 1941. Op haar elf jaar moest Sophia Servaes dus opnieuw afscheid nemen van iemand die voor haar zorgde. Grootvader Louis stierf in 1947, enkele dagen na Sophia's 18de verjaardag. Twee jaar later trouwde grootmoeder met mijn grootvader, Ludy Van Minnebruggen en ze stichtten een gezin met zeven kinderen.
Sophia Servaes met de Singer naaimachine

Grootmoeder Sophia Servaes overleed in 2010, kort voor haar 81ste verjaardag. Haar echtgenoot, grootvader Ludy, overleed reeds enkele jaren daarvoor in 2006. Over hem zal ik later nog een blogbericht publiceren. Mijn grootouders waren op dat ogenblik maar liefst 56 jaar getrouwd. Naast hun 7 kinderen, kregen Sophia en Ludy ook 15 kleinkinderen. Op het ogenblik van haar overlijden had Sophia Servaes ook al meerdere achterkleinkinderen.

1950 - Grootmoeder Sophia met mijn vader René

1981 - Mijn grootmoeder en ik
Geloof, Hoop en Liefde... Ze had het allemaal. En het meeste van al denk ik Liefde. Liefde voor haar ganse familie...

2. Sophia Cappaert (1883 - 1941)

Bet-overgrootmoeder Sophia Cappaert werd geboren op 2 december 1883 te Hingene. Haar ouders waren Petrus Cappaert en Maria Foubert. Ze was het tweede kind van Petrus en Maria en na haar werden er in het gezin nog vier kinderen geboren. Enkel de jongste van die zes kinderen was een jongen.

In 1907 huwde Sophia te Bornem met bet-overgrootvader Louis Bruyns. Op de huwelijksakte wordt vermeld dat Sophia dagloonster was, wat waarschijnlijk betekent dat ze als arbeidster actief was in de landbouw.
Sophia Cappaert

Sophia en Louis kregen drie zonen en twee dochters. De kinderen werden bijna allemaal enkele jaren voor het begin van de Eerste Wereldoorlog geboren. Enkel de jongste zoon, Henri Bruyns, werd pas geboren in september 1918, tijdens de laatste maanden van de Grote Oorlog.
Het overlijden van haar oudste dochter, Maria Bruyns, op 29-jarige leeftijd, heeft Sophia Cappaert zwaar aangegrepen. Mijn grootmoeder vertelde me dat ze herinnerde dat haar grootmoeder uitriep: "Waarom ons Marieke en niet ik"!

Overlijdensakte Sophia Cappaert
Sophia Cappaert zelf was 57 jaar toen ze in de gemeente Boechout overleed tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog. De aangifte van het overlijden werd gedaan door haar jongste dochter Leopoldine en haar jongste zoon Henri.

Op haar overlijdensberichtje stond het volgende tekstje:
"Zij was eenvoudig, goedhartig en werkzaam, in oprechtheid en rechtvaardigheid heeft zij in deze wereld geleefd".


 3. Sophia Luyckx (1797 - 1866)

Petrus Cappaert, de vader van Sophia, kwam uit een groot gezin met  negen kinderen. Sommigen van die kinderen overleden jammer genoeg lang voor ze volwassen waren. Eén van de zussen van Petrus noemde Sopia en was vernoemd naar hun grootmoeder aan vaders kant van de familie, Sophia Luyckx.

Wanneer Petrus Cappaert en Maria Foubert beslisten om hun dochter Sophia te noemen, weet ik niet of ze werd vernoemd naar de zus van Petrus of naar zijn grootmoeder. Misschien was het wel naar allebei... In elk geval maken we zo nog een verdere sprong terug in de tijd. Sophia Luyckx werd immers geboren tijdens turbulente tijden...

Twee maanden voor haar geboorte, in maart 1797, werd in Oostenrijk de Vrede van Leoben ondertekend door Generaal von Merveldt en Napoléon Bonaparte. Daarmee erkende Oostenrijk de afstand van de Oostenrijkse Nederlanden aan Frankrijk. Later dat jaar werd deze overeenkomst formeel door de Vrede van Campo Formio, waarmee een einde kwam aan de Eerste Coalitieoorlog tegen Frankrijk, welke oorlog voornamelijk werd uitgevochten in de Oostenrijkse Nederlanden.

Een jaar later, in 1798, brak de Boerenkrijg uit, waarmee de Vlaamse bevolking in opstand kwam tegen de Franse bezetters. Zo werd ook het Oost-Vlaamse dorp Sint-Niklaas aangevallen door opstandelingen, doch, de Franse soldaten konden tijdig hun kannonen richten en de aanval afslaan. Sophia Luyckx die toen één jaar oud was, zal van het hele gebeuren op latere leeftijd waarschijnlijk weinig of niets meer hebben herinnerd, doch, zij woonde toen wel effectief in Sint-Niklaas.

Doopakte van Sophia Luyckx
Zo ook woonde Sophia Luyckx in Sint-Niklaas toen Napoléon Bonaparte in 1803 een bezoek bracht aan dat dorp. Het was toen een marktdag en Napoléon wou graag het volle marktplein  oversteken. Het moet een indrukwekkend schouwspel zijn geweest op het grote marktplein, waar honderden mensen hem toejuichten. Kort na zijn bezoek besliste Napoléon om Sint-Niklaas stadsrechten toe te kennen, omwille van het relatief grote aantal inwoners in dit tijd.
Schilderij van Napoléon Bonaparte in het Paleis van Versailles
Wanneer Sophia 12 jaar oud was, overleed haar moeder Joanna Van hove. Intussen had Sophia wel een 7 jaar oude zus die Anna heette. De vader van de zusjes, Petrus, was boeren arbeider van beroep.

Wanneer Sophia 18 jaar was, in 1815, vond de Slag van Waterloo plaats, waarna de Zuidelijke Nederlanden werden samengevoegd met de Noordelijke Nederlanden ter vorming van het Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden met als koning Willem I.

Vier jaar later huwde Sophia met Constantinus Cappaert en ze kregen vervolgens verscheidene kinderen.

Ook tegen de Nederlandse overheersing kwam de Belgische bevolking in opstand, wat uiteindelijk in 1831 resulteerde in de onafhankelijkheid van België. Ook die heeft Sophia Luyckx mogen meemaken tijdens haar leven.

Sophia Luyckx overleed in 1866 in het hospitaal te Sint-Niklaas. Haar echtgenoot, Constantinus, was reeds vier jaar eerder overleden...

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Sophia Servaes
My grandmother's name was Sophia Servaes. She was an incredibly sweet and caring woman. I looked up the meaning of the name Sophia. It's Greek for "wisdom". Apparently There is also a catholic saint that was called Sophia, Sophia of Rome who is often depicted with her three daughters : Faith, Hope and Love. Now my grandmother had all three of those Faith, Hope and Love. And on top of that, she didn't only have three daughters, but also four sons...
Although I have seen quite a few surname or family name projects, I haven't yet come across a first name project. I remember I was smiling when my grandmother told me that her grandmother was also called Sophia. As I was researching the family tree, I discovered that there was in fact also a third Sophia in the family...
Recently I placed a small survey online to ask what should be the subject of my next blog post. The majority of votes were directed to "My grandma's name is Sophia (times 3)". So here is my blog post dedicated to these three special ladies...

1. Sophia Servaes (1929 - 2010)

Grandmother Sophia was born on July 18, 1929 in Mortsel, Belgium as the daughter of Maria Bruyns and Michel Servaes. She was an only child untill she was 8 years old because then, in May 1938, her younger brother Laurent was born. Whether or not it had somehting to do with complications from giving birth, I don't know, but great-grandmother Maria died when Laurent was only 16 days old...
Sophia Servaes
Father Michel took care of his two young children, but tragically also he died way too young, just one day before little Laurent's first birthday. At that time Sophia Servaes was only nine years old. The godmother of Sophia Servaes was her grandmother, Sophia Cappaert. It was actually after her that she had been named. While Sophia Cappaert and her husband, Louis Bruyns, were looking over the young Sophia Servaes, here brother was being adopted by the paternal grandparents of Sophia and Laurent.
My grandmother told me once that her grandmother, Sophia Cappaert, made pancakes for her granddaughter every morning.
Sophia Servaes (left) and Sophia Cappaert (right)
Regrettably, great-great-grandmother Sophia Cappaert died in occupied Belgium during World War II, in February 1941. So when she was eleven years old, Sophia Servaes had to say goodbye to yet another caregiver. Grandfather Louis died in 1947, only a few days after Sophia's 18th birthday. Two years later, grandmother married my grandfather, Ludy Van Minnebruggen, and they raised a family with seven children.
Sophia Servaes with the Singer sewing machine

Grandmother Sophia Servaes passed away in 2010, shortly before her 81st birthday. Her husband, grandfather Ludy, already died in 2006. I will publish a blog post about him later. My grandparents were married for more that 56 years at that time. Apart from their 7 children, Sophia and Ludy also had 15 grandchildren. At the time of her death, Sophia Servaes already had several great-grandchildren.

1950 - Grandmother Sophia with my father René

1981 - My grandmother and me
Faith, Hope and Love... She had all of them. And most of them I think Love. Love for her entire family...

2. Sophia Cappaert (1883 - 1941)

Great-great-grandmother Sophia Cappaert was born on December 2, 1883 in Hingene, Belgium. Her parents were Petrus Cappaert and Maria Foubert. She was the second child of Petrus and Maria and after her, another four children were born in the family. Only the youngest one of the six children was a boy.

In 1907 Sophia married in Bornem, Belgium to great-great-grandfather Louis Bruyns. On the marriage certificate is mentioned that Sophia was doing day labor on the land of farms.
Sophia Cappaert

Sophia and Louis had three sons and two daughters. Almost all of the children were born before the Great War started. Only the youngest son, Henri Bruyns, was born in September 1918, two months before the Great War was over.
The death of her oldest daughter, Maria Bruyns, at the age of 29, had deeply saddened Sophia Cappaert. My grandmother told me she remembered her grandmother shouting: "Why did it have to be our Marie and not me instead"!

Death certificate of Sophia Cappaert
Sophia Cappaert herself was 57 years old when she died during World War II in the village of Boechout, Belgium. The registration of her death was done by her youngest daughter Leopoldine and her youngest son Henri.

On her death notice was written:
"She was down to earth, good hearted and worked a lot. She lived truely and righteously in this world".


 3. Sophia Luyckx (1797 - 1866)

Petrus Cappaert, the father of Sophia, came form a big family with nine children. Some of these children never made it to adulthood. One of the sisters of Petrus was called Sopia; she was named after their paternal grandmother, Sophia Luyckx.

When Petrus Cappaert and Maria Foubert decided to name their daughter Sophia, I don't know it was after his sister or after his grandmother. Maybe after both... Either way, we're going even further back into time now. Sophia Luyckx was born during turbulent times...

Two months before her birth, in March 1797, the Treaty of Leoben was signed in Austria by General von Merveldt and Napoléon Bonaparte. Thereby Austria recognized the conveyance of the Austrian Netherlands to France. Later that year, that Treaty became formalized by the signing of the Treaty of Campo Formio, which ended the First Coalition War against France, a war that had been fought mainly in the Austrian Netherlands.

One year later, in 1798, the Peasants' War started, when the Flemish population started to rise up against the French rule. The village of Sint-Niklaas was being attacked by farmers, but the French soldiers were able to timely redirect their canons towards the approaching troops and were able to counter the attack. Sophia Luyckx who was just one year old then, probably didn't remember much about this later in life, however, she did live in Sint-Niklaas at that time.

Baptism record of Sophia Luyckx
Also she was still living in Sint Niklaas when Napoléon Bonaparte visited that village in 1803. it was a market day and Napoléon wanted to cross the huge and packed market place. It must have been quite a sight on that market place with hundreds of people cheering. Shorlty after his visit, Napoléon decided to grant Sint-Niklaas the title of city, because of the relatively large number of inhabitants for that time.
Painting of Napoléon Bonaparte in the Palace of Versailles
When Sophia was 12 years old, her mother, Joanna Van hove, died. In the meanwhile Sophia did have a 7 year old sister named Anna. The father of the sisters, Petrus, was working land for farmers.

During the Battle of Waterloo, in 1815, Sophia was 18 years old. After that important battle, the Southern Netherlands were united with the Northern Nederlands so as to form the United Netherlands which were ruled by king Willem I.

Four years later Sophia married Constantinus Cappaert and they had several children together.

The Belgian population revolted also against the Dutch rule, which eventually led to the independence of Belgium in 1831. Also that historical event is one that Sophia Luyckx has witnessed during her lifetime.

Sophia Luyckx died in 1866 in the hospital of Sint-Niklaas. Her husband, Constantinus, had already died four years earlier...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Great-grand aunt Aline Sterckx and cousin Irma Sterckx

With the help of several family members I'm learning a lot lately about the siblings of my great-grandfather Louis Sterckx and some of their descendants.
One cousin, Leen Van Gool, sent me the incredibly beautiful picture of her grandmother, my great-grand aunt Aline Sterckx, who was a sister of great-grandpa Louis. Aline was born in 1897 and after the first World War she made some money as a model. This picture probably dates from somewhere around 1920.

Aline Sterckx

Aline and her family lived in Wommelgem in a house right next to that of Mathilde Sterckx, another sister of Louis and Aline.
While I initially thought the below picture is of another one of Louis' sisters, Irma Sterckx, it turns out that picture actually shows a niece of great-grandpa Louis who was also called Irma Sterckx. She was a daughter of Louis' brother Alfons Ferdinandus Sterckx and was born in 1919 and was married to Franciscus Severens.
Still hoping over time I will be able to get even more pictures of the Sterckx family together...

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Met de hulp van verschillende familieleden leer ik de laatste tijd veel bij over de broers en zussen van mijn overgrootvader Louis Sterckx en sommigen van hun afstammelingen.
Een achternicht van me, Leen Van Gool, stuurde met de prachtige foto die hierboven is weergegeven van haar grootmoeder, Aline Sterckx, die mijn overgroottante was en een zus van overgrootvader Louis. Aline werd geboren in 1897 en na de Eerste Wereldoorlog verdiende ze wat centen bij als fotomodel. Deze foto werd waarschijnlijk omstreeks 1920 genomen.
Aline en haar gezin woonden in Wommelgem in een huis naast dat van Mathilde Sterckx, nog een zus van Louis en Aline.
Hoewel ik aanvankelijk dacht dat de onderstaande foto nog een andere zus van Louis toont, met name Irma Sterckx, is inmiddels gebleken dat dit in feite een foto is van een dochter van Alfons Ferdinandus Sterckx, een broer van Louis. Deze dochter noemde ook Irma Sterckx, vandaar de aanvankelijke verwarring...

Irma werd geboren in 1919 en huwde met Franciscus Severens.

Irma Sterckx
Ik hoop hier zeker in de toekomst nog meer foto's van de Sterckx familie te kunnen verzamelen...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Great-grandfather Louis Sterckx

I never knew a lot about my great-grandfather (the father of my maternal grandmother). I decided to dedicate a blog post to him to share what I have so far...
His name was Louis Sterckx and he was born in the Belgian village of Wommelgem in 1883 to Josephus Sterckx and Philomena Hermans.

Great-grandfather Louis Sterckx
In 1902 Louis married Maria Van Hout. He was a gardener just like his father. In 1909 Louis and Maria had a baby girl they named Hilda and six years later, in 1915, during the Great War, they had a boy called Armand.

Great-great-grandmother Philomena Hermans
Great-great-grandfather Josephus Sterckx

Records show that, in 1909, great-grandfather Louis was no longer a gardener, but was now working in the Antwerp diamond industry as a diamond cutter. I've been told he was also a trader in diamonds, which is why he was traveling a lot and spent a great deal of time in France.

Great aunt Hilda Sterckx

Maria died quite young and great-grandfather Louis remarried my great-grandmother Anna and in 1928 they had a baby girl they named Hilda Jeanne, my grandmother.

Grandmother Hilda Jeanne Sterckx
(drawing by Ewan)

One of the few stories I do know about the Sterckx family relates to what happened to my great-uncle Armand. He was a cyclist. At the age of 18 he participated in a competition. He fell during the race and sustained injuries so severe he didn't survive. This was in May 1933. Louis was absolutely devastated...

Great uncle Armand Sterckx

1933 funeral of Armand Sterckx

Armand was burried in the most famous cemetery in Antwerp, Schoonselhof. When my grandmother told me about his funeral many years later, I remember she told me about the huge amount of people that had gathered to be there.
Regrettably Louis was only 56 years old when he died from tuberculosis. Many people working in the diamond industry suffered from tuberculosis in those days, which was caused by inhaling diamond dust...  



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Anna Maria Adriaenssen

In an attempt to fill some gaps in my family tree, I was looking at the information I have found concerning my 3-times great-grandmother, Anna Cornelia Simons. In doing so I realized that I had mixed-up her birth record with that of another baby girl called Anna Maria Simons, born a year before my 3-times great-grandmother, also in the Belgian village of Loenhout.

As a result I had to make some corrections in my family tree, because I had previously entered the wrong names for the parents of Anna Cornelia based on the incorrect birth certificate. It turns out her parents were Adrianus Simons and Anna Maria Adriaenssen.

At the time Anna Cornelia was born, on June 20, 1823, she already had two elder sisters called Anna Catharina (born in 1820) and Cornelia Petronella (born in 1821). The birth certificate of the oldest sister, Anna Catharina, revealed that Anna Catharina was in fact a triplet!

My 4-times great-grandmother, Anna Maria Adriaenssen, had given birth on February 25, 1820 at 6:00 PM to a first baby girl called Maria Jacoba. Eight hours later, at 2:00 AM on February 26, 1820, Anna-Catharina was born. Then it only took thirty more minutes before the third triplet was born, another baby girl called Anna Cornelia.


Doing some further research I learned that, sadly, Maria Jacoba died after only four days, on that year's leap day, February 29, 1820. Tragedy struck again soon, because one week later, also Anna Cornelia died on March 7, 1820. Obvioulsy postnatal care in the early 19th Century was not at all at the level it is today. Perhaps the triplets were born prematurely.

One year later, Anna Maria gave birth to Cornelia Petronella. And then, in 1823 to my 3-times great-grandmother who appears to have been named after the last-born of the triplets...

After giving birth to five girls, Anna Maria gave birth to three more girls: Maria Elisabeth (born in 1824), Maria Theresia (born in 1827) and Joanna (born in 1828). And then, finally, in 1829, after she had 8 girls, a boy was born and named Joannes Baptista.

Regrettably, Cornelia Petronella died at the age of 10 in 1832 and also her younger sister Maria Theresia died way too young in 1834, being only 7 years old.

As far as the middle triplet, Anna-Catharina, is concerned, she did survive and eventually married and got three children herself. My 3-times great-grandmother, Anna Cornelia Simons, married my 3-times great-grandfather Adrianus Van Minnebruggen in 1850. She lived to be 76 years old and passed away on October 24, 1899 in the village of Brecht. It appears that also the remaining siblings of Anna-Catharina and Anna Cornelia lived into adulthood. I still have to do some research to try and find out more details about them.

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Teneinde enkele blinde vlekken in mijn stamboom op te vullen bekeek ik onlangs naar de informatie die ik had betreffende mijn bet-bet-overgrootmoeder, Anna Cornelia Simons. Daarbij realiseerde ik me that ik haar geboorteakte had verwisseld met die van een andere baby die Anna Maria Simons noemde en een jaar voor mijn bet-bet-overgrootmoeder geboren was, ook in het dorp Loenhout.

Bijgevolg moest ik een aantal correcties doorvoeren in mijn stamboom, vermits ik de foutieve namen als ouders van Anna Cornelia had genoteerd, door me te baseren op de verkeerde akte. Het blijkt dat haar ouders Adrianus Simons en Anna Maria Adriaenssen waren.

Op het ogenblik dat Anna Cornelia werd geboren, op 20 juni 1823, had ze reeds twee oudere zussen die de namen Anna Catharina (geboren in 1820) en Cornelia Petronella (geboren in 1821) droegen. De geboorteakte van de oudste zus, Anna Catharina, toonde dat Anna Catharina in feite deel uitmaakte van een drieling!

Mijn bet-bet-bet-overgrootmoeder, Anna Maria Adriaenssen, schonk op 25 february 1820 om 6 uur 's avonds het leven aan een eerste meisje dat Maria Jacoba noemde. Acht uur later, om 2 uur 's morgens op 26 februari 1820, werd Anna-Catharina geboren. Vervolgens duurde het nog een half uur alvorens de derde baby geboren was, nog een meisje dat Anna Cornelia werd genoemd.

Uit verdere opzoekingen heb ik geleerd dat Maria Jacoba jammer genoeg overleed slechts vier dagen na haar geboorte, op schrikkeldag 29 februari 1820. Pas een week later sloeg het noodlot opnieuw toe en overleed ook Anna Cornelia op 7 maart 1820. Vanzelfsprekend waren de postnatale zorgen in de 19de eeuw nog lang niet op het punt dat ze nu zijn. Misschien werd de drieling werd prematuur geboren, we zullen het allicht nooit te weten komen.

Eén jaar later schonk Anna Maria het leven aan Cornelia Petronella. En vervolgens, in 1823, aan mijn bet-bet-overgrootmoeder die klaarblijkelijk genoemd werd naar de laatst geboren baby van de drieling...

Nadat ze vijf meisjes op de wereld had gezet, werden er nog drie meisjes geboren: Maria Elisabeth (geboren in 1824), Maria Theresia (geboren in 1827) en Joanna (geboren in 1828). En dan, tenslotte, in 1829, na de geboorte van 8 meisjes, werd een jongen geboren die Joannes Baptista werd genoemd.

Jammer genoeg overleed in 1832 Cornelia Petronella op de leeftijd van 10 jaar en ook haar jongere zus Maria Theresia overleed veel te jong in 1834, toen ze amper 7 jaar oud was.

Wat betreft de middelste drieling, Anna-Catharina; zij heeft het overleefd en is uiteindelijk getrouwd en kreeg zelf drie kinderen. Mijn bet-bet-overgrootmoeder, Anna Cornelia Simons, huwde met mijn bet-bet-overgrootvader Adrianus Van Minnebruggen in 1850. Ze werd 76 jaar oud en overleed op 24 oktober 1899 in Brecht. Het lijkt erop dat ook de overige zussen en de broer van Anna-Catharina en Anna Cornelia volwassen zijn geworden. Ik moet nog wel wat opzoekingen doen om meer over hun leven te weten te komen...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Maria Broeckx

Tonight it is exactly 104 years ago that the RMS Titanic hit the iceberg. This made me think today of some of my relatives that decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean by ship at the beginning of the 20th Century. In a post in another blog, I already wrote about my great-grand Aunt Regina Brusten who traveled from Europe to New York by ship in 1921. However, she wasn't the only one who decided to go on this journey.
On the day of that horrible tragedy in 1912, my two times great-grandmother, Maria Broeckx, was twenty years old and living in Antwerp, Belgium with her husband and their two year old daughter. Four years later, in the middle of the Great War, Maria boarded the S.S. Philadelphia in Liverpool, England and departed for New York, where she arrived after nine days of travel on September 6, 1916. She was traveling alone and although records show that she paid for her ticket herself, she was not carrying any money with her.

S.S. Philadelphia
(Source: Wikipedia)

Captain Henry Landau wrote in his book "The enemy within" that in October 1916, just one month after my great-great-grandmother had been on this ship, a mysterious fire had broken out on board. At that time there was some speculation about the fire having been set by Germans. After the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, passengers must have been very well aware of the dangers involved with traveling by ship, especially during war time.

I read that, in 1912, a passage from the S.S. Philadelphia to New York was cancelled as a result of a miner's strike. A number of men working aboard the ship were ordered to travel back to New York aboard the RMS Titanic. All of those men lost their lives during the tragic event...

My great-great-grandmother stayed in New York for a number of years. In 1920, her 11 year old daughter Anna traveled to New York to visit her mother. The ship she was on was called the S.S. Finland. Eventually both Maria and Anna safely returned to Belgium.

Vannacht is het exact 104 jaar geleden dat de RMS Titanic die ijsberg raakte. Dat deed me denken aan de familieleden die destijds de Atlantische Oceaan hebben overgestoken per schip in het begin van de 20ste eeuw. In een bericht in een andere blog, heb ik reeds geschreven over mijn over-groottante Regina Brusten die van Europe naar New York reisde per schip in 1921. Echter, zij was niet de enige die besloot om deze reis te maken.
Op de dag van die verschrikkelijke tragedie in 1912, was mijn over-overgrootmoeder, Maria Broeckx, twintig jaar oud en woonde ze in Antwerpen, België met haar echtgenoot en hun tweejarige dochter. Vier jaar later, in het midden van de Grote Oorlog, ging Maria aan boord van de S.S. Philadelphia in Liverpool, England en vertrok naar New York, waar ze na negen dagen reizen aankwam op 6 september 1916. Ze reisde alleen en, hoewel documenten tonen dat ze zelf voor haar ticket betaalde, had ze geen geld bij zich.
Maria Broeckx
Kapitein Henry Landau schreef in zijn boek "The enemy within" dat er in oktober 1916, net een maand nadat mijn over-overgrootmoeder aan boord van dit schip was geweest, een mysterieuze brand was uitgebroken aan boord. In die dagen werd er gespeculeerd over de mogelijkheid dat er kwaad opzet in het spel van Duitsers. Na het zinken van de Lusitania in 1915, moeten de passagiers zich terdege bewust zijn geweest van de gevaren die deze reis met zich meebracht, in het bijzonder tijdens oorlogstijd.

Ik heb gelezen dat, in 1912, een reis van de S.S. Philadelphia naar New York werd geannuleerd ten gevolge van een staking in de koolmijnen. Een aantal van de mannen die normaal aan boord van de S.S. Philadelphia werkten, kregen het bevel terug te reizen naar New York met de RMS Titanic. Al deze mannen lieten het leven tijdens de tragische gebeurtenis...

Mijn over-overgrootmoeder bleef in New York voor een aantal jaar. In 1920, bracht haar 11-jarige dochter Anna haar een bezoek. Zij reisde naar New York met het schip S.S. Finland. Uiteindelijk keerden zowel Maria als Anna veilig terug naar België.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Joanna Verelst

This is the picture of my great-great-grandmother, Joanna Verelst. She was born, this month, 135 years ago, in March 1881 to Josephus and Joanna De Lelie in Antwerp, Belgium. She was one of several children in the family and was particularly close to her two older sisters Angelina and Josephina who were five and two years older than her.

A few months before her 12th birthday, Joanna's mother died an untimely death, leaving the father, Josephus, with the care of his seven children. Josephus first worked as a coachman for a number of years and later in life started working as a cigar maker.

In 1902, Joanna got married to Henri Verelst. They got three boys and a girl, however, the firstborn son died already before reaching the age of three.

During the Great War, in May 1917, Joanna, who was 36 at the time, was arrested for providing assistance to the Belgian Army as she was accused of smuggling mail for the Army. Although there was also a warrant out for the arrest of her husband, he managed to hide himself. While Joanna was imprisoned in Antwerp, her three children were being looked after by her sisters.  Henri had to close the inn he and his wife were running and had to stay hidden to avoid being imprisoned too.

After being held for almost half a year in an Antwerp jail cell, Joanna was taken to a prisoner camp in Germany, even further away from her children and family. She had been found guilty and was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. She had to conduct forced labour on the lands of different farms, some requiring a long march to get there.

During her days as a prisoner, she did continue to write letters to her children, her sisters and her father, who died in February 1918 after months of illness, while Joanna was still imprisoned. It wasn't until a few months after he had died, that she received the news of his passing. She was deeply sadened by the fact that her father hadn't lived to see the day when she was coming back home. About his death, she wrote in a letter:"I have heard about the tragic loss of grandfather. This has sadened me deeply. (...) Why didn't you tell me about this? You shouldn't have kept that from me. Can you imagine how sad it would have been if I had come home and asked about him? What would you have told me then? That would have been even more sad..."

From all the letters Joanna wrote to her family, it is clear that she truely loved them deeply and was heartbroken from the fact that she was separated from them for so long. She wrote about how she cried tears of joy when she received a picture from one of her sons, and about how she managed to keep going each day by thinking of the day she would be joined again with her loved ones.

At the end of the Great War, Joanna was released and traveled back to her children and husband. She only lived for ten more years and died at the age of 47, in 1928. Her husband, Henri, died in 1953, at the age of 77.

Dit is een foto van mijn betovergrootmoeder, Joanna Verelst. Deze maand is het 135 jaar geleden dat ze werd geboren, in maart 1881 in Antwerpen. Haar ouders waren Josephus en Joanna De Lelie. Ze was één van vele kinderen in het gezin en was bijzonder hecht met haar twee oudere zussen Angelina en Josephina die vijf en twee jaar ouder waren dan haar.

Enkele maanden voor haar twaalfde verjaardag overleed Jaoanna's moeder vroegtijdig, waardoor vader Josephus alleen voor de zeven kinderen moest zorgen. Josephus werkte eerst als koetsier en later als sigarenmaker.

In 1902 huwde Joanna met Henri Verelst. Zij kregen drie zonen en een dochter. De eerstgeboren zoon overleed echter nog voor hij de leeftijd van drie had bereikt.

Tijdens de Grote Oorlog, in mei 1917, werd Joanna gearresteerd voor het verlenen van hulp aan het Belgisch leger. Zij werd er immers van verdacht post te hebben gesmokkeld voor het leger. Hoewel er ook het bevel was om haar echtgenoot te arresteren, sloeg die er tijdig in zich te verstoppen. Terwijl Joanna opgesloten was in de gevangenis van Antwerpen, zorgden haar zussen voor de drie kinderen.  Henri moest noodgedwongen de herberg sluiten die hij met zijn echtgenote uitbaatte en diende ondergedoken te blijven teneinde te verhinderen dat ook hij werd gevangen genomen.

Nadat ze ongeveer een half jaar had doorgebracht in de gevangenis, werd Joanna naar een strafkamp in Duitsland gevoerd, nog verder weg van haar kinderen en familie. Ze was veroordeeld tot drie jaar opsluiting. Ze moest dwangarbeid beoefenen op het land van boerderijen in de wijde omgeving, waarvan er sommigen op lange stapafstand gelegen waren .

Gedurende haar dagen als gevangene, bleef Joanna brieven schrijven naar haar kinderen, haar zussen en haar vader, die overleed in februari 1918 na maanden van ziekte, terwijl Joanna nog steeds was opgesloten. Het was pas enkele maanden na zijn overlijden dat zij het nieuws van zijn heengaan vernam. Ze was diep aangeslagen door het feit dat haar vader haar niet meer thuis had zien komen. Over zijn dood schreef ze in een brief:"Ik heb het droevige nieuws vernomen van het overlijden van Grootvader. Dit heeft me diep geraakt. (...) Waarom hebben jullie niets gezegd? Dat hadden jullie niet moeten doen. Wat zou je hebben gezegd als ik thuis was gekomen en naar hem zou hebben gevraagd? Dat zou nog veel droeviger zijn geweest..."

Uit alle brieven die Joanna schreef blijkt duidelijk de liefde die ze had voor haar gezin en dat het gescheiden zijn van haar geliefden hartverscheurend voor haar was. Ze schreef hoe ze tranen van vreugde huilde wanneer ze een foto van één van haar zonen ontving, en hoe ze elke dag sterkte putte uit de gedachte dat ze op een dag terug verenigd zou worden met haar geliefden.

Aan het einde van de Grote Oorlog werd Joanna vrijgelaten en kon ze eindelijk huiswaarts keren. Ze leefde nog amper tien jaar langer en overleed vroegtijdig op de leeftijd van 47, in 1928. Haar echtgenoot, Henri, overleed in 1953, op de leeftijd van 77 jaar.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Arthur Van Minnebruggen

Arthur Van Minnebruggen

My first post in this blog, I'd like to dedicate to Arthur M. F. Van Minnebruggen. He was born on September 2, 1893 in Antwerp, Belgium to Louis Van Minnebruggen and Rosalia Nagels. He had one older sister and one younger brother. Arthur was a technician up until the beginning of World War I. He was a first cousin of my great-grandfather Constant Van Minnebruggen.

In the army Arthur joined the 1st Grenadiers. As German forces were moving through Belgium, on their way to France, the Belgian army conducted two sorties from Antwerp. The second sortie was from September 9, 1914 to September 13, 1914.

Especially on September 12 there was a very heavy battle in the village of Rotselaar, near a narrow bridge crossing the Dyle river. This battle went down into history as the "Battle of Molen". Hundreds of soldiers died that day, including Arthur... Only ten days after his 21st birthday. This was only at the very beginning of the War in Belgium, as it would last four more years.

Arthur was initially burried in Rotselaar, but later found his final resting place in the military cemetery of Veltem-Beisem. He was awarded the title of Knight in the Order of Leopold II and received a War Cross (Croix de guerre) with Palm.


Mijn eerste bericht in deze blog draag ik op aan Arthur M. F. Van Minnebruggen. Hij werd geboren op 2 september 1893 in Antwerpen, België. Zijn ouders waren Louis Van Minnebruggen en Rosalia Nagels. Hij had één oudere zus en één jongere broer. Voor de Eerste Wereldoorlog was Arthur een werktuigkundige van beroep. Hij was een neef van mijn overgrootvader Constant Van Minnebruggen.

In het leger voegde Arthur zich bij de 1ste Grenadiers. Terwijl Duitse strijdkrachten door België trokken op weg naar Frankrijk, voerde het Belgische leger twee uitvallen vanuit Antwerpen uit. De Tweede Uitval vond plaats van 9 september tot 13 september 1914.

In het bijzonder op 12 september vonden er erg zware gevechten plaats in Rotselaar, nabij een smalle brug over de Dijle. Dit gevecht ging de geschiedenis is als "de Slag van Molen". Honderden soldaten stierven die dag, zo ook Arthur... Amper tien dagen na zijn 21ste verjaardag. Dit was nog maar het prille begin van de Oorlog in België, vermits deze nog vier lange jaren zou duren.

Arthur werd aanvankelijk begraven in Rotselaar, maar vond later zijn finale rustplaats op de militaire begraafplaats van Veltem-Beisem. Hij kreeg de titel van Ridder in de Orde van Leopold II toegekend, evenals een Oorlogskruis met Palm.