I have been busy, stepping out of my comfort zone and into parts unknown to gain a better understanding of the ancestors not all that far removed from me. I am, through my father’s Belgian side of the family a second generation American. I am also second generation German American on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. The great irony with this line of the family is that my German great grandfather married a descendant of the Burgess family that had been here since before the pilgrims landing. I had never thought about this close of a connection to the other side of the pond before. Instead of being able to muck about through files and sites very familiar to me, I have been forced to step into a different state of searching.
I am becoming, slowly, more comfortable with finding information on the Belgian family members and a greater understanding of not just the way documents are kept and displayed but the areas that my ancestors lived in. I have found a lot of married into non relatives that have made my data base grow and given me the chance to become more comfortable with the searches available. I notice that families stayed in areas and married into the same family names and the family lines are starting to show more clearly allowing me to make educated guesses for more information. It is getting easier to figure out which site to start with and which site will have expanded information.
I am also getting more comfortable with the spelling of given names, Peter can be found as Petrus and Pierre, so searches on documents for the same person need to be made on more than just one spelling. Middle names are often used as first names on some documents and not show at all on others. Last names can be presented in several different ways and have to be searched on individually. My maiden name of Van Houtte can be found with and without a space such as VanHoutte. Other names like Vandecasteele can be found as Van De Casteele, Vande Casteele and sometimes as Casteele. Many of the searches are case sensitive; you have to enter each version individually to find results.
The majority of my research seems to be within the East and West Flanders provinces of Belgium. Using what I have been learning I managed to find a third great uncle, Nicolaus Defruytier and his wife and children. This uncle had married Ferdinandine Defruytier and I am working on finding the family link, if there is one there.