Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Asymmetrical Branches of a Family Tree

The spreading branches and leaves on the limb of a family tree look a bit like this accompanying print of a cherry tree branch. Nothing about a cherry tree's branches or the branches of a family tree are perfectly symmetrical or coordinated.

For over ten years, genealogical research has been an important avocation for me.

Yesterday, in my interview with A.F Stewart (see her blog site: afstewart interviews gailmbaugniet ) I mentioned creating a family of characters for Pepper Bibeau, my novel’s protagonist. This enabled me to develop Pepper’s back-story while providing a full cast of characters to draw from for this and future novels in the series.

Using information from the vital records I had compiled over a ten-year period, I also wrote this short family history for my great, great grandparents who emigrated from French Belgium.


Much has been written of the emigration of Belgian citizens and the hardships they endured to make a better life for their families.

Clement and Augustine had been married for fourteen years and had three young sons when they made the voyage by ship across the Atlantic Ocean in 1856. They left behind many loved ones: relatives, friends, and neighbors. Although Clement’s mother, Elizabeth, had died three years before the journey, his father, Andre, was still alive at the age of 82. Their youngest son, Frederic Joseph, was only eight months old when they sailed out of Antwerp. Before they were able to make a return trip to their homeland, Clement’s father died in 1858 and his sister, Marie Catherine, died in 1861.

Through these difficult times, Clement and Augustine found reasons to rejoice. The boys remained healthy and were able to labor alongside their father on the heavily wooded farmland located near the East Twin River, acreage Clement purchased in a quiet farming town in eastern Wisconsin.

In 1867, Clement and Augustine celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Within ten years, all of their sons were married, their youngest on the final day of 1877. Their celebrations included neighboring farm families who owned land adjacent to or near their homestead. Eventually, most of the neighbors became branches of the family tree as grandchildren married.

When Augustine died in 1890, she was interred in the burial ground behind the local church. Clement died two years later and was buried beside her. Their 17th grandchild, Arthur Thomas, was born the following year, 1893, in the same small town where Clement and Augustine settled decades earlier.

Least we forget the hardships they endured and the opportunities their actions offered to us, their descendents, it is important to record our family’s history. May their memories, along with their hopes and dreams, live in us and continue to inspire the constant striving for betterment imbued in the zealous Belgian spirit.

For pictures and articles about my visit to Belgium in 2007, visit this link: genealogy trip, Belgium, 2007


  1. Fascinating stuff, even the real history feels like a storybook tale.

    Cheers for visiting my blog and for following. I've been following this site for a while and always find something of interest in your posts.


  2. Thanks for visiting. I think we've been following each other since the April A-Z Blog Challenge!

  3. I thought so, but for some odd reason you just appeared on my google connect thingy as a new follower.

  4. My brother wrote up my grandfather's memoirs and included lots of family history. My copy is now a treasured possession.

  5. I would love to do some genealogy but it's finding the time. Fascinating accounts you describe here.

  6. Thank you, Madeleine. I agree that genealogy research is a time consuming hobby/avocation, but the discoveries and sense of history are rewarding.


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