Vacation is over and as I had hoped there was ancestry information waiting for me in the huge pile of mail on the counter. After unloading the car and getting things put away, I plopped down on the couch with my requested letter, promptly ignoring the bills.
As I have found before the information that you get back is only as good as the memory of the ancestor that filled it out. Enclosed in the envelope were 2 of the death certificates that I had requested. Nothing has come easy from the Van Houtte side of the family and this was still holding true. Unlike my grandfather West that told stories and mentioned relatives, the Van Houttes breathed not one word. My assumption was that at the very least their children knew something.
I looked at my great grandfather’s record first. My eyes swept the certificate quickly looking for the parent information. The Father field had Van Houtte in it, no first name. The Mother field was worse, it had Don’t Know. Both of his parents were born in Belgium as was Emil. Emil’s son George had filled out the form. What I did find out was his address had been 249 High Street, Bradford, PA, not in Layfette as I had thought. He had died from Labar Pneumonia in the Bradford Hospital, April 12, 1939. I now had his birth date of March 1, 1865.
Just 4 weeks prior to Emil’s death his estranged wife Clemence Marie had died in the Bradford Hospital. I studied her death record next. In the Father field on her record it had Bruno Defruytier. Not only was this new information for me, the spelling of the last name was different than my father had given me. After searching on ancestry I found that the name is spelled both Defruytier and Defruitier. The question then remains which is correct. Her son John had filled the record out and my assumption is he may have known better than her grandchild. She died from chronic myocardial in sufficiency (congestive) and had been suffering from Diabetes. The document listed her birth date as February 9, 1871, one more nugget of information for my file.
Clemence was born in France, which may help to explain how her first 2 children were born in France. Emil born in Belgium had moved to France prior to 1899 when he would marry Clemence. By 1906 the family of 4 would immigrate to the United States and have 2 more children. Clemence and Emil didn’t become naturalized citizens, my grandfather Amos would never become a naturalized citizen either.
Clemence lived at 56 West Washington Street when she died. I knew the house on West Washington Street well. Clemence had left the house to her son George with the stipulation that it be sold on the day that he married or in the event he never married it was to be sold when he died. My grandfather Amos would live in that house rent free and George would never marry. Amos would raise 7 children in the house and it would fill with grandchildren as the years passed. It was a long narrow house, one room wide and 2 stories tall. The floors tipped and slanted and the place always smelled a bit musty. The bedrooms in the back of the upstairs were always cold in the winter. There was a bedroom that was kept for George, the bed piled high with boxes of shirts, Christmas gifts from years passed.
Because the house was only one room wide the dining room would become and obstacle course to get around during holidays. The room sat between the kitchen and bathroom in the back and the living room in the front. The adults would all gather in the dining room eating and talking while the kids were watching tv in the living room. You would be forced to squeeze and excuse yourself around adults and furniture to gain access to the bathroom in the back of the house. Holidays were always loud raucous affairs in that house, something I would miss in later years.
When George died in 1980 the house was sold and my grandfather would buy a house in Custer City. The house is gone now, bulldozed down an ice cream shop now located where it stood.