I had looked forward to this trip for several reasons; one of the most special was that I would be able to meet members of my paternal great grandmother’s family. Jean found me because of this blog and wrote that he thought that we were related. It turned out that we share a great-great grandfather. To his surprise I was able to get copies of family photos of some members of the family that he had recognized.
I let the family know where I would be staying in Brussels and what day we could meet when my job responsibilities were completed. They arrived as planned at the door to my hotel after driving in from Tourcoing, France. They brought gifts with them from Tourcoing, a beautiful plate and a bottle of wine from the DeFruytier wine makers. Jean also brought me a heavy book that he had put together for me on the DeFruytier family with copies of birth, marriage and death certificates. We spent the next couple of hours pouring over each page with Robert translating my English to French and Jean’s French to English.
The DeFruytiers had been members of court with their own family crest. Breeaking the name DeFruytier down would as you would assume mean fruit growers. The family crest contains the images of three pears along with an orange band. The shield is topped with a helmet which has a pear on the point.
He too had photos for me and one that I believe is a picture of my grandfather in his late teens or early twenties. The resemblance to my father and uncles was unbelievable. I had only seen one other photo of him when my father would have been a boy. The man I would always remember was a full faced, heavy set man that when I was very small smoked a pipe.
We compared notes on missing documents, my great grandparent’s marriage license and the travel documentation for my great grandmother Clemence’s brother, Jules. Jules had traveled to the states on at least two separate occasions from what relatives remembered and his passport information or ships records have not yet been found.
The back of the book Jean handed me had Defruytier (Defruiter) information that was from Robert’s family line. Which I have since returning to the states spent several days entering all of it into a separate family tree document to see if I can find any missing information for Robert’s Defruytier line.
We decided it was about time to have a bit of lunch and walked over to the Brussels Diner for a bite. I sat between my cousin’s wives across the table from Jean and Robert and listened to them order us a Belgian style meal. They ordered Belgian beer and carbonnade au boeuf. The beef was so tender and the sauce covering it so flavorful that I promised myself that I would be finding a recipe and making this delicate Belgian beef dinner really soon. We topped off dinner with a Belgian chocolate sundae, the vanilla ice cream was so soft and sweet and light, unlike what we are normally use to. Chantilly, sweetened whipped cream, topped the sundae off to perfection.
It was growing late and the trip back to France for them would be a long one with rush hour traffic beginning. I was sad to see them go, this distant family that I had become very fast friends with. I hugged them all god-bye and headed back inside to my hotel room, more of a Belgian native than the way I had started out the day.