First, let me apologize for the silence. It’s my busy season, and I’ve been decking halls since the first week of December. Yesterday I finally decked my own, and now, before the Christmas madness starts, I want to get back to the journey.
I left you in Rekem, where we found the church great-great-grandmother Vanderdonck was buried from, and the building where her husband worked as a customs official.
We had learned, easily enough, from the Vanderdonck family card in Rotterdam that Grandmother’s father — or stepfather — had been born in Beek, Belgium. The hard part was finding Beek itself. We were told by several people who it was a suburb of Antwerp. Others said it was near Maastricht. Still others said “Beek,” which means “brook,” is a common ending for Belgian towns, and there would have to be some word before it. Maps were no help. We didn’t have a clue.
Finally, the man we met in Rekem told us that Beek was nearby — it had become part of another town, as Rekem had become part of Lanaken. He named a few towns it might have been swallowed by, and we drove through several, looking for Beek without luck.
Our last stop was a small town called Bree. It had clearly been a market town, and had its own small but lovely church. It also had a town hall, where we learned that Bree had indeed consumed Beek — the two towns merged in 1965 — and found a map.
The village of Beek had become a neighborhood. New houses lined roads in subdivisions where the black top seemed barely dry.
But the Catholic church is still there. Dedicated to St. Martin, its Romanesque tower was built with field stones in 1007.
Inside, the church holds some late Gothic statues, and a restored organ dating from the 18th century. The pipes are from 1593, making Beek’s organ the oldest in Belgium.
A small cemetary surrounds the building, but we found no Vanderdoncks among those graves. Still, we knew that if Alexis Vanderdonck was baptized in Beek, it would have been in this ancient, peaceful place.