From Brussels, we took the train back to Paris. A side trip to Reims, to see the Cathedral and to enjoy a private tour and tasting at Chateau Pommery. Dinner at Roger the Frog, a tiny quaint delicious bistro in Paris near our hotel, St. Germain des Pres. And then back to New York, full of information about the family history, and filled with more questions.
There is the issue of Alexis Vanderdonck. Though I know more about him, he remains a mystery. Was he really Freda’s father, as indicated on her birth certificate, or was his acknowledgement of her a form of adoption? I think it’s unlikely he’s the father. But who was the father? I doubt we will ever know.
And then, the divorce. Was it really for adultery, or was that the only ground for divorce at that time (1891)? We know that divorces were rare in Holland. We also know that great-grandmother Paulina Vanderdonck-Kool left Mr. Vanderdonck and emigrated to the US when Freda and Theodore “eloped.” So she did desert him. Thereafter she used the name Van der Pijl, or Vanderpyle, but no Mr. Vanderpyle appears in any of the records I’ve found.
There is a story that Grandmother’s stepfather (Vanderdonck) was “chasing her around” as she grew older, and that’s why mother and daughter came to the US.
But there was also the story that Grandmother and Grandfather “met on the ship coming over.” So who knows? The fact that Freda looked up her father, probably visited him in Belgium with her four oldest children, and wondered if he was still alive in 1919 tells us that she didn’t hate him and did think of him as her father.
Finally, the business Paulina and her sister Cecelia supposedly had, making baby clothes for the Royal Family. I have found no trace of this, yet I believe there is some truth in it. More on my suspicions soon.
The story of our trip through Belgium and Holland is over, but I still have documents to post, theories to discuss, and other genealogical tidbits to share. I’ve managed to trace the Jansen family back many generations, for instance. More on the family tree in the next post.