The Orphan Soldier
How The Search For A Baptism Record Led To An Unexpected Surprise
I had started tracing my family tree with great enthusiasm until I hit a brick wall with the baptism record of my ancestor Lambert. I knew from his death record that he was born in IJzendijke but could find no record of him there, nor of the marriage of his parents. I hired Dutch Ancestry Coach to get me a copy of the baptism record and to find out more about his parents' marriage. This simple question lead us on an unexpected research adventure that ended with the accidental discovery of a very special document that had laid hidden in an archive for almost 250 years...
My genealogist found the baptism record for me, but could not find anything about the marriage of Lambert's parents. She suggested that they probably did not marry at IJzendijke but somewhere else. The only question was where? As IJzendijke was a garrison town she suggested that Lambert's father may have been a soldier who traveled from garrison town to garrison town. Taking Lambert's date of birth as a starting point she checked which regiments would be possible candidates. After some time the right regiment was found and with it a flood of data on my once so elusive ancestor.
We managed to reconstruct his travels, found his place of marriage and the places of birth of his six children. Almost every one of them was born in a different garrison town. But the origins of Lambert's father remained unclear. His military records said he was born in Amersfoort. But there no records of him could be found. As a last resort our genealogist suggested we could check the Amersfoort orphanage records. Not only did we find out that he was indeed brought up in the orphanage, we also learned that he was left there by his father who was a soldier from Namur, Belgium.
But among some "varied correspondence" also found in the orphanage files a beautiful treasure was found. A letter from Lambert's father addressed to the orphanage director making inquiries after his origins. It was amazing to see a hand written letter by my ancestor. Though the letter was short it made three things very clear. He had fond memories of his childhood at the orphanage given the tender way in which he addresses the director, which went clearly beyond normal politeness. He was desperate to find out about his origins, since he makes an inquiry about a somewhat far fetched possible family connection. And his deep love for his wife of whom he speaks with great concern as she has fallen ill after recent childbirth.
It is so strange to have a peak inside the personal thoughts and feelings of an ancestor after 250 years. I truly treasure this letter!
* Names and some details have been altered to protect our clients' privacy