Category Archives: Family Photos

It’s Bastille Day! Vive la France!!

As the 2014 Tour de France wound its way through the streets of Roubaix a few days ago, I found myself wondering what life must have been like for my Bonté and Heyman ancestors who lived in this area of France and in neighboring Belgium over a hundred years ago. Rain prevented the TV helicopters from showing the typically spectacular panoramic views of the countryside as the cyclists made their way from Ypres, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, France, but now and then you caught a glimpse of the centuries-old houses packed tightly together along narrow streets. Fields of flax, just coming into brilliant blue bloom, could occasionally be seen in the distance.

It was this plant, Linum usitatissimum, that provided the livelihood for some of my Flemish ancestors during the 18th and 19th centuries. Operating mainly as a cottage industry until the mid-1800’s the growing, spinning and weaving of flax fibers into linen cloth provided a subsistence living to the rural folk of Flanders, in the northwestern part of Belgium. Read more about what life was like and how linen was produced on family farms, including some excellent photos and maps, at the Rootsweb Belgium website for Flanders and Flemish Brabant. If you have Flemish roots, you can get in touch with them every time you pull a US dollar bill out of your pocket. The flax fibers in that dollar bill come from the Vervaeke Fibre company of Kuurne, West Flanders, Belgium, and some of the flax is still produced there, according to a Latitude News article. Just across the border between Belgium and France are the French “communes” of Tourcoing and Roubaix. This area, also well-known for its textile industry, produced cloth mainly from wool.

By the time my grandfather, Louis Bonté, was born in Tourcoing on 6 November 1897,1 the industrial revolution had turned the villages of Tourcoing and Roubaix into bustling, industrial towns. In 1906, Tourcoing hosted an international exposition to showcase its textile industry. Five years later, Roubaix followed suit. A blog devoted to the 2011 centennial celebration of the Roubaix exposition,, features photographs and postcards from both events. If you want to actually read the history between the pictures, you may want to use Google translate. Here are a few postcards to whet your appetite:

roubaix chimneys

A view of Roubaix in 1911–the “city of a thousand chimneys.”


Tg 1906 WC Couleur

 The water chute ride at the International Exposition in Tourcoing, 1906.


Louis Bonté was the seventh of ten children. His father, Gustave Désiré Bonté, was born in Tourcoing on 11 October 1857.2 His mother, Léonie Dejonkere, was born in the nearby town of Wattrelos on 11 April 1863.3

The parents of my grandmother, Jeanne Marie Heyman, were both born in Belgium, but were living in France when they married. Her father, Louis Heyman, was born 5 August 1865 in Saint Nicolas (Sint-Niklaas), Belgium.4 Her mother, Jeanne Marie Peetroons, was born on 21 November 1861 in Huyssinghen (Huizingen), Belgium.5 Perhaps they met working as tisserandes (weavers) at the same textile factory. They married on 3 May 1886 in the town of Croix, France, where she and her parents lived.6 Sometime after the birth of their daughters, Elisabeth and Hortense Rosalie, the Heymans moved to Lys-lez-Lannoy where their son, Clodius Joseph, was born in June, 1893.7 He died when he was just 17 days old.8 Within the next year they moved to Leers where a daughter, Léontine, was born.9 She, too, lived less than a month.10 One year later came Sophie,11 followed by my grandmother-to-be, Jeanne Marie, on 26 March 1898.12 At the time my grandmother was born, her father was working as a cabaretier (innkeeper.) They lived in a hameau (hamlet) named Vert Bois on the outskirts of Leers.13

I don’t know how my grandmother and grandfather met, but the romantic side of me wants to believe they fell in love over a glass of wine in a French bistro. What I do know is that they were both twenty-two years old when they married in Tourcoing on 11 September 1920. I am very fortunate to have the “Livret de Famille” given to them by the French civil authorities on the day they were married.

Bonte Livret de Famille

In this book would have been recorded the births of all their children, had they remained in France, but on 16 May 1923 they sailed to America from Antwerp, Belgium on the S.S. Lapland .14

Whatever you may think about French politics, I must say that French record-keeping definitely gets my vote! Births, deaths and marriages are recorded in great detail. In addition to the primary names and dates, the records usually include names of parents and witnesses, ages, occupations and places of birth. In some cases, the birth record also notes subsequent marriages. Ten-year indexes are available for many towns, making it easy to locate records by surname.This makes tracing a family back in time fairly simple, once you get past the problem of translating the record from French, or Flemish/Dutch in the case of some Belgian records. Records for the northeastern area of France, called the department du Nord, have been microfilmed and can be viewed online at Some records for Belgium can be found at


1 Tourcoing, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1897, naissances [births], #1573, Louis Bonté; digital images, Archives Departmentales du Nord ,“Tourcoing /N, TA [1897-1897],” microfilm 1MiEC599R037 ( accessed 27 June 2014), image 520.

2 Tourcoing, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1857, naissances, #96-957, Gustave Désiré Bonté; digital images, Archives Departmentales du Nord, “Tourcoing /N [1855-1858],” microfilm 5Mi049R097 ( accessed 19 June 2014), image 849.

3 Wattrelos, Roubaix, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1863, naissances, #168, Leonie Dejonkere; digital images, Archives Departmentales du Nord, “Wattrelos /N [1860-1865],” microfilm 5Mi047R111 ( accessed 19 June 2014), image 450.

4 St. Nicolaes, Oost-Vlaenderen, Belgique, “Register van Geboorten, voor het jaer duizend acht honderd vyf-en-zestig,” #538, Ludovicus Van Campen (later Heyman); digital images, Family Search, “Flandre-Orientale, registres d’état civil, 1541-1910” ( : accessed 30 June 2014), Sint-Niklaas, Geboorten, 1865, image 163; citing Rijksarchief te Oost-Vlaanderen.

5 Croix, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1886, mariages [marriages], #18, Louis Heyman and Jeanne Marie Peetroons; digital images, Archives Departmentales du Nord, “Croix /M [1867-1886],”  microfilm 5Mi047R005 ( accessed 30 June 2014), image 29.

6 ibid.

7 Lys-lez-Lannoy, Lannoy, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1893, naissances, #88, Clodius Joseph Heyman; digital images, Archives Départmentales du Nord, “Lys-lez-Lannoy /N [1893-1901],” microfilm 1MiEC367R002 ( accessed 30 June 2014), image 20.

8 Lys-lez-Lannoy, Lannoy, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1893, décès [deaths], #63, Clodius Joseph Heyman; digital images, Archives Départmentales du Nord, Lys-lez-Lannoy /M (1888-1903), D (1888-1904) [1888-1904],” microfilm 1MiEC367R003 ( accessed 30 June 2014), image 602.

9 Leers, Lannoy, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1894, naissances, #63, Leontine Heyman; digital images, Archives Départmentales du Nord, “Leers /NMD [1888-1899],” microfilm 1MiEC339R002 ( accessed 28 June 2014), image 338.

10 Leers, Lannoy, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1894, décès, #59, Leontine Heyman; digital images, Archives Départmentales du Nord, “Leers /NMD [1888-1899],” microfilm 1MiEC339R002 ( accessed 28 June 2014).

11 Leers, Lannoy, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1895, naissances, #68, Sophie Heyman; digital images, Archives Départmentales du Nord, “Leers /NMD [1888-1899],” microfilm 1MiEC339R002 ( accessed 28 June 2014), image 389.

12 Leers, Lannoy, Lille, Nord, France, Registre d’État-Civil, 1898, naissances, #28, Jeanne Marie Heyman; digital images, Archives Départmentales du Nord, “Leers /NMD [1888-1899],” microfilm 1MiEC339R002 ( accessed 28 June 2014), image 543.

13 ibid.

14 Manifest, S. S. Lapland, 16 May 1923, list 4, page 185, line 21-23, Louis Bonte, Jeanne Bonte, and Marcelle Heyman; digital images,, “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” ( indiv=1&db=nypl&h=4027536922: accessed 13 July 2014).

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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Bonte, Family Photos, France, Heyman, Uncategorized


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My Trip to Richmond, Virginia – Part One

While attending the 2014 National Genealogical Society conference in Richmond, I took some time to check out my family connections to this beautiful, historic city.

My first stop was Oakwood Cemetery, 3101 Nine Mile Road, Richmond. I photographed the headstones in the Askew plot, and the plat book showing the record of Askew family burials. The plat book shows that Mrs. Mary Askew purchased the plot on October 10, 1911. The location in the cemetery is Plat B, Section 1, Lot 81, Part 4. The cemetery is huge! I would never have found the graves without the map and directions given to me by the very helpful cemetery office secretary.


Here is the Askew plot – four headstones in an area outlined by a granite curb.

Oakwood Cemetery Askew Plot

The front of the plot is marked with the Askew name, almost completely hidden by the encroaching grass.


The first burial was James A. Askew (Mary’s husband and my great-great-grandfather) on October 9, 1911. Difficult to read due to the growth of lichens on the headstone, it says that he was born September 17, 1856 and died October 7, 1911.

IMG_1963 - Version 2

Next to be buried was Mary B. Askew (his wife) on March 6, 1934. This headstone has fallen off its foundation.


James Alpheus Askew, Jr. (their son) was buried five years later, on December 8, 1939.


The last two were just one year apart: Charles Thompson Askew (their son) on March 31, 1960, and Rena B. Askew Watson (their daughter) on May 11, 1961.


The neighborhood where the Askews lived was nearby, so my next stop was the home of James and Mary Askew at 105 North 29th Street. The sidewalk in front of the house was being replaced and a huge city truck blocked a good view of the house and prevented me from taking a photo. Here is an old photo (courtesy of my uncle) of the Askew family standing on the steps of that house. We believe that the people in this photo, clockwise from the left, are Robert L. Askew, his wife Martha Ellen Gilliam Askew, his mother Mary Bullock Askew, and his sisters Mabel, Jennie, Rena and Emily.


And here is that same view in a photo taken by my uncle on his trip to Richmond.


After their marriage, Robert L. Askew and Martha Ellen Gilliam (my great-grandparents) lived at 115 North 29th Street, just a few houses away. (More about them in my next post.)

I spent some time wandering around the neighborhood. Less than a block from the house is Libby Hill Park (formerly called Marshall Square), one of the three original parks in Richmond according to the website. From this view standing in the park, you can just barely see the former Askew house (light green) to the right of the tree behind the fountain.


The park features a monument to the soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy erected in 1894.

Confederate soldier monument in the park at the end of N. 29th

It’s a beautiful park with a breathtaking view of the James River.


According to a sign in the park, it was this view that inspired the city to be named Richmond.

Sign at the end of N 29th St

I can imagine the Askews strolling down the very same cobblestone streets where I took these photos. This street leads down the hill from the park to Tobacco Row.



Here is another view from the park.

Former tobacco company plant viewed from the park at the end of N. 29th

There is a wonderful vintage map of Richmond here. You will find the area where the Askew family lived near the right edge of the map. Look for the intersection of North 29th Street and Franklin Street. The map, circa 1909, shows the area as it was when they lived there.

I had a wonderful time exploring Richmond and walking in the footsteps of my ancestors.



Posted by on June 15, 2014 in Askew, Family Photos, Uncategorized


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Charles T. Askew – Looking Ahead and Looking Back

Bringing the Charles Thompson Askew family into the present day requires more research than I am prepared to do. Because of privacy concerns, the information available online for people presumed to be still living is somewhat limited. And rightly so! Here is what I know of the rest of this story.

We know from her obituary, that Charles’ daughter Bertie (from his first marriage to Leila Skinner) and her husband Daniel Henderson had a daughter named Ruth, who was attending Swarthmore College at the time of Bertie’s death in 1935. Ruth’s engagement to H. Woodward McDowell, two years after her mother’s death, was announced in the New York Times:

New York Times; published May 2, 1937.


Although I have some clues about Ruth and H. Woodward McDowell from news articles which suggest they had two daughters named Nancy and Ann, I cannot prove it at this time.

We know from Charles’ obituary that he married a woman whose first name was Edith and that they had a son named Charles. The 1920 federal census record for Sierra Madre, Los Angeles county, California, shows Charles T. Askew, head-of-household, age 61, born in North Carolina; Edith M. Askew, his wife, age 48, born in England; Charles E. Askew, his son, age 19, born in New York. Given all the evidence I have already presented about Charles T. Askew, I have concluded that this record must pertain to him and his family. The last record I have for Charles Thompson Askew is the obituary, published just 3 years after this census was taken. His wife’s maiden name may have been Matthews. The California Death Index lists Edith Matthews Askew, born November 12, 1870 in “other country” and died February 19, 1957 in Los Angeles.

His son, Charles E. Askew, can be found in numerous records. The 1930 federal census record for Sierra Madre, Los Angeles county, California shows Charles E. Askew, head-of-household, age 30, born in New York, father born in North Carolina, mother born in England; Freeda I. Askew, his wife, age 24, born in California; Helen E. Askew, his daughter, age 4, born in California; Betty J. Askew, his daughter, age 6 months, born in California. This census also asked for “age at first marriage.” In this case, it gives us some very important information. For Charles, his age at first marriage is reported to be 21 – approximately 9 years earlier. For Freeda, however, her age at first marriage is reported to be 23 – just one year earlier, and too soon to be the mother of Helen who is 4 years old. I suspect that Freeda is his second wife. Can I prove it?

The California Birth Index, which I found on, lists Helen Edith Askew, born in Los Angeles county on July 25, 1925. Her mother’s maiden name is recorded as Vanblack. The California Death Index, also found on, lists Helen Edith, born July 25, 1925 in California and died May 7, 1996 in Los Angeles county. It records her mother’s maiden name as Vanvleck, her father’s surname as Askew, and her full name as Helen Edith Pennington. Despite the different spellings of her mother’s maiden name, which could easily be due to a transcription error, these records appear to match each other and are consistent with the 1930 census record. Could Vanblack (or Vanvleck) be the maiden name of Charles E. Askew’s first wife?

After much searching, I hit pay dirt! In a family history published on (the complete source for this record is listed at the end of this post) here is what I found:

Child of Frank Abram and Eliza B. (Stanbery) Van Vleck: Helen Janette Van Vleck (adopted), born Feb 2, 1904; died at the birth of her only daughter; married in Sierra Madre CA April, 1922, Charles Askew. Child Helen.

It appears that Charles E. was married first to Helen Van Vleck and second to Freeda (last name unknown.) Helen apparently died in childbirth. So sad . . .

In census records I found Frank Abram, Eliza and Helen. That information together with the Van Vleck family history led me to the book The History of Cerro Gordo County, IA, 1910, which has quite a bit of information about the Stanbery/Stanbury family. It reports that Frank Van Vleck and Eliza Belle Stanbury are living in Minot, ND and that she is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. William C. Stanbery. The Iowa connection led me to an article published in the Mason City Globe Gazette on October 17, 1957 about a lawsuit that the local power company was bringing against many people who had an interest in land located in the Stanbury Addition, Mason City, Cerro Gordo county. The defendants included Charles E. Askew and Irene Askew, husband and wife, and Helen Edith Askew Pennington!

One detail that I have yet to prove is the maiden name of Charles E. Askew’s second wife. The census records list her name as Freeda or Freida I. Askew. Given that the name listed in the news article is “Irene,” I think that may be her middle name.

Old high school and college yearbooks are increasingly available online. Here is a photo I found in the 1945 Pasadena Jr. College Yearbook for Helen Edith Askew.

What else do I know? From his military registration card, I know that Charles E. Askew’s middle name is Emerson (keep that in mind, it is a name you will see again) and that he had blue eyes and brown hair, and that his birthday was August 18, 1900. He may have served in the US Air Force as a pilot and may have been a volunteer fireman in Sierra Madre, according to various records I have found but that I can’t prove pertain to him. I have not found a death record for him. The California Death Index lists Freida I. Askew, born October 17, 1905 in California, died September 10, 1975 in Los Angeles. I haven’t been able to find any records for their daughter, Betty.

Next, we will return to the east coast at the end of the 19th century and follow one of Charles T. Askew’s brothers.

There is always “more to the story!”


Source: Ancestry and descendants of Tielman Van Vleeck of Niew Amsterdam : with some descendants of Benjamin Van Vleck and Marinus Roel [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. (Original data: Van Vleck, Jane,. Ancestry and descendants of Tielman Van Vleeck of Niew Amsterdam : with some descendants of Benjamin Van Vleck and Marinus Roelofse van Vleckeren or Van Vlack. New York: unknown, 1955.)

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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Askew, Family Photos, Uncategorized


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Is This Our Bertie?

Here is a photo I found years ago while searching for Askew ancestors. It is from the website The Olden Times.

According to the information on The Olden Times website about the photo, it is mounted on a card with the name Jeffers Studio, 106 N. Charlotte, Balto. printed at the bottom. On the back is written the following:

With much love for Bess from “her friend by the sea,” Bertie C. Askew

Isn’t’ she a lovely young lady?

When I first saw the photo and read the inscription, I didn’t have any reason to think that she had any connection to our Askew family. Now, I have some evidence that she may be my first cousin, three times removed.

A newspaper report shows that Bertie and her mother, Lila, were living in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in 1901. Bertie would have been about 18 years old at this time. In the “Personal and Social News” column of the Denton Journal, published on July 20, 1901 it says:

Mrs. Lila Askew and daughter, Miss Bertie Askew, of Rehoboth, visited Mrs. T. Pliny Fisher last week.

Furthermore, Bertie’s husband, Daniel M. Henderson, wrote an article about Rehoboth Beach for The Baltimore Sun, published on July 31, 1921, entitled “This Sentimental Journey to Rehoboth Discloses Many, Many, Fine Things.” He writes:

Conrad, on his wanderings in search of the romance of his youth, went first to Sweetbay, an English watering place, and was disillusioned.  B. and I chose Rehoboth for a quest akin to Conrad’s.

Please don’t ask how many years ago it was when the pair of us first discovered Rehoboth to be a romantic spot. Let it be sufficient that it seemed so to us at a period considerably over a decade ago. Later, moving from Baltimore to New York, the Delaware resort had been eclipsed by New Jersey seashore places, and had almost faded from memory.

He goes on to say:

There is a place on the Delaware coast where one (who has suffered the prolonged tortures of the train ride) may find a wild beach and a friendly people; may walk in odorous pine forests and hear, with the song of the surf as a background, the minstrelsy of thrushes, warblers and hummingbirds; may plunder (with bees and June-bugs) blackberry vines and blueberry bushes; may catch his own fish and fry his own crabs–and be as lonely and content as if he had plunged a thousand miles into the wilderness.

This is what Rehoboth meant to us. To you it may be “the last place on earth.” It depends on whether at one time in your life you met there and formed a life companionship with–a man or a girl!

Isn’t that romantic?

Do you think there is enough evidence to conclude that she is the Bertie in our family tree? VOTE by leaving a comment!


Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Askew, Family Photos, Uncategorized


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