Brick wall – VanPaemel  wed  DeGrande – Belgium/Michigan

It was a foggy, cold, windy night and out of the inky blackness appeared this sultry mysterious woman, wearing a silk cyan face mask. She came right up to me and stopped a safe 6 feet from me and in a seductive voice whispered,

“Are you a genealogist?”

I looked right into those piercing jet blue eyes and as I adjusted my mask over my nose replied in a hushed low voice,

“Yes, what do you need?”

She looked around to make sure no one else was listening to our conversation and again whispered,

“I would like my family tree investigated.”

I too looked around, took in our surroundings to make sure it was safe and peering into the shadow now being cast over her masked face, as I handed her a ripped piece of cardboard I had taken from inside my cart and I replied.

“Quickly, write down your parent’s last names, a date and your e-mail address.”

She took the piece of cardboard from my gloved hand and rummaged through her small leather purse for a pencil or pen to write with.  Once she had found a pen, she looked around making sure no one was watching, as she wrote.

I watched her gloved hand flow smoothly over the cardboard as she neatly penned the names and date of her relatives. Her concentration was on the task in front of her and I could see her struggle to make sure each letter was neatly fashioned.

When she finished her labored task, she handed me the piece of cardboard and I read “Sandy….”,

I gestured to her and pointed to her e-mail address as I sounded out the letters to make sure I was reading it correctly. She nodded and just like that we went our separate ways.

I worked on the Sandy Tree investigation for about a week and have now come to a brick wall that refuses to come down. I was hoping my readers would be able to help me solve the mystery.


Okay, so that is not exactly how it happened but it could have.

Here is the truth:

It was a foggy, cold and windy night…

Okay, okay…

It was a hot August afternoon, as I waited in the return bottle line at Kroger, a middle aged lady pulled up behind me with her car of bottles and cans to return.

I was wearing the mask I had sewn the day before which was of a political nature. Donkey’s on a blue background.

Aug masks blue with white donkey only “This will be important later on in the post.”

She had on a cyan paper generic mask, that people wear, who are not convinced they have to wear masks at all. In front of me in line was a younger woman who too had a paper cyan mask and I mentioned something about the news; “Gee, I wonder how those poor people will get by without the extra six hundred dollars.” Thinking that maybe she would say she was one of those who was struggling… then I could offer to help her with purchasing her groceries. I’ve done that in the past; picked up the tab for someone who looked in need.

Well, I didn’t get the response I was hoping for. You’d think I swore something at her, because she said something to the affect that they are lazy and don’t want to go back to work because they are making more money than what they get in their jobs.

I turned to see what the woman behind me had to say about it thinking she might be an ally but she too chimed in with similar views; “they all take advantage of the government’s generosity”.

The young girl said she was professional classical musician. I asked her what instrument and she said the oboe but has not played since March when everything closed down. That was the end of that conversation.

The lady behind me said she was going to retire anyway and worked from home a bit but for a month now has been retired. We talked about how the stores are opening slowly but many places don’t take used clothes or have shorter hours for bottle returns … etc…

I said I was perfectly fine with the lock down because I am an introvert and don’t mind being by myself. The lady said that she was not good at being stuck at home and needed to go out to be with people. The young girl had already gone into the store so we did not get to hear about her life during COVID-19.

The lady and I chit chatted a bit and I mentioned that I did genealogy, creating family trees for others and that is when she said

“Oh, I would like to know about my family. I know nothing except that they lived around here and in Alpena.”

I said I could make a tree for her.

I looked around for something to write on and tore a piece off of the beer carton in my cart and handed it to her, as she looked in her purse for a pen.

She took the cardboard and quickly wrote down her information. I told her I would need a date and she wrote 1932. She handed me the piece of cardboard and I read it out loud to make sure I got the letters correct. “Sandy…”

Sandy blanked out

I put the piece in my pocket and the store lady said I could go into the store… as I was leaving Sandy asked “what is your name?”  I said “Jose” as I entered the store and went into the bottle return room. I never saw Sandy again.

When I got home and finished putting away the groceries I started working on the “Sandy Tree”.

I did some basic searches for her parent’s last names and up came dozens of possibilities from all over the state and country so there was no good results with the limited information.

I sent Sandy an e-mail telling her I would need more info and outlined what bits of info I would need: Names, dates, birth dates and places, marriage dates and places. Etc… I also told her about my work with old newspapers, obits and my blog. I gave here examples of the information I used to create trees off of obit.

I was going to move on to something else and forget the Sandy tree until I got more info from her but something inside me told me to try one more time.

I decided to create a tree for Sandy on Ancestry dot com with the limited info.


I typed her name, her husband’s last name, her father’s last name and her mother’s maiden name, plus her parent’s birth year, which Sandy said was around 1932.

Well , once I hit the enter button, the hints started coming in and there in a FindAGrave page was her mother and it contained her children’s names thus I was able to confirm Sandy and her whole family.

I plugged those names on the tree and more hints came in. I was able to find Sandy’s grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents names, for all the branches except one. I can’t seem to find any more records for Peter VanPaemel  who is married to Ella DeGrande.

0 - Blog - VanPaemel and DeGrande

Here are the records I found for Peter and the family trees that have Ella on their branches.

0 - Blog - Peter Van Paemel -1882- 1942 - Belgium and Michigan

0 - Blog - Ella Eladie DeGrande -1882- Belgium and Michigan

Here is a City Directory entry for 1932

0 - Blog - 1932 - VanPaemel VanPamel family - City Dir - Detroit

I hope the above information will allow someone to help bring down the brick wall.


So anyway I worked on the tree for a week, from the time I got home on Sunday until today.

I sent Sandy an e-mail each time I completed the work before logging off for a nap or dinner or sleep.

On the third day of working on the tree and sending Sandy messages I woke up laughing because of he following dream.

I had not heard from Sandy, so the dream must have been a way of telling me why I had not gotten a reply from Sandy to my many e-mails.

I of course sent her an e-mail telling her of the dream.

Hi Sandy,

I woke up from my nap laughing because of a dream scene I had as I was waking up.

I saw you coming home from the store.

You: “Hi, hon, you’ll never know what happened to me.”

Husband: “What. Are you okay?”

You: “Oh, no. No problem. I was standing in the return bottle line at Kroger and got to talking to this little old man who does genealogy.”

Husband: “A gynecologist?”

You: “No, a genealogist, you know one who does family trees.”

Husband: “Oh.”

You: “So, he said he would do my family tree.”

Husband: “what?”

You: “Yeah, he said he would do a family tree for me.”

Husband: “How?”

You: “Well, I gave him my mom and dads last names and told him that they were born in 1932.  I gave him my name and e-mail address, so he can e-mail me the results.”

Husband: “Oh, MY GOD… you gave a perfect stranger your e-mail address and your mother maiden name?”

Husband: “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

Husband: “Oh MY GOD.”

You: “Well, he seemed harmless. He was just a little only man with a pony tail and was wearing a DEM face mask, I’m sure he was okay.”

Husband: “Did you get his name?”

You: “Oh, yeah, it’s Jose.”

Husband: EXPLOSION !!!  “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!”

Husband: “OH, MY GOD”

Husband: “You gave a perfect stranger all your information.”

Husband: “A libertart at that, pony tail hippy, probably Marxist.”

Husband: “An old man named Jose… if that was his real name…”

Husband: “You know we’re going to have to change our passwords…”

Husband: “I can’t believe it.” “How dumb can you be.”

You: “Oh, I don’t think he will do anything bad.”

Husband: “Of course you don’t think.” storms out of the room

You: to yourself: “Oh, what have I done…  maybe he is right…  oh stupid, stupid, stupid,… I should have known the minute I saw that damn mask…”

Then I woke up laughing…

So how was your day. LOL

I will play around with the tree. I have an idea of a chart. Family Trees Chart.

I will put the family tree names on the vertical axis and on top I will …


Even after all these many days of working on the tree and writing daily briefings to Sandy I have not heard a peep from her. Which of course is okay, just a bit sad.

I sent a request inviting her to the tree as editor thinking she would like to work on her own tree free of charge, but she has not replied yet. She would be getting a message from Ancestry telling her she was invited to a tree. When she accepted the invite she would come on to a page where she would create and ID and password to get onto Ancestry free of charge. She could add people and images to the tree and she could search for records… She being editor could do more than a guest could do but not as much as a paid member could do. It is a marketing tool for Ancestry since more people who get on for free find it so enjoyable that they sign up for a paid membership.

My work is done regardless if the people acknowledge the work and of course I get much more out of the work than just another tree.

I created two (2) other trees out of the work, trying to sort out a Sandy relative from another person with the same name and then trying to figure out which August was who when I came across two men with the same name. Both named August, married to Marie’s and they both lived in the same town in Indiana at the same time. One August was born in 1894 while the other was born in 1905 so if the record did not have those dates on it, one could not tell which family belonged to the record; the 1894 or the 1905.


I was able to sort that out that mess and created separate trees for the two men.

Camiel Van Paemel VanPaemel – Mar 1932 – Indiana – Family Tree

Frank VanWiele – obit – Jul 1974 – Indiana – Family Tree


I was also able to write a blog post about city directories because of the work I did on the Sandy tree.

So not having any word back from Sandy after a weeks worth of work is not all that bad.

I’ve created over 1,418 family trees for others

Mionsiog Family tree list 07 Aug 2020

and have contacted twice that many tree owners, telling them about the newspaper item and about the tree giving them links to both.  Only a handful of those ever replied to my messages so this Sandy Tree is just on of the many trees that I will have created for prosperity.

The future generations who happen upon my work in the GFO will welcome the effort put into the genealogy adventures and will be able to use the information we found for them.


I hope the above post will reach someone who can give me and Sandy some new information about the VanPaemel  and  DeGrande branches of the family.

It will be a welcome sight to see the wall come down, even if it is not in as a dramatic fashion as I wrote at the start of the blog post.

Thank You

Jose from Clarkston, Michigan, USA