Barry's Relatively Speaking: An Exchange Student Starts Chain of Events

Posted on Nov 12, 2012

Barry's Relatively Speaking shares the personal experiences and stories of genealogists found in the Everton Genealogical Helper Magazine collection on D. Quarterson shares the following experience.

I had never had much interest in genealogy for one simple reason; my father often told me that Grandfather Quarterson was an orphan. While I knew my father was born in a little village in southern Belgium called Grez Doiceau and that the

original family name was Quatresous, I saw little reason to document so scrawny a family tree. However, I was in for both a surprise and one of those serendipity experiences which must make a dedicated but frustrated searcher cry.

We had hosted an exchange student from Belgium and our son was invited to spend the following summer in Brussells. During his visit my son's hosts thought he would be interested in visiting the village where my father had been born. It was a pleasant visit but being an extremely small village, the tour took very little time. So, instead of returning directly home they took a side trip to the IBM exhibition and information center. Our exchange student's father worked for IBM and had visited the center many times. So instead of accompanying the tour, he struck up an idle conversation with one of the center employees. The man was surprised to find they had visited Grez Doiceau. After all, that is where he lived and knew for certain there was nothing in such a small village to interest an American teenager. But when it was explained that my son's grandfather had been born there, the gentlemen became quite interested. It seemed that he was the village's archivist in his spare time. He took what information my son's host had on the family and promised to locate and copy my father's birth certificate as a momento of the visit.

What came back exceeded anyone's expectations. It seems that when my father talked of "Grandfather Quarter-son" he was not referring to my grandfather, rather his own father'? father. Our friendly acquaintance r jnaged to trace our lip back to my great great j ,!fathr orn in a nei nboring village it

The boy had indeed been an orphan and following the tradition of the time, the family that took him in "coined" a surname rather than giving him their own. Since he had been left on their doorstep with four coins, called sous, wrapped in a handkerchief, they gave him the name "four sous" or "Quatre Sous". This was later contracted to Quatresous, then Americanized to Quarter-son.

While grandfather lost touch with his uncles, brothers and cousins after emigrating to Pennsylvania in the 1890's; and the rest of the family gradually drifted away from Grez Doiceau; I at least know I have a larger family somewhere and am confident I will find them someday. All this is thanks to a casual side trip, a friendly chat and an inquisitive part-time archivist.

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