Our cousin in the Netherlands, Urbain Boerjan, made a trip to the registry office in Ghent, Belgium, and looked up these records for me. He had some difficulty finding the records because Nathalie's last name was actually Gaelens, not Schalenz. The family always thought Nathalie's name was Schalenz. The name was probably misspelled when Nathalie entered the United States because the pronunciation of Gaelens sounds more like "Schalenz", as the "g" or "gh" in Flemish is pronounced as an 'h'.
A new acquaintance, our cousin, Ingrid, in Belgium, also connected with me and she found more information on Nathalie's family. Ingrid is the granddaughter of Jozef Gaelens, Nathalie's younger brother, and she has made several trips to acquire this information from the archives.
Oost-Eeclo was merged with Boekhoute and Bassevelde to form Assenede, which is one of the oldest municipalities in Flanders. This town borders on the Netherlands, and is located along the approaches to the expressway linking Antwerp to the Belgium coast. The area hosts lovely creeks and ancient farmhouses, surrounded by wooded areas.
Nathalie's greatgrandparents were Jooris Gaelens and Johanna Francisca de Bul. Their son (and Nathalie's grandfather) Pieter Franciest Gaelens (labourer) married Marie Theresia Van Hoecke. Pieter died at the age of 72 in his home on the Rijckestraat in Oosteeklo. Three of the couple's children are:
- Eduard, born August 23, 1836, died July 13, 1887 (Nathalie's father), who married Virginie Hollebosch, born October 19, 1843, died December 10, 1925, (Nathalie's mother, and daughter of Livinus Hollebosch and Livinne Marie Lippens). Virginie and Eduard were married on August 12, 1864, at 17:00 hours. He was 27 and she was 20 at the time of their marriage. Virginie was 27 years old at the time of Nathalie's birth and Eduard was 34 years. They lived in Stroomstraete at Oost-Eeclo.
Eduard's two brothers were:
- Bernardus (born October 1, 1835).
- Augustus (born 1839, died 1877) who was married to Amalea Hollebosch (born 1837) – they had 5 children. They lived in Stroomstraat and Augustus was a day labourer. He died in the mental institution at Zelzate in 1877 at the age of 39, the same year his youngest daughter was born.
Nathalie was born on July 27, 1870, at 7:00 in the evening. Her father registered her birth on July 28, 1870, at the registry office. Nathalie had the following brothers and sisters. Nathalie is also listed.
- Petrus Gaelens born on February 19, 1865 at 11:00am – there is no registration of his death. He travelled to America with Nathalie. He died on October 20, 1938, at Moline, Rock Island, Illinois at the age of 73. He was buried on October 24, 1938 at Moline.
- Joannes Gaelens born on March 3, 1866 at 06:00 am and died on November 26, 1875 at 06:00 pm at age 9.
- Augustus Gaelens born on April 25, 1867 at 9:00 am and died on September 29, 1868 at 11:00 am at the age of 17 months.
- Augustus Gaelens (2nd) born on September 29, 1868 at 10:00 am and passed away on July 1, 1915 at Sint Jan Baptist in Zelzate at age 47. Note that this baby Augustus was born the same day as the first Augustus passed away.
- Nathalie Gaelens born July 27, 1870 at 07:00 pm.
- Elisa-Maria Gaelens born on November 6, 1872 at 10:00 pm and died on December 17, 1872 at 4:00 am at 42 days.
- Franciscus (Francies) Gaelens born on December 1873 at 04:00 am and died on May 4, 1962 at age 89. He was married to Maria Backe.
- Charles Louis Gaelens born on July 10, 1876 at 10:00 pm and died on May 11, 1906 at age 30 at Sint Jan Baptist in Zelzate.
- Raymond Gaelens born on June 16, 1878 at 2:00 am. He also travelled to America with Nathalie. There is no record of his death.
- Prosper Gaelens born on June 16, 1880 at 3:00 am and died on November 1, 1956 at age 76 at the psychiatric hospital at Sint Guislain in Ghent.
- Jacobus Leopold Gaelens born on September 5, 1882 at 8:00 am and died on March 7, 1949 at age 67 at the psychiatric hospital at Sint Guislain in Ghent.
- Leontina Gaelens born on September 26, 1884 at 8:00 am and died on May 7, 1947 at age 63 at the psychiatric hospital on the Oostveldstraat in Feko. She was unmarried.
- Joseph (Jozef) Gaelens, born on November 4, 1886 at 11:00 pm and died on January 29, 1965 at age 79. He was married on October 11, 1912 to Melanie Van Hamme, who was born on May 9, 1891 and died on January 30, 1968. They had 9 children.
- Two children died in infancy
On Franciscus Gaelens, Ingrid only found that he had one son, Charles Louis Gustave Gaelens. When Charles was 24 years old, together with his father, he registered the death of his baby daughter Georgette Marie Joseph Gaelens who was born in Sleidinge on January 2, 1930 and passed away on August 24, 1932 in her father's house on the Weststraat in Oosteeklo where Charles was living at the time. Georgette's mother was Madeleine Bauwens, who was unmarried. At the time in Sleidinge there was what was called 'a mother house'. This was a place where women had their babies (a maternity hospital), with no other kinds of patients treated there.
The hospital where Prosper and Jacobus were treated was founded in 1857 by Dr. Jozef Guislain. When the number of patients continued to increase, a new ward was opened in 1864 with the name of Sint Jan Baptist. During World War I, one out of three patients died of starvation. After the war, the ward had to be rebuilt.
Dr. Joseph Guislain (1797-1860) was a driven activist for patients with mental illness and the first Belgian psychiatrist to provide scientifically based treatment for these individuals. As a passionate advocate for those with mental illness, Dr. Guislain worked tirelessly to stand up for the rights of patients and help improve their social position. He lectured and published extensively about mental illness and enjoyed considerable recognition by his contemporaries.
Once a year Prosper came to visit his brothers, Jozef and Francies. Travelling via tram from Ghent to Oosteeklo, about 25 km, Prosper was always accompanied by one of the priests from the ward and he always received a small bag of tobacco from his brothers to take back with him to Ghent which always made him happy.
Jozef's eldest daughters were not close to the other children in the family. When Marie and Martha were 14 years old, they went into service, like most girls did in those days and as eventually did all of their sisters except for the youngest. They each served with a different family in France. They came home about every 6 months and had to bring home the money they earned. One time Marie and Martha couldn't resist buying nice things for themselves. Jozef got very angry, because he and his wife were counting on this source of income. Jozef always took good care of his family, but he was a strict grandfather. Because Maria and Martha came home only twice a year on weekends they were strangers to their baby sisters, who were still very young at the time. Later in life their relationship improved but the youngest children were still closer. When the oldest daughters got married they lived quite far away, which also made them visit less often.
Jozef used to smoke cigars on Sundays and chewed tobacco on weekdays. He also used to keep rabbits which was a food source for the family. Every Sunday during the winter, rabbit was prepared in the typical Flemish way, with plums.
When Ingrid's father bought his first television, Jozef said it was rubbish. How could anybody believe those people in that small box were real? He was convinced they were dolls. Jozef never believed a man would be able to get to the moon. Four years after Jozef died, a man did get to the moon. Jozef was very stubborn and he would probably not have believed that there really was a successful trip to the moon.
The women in the Gaelens family were fond of jewellery, a trait which Jozef suggested they inherited from his and Nathalie's mother. He said that his mother was the daughter of a wealthy farmer and she used to own several golden jewels. Later he told us his father sold his wife's jewels to pay for liquor.
For more information on Belgium, go to www.MijnPlatteLand.com