Way back in 1696 #mfrwauthor

Welcome to the second year of the Marketing for Romance Writers yearlong blog hop. This week, the writing prompt is:

My Earliest Memory

I don’t quite remember Grandpa Polydor (Pol, or Paul after he moved to the New World). He died when I was three and a half, and it was close enough to Christmas that there was a present from him under the tree. He must have been really important to me, because I still remember opening that present, a wind-up train. The train lasted for several years, and I always remembered it was from grandpa.

My memories don’t extend back to 1838, but that was when grandpa’s dad — my great-grandpa Edouardus — was born. One of my Belgian relatives produced a book about Edouardus’s progeny. The earliest relative mentioned is Michael Hoornaert, who married Joanna Witdouck in 1696. For some reason, I don’t remember Michael at all.

In the book’s frontpiece my son, Chris, stands with local relatives in front of the house in Ardooie where Edouardus was born in 1838. I like to think Frans chose to highlight this pic partly because Chris towers over him and cousin Koen.

Useless yet neat factoid: According to the book, the surname Hoornaert comes from Hoorndrager, meaning cuckold. Apparently, I had a naughty great-something grandmother. Did she stray out of true love? Was it a tragic tale of jealousy and marriage to the wrong man? Is there a novel in there somewhere?

What about you?

What’s your earliest memory? Be sure to check out the other writers taking part in this blog hop — though I doubt any of them will go further back than 1696!



  1. Cathy Brockman · · Reply

    That’s a very intriguing story!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cathy.

  2. Wow, that train was really special to you if you still remember it. And that house is huge, by 1838 standards. You definitely need to write the story of the cuckold, lol.

    1. The train is special to me and so is the memory.

  3. Always interesting to learn of our ancestor’s backgrounds, isn’t it? Half of my dad’s family spells their surname with a ‘y’, and the other half an ‘i’. Way back when, two brothers ended up in feud, and it irritated one so much, he changed the spelling of his name. Somewhere, there is a headstone with one spelling on one side, and the other on the opposite. I need to find that grave and get a picture of it.

    1. Although you wouldn’t want to use you husband’s last name as it, you use this detail in a story where two brothers spell their names differently.

  4. How special that you remember that train and that it meant so much to you. LOL on the cuckhold. I do wonder the story behind it.

    1. I remember the train but not the grandpa. Sad.

  5. family heritage is always interesting. LOL on the meaning behind the family name. Definitely a story in there somewhere.

    1. I’m just glad it’s all in Vlaams, not English. Can you imagine me writing romance as Ed Cuckold?

  6. I’ve wondered how to pronounce your last name, Ed.

    One of my earliest memories involves taking a train trip from the east coast of the US to the midwest, with my parents and younger brother. I think I must have been about three. We didn’t have a sleeping car, just regular coach seats. The car was dark, most passengers asleep, but I was wide awake, glued to the window, watching the miles and the lights go by.

    You might find you got more readers as Ed Cuckold btw. Easier name to remember…!

    1. Although there are differences of opinion about pronouncing Hoornaert, “Who rn ayrt” is just plain wrong. I answer to either “HORN ert” or “HORN ART.” Or “Hey, you.”

      We took train trips when I was young, so I can identify with being unable to sleep and staring out the window in the dark. Heck, I did that last when I accompanied my sister on a train trip to her son’s wedding.

  7. Interesting family story. I love that you had the train for years. There must have been a pretty significant relationship with your grandpa.

    1. I’m sure you’re right, which is why it’s so frustrating that I have no memories of him.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Ed. Sad start to a very funny ending story!

    1. Make ’em laugh and make ’em cry. I aim for that in my fiction . . . though not necessarily in my blog.

  9. I love that you have a connection so far back to your ancestors 🙂 and I’m sure there is a novel in there somewhere 😀

    1. I agree, it’s neat to know so much about my roots. Most of the knowledge comes from the European branch of just 1/4 of my ancestry, though, so I’m missing a lot. I find that knowing about one branch tends to make me concentrate on that branch to the exclusion of the others.

  10. It does sound like you might have a novel from that history. Names changed to protect the innocent? Similar to your wind-up train keepsake, my oldest son has a keepsake from my dad. I didn’t know it meant anything to my son until my dad passed away, and my son called dib’s. He still has it today.

    1. In this case, the name was changed to shame the victim (i.e. ‘cuckold’)!

  11. Thanks for sharing!

    1. My pleasure, Maureen.

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