The historic meeting which brought relatives from Hartlepool and Belgium together

Pictured standing from left to right are Marc de Vulder, Morris Harker, Keith Taylor and Linda Harker. Seated from left to right are Malcolm Harker, Pam Harker, Kathleen Gowland and Vicky Harker.
Pictured standing from left to right are Marc de Vulder, Morris Harker, Keith Taylor and Linda Harker. Seated from left to right are Malcolm Harker, Pam Harker, Kathleen Gowland and Vicky Harker.

A genealogist has met his Hartlepool relatives for the first time in a poignant and emotional get-together.

Marc de Vulder, from Merelbeke in the East Flanders area of Belgium, set eyes for the very first time on fellow descendants of his grandmother Nellie (Nelly) Boyes.

The marriage of Nellie Boyes and Paul Rasquin.

The marriage of Nellie Boyes and Paul Rasquin.

He paid a first ever visit to Hartlepool in the latest stage of his genealogical research.

And both sides of the family described that very first meeting as an incredible occasion.

One of the Hartlepool clan, Vicky Harker, said: “We had a brilliant time finding more about our connection to each other and getting to know each other.”

Marc himself said: “I met some of my relatives so we could exchange a lot of memories and pictures.

We had a brilliant time finding more about our connection to each other and getting to know each other

Vicky Harker

“All this thanks to you and all public Hartlepool instances.”

To explain more, Nellie came to have links to Belgium thanks to a real story of romance.

Her sweetheart was Paul Rasquin, who was 28 in 1918.

He’d been wounded in battle at Flanders Fields in the First World War. A bullet lodged in his arm.

He was sent to England to recuperate and he met Hartlepool woman Nellie, 22, on a trip to Witton-le-Wear in County Durham.

They fell in love and married in Geraardsbergen in Belgium on June 17, 1922.

They had five children - Hilda, Basile, William, Wilfrid and Edwin.

The years of the Second World War were uncomfortable and they had to hide in Belgium from the Nazis.

They lived through it all but after Nellie survived the whole of the conflict, she died aged 49 from flu on the same day that the Nazis surrendered unconditionally on May 8, 1945.

Nellie’s mother Bertha C Boyes came to Hartlepool to cope with the loss of her daughter.

Research has shown that Bertha Hilda was living in West Hartlepool in 1952. Bertha Hilda married in 1908 and had two sons called Victor and James (Jim) who lived in Sandringham Road in 1952.

Bertha Hilda died in 1955.

Vicky told us that she was the youngest daughter of Malcolm Harker who was the great-grandson of Bertha Hilda.

The developments in her family tree have prompted her to look further into her past.

Vicky said: “I’m currently researching more into our family history as I just find it fascinating.”

And for Marc, it has been a hugely beneficial experience.

He said: “I am back home now in Merelbeke with a lot of good memories of Hartlepool and all residents of Hartlepool who helped me a lot.”

Marc said the Hartlepool Mail, the Central Library in York Road, Stranton Cemetery Office, Hartlepool Register Office and others in the town had all helped to make his ancestry research so fruitful.

If you want to share your own family tree, or if you think you can help others who have issued appeals in the Hartlepool Mail, contact chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk