Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's In a Name?

I remember as a child wondering about my last name, Brodioi. Why couldn’t I have been a Smith or Jones? I remember young bullies teasing me about my last name and pronouncing it funny and laughing about it. As a six year old I guess that really bothered me.
Also, I really felt bad for my grandpa because his name was Hyppoliet August Brodioi. He got his mail as H. Brodioi and for some childish reason I thought that he was probably ashamed of his name too. That could not have been further from the truth. As I grew to my early teen years I realized that he was a strong man who was proud of his name and his heritage.
Now looking back I realize that the ones who made fun of me were basically insecure as to who they were and were simply using me to cover their weaknesses.
Over the years I have found that most people miss-pronounce the name with an Italian ring to it.
Now, finally, I see the humor in that Italianization of Brodioi.
I wouldn’t say that my grandma disliked all Italians but she did seem to hold them to a different standard.
I always wondered about that? I thought maybe there might have been some political problems between Belgium and Italy that troubled her?
On 3 July 2006 this question was answered in a very simple manner.
While looking at the Lusitiana’s manifest for their voyage I realized that they were traveling, cramped and crowded for 6 days, with the majority of the names on their page of the manifest being primarily young single men of Italian descent. I figure that in that six day journey my grandma probably had about enough of young macho Italians to last a lifetime.
I took the liberty to Google many of the names to see if any had become either famous, or infamous, but so far no matches have occurred. Who knows??
Looking back I am tremendously proud that I am not a Smith or Jones but a Brodioi, or actually Broidioi...
Nothing wrong with Smith or Jones but their base is so broad that tracing family is really tough to do. Now Brodioi is a different animal altogether.
I now realize that the uniqueness of the name is one of the things that I love about it. My wife has adapted to it well and is very proud to wear it. Our children also adapted well and seemed to not have the problems I encountered.
Here is something that just happened and I find it really thought provoking. Just this week our grandson graduated from kindergarten and as we were in attendance at the school I was looking over the hand out program. I noticed that his last name was spelled Broidioi in the manner that my grandparents used as they entered Ellis Island. I asked my son about the spelling and he said that it was probably a misprint. I thought this was amazing that an error could correct another error that was made one hundred years ago. Imagine the odds against that?
One funny and positive example of the uniqueness of Brodioi occurred during my military basic training. Drill instructors are normally not the most fluent individuals. My drill instructor never pronounced my name the same was twice during eight weeks of training. He never asked but his pronunciation attempts always had an Italian flavor. Many times I think that he intended to put me on KP or some other undesirable duty but simply gave up on my name and instead called on “Smith” and “Jones.” My unit had two each of these.
Now I am glad that my parents never allowed our name to be “Americanized.”
While I am proud to be an American, I am also proud of my European heritage. My grandparents came to America to start a new life, not to cut themselves off from their past life.
I will do my utmost to insure that our “across the pond” contact is never lost again.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

American Dream (Post 5 of 5)

After Grandpa died (1962) Grandma lived alone in the house they had built together on their farm snuggled up against the Cumberland Mountains. She was fiercely independent at age 78 and wanted to live on her own. When she was in her 90’s my dad and mother
insisted that she move in with them. Her independence showed again as she agreed to move to their new brick home on their farm about 2 miles away if she could add an apartment onto their house at her expense for her to live in.
An architect friend of my dad’s (Carl Bauer) designed the apartment add on. It not only looked good but was also functional. In the design he positioned her sitting room with a view of the Cumberland Mountain chain that she loved. She lived there until her death at age 106.
My dad passed away during this period so she not only outlived my Grandpa but she also outlived her youngest son, Henry.
She once told me a few years before her death that all her friends were gone. I never thought of how that must feel until she mentioned it. She had outlived all her friends and acquaintances both here and in Belgium.
For her 100th birthday the local newspaper sent a reporter to get pictures and to interview her. She received cards and letters from Congressmen and Senators plus a personal note from one of our greatest Presidents – Ronald Reagan. She also received the key to the city of her Belgium hometown with a nice note from the mayor. Many of her younger relatives in Belgium, who my sister, had corresponded with over the years sent her notes of congratulation.
At this point I would like to mention Grandma’s mental state in her latter years. She could still recall stories from her youth and loved to tell them in her broken English.
One local high school history teacher (Larry Majors) who grew up in the same community regularly visited her and once told me that to him she was a living history lesson. Just think, she was born in 1884 one year before Ulysses S. Grant died and not many years after
Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Hyppoliet and Leonie Broidioi were part of the birth of this great nation.
Leonie Broidioi saw early automobiles and flying machines from the Wright Brothers to the Apollo moon landing. She also saw the Depression, two World Wars, and finally American fast food. She developed a great love for Kentucky Fried Chicken in her latter years.
There was a young Catholic priest who regularly visited her even though she never made it to Winchester to the church.
I often heard her remark - reflecting her Catholic upbringing - how vulgar television had become. She said that when she was growing up in Belgium a lady would not even allow a gentleman to see her feet. Much of what was on TV embarrassed her. Sadly I guess she lived long enough to witness the beginning of the decline of our culture.
When I think about the lives of Hyppoliet August and Leonie Marie Brodioi, my grandparents, I feel a tremendous amount of pride. The only reason that I am an American is because of them. They were pioneers in the truest sense. They gave up all their family and security ties and as a young attractive couple they traveled to a wild untamed exciting, ready to explode, country to begin a new life. In my opinion, they were the essence of pure courage. They and thousands of others like them made this country the great country that it is. They were people with a dream who were willing to work hard to achieve their dream. They had an aura of independence and pride that showed in everything they did. May my grandparents and every other hard working immigrant like them rest in peace. They served their new country well by working as hard as they did to build this great nation.
I feel that if we wish to save the culture we have in this once great nation we must revisit that pioneer selfless spirit. The immigrants never thought that their lives would ever be easy but they worked as they did to make a home for their descendants for generations to come. Most of the people in this country are from immigrant roots. Some by choice, others forced, but we are all from the same stock. We need to check our cultural roots and try to copy the immigrant passion and work ethic that built this great nation.
That, along with a rebirth of faith, is the hope of our nation.


Monday, May 26, 2008

My problem

I have a dilemma.
I am having trouble figuring out how to work my stories into this family history blog and it is just not working.
You see I have an abundance of stories and I want to place all of them out for your reading. If I get close to posting them all - that will give me incentive to write more. I have a “treasury” of stories not yet written that need to be told.
Here is what I have decided to do.
I am establishing another blog for my short stories from my youth and I intend to link that site to this one for your easy search. The link for my short story blog will be:
Also I have an abundance of religious writings and poetry that I plan to put on still another blog. The link for that blog will be:
Sounds like a lot of work but it is a labor of love for me. I enjoy telling stories using this medium.
Eventually you will see that I have moved the short stories not applicable to my family history blog to one of the other sites.
If you link over and there is not much there, bear with me, it will be soon.
Thanks for your support.

American Dream (Post 5 of 5) to follow tomorrow....

American Dream (Post 4 of 5)

Here I will add a little tidbit of information that has always intrigued me regarding my grandparents move to Raceland, La.
As a footnote my dad - as a young man - rode his Indian motorcycle to Louisiana to satisfy his curiosity to see if he could find the swampland that was the original purchase of Hyppoliet and Leonie Brodioi. He never pinpointed the exact property but he did observe that oilrigs were everywhere in that area! Imagine that? An interesting turn in the road of life. I could just as easily have grown up to be an oil baron?
My Grandpa was a tall handsome man and my Grandma was a very small attractive woman under five feet tall who probably never weighed more that 100 pounds in her entire life. They worked together on their dream farm in the “Tennessee Hills” with both doing man’s labor.
They gained the respect of their neighbors in the community through their work ethic.
Grandma baked her own bread and cooked meals on occasion for up to 20 men during the wheat harvest threshing season. The whole community worked together to handle the wheat harvest at each farm. I never remember eating any fried food at Grandma’s table.
She was a great cook but she baked and broiled all her foods in the European tradition. I imagine that may have contributed in some way to their longevity. My Grandpa lived to be nearly 90 and my Grandma died when she was 106 years old.

Friday, May 23, 2008

American Dream (Post 3 of 5)

Two of my dad’s cousins served honorably in WWII with one (Louis Montoye, son of Oscar and Eugenia) serving with the 101st Airborne at the Battle of the Bulge.
I understand that he was able to help many of his Belgian family members who were in deep poverty at that time. I haven’t discussed this with my cousin in Paris but hopefully some older relatives may have heard of Louis’ efforts. One story Louis personally told me regarded his efforts to help many of the locals to fish in a local stream. Without an abundance of equipment, Louis used what he had available. He used hand grenades to fish with. His efforts were tremendously successful. The locals were extremely happy to have food but there was a problem. Louis was arrested by the US Army for misuse of Government property. At his court martial the local Army General dismissed the charges when he found out that many of the people Louis was helping to “fish” were his family members. An amazing but true story.
The other cousin (Richard Broidioi - still trying to find out his family tree?) was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew flying missions over Germany from England. His crew never made their 25 missions. On limping back to England after a raid over Germany they were shot up really bad and their B-17 crashed on landing. Of the nine man crew only Richard Broidioi survived. He walked away without a scratch. He spent the rest of his life wondering why he survived? I think that they called this “survivors guilt” in WWII. Before the war Richard was an outgoing happy person but after the war my dad said that he was withdrawn and quiet.
In the late 1970’s I found out that my wife’s grandfather - Albert Vaughn of Oneida, TN - knew Richard Broidioi. I learned about his friendship with Richard from Mr. Vaughn while visiting him in the mountain town of Oneida, Tennessee.
Out of the blue one day he told me of a man near Clarkrange who had the same surname as mine but spelled differently. When I asked the man’s name he told me it was “Richard.” I told him that Richard Broidioi was my dad’s cousin and that I knew him. This was nearly unbelievable since none of my family in middle Tennessee knew where Richard moved after the war.
Mr. Vaughn was a salesman for Jellico Grocery Products and on his weekly route he traveled to Clarkrange, TN where he regularly met with Richard.
Richard had a wife and children and lived in a very private mountainous area in the vicinity of Clarkrange, Tennessee. On many occasions Richard would be at the country store near Clarkrange picking up supplies and Mr.Vaughn, who never met a stranger, would converse with him. Over the years Richard became close to him and they talked often. I thought this was really a coincidence since my wife’s grandfather knew my dad’s cousin even before I met my wife. I guess the old saying about this being a “small world” is truer than we could ever imagine.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

American Dream (Post 2 of 5)

On a trip to Ft. Worth, Texas to sell some cattle grandpa ran into a businessman from Winchester, Tennessee by the name of Herman Alexander. On hearing grandpa’s story he offered to help them get a farm in Tennessee. He encouraged grandpa not to give up on their dream and added that all American businessmen were not dishonest. He went on to tell them of beautiful rolling farmland in southern Middle Tennessee where he had his properties.
Before this contact I would imagine they might have had thoughts about returning to Belgium?
Mr. Alexander encouraged them to travel to Tennessee to see the land for themselves. He said that he would help them to restart their new life. This seemed to be the theme in those days. Always try to help some other worthy person get their start. This was the “Golden Rule” in action.
Grandpa told the Montoye’s, who were still in Chicago, about the Tennessee farmland and they decided to go to Tennessee to see for themselves. They liked what they saw and both men obtained land there to start their dream of being farmers of the land.
Over the next few years my grandparents worked toward ownership of a nice piece of “Tennessee Hills” farmland. Mr. Alexander, through his human kindness and generosity, helped my Grandparents get a start toward their American dream. He was like a guardian angel for my grandparents.
This area of Tennessee had a high influx of immigrants during that period of history. There was a huge German settlement nearby and a few Nordic families were immigrants
there also. Hyppoliet and Leonie Brodioi eventually became citizens, learned “broken English” and became extremely proud Americans – who had no hyphen before Americans.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

American Dream (Post 1 of 4)

My grandparents, Hyppoliet August (1872) and Leonie Marie Brodioi (1884), came to this country in 1909. Kamile, my Uncle, was around one year old when they made the voyage.
My cousin who lives just outside of Paris, France has traced the surname Brodioi, back to the 1750’s as Broudihaux.
They came to America from their native Belgium because of the “American Dream.” They spoke no English, basically did not know anyone, but they came anyway.
Grandpa was twelve years my Grandma’s senior which made him probably 36-37 years old when they came to America. Friends and close family members told them that they would be killed by Indians in the wild new world of America but they had already made up their minds to make the journey. Imagine the courage and the singleness of purpose it took to uproot your life and embark on a journey to a strange new land with not much more than love for each other and steerage, third class, boat ticket?
On April 23, 1909 they arrived at Ellis Island on the Lusitania. If you remember your history the Lusitania was made famous by it’s sinking in 1915 by a German submarine to bring America into WWI.
After looking with awe at New York City they took a train out west to Chicago. There they met up with Oscar Montoye who was married to Grandpa’s sister, Eugenia. The Montoye’s had come to the US two years earlier. In Chicago they both found work and on one occasion for entertainment they attended a “Wild West Show” where they saw Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. Imagine as a child my hearing of this? It was just about more than a farm kid from the “Tennessee Hills” could comprehend. My Grandpa and Grandma actually saw real life western folk heroes. Amazing!
They worked hard and saved their money for about three years and decided to buy some land and start their new life as tillers of the soil. This was their plan before they came to
America. Based on a newspaper ad or a flyer they became interested in some farmland in Louisiana. In those days you couldn’t just drive or fly to view a piece of property. In most cases if you were an immigrant you just hoped that you were dealing with someone honest. Sadly, with the influx of immigrants in the early 1900’s scam artist were very active in large city areas where immigrants lived. So, on a faith equal to their dream they bought the land and set off with their two young sons for Raceland, Louisiana. My dad, Henry, was born during their time in Chicago.
More than likely they took a riverboat down the Mississippi to what they hoped was a good piece of farmland on which to start their new lives and to chase their version of the “American Dream.”
On their arrival they were literally crushed when they saw the rough piece of land that was a swampy snake infested property that was not really suitable farmland. For this, they had risked their entire savings.
They worked hard on their piece of land and raised cattle and fought the natural elements as best they could. Their thoughts were on what would they do and where would they turn next? Sadly many other immigrants met this same fate during this period in American history. They were so overwhelmed with the American Dream that they were to trusting of others.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Several years ago I tried to go to the Ellis Island website to find out the date of my grandparents arrival but I kept hitting dead ends and gave up. My computer was slow and the website was not complete for research as of that time.
In discussing this with my son a couple of years ago he said he would give the research a try……

Here is my wording as to how my son reacted as he researched our family history..........

It was near midnight, his wife and young son were sound asleep, when he sat down at his computer to do the family research for his dad. His task was to try to find the ship manifest where his great-grandparents arrived at Ellis Island in 1909. His dad had got as far as that a few years earlier but never found which of the arrivals in 1909 they were on. He knew that this could be a fairly quick task but he had no idea what else he would discover.
As he assumed the task of finding the information - which was as simple for him as a few well worded Google searches.
Shortly, he found that they had arrived at Ellis Island on the Lusitiana, April 23, 1909. He thought how his young son would enjoy reading of his ancestors when he got older. At five years of age his son was the youngest of the Brodioi’s in America. As he built a file of information for his dad he copied the ships manifest for the page that they were listed on. Something odd caught his eye as he worked with the files. The name on the manifest was spelled differently but he knew that he had the right “Brodioi” because the first names of his great-grandparents were Hyppoliet and Leonie as listed on the manifest. As he studied the spelling of the name “B-R-O-I-D-I-O-I” on the manifest he notices that it had an extra “I” before the “D.” He had heard his dad say that Grandma Brodioi had indicated that the name was spelled differently in the old country but no one had ever pursued how the name was spelled in Belgium. His mind was working overtime as he got an idea. He decided to do a Google search on the last name by placing the “I” before the “D” to see what might happen.
This was a very important decision because it would open doors that had been closed for nearly one hundred years. As the search results came on screen he noticed a website that had an odd "French twist" to the name listed besides the new spelling of our surname. He made the decision to open this site and that is where things changed. He was so excited that he could hardly sleep that night as he waited for morning to tell his dad that we were about to make “contact.”

July 3, 2006 – The early morning after late night research……

As we read through the information on the website we noted that we had relatives in Belgium, France, Canada, and New Zealand. Talk about an international family!
We noted that many questions were posed regarding whatever happened to the USA family?
I noticed an email address soliciting information. I excitedly sent a simple two line email stating that, “I believe that I am the one you seek.” I went on to state that Hyppoliet and Leonie were my grandparents.
The following morning, July 4, 2006, I excitably saw that I had a reply to my short email sent across the pond. It was from a previously unknown cousin living in Paris, France who is about the same age as my son. The feeling I had at that time was indescribable!
I had often wondered what it was like to have an extended family. I would read of large families having family reunions and I never really understood what that involved?
I now understand how people who were adopted feel when they make contact with their blood relatives. In a sense that is what happened to the American branch of the Broidioi family. America adopted us from Belgium and France. I plan to go into this more when I describe growing up with a rather uncommon name. Sometimes I felt like I did not belong here?
Anyway, we then went through a series of emails swapping information to help fill in gaps regarding the US branch of the Broidioi’s.
Since then we have got to know each other better and regardless of our national differences we have established a bond.
We are, after all, family!