A few years ago a cousin casually mentioned, "You know our John married a Dutch woman from Holland?" I shook my head no. "Her is name is ? Longstreet." I was never the brightest bulb in the box, but I knew it was not a Dutch name, but I decided to overturn rocks and see what I could find. The ancestors mother had a ridiculously long name. and allegedly born in c 1660 in Belgium. This was not even possible. Belgium was not a Kingdom,.I was at sea in a very leaky boat. I knew there was an element of truth. I wanted to find it.
And for the next few years I peeled my ancestor like an onion. I ws clueless about Western European history, and how to read records that had been corrupted by well meaning 19th century American authors and an English King. If you can't go forward you go backward. I went backward.
Quite by accident I found a book written by Walter Scott, before he was knighted, that was printed in 1823. The only reason I read it was because it mentioned the word Liege. It was my first introduction to Kingdoms, Princes, and the Church during the time of the archer and armored knights on horseback. Scott added factual historical notes, and slowly a picture formed. Then I read something about Caesar that prompted me to browse through the Catholic Encyclopedia for some 1500 years. This lead me to the Golden Bull and ultimately to world powers, peace treaties, and an independent Kingdom of Belgium. It was a several year process. By the time I was done I could read my ancestors records that were archived in Hasselt decades ago.
It was labor of love that offered me an education and a clear path to my Dutch ancestors that now number many.