A Most Fortunate Andris Reunion


My mom, Lorene “Red” Sullivan Andris, kept alive the stories of three branches of our family, and I, James Fernand Andris, wrote down and expanded upon these stories over my lifetime. This past week, I met my seventh Andris cousin, Ghislaine Andris Rockwood, a most fortunate Andris reunion. All of this started, however, with Jean Joseph Andres and Ursula Hocquemiller. It is likely that Jean Joseph and Ursula met because both their families were working on the reconstruction of the Basilica of St. Laurent at Kempten in the Allgaü region at the very southern tip of Germany. They likely just started their family right after 1700, and by the end of that first decade, they had a daughter, Anastasie, and three sons named after the legendary three wise men, Melchior, Balthazar, and John Gaspar. Yet six more sons would issue from that union, including my fifth great grandfather, Jean, in 1712 and Ghislaine’s fifth great grandfather, Antoine, in 1721.

Jean Joseph and Ursula not only found time to create a large family, but they and their sons were phenomenally productive in the glass making industry. Melchior moved often, but more or less settled in Charleroi, Belgium in 1729 and stayed there as a master glass blower the rest of his life, except for three years in Brussels. Balthazar managed to live to age 92, have three wives and 18 children, as well as blow glass in a number of locations, notably, Sart-Moulin, between Charleroi and Brussels. Jean Gaspar was not so lucky, living only until age 30.

Details about my own fifth great grandfather, Jean, are sketchy. Born in Zweifalten in 1712, he arrived in Charleroi at age 22 to ply the glassblowing trade. He did achieve recognition as a bourgeoisie, but was too sick to receive the award. His son represented him for that honor in 1751, and he died a short time later. Indeed this Andris glass making tradition was carried on for two more generations in the town of Charleroi, Belgium: Robert Joseph begat Louis Joseph, who ended up in Binche
, Belgium. There the family remained for three more generations: Nicholas Joseph, b. 1815, Arthur, b. 1845, and my grandfather, Arthur Louis Joseph, born in 1873. He emigrated in 1908, followed quickly by wife, Victorine, and all but one child, who remained in Belgium. Arthur and his sons worked in the glass factories of West Virginia, but the profession at that time was struggling against technological advances in window glass production. Eventually, Arthur could not find work, became ill, and died at age 56, several years before my birth.

Making window glass was extremely difficult. Molten glass was gathered in a gob from the furnace on the end of a lead pipe. The whole thing, pipe and lead, could weigh more than 80 pounds. Arthur Nicholas’s son, Arthur (my dad, Fernand’s half-brother), was the “gatherer” of the glass for his father. The “souffler” stood over an open pit and alternatively blew and swung the glass as it elongated into a cylindrical shape. The pipe was hot, and, of course, as we now know, poisonous. Eventually, when the glass blower judged the time was right, the large cylinder on the pipe was swung up and onto a table, where it was struck with a long chisel-like metal device. Sometimes it would break, but most times, it split lengthwise along a straight line and could be carefully forced down flat onto the table. Window glass like this had waves and ripples in it. Stained glass was made in a similar way, connecting centuries of glass makers to the cathedrals dotting Europe.

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Ghislaine and Alan Rockwood

Ghislaine’s Andris ancestors in the 18th and 19th Centuries formed a similar line of, but perhaps even more productive “maîtres-verriers,” master glassblowers. Antoine, the younger brother of my 5G grandfather, Jean, was born in 1721. He started out in the slowly dying production of forest glass, so named because these glass factories were often located in forests that were a source of wood ash. Later he was in Charleroi at the Dorlodot Glassworks, but worked in many locations. Married twice, he sired the next generation of Andris glassblowers for this line, including Stéphane (Etienne) 1753-1803. Stéphane’s son, Daniel, (1780-1872) was well-known for starting several glass factories in Belgium and France, and he was famous in Paris for introducing “white” window glass. Both his sons became maîtres-verriers of renown.

Ghislaine’s great great grandfather, Achille Isidore, (b. 1813) became a doctor of medicine at the age of twenty-two, and was recognized for his medical practice. With his brother-in-law, Jh Valentin Lambert, he founded the Andris-Lambert & Co. glass works in Marchienne-au-Pont (a section of Charleroi) around 1851. The business flourished in the subsequent twenty years; at one time, the company was third in the production of Belgian glassware, which included white glass, colored glass and specialty products. The factory was known to and patronized by royalty. Achille, his wife, Agathe, and their children lived in a mansion in Gilly (another suburb of Charleroi) in the “Château Andris.” Achille Isodore had a brother one year younger than he, Ferdinand Achille, who not only also became a doctor of medicine in his twenties, but was a well-known conservative politician in the area, becoming mayor of Montignies-sur-Sambre and running for other political offices.

The generation of Ghislaine’s great grandfather, Edgar Daniel, b. 1847, married to Camille Daumerie, also sheds some light on my own genealogical identity. Edgar was a glassware master and trader who lived and worked in various sections of and towns near Charleroi, BE. He had a brother, Edmond Fernand, who was also simply known as “Fernand.” Fernand was deputy prosecutor to the King of Charleroi early in his career. Fernand lived at first with his brother, Edward, but soon developed a career as a jurist in Cairo, Egypt, and in retirement received a substantial pension from the Court of Appeal of Cairo. Apparently Fernand never married. I feel a certain sense of resonance with the life of Edmond Fernand Andris, both because I bear that name (the only given name of my father) and because of his developing a substantial career while eschewing the path of traditional marriage, yet remaining strongly connected to his patronymic family. Indeed, the name “Fernand” is scattered throughout the Andris genealogical record.

In reconstructing this family history going back ten generations, I have been making use of a significant resource: Sur les traces de verriers :La famille ANDRIS(SE) by André DARQUENNES and Frédéric GOBBE, published by ASSOCIATION GÉNÉALOGIQUE DU HAINAUT BELGE in 2003. Around Christmas time in the year 2000, I received an email from Andre, at that time unknown to me, and he was saying to me, essentially, here is a Christmas present from me to you: here is your patronymic line starting with Jean Andres in 1655, and I will be releasing this book shortly and will essentially give it to you. This initial correspondence was one of three startling and miraculous genealogical gifts from the Universe to me. However, the information source dries up just at Ghislaine’s and my respective grandfathers. I am hoping through further communication with her to outline her more recent family history. In particular, I am wondering just how it came to be that the profession of master glassmaker came to an end, and in what direction the family then turned. 

It was Ghislaine who made the arrangements to come to St. Louis with her husband, Alan, to meet me. When I found this out, I was eager to and did invite my siblings to meet her, too. In particular, my brother, Thomas Franklin Andris, was able to be here. Tom spent a year in Belgium in his youth, and was able to reconstruct much of our Walloon genealogical record through the many relatives living there. He also had a career as a teacher of French and German at Marietta High School. While Ghislaine speaks perfect English, she was born and raised in France. Tom and she were able to have several conversations in French. We all had a delighful visit, once again confirming my belief that blood is not only thicker than water, it is also just as essential to our lives. I am including a photo of the Rockwoods on our visit to the Botanical Gardens.

Just an amusing little postscript. It took me years to pronounce my name, Fernand, the Belgian way. People who have not studied French, simply cannot pronounce it that way. The English pronunciation puts the accent on the first syllable, and it sort of rhymes with “fern and.” The Belgian pronunciation puts the accent on the second syllable, and there is no equivalent English rhyme. A very rough approximation would be “fair non,” BUT the final ‘n’ is nasalized and the ‘d’ is silent.

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Author: Jim Andris

Retired gay married early adopter. Cooking, cleaning, fixing. Makes good music occasionally; U name it. Churchy dude. Likes to think about things, too much, sometimes. Dump Trump. Trying not to do too much harm. Revisiting blogging. Looking for a new handle on things. Exploring genderqueer.