I recently learned my father Harold Luis Valderas had a half brother, Edmund Joseph Van Pelt, that he never knew about!

Read more about this fascinating story . . . 


March 11, 2014: Email received by Harold Michael Valderas through Ancestry.com

Hello, My name is Debbie Duffy. My father, Edmund Van Pelt, was a child of Elizabeth Cunningham and Ernest Bedell. My father's father's name on his birth certificate is Louis Van Pelt but on his Baptism certificate it says that his father is Ernest Bedell. My dad grew up in foster care. I have been searching for the two brothers that he never met. The foster agency said that they were Clifford Van Pelt and Harold. The foster agency said Harold's last name was Vanderas not Valderas but it seems that everything else matches. Beatrice and william Cunningham were my father's grandparents. All dates seem correct. My father was told that Mae Miller and Beatrice Cunningham Burgess were his aunts. They all lived in Brooklyn. My dad passed away in December and never got to meet anyone except his mother Elizabeth Cunningham one time when he was 18. I was so excited to see your family tree. I have been searching for 20 years but I just started searching on the computer. Do you think that my father and your grandfather? (Harold Valderas) were brothers? Did your grandfather ever meet Clifford? I hope to chat with you if you have the time. Thanks a lot. Sincerely,

Debbie Duffy

March 12, 2014: Email response from Harold Michael Valderas to Debbie Duffy

Hello Cousin Debbie,

It’s very nice to meet you. My name is Harold Michael Valderas born 1966 in Fort Worth Texas. My father was Harold Luis Valderas born 1923 in Brooklyn, NY. My dad’s half-brother was Clifford Van Pelt born 1916 in Brooklyn NY. I only met Clifford a few times growing up as he lived in San Francisco and we lived in Texas. 

My grandmother was Isabel Elizabeth Cunningham born 1894 in Brooklyn, NY. I only met her once in the early 1970’s but I was too young to remember. My dad passed away at age eighty three in 2007 but he would have been delighted to learn about your father Edmond VanPelt which appears to be his half-brother. My dad was very proud of his family and I stay in contact with the grandson of Mae Cunningham (Robert Akeson) who lives with his family in New York.

I quickly put together this web page for you to see pictures of Clifford Van Pelt and Harold Luis Valderas. Feel free to send any photos or contact me directly to explore more.


Harold Michael Valderas - Austin, TX

March 12, 2014: Email from Debbie to Harold

Dear Harold,

    Thank you so much for sharing pictures of our family with me!  My dad would have really loved to know your father and Clifford and your family.  It was wonderful to see their pictures!  I will send you the letter that my father received from New York Foundling home.  The catholic sister wrote a beautiful letter about everything that she knew about my father's family.  She said that Elizabeth couldn't afford to raise him.  My father, Edmund Joseph Van Pelt was born 4/12/1931.  He was placed in the Foundling Home at the age of 4 months and at that time he had malnutrition and rickets. Beatrice Cunningham visited him several times. My father lived in several foster homes. He went to Bellows High School (which is now called Rye Neck High School in Mamaroneck, N.Y.  He was well known because he held the High School record in New York state for track.  He held the record for the 1/2 mile for many years.  He married my mother Margaret Sheahan but they were divorced.  My dad  was in the air force for many years  stationed in Korea and Japan.  He trained police dogs in Korea.  He was a kind man.  I was his only child. I will be 60 years old this year. I am a nurse.   I have three beautiful adult children and two grandsons.  I live with my husband, Tom in Hopewell Junction, N.Y.  

   I will email pictures of my dad with the letter from New york Foundling home to you.  My dad always wondered about his mom.  He wondered what happened to her that she couldn't raise him.  

  I am very grateful for the information that you have shared with me.  It is really nice to meet you!  Thank you very much.  

 Sincerely, Debbie Duffy

March 12, 2014: Email from Harold to Debbie

Dear Debbie,

Wow, this is incredible news! My father was in the Air Force for many years and also stationed in Korea. He loved dogs and had several german shepherds throughout his life.  I am sure these two brothers who never met had many things in common.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Cunningham was not active in my father's life either. I believe Elizabeth was a free-spirited black sheep of the family. Both Clifford and Harold where closer to Elizabeth’s sisters, Mae and Beatrice Cunningham. My grandfather, Luis Valderas Vargas, did the best he could to support Harold but unfortunately, my dad also spent much of his life in foster care. I recall that Clifford Van Pelt led a somewhat reclusive life and never started a family.

Despite their upbringing, Edmund and Harold were both terrific fathers and I am certain they would have enjoyed knowing each other. I’ve added more pictures and a Biography to the family web site. I eagerly await seeing any pictures of your father Edmund.

Sincerely, Harold

March 14, 2014: Email from Debbie to Harold

Dear Harold,

    I really appreciate the information that you have given to me.  I started this search so many years ago with not much luck and then one day you gave me the answers.  Thank you very much. Wouldn't it have been something if our dad's crossed paths while they were in Korea training the german shepherds? I have attached some pictures of my dad and the letter that I received when I wrote to the New York Foundling Home.  I also included William Cunningham's death certificate.  I don't know if you ever saw it.  I was just wondering.. if you ever hear of any information about Ernest Bedell (my father's father) could you pass it on to me?  Also, If anyone in the family would like to speak with me I would love to hear from them.  Hope all is well.  

Thanks again, Debbie  

March 16, 2014: Email from Harold to Debbie

Hi Debbie,

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful photos. All the family in Texas were so excited to hear about your fathers story!

I updated our family tree so you can see your ancestors dating back to the 1800s. Below is also a detailed biography of my dad, Harold Luis Valderas.

I like to think our fathers may have crossed paths at some point in New York or Korea. German Shepherds were like magnets to my Dad. If your father was training police dogs in Korea, my dad would have instinctively sought him out.

I started working on our family tree about 15 years ago after my first daughter was born. I’m so happy you were able to connect the dots after all these years. I am happy to talk and share the information I’ve gathered. I also keep in contact with the grandson of Mae Miller, Robert Akeson who lives in Rockville Centre, NY (about 80 miles from you). 

I look forward to talking with you soon.

Sincerely, Harold

View our update family tree with Edmund Van Pelt and his daughter Debbie Duffy


Bellows High School NY 1948

Edmund held the New York State High School 1/2 mile track record for many years (shown here with his foster family)

Edmund married Margaret Sheahan and had a daughter named Debbie

Edmund with his daughter Debbie cir. 1959

Edmund was in the Air Force and served in Korea and Japan. He trained german shepherd police dogs while in Korea

Edmund with his daughter Debbie Duffy and two of her three children

Edmund with grandchildren

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