Trijntje Gerrits (DOLSTRA) VALK (1826 – 1912)

Source: Valk, Trijntje Gerrits Dolstra. Photograph. Bef. 1888. Original photograph believed to be in the possession of John Heidema, Little Silver, New Jersey, 2008.

My 4th-great-grandmother and immigrant ancestor, Trijntje “Katherine” Gerrits DOLSTRA was born 8 November 1826 in the municipality (similar to a township) of Ferwerderadeel, the province of Friesland, the Netherlands. Her parents were Gerrit Hendriks DOLSTRA and Willemke Gerryts ENBRENGHOF, and it is likely she was born in the village of Marrum where her parents were married twenty years earlier.

I know more about Trijntje’s (TRINT-yah) mother Willemke’s family than her family of her father Gerrit DOLSTRA. Willemke’s father was Jan Gerryt Martens ENGBRENGHOF, and he had been born in 1755 in Burgsteinfurt, Westfalen in what is now Germany. He immigrated to Friesland between 1774 and 1778. It is possible that his immigration was motivated by religious reasons, as the Netherlands was religiously tolerant and a haven for the persecuted (think of the Pilgrims). We know that Jan was a member of the Evangelist church before he left Westfalen, too. In Marrum, he opened a shop and became a master linen weaver. He married Trijntje HESSELS (1762 – bef. 1811) on 29 Aug 1779 in Marrum. She was the daughter of Hessel Daniels van der PLOEG, a ship master, at a time when the Netherlands built the best ships (fishing and war) to sail the seven seas. It is this Trijntje for whom my Trijntje was indirectly named.

Willemke was the fifth of eleven children, and she married Gerrit Hendriks DOLSTRA (c. 1782 – 1838), of whom we know so little, in Marrum on 29 June 1806. Apparently it was difficult for them to conceive children. Their first child, born in 1807, was named Trijntje (not my ancestor) after Willemke’s mother. Eight long years followed before the birth of Grietje, named after Gerrit’s mother. Then tragedy struck, and 18-year-old Trijntje died. Sixteen months later, my Trijntje was born. Her parents were 44 and 38 at the time of her birth, and her father Gerrit passed away when she was 12 years old. Willemke died five years later. It is likely that 17-year-old Trijntje and 22-year-old Grietje worked as domestics or laborers until Grietje’s marriage six years later.

In the village of Marrum was a young man by the name of Wieger Tjammes VALK, and he and Trijntje wed on 23 May 1857. Wieger was 29, Trijntje 30, not unusual ages for men and women to marry in the Netherlands at that time. A boy, Gerrit, was born 18 November 1858, but died the following January. Then twin boys were born on 24 Jun 1860 and were named Gerrit and Tjamme (T’ YUH-muh) after their grandfathers. Life went on in the little village until the boys reached the fall of their 13th year, when Gerrit died. For a while, a nephew of Wieger, also named Tjamme, lived with them, and was enumerated in the Dutch national census in 1880 with the household. Not much further is know about the VALK family until Tjamme, at age 21, immigrated to the United States in 1882. With him was his fiancée, Berber Sjoerds DeJONG, whom he married that June in Rock Island, Rock Island Co., Illinois.

Tjamme and Berber, who in America became known as James and Barbara, started a family. Their first four children were born in Rock Island but only the child that would become my great-grandfather, William, survived childhood. The family moved north and lived briefly in Holland, Ottawa Co., Michigan before moving again slightly east to Grand Rapids, in Kent County. By now it was 1888, and news must have reached them of Wieger’s death. Trijntje was all alone; her sister had died in 1866 and her brother-in-law in 1873. There appears to be no nieces or nephews on that side of the family. Trijntje apparently wasn’t close with her late husband’s family, and James and Barbara must have urged her to come live with them in America. Before she left, she traveled to the nearest big city, Leeuwarden, the provincial capital, and had the above photograph taken in her native Frisian costume. Each area of the Netherlands has a traditional dress and experts can even distinguish between villages by the style of the ladies’ caps.

Trijntje became known as Katherine in Grand Rapids. She brought with her her Dutch Bible, in which she carefully wrote the birth and death dates of her grandchildren. We are so fortunate to have that Bible in existence, because in searching the vital records of Rock Island, I was only able to find a recording of one of the four children born there.

Katherine had a long, hard life. She witnessed the death of many loved ones, including three grandchildren in Grand Rapids. She herself died of senile decay at the age of 85 on 19 May 1912 in James and Barbara’s home in Walker Township, just west of the city. In the fall of 2000, I stood for the first time ever at an ancestral burial place and photographed the graves of Katherine, James and Barbara in Greenwood Cemetery. It was an emotional experience, and I could only feel gratitude that my ancestors had taken the risk to come to a land where they knew their descendants could have a better, richer life than they had had. I hope somehow they know how much I appreciate them and comprehend the sacrifices they made.

Source: Tombstone of Catherine Valk, Greenwood Cemetery, Walker Twp., Kent Co., Michigan. Photograph. October 2000. Original in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

[Note: Birth and death dates inscribed on the tombstone are incorrect and have been verified to be incorrect by researching vital records in the Netherlands and Michigan. The tombstone was tilted so badly that it had to be photographed from the backside, then inverted.]

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Trijntje Gerrits (DOLSTRA) VALK (1826 – 1912)

Source: Valk, Trijntje Gerrits Dolstra. Photograph. Bef. 1888. Original photograph believed to be in the possession of John Heidema, Little Silver, New Jersey, 2008.

My 4th-great-grandmother and immigrant ancestor, Trijntje “Katherine” Gerrits DOLSTRA was born 8 November 1826 in the municipality (similar to a township) of Ferwerderadeel, the province of Friesland, the Netherlands. Her parents were Gerrit Hendriks DOLSTRA and Willemke Gerryts ENBRENGHOF, and it is likely she was born in the village of Marrum where her parents were married twenty years earlier.

I know more about Trijntje’s (TRINT-yah) mother Willemke’s family than her family of her father Gerrit DOLSTRA. Willemke’s father was Jan Gerryt Martens ENGBRENGHOF, and he had been born in 1755 in Burgsteinfurt, Westfalen in what is now Germany. He immigrated to Friesland between 1774 and 1778. It is possible that his immigration was motivated by religious reasons, as the Netherlands was religiously tolerant and a haven for the persecuted (think of the Pilgrims). We know that Jan was a member of the Evangelist church before he left Westfalen, too. In Marrum, he opened a shop and became a master linen weaver. He married Trijntje HESSELS (1762 – bef. 1811) on 29 Aug 1779 in Marrum. She was the daughter of Hessel Daniels van der PLOEG, a ship master, at a time when the Netherlands built the best ships (fishing and war) to sail the seven seas. It is this Trijntje for whom my Trijntje was indirectly named.

Willemke was the fifth of eleven children, and she married Gerrit Hendriks DOLSTRA (c. 1782 – 1838), of whom we know so little, in Marrum on 29 June 1806. Apparently it was difficult for them to conceive children. Their first child, born in 1807, was named Trijntje (not my ancestor) after Willemke’s mother. Eight long years followed before the birth of Grietje, named after Gerrit’s mother. Then tragedy struck, and 18-year-old Trijntje died. Sixteen months later, my Trijntje was born. Her parents were 44 and 38 at the time of her birth, and her father Gerrit passed away when she was 12 years old. Willemke died five years later. It is likely that 17-year-old Trijntje and 22-year-old Grietje worked as domestics or laborers until Grietje’s marriage six years later.

In the village of Marrum was a young man by the name of Wieger Tjammes VALK, and he and Trijntje wed on 23 May 1857. Wieger was 29, Trijntje 30, not unusual ages for men and women to marry in the Netherlands at that time. A boy, Gerrit, was born 18 November 1858, but died the following January. Then twin boys were born on 24 Jun 1860 and were named Gerrit and Tjamme (T’ YUH-muh) after their grandfathers. Life went on in the little village until the boys reached the fall of their 13th year, when Gerrit died. For a while, a nephew of Wieger, also named Tjamme, lived with them, and was enumerated in the Dutch national census in 1880 with the household. Not much further is know about the VALK family until Tjamme, at age 21, immigrated to the United States in 1882. With him was his fiancée, Berber Sjoerds DeJONG, whom he married that June in Rock Island, Rock Island Co., Illinois.

Tjamme and Berber, who in America became known as James and Barbara, started a family. Their first four children were born in Rock Island but only the child that would become my great-grandfather, William, survived childhood. The family moved north and lived briefly in Holland, Ottawa Co., Michigan before moving again slightly east to Grand Rapids, in Kent County. By now it was 1888, and news must have reached them of Wieger’s death. Trijntje was all alone; her sister had died in 1866 and her brother-in-law in 1873. There appears to be no nieces or nephews on that side of the family. Trijntje apparently wasn’t close with her late husband’s family, and James and Barbara must have urged her to come live with them in America. Before she left, she traveled to the nearest big city, Leeuwarden, the provincial capital, and had the above photograph taken in her native Frisian costume. Each area of the Netherlands has a traditional dress and experts can even distinguish between villages by the style of the ladies’ caps.

Trijntje became known as Katherine in Grand Rapids. She brought with her her Dutch Bible, in which she carefully wrote the birth and death dates of her grandchildren. We are so fortunate to have that Bible in existence, because in searching the vital records of Rock Island, I was only able to find a recording of one of the four children born there.

Katherine had a long, hard life. She witnessed the death of many loved ones, including three grandchildren in Grand Rapids. She herself died of senile decay at the age of 85 on 19 May 1912 in James and Barbara’s home in Walker Township, just west of the city. In the fall of 2000, I stood for the first time ever at an ancestral burial place and photographed the graves of Katherine, James and Barbara in Greenwood Cemetery. It was an emotional experience, and I could only feel gratitude that my ancestors had taken the risk to come to a land where they knew their descendants could have a better, richer life than they had had. I hope somehow they know how much I appreciate them and comprehend the sacrifices they made.

Source: Tombstone of Catherine Valk, Greenwood Cemetery, Walker Twp., Kent Co., Michigan. Photograph. October 2000. Original in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

[Note: Birth and death dates inscribed on the tombstone are incorrect and have been verified to be incorrect by researching vital records in the Netherlands and Michigan. The tombstone was tilted so badly that it had to be photographed from the backside, then inverted.]

Wordless Wednesday: Trijntje Gerrits (DOLSTRA) VALK (1826 – 1912)

Source: Valk, Trijntje Gerrits Dolstra. Photograph. Bef. 1888. Original photograph believed to be in the possession of John Heidema, Little Silver, New Jersey, 2008.

Wordless Wednesday: Trijntje Gerrits (DOLSTRA) VALK (1826 – 1912)

Source: Valk, Trijntje Gerrits Dolstra. Photograph. Bef. 1888. Original photograph believed to be in the possession of John Heidema, Little Silver, New Jersey, 2008.

Jennie James VALK

Source: Valk, Jennie James. Photograph. C. 1915. Original photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

This lovely lady is Jennie James VALK, a younger sister of my maternal great-grandfather, William James VALK. They and their youngest sister Geertje James “Gertrude” VALK were three of eight children of Tjamme Wiegers VALK and Berber J. DeJONG that survived childhood.

Jennie was born 29 December 1888 in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan and, except for a few years spent in Holland, Ottawa County as a small child, lived most of her life in the Grand Rapids area. She attended school in Walker Township, now incorporated into the west part of the city, and as a young woman worked with Gertrude in a cigar factory. Another young woman who worked there, Agnes TUINSTRA, eventually married their brother William.

This photo may have been taken in 1915 to commemorate Jennie’s engagement to Gerritt John HEIDEMA, whom she married on July 16th in Grand Rapids. An infant son, James John, was born around 1917, but died young. Gerritt succumbed to the Spanish Influenza on 21 December 1918; on 10 June 1919, Jennie gave birth to their son, Gerritt, Jr. In 1925, she remarried, to John S. VANDERWAL, and exactly a week before their first anniversary, their son John, Jr. was born.

Jennie’s father passed away in 1922. When her mother died in 1934, she was the executrix of her parents’ estate. Because of this, the Valk family documents have been carefully preserved in the hands of her descendants. Her grandson made contact with me many years ago, and generously shared copies of family documents, records, and photos as we traced our family tree together. This photograph was given to me by my cousin as a gift, and is something I will treasure as long as I live. Not only is it a family memento from one cousin to another, it is a fascinating portrait of a lovely lady. If you look closely, you can see that she is wearing glasses, and that in itself is a remarkable thing. Women of this era rarely wore spectacles for a “photo shoot.” This photograph is considered rare just for that reason, and makes it all the more endearing to me!

Jennie James VALK

Source: Valk, Jennie James. Photograph. C. 1915. Original photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

This lovely lady is Jennie James VALK, a younger sister of my maternal great-grandfather, William James VALK. They and their youngest sister Geertje James “Gertrude” VALK were three of eight children of Tjamme Wiegers VALK and Berber J. DeJONG that survived childhood.

Jennie was born 29 December 1888 in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan and, except for a few years spent in Holland, Ottawa County as a small child, lived most of her life in the Grand Rapids area. She attended school in Walker Township, now incorporated into the west part of the city, and as a young woman worked with Gertrude in a cigar factory. Another young woman who worked there, Agnes TUINSTRA, eventually married their brother William.

This photo may have been taken in 1915 to commemorate Jennie’s engagement to Gerritt John HEIDEMA, whom she married on July 16th in Grand Rapids. An infant son, James John, was born around 1917, but died young. Gerritt succumbed to the Spanish Influenza on 21 December 1918; on 10 June 1919, Jennie gave birth to their son, Gerritt, Jr. In 1925, she remarried, to John S. VANDERWAL, and exactly a week before their first anniversary, their son John, Jr. was born.

Jennie’s father passed away in 1922. When her mother died in 1934, she was the executrix of her parents’ estate. Because of this, the Valk family documents have been carefully preserved in the hands of her descendants. Her grandson made contact with me many years ago, and generously shared copies of family documents, records, and photos as we traced our family tree together. This photograph was given to me by my cousin as a gift, and is something I will treasure as long as I live. Not only is it a family memento from one cousin to another, it is a fascinating portrait of a lovely lady. If you look closely, you can see that she is wearing glasses, and that in itself is a remarkable thing. Women of this era rarely wore spectacles for a “photo shoot.” This photograph is considered rare just for that reason, and makes it all the more endearing to me!

The SWEERS Connection

Find your ancestors in Revolutionary War Rolls.

Before I left for vacation two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a lady named Nancy, who coincidentally hails from Yakima, Washington, just a three-hour drive from my hometown. Nancy has been chasing the HILT family all over Maine and Massachusetts, she says, and she found my record of Peter HILT who married Margaret ZWIERS on my WorldConnect database at RootsWeb.

First off, if you aren’t familiar with WorldConnect, it is a place at RootsWeb where you can upload your family tree database in GEDCOM format. Information on living persons is automatically “cleaned” from viewers on the Internet, for privacy’s sake. As a submitter of my GEDCOM, I can use my database as a backup file in the event of a computer crash, home fire, natural disaster, etc. and download a copy of my entire GEDCOM back into my computer in the event that it is necessary. Did I mention this is free, as is everything on RootsWeb?

One of the nifty features of WorldConnect–and this feature is also available at many of the other databases at RootsWeb–is the ability to add Post-ems. Say that you, like Nancy, were searching for Peter HILT and you found him on my WorldConnect database. When you click on his file, you can then click on the “Add Post-em” link near the top of the page. You will then be prompted to register for a free member account, if you don’t already have one and are signed in. Next you will be able to leave a Post-em; think of it as an electronic sticky note. This will include your name, e-mail address, and a short message, such as “Hi, I’m researching this individual, too!” or “I have records that show a different death date for this individual.” You can leave the URL and title of your website or blog, if you wish, and then create a password for security’s sake. After you click the “post” button, an e-mail will be sent to me, and we can connect further, if we desire.

Anyway, back to my SWEERS family. From my research, I knew that a Daniel ZWIERS, a Palatine born in Germany, immigrated to the U.S. on the galley Ann, where he landed in Philadelphia on 27 September 1746. Then I have no more record of him until 1762, when he and his wife Margery join the First Church of Lancaster, Worcester Co., Massachusetts on June 18th. He and his family lived in the Lancaster area until his death in 1779. Thus far, I’ve been able to determine that he and Margery had at least six children: Jacob, Daniel Jr., Margaret (who married Peter HILT), Barbara (who married William SHAW), Peter, and a son who was “killed with a cart” in Lancaster on 30 April 1765.

Jacob, Peter, and Daniel Jr. (my ancestor) all served in the Revolution; the first two for Massachusetts, and Daniel for Vermont. In fact, I’ve recently found Daniel in the Revolutionary War Rolls at Footnote (more on that another time). I’ve been able to trace this family all through New England, New York, Ontario and into Michigan, as the name has evolved from ZWIERS to ZWEARS, then SWEARS and finally, SWEERS. But what has puzzled me was that 19-year gap from Daniel Sr.’s arrival in Philadelphia until his appearance in Lancaster. And why Lancaster? It was a Puritan stronghold, and to my knowledge, no Palatines were in the area. Where in the Palatine did Daniel and Margery hail from? I haven’t been able to find them in histories of Palatine immigrants. Nancy may have the answers.

She sent me copies of pages from the book, Broad Bay Pioneers: 18th Century German-Speaking Settlers of Present-Day Waldoboro, Maine by Wilford W. Whitaker and Gary T. Horlacher. I found a long history of the HILT family, as well as a short mention of the ZWIERS family, stating that the name “Zwier” was an occupational surname, “meaning a member of a two person group in court or other official duties.” According to this book, the original spelling was “Zweier.” Hmmm…I know just enough German to know that Zwier and Zweier would have two distinct pronunciations–zhveer and zhvy-er, respectively–so I wonder about the accuracy of this.

The book continues that the ZWIERS family’s origins in Germany are unknown and that Daniel apparently arrived in Boston on 9 November 1751 on the Priscilla, coming to Broad Bay later. Broad Bay Plantation was a settlement founded in 1748 by German immigrants from the Rheinland area (the present-day Rheinland-Pfalz [also known as Rhineland-Palatinate] area of Germany is the home of the Palatines). The settlement is now known as Waldoboro, Lincoln Co., Maine.

Daniel’s daughter Margaret is listed, with a birthdate that I did not have, as well as a child of Margaret and Peter’s, and some information on grandchildren of this couple. The children I had in my database as being the offspring of Peter and Margaret actually turn out to be children of Peter and his second wife, Anna Margaretha Löbensaler, whom he married in early 1768 (giving me a probable death date of 1767 for Margaret ZWIERS).

There is also information on another possible son of Daniel and Margery, born about 1751. This cannot be the same as the unknown son who died in 1765 in Lancaster, as the former was married with children who were born in 1779 and 1787.

There’s a Daniel ZWAUR who signs a petition in Broadbay in 1788. This cannot be Daniel ZWIERS, I, as he died in Lancaster in 1779. It could be his son, my ancestor, Daniel ZWEARS, II who has a 17-year gap between records I’ve found for him as a member of First Church in Lancaster in 1773 and his appearance on the 1790 Federal Census for Dummerston, Windham Co., Vermont.

Unfortunately, Broad Bay Pioneers has no sources cited for its information, according to Nancy, so it’s difficult to determine where the authors got their information and how accurate it is. It does provide me with some possible answers to my questions, especially informing me that there was a settlement of German Protestants in New England at the time my ZWIERSes were living in the area. Maine was considered a part of Massachusetts in those days, and it wasn’t unusual for people to move back and forth between those two areas.

A couple of theories I’ve since developed with this information that will bear further investigation include:

  • 1. My Daniel ZWIERS first came to what is now the U.S. in 1746 on the galley, Ann, to Philadelphia without his wife and children. He worked to save money to bring the rest of the family over, returning to Germany to fetch them, and arriving on the Priscilla in Broad Bay, Maine in 1751. Later, he moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1762, where he lived for the remainder of his days.
  • 2. The Daniel ZWIERS who appears in Philadelphia is not my ancestor, but another immigrant with the same name. My Daniel does not come to America until 1751, arriving in Broad Bay.

This information excites me, because this family is one of my few colonial families that does not already have a published history. It’s much more fun to do the research yourself than to discover that the history has been done to death, as what has happened all-too-frequently in my many Puritan and Pilgrim lines!

P.S. This is only one of two known German ancestral lines that I have. The other is my ENGBRENGHOF line, a family that came from Burgsteinfurt, Westfalen to the province of Friesland, the Netherlands between 1774 and 1778, and married into my DOLSTRA line there in the village of Marrum, municipality of Ferwerderadeel.