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.

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.

Ancestors in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census – Part 11

View historical documents and photos from America’s Boom and Bust era (1920 – 1935) here.

April 1st was Census Day for the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. In honor of that census day, throughout the month of April I posted lists of my known direct ancestors and where they were residing during that census. I am continuing this series into the subsequent months. I’ll also list who’s missing; for us family historians, missing individuals on census records can be the most frustrating and intriguing challenges of genealogy!

In March, I posted a biography of my maternal grandaunt, Barbara Dorothy VALK, a missionary for 38 years in Africa. I mention her here because she was named for her maternal grandmother, Berber “Barbara” J. DeJONG, and in comparing the photographs of the two women, favored her in her looks as well.


Barbara Dorothy Valk, c. 1944


Berber “Barbara” (DeJong) Valk,
with grandson Gerritt John Heidema, Jr.
Winter 1919-20

My 2nd-great-grandmother’s background is a bit of a mystery to me. Unlike my many other Dutch-Frisian ancestors, I have not been able to find her birth records listed in the wonderful online resources that the Dutch national government (Genlias) and the Frisian provincial government (Tresoar) have made available. Her death certificate gives her birth as 9 April 1858 in the Netherlands, and information found on U.S. Federal Censuses tends to mostly agree. Her death certificate also lists “Sjerd DeJONGE” as her father, mother’s name unknown. The informant was Barbara’s eldest daughter, Jennie (VALK) HEIDEMA VanderWAL.

The earliest record I have for her is her name on the passenger list of the ship, Surrey, which arrived in New York City on 2 June 1882. She is listed on page 7 as “B. deJong,” directly beneath that of her fiancé, “T.j deVal(k),” Tjamme “James” Wiegers VALK. This couple was extremely difficult for me to find in Ancestry’s New York Passenger Lists database. I have never before nor since seen Valk written as “deValk,” and either the name was accidentally written on the passenger list without the final “k,” or else the ink has faded enough that it doesn’t appear. My grandfather had told me the story that James and Barbara had immigrated to the U.S. with his mother as chaperone, married on board ship (apparently by the captain) and then married again in New York City. They then made their way to Rock Island, Rock Island Co., Illinois, where the Dutch community held a wedding party and/or gift shower for the newlyweds. However, in digging a little deeper, I discovered that Trijntje “Kate” Gerrits (DOLSTRA) VALK did not immigrate to the U.S. until 1888, and Rock Island County records show a marriage record for this couple. Apparently they did not marry on board, nor in New York City…I haven’t found evidence for either situation; but then again, I haven’t found evidence to dispute it, either.

By using the Genlias, Tresoar, and also a municipal history and genealogy website, I discovered there was a DeJONG family in the village of Marrum, Ferwerderadeel (the municipal–or county–level), Friesland, the Netherlands, where Tjamme/James was born. The only Sjoerd or Sjerd DeJong I’ve been able to find was old enough to be Berber/Barbara’s grandfather, and I cannot find a man by that name who is likely to be her father. James and Barbara had a number of infants that did not live, and using the Dutch system of naming, attempted several times to name baby girls for James’ mother, as well as using the name Jennie several times before they had a daughter that lived. They also had a daughter named Geertje/Gertrude. Following the Dutch naming system, my theory is that Barbara’s mother was likely named Jennie (Janna, Jantje, or other Frisian-Dutch equivalent) and she probably had a sister named Geertje. That is the extent of what I know–or think I know–about Barbara’s family.

James and Barbara lived in Rock Island for about four years (1882 – 1886). They are not listed in any city or county directory for that area during this time. However, that is not so unusual, as immigrants and laborers often were ignored by city directory companies looking to promote names of potential customers for local businesses. While in Rock Island, they had four children: Chaterina T. (1883 – 1883); another Chaterina “Tryntje”(b. 1884); and my ancestor William James and his twin sister Jennie D. James (b. 1886). (I blogged about William’s enumeration in the 1930 census here.) They moved to Holland, Ottawa Co., Michigan between August 1886 and April 1887, when Jennie died. The following year, another daughter, also named Jennie James, was born in their new location, Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan. William’s mother immigrated from the Netherlands and joined them. In 1890, Geertje “Gertrude” James was born; the following year, six-year-old Chaterina accidentally drowned. In 1895, a third Chaterina was born; she died four months later of “summer complaint,” diarrhea in infants caused by spoiled milk. The following year, Tammie J. “Thomas” was born. He lived one year and died of measles. It really is heart wrenching to see how this family lost five of its eight children within 14 years, and yet this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence at a time when poor immigrants did not have access to healthy living conditions and medical care, and in a day and age prior to simple antibiotics. Their three surviving children, William, the second Jennie, and Gertrude, lived into the twentieth century; William and Gertrude living into their 60s, and Jennie to the age of 88.

The photo below shows Barbara and James with their two daughters and sons-in-law at what looks to be some sort of lodge, church, or company picnic or outing, probably in Grand Rapids, between 1915 -1918. The date range has been determined by the date of Jennie and Gerrit HEIDEMA’s wedding year and the year he passed away due to Influenza. The men are all wearing a badge on their left sides; if anyone recognizes what organization this is, please contact me. I find this unusual, because the Dutch Reformed Church, of which this family were members, frowned heavily and preached strongly against fraternal organizations. Missing from this photo is my ancestor, William. Perhaps he was the photographer.


Front, left to right: James and Barbara; sons-in-law, Gerritt John HEIDEMA, Sr. and Jacob YSSELDYKE.
Back, left to right: daughters Jennie and Gertrude.

For many of his years in Grand Rapids, James worked as a laborer in a lumberyard, working his way up to foreman. He died in 1922 of hepatitis. On 12 April 1930, Barbara was enumerated alone at her home at 1315 West Leonard Street in Ward 1, Block 70 of Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan (ED 2, Sheet 21A):

  • Household 255, Family 267; Valk, Barbara; Head of household; owner of home worth $3500; No radio; Female; White; Age 71; Widowed; Did not attend school since 1 September 1929; Able to read and write; Born in the Netherlands; Parents born in the Netherlands; Language spoken before coming to the United States: Dutch; Year of immigration: 1890 [sic]; not naturalized; able to speak English; Occupation: none.

Barbara died of valvular heart disease and dropsy at her home on 1 June 1934. She was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in what was then Walker Township (now part of the City of Grand Rapids), Kent Co., Michigan next to James and his mother. Their graves were the first ancestral ones I ever visited, in October 2000.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 12)

Ancestors in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census – Part 11

View historical documents and photos from America’s Boom and Bust era (1920 – 1935) here.

April 1st was Census Day for the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. In honor of that census day, throughout the month of April I posted lists of my known direct ancestors and where they were residing during that census. I am continuing this series into the subsequent months. I’ll also list who’s missing; for us family historians, missing individuals on census records can be the most frustrating and intriguing challenges of genealogy!

In March, I posted a biography of my maternal grandaunt, Barbara Dorothy VALK, a missionary for 38 years in Africa. I mention her here because she was named for her maternal grandmother, Berber “Barbara” J. DeJONG, and in comparing the photographs of the two women, favored her in her looks as well.


Barbara Dorothy Valk, c. 1944


Berber “Barbara” (DeJong) Valk,
with grandson Gerritt John Heidema, Jr.
Winter 1919-20

My 2nd-great-grandmother’s background is a bit of a mystery to me. Unlike my many other Dutch-Frisian ancestors, I have not been able to find her birth records listed in the wonderful online resources that the Dutch national government (Genlias) and the Frisian provincial government (Tresoar) have made available. Her death certificate gives her birth as 9 April 1858 in the Netherlands, and information found on U.S. Federal Censuses tends to mostly agree. Her death certificate also lists “Sjerd DeJONGE” as her father, mother’s name unknown. The informant was Barbara’s eldest daughter, Jennie (VALK) HEIDEMA VanderWAL.

The earliest record I have for her is her name on the passenger list of the ship, Surrey, which arrived in New York City on 2 June 1882. She is listed on page 7 as “B. deJong,” directly beneath that of her fiancé, “T.j deVal(k),” Tjamme “James” Wiegers VALK. This couple was extremely difficult for me to find in Ancestry’s New York Passenger Lists database. I have never before nor since seen Valk written as “deValk,” and either the name was accidentally written on the passenger list without the final “k,” or else the ink has faded enough that it doesn’t appear. My grandfather had told me the story that James and Barbara had immigrated to the U.S. with his mother as chaperone, married on board ship (apparently by the captain) and then married again in New York City. They then made their way to Rock Island, Rock Island Co., Illinois, where the Dutch community held a wedding party and/or gift shower for the newlyweds. However, in digging a little deeper, I discovered that Trijntje “Kate” Gerrits (DOLSTRA) VALK did not immigrate to the U.S. until 1888, and Rock Island County records show a marriage record for this couple. Apparently they did not marry on board, nor in New York City…I haven’t found evidence for either situation; but then again, I haven’t found evidence to dispute it, either.

By using the Genlias, Tresoar, and also a municipal history and genealogy website, I discovered there was a DeJONG family in the village of Marrum, Ferwerderadeel (the municipal–or county–level), Friesland, the Netherlands, where Tjamme/James was born. The only Sjoerd or Sjerd DeJong I’ve been able to find was old enough to be Berber/Barbara’s grandfather, and I cannot find a man by that name who is likely to be her father. James and Barbara had a number of infants that did not live, and using the Dutch system of naming, attempted several times to name baby girls for James’ mother, as well as using the name Jennie several times before they had a daughter that lived. They also had a daughter named Geertje/Gertrude. Following the Dutch naming system, my theory is that Barbara’s mother was likely named Jennie (Janna, Jantje, or other Frisian-Dutch equivalent) and she probably had a sister named Geertje. That is the extent of what I know–or think I know–about Barbara’s family.

James and Barbara lived in Rock Island for about four years (1882 – 1886). They are not listed in any city or county directory for that area during this time. However, that is not so unusual, as immigrants and laborers often were ignored by city directory companies looking to promote names of potential customers for local businesses. While in Rock Island, they had four children: Chaterina T. (1883 – 1883); another Chaterina “Tryntje”(b. 1884); and my ancestor William James and his twin sister Jennie D. James (b. 1886). (I blogged about William’s enumeration in the 1930 census here.) They moved to Holland, Ottawa Co., Michigan between August 1886 and April 1887, when Jennie died. The following year, another daughter, also named Jennie James, was born in their new location, Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan. William’s mother immigrated from the Netherlands and joined them. In 1890, Geertje “Gertrude” James was born; the following year, six-year-old Chaterina accidentally drowned. In 1895, a third Chaterina was born; she died four months later of “summer complaint,” diarrhea in infants caused by spoiled milk. The following year, Tammie J. “Thomas” was born. He lived one year and died of measles. It really is heart wrenching to see how this family lost five of its eight children within 14 years, and yet this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence at a time when poor immigrants did not have access to healthy living conditions and medical care, and in a day and age prior to simple antibiotics. Their three surviving children, William, the second Jennie, and Gertrude, lived into the twentieth century; William and Gertrude living into their 60s, and Jennie to the age of 88.

The photo below shows Barbara and James with their two daughters and sons-in-law at what looks to be some sort of lodge, church, or company picnic or outing, probably in Grand Rapids, between 1915 -1918. The date range has been determined by the date of Jennie and Gerrit HEIDEMA’s wedding year and the year he passed away due to Influenza. The men are all wearing a badge on their left sides; if anyone recognizes what organization this is, please contact me. I find this unusual, because the Dutch Reformed Church, of which this family were members, frowned heavily and preached strongly against fraternal organizations. Missing from this photo is my ancestor, William. Perhaps he was the photographer.


Front, left to right: James and Barbara; sons-in-law, Gerritt John HEIDEMA, Sr. and Jacob YSSELDYKE.
Back, left to right: daughters Jennie and Gertrude.

For many of his years in Grand Rapids, James worked as a laborer in a lumberyard, working his way up to foreman. He died in 1922 of hepatitis. On 12 April 1930, Barbara was enumerated alone at her home at 1315 West Leonard Street in Ward 1, Block 70 of Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan (ED 2, Sheet 21A):

  • Household 255, Family 267; Valk, Barbara; Head of household; owner of home worth $3500; No radio; Female; White; Age 71; Widowed; Did not attend school since 1 September 1929; Able to read and write; Born in the Netherlands; Parents born in the Netherlands; Language spoken before coming to the United States: Dutch; Year of immigration: 1890 [sic]; not naturalized; able to speak English; Occupation: none.

Barbara died of valvular heart disease and dropsy at her home on 1 June 1934. She was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in what was then Walker Township (now part of the City of Grand Rapids), Kent Co., Michigan next to James and his mother. Their graves were the first ancestral ones I ever visited, in October 2000.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 12)

What I’m Reading These Days – Part 3

Not every blog I read is genealogical. One, although not connected to family history in its purpose, has indeed been helpful in my understanding of my ancestry. It is called In Friese Pas, which is Dutch for something along the lines of a “Frisian passport” or “appropriately Frisian.” Using various translation sites gave me various results.

This is a blog (available in English) by a Dutch woman named Grace who takes long walks in the countryside in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands with friends. Each week they walk to a different village. She takes photographs and gives the Frisian as well as Dutch name of the village, writes about the history, village coat of arms, points of interest, etc. I stumbled across her blog Googling for the towns of Marrum and Westernijkerk, twin towns that are the home of my VALK ancestors. It was rather gratifying seeing photos of the church they attended, a railroad station, and general views of the villages.

The Frisians are an ethnic minority in the Netherlands, with a culture and language more similar to English than Dutch. They live mainly in the provinces of Friesland (thus the name) and Groningen. The Frisian Islands are a part of the province of Friesland, and extend in a northeasterly direction from the Netherlands towards Germany. There is a Frisian minority in Germany as well, but there they are called Ostfriesians (East Frisians). You may have heard of the Ostfriesians if you’ve heard Michael John Neill speak or read his articles or blog.

If you’ve been lucky enough to trace your line back to the “old country,” you may want to try Googling the name of the village, city or region to see if there are any modern or antique photos available online. Maybe you’ll hit the jackpot like I did and actually find an English-written blog about the homeland!

What I’m Reading These Days – Part 3

Not every blog I read is genealogical. One, although not connected to family history in its purpose, has indeed been helpful in my understanding of my ancestry. It is called In Friese Pas, which is Dutch for something along the lines of a “Frisian passport” or “appropriately Frisian.” Using various translation sites gave me various results.

This is a blog (available in English) by a Dutch woman named Grace who takes long walks in the countryside in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands with friends. Each week they walk to a different village. She takes photographs and gives the Frisian as well as Dutch name of the village, writes about the history, village coat of arms, points of interest, etc. I stumbled across her blog Googling for the towns of Marrum and Westernijkerk, twin towns that are the home of my VALK ancestors. It was rather gratifying seeing photos of the church they attended, a railroad station, and general views of the villages.

The Frisians are an ethnic minority in the Netherlands, with a culture and language more similar to English than Dutch. They live mainly in the provinces of Friesland (thus the name) and Groningen. The Frisian Islands are a part of the province of Friesland, and extend in a northeasterly direction from the Netherlands towards Germany. There is a Frisian minority in Germany as well, but there they are called Ostfriesians (East Frisians). You may have heard of the Ostfriesians if you’ve heard Michael John Neill speak or read his articles or blog.

If you’ve been lucky enough to trace your line back to the “old country,” you may want to try Googling the name of the village, city or region to see if there are any modern or antique photos available online. Maybe you’ll hit the jackpot like I did and actually find an English-written blog about the homeland!

Happy Birthday – March 4

Happy Birthday to:

  • Willemke Gerryts ENGBRENGHOF, my 4th-great-grandmother, whose father, Jan Gerryt Martens ENGBRENGHOF, brought what little German ancestry I have into the family tree. Willemke’s mother was Trijntje HESSELS, a Frisian, and daughter of a ship master. Willemke was born on this date in 1788 in the village of Marrum, municipality of Ferwerderadeel, Friesland, the Netherlands, the fifth of 11 children. She married my ancestor Gerrit Hendricks DOLSTRA on 29 June 1806 in Marrum, and they proceeded to have three children, all widely spaced apart. The youngest was my ancestor, Trijntje Gerrits DOLSTRA, who as a widow, emigrated to the United States in 1888 to live with her one surviving child, Tjamme Wiegers “James” VALK. Willemke died 3 September 1843 in Ferwerderadeel, and was buried three days later in the Marrum Churchyard. Although she was buried in Row 30, Grave 5, probably no gravestone exists, as the Dutch custom is to dig up graves after a period of many years, burn the bones, and thus leave room for new burials (in the Netherlands, land is at premium). One can pay more to have a loved ones’ body buried for a much longer time before the necessary unearthing and subsequent cremation. In Willemke’s case, her family must have been indigent, as the deacons’ fund paid for her burial.