Friday Findings: McCLELLAN Pension Record, E-mails, Atlas Project, BORCHERS

I ordered the Civil War Pension Record for my 4th-great-grandfather, Levi E. McCLELLAN (McLELLAN, McLALLIN, etc.). That along with subscriptions for Internet Genealogy (renewal) and Discovering Family History (new) were some of my Christmas gifts this year.

On Saturday, I e-mailed the VALK and LEWIS cousins that had left comments in my website’s guestbook a couple of weeks ago. I also went through my Juno email inbox (nearly 900 messages), deleted all the junk and forwarded the good e-mails to my Gmail inbox. I used to use Juno for many years, and keep this freebie account open for those times when a distant relative or other researcher comes across a query I left on a message board with the old address. One of the messages was the following:

I have been searching for over 5 yrs. for a missing link, my Gr. Grandfather Lewis Harding. I knew his name, his wife’s name, when he was born, where he is buried and I knew that he came to Michigan when he was 2 yrs. old. I spent some time on looking at the Atlas Project, did a search and found him in the biography of George M. Campbell. Thank you so much for your Atlas Project. I not only found Lewis Harding’s parents, but also his sisters and brother. I have an old album that belonged to my grandparents, M.C. and Matilda Harding that has pictures of several of the people named in the Atlas Project. I knew they were relatives, but I didn’t know their connection and thanks to you now I do. I am thrilled to get this information that I have been seeking for so long.

Thank you again.

As you can imagine, this made my day! I haven’t worked on the Atlas Project in a couple of years so it’s nice to know that the information I put on it has helped someone. Here’s another person I need to contact to see if she would be willing to add her photographs to the website for the benefit of others.

I heard back from my LEWIS cousin we are collaborating. I have the information she needs on the earlier, older generations and she has information I’ve been wanting on the more recent ones–info I couldn’t access because of restrictions to current vital records. I also sent her quite a few ancestral and gravestone photos. I’m very excited to find how easy it is to find things and send them to others using my new filing system for documents, photos, and research notes.

Speaking of which, I spent a lot of time this week organizing digital files, answering a backlog of emails, and even got some scanning done. My dad loaned me the funeral book of my paternal grandmother’s adoptive father, Alfred Henry HOLST. There are lots of gems inside: obituaries, signatures of nearly everyone in town (including other relatives), and pages where relatives are specifically listed. One of the list of relatives had some unfamiliar names on it. I remembered that I had discovered that Alfred’s father, John, had a sister that had also immigrated from Germany; this was from John’s FBI Case File, which I found at Footnote. His sister was listed as Mrs. Anna M. BORCHERS, so using Ancestry and FamilySearch Record Search, I was able to piece together her family and identify the individuals by the same surname listed in the funeral book: Anna’s sons and Alfred’s cousins. Doing research on this family uncovered that Anna and her husband Claus immigrated from Germany in 1874, so when John and his wife and infant son Alfred immigrated in 1882, it was obvious that they were joining his sister and brother-in-law. I love how putting pieces of the puzzle (facts) together gives a larger, deeper look into the family history!

Lastly, I happened to go to the Zeeland (Netherlands) Provincial Archives website and saw that they had added birth records, which they were lacking before. I’ve been able to add quite a few details and family members to my TON and VanKLINKEN lines.

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Friday Findings: VALK, LEWIS, McCLELLAN, Markham Twp Ancestry

I haven’t done a Friday Findings post in a while, and as I’m slowly returning to posting more of my regular “columns”, I thought I’d start here. Friday Findings is a feature I started last summer to record my weekly research finds and cousin connections. I hope to do a better job of keeping up with this. This post covers the past two weeks.

LEWIS and VALK
Last week, I had two cousins leave comments on the guestbook at my family history website, also named AnceStories. I’m delighted to hear from them, and need to take the time to compose thoughtful, comprehensive e-mails as responses.

McCLELLAN
I have spent a lot of my online research time during the past two weeks trying to find as much as possible about one of my brick wall ancestors, Levi E. McCLELLAN (or McLELLAN). The Michigan vital records at FamilySearch Record Search helped me to determine that he was indeed married twice, and not just once. Confusion came about because both wives had similar names. His first wife, my ancestor Clarissa Mary (or Mary Clarissa) CLEVELAND, was born c. 1832 in New York state. She last appears on the 1870 Federal Census with him and the children, William, Cornelia (my 3rd-great-grandmother), and Edwin in New Haven Village, Macomb Co., Michigan. In 1880, Levi is living with wife Mary C. FORD, along with a 10-year-old son Ira, and two step-children in Detroit. Finding son Ira’s marriage record, also at FamilySearch Record Search proved that he was Clarissa’s son and not Mary’s. Mary appears in the 1890 Veteran’s Census as a widow of two veterans, Levi being one of them. So Levi died sometime between 1880 (when he appears in both the Federal Census in Detroit and the 1880 Detroit City Directory) and 1890. The 1850 Federal Census gives me a possible mother, brother, and niece for Levi. I’ve decided to spend my Christmas money on obtaining Levi’s Civil War Veteran’s pension record from the National Archives to see what genealogical gems I can glean from it.

Markham Twp., York Co., Ontario Ancestry
Janet Iles was kind enough to let me consult her regarding what Markham Township records are available so that I can try to knock down some other brick wall lines, my WILKINSON and either TERRY or LAMONEAUX lines. I’m hoping to find the marriage record of Richard WILKINSON and his wife Mary, who seems to have two surnames (TERRY and LAMONEAUX).

John William "Chet" VALK (1914 – 1944), Recipient of the Purple Heart

Source: John W. Valk Badge of Military Merit; owned by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2008.

Today is Purple Heart Day.

The official name of a Purple Heart is the Badge of Military Merit. According to Wikipedia, it “is considered to be the first official military combat badge of the United States Armed Forces. It is the second oldest United States military award in existence, the oldest being the Fidelity Medallion. The Badge of Military Merit was first announced in General George Washington’s general orders to the Continental Army issued on 7 August 1782 at the Headquarters in Newburgh. Designed by Washington in the form of a purple heart, it was intended as a military order for soldiers who displayed unusual gallantry in battle, or extraordinary fidelity and essential service.”

Currently, “the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after 5 April 1917, has been wounded or killed, or who has died after being wounded.” [Wikipedia]

Here in the State of Washington, living Purple Heart recipients can obtain specialized license plates with an image of the award decorating the plates. This may be possible in other states as well.

The story of the Purple Heart recipient in my family begins on a cold winter day in the City of Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan on 7 February 1914. Agnes (TUINSTRA) VALK had just given birth to her fourth son and child within four years. What Agnes and her husband, William James VALK, decided to name this son is open to speculation. According to their third son–and my maternal grandfather–William “Bill” VALK, his younger brother was supposed to have been named William Thomas VALK. I think my grandfather was mistaken…why would you have two sons named William? I think my great-grandparents meant to name the boy Thomas William VALK. This makes sense because Thomas was the name of a younger brother of William Sr., who had died young, and was another translation–in addition to James–of the Frisian name Tjamme, William Sr.’s father’s name. Having William as a middle name (as so many of these sons did) was a leftover Dutch tradition, where one’s middle name was a patronym (“Willems”).

Somehow, either “William Thomas” or “Thomas William” didn’t go over, and the parents decided upon John Chester VALK, and nicknamed him “Chet.” Whatever happened, Chet was registered on his offical birth record as “John William VALK”–by the doctor, according to my grandfather–and no one was the wiser until nearly 30 years later.

Chet’s birth was followed by two more sons and a set of twins, one of whom was stillborn. By now, the United States was in the midst of World War I. Soon after, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic hit. I’ve written before about how Agnes was institutionalized after succumbing to the effects of influenza or perhaps encephalitis lethargica. When she died shortly before her 36th birthday, William Sr. was left with six sons and daughter, all under the age of 12. These children were farmed out to relatives and the city orphanage. Chet was one who lived at Blodgett Home for Children during the 1920 Census. After William Sr. married Iva Eva (LAMBRECHT) SCHADLER, a widow with a 10-year-old son, the family was reunited, and eight more children–five of whom survived infancy–were added to the household.

Chet attended Walker Township schools and grew up playing on the streets of what is now west Grand Rapids. In 1937, his 24-year-old brother Bill (my grandfather) married 17-year-old German immigrant Elfriede “Freda” LOMKER in South Bend, Indiana, a “Gretna Green” marriage location. A year an a half later, a son, James Frederick VALK, was born. Besides the obvious age difference between the couple, the marriage appeared to be doomed from the start. One morning, Bill left a dollar bill on the table with a note, and simply walked out. Freda and little Jimmy moved into her parents’ home. This was Efriede’s version, according to the 1941 court records of their divorce. According to my grandmother (Bill’s second wife), Elfriede “ran off with Chet” (before the divorce? soon after?). However, I must remember that my grandmother heard Bill’s version, and he may have been justifying his actions. Those who know the whole truth are long gone.

Source: Valk, James Frederick and Elfriede (Lomker). Photograph. C. 1941. Original in the possession of Robert Upton [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Queen Creek, Arizona. 2008.

Whatever happened, Chet and Elfriede did fall in love and marry. She called him “Johnny” and he called her “Freda.” Chet looked upon little Jimmy as his own, and was obviously devoted to both his own family and his in-laws. He had served in the regular U.S. Army from 1936 through 1939 and was recalled in February 1941. It was during his enlistment that the discovery was made that his legal name, according to his birth record, was John William VALK. According to my grandfather, Chet served with the 101st Airborne, but I am not sure as to the accuracy of that statement.

Source: Valk, John William “Johnny” (Fort Benning, Georgia) to “Dear Margaret” [possibly Margaret Lomker]. Letter. Undated. Privately held by Robert Upton [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Queen Creek, Arizona. 2008.
(click on any thumbnail to enlarge)

From Fort Benning, Georgia, in this undated letter, Chet writes to a friend, or perhaps his sister-in-law, Margaret:

Dear Margaret,

I received your card and letter both this morning and was glad to hear from you. After reading the card I thought I’d better not wait so long this time. That sure was a good thrashing you gave me. I had it coming I guess.

It is still hotter than blazes down here and not much breeze. The little breeze we do get sure feels good. We are all feeling fine inspite [sic] of the weather.

Freda has gone back up to Rockford [Michigan, near Grand Rapids] to dispose of some [of] the things we are not taking with us. We have all ready [sic] sold the house and got our down payment back out of it. She expects to be gone only a week then she’s driving down in the car with Jimmy.

Gee, I really miss that kid something awful. I wonder if he’ll still remember me after those long months. Bet he’ll like our new house as there will be plenty of open space to play in.

Just before Freda left we went out to look how they were coming on the house and they hadn’t hardly did anything to it except installing the plumbing and electrical fixtures. I can hardly wait to move in.

I think you should give Freda a calling down. I’ve been trying to get her to write for ages but she doesn’t seem to find time. It’s touch that Cliff is gone and wish him the best of everything wherever he goes and a hasty arrival back home. I think of you two a lot and sure miss seeing you every so often. Maybe after this war is over we’ll be able to pay you a visit. Freda has already told me she’d like to move to Califonria, and you know Freda when she wants something. Well Margie I guess I’ll close as there really isn’t much news any way. So goodbye for now. We’ll try to be more prompt hereafter.

Love
Johnny.


Source: Valk, John William “Johnny” (unknown location in Europe) to “Dear Folks” [Fred and Anna (Kirchdyke) Lomker]. Letter. 9 December 1944. Privately held by Robert Upton [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Queen Creek, Arizona. 2008.

(click on any thumbnail to enlarge)

Chet was sent overseas to serve. On Saturday, 9 December 1944, he wrote from Europe to Freda’s parents, Fred LOMKER, Sr. and Anna KIRCHDYKE, who were probably living in Grand Rapids:

Saturday, Dec. 9th.

Dear Folks,

Just a few lines to say hell-o. I know you’ll be surprised to hear from me as I haven’t written before. I have been thinking of you though, often. How are all of you, anyway. I’m fine and hope this letter find you all in the best of health. I hear from Freda quite often but she seldom mentions you. Just finished writing Freda a few moments ago. I’d like it very much if she’d go home. I’m afraid she’s working too hard. She says she [is] going home any day now. Just hope she makes it there before Christmas. It would be nice if she were home for Christmas. I sure would like to be there too. this is really a bad mess over here and I for one will be glad when it’s over with.

[Censored] It was impossible [censored] Christmas, over here for [censored] anything. Hoping she gets home for Christmas [censored] this [censored] doesn’t [illegible] if you can always [censored].

I received a letter from Margaret awhile back and it sure was nice hearing from her. I hear from home often too and naturally they generally write a few lines about you all. So I do hear about you occasionally. Dad Valk mentioned pa in his last letter saying you was over a short while ago.

The weather over here has been miserable but through it all we manage somehow. We have every thing we need, plenty of blankets, clothes, east, cigarettes and so forth. That’s why I never ask Freda to send me anything. About the only thing I miss more than anything is my beer. Of course, I miss Freda and Jimmy the most.

Well, folks, I still have a few more letters to write besides this one so will close for now. Hoping you all the best. Give my regards to Fred [Jr.] and the kids. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Yours Truly,
Johnny

Johnny never saw the New Year, 1945. He was reported missing in Luxembourg on December 31st, and it was later determined he was killed in action on that date, another cold winter day like the one on which he had been born. At birth, he was welcomed by his loving parents and three older brothers. At death, he was surrounded by his Band of Brothers, some of whom may have joined him in crossing over.

Many years later, my grandfather later told me that he had heard his brother had been killed near Foy, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, and that he may have been parachuting into the area at the time. His obituary was published nearly three months later in the Grand Rapids Press.

Source: Walsh, Roland, Brigadier General, USA, Commanding (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) to “Mrs. Elfriede Valk” [Elfriede (Lomker) Valk]. Letter. Undated. Privately held by Robert Upton [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Queen Creek, Arizona. 2008.

Let us remember on Purple Heart Day the sacrifices that our military men and women have made to preserve our freedoms.

Freda later moved to Louisiana and became the second female certified public accountant in that state. She married another war veteran, and had two more children, but according to her son, she was very sad about many things in her life. I suspect Chet’s death affected her greatly. In addition, little Jimmy had to be institutionalized because he was–or became–disabled. He lived in the state institution at Kalamazoo, Michigan, and died at the age of 19. This must have been very grievous to bear. At that time in society, there was no physical, financial, medical or emotional support for families with disabled children, leaving them little choice but the anguish of basically abandoning them to the mercy of the state. Freda herself passed away in 1983 after a battle with melanoma.

It is through the great generosity of Freda’s children that the Badge of Military Merit awarded to John William “Chet” VALK, as well as copies of his letters and the above photograph, have been returned to and shared with the descendants of the Valk family. We are exceedingly grateful.

Picnic Time!

Bill West at West in New England has asked the genea-bloggers to participate in a Genea-Bloggers Picnic.  Here are some questions he asked:

*What food does your family serve at picnics?
Our annual must-attend picnic is my parents’ Fourth of July picnic at their beautiful log home on the mountainside north of Colville, Washington.  Traditionally, we grill hamburgers and hot dogs and have all the condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles and/or relish, onion, lettuce, and tomatoes.  There’s usually potato salad, potato chips, and there MUST be baked beans.  That’s because Dad, like myself, is a traditionalist.  He swears that at every Robbins Reunion that he attended as a kid there was nothing served but beans and dessert.  Apparently there were dozens of bean dishes.  He tells me this every year, and every year I remember that he inherited the Robbins’ gene for storytelling, which although it always starts out with the truth, tends to grow and take on a life of its own!  Mm-hmm.

When my niece’s family comes, they almost always brings a cold three-bean salad that I love.

There are often veggie and fruit trays, soft drinks, and several desserts.  Janet (Mom’s friend) always brings a peanut-butter pie.  When work kept her away this Fourth, her husband Pete did the honors.

*Are there traditional foods or family recipes?

Dad does have a special recipe for the beans.  He starts out with canned baked beans, but adds all kinds of yummy stuff: mustard, molasses, etc.  Can’t be beat!  I usually make a Jello Wave Your Flag cake.

*Is there one particular relative’s specialty you wish you could taste again or one perfect picnic day you wish you could go back and relive?
One of my favorite times was a Spring Break when I was a high school junior, I think.  The weather was beautiful, we had a picnic with a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores.  Then we came in and watched “The Music Man” on TV.

Here’s some more ideas I came up with, and added to my AnceStories2 blog:

*You could expand to write about family reunions, past and present, and what kinds of foods were/are brought to them.  As a child, I only remember attending one reunion, the Lewis family reunion in 1979 in Michigan.  I have no idea what we ate, but I do remember that one of the great-granduncles had an ice cream cart!

At the Midkiff Family Reunions that I coordinated in 1990 and in 1999 in the Spokane Valley, we split up the list of names and had one group bring main dishes, one bring salads and side dishes, and the third, desserts.  Everyone had to bring their own meat to grill.  The reunion committee supplied buns, condiments, beverages, and paper/plastic goods.  It worked out well.

*You could add what dish everyone loved to eat, and which one people were sneaking off to scrap into the garbage so they wouldn’t hurt the cook’s feelings!
Everyone loves my Wave Your Flag cake.  Janet has an interesting story about her peanut butter pie.  Seems her Aunt Ruth is a horrible cook, yet Janet’s husband Pete is always polite and will eat whatever Ruth sets before him.  One time, Ruth mentioned she had made a peanut butter pie.  Janet quickly declined, but Pete of course took a serving.  He started nudging Janet, “You’ve got to try this!”  Janet couldn’t believe it!  Aunt Ruth had finally made something edible, and not only that, delicious!  And Janet blesses us by bringing one to the Fourth of July picnic/BBQ every year!

*Is there a picnic basket, old ice chest, a BBQ grill or camp stove, a special dish (physical, not recipe) or picnic cloth that’s been handed down in the family and used for decades at picnics, potlucks, or reunions?
We have a picnic basket that used to belong to Norm’s great-grandparents.  I use it as a decorative piece in my dining room, but very occasionally we’ll use it.  Norm’s dad loves garage sales, and he’s found us a few old metal green Thermoses.  He’ll fill one with coffee for us before we leave their place for our long ride home.

*Is there a favorite campground, park, home, or meeting place where picnics or reunions regularly occurred?
There’s a great little campground north of Colville at Mill Creek.  We camped there for a few days in our camper when my parents first bought their home and we were waiting for the family to move out.  Then we decided to take a trip back to Michigan, but that’s another story!  This campground has a swinging bridge that my dad and brother used to play on when my brother (now 34) was five years old.  Adriaen would trip across the bridge, and my dad would pretend to be the troll from Billy Goats Gruff.  My brother was gut-giggling so hard, he nearly fell off the bridge!  Near the falls there’s a great rock with drill holes in it from when the mill used to be there, gosh, 150 years ago?  That rock is a good place to sit while fishing.

*What about unwelcome guests like ants, mosquitoes, and yellow jackets? Raccoons, anyone?
My son, Matthew, is a yellow jacket and mosquito magnet.  I tell him it’s because he’s so sweet!  I can’t tell you how many picnics and play days we had at lakes and streams where he’d get bit/stung.  Fortunately, he’s not allergic.

*What favorite picnic or reunion photos do you have, especially ancestral?
I’ve got one of my mother’s ancestors, the Valks at a picnic, and another of a Lewis family reunion taken around 1924.

Source: The Valk Family. Photograph. Taken c. 1915  – 1918, probably in Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.  Original photograph believed to be in the possession of John Hanson, Little Silver, New Jersey. 2000.

Source: The Lewis Family Reunion.  Photograph.  Taken c. 1924, probably in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon Co., Michigan.  Original in the possession of Jeanne Holst Robbins, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. 2008.  Reprint held by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington.  2008.

*Beverages served, games and activities played, stories told…all contain memories that future generations will someday treasure, if they’re left for posterity!
I especially like Bocci, which I learned to play in my students’ PE classes, but I need to buy a set for the next picnic!

Picnic Time!

Bill West at West in New England has asked the genea-bloggers to participate in a Genea-Bloggers Picnic. Here are some questions he asked:

*What food does your family serve at picnics?
Our annual must-attend picnic is my parents’ Fourth of July picnic at their beautiful log home on the mountainside north of Colville, Washington. Traditionally, we grill hamburgers and hot dogs and have all the condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles and/or relish, onion, lettuce, and tomatoes. There’s usually potato salad, potato chips, and there MUST be baked beans. That’s because Dad, like myself, is a traditionalist. He swears that at every Robbins Reunion that he attended as a kid there was nothing served but beans and dessert. Apparently there were dozens of bean dishes. He tells me this every year, and every year I remember that he inherited the Robbins’ gene for storytelling, which although it always starts out with the truth, tends to grow and take on a life of its own! Mm-hmm.

When my niece’s family comes, they almost always brings a cold three-bean salad that I love.

There are often veggie and fruit trays, soft drinks, and several desserts. Janet (Mom’s friend) always brings a peanut-butter pie. When work kept her away this Fourth, her husband Pete did the honors.

*Are there traditional foods or family recipes?
Dad does have a special recipe for the beans. He starts out with canned baked beans, but adds all kinds of yummy stuff: mustard, molasses, etc. Can’t be beat! I usually make a Jello Wave Your Flag cake.

*Is there one particular relative’s specialty you wish you could taste again or one perfect picnic day you wish you could go back and relive?
One of my favorite times was a Spring Break when I was a high school junior, I think. The weather was beautiful, we had a picnic with a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores. Then we came in and watched “The Music Man” on TV.

Here’s some more ideas I came up with, and added to my AnceStories2 blog:

*You could expand to write about family reunions, past and present, and what kinds of foods were/are brought to them. As a child, I only remember attending one reunion, the Lewis family reunion in 1979 in Michigan. I have no idea what we ate, but I do remember that one of the great-granduncles had an ice cream cart!

At the Midkiff Family Reunions that I coordinated in 1990 and in 1999 in the Spokane Valley, we split up the list of names and had one group bring main dishes, one bring salads and side dishes, and the third, desserts. Everyone had to bring their own meat to grill. The reunion committee supplied buns, condiments, beverages, and paper/plastic goods. It worked out well.

*You could add what dish everyone loved to eat, and which one people were sneaking off to scrap into the garbage so they wouldn’t hurt the cook’s feelings!
Everyone loves my Wave Your Flag cake. Janet has an interesting story about her peanut butter pie. Seems her Aunt Ruth is a horrible cook, yet Janet’s husband Pete is always polite and will eat whatever Ruth sets before him. One time, Ruth mentioned she had made a peanut butter pie. Janet quickly declined, but Pete of course took a serving. He started nudging Janet, “You’ve got to try this!” Janet couldn’t believe it! Aunt Ruth had finally made something edible, and not only that, delicious! And Janet blesses us by bringing one to the Fourth of July picnic/BBQ every year!

*Is there a picnic basket, old ice chest, a BBQ grill or camp stove, a special dish (physical, not recipe) or picnic cloth that’s been handed down in the family and used for decades at picnics, potlucks, or reunions?
We have a picnic basket that used to belong to Norm’s great-grandparents. I use it as a decorative piece in my dining room, but very occasionally we’ll use it. Norm’s dad loves garage sales, and he’s found us a few old metal green Thermoses. He’ll fill one with coffee for us before we leave their place for our long ride home.

*Is there a favorite campground, park, home, or meeting place where picnics or reunions regularly occurred?
There’s a great little campground north of Colville at Mill Creek. We camped there for a few days in our camper when my parents first bought their home and we were waiting for the family to move out. Then we decided to take a trip back to Michigan, but that’s another story! This campground has a swinging bridge that my dad and brother used to play on when my brother (now 34) was five years old. Adriaen would trip across the bridge, and my dad would pretend to be the troll from Billy Goats Gruff. My brother was gut-giggling so hard, he nearly fell off the bridge! Near the falls there’s a great rock with drill holes in it from when the mill used to be there, gosh, 150 years ago? That rock is a good place to sit while fishing.

*What about unwelcome guests like ants, mosquitoes, and yellow jackets? Raccoons, anyone?
My son, Matthew, is a yellow jacket and mosquito magnet. I tell him it’s because he’s so sweet! I can’t tell you how many picnics and play days we had at lakes and streams where he’d get bit/stung. Fortunately, he’s not allergic.

*What favorite picnic or reunion photos do you have, especially ancestral?
I’ve got one of my mother’s ancestors, the Valks at a picnic, and another of a Lewis family reunion taken around 1924.


Source: The Valk Family. Photograph. Taken c. 1915 – 1918, probably in Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan. Original photograph believed to be in the possession of John Hanson, Little Silver, New Jersey. 2000.

Source: The Lewis Family Reunion. Photograph. Taken c. 1924, probably in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon Co., Michigan. Original in the possession of Jeanne Holst Robbins, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. 2008. Reprint held by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

*Beverages served, games and activities played, stories told…all contain memories that future generations will someday treasure, if they’re left for posterity!
I especially like Bocci, which I learned to play in my students’ PE classes, but I need to buy a set for the next picnic!

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.]

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.]