Last week, for Women’s History Month, I shared the death certificates of my 2 grandmothers and 4 great-grandmothers. I then searched for death certificates for my eight 2x great grandmothers. All eight were born in other countries: Netherlands, Germany, and Alsace (now France).


This one is for Alice Paak DeKorn, who died 5 May 1908 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The cause of death is heart disease. Since she was only 55, that seems somewhat unusual. She is the woman who survived a terrible fire. Could that have caused permanent damage to her heart?

Next up is Jennie Bomhoff Zuidweg who passed away 13 December 1924 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 86 of senility.

That cause of death as senility is a bit mystifying to me. Grandma remembered his grandmother. After all, he was born in 1908, so when she died he would have been 16 years old. He never said anything about her having dementia at all when he talked about her, and I have to believe he would have mentioned it. She looks pretty old in this photo, and she looks like she knows her own mind, so to speak.

But can I quibble with a death certificate when I wasn’t there at the time?

Alwine Noffke Waldeck died 9 June 1912 in Caledonia, Kent County, Michigan. She was 65 years old.

The cause of death is “interstitial nephritis” and dropsy. Dropsy means edema, a subject close to my thoughts because I have lymphedema. Hmm, here is another kidney disease death, like the two in last week’s post. Only this one is on my mother’s side and not my father’s.

Alwine is the mother seated in the middle.

My fourth maternal 2x great grandmother was Nellie Gorsse Mulder who died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on 12 October 1932. Cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis, which she had had for 15 years. She also had had diabetes for 5 years.

This is Nellie who died at age 63.


I’ll be darned, but I don’t have a single death certificate or death record for these four women. Note that my maternal 2x greats all passed away in the United States, but the paternals did not (to my knowledge).

Elisabetha Adelseck Wendel and Elisabetha Wink Klein were both born in Budesheim, Germany. Presumably they both died there. I wrote for records, but have not received a response. I am not sure how to obtain these records on my own if I can’t get responses to my emails.

Same problem with the other two.

Anne Reihr Schirmer from Leumschwiller, France, and Madeline Groll Scholler from Muespach, France. Again, I think they both died there. But nobody has responded to my requests.

Until I can get those records, it’s hard to feel that they are “real.”  I have no photos of these women either, but feel very lucky to have the four above.

As to the 3x great grandmothers and beyond, I do have some records of many of the Dutch ones because the Dutch records are so easily available online. They makes things so much easier for me! Of course, none of these have causes of death listed.

Any ideas on how to move forward on finding death records for the women from Germany and France?

Because of Women’s History Month, I thought I would pull together information on how the women who came before me passed away. I wanted to put all my grandmothers together in one post and thought by sharing their deaths it would shed some light on their lives, at least at the end. I also have a ghoulish fascination with looking them over for the variety of ways I might die myself. After all, their deaths could be a form of inheritance.

But what I discovered made me pretty mad at myself. I have so neglected death certificates. I think it’s because a death certificate in Michigan tends to be a document that I have to pay for that I have relied on social security death info, as well as burial info and death registry dates. I haven’t been assertive about going after the certificates themselves. This is why I don’t call myself a genealogist, but a family historian. I’m more of a storyteller than a rock solid researcher.

Here are my grandmothers and great-grandmothers and how they died.

My maternal grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder Zuidweg, passed away on 21 September 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 88. After the death of my grandfather three months earlier, she was ill and living at a nursing home for round the clock care. The real round the clock care came from my aunt who slept in a chair in Grandma’s room. She was with her most of the time. What my aunt did is wonderful because Grandma hated being in an institutional place. She was like me about that, and it must have been horrible for her there. Thank goodness, she had her daughter with her.

Grandma on our left

I didn’t have her death certificate, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County. It arrived without a hitch. I see that the cause of death was congestive heart failure. The documentation gives no evidence of all she went through with the cancers that she had. The congestive heart failure might be explained by science in one way, but my explanation is that she died of a broken heart after losing my grandfather.

My paternal grandmother, Marie Klein (Kline) Wakefield, passed away on 25 April, 1974, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She had been living in the Upjohn Nursing Home, which at the time was the premier nursing home in Kalamazoo. Her ex-neighbor and friend, Shirley Kulp, was the head nurse so there was always someone to watch over Grandma. Grandma was 82.

The above photo is my grandmother, Marie. In case you’re wondering about the difference in styles between the one of my grandmother, Edna, Marie was fully 20 years older than Edna.

I didn’t have Marie’s death certificate either, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County.

Are you noticing the pattern here? [Knocking head against wall]

Luckily, it came in the mail with my other grandmother’s certificate.

Grandma passed away from uremia. I did remember that cause of death, although I had heard of it as a diagnosis while she was still alive, but dying in the hospital. This grandmother is who I inherited my congenital primary lymphedema from.

Then there are my four great-grandmothers.

Margarethe Wendel Klein died 24 May 1932 in Elmhurst, Illinois. I have her death certificate (woohoo!). I also have a corrected certificate. The only thing corrected is her birth date, and guess what? Both documents are wrong! According to the Catholic church books in Budesheim, Margarethe was born on June 25, 1869, NOT May 30, 1869 as it says on the death certificate and NOT June 24, 1870 as it says on the corrected copy.

She died of a diabetic coma and also had nephritis and myocarditis. Her health had obviously been poor, although she was only 62–the age I am now. She had also already lost two of her five children, so she had been through a lot. When Margarethe died, her body lay in a casket in their house in Elmhurst. My father told me that there was a thunderstorm during the time it was there, and that the grandchildren were terrified at the combination of events and hid under the huge picnic table style dining room table. She was buried on May 27, but it looks like (from historical rainfall records) the storm most likely occurred the day after her death, on May 25.

Francoise Schirmer (Schermer) Scholler died 22 October 1914 in Duluth, Minnesota.

Cause of death at age 71: chronic nephritis and arterioschlerosis.

Cora DeKorn Zuidweg died at age 57 on 16 September 1932 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have posted about this one in the past.

Cause of death: Exhaustion – debility from gen – metastatic sarcoma spindle cell – primary in left thigh, followed injury was removed 9-16-29 – had existed there 5 years.

Clara Waldeck Mulder died on 6 September 1953 in Kent County, Michigan, at age 69. I did not have her death certificate and ordered it from Kent County.  I knew that she died of cancer, but I had eagerly awaited the actual cause of death on the certificate. When I received the document, I saw that cause of death was carcinoma of the uterus. That is what I had been told.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t unnerve you a little when you see that your ancestors died too young, even if they were older people. Since my grandmothers were 82 and 88, I figured that was a normal lifetime. But when I add in the great-grandmothers’ ages at death the average goes way down. The average of the age at death of all six ladies is 71.5. The average age for the 4 greats is 64.75. I feel blessed that they were all old enough when they died to see their children grow up. Every woman doesn’t have that opportunity, obviously. And look at the pattern. All four greats died much younger than my grandmothers, so things are improving, probably from better healthcare.

Of six grandmothers, I had three death certificates and was able to order the other three. Can I take it back another generation to the 2x greats? There will be eight women. How many certificates will I produce? A future post, peeps!


Today kicks off Women’s History Month, which is celebrated throughout the month of March. Nobody can work on their family history and genealogy and not be confronted with the imbalance between the history of men and the history of women. The mere fact that women are so difficult to find because of the historic practice of taking on their husband’s surnames is enough, but there are other factors, as well. For instance, I only have to examine the history of my own ancestors to see that European and American women, until fairly recently, worked at outside jobs but their occupations rarely resulted in careers.  Sometimes they worked outside the home for decades, but often, once women married, they quit their jobs and began to have children.

When I wrote the poems and short stories in my chapbook Kin Types I consciously tried to bring the lives of these “invisible” women to life. Here is a 53 second video my daughter made of the book last summer.


As you probably realize, the research and the writing itself was a labor of love. The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Finishing Line Press. If you click through the next image, it leads to the Amazon site.

There are other wonderful poems about women and history. Here is a favorite poem by the late great Adrienne Rich. I am only posting the beginning and then you have to follow the link for the rest because WordPress does not allow for the specific formatting that some poems need.

This poem investigates the life of Caroline Herschel, the younger sister of astronomer William Herschel. Although she had to do a lot of her brother’s bidding during her life, she eventually learned to love astronomy and became an esteemed astronomer after discovering several comets.  There are an unknown number of women like this throughout history because most of them were not rewarded during their lifetimes as Caroline Herschel was. For instance, how much did Vivian Eliot help her husband T. S. Eliot with his writing? Einstein’s first wife Mileva Maric was also a physicist and might have co-authored the Theory of Relativity with Einstein, but she got no credit.



Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster

a monster in the shape of a woman

the skies are full of them


a woman      ‘in the snow

among the Clocks and instruments

or measuring the ground with poles’


in her 98 years to discover

8 comets

Continue here: Planetarium

This woman is taking a much-needed break next week. See you the week after!

Kapothoed to Kalamazoo

There is so much to see and research in every photograph, every document, and every story. It’s no wonder I always feel that I have not exhausted a topic. One of those topics is the hat that Jennie Zuidweg (wife of Johannes and mother of Lucas who died on the anchor) wore in her photos. She wore it when she was younger and, no doubt, living in the Netherlands–specifically Goes, Zeeland.

And she wore it when she was old and living in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

And then I saw another Dutch relative wearing the hat.

I put all this in the back of my mind, and then on a Dutch Facebook group somebody mentioned a type of hat, and it clicked in my head that I needed to research this hat.

What I found is that this type of hat seems to be called a Kapothoed. According to Google translation, this means hood hat or bonnet. So I did a Google search of Kapothoed. Although all that comes up are not the same, there are several that are.

Google Search for Kapothoed

and from Pinterest.


What this shows me is that what I assumed to be an old-fashioned country bonnet was really an actual style that existed in the Netherlands. Some of the bonnets or kapothoed that I found by searching Dutch museum collections online are closer to the head, but there are some that are high like these.

Here is a high one from Europeana Collections, an online digital collection of artifacts.

Now that I have seen more kapothoed designs, I can see that the hats Jennie wore when she was younger and when she was elderly are two different hats, two different styles of bonnets.

These bonnets are very different from the traditional Dutch caps which look like the variations in these photos from Wikipedia.

Actually, the caps that women in Goes, Zeeland, wore were the most dramatic, along with the hair combed back at the forehead and the large jewelry worn at the temples.

I spent a lot of time trying to find an image online that I am allowed to download and put into this post, but I couldn’t find the right image of the Goes costume. Instead, I did a Google search of the “traditional costume of Goes, Zeeland” and created a screen shot to show you.

These are oorijzers or ear irons. Various styles had different names. The block or cube style were boeken (books). A spiral metal style were called krullen (curls). This next photo is a woman from Spijkenisse in 1900. I am including it to show you the krullen style ear irons.


Here is what Wikipedia has to say about oorijzer. I am quoting them because it’s the best information I found online:

The ear iron is part of the costume for women, especially in the northern provinces of the Netherlands and Zeeland . It originally formed part of the civic power, which was taken over in the regional councils.

Initially the ear iron was a metal bracket to keep the caps in place. It was worn over a cap and a luxurious top hat was put on it. In the course of time the ear iron grew into a showpiece. Decorative gold plates or curls stuck out at the front of the ear irons . . . .

Only in the 19th century did various forms of the ear-iron form a specific part of Dutch regional dress. In Images of dress, morals and customs from 1803-1807 there is no question of ear iron in women from Friesland. In the French era, when the so-called independent regions of the Republic of the United Netherlands come under a single administration, the need for maintaining their own identity arises in the regions. In the Netherlands, the ear iron force is cultivated and has its own development. The prosperity is great, as a result of which the ear iron is getting bigger and bigger. In the course of the century, the narrow band is becoming wider, the buds become larger and flatter and take the form of a flower pot.

Different Ear Irons in the Zuiderzee Museum

A slang term for them might be kissers. A tradition (not universally shared) has it that the kissers were meant to keep boys away from the girls. I’m amazed how the hair looks so plain and yet the cap and oorijzers are so extravagant looking. Coral bead necklaces are part of the traditional costume. You could tell if a woman was Protestant or Catholic by her cap.

If you would like to read more about the oorijzers, here is a blog post by a graduate student in fashion. The Oorijzer

As you know, I am no expert on traditional Dutch costumes. I found this information online. But I think knowing that my ancestors wore outfits like this is eye-opening.

One last thing I’d like to point out is that although I have a couple of traditional costume antique photographs, they are not from Goes, unfortunately. I wish I had a photo of my ancestor dressed this way. Instead, what I do have from late 19th century Netherlands is not traditional attire, but more “modern” European clothing.

P.S. The unidentified lady (called “Mother’s aunt” and written about here) was photographed in Groningen. For fun I thought I’d share a link about Albarta ten Oever (1772–1854), an artist from Groningen who happened to be a woman. Check it out.

by Albarta ten Oever

Koetsreizigers in Schipborg (1806)

landscape of “coach travelers” in Schipborg, a village in Drenthe

And then here’s another article of interest to this blog, Calvinism in the Netherlands. When I was a history grad student (never finished that particular degree) my specialty was religious history, particularly the history of the Reformation (where Protestantism, often in the form of Calvinism, replaced Catholicism for masses of Europeans). So the full history of what has happened with Calvinism in the Netherlands is of particular interest to me. My own family background from the Netherlands was Dutch Reformed (Calvinism), but before my mother was raised, the family had moved away from a strict form of Protestantism.

I’d never seen this photo until about two years ago when I received it from my uncle. This is my paternal grandmother and her siblings (all except for Helen who was not yet born).

The four children are:

Elisabetha Anna Maria Klein, born 1891 in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Maria Anna Elisabetha Klein, born 1892 (often documented as 93) in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Anna Elisabetha Maria Klein, born 1893 in Budesheim, Germany, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

Frank Anthony Klein, born 1896 in Chicago, Illnois, raised in Elmhurst, Illinois

I know that Elizabeth is the girl standing in back, the oldest and tallest. I know that Frank is in front. I had assumed that Grandma was next in height since she is child #2, and that that would mean that Anna is on our right.

But now I think I could be wrong.

Here’s a pic of adult Marie (my grandmother) with her three children (including my father on our right).

Now here’s a photo from the same general time period of Aunt Anna, her husband Martin, and their daughter Annamar.

I think that the face shapes and eye spacing would indicate that Anna is on our left and Marie on our right. That Anna is taller, in that case, than Marie is not inconsistent with their adult heights.

Therefore, I think it’s possible that my earlier identification of the sisters in this photo is a case of an assumption that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

A Sailor’s Death, part II

Three years ago, I wrote about the youngest child of Johannes and Jennie Zuijdweg. I explained that Grandpa had told me that Lucas, age 21, was a sailor and, in a tragic accident, fell on the anchor of his ship and was killed.

Lucas was certainly a blue-eyed blond, like his sister, and looks remarkably like her and like Johannes, their father.

Since I had been writing about Johannes recently, I thought it fitting to revisit his son’s death.

On Zeeuwen Gezocht, I found the birth and death records of Lucas. I hoped to discover the cause of his death written on the documents.

And here is the cropped version.

Here is the death record.

Again, here is the cropped version.

According to a very nice member of a Facebook group, the translation is as follows:

Today, the 4th of April, 1894, appeared to me,
officer of the Civil Registry of the town of Goes

Jan Bruggeman, aged 56 years, profession : undertaker, living at Goes, not related (to the deceased),
and Hubertus van Liere, aged 53 years, profession : merchant, living at Goes, not related,
who have declared to me that on the 4th of April 1894 at 4 o’clock at night (AM) passed away
Lucas Zuijdweg, aged 21 years, born at Goes, profession : labourer, lived at Goes, son of
Johannes Zuijdweg, announcer, and of Jannegien Bomhoff, his wife.

And is immediately made up this record, which has been signed by myself and declarants after being read out.

Unfortunately, there is no record of how Lucas passed away. Well, I wonder. What if there is a newspaper article? I guess I need to learn Dutch and then learn how to search for newspaper articles in Dutch papers!

What does come to mind from this document is wonder that an undertaker was with him when he died. What in the world? Since Grandpa said this was an accident, I wonder in what bad shape Lucas was in and if he was taken, still alive, to a morgue? How can that be? And Hubertus van Liere might not be a relative, but of course, the daughter of Johannes and Jennie–Lucas’ sister–would marry Marinus Van Liere in 1900.

Also, it states that Johannes was an announcer. He has also been a crier in past records. But mainly he was listed as a merchant. So he was an announcer when Lucas died and a few months later, when he was sentenced, he was a merchant again? How did he accomplish these two occupations?

According to Dutch genealogist, Yvette Hoitink, there aren’t many Dutch graves on Findagrave. She suggests begraafplaatsen, which are the Dutch graves that have been put online. Lucas is not listed, and they are still looking for volunteers to photograph graves. I am not even sure how to find out where he is buried.


The more I peer into the past, the more I feel like Pandora. In addition to discovering wonderful information about my ancestors, sometimes I discover sad, tragic, or even disturbing events.

For instance, I have found out more about the sentencing of my great-great-grandfather Johannes Zuijdweg (Zuidweg).

Unfortunately, what I discovered is not positive.

Here it is cropped a bit to make it easier (thanks for the idea, Amy!). His entry is the third down on both pages.



According to this document and the kind translators on Facebook, Johannes did serve two months in jail for theft, from July 15 to September 13, 1895. Imagine how Jennie felt. She had just lost her youngest child (of three) to a gruesome accident and now, a year later, her husband was serving time in jail. Everyone in their neighborhood and at their church must have known.

I don’t know if I will ever discover what was stolen or what the situation was, but I will always believe that the death of Lucas had something to do with it–given that death, the older age of Johannes, and his otherwise respectable history.

Remember for that last document when Johannes’ hair and eyebrows were translated as blond? The translation I received for this document for his looks is this way:

I can only read the enlarged part…. sex: male father: Adriaan mother: Johanna Maria Mulder nationality: Dutch civil status: married religion: reformed lower basic education: yes age (at inclusion) 52 behaviour (in institute (?) : good lenght: 1.64 m hair: greyish eyebrows: same (greyish) forehead : low eyes: grey nose: large mouth: ordinary chin: round beard: none face: oval complexion: healthy language spoken (literally: ordinary language) special features (?): none

“Greyish” hair and eyebrows!

I’ve sponsored Johannes’ memorial at Findagrave. You can find it here. I discovered that someone had posted an obituary for him on the site. Since the paper had apparently misspelled two names, I put a note explaining what the spelling should have been.

JOHANIUS ZUIDWEG. Following a long Illness, Johanius Zuidweg, aged 68, died at his home, 214 east Vine street, 9 o’clock last night. He came to this country from Holland nine years ago. He is survived by a widow, a daughter, Mrs. Marleilus Van Liere, and a son, Adrian Zuidweg, all of this city. The funeral will be held at the residence 1:30 o’clock Friday afternoon and from the Fourth Reformed church at 2 o’clock, the Rev. Mr. Frost officiating. The interment will be in Riverside cemetery. Kalamazoo Telegraph-Press May 17, 1911 (copied as written in paper)

Note:Johanius should be Johannes. Marleilus should be Marinus.

I was sorry to see that Johannes suffered a long illness before he passed away. 

However, when I look at the death certificate, his illness appears to have been 20 days. The cause of death was broncho pneumonia. I wonder if he had another illness that then turned into pneumonia.