Back in October I mentioned that thanks to meeting Adri van Gessel, an amateur genealogist who lives in the Netherlands, through this blog, I learned of an astonishing connection or coincidence in my family. Adri first read my post, “Another Sailor in the Family,” about my father’s uncle, Frank Klein.
I have been concentrating on my mother’s relatives on this blog. They are primarily of Dutch ancestry, mainly from Goes, a city in Zeeland, or the surrounding area. Before you read this blog, had you heard of Goes? Probably not, unless you’re Dutch. My mother’s father grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and her mother in Caledonia, Michigan. Kalamazoo and Caledonia are in different counties. It was quite the coincidence to learn that their relatives came from the same place in Europe. Last spring I discovered that my grandparents, in fact, had an ancestor in common.
But my father’s family was in the Chicago area, and they weren’t Dutch, and there should have been no connections. My father and mother met when my father chose to attend Western Michigan University, which is located in Kalamazoo.
Imagine my surprise when Adri contacted me, and I learned that I have another connection to Goes through my father’s aunt, Elizabeth Klein. The grandfather of her husband, Peter Van Gessel, came to the United States (Grand Rapids, Michigan–same county as Caledonia!) from a little village near Goes!
Is that not the wildest coincidence?!
Elizabeth was the oldest of my great-grandparents’ five children. She was born in 1891 in Budesheim, Germany, outside of Bingen on the Rhine. Elizabeth married Peter Van Gessel, and they had seven children. Unfortunately, Elizabeth passed away in 1926 of “Edema of lungs due acute debilitative heart. CONTRIBUTORY: Chronic myocarditis under my [doctor’s] care for 2 years.”
Elizabeth was about 34 when she passed away in 1926. Her youngest child was born in 1923, and according to the death certificate, she had been treated for myocarditis since her youngest was a baby. Since myocarditis typically is caused by bacteria or a virus, I wonder if his birth had anything to do with it.
I have photos of Peter and the Van Gessel children, but I wasn’t sure which woman in the family photos was Elizabeth. Nobody who knew her in person is still alive. But after studying the photographs and the contexts and ages of the children, and then asking my father and my uncle what they thought, it seems clear which woman is Elizabeth.
In the photo above, Elizabeth is the woman in the back, not the woman in front. That one is Aunt Anna, the sister one year younger than my grandmother–the 3rd sister. The two or three of the children belong to Elizabeth. Notice how Elizabeth’s daughter, probably Colleta (maybe Josephine), has the same haircut as her mother.
Here is the same photo focusing on Elizabeth.
This photo was probably taken at the same time. Seated, holding the little boys, are Helen, my grandmother’s youngest sister, and an unidentified woman, probably a friend or neighbor. Anna is most likely taking the photo. Nobody looks very happy in this one!
Does Colleta look about 11 or 12? If so, these boys would have to be either Robert and Laurence, the two youngest, or Robert (on Helen’s lap) and a child of the other woman. The thing with Robert is that he, unfortunately, passed away just short of 3 years old–of acute bronchitis. He was treated by the doctor for five days before he passed away.
Two years after her little boy died, Elizabeth also passed away.
So who is in the photo above and what year might this be? The back row is Helen, Marie (my grandmother), Elizabeth, Margarethe (their mother), Peter Van Gessel. In the front row is Frank (their father) and the Van Gessel children–Frank and Margarethe’s grandchildren. Anna, the other sister, is probably taking this photo.
Notice Peter: he had quite a sense of fun and joking. Here’s another:
That’s Anna holding the baby. Peter (the oldest son of Elizabeth and Peter) is the boy standing, wearing glasses.
I am having a difficult time dating the photos based on the ages of the children.
Here is a photo where I feel confident, and so does Adri. It shows the 4 oldest Van Gessel children: Colleta, Josephine, Peter, and Elizabeth. Grace is probably the baby in the carriage. I’m actually not sure if the woman is Elizabeth or my grandmother. This photo would have been taken somewhere between 1917 and 1920. I think Elizabeth would have still had long hair at this early date.
Here is a photo of the four oldest children when they are older than the above photo: Colleta, Josephine, Peter, and Elizabeth. I’m guessing this one to be around 1922.
A lucky happening is that, through Adri, I have “met” and been in contact with one of my Van Gessel cousins, the daughter of Laurence, the youngest Van Gessel child. Like me, she loves animals and likes to write.
Read Full Post »