Archive for April, 2014

Here is another follow-up to my post about the newspaper clipping I found tucked in with the family photos. If you missed it, you can find it in A Series of Disasters or read the clipping below. Since then I have learned a lot about the George Paake (born Joost Peek and also known as George Pake) family of widowed father and five children.

In addition to learning about the children, which I will explore more in future posts, I was told that a piece of furniture that was rescued from the fire is still in the hands of the family. Since I thought you might like to see a sample of what was in that house in 1902, I asked for a photograph of the dresser.


I am not an antiques expert by any means, but it struck me as different from most of the pieces I’ve seen from that period. Since the fire was in 1902, the dresser was most likely from the late 1800s.

Teunis Peek and his wife Jacoba Bassa had six children while living in Lexmond, the Netherlands. In 1865, Jacoba passed away at the age of 41. A few years later (1868 or 1869), Teunis brought the children to the United States, where he settled in Michigan.

Therefore, when the fire occurred at the home of Teunis’ son George,  the family had been living in Michigan for over 30 years. Because of the style of the dresser and the length of time in this country, I would assume that the dresser was purchased in the United States.

From a little Google research, I am guessing that this dresser is of the “Eastlake” style. The straight lines were meant to vary from the norm of Victorian curlicues, and the ridges on the corner columns and the stylized branch with leaves carving are typical of that style of furniture.

Do you agree or disagree about the style and age of this piece? and why?




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My grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder (Zuidweg), was born April 17, 1912. If she hadn’t passed away in 2000, she would be 102 today. I miss her every day.

Grandma holding me

Grandma holding me 1955

Last year I posted about Grandma’s high school graduation scrapbook. Here is the link. There are a lot of photos in that book; in most of them Grandma is hanging out with her friends and classmates.

Below, Grandma is in all but the lower right photo. One of the girls is her best friend, Blanche Stauffer. Grandma and Blanche are in the upper right photo together–that’s Grandma in front. Blanche has the straight dark bangs. In the lower left Grandma is with another friend.


The scrapbook has an autograph page, and the words from Blanche are front and center:

Grandma and I have a lot in common. One thing is that a best friend was very important to us growing up. I looked up Blanche on Ancestry, and I was amazed to learn that she, like my grandmother, was the second child in the family. Blanche’s older sister was one year older. That was the same with Grandma: her older sister Dorothy was one year older.

Blanche was class valedictorian, Dorothy was salutatorian, and Grandma–with the 3rd highest GPA–was class historian. I read a list of Grandma’s classmates, and Blanche’s older sister was not in their class. At least Blanche didn’t have the sisterly competition that Grandma had to put up with ;).

Writing is another commonality between Grandma and me. When she was elderly and had just gotten sprung from a very negative experience with a rehabilitation nursing center, she made me promise I would never give up writing. I promised her, and I have kept my word. I remember Grandma submitting funny stories and occasionally getting them published when I was very young.

Recently, my mother told me an anecdote that made me realize that Grandma and I share another interest. When I was little and my mother worked full-time, Grandma babysat me. We sang Ethel Merman songs like “Anything You Can Do.”  I could always manage to sing louder and higher than Grandma.

Any note you can reach
I can go higher.
I can sing anything
Higher than you.
No, you can’t. (High)
Yes, I can. (Higher) No, you can’t. (Higher)
Yes, I CAN! (Highest)

What I didn’t realize is that when my mother and her siblings were little, my grandmother (who was always with my grandfather, to my memory) went to New York City with her sister Dorothy. They saw Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun.  She actually saw this song performed live by Merman. My mother says it was one of the highlights of her life, and I believe it because I remember this music around Grandma often when it was “just us.”  I still love musicals and so does my daughter, who performs in professional productions.

Grandma and I shared other songs, too. She used to hold me on her lap while we sang “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” and “This Old Man (Knick Knack Paddy Whack).” My memories of my grandmother are treasured heirlooms.

Happy birthday, Grandma.

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Just over a year ago, in A Series of Disasters, I posted a newspaper clipping that I found tucked in with the family photos. This is the copy of the article:

The residence of George Paake at 1016 Trimble Avenue was burned this morning about 10:30 o’clock and a worthy family which has had a series of disasters, left without a home.  The house which Mr. Paake was paying for in the Building and Loan Association was entirely ruined although most of the contents of the home were saved. Mr. Paake receives no insurance whatever and the little which had been accumulated by the family was lost.

The fire is only an incident in the history of the family. Mrs. Paake died a short time ago leaving five children, the oldest being fourteen years old. Since the mother’s death the little girl has had entire charge of the house and the four little children and has had all the responsibility of the family except the support which Mr. Paake gave as a laborer.  Recently he has been unable to work and was ill this morning when the fire occurred.

The neighbors have taken in the little ones and are doing all that is possible to alleviate the sufferings of the family. Mrs. Carrier has been responsible for raising a sum of money to which the neighbors have liberally contributed.

At the end of this post I will re-post the newspaper clipping for documentation. I want to apologize for spelling the surname every which way, but at every turn the name is spelled differently. Family members changed the spelling, and different documents recorded it differently. Paak-Peek-Paake-Pake: they are all the same.

Eventually, I discovered that this man was George Joseph Paak, Sr.,  the brother of my great-great-grandmother Alice Paak DeKorn and that the fire occurred on Wednesday, September 3, 1902.

George’s wife Lucy Kliphouse passed away in 1900, leaving 5 young children in their father’s care.  George (born Joost) was 50 at the time he was left a widower. At some point he had changed the surname to Pake.

The five children were Cora, the eldest mentioned in the article, Jennie, Theresa (also called Tracy), Fanny (also called Frances), and George Jr. Cora was born in 1888; Jennie (who later changed her name to Jane) in 1890; Theresa in 1893; Fannie in 1896, and George in 1898.  George was only four when the fire occurred. Imagine Cora, at 14, taking care of the others–ages 12, 9, 6, and 4. What a burden on such a young girl. And when her mother died, she was only twelve and young George was two!

Since the time of that post, George’s grandson, Professor Edgar Lawrence, discovered this blog. He’s been able to fill in many of the missing pieces about this branch of my family. His mother was Theresa, the middle child.  Here is a photo, taken at least a decade after the fire, showing all five Pake children.

Front row: Theresa and Cora Back row: Frances, George Jr., Jennie (Jane)

Front row: Theresa and Cora
Back row: Frances, George Jr., Jennie (Jane)




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Answer to my title question: the townfolk got their meat from a butcher!

Occasionally, in my collection, I find a photograph of someone who isn’t family. Quite some time ago, I posted a photograph my family saved of the local saloon keeper, the famous Dutch Arnold. I’m pretty sure there is a story there that didn’t get passed on–at least not to me.

I also have a photograph of the local butcher, Tom Richmond, and his family.

Tom Richmond and family Butcher and slaughterhouse Balch Street, Kalamazoo circa 1900

Tom Richmond and family
Butcher and slaughterhouse
Burdick and Balch area, Kalamazoo circa 1900

Apparently, he had a slaughterhouse and butcher shop close to where my relatives lived. Grandpa told me it was on Balch Street. But maybe it was just close to Balch Street.

I did find one of Tom’s ads in the Kalamazoo Gazette. It appeared April 9, 1898.

Kalamazoo Gazette ad April 9, 1898

Kalamazoo Gazette ad
April 9, 1898

Notice that this ad gives a North Burdick address. My relatives’ homes and businesses were mainly congregated near the intersection of Burdick and Balch in Kalamazoo. Maybe as a small boy, Grandpa thought the shop was on Balch, but it was on Burdick. Or maybe he remembered incorrectly (unlikely–his memory was amazing). Or maybe the shop moved.

Someday when I have all the time in the world ;), I’ll try to put together a map of the area with my relatives’ homes and businesses, as well as the surrounding ones. Create a little village on paper, in a way. At that point, I’ll have to use the City Directories to figure out precisely where Tom Richmond’s butcher shop was. What makes it hard, though, is that the address numbers have been changed since that time.

This is what I don’t really understand: what kind of custom would be responsible for my family winding up with portraits of neighbors, friends, or merchants they frequented? I am entertaining the thought that maybe somebody’s somebody married into this family. I’ll have to keep searching.

If your family has old photographs, do they have portraits of non-family in the collection?

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In the last two posts, I told you about the series of disasters that befell the Paak (Peek/Paake/Pake) family.  As I started researching for more information, I came across a worse and more horrific family disaster.  And this one happened to my very own great-great-grandmother, Alice Paak DeKorn, Mrs. Richard DeKorn (born Aaltje Peek in the Netherlands), on May 26 1891.

Alice Paak DeKorn

Alice Paak DeKorn

If you remember the post with the pretty shawl, that was her shawl.  She’s the one with the 3 Peek sisters; Alice was  the prettiest one.  Poor George was her brother. She was also the mother of my great-grandmother Cora DeKorn Zuidweg.

Read it and weep:

At the time this happened, Alice’s children were 18 (Jennie), 16 (Cora), and 10 (Joseph).  For the next week, the local newspaper provides updates about Alice’s condition, which seems to be improving.  Alice did live another 17 years after the accident.

The “comfortable house” she lived in is said to be at Burdick and Balch.  That would be this house, built by her husband Richard DeKorn who stands in front:

Richard DeKorn's home at the corner of Burdick and Balch, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Richard DeKorn’s home at the corner of Burdick and Balch, Kalamazoo, Michigan

I would like to know more about “Dutch Pete’s,” where the oil stove was purchased.  What happened in those days with an accident like this?  Would there have been an investigation to see if there was a culprit responsible for the stove or if it was human error that caused the fire in the first place?

Notice how Alice was being a hero, trying to help out the neighbors so that they didn’t lose their house and belongings and so that they were safe.  I always had a good feeling about her.

Finding this accident in the newspaper archives did shake me up somewhat. After all, she looks like such a sweet lady, and I can only imagine how horrifically painful her injuries must have been–and what a frightening experience.

Strangely, my favorite contemporary children’s book (and one I taught several times) is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.  At the beginning of the book, the book’s protagonist Billie Jo loses her mother by an accident which is very similar. I remember that Hesse said in an interview that she found the accident in a newspaper article and put it in her book.  There are differences as in the book the cause seems to be an accident where the family confused kerosene with water, and in this newspaper account it seems to hint at a defective oil stove. I imagine there were far too many of these kinds of accidents in those days.

Alice’s terrible accident must have left her family very shaken up. I’m sure it made an impact on her children’s lives.

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The other day I posted a photo of a couple I had not yet been able to identify. Once I got it posted and readers started pointing things out to me, I began to wonder if it could be George Paak.

On the advice of some readers, I pulled the original photograph out of storage and looked at the back and at the sleeve. The back is blank, but the sleeve itself says this:


I still have a lot of work to do on the research, but I thought I’d post the photo with a concentration on the man’s face along with photos of the women I suspect could be his sisters. See what you think.

What I want to eventually find out is if this is George Paak.

Alice Paak DeKorn

Alice Paak DeKorn

Alice is my great-great-grandmother. Look at their mouths. The hairline, forehead, and sparkling eyes. Don’t they look alike?

Carrie Paak Waruf

Carrie Paak Waruf

Mary Paak Remine

Mary Paak Remine

The ones above are sisters Carrie and Mary. They don’t look quite like Alice or the man. Or do they?

Annie Paak

Annie Paak


There’s another look alike. I think Alice and Annie look a lot like each other–and they look equally as much like the man.  What do you think?



Teunis Peek immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands with his children.

He was the son of Joost Peek and Annigjen den Besten, born on June 5, 1822 at Zijderveld. (He died on April 24, 1893, in Kalamazoo, Michigan).

Teunis was married on December 21, 1848 at Lexmond to Jacoba Bassa, daughter of Dirk Bassa and Aaltje van Nek.  Jacoba was born on June 18, 1824. She died on November 23, 1865 at Lexmond, before Teunis took the kids and left the country.

From the marriage of Teunis and Jacoba:

1  Joost Peek (George Joseph Paak) was born on August 25, 1850 at Lexmond. He died December 9, 1925, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.*

2  Aaltje Peek (Alice Paak) was born on September 9, 1852 at Lexmond. She died in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 5, 1908, a few months before her grandson, my grandfather, was born.

3  Anna Catharina Peek (Anna or Annie Paak) was born on January 6, 1855 at Lexmond and died on October 6, 1933 at Kalamazoo (MI). She married Jacob Salomon Verhuist.

Anna was married on March 20, 1890 at Kalamazoo (MI) to Jacob Salomon Verhulst, son of Jacob Verhulst and Cornelia Strijd.  Jacob was born on May 1, 1848 at Kortgene, died on June 20, 1923 at Kalamazoo (MI).

4  Willempje Peek was born on September 17, 1856 at Lexmond (alive in 1870, as William ??).

5  Maaike Peek (Mary Paak) was born on July 28, 1859 at Lexmond. Mary married Richard Remine. She died in 1954 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

6  Cornelia Peek (Carrie Paak) was born on May 8, 1862 at Lexmond, died in 1957 at Kalamazoo (MI).  Cornelia was 95 years old. Cornelia was married on June 2, 1882 at Kalamazoo (MI) to Hendrik Waruf (Henry).  Hendrik was born in 1863, died in 1945 at Kalamazoo (MI).

Later, Teunis was married on January 8, 1869 at Kalamazoo (MI) (2) to Prina Adriana Schoonaard (Perena), daughter of Jan Schoonaard and Tannetje Servaas.  Prina was born on August 1, 1814 at Borssele.

The other day another Paak descendent found this blog. I am looking forward to comparing notes with him about the family.  He is the grandson of George Joseph Paak (Pake).

 * Joost Peek, or George Joseph Paak (Pake): could he be the man in the photo?

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Mystery solved!!!!

Yvette Hoitink at Dutch Genealogy has done it again!  She led me to the answer of whose house burned down and when.   I first wrote about this in my post A Series of Disasters.

A newspaper clipping, saved by my family, reported the story of a house fire.  A George Paake of Trimble Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan, lost his house.  He was ill, his wife had recently died, and he had 5 children ages 14 and under at home.  The unidentified paper called their recent lives a “series of disasters.”

I wasn’t sure if this was Teunis Peek, the father of my great-great-grandmother Alice Paak DeKorn (are you confused yet by Paake/Peek/Paak?  I am!!  Oh, and there is Pake, too. They are all the same name . . .) or someone else as I had no idea when the fire took place.

Through Yvette’s research, she was able to determine that George Paake who lost his house was actually Joost, the “missing” son of Teunis and brother of my great-great-grandmother.

His wife Lucy passed away in 1900, leaving 5 young children.  George/Joost was 50 at the time he was left a widower.

With Yvette’s research results, I was able to get a better notion of George who had married a Dutch woman Lucy Kliphouse and had five children with her and was buying the house with a mortgage with the Building and Loan Association.

In Genealogy Bank I had not been able to locate a Kalamazoo Gazette article about the fire, but after Yvette narrowed the fire down to just past 1900, I used the search terms “fire” “Kalamazoo” and “Trimble,” rather than using George’s name.  In that way I did find the Gazette article, which deems Mr. Paake “a worthy man.”

The fire happened on Wednesday, September 3, 1902, and the Gazette reported it the next day.

Within two years (1900-1902) George lost his wife and then his house.

Is it any wonder that in 1906 he married Ester Cook?  Unfortunately, after living in Kalamazoo for one year with George, Ester too passed away.  One more disaster in the series for George (and for Ester).

In 1908 he married Addie Amelia Giffos (probably Gifford) Wilder.  When he married Addie his children were ages 10-20.  I have no idea if this was a love marriage or a marriage of convenience, but it would be understandable that he would have liked some help raising these children.  Also, it appears that Addie had at least a 5-year-old daughter at the time of her marriage to George.

One last comment: if you have family history trails that run back to the Netherlands, you will want to contact Yvette.  She can break down those research barriers you think will never open to you.

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