After I posted the wedding invitation for John DeSmit and Nellie Squares, the mystery of Nellie was solved by Adri van Gessel.
Nellie was born Pieternella Paulina Schrier on Sunday, October 5, 1879, at Kortgene, the Netherlands. She immigrated to the United States in 1891 with her mother, the widow of Paulus Schrier, and 5 siblings.
On Thursday, July 20, 1899, Nellie married John DeSmit in Kalamazoo.
Wedding dress circa 1900
On May 9, 1900, Nellie died in Kalamazoo. She was a 20-year-old housewife, according to her death record.
But the story does not end here.
Adri found the birth of a girl, Nellie D. DeSmit, born April 30, 1900, in Kalamazoo. The daughter of Nellie and John. Sadly, Nellie must have passed away from giving birth.
Baby Nellie was not listed on the 1900 census with her father, John, who was living at home with his family. Instead, the baby was listed as an adopted daughter in the family of Christopher (Christiaan) Schrier, Nellie’s brother and baby Nellie’s uncle.
Baby Nellie, no longer a baby, was married on June 13, 1918, in Kalamazoo, to Garret Johnson, son of J.G. Johnson and Nellie Groenhuizen. Garret was born on May 11, 1895 at Hilversum, the Netherlands. He died August 18, 1961, in Kalamazoo.
It appears, though, that baby Nellie still considered herself the daughter of John DeSmit because in the 1940 census she, her husband, and son Robert (born 1935) lived in the household of John DeSmit and was listed as daughter.
One of the biggest mysteries has been why Nellie’s parents are listed as Mr. and Mrs. A. Ver Sluis. At first I thought, well, Nellie’s brother Christiaan married Nellie Ver Sluis in 1898, only a year before our wedding invitation for Nellie Schrier and John DeSmit. Does this have something to do with the fact that there was not a living father to give Nellie Schrier away?
No, it does not!
Nellie’s mother Pieternella de Looff Schrier was married on Wednesday March 2, 1892, in Kalamazoo, to Abraham Jacob Versluis, son of Willem Versluis and Pieternella de Lange. Abraham had been previously married to Cornelia Verburg and had two children by her. He immigrated to the United States in 1891. Abraham was born on Sunday October 13, 1850 at Kortgene and died on Tuesday November 1, 1938 in Kalamazoo.
Look at the timeline:
1891, Pieternella and her children, including Nellie, arrived in the United States AND Abraham Ver Sluis and his two children, including his Nellie, arrived in the United States
1892, Pieternella married Abraham Ver Sluis (they got married in March, which is quite early in the year–is it possible that the two families traveled together, intending to marry in this country?)
1898, Christiaan married the daughter of Abraham Ver Sluis and his deceased wife Cornelia Verburg
1899, John DeSmit married Nellie Schrier, daughter of Pieternella and the deceased Paulus and stepdaughter of Abraham Ver Sluis
Was it customary to marry step-siblings, as Christiaan did?
Ring any bells?
In case the name Schrier rings any bells for those from Kalamazoo, there have been many residents with that surname. The name comes from the Zeeland province of the Netherlands. Paul J. Schrier was the mayor of Kalamazoo from 1967-1969. He was the son of Peter Schrier, who was a brother of Nellie Schrier DeSmit. Therefore the mayor was our Nellie’s nephew, although he never knew her since she died at the age of 20 from giving birth to her daughter.
Paul J. Schrier
Mayor of Kalamazoo
What I don’t know:
If baby Nellie ever had any half siblings. Her father apparently married Margaret when he was between 42 and 52.
When baby Nellie passed away.
If baby Nellie perhaps lived with her uncle so that she would be raised with his two children. Did Christiaan and his wife already have their babies when Nellie was born or did they come after?
This still doesn’t explain the Corliss home for the wedding.
And we think families are confusing today . . . .
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