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Archive for the ‘Book review’ Category

My mother gave me a fascinating book, published in 1947, called Americans from Holland by Arnold Mulder. Mulder’s perspective is of a writer who has just witnessed the world going through WWII, and while this book reads as a definitive history secondary source, it is shaped by the time period in which it was written. That said, it’s the best account I’ve seen of the history of the Dutch in the United States and what led up to the waves of immigration.

Five years ago I wrote about one of my ancestors who applied to the city of Goes to emigrate. You can find the story of tailor Adriaan Zuijdweg’s (1805-1851) declined petition in this post: My Dutch Family Almost Arrived in the U.S. Decades Earlier. At the time, the only information I had was what Elly Mulder had given me, telling me about the “separated” Reformed Church and how Adriaan probably was probably part of the separatists.

The chapter, “Souls or Bodies,” sheds more light on the situation for Adriaan and his family, as well as other members of his congregation.

Mulder investigates whether it was religious differences or economic troubles that drove the Dutch to begin to immigrate to the United States in the 19th century. He describes how the Reformed Church had been negatively transformed by the government after Napoleon. According to the Napoleonic Code, they were not allowed to gather in groups of more than twenty. Dissenters appeared who wanted to bring the church back to what it had been. The government cracked down on them, levying fines on the religious leaders and others who allowed church services in their homes or businesses. The leaders were arrested. The more the government went after them, the more dissenters appeared.

Two of the main leaders were the Reverend Hendrik Pieter Scholte and the Reverend Albertus Christiaan Van Raalte. Scholte immigrated to Iowa with his congregation.

Scholte founded the town of Pella, Iowa, in 1847. His house was one of the first buildings constructed there. That house is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and you can see from the photo that house was enlarged at some point.

from Wikipedia

 

Van Raalte’s group went to Michigan (and perhaps Wisconsin) in 1846, one year after Adriaan ‘s request to leave the Netherlands.

By as cited RVD (although unlikely because it did not exist at the time) – Nationaal Archief Nederland, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4198265

Note: The town of Zeeland was founded by Jannes van de Luijster (Luyster) and other immigrants in 1847. What I have not yet discovered is where the lives and influence of Van Raalte and Van de Luijster intersected.

Arnold Mulder argues that the immigrants were not individuals immigrating to the United States, but rather communities–specifically, church communities.

If you think about it this way, it would have been a real hardship for Adriaan not to be allowed to emigrate from the Netherlands with his community. What I do not understand is why some would have been allowed and others not, but it might have had to do with the city itself. Adriaan was from Goes, and it was the government of Goes that denied him his request. Van Raalte was from a town in Overijssel, far from Zeeland. So while Adriaan’s church community may have been part of the separated/seceded Reformed church, it was not Van Raalte’s own congregation. Jannes van de Luijster was born in Hooftplatt, Zeeland, about 30 miles from Goes, so it’s more likely that Adriaan was following his lead. It would be fascinating to know how many requests during that period were approved by Goes. Clearly, because of the timing of Adriaan’s request, he intended to be in an early group moving to the United States. [Important note: at first the Van Raalte group were in New York, and then after Van Raalte saw the value of Michigan land for farming, moved to west Michigan.]

Mulder conjectures that it wasn’t only the religious differences that caused the Dutch to leave during this time. He believed that the Dutch would have stayed and fought their battles at home if that were the only reason. You see, they really didn’t want to leave the Netherlands. But Napoleon had stripped the Netherlands of much of her wealth,  and the Dutch were struggling economically. With a population of two million, 700,000 Dutch people were on the dole in one way or another! With hunger, disease had also increased.

At the end of the chapter, Mulder makes one more assertion, that the Dutch were welcomed in the United States because although they came for partially economic reasons, in contrast to immigrants from Ireland and Germany, the Dutch looked reasonably well off. In part, this was because some of the immigrants did bring some wealth with them (and helped out their congregation members, as well). Another reason, Mulder speculates, was because the Dutch valued appearances and cleanliness and maybe would have gone without necessities in order to look presentable. Whether this is ethnic pride on Mulder’s part or has a basis in truth, I don’t know. What I have read of German and Irish immigration during this same time period makes me think the Germans and Irish were perhaps more desperate.

 

 

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Joy Neal Kidney has written a lovely review of my family history poetry and flash prose chapbook Kin types. Thank you so much, Joy. While you’re over there, check out Joy’s great blog if you haven’t already done so!

 

Kin Types by Luanne Castle

 

Kin Types can be purchased by using the photo as a link to get to Amazon.

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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.

Planetarium

BY ADRIENNE RICH

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!

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What a lovely review of Kin Types by genealogy blogger Ann Marie Bryant! Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness!

Tales of a Family

Recently, a fellow blogger and an ever-encouraging supporter, Luanne Castle wrote a lovely book of poems about her family.  From the start, Kin Types captured my imagination with the thought provoking title and the intriguing cover.   It began with sage advice from familial ancestors who have lived a life of hard work and a heartfelt existence that helped those in need.

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Thanks so much to Amberly (Genealogy Girl) for including Kin Types in her post today!

the genealogy girl

IMG_8814

I have loved books for as long as I can remember.  I probably even loved them before that.  When I was a teenager there was a certain book I checked out from the library several times.  I loved it so much that I asked my mom if I could say that I “lost it” and pay the lost book fee so I could keep it.  I was only joking.  Mostly.  You see, it was out of print and I really wanted my own copy.

That is definitely not the only time I have longed for an out of print book.

A few years ago I solved a long-standing brick wall using indirect evidence.  It was a lot of work.  I was nervous to call my conclusion solid.  The whole concept of indirect evidence was new to me.  I didn’t even know that phrase until well after I had drawn my conclusions.

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Did you know that genealogy is supposed to be the second most popular hobby in the U.S. (USA Today)? That’s next to gardening. At our house we have them both covered because my husband is a gardener! Since we live in Arizona and he works so hard in our yard, every week a new cactus has bloomed.

I am so grateful for how Kin Types has been received. As you know, the research and the writing itself was a labor of love. The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Finishing Line Press.

I’d like to ask you a little favor–if you read the book and liked what you read. Can you please consider leaving a little review, particularly on Amazon (or if you bought it on B&N leave it on that site)? You are allowed to leave a review at Amazon even if you purchased it elsewhere, such as through the publisher directly.

If the thought of a review sounds time-consuming and even scary, consider that all it takes is to rate it with stars and write one or two sentences about why you liked the book. Reviews are what bring other readers to a book.

Here are the links to leave reviews (or to purchase Kin Types):

https://www.amazon.com/Kin-Types-Luanne-Castle/…/ref=sr_1_1…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kin-types-luan…/1126805378…

If you pre-ordered the book through the publisher, you can post the same review over there.

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/…/kin-types-by-luanne-c…/

And if you happen to be on Goodreads, please post it over there as well.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35846198-kin-types

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Ian at the blog Researching Myself has kindly reviewed Kin Types!

ReSearching MySelf

Kin TypesKin Types by Luanne Castle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t normally read poetry, but as a follower of Luanne Castle’s blogs where I have enjoyed her writing and her thoughts on genealogy immensely, I decided to take the plunge. Well! I was not disappointed.

The big thing that struck me about Luanne’s chapbook was the ingenious idea of writing about one’s ancestors in poetic form. As a non-family member, it can be difficult to read straight-up family memoir, but Luanne has found a way to make these unknown characters come alive for us, give us a glimpse into their lives and thus remind us of our common humanity. As the avid genealogist she is, it would have been easy to write a prosaic family history of who-did-what-when, but this is so tantalizingly different. Luanne has gotten inside the old photographs and behind the family stories and gives…

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A huge thank you to Sue Vincent who featured KIN TYPES on her blog today! I’m so grateful to you, Sue! And another poem from the collection revealed.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Jennie Bomhoff Zuidweg

The poems and flash prose in Kin Types were begun as I accumulated family stories and information over the years. My grandfather had an excellent memory and was an enthusiastic storyteller, so over time I came to feel that I knew his parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, although they died decades before I was born.

When my grandfather got older, he gave me a collection of glass plate negatives that had belonged to his uncle, as well as antique photographs. As my family noticed my interest, they began to send me other heirlooms, including documents and more photographs. I started to research my family history, using online websites. Then I started a WordPress blog called thefamilykalamazoo.com, and readers from around the world contacted me, sending me yet more information.

As I became more knowledgeable about my family, the stories I heard at my grandfather’s knee were enhanced…

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Amy Bess Cohen, who writes the excellent genealogy blog Brotman Blog: A Family Journey  about her family’s history has written Pacific Street, available now at Amazon.


The story of Cohen’s grandparents, Isadore and Gussie, is an inspiring coming-to-America tale with all the resonance of actual experience. Cohen has painstakingly documented the early part of her relatives’ lives through historical research using official documents and has incorporated information shared through family stories.

She has researched the settings and cultures described and added her own imagination to infuse the book with appropriate details and descriptions. This is no dry historical telling, but a well-structured adventure full of tragedies and triumphs like a novel, although more accurately, it is creative nonfiction in the historical subgenre.

As Cohen alternates the narratives of Isadore and Gussie (until their stories merge together near the end), the reader becomes one with the characters. The loneliness of both characters is excruciating, especially since family is so important to both of them.

Isadore is forced to immigrate to the United States by himself when he was only sixteen years old, and when he arrives the aunt entrusted to welcome him to the new world is emotionally unavailable to him. Gussie in many ways still lives the immigrant life of her parents’ generation. Her world is circumscribed and without time for play. When the two finally meet up in a very romantic first encounter, the reader is more than ready that these two find happiness.

Will their happiness last? The book resolves that question in a realistic manner. It will be a worthwhile experience for any reader to follow Isadore and Gussie on their journeys.

As a writer who frequently works with history and, especially, family history, I was impressed by Cohen’s ability to describe many characters in large families in a way that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. When I began the book and when I finished the book, I had the same thought: that the genre of this book can be further refined to young adult. The material is as complex and fascinating as any for the adult reader, but the approach to adult themes and the focus on the coming-of-age period of life for both protagonists is consistent with books for older children and teen readers, as well as adults.

This is a book you might want to read yourself and then pass on to your child or grandchild. It’s a story of family for families.

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