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Archive for the ‘family heirloom’ Category

The different ways that family history and genealogy intersect with other aspects of the culture is growing. But I think this project might be a first for family history.

Broad Street Magazine, which publishes nonfiction narratives in a variety of genres, has begun a six-week series of feature articles on six poems from my family history poetry and flash prose chapbook Kin Types. Each article publishes one poem and then provides information on the research that went into the poem. Included are family photos, historical records, and old newspaper articles.

An introduction to the series can be found here. SERIES INTRODUCTION

The first feature article is Family Laundry: “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete,” by Luanne Castle

 

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Last week I wrote about the Remijnse (Remine) family from the beginning (of our current knowledge). There is a huge pedigree chart available online, and while I need to take it all with a grain of salt, it is extremely useful. It prints out to exactly 248 pages!

My new chum Jacob Remijnse decided to try to figure out the identity of the people in the unidentified Remijnse family photo, using the pedigree chart.

The photograph seems to have been taken upon the occasion of a wedding–the bride is in the white dress in the center and the groom is to her left (our right). The other seated man is probably the father. Let’s assume the five standing behind are siblings.

The only thing I know about this photo is that my family believes it is of one of the Remijnse branches. I figured out it has to be from the Netherlands because it doesn’t fit the Remijnse family members who came to this country.

Using the clothing as a guide, especially the styles of the dresses and the women’s hats, I think the photo was taken somewhere between the late 1870s and 1890. Jacob came to that independent analysis, as well.

Then he drew up a chart of the Remijnse family with dates of birth, dates of death, dates of marriage, and names of spouses. He made columns for how old each person was in 1865, 1875, and 1885. This was extremely helpful.

Using this analysis, it seemed likely that the young couple was one of two choices.

Jan Remijnse 29-05-1863 01-05-1900 2 12 22
07-08-1885
Cornelia Bijlo 06-03-1863 01-04-1942 2 12 22

Jan was 22 in 1885 when he married 22-year-old Cornelia Biljo. There is no doubt that this couple looks 22 or so.

OR

Dina Remijnse 17-02-1856 09-01-1943 9 19 29
07-05-1886
Francois Bijlo 09-08-1864 09-09-1942 1 11 21

Dina was 29 when she married Francois Biljo in 1886. Francois was 21.

Doesn’t Dina seem a better candidate for the standing woman in the back? She would have been 29 here and married the following year at age 30.

So what was the next step?

We needed to look at the family groups. Were Jan and Dina siblings? Was their mother deceased by 1885 since there is no mother in the photograph?  Were Cornelia and Francois siblings? The last is purely curiosity because I think this photo is a Remijnse family photo with the new spouse included. I don’t think it is a combination of members of the Remijnse and Biljo families.

Here is info on Dina Remijnse:

Dina Remijnse, born Sunday 17 February1856 in Kapelle. Notes at birth: Witnesses Pieter Staal and Jan Loijs. Dina died on Saturday, January 9th1943 in Kapelle, 86 years old. Note Dina: Religion Dutch Reformed. Profession housewife. Dina married, 30 years old, Friday 7 May1886 inKapelle [source: huw.akte nr. 13 BS Kapelle] with Francois Bijlo , 21 years old, born Tuesday 9 August1864 in Kapelle as son of Willem Bijlo and Maria van de Linde. Francois died on Wednesday 9 September1942 inKapelle, 78 years old. At the marriage ceremony the following witness was present: Nicolaas Remijnse (ca.1858 – 1909).

Notes on marriage: Witnesses Leendert Monter, 50 yr. Anton Leijs, 32 yr. Worker, Cornelis Markusse, 42 yr. Innkeeper.

Here is info on Jan Remijnse:

Jan Remijnse, born Friday 29 May1863 in Kapelle [source: certificate no. 34 BS Kapelle].

Notes at birth: Witnesses Thomas Snoep, 22 yr. Quartermaster and master, Johannes Staal, 29 yr., Tailor. Jan died Tuesday, May 11900 in Kapelle, 36   years old. The following witness was present at the death report: Nicolaas Remijnse (ca.1858 – 1909). Note on the death of Jan: Witnesses Willem Bijlo, 75 years of field worker, father-in-law. Profession: Field worker Religion: Free Evangelical. Jan married at the age of 22 on Friday 7 August 1885 inKapelle with Cornelia Bijlo, 22 years old, born on Friday 6 March1863 inKapelle as a daughter from Willem Bijlo and Maria van de Linde. Notes on the birth of Cornelia: Witnesses Pieter Snoep, 58 yr., Laborer, Nicolaas Mieras, 40 yr., Laborer. Cornelia died on Wednesday 1 April1942 in Goes, 79   years old [source: deed no. 75 BS Goes]. Note on death Cornelia: Witnesses Cornelis Sleutel, 55 yr., Caregiver. Note Cornelia: Religious Affection Dutch Reformed. At the wedding ceremony the following witness was present: Nicolaas Remijnse (ca.1858 – 1909). Notes on marriage: Witnesses Pieter Hoogstraat 34 jr. Merchant, brother-in-law of Jan, Simon Kramer, 63 jr. Shopkeeper, Dingenis Jeremiasse, 55 jr. Tailor.

On the big document where I pulled the above info from, I saw that Jan and Dina were, in fact, siblings, the children of Marinus and Jozina. But when I searched for siblings, I was dismayed to see that they had two sisters, Adriana and Wilhelmina–and only ONE brother, Nicolaas. This does not fit the portrait with all the young men.  While this might be explained away, the mother Jozina was alive in 1885 and 1886, not dying until 1896. And the mother is not in the photo.

My conclusion: We do not have a match.

But Jacob is not ready to give up on it. He has another scenario worked out, but for that we need more info on the Bijlo family!

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I might be off-the-blog for a week or two, but I’ll be back with more Remijnse information (I hope)!

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A while back I was contacted by Lisa M. DeChano-Cook, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at Western Michigan University about my antique photographs. She said that she and her colleague, Mary L. Brooks, were writing a book about the Kalamazoo River and were interested in photos of that subject.

The book is now published, and Lisa sent me an autographed copy. It’s a gorgeous collection of photos and information about the history of the river. If you are interested, just click through the following image of the book to order from Amazon.

They used several of my photographs. And they also found photographs in the archives at Western that were taken by grandpa’s uncle, Joseph DeKorn. In the 70s or 80s, my grandfather donated a lot of photographs and glass negatives to the archives. Notice that the one at the archives is the same photograph that I use for the header of my blog–the flood at the Water Works Bridge in 1904.

***

The above is another one from the archives. I also have a copy of this one. In fact, I posted it a year and a half ago, wondering if it was it, in fact, the Monarch Paper Mill. According to DeChano-Cook and Brooks, it is the Monarch Mill. I guess I can go back and revise that blog post. (How many times have I said that–and then how often do I do it? I need a blog assistant–any offers? haha)

This is one of the photos I sent to Lisa:

The book states:

Many farmers tried to fence in their property because they knew that the river flow would change and they could not use it as a stable boundary. In the photograph, a wire fence spans a shallow part of the Kalamazoo River. The reflection of the fence in the water makes it appear as though it is a wire pedestrian bridge.

So thrilled when blog readers relate to what they find on this blog. I always end up learning a lot!

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Last spring I posted a photo of my great-grandmother Clara Waldeck Mulder (1884-1953) that I discovered. You can find the post here. It was the first time I saw what she looked like as an older woman. Up to then, I had seen her as a bride and as a young mother.

The other day my mother sent me another old album and loose photos. Guess what? There are TWO new photos of Clara! In one of them, she is young. It’s taken before she was married–or even engaged, I am pretty sure. The photo has a little damage–a white mark across her skirt and a dark spot on her cheek. I did my best to fix the cheek, but left the white mark alone.

How old does she look here? 16-18? If so, the photo would be from around 1900-1902.

And here is another photo, this time from around 1940.

In my post My Great-Grandmother’s Lifetime of Service it’s clear that Clara was very devoted to her service groups. I wonder if this dress has something to do with a ceremony in Eastern Star or Rebekah Lodge. Any other ideas about the dress?

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I asked the amazing Val Erde at Colouring the Past to color the original photograph of my great-grandfather Adrian Zuidweg (Adriaan Zuijdweg) in his Dutch army uniform. I’ve posted the original before.

Adriaan Zuijdweg

The photograph was taken in Bergen op Zoom, which is in the south of the Netherlands and is not his hometown of Goes, which is in Zeeland. Val thought it possible that Adrian had to serve  because the Dutch were embroiled in the Aceh War. It was also known as the Dutch War or the Infidel War (1873–1904) and was an armed military conflict between the Sultanate of Aceh and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The culminiation was that it consolidated Dutch rule over modern-day Indonesia.

My grandfather never told me where his father served, only that he had gone AWOL because his superior had a contagious disease. Since he immigrated to the United States in 1893 at the age of 22, he could only have been 22 or younger in the photograph.

What a beautiful uniform he had! Val tells me that the odd-shaped chevron on his uniform identifies him as a sergeant. Here he is in living color.

 

I’m so grateful to Val for the beautiful work she’s done here. This is the final version after Val made a correction surrounding the cigar.

 

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My father knew I loved family heirlooms, so he used to give me items as he came across them.

These are some of his mother’s costume jewelry with the jewelry box they were in. My grandmother always loved jewelry, but I only remember her wearing pearls (both cultured and costume) and diamonds and rhinestones. She may have worn jet, but I am not sure.

The items on the bottom row are button studs. They work like buttons in a buttonhole, but are removable. These are usually used for men’s tuxedo shirts.

On the second from bottom shelf are two hatpins. I remember those nasty little things from my childhood. You wouldn’t want to sit down on one by mistake!

I suspect most of my grandmother’s jewelry came from Marshall Field & Company at State and Washington in Chicago. That’s where my grandmother worked as Head Fitter for many years.

When I got married, it was only a year after my grandmother passed away. Her only daughter (who had three boys) sent me the wedding pearls Grandma had given her when she was married in 1955. They came in a Japanese black lacquer box. Aunt Marge did not wear them for her wedding portrait or on the day of her wedding.

Aunt Marge

I am quite certain that my grandmother would have made her dress.

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For as long as I could remember my family always celebrated Christmas Eve the same way. After the Christmas Eve service at church, the family would head over to my grandmother’s house–or that of one of her siblings. There was a progressive meal so after awhile we would move on to another house. I remember three houses and three courses, but eventually, I think it became two houses. Nobody does it any longer as my grandmother’s generation is all gone now.

While there were always a lot of delicious Christmas desserts (Grandma, in particular, was a wonderful baker), the main course–the one that couldn’t be avoided missed–was the oyster stew. Year after year, I watched the women stirring the pot of oyster-studded milk, but do you think I ever thought to ask where this tradition came from? Well, maybe I did, but I never got an answer. Maybe nobody knew.

What I should have specifically asked Grandma is “did your mom make the oyster stew on Christmas Eve, too?” But I didn’t.

Suddenly this year I wondered where oyster stew came from. It seemed so out of the ordinary, and my family’s holiday eating habits were not out of the ordinary at all. Turkey or ham, casseroles, cole slaw, jello dishes, cookies–“All-American” food.

I thought about how Grandma’s whole family participated in this tradition. Nobody ever said, “Hey, let’s make clam chowder instead.” Or meatballs. Or tamales. Nobody said, “Let’s try this new recipe.” Nope. Oyster stew.

I wondered if the recipe and the tradition had been passed down in the family. If so, they would have gotten it from Grandma’s mother, Clara Waldeck Mulder. And if it went back still further, it would have come from her mother, Alwine Noffke Waldeck, who might have been born, as her brother August was, in the little Pomeranian town Schwetzkow. Schwetzkow is about 12-15 miles from the Baltic Sea. Alwine was an adult with children when she immigrated her, so she would have brought her traditions with her.

To try to get to the origins, I researched the subject through my friend Ms. Google. One of the most popular articles right now is this one: Oyster Stew on Christmas. This writer argues that the origin lies with the Pilgrims who were “oyster crazy.” She says that when the Irish Catholics came in the 19th century, they latched onto the oyster stew because it closely resembled the traditional Irish ling stew and ling (a type of fish) was not available in the United States. Hmm, my oyster-stew-slurping family are definitely not DAR and not Irish and not Catholic. I couldn’t imagine anybody choosing a tradition of oyster stew just for the heck of it.

At least one article said that Germans couldn’t get oysters because the water is too cold, but then why does Russia get oysters from the Baltic? All in all, the research was very sparse about the Baltic, other than the problems with invasion of foreign species and pollution. Another issue is that in the 19th century, oysters were inexpensive and could be eaten by people without means. Canned oysters have also been readily available in the winter.

I posed my question on both my personal Facebook page and on the Prussian Genealogy group on Facebook. Interesting to see the difference in responses. On my personal page, where I am friends with people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, only two people (besides family) had heard of the tradition. They both ate oyster stew on Christmas Eve with their Swedish in-laws. This didn’t deter me because Sweden and Pomerania were on opposite sides of the Baltic, and part of Pomerania was even Swedish for some time!

I wrote to my friend, the Swedish writer Catharina Lind, and asked her. She said that there have “never been oysters either in the Baltic Sea or the Bottnian sea, the east coast of Sweden. The salinity level is too low for oysters and the water is too cold. There are oysters in the Nordic sea, but very few, so oysters have never really been part of any Swedish tradition. There are no oyster dishes in Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway, Finland) Christmas traditions. Though a lot of fish, mostly herring and whitefish, and in modern times also salmon. We traditionally eat plenty of pork.” Catharina went on to speculate that perhaps the Swedish Christmas soup made with porcini and oyster mushrooms could have evolved over time to mean fishy oysters instead of mushrooms.

So I thought it was all over.

But then, on the Prussian Facebook Group, where everyone has Prussian, if not only Pomeranian roots, people began to chime in–lots of people have said that their Midwestern Prussian relatives always served oyster stew on Christmas Eve.

Then somebody found the recipe for several German Christmas soups printed in German–and oyster stew is one of them!

OYSTER SOUP RECIPE

Recipe in English

Servings: 4

24 pcs oysters (including juice)

40 g of butter

3/4 cup whole milk (hot)

sweet paprika

salt

pepper

For oyster soup, cook the thrown oysters in the hot butter with oyster juice. When the oyster margins begin to ripen, add the milk, season with salt and pepper and heat. Serve the oyster soup in soup bowls sprinkled with sweet paprika (if desired).


None of this research leads to a definitive answer about the origin of my family’s tradition. Clearly, a lot of ethnicities in the United States have claimed oyster stew. If you’ve ever eaten it, you might wonder why anybody would want to claim it. The only time I liked it was when my husband joined the family and “sneaked” wine and spices into the dish. Now it’s been years since I’ve eaten oyster stew, and I don’t miss the taste, but I do miss everybody who was there at the time.

I wonder if anybody in my family still serves oyster stew!

Catharina’s Christmas books are available here. I also recommend her beautiful book, “Fly Wings, Fly High!” It’s a lyrical memoir about the magpie family she shares her yard with and her own struggles with heart disease.

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