Archive for the ‘Joseph Peter DeKorn’ Category

Alice Leeuwenhoek received a postcard wishing her a Joyous Thanksgiving (and a Cordial one) in 1911.

The card was postmarked November 29 because the holiday fell on November 30 in 1911. If this seems late, Thanksgiving didn’t fall on the fourth Thursday of the month until 1941 when FDR changed it.

This card was sent by Alice’s cousin’s Elizabeth. Who in the world was her cousin Elizabeth?

Alice’s mother, Jennie DeKorn, had 2 siblings: her sister Cora had only my grandfather who was 3 in 1911. Her brother wasn’t even married yet and his children weren’t born until the 20s. So what about the Leeuwenhoeks? The only one I know that came to this country (and would have written in English and MAILED A CARD FROM KALAMAZOO) was Gerrit who died single at the age of 21 in the Spanish-American War.

Elizabeth appears to be young–by her handwriting, her slang (kinda), and the general sloppiness of the writing.

Since Alice lived in Kalamazoo and the card was postmarked Kalamazoo, it is also curious why Elizabeth said she wished Alice would “come down sometime.” It’s possible that she just lived on the other side of town since that can seem an enormous distance to children who can’t travel that far by themselves. Alice was 14 in 1911.

Could Elizabeth be a friend?

More mysteries.

What is not a mystery is that I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.



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I originally started this blog because of the wealth of photographs and glass negatives I had in my possession that once belonged to my grandfather’s uncle, Joseph Peter DeKorn. This post is a revision and update of the 2nd post on this blog.Joseph Peter DeKorn

“Uncle Joe” was born to Richard DeKorn, local building contractor and brick mason, and Alice Paak DeKorn June 30, 1981, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. When he lived in Kalamazoo, he was an enthusiastic photographer, capturing scenes and people in Kalamazoo in the very early 1900s. Most of the photographs by Joseph which I have were taken between 1903 and 1918.  His draft registration for WWI is dated September 12, 1918.  He graduated from Kalamazoo College and the University of Michigan Engineering School in 1909.  Joe was a hydraulic engineer and worked for the City of Grand Rapids for over 30 years.  He retired as Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Water and Light Company.


Here is a commendation letter from the City Manager upon his retirement.


Personal life

Joe married Christina Blandford on December 9, 1919 in Kalamazoo.  He was 38 and Christina was 35.  She was born June 22, 1884 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Christina’s parents were Isaac Blandford and Lily Kemp, both born in Ontario, Canada.   She graduated from Western Michigan Normal College (now Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo).  She was a school teacher and taught at Walker Township School, District #1 (later known as Fairview School) and Godfrey School in Grand Rapids.

Aunt Tena, when Uncle Joe was still “Friend Joe” to her, wrote him this postcard in 1915:

Tena sent this postcard to Joe on August 3, 1915

Tena sent this postcard to Joe on August 3, 1915

Aunt Tena wrote from summer school in Lansing in her beautiful handwriting

Aunt Tena wrote from summer school in Lansing in her beautiful handwriting

Tena and Joe resided during their lifetime at 841 Cogswell Street, NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, just three houses from the Blandford family homestead.  The couple raised their two sons, Richard and Phillip in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Richard was born on January 29, 1920, and Philip Eugene was born on August 4, 1922. Joe worked as a hydraulic engineer or filter engineer for the City Water & Light Department, Grand Rapids.  He passed away on March 24, 1962.

Joseph died March 24, 1967 in Grand Rapids and Tena died October 11, 1979 again in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember Uncle Joe as I was too young, but I remember Aunt Tena as an elderly widow. She was memorable for her intelligence, kindness, fine china teacups, and her elegant and decorative old-fashioned handwriting (see postcard above).


The header photo (above) of the Kalamazoo flood in 1904 and the photos of downtown Kalamazoo from this post are some samples of Uncle Joe’s photographs.


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One of the branches of my family from the Netherlands was the Reminse branch.

On 26 August 1810, my 4th great-grandfather, Dirk Reminse, a bread baker, married Adriana Kriger (Krijger) in Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands. Dirk was born 22 November 1786 in Kruiningen, Zeeland, Netherlands. At some point before his marriage he must have relocated to Kapelle, but Adriana also came from a different town. She was born 11 June 1787 in Biggekerke, Zeeland, Netherlands.

Houses on the Kerkplein (church square), Kapelle, Netherlands

The couple had the following children:
Gillis Remijinse 1811–1868

Jan Remijinse 1813–1837

Hendrika Remijinse 1814–1893

Johanna Remijinse 1817–1864

Johannis Remijinse 1819–1846

Adriaan Remijinse 1821–1849

Pieter Remijinse 1822–1830

Frans Remijinse 1823–1860

Gerard Remynse 1825–1910

Marinus Remijinse 1826–1863

Note the difference in the spelling of the surname. It is seen both ways. In this country it became REMINE.

Their daughter Johanna was born 15 July 1817 in Kapelle. She married Boudewijn DeKorne 21 May 1847 in Kapelle. Boudewijn had been born in Kapelle on 11 June 1816.

The couple had one daughter who died as an infant, then a son Richard and daughter Maria were born. Richard, my great-great grandfather, would end up being a well-known brick mason and contractor in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but first the family had to immigrate to the United States.

Johanna’s parents had both died. Dirk died 9 September 1840 in Kapelle. On 14 April 1845, Adriana passed away.

Boudewijn and Johanna arrived in this country in 1856 and first settled in Zeeland, Michigan. The following year their 4th and last child, Jennie was born. Jennie eventually became Jennie Culver who divorced her husband and moved to Seattle with her two teen daughters. I have posted about the magnificent photo album that belonged to one of Jennie’s daughters that a blog reader mailed to me.

Johanna Remijinse DeKorne was my last direct ancestor in the Remine line, although my grandfather stayed close to the family that continued that surname in Michigan.

I found a photograph of this branch of the family in the Netherlands. The photograph is not marked with a photography studio or any other identifying information. Someone, possibly my grandmother, wrote on the back “Remine family in Holland.” In order to figure out who is in the photograph I would need to know the approximate date of the photo. Since Johanna immigrated in 1857, this must be from a line of the family that ran parallel to her line. Would it be the family of one of her siblings?

I went back and examined the other Remine cousins in the United States. They stem from Johanna’s brother Gerard.  He seems to have immigrated to the United States between 1855 and 1857. Maybe he and his family even came over with his sister and hers? NOTE TO SELF: CHECK INTO THIS.

Why did the families remain close? Johanna’s son Richard’s wife Alice’s sister Mary married Richard Remine, son of Johanna’s brother Gerard! What does that make them? First cousin’s by marriage?

So the photo can’t be of Gerard’s family. That leaves eight other siblings to check into. And the children of all these siblings . . . . NOTE TO SELF: MORE WORK NEEDED HERE



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Actually the house was right in the middle of the city, not in the woods, but that sounds nice–very Ingalls-Wilder-ish.

A while back I posted a photo of a house with Alice Leeuwenhoek standing in front of it on Thanksgiving 1907. The address on the back was 126 Balch Street, which didn’t seem to conform to current addresses. I asked a lot of questions about it. Uncle Don explained that were some buildings behind the houses on the street.


126 Balch Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Then I heard from Jill-O, a librarian in Kalamazoo. (P.S. You will love her blog so go check it out!)

Here are the results of her research in a 1908 insurance street map of Kalamazoo:

Jill-O says:

It looks like the numbers are in the same location as today. There are a couple of outbuildings behind 126, so either the house was torn down and rebuilt, or the one of the outbuildings was used.

Here is the house that  is on the street, numbered 126, today.

Let’s look at the pic and think back to 1907. In the photo you can see an outbuilding behind the house, so it’s unlikely that it’s off the street, behind another building. But if it was 126, wouldn’t the outbuilding be poking out on the other side? And wouldn’t the house be larger? As to the second question, maybe not. The house shows one room and behind it another room, so maybe from the photo we can’t see the depth of the house. As to the first question, what if the photo is reversed? I don’t know too much about the process of taking photos or developing them in those days, and maybe the photo is reversed.

OR. What if this is an outbuilding and that building off to the left is a house on the street from another angle?

The more answers I find, the more questions I have. I think my husband is right: I ask way too many questions.

This map is invaluable to me because so many of my relatives lived in this neighborhood. I am going to use it to plug in the addresses on the census reports–yippee!!!

Thank you, Jill-O!

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While I am making connections and doing more behind the scenes (haha, sounds important) work on the genealogy, I thought I’d share an uncleaned-up photo from the Joseph DeKorn collection. The spots are just a little extra treat. I’d love to hear ideas about the best way to get rid of them!


126 Balch Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan

The little girl behind the bench is Alice Leeuwenhoek, and the date is Thanksgiving 1907. I trust that this is Alice because Grandpa told me in the late 70s, and he knew Alice. Old writing on the back indicates the date. But is the address correct?

In the 1910 census Lambertus, Jennie, and Alice all lived at 110 Balch Street. The houses are numbered 110, 112, 120, 130, 210, 216. No number 126.

Is this the Leeuwenhoek house or not? I’m going to hazard a guess. The address written on the back of this photo is in my handwriting, which means that Grandpa gave me the address. I already suspect that the numbering was changed at some point on Burdick and Balch because the older numbers do not match to the current addresses. Maybe Grandpa gave me the address that was correct in the late 1970s, but not the address as it was in 1907.

Because of the way Alice is standing behind the bench, near the house, and alone, I think this is her own house.

The placement of this house would have been very near Richard DeKorn’s brick house at the corner of Burdick and Balch. I wrote about it in this post The Richard DeKorn House. Alice was Richard’s granddaughter as her mother Jennie was Richard’s daughter and my grandfather’s aunt. Grandpa and Alice were first cousins.

I looked on Google Maps to see what the area looks like today. 126 Balch is about the 4th house down from the DeKorn house on the corner. So, is it possible that in 1907 they lived in 126 and in 1910 they lived in 110? It’s possible because maybe Richard owned several houses on Balch Street. That would not be inconceivable. Or that he had owned the land and gave or sold parcels to family members.

Maybe all the families living on Balch street are not on the census with the Leeuwenhoeks because they weren’t home when the census taker came. That would further complicate things. All this makes me wish I had some time in Kalamazoo to get my hands on some of the property ownership records!

Still, I do feel confident that this is Alice standing in front of her house on Balch Street in 1907, and that she lived quite near her grandparents. Her grandmother, Alice Paak DeKorn, would die the following year–and Grandpa would be born.

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How’s that for a weird title?! If you didn’t notice I’ve been on a break, please don’t tell me or I’ll feel bad ;). I am back, but only on a limited basis because of all these things like work and life that keep intruding on my genealogy research and blog reading! I wanted to stop in today to say:


Let’s make 2015 the best yet!!

I have a set of old glass negatives that have been digitized. I’ve shared a few on this blog. Here is one I have not shared. At first I thought it was a photo of a pig (hog? what is the difference?) with her very cute babies. I am quite certain this was taken by Joseph DeKorn at Brook Lodge in southwestern Michigan (I’ve written about the place here).

But when I looked more carefully I saw Grandpa sitting in the upper right corner! I wonder what he was thinking and if he was tired. He seemed to be visiting the resort with his cousin and uncle.

Here are some more pig photos from Uncle Joe.

These photos are 100 years old. What remnants of our lives will there be in 100 years? Maybe too many!


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Remember that genealogy research “to do” list I made back in December?

Good, I’ll forget about it, too.

I’ve been so busy at work lately that I am behind in everything. But readers are so helpful, that I will post something that is a bit of a mystery to me (what isn’t?!).

This “Class Day Exercises” announcement for the Kalamazoo High School Class of 1902 was with some other papers and clippings my grandparents held for years.

But who did it originally belong to? Who in the family graduated from high school in 1902?

My first guess was Joseph DeKorn because he seemed about the right age. Joseph Peter DeKorn: June 30, 1881. Look at that! He was born under the astrological sign of Cancer, just like me.

How old would he have been in 1902? My advanced math skills tell me he would have been 21.  Hmm, that seems a little old for graduating from high school. Especially for a very smart young man like Uncle Joe.

Grandpa wasn’t born until 1908. I wondered about Alice Leeuwenhoek, but she was born in 1897. The daughters of Richard DeKorn’s second wife were born in the 1890s, as well. The first VanLiere boy wasn’t born until 1902 (in Goes, the Netherlands). It is possible that it could belong to a child of Mary DeKorn DeSmit and John DeSmit, but that seems unlikely.

It could have belonged to a friend, but then why would the family have held onto it all these years?

Any ideas on how I get a list of 1902 graduates of Kalamazoo High School from the comfort of my computer chair?

Another thing I wonder about is exactly what Class Day Exercises are. I believe they are still held today, but what role does it play in the graduation process that includes commencement, baccalaureate service, etc.?

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My great-great-grandmother Alice Paak (the brave woman who survived a horrific near-tragedy that I wrote about last spring) gave her middle child Cora a gift for Christmas 1907. Perhaps she gave one to each of her three children.

You can see from the photo that it’s a hand-painted genealogy shell.

My grandfather and grandmother inherited it, and my grandmother gave it to me.

Let’s take a look at what she wrote over one hundred years ago, and how it relates to the information I have received more recently.

Alice Paak

If you remember my story about Alice’s near tragedy, you might also remember the post I wrote about her beautiful handmade shawl. Or the post I wrote about Alice and all her sisters.

On the shell, she names herself “Alice Paak ,” which is the name Grandpa had told me.  But genealogical research in the Netherlands shows that she was born Aaltje Peek. The source used for that name was this:

Lexmond, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands, birth record, 1852, 36, Aaltje Peek, 9 September 1852; digital images,
Familysearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-159370-202016-19?cc=1576401&wc=6426532 : accessed 23
December 2012)

Apparently, she accepted the American name “Alice.” Her granddaughter, Alice Leeuwenhoek, the daughter of Jennie and Lou Leeuwenhoek, was named after her. Later, my own aunt, the granddaughter of Alice’s daughter Cora, was given the name Alice.

Alice Paak’s birth date is given on the shell as 17 September 1852.  But my genealogical information (the source I listed above) shows that she was born on that same month and year, but on the 9th, not the 17th. Wouldn’t she know her own birth day? That confuses me.

On the shell, she lists her birth place as Leksmond, Nederland. That sounds right, and I think it’s the same place as Lexmond, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands.

Richard DeKorn

My great-great-grandfather Richard DeKorn was born Dirk de Korne.  But he clearly changed both his first name (Americanized it) and the spelling of his last name (maybe to make it easier for others).

He was born on 21 Aug 1851.  The shell corroborates the date.

However, his birth place is listed on the shell as Goes, Zeeland, Nederland. But wait!  In another post I mentioned that I had always thought he was born in Goes, but the genealogical documentation shows that was born in Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands! This is the documentation:

Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands, birth record, Dirk de Korne, 21 August 1851

Jennie DeKorn

Born March 18, 1873. That’s according to the shell. But my information is March 8, 1873. I have to check on this!

Cora DeKorn

Born January 2, 1875. That’s according to the shell and to my records.

Joseph Peter DeKorn

Born June 30, 1881. That’s according to the shell and to my records.

The treasure itself

The design is beautiful with holly branches. The berries are raised to look like real berries. Originally there was a gold leaf paint trim around the shell, but it has worn off in many places.

Her use of “Xmas” because it fit better on the small surface seems astonishingly modern, as does the use of metallic gold and red and green for Christmas.

What I find particularly poignant, though, about this family heirloom is the date. She gave this gift to her daughter on Christmas 1907, and on May 5, 1908, a little over four months later, she passed away.

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Since I haven’t had time to work on any of my larger genealogical projects, I thought I’d share a smaller one today.  This photo is from the Joseph DeKorn collection. He was my great-grandmother’s brother, and he took a great number of our family photos during the very early 1900s.

Because someone took the time to write on the back, I felt that this photo was important to someone in the family. In fact, I believe the handwriting belongs to Uncle Joe.

Timber trestle bridge over the Huron River at Ann Arbor was designed and built by Professor Charles Ezra Greene.

Timber trestle bridge over the Huron River at Ann Arbor was designed and built by Professor Charles Ezra Greene.

Here is what is written on the back:

This is the bridge across the Huron R. It was designed by the late Prof. Greene. The place where the posts are close together is where the [?] fell through. The track in the foreground is the Michigan Central. The Ann Arbor crosses the bridge.

Where the WHAT fell through?

Does that say “where the car fell through”? Did someone’s car fall between the posts into the river?

I looked on the internet and all I found was that in the Detroit River, during Prohibition, this happened, according to Wikipedia:

There was no limit on the methods used by rum-runners to import alcohol across the river. Government officials were unable or unwilling to deter the flow of alcohol coming across the Detroit River. In some cases, overloaded cars fell through the ice, and today, car parts from this illegal era can still be seen on the bottom of the river.

But that’s not the Huron River. And what time period are we talking about for this photo?

On the back, it says “the late Prof. Greene.” Here is biographical and obituary information about Professor Charles Ezra Greene. He died in 1903. So the photo was taken at some point after that.  A steel bridge eventually replaced this bridge, and it might have happened in 1924.

In this bio, we learn this about Professor Greene’s credentials:

[Professor Greene] entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here he was graduated Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1868. From this time until 1870 he was Assistant Engineer on location and construction of the   and   Railroad in Maine. The next year he was United States Assistant Engineer on River and Harbor Improvements in Maine and New Hampshire, and was then appointed City Engineer of, where he also carried on a general practice until the summer of 1872. In that year he was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Michigan, a position which he held to the time of his death, October 16, 1903. When the Department of Engineering was established as a separate organization in 1895, he was made its first dean. In 1884 he received the honorary degree of Civil Engineer from the University of Michigan. In addition to his duties as professor he carried on an extensive consulting practice. He was Chief Engineer of the Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Northern Railroad from 1879 to 1881; Superintending and Consulting Engineer of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad bridge at Toledo in 1881-1882; designer and Superintendent of the construction of the Ann Arbor water-works in 1885; and designer of the Ann Arbor sewerage system in 1890. He paid special attention to the invention and development of graphical methods of analysis of frames, bridges, and arches. He published several works which were well received by the profession and which have been used in designing important structures: “Graphical Analysis of Bridge Trusses” (1874); “Trusses and Arches, Part I, Roof Trusses (1876), Part  , Bridge Trusses (1878), Part  , Arches (1879) “; “Structural Mechanics” (1897). He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; also of the Michigan Engineering Society, of which he was president for three terms. In 1872 he was married to Florence Emerson, of  , Maine, who with their two children survives him, – Albert Emerson (Ph.B. 1895, B.S. [ ] 1896) and Florence   (A.B. 1903).

Joseph DeKorn attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. I’ll make a guess he took the photo when he was a student at Michigan. This helps narrow down the date of the photo because Uncle Joe was born in 1881, so he would have been studying at the university in the first few years of the 20th century.

Joseph Peter DeKorn (photography by Marion Studio)

Joseph Peter DeKorn (photography by Marion Studio)

What is perhaps very telling is that Uncle Joe studied Civil Engineering, so perhaps he was a student of Professor Greene before the man died.  It does sound as thought Professor Greene taught up to the last. It also sounds as if he was an amazing teacher. At the least, Joe would have learned of Greene’s influence in the classroom.

Joseph DeKorn stayed true to his studies and went on to become Chief or Supervisor of City Light and Water for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Additional information provided by my uncle in a comment to this post: Charles E. Greene was indeed Joe DeKorn’s prof. He learned both what to do and what not to do from him! Joe DeKorn was in charge of building the Grand Rapids water system which to this day draws it’s primary water from Lake Michigan.  As Uncle Don says, it was a big project!

What do you think that he writes on the back of the photo? Does it say car or cars? Or something else?


This article is from the January 29, 1904 Kalamazoo Gazette.

There is a long article in the Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat on the same day. It indicates a dispute over the cause of the accident and says that actually 13 cars were destroyed.  But the bottom line is that it was NOT a defect in the bridge that caused the accident, but a broken flange on a coal car.

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When I grew up in Kalamazoo in the 1960s and 1970s (OK, the 1950s, too), the name DeKorn as it applied to my family was no longer known. Richard’s only son, Joseph, had moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he raised his two sons.

At some point DeKorne’s Ethan Allen store opened up in Kalamazoo. I know it was there when I got married in 1975 because I bought my first couch and chairs there.That’s when I first heard the rumor that we were “shirttail relations.”

Nobody could ever give me any facts about this connection.

In 2000, with the beauty of the internet, I discovered that there was another family connected to Boudewijn DeKorn. Boudewijn, my great-great-great-grandfather, was born in 1816 in Kapelle, the Netherlands, and died 1873 in Kalamazoo.

This other family who had a Boudewijn was the furniture company Dekorne family from Grand Rapids.

But their Boudewijn didn’t match ours. Theirs died in 1929 in Grand Rapids! Ours died in Kalamazoo in 1873!! But how odd, considering that the name is unique, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids are not far from each other, and there was that rumor about us being related.

At the time (2000), I found an article about their Boudewijn and a rough family tree.  I printed it out and saved it, never knowing if it would be useful.

Here is their family tree:

Other Dekorne family tree

Other Dekorne family tree

I’m going to post the article that went with their family tree because I find it very interesting in light of Richard DeKorn’s talents as a mason and general contractor.

It’s an interesting story, but are they relatives of mine?

I didn’t know, and I couldn’t figure it out because on Ancestry more Boudewijn DeKornes starting popping up with different birth and death dates, but always from the same general area of the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands.

Then I gave Yvette Hoitink their family tree and she put it together with our family tree and investigated.

This is our family tree:Richard DeKorn family treeDo you see a connection?  Look at their Boudewijn who was born in 1700.  He’s married to Piatarnella Pieterse Michielse.  That is the same woman as Pieternella Machiels who is also found in old documents under the name Petronella Pieters.  We have a match for a husband and wife in both family trees.

That means that  my “7th great-grandfather” Boudewijn de Corne, born approximately 1730 and died 1734 in Goes is (I believe) the “3rd great-grandfather” of Boudewijn the wood-carver and furniture maker who died in Grand Rapids in 1929.

In the history of the family it seems that branches moved away from each other and then maybe moved near each other again, always staying in Zeeland and then in southwestern Michigan. It’s fitting then that Joseph DeKorn moved to Grand Rapids and raised his family there by the other Dekornes.

Note: so many spellings of the name!!  It makes it very difficult even to work at cleaning up my family tree on Ancestry.  Also, notice how the Dutch tend to name their children after the grandparents.

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