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Archive for the ‘Kin Types’ Category

Today’s photo is completely unidentified except that it was in a pile of family photos. Most likely, it was taken in Kalamazoo, but without knowing anyone in the photo, I can’t even be sure of that. I hope someone can identify one or more of these young ladies in their fancy outfits a la Pollyanna.

The three girls in the center have the giant hair bows. The girl on our left wears a very frilly hat. And the girl on our right: is she wearing a big snood to hold her hair?

I saw a cute meme about hair bows the other days.

Welcome to Women’s History Month (as of March 1)! Kin Types is a good addition to Women’s History Month.

“Kin Types exhumes the women who have died long ago to give life to them, if only for a few moments. Through genealogical and historical research, Luanne Castle has re-discovered the women who came before her. Using an imaginative lens, she allows them to tell their stories through lyric poems, prose poems, and flash nonfiction.”

Kin Types makes a good gift for Women’s History Month!

 

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This is the sixth and final week that the beautiful creative nonfiction journal Broad Street magazine has published one of the pieces from my chapbook Kin Types along with documents and photographs that helped me piece together these old family stories.

The subject of the poem “Someone Else’s Story” is Caroline Meier Waldeck, the wife of my grandmother’s Uncle Fred, a German immigrant who, as a young husband and father, was hit by a streetcar and suffered severe brain damage from the accident.

You can read it here: Family Laundry: “Someone Else’s Story” by Luanne Castle

 

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

The second feature article is Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

The third feature article is: Family Laundry: “More Burials” by Luanne Castle

The fourth is: Family Laundry: “The Weight of Smoke” by Luanne Castle

The fifth is: Family Laundry: “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead,” by Luanne Castle

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

 

 

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This is the fifth week that the beautiful creative nonfiction journal Broad Street magazine has published one of the pieces from my chapbook Kin Types along with documents and photographs that helped me piece together these old family stories.

This week is about Louise Noffke’s death and the family history (including domestic violence) that surrounded that tragic event. Read it at Family Laundry: “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead,” by Luanne Castle

Louise was buried with her husband Charles Noffke, my great-grandmother’s brother. The “together forever” headstone is a bit ironic considering one of the newspaper articles that I uncovered.

This next is the headstone of the daughter of Louise and Charles. She is also mentioned in the Broad Street article.

 

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

The second feature article is Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

The third feature article is: Family Laundry: “More Burials” by Luanne Castle

The fourth is: Family Laundry: “The Weight of Smoke” by Luanne Castle

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

 

 

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As I described the last two weeks, Broad Street Magazine is featuring six poems and flash prose pieces from my chapbook Kin Types, along with some of the research and research artifacts I used to create the pieces.

Today the third part of the series was published and can be found here: Family Laundry: “More Burials” by Luanne Castle

This poem was written about the Leeuwenhoek family, specifically a relative by marriage, and the perspective is that of his dead mother. Her children were orphaned and the four youngest went to live in an orphanage.

The photo below is of a boy in Nymegen or Nijmegen, which is the city near the Neerbosch orphanage where the Leeuwenhoek children lived. It is most likely that this is a photograph of Gerrit Leeuwenhoek, the subject of my poem.

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

The second feature article is Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

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

 

 

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As I described last week in Six-Week Family History Series at BROAD STREET MAGAZINE, six poems and flash prose pieces from my chapbook Kin Types are being featured at Broad Street Magazine, along with some of the research and research artifacts I used to create the pieces. The idea was first suggested by editor Susann Cokal. Fabulous idea!

Today the second part of the series was published and can be found here: Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

This article is about a poem I wrote about my great-great-grandfather’s sister, Jennie DeKorn Culver. If you recall from past blog posts, she is the woman who left Kalamazoo for Seattle with her two adult daughters, years after a contentious divorce from John Culver.

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

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

 

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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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I realized that it was far past time that I research the DeSmit family. To give you an idea of how they fit into my family, let me give you a little overview. My great-great grandfather, Richard DeKorn, had two siblings: his sister Jennie Culver and his sister Mary DeSmit. Well, they were born DeKorns, but took on their  husband’s surnames, of course.

Because of the beautiful gift of the “found” photograph album sent to me by a kind stranger I have posted quite a bit about Jennie Culver, her divorce, and her two girls, Rhea and Lela. Jennie is featured in one of the poems in my chapbook Kin Types“What Came Between a Woman and Her Duties.” This poem was first published in the literary magazine Copper Nickel.

Richard’s sister Mary DeKorn married John DeSmit, Jr., and that is my connection with the DeSmit family, so I will begin the story of the DeSmits with that of Mary’s father-in-law, John DeSmit, Sr., a pioneer of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

On 2 July 1912, the Kalamazoo Gazette published this article about John. Because it was his birthday celebration and not an obituary, I believe it has a good chance of being an accurate history of his life. There is even a photo!

John DeSmit, one of Kalamazoo’s oldest pioneer residents, celebrated his 87th birthday anniversary yesterday by industriously laboring all day in a celery patch in the rear of the home of his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Hycoop on South Burdick Street.

For a man of his advanced years Mr. DeSmit is remarkably hearty and spry. Age has not dimmed the sparkle in his eye and at times they twinkle with merriment, as he laughingly comments on events of early-day or present-day Kalamazoo. To a reporter for The Gazette who asked him if he was enjoying himself on his 87th birthday he laughingly replied:

“Yes, this is my 87th birthday. I am feeling fine and having a lot of fun all by myself.”

Mr. DeSmit, accompanied by his wife and a baby boy, arrived in Kalamazoo on May 2, 1854. There were only about 1,200 inhabitants in the village then and money was not as plentiful as it is today.

ARRIVED HERE WITH EMPTY PURSE

“When I first came here,” said Mr. DeSmit, “I did anything I could get to do. I got my first job on the afternoon of the day I arrived. It was tending a mason. I was so near flat busted that I went to work without eating dinner. I was paid ten shillings a day to start. I picked up the trade by degrees and most of the time since then I have worked as a mason. I finally began to do contracting in a small way and some of the jobs I did were the building of the spring works in ’78 and the old Kalamazoo house in ’79. I also built the old part of the American house.

“In ’76 my friends induced me to make the race for alderman from the Fourth ward and I was elected. I served that year and ’77. In ’79 I was re-elected and served two years. In ’88 I was appointed to street commissioner.

It was Mr. DeSmit who dug Axtell creek in ’77-’78, draining a large section of marsh land, much of which is now included in the most valuable tract of celery land in Kalamazoo. In ’72 he built the sewer from the jail through the courthouse yard to Arcadia Creek. This was when little was known of the sewer building in Kalamazoo and when few would bid on a sewer job.

HELPED IMPROVE BRONSON PARK

In ’77 Mr. DeSmit raised $1,000 by subscription to fill in and improve Bronson park and the council–then the board of trustees–voted another $1,000 for the work. It was then late in the fall and as he left the council the following spring, being succeeded by George Kidder, it fell to the lot of the latter to complete the park work begun by Mr. DeSmit.

Mr. DeSmit came to America in 1850, arriving in New York on October 1 of that year with his bride and four other young married couples. They sailed from Rotterdam and were 113 days in crossing the ocean. None of the five couples had any money upon arriving in America, but the men of the party secured work in the woods of Long Island and after many hard struggles saved enough of their meagre wages to emigrate west to the land of promise. As far as he knows Mr. DeSmit is the only one of the five couples now living.

HE’S HAPPY AND CONTENTED AS ANY

“I’ve worked hard all my life,” said Mr. DeSmith, “and I’ve seen a lot of happiness. I’ve also seen some dog’s weather and some black snow, but it’s what we all get in this life some time or other. I guess for a man of my years I’m about as happy and contented as any.

Mr. DeSmit has five children living, all of whom reside in Kalamazoo. They are John, Adrian, and Martin DeSmit and Mrs. Elizabeth Hycoop and Mrs. Christine Flipse.

The aged man lives at 1017 South Burdick Street.

He lived on South Burdick. Of course, he did! That area of Burdick must have been quite the “Holland” or Dutch enclave.

Is this article not a windfall for a family researcher? Look at some of the facts I found.

  • He arrived in the United States on 1 October 1850  This will prove to be a bit off.
  • He left approximately 113 days before that  This will be contradicted in another article.
  • He lived on Long Island for awhile before coming to Michigan
  • When he came to Kalamazoo, only 1,200 people lived there
  • He was instrumental in getting Bronson Park off to a good start (Bronson Park is the town square of Kalamazoo)
  • They left Netherlands through Rotterdam; however, no info about where in Holland they came from
  • How he got started as a mason
  • How he happened to be in New York (because this is where John Jr. was born)
  • I am not the only person who persistent types DeSmith instead of DeSmit (ugh)
  • I learned some new expressions: “dog’s weather” and “black snow”–“dog’s weather” or hondeweer is a common Dutch expression meaning bad weather, such as rain or a storm. I was given help for this through a kind Facebook group. The answer to “black snow” can be found here. It means: “misery, experiencing poverty” and is better known in Belgium. This in interesting because one of my helpers with the DeSmit family believes they came from an area very close to Belgium.

There are several newspaper articles about John DeSmit gifting celery to the Gazette, particularly at the time of Thanksgiving and Christmas–so much so, that they expected it. This one is 30 November 1893:

This theme is repeated over several years. Here is one from Christmas day 1896.

Although the year 1851 is probably incorrect (1854 fits with the chronology better), you have to love the details: “clothed in wooden shoes and corduroy.”

Three years later, the paper commemorates John DeSmit’s 90th birthday.

Here we learn that he came to Kalamazoo in 1854 and that he served in the Dutch army in 1845. And that his birthdate is 1 July 1825. We also get an overview that tells how important his construction work was to the formation of Kalamazoo’s streets and sewers. John belonged to the Reformed church.  Best yet, the photo is better in this clipping than in the first.

John DeSmit was still going strong for his 91st birthday party.

 

Even back in 1899, the paper was celebrating John DeSmit’s 74th birthday. Some of the details here are different than in the other articles. I can’t help but wonder if the paper made mistakes or if John’s memory altered things as he got older. For instance, here it is 135 days on the ocean from Rotterdam to NYC, whereas it was 113 days in 1912 (13 years later). Also, the address of his house is slightly off here, but I do appreciate that the info is shared here that he owned his house since 1858. Notice that in 1899 he had six living children, whereas later he had five and then four. Also in the following article, one of his children is living outside of Kalamazoo.

Eventually, John DeSmit succumbed to old age.

John DeSmit passed away on 10 March 1919 at the Burdick Street house he had lived at for decades. According to his obituary’s omission of daughter Christine Flipse, she appears to have passed away. But more on that later when I write about John’s wife wives and their children and grandchildren.

Alas, even with all these newspaper clues I can not find a trace of John DeSmit in wiewaswie records. His Dutch name was Jan, but although I have his birthdate and an approximate time period for his marriage date, I cannot find his birth or marriage records.

That all changed a few hours ago when Hubert Theuns discovered John Sr.’s birth record. He found it in the Zeeuws archives, which is where I should have looked to begin with. The date was correct: John was born 1 July 1825!! in Zuidzande, Netherlands, which is not far from Belgium.

John’s birth name was Jannis, and his father was also Jannis, so rather than being senior, he was at least III because “Senior’s” grandfather and father were Jan! Thank you Hubert.

Thank you so much for all the help of Adri Van Gessel, Adriaan Leeuwenhoek, and Joel Reeves!

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