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Archive for the ‘Caledonia, MI’ Category

Although I started this blog five years ago next month, and that sounds like a long time, I’ve been working (on and off–mainly off while raising my kids and teaching) on family history, family photos, and genealogy since I was just out of college and beginning a master’s in history (which I did not complete and ultimately switched to English and creative writing).

I was blessed with many antique and vintage photographs and a grandfather with a great memory and a talent for storytelling.

But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I got the idea of putting my research and knowledge of our family history together with my creative writing. Then I began to write lyric poems, prose poems, and a few pieces in a genre that was new to me–flash nonfiction, which is a form of very short prose–based on individuals from my family’s past.

Ultimately, I pulled these pieces together into a chapbook (44 pages) which has been published by Finishing Line Press and is now available, not only on their website, but also on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

Kin Types looks at what the lives of my ancestors were like. The locales are mainly Kalamazoo (and other towns in southwestern Michigan), Elmhurst (Illinois), and the Netherlands. Using the fruits of my research, which included studying newspaper articles, documents, and the details of antique photos, I tried to “inhabit” the lives of some of the people who have come before me.

If you click through the link to the Amazon page, the book can be ordered for $14.99. To order through Barnes & Noble, try this link.

Here is a sample poem from the collection:

Genealogy

 

Tigers die and leave their skins;

people die and leave their names.  ~Japanese Proverb

 

The more relatives I unearthed,

the more Franks rose to the surface

like deer bones after a storm.

On the trails I could follow,

I found seven named Frank,

three Franz, three Francis.

Frans, Francois, and Franciscus.

Frances and Francisca,

the women peeking out

from under their fathers’ names.

The name passed forward

like a cross polished by many hands.

The verb frank means to allow free passage

for man or post. But these Franks

and Franciskas paid with their labor

and their babes buried along the way.

If you read this blog, some of the characters of the book might be familiar to you. And because the project is quite unique I think people passionate about family history, genealogy, history, and local history will probably be particularly interested. Some of the pieces have been published in literary magazines. Combined together, they tell a story of the history of “forgotten” women.

So what are you waiting for? 😉 Go to one of the links and place your order!  And thank you very much.

 

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I’ve written several posts about my grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder (married name Zuidweg), who was born April 17, 1912, and her high school graduation scrapbook. She graduated from Caledonia High School (Michigan) in 1929.

In those posts, I mentioned that Grandma’s best friend Blanche was class valedictorian, Grandma’s older sister Dorothy was salutatorian, and Grandma–with the 3rd highest GPA–was class historian.

Visiting Mom, I recently found this photograph of Grandma and Dorothy. It’s a tinted photo, and it appears to be the right age to have been taken around the time they graduated high school. It shows the girls with movie star hairstyles.

You can see from the list below (from the scrapbook) who else graduated from CHS in 1929. Look at the proportion of girls to boys! Why was that? Were the boys working the farms and no longer attending school? If so, that’s a shame. What else could account for so few boys graduating? I trust the list because Grandma was, after all, class historian and quite meticulous about recording information.

Maybe this list will help out someone else researching their own family. Good luck!

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https://thefamilykalamazoo.com/2013/01/08/who-put-the-ring-stain-on-the-scrapbook/

https://thefamilykalamazoo.com/2017/04/17/april-17-always-reminds-me-of-grandma/

https://thefamilykalamazoo.com/2015/08/05/grandmas-school-work-late-1920s/

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Peter Mulder has discovered more information about his grandfather, Jan Mulder, through the Red Cross war archive. Jan is the Mulder who died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in WWII. Read about it in The Story of a Mulder in Indonesia.

Jan was my great-great grandfather Peter (Pieter) Mulder’s half-brother and you might remember the heart-breaking letter Peter wrote to Jan after the death of his wife Nellie. You can read it in The Treasure that Arrived in an Email.

According to Peter’s information, Jan was interned in March 1942 in the Ambarawa camp, Central Java number 7. His camp number was 13591. He was detained there until his death on 23 November 1945. You will note that this is a few months after the Japanese surrender, and Jan had wanted to return to Holland. However, his fragile health did not allow him to travel. Although Jan was only 66, heart disease and starvation edema ultimately proved fatal.

The day before Jan passed away, he was baptized as a Catholic as the fulfillment of his last wish. He died quietly in the hospital with Sister Josephine and Reverend John G. Breman at his side. Reverend Breman was also a patient at the hospital.

Jan was buried in the camp, which was considered a privilege at that time.

Jan Mulder with his beloved cello

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My grandmother, (Lucille) Edna Mulder Zuidweg, was born 105 years ago today. This is a page from her 1929 high school graduation scrapbook. There is a photo of Grandma–maybe her senior pic–and one of Grandma (the Class Historian), Blanche Stauffer (Valedictorian), and Grandma’s sister Dorothy Mulder Plott (Salutatorian). In the 3rd photo, five girls are in dresses decorated with ribbon or twine.

You can read more about the graduation of these young ladies in Who Put the Ring Stain on the Scrapbook? and in Scrapbook Treats.

What do you think about the dresses on those girls? I don’t know why this photo is on the same page with the others or the meaning of it. Any ideas?

I can’t let an April 17 go by without thinking a lot about Grandma. She was a wonderful grandmother and inspirational to me in many ways.

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Sometimes when I am researching family lines from the Netherlands, I wonder: what happened to the descendants of my ancestor’s siblings during the World Wars? I have particularly wondered that about WWII, maybe because my parents were alive during that war and because I know more about it than WWI.

I never expected to discover any information.

Until I was contacted by Peter Mulder from the Netherlands! He has the same name as my mother’s Uncle Pete who I knew as a smiling man and a farmer. He also has the same name as my great-great-grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. I wrote about that Pieter Mulder finding himself an orphan after the death of his father and about his move across the ocean.

This Peter Mulder has graciously supplied me with a story of what happened to my great-great-grandfather’s half-brother, Jan Mulder.

After the death of my Pieter’s mother, Karel Mulder (my 3rd great-grandfather) married Klazina Otte, and had two sons with her: Cornelis and Jan. Actually, there were many children, but sadly the rest died as infants. Karel passed away on 22 April 1881 and his children by my 3rd great-grandmother Johanna were dispersed into jobs and the orphanage.

Klazina was left to care for her two sons. Eventually, in 1904, she moved with her sons to Apeldoorn. She would have been about 63, and she died on 8 November 1922 in Apeldoorn.

Cornelis, who was born 1 September 1872, was a tailor. He married Hendrika Jonker (born 07 May 1876), and they moved their family to Utrecht on 30 July 1928.

Jan, who happens to be the grandfather of Peter Mulder, was born on 20 December 1876.  By profession, he was a hairdresser.

Jan married Petertje van Baak. Interestingly, the witnesses at the wedding were Cornelis Mulder, his brother, and Izaak Mulder, his half-brother (Pieter’s older brother). I believe this shows that the children of Karel Mulder had remained close although the family was torn apart (as far as living arrangements) by his death.

 

Jan and Petertje wedding photo

6 October 1904

Jan and Petertje had three children:

Klazina Petronella Mulder, born 06 February 1905 and died 28 April 1994

Teunis Jan Mulder, born 20 May 1907

Izaak Mulder, born 23 January 1913 and died 14 December 1980

Izaak is Peter’s father.

Teunis, Nellie, Izaak

On November 1, 1929, Jan immigrated to Soerabaja/Soerabaia, now called Surabaya, which is the capital of Jawa Timur (East Java). Indonesia was part of the Dutch East Indies. Jan left his wife and three children behind. In 1936, the couple divorced, but he kept in contact with his children.

Jan enjoyed his life in Soerabaja. He had his own hairdresser business and played music in an orchestra. He played bass, violin, and flute.

In winter/spring of 1942, the Japanese invaded and took over Java. At that time, it was necessary for all Dutch people to register with the Japanese. After that, Jan was held  in the Ambarawa internment camp for several years. The living conditions were poor and deteriorated as time went on. Peter believes that almost 13,000 people died there during that period–including Jan Mulder, Peter’s grandfather, and the half-brother of my great-great-grandfather. He was 65 years old. I can’t imagine the difficulties he must have endured in his last years.

 

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From being in touch with some Noffke cousins, I now have a lovely copy of one of the Noffke families.

 

My great-grandmother’s brother was Charles Noffke (who married Louisa Rutkowski). If you recall, this was the woman whose death was public and unexplained. I wrote about her death in How to Explain This Death.

They had a son, Herman (1871-1944). This is Herman with his wife Mary Morganer Finkbeiner (1881-1971). These are some of their children.

BACK ROW: Floyd is on the left. He was 1906-1959. On the right was George, born 1901 (died 1990). He was the oldest child.

MIDDLE ROW: Wilbur is the boy in the middle with glasses (1903-1986).

Alfred is the handsome young man on the right (1905-1963).

Roy is the boy on the left (1911-1991).

Carl, as I mentioned, is the little boy (1917-1970).

It has been wonderful to meet Waldeck and Noffke cousins, but they are all wondering the same thing I have been: where in Europe did these people come from? To be clear: both lines apparently came from the same place in Europe. On one death certificate, I do have a town name. But I can’t find this town any place, and I have asked in genealogy Facebook groups to no avail.

Any ideas on this location of origin?

But I guess I have made strides. After all, we used to think the family name was Neffka . . . .

 

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My 3rd great uncle, Charles Noffke, married Louisa Rutkofski. This event must have occurred back in the “old country.” Just where the old country was has not yet been determined. All I know is that the Noffkes (and the Waldecks) were some sort of “German.” They might have been from Pomerania, but maybe not. The Waldecks-Noffkes had regular family reunions for years, decades actually, and yet their origins are more murky than my other branches. It would make sense if these people came from an area that is now Poland because I do have Polish DNA, but also it might fit Louisa’s maiden name (which can be German or Polish, according to trusty Google).

Anyway, I am writing about the disturbing story of Louisa’s death. Charles, who was born in 1843, passed away on 26 May 1897 in Caledonia, Michigan, where the family had settled. Louisa, born 24 April 1845, never married again and passed away on 6 July 1920. So she lived alone, presumably, for many of those 23 years. The couple had two children, a son Herman, born 1871 and a daughter, Clara, born 1875. Herman was married in 1900 and Clara may have married soon after.

I had never heard of Louisa until I began to do family history research, particularly on Ancestry.com. That’s when the Noffkes began to populate my family tree. She threatened to remain an enigma because I had little information and, after all, she is not such a very close relative.

But when I plugged the name Noffke into the newspaper database on Genealogy Bank, I was startled to learn the circumstances of Louisa’s death.

 

Clothing torn from her body? Some articles of clothing missing? Trampled weeds along the lakeshore? Scratches and bruises on the body?

DEATH FROM INDIGESTION?

It sure sounds as if she was murdered.

Clearly this shows that an investigation was opened into her death.

THEN SILENCE. Nothing else appears in the newspaper except information about probate of her estate.

What do you think happened to her?

For a link to a beautiful image of the lake go here.

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Adding Louisa’s death certificate, thanks to Su Leslie’s comment. Notice that the cause of death is even stranger: that she died by drowning in the lake while ill with acute indigestion. HUH? And notice that there is no DOB, although they seem to know her age in days. There are no parents listed, although her only son gave the information. I can’t tell who signed the certificate because of the spot on the paper.

One more thing. Her daughter Clara died eight years later, at age 53, in bed–dead from the gas from a coal stove.

 

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