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Archive for the ‘Grand Rapids’ 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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As I mentioned in my last post, I am awaiting an obituary for Nellie Mulder, the daughter of Peter and Nellie. In an earlier post, I shared the letter that Peter had sent to his brother Jan after his wife had passed away. He wrote, “It’s a heavy day for me Jan, there I have a daughter who always must be under my eye. She is not trusted to just go out unless a person familiar is with her.” As it was first explained to me in the 1970s, Nellie was “slow.”

UPDATE:

the obituary came in, and I also heard about Nellie from my uncle who knows a lot about the family history.

SEE UPDATED INFO BELOW THE HEADSTONE PHOTO!!!

I had not been able to find anything on Nellie for years, although I had seen her image in the family photo when I was still in college.

 

She is in the front row, on our left, wearing glasses. Peter and Nellie are in the center of the front row and my great-grandfather Charles Mulder is to his mother’s left (our right).

Thanks to Find-a-Grave I found Nellie’s headstone and the year of her death.

DAUGHTER

NELLIE MULDER

1902-1968

She is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Who ordered the headstone? Her parents were both dead by 1968, so it must have been ordered by a sibling, and yet the stone says “daughter.”

But what was her life like after her mother died in 1932? The family story is that she wound up in an institution. But where? And who went to visit her? Was she happy?

THE UPDATED INFORMATION

Here is the obituary that arrived yesterday:

Couple this information with what is remembered by my uncle. He says that Nellie had Down syndrome and “was the happiest person in the family. She always remembered everyone’s name and gave the best hugs!” She stayed for periods of time with relatives in Grand Rapids and also with my great-grandfather in Caledonia.

Nellie also stayed in a “home” in Grand Rapids. Family always made sure to include Nellie in all the family gatherings until “age took its toll on both her and [her] older siblings.”

My uncle believes that Nellie’s grave was probably handled by the children of my great-grandfather’s youngest brother, “Uncle Pete.” To make clear: both great-grandpa and Pete were brothers of Nellie.  Pete was a gravestone engraver, in fact, and died at age 64 of silicosis. Add this lung disease death to the tuberculosis deaths in the family, and it seems the Mulders were plagued with lung troubles.

Pete was a gravestone engraver, in fact, and died at age 64 of silicosis, four years before Nellie’s death. Add this lung disease death to the tuberculosis deaths in the family, and it seems the Mulders were plagued with lung troubles.

I don’t have a death certificate for Nellie (or her brother Pete, for that matter). But the obituary makes clear Nellie died in a nursing home. Whether this was the “home” she was living in or a nursing home because she needed medical care, I don’t know.

The obituary shows that Nellie was a member of Seventh Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. I got a kick out of that 7th! I have heard of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, but not 7th! Here is a little history of the church that is still in existence:

Seventh Reformed Church has been in existence for well over a century. Our congregation was organized on May 1, 1890. It was the first church of reformed persuasion on the west side of Grand Rapids.

The first services were held at a temporary building located on Jennette Street between Twelfth and Leonard. In 1892 a new church building was completed, located on the corner of Jennette and Leonard.

Seventh, being a Dutch immigrant congregation, held all services in the Dutch language. In 1905 the first evening service was held in the English language, but not continued until 1919. Later in 1929 the morning service was also held in English, preceded by a Dutch service. In 1942 the Dutch service was moved to the afternoon and then in 1947 it was discontinued.

Our present church building was dedicated on June 18, 1952. In 1969 the East wing containing the pastor’s study, offices, Chapel and classrooms were completed. In 1989 as we began celebrations for our Centennial Year, another extension to the building was added in the form of a large foyer on the West side with more classrooms upstairs.

Eventually I expect to find the death certificates for Nellie and Peter and other members of the Mulder family. Part of the problem is that the Grand Rapids certificates do not seem to be readily available. They are quite expensive at $20 each, and I have to rely on staff to locate them.

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Working on family history and genealogy is a never-ending project. It also is subject to the whims of windfalls and time constraints. By that I mean that when I receive information about a branch of the family that I am not working on, I might have to move that branch to the forefront for a little while. And even when I have some wonderful “leads” to follow, if I don’t have the time, I have to postpone work on that branch.

Sometimes I get so many active branches going, I can’t even keep track of what I should work on next.

Lately, these are the branches I have been tracking down:

  • MULDER family: I have been trying to put all the most important information about the Mulder family in a timeline format. When Peter Mulder contacted me with more Mulder information (including the fascinating story of Jan Mulder), I thought I would stay with the Mulders for a long time.
  • PAAK family: but then I also heard from Ed Lawrence with more photos of the Theresa Paak Lawrence family, and I posted about Theresa’s foster parents, the Pickards. Although there is more to share on this line, something sidetracked me.
  • FLIPSE/KALLEWAARD family: I heard from Jan Denkers with his information about this branch–people who actually lived just a couple doors down from my grandfather and continued living in the same neighborhood my mother grew up in. I posted a photo of the Kallewaard house, but still have more information to sort and post.

And, of course, I always keep all the other branches in mind! To further my information about the Mulders, I ordered some very important death certificates and received them for Peter and Nellie Mulder, my great-great-grandparents.

I knew that my great-grandfather, Charles Mulder, had had tuberculosis (I visited him in a TB sanitarium when I was a kid) and that his brother Henry had died from it in 1947, at age 50. What I didn’t know was that their mother Nellie also died from “pulmonary TB” in 1932, when she was 63. Now I wonder if “only” those three were afflicted or if others in the family also had TB.

 

The names of her parents are a little garbled. Her father was Jan Gorsse and her mother Kornelia Hijman. Interestingly, after I received her death certificate, I found another one online, where it had probably been misfiled. Not sure why there are TWO? My guess is that the one above was prepared at my request, but why is it less complete than the one prepared for me about Peter?

 

The second one explains that Nellie had had TB for 15 years and also had diabetes for 5. Maybe that explains why in Peter’s letter to his brother Jan it seemed that Nellie had struggled with ill health.

Peter’s death certificate also gives his cause of death.

 

Carcinoma of the face.

I am no skin cancer expert, but I believe that basal cell and squamous cell are carcinomas, but that melanoma is not. I find it frustrating that I can’t seem to find a good source to research basic understandings of fatal illnesses and their treatments for past periods of history in the U.S. and Europe. What did this diagnosis mean in 1953? Did he have a basal or squamous cell cancer and not realize it until it was too late? These carcinoma type skin cancers are not uncommon in my family with our fair skin, but to think of my G-G-Grandfather dying from it defies the imagination. The only other major health problem he had was arthritis?

Both Nellie and Peter died in the month of October, 21 years apart. They were both buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Remember the daughter that Peter was worried about leaving behind when he died? Maybe she is the reason he lived for those 21 years past Nellie. Her whereabouts–and birth and death–were complete mysteries until I found a lead. Now I’ve ordered an obituary for her from 1968 and have to wait a few weeks to receive it. Stay tuned.

I’ll be back with more on these and other branches in the future . . . .

 

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