Archive for the ‘Richard DeKorn’ Category

This is the best image I have ever seen of my great-great grandfather Richard DeKorn, Kalamazoo mason and building contractor.

Notice that this portrait is signed. It seems to say L. C. Robinson ’27.

So who was L. C. Robinson? From a directory of early Michigan photographers:

Robinson, Leo Carey
Dowagiac student …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1900
Grand Rapids student ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1910
Grand Rapids manufacturer of studio furniture for photographers ………………………………………………………… 1910-1911
Grand Rapids photographer for Carey B. Robinson ……………………………………………………………………………………..1912
Grand Rapids PHOTOGRAPHER at 115 ½ Monroe av ……………………………………………………………………… 1913-1921
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 414 Main st west ………………………………………………………………………….. 1923-1925
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 426 Main st west ………………………………………………………………………….. 1926-1927
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 426 Michigan av west …………………………………………………………………… 1929-1931
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 346 Burdick st south …………………………………………………………………….. 1939-1942
Leo was the elder son of photographer Carey B. Robinson and Lettie Alena (Lewis) Robinson, was born on February
25, 1893, at Delton, Michigan, and became a tall man with light brown eyes and brown hair. Her father came from
Indiana and Alta was born at Plainwell, Michigan, in June of 1893, sixth of the nine children of Charles C. and Frances
Ardella (Nichols) West. She grew up on an Allegan County farm, and she married Leo in 1914. Their children were
born in Michigan: Chester in 1915, Doris in 1916, Rueben (later Richard) in July of 1919, Jack about 1924, Avis in
May of 1926, and Eileen in February of 1928. The furniture manufactured by C. B. Robinson & Sons was sold across
the nation and in several other countries. Though Leo, along with his brother Ralph and his father, was a principal of
this company through 1911, Leo and his mother operated the photograph studio while his father supervised the
furniture factory. Leo became the nominal proprietor of the Grand Rapids studio about 1913, though his mother and
father still were involved with its operation and finances. He called it Robinson’s Art Loft in 1917. Late in 1923 he
purchased the Spaeth Studio, located in its own building on West Main Street, and within a couple of years had
developed one of the largest portrait trades in Kalamazoo. Leo died at Kalamazoo in 1942.

This photograph has a strange sheen to it and a pattern that overlays it all–visible in certain formats on my computer screen. This must be a certain type of photography, but I don’t know what it is.

I do know that I am grateful for this photograph dated three years before Richard’s death.

Dated. But taken? Richard was born in 1851 in Kapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands. In 1927, he would have been 76 years old.

Did he dye his hair? Could those moderate “living lines” be from 76 years of living? I find this photo a little confusing if it’s meant to be from 1927.

What do YOU think?

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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:



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 dug into the bottom of a file drawer and pulled out a book I forgot that I had. It was put together by the Kalamazoo Gazette and featured photographs sent in by individuals of Kalamazoo from the past up to the early 1960s.

My grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg, is listed as one of the contributors, so I went through and tried to find the photos he might have sent in.

Definitely these two photos. The little boy in the check dress and straw hat is grandpa himself. And the little girl on the hammock is his cousin Alice Leeuwenhoek.

Those are the relatives sitting on the front porch. Gosh, I own that photo! I didn’t realize that was Richard Remine (though I can see right now that it is, of course, him)–or his children Therese, Harold, and Jane either. It would fit that the two little girls are Alice (next to her grandma Alice Paak) and Therese. With Harold behind the children. But Jane doesn’t really look old enough in this photo. According to my records, Jane was 14 years older than Therese. Something is off here. That big gap in age between Jane and Therese bothers me, and it always has. And if you recall when I wrote about Frank and Jane Tazelaar, I had been confused for awhile about if there had been 4 Remine children and 2 girls of similar names.  This photo must be somewhere around 1901, based on the assumed aged of the 3 little children. Jane was born in 1881 and is not 20 here!

The known people: back row is Aunt Jen DeKorn Leeuwenhoek, Richard DeKorn, Richard Remine. Front row is Lambertus (Lou) Leeuwenhoek, Alice Paak DeKorn, and then the little girl next to Alice definitely looks like Alice Leeuwenhoek, Jen and Lou’s daughter. It would seem plausible that the three other children belong to Richard Remine, but Jane could not have been that small.

What else? Here is Harold Remine big enough to go fishing at Long Lake. The other photo is not from my family, but it does show off a great collection of hats!

This is the Ladies Library building that Richard DeKorn was the mason contractor for.

But I don’t think that is one of our family photos.

One of these photos could have been taken by Joseph DeKorn and been submitted by Grandpa. It is very similar to the ones that I own.

Take a look at the captions for the downtown views. Does it make sense? It doesn’t make sense to me for some reason.

Most importantly, Grandpa autographed this book!

Here is a bonus photo. It isn’t from my family, but isn’t it a cool reminder of the kitschy business architecture popular in those days?

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Over a year ago, I wrote a series of posts about Theresa (Tracy) Paak, the daughter of my great-great-grandmother’s only brother. Theresa was the mother of Professor Lawrence, who has been kind enough to send me photographs and information about his branch of the family. If you’ve been following along here for some time, you might remember my posts about Theresa Pake, the middle child (of five) of my great-great-grandmother’s brother, George.

You might remember that after the disastrous fire that destroyed the family home, Theresa went to live with Oliver and Una Pickard. Mrs. Pickard was Theresa’s Sunday School teacher. I wrote about the Pickards in George Paak’s Legacy, Part VI: Who Were the Pickards? What I discovered in my research was that the Pickards were married young, remained childless, and began their careers as nurses, both living and working at the State Hospital (psychiatric hospital).  Eventually Una became a private duty nurse and Oliver a postman.

I really tried to imagine this couple and what they were like because they proved to be so important to Theresa’s life. The other day I got my wish to see what they looked like when Professor Lawrence sent me photographs.

Una was 18 and Oliver 23 when they married. Could this be their wedding portrait?

Here is Auntie Pick, as she was called, in uniform.

And Oliver, or “Uncle Bob,”  in the classic “man walking down the sidewalk pose” (yes, we’ve seen it a couple of times already with other people in other photos).

Here is a photograph of Theresa herself taking a photograph of her foster parents.


Here is “Uncle Bob” with Theresa’s son Richard, or Dick, in Wisconsin. This is Professor Lawrence’s brother.

There was some confusion in the censuses over the address of the Pickards, but I think they lived in the same house for years at 1846 Oakland Drive.

And many years later. The house is no longer there.

As a bonus, here are photographs of Una’s parents and of Una as a baby.

She looks the same as a baby as at eighteen!

Here are the other Pake/Paake/Paak/Peek posts:

A Series of Disasters

The Children After the Fire, 1902


Saved from the Fire

Who is George Paake, Sr.?

Curious about George

George Paake’s Legacy, Part I

George Paake’s Legacy, Part II: Theresa’s Pre-Professional Education

George Paake’s Legacy, Part III: Theresa’s Professional Education

George Paake’s Legacy, Part IV: A Letter to His Daughter

George Paake’s Legacy, Part V: Theresa Gets Married



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If you recall my posts about Jennie Culver, and her daughters Rhea and Lela, moving to Seattle, you will see that this photo fits neatly into the move. Try this post if you need a reminder or are new to the story:

Bingo: When Aunt Jennie Left for Seattle

On the back, one of the girls has written “my present domicile” and on the front, the date is 1918, the year other photos showed them at the train station, ready for the move.

I glanced at some of the other unidentified Culver photos to see if this apartment building (I assume it is apartments) shows up. Only one other photo with square brick columns shows up, but it can’t be of the same building. See here:

Notice what confuses me here. The square brick column, the white round column–the same as the first photo, right? But the white siding in the second photo is not in the first photo, right again?

I will say the age seems right for Seattle in this photo. The more I look at the Culver photos, the more Kalamazoo photos I suspect might be in the collection.

So who wrote “my present domicile” on this photograph? It wasn’t Jennie because the scrapbook and its photos clearly belonged to one of the daughters.  My confusion began with information I noticed that I wrote about in this post:Who Went Where When?. According to the newspaper, Rhea, the stenographer, moved to Seattle mid-August 1918. Jennie and Lela were not mentioned. But at some point Jennie and Lela did move to Seattle and lived there the rest of their lives. Somewhere around 1918. And Rhea did, too, except that in 1920 she was “spotted” living in Kalamazoo (see my post).

Can I assume that Rhea did go to Seattle August 20 as the newspaper and photograph verify? And that “my present domicile” was where Rhea lived? If so, can I conclude that the scrapbook belonged to Rhea. And that this photo I posted earlier was, in fact, Rhea in the plaid?

Is the handwriting on the above photo, the same as on the back of the first photograph I posted here?

Barely any letters to compare. They each have a final “le”–in Seattle and domicile. While nobody’s handwriting is completely consistent, are these in the bounds of what could be written by the same person? I will say there is a similarity to MY handwriting, weirdly. Both Miss Culver and I produce the triangular Ts of Emily Dickinson.

As usual, I manage to produce more questions than answers. This is becoming a disturbing trend!

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I’ll be taking a blogging break for the holidays, so I’ll leave you with this gift (that I first posted three years ago)  from Alice Paak (Richard) DeKorn to one of her children, possibly her daughter Cora, my great-grandmother. What a family and genealogy treasure–now 109 years old.


Merry Xmas



In case you’re wondering about the use of the word “Xmas” instead of “Christmas,” this is what Wikipedia has to say:

There is a common belief that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas”, but its use dates back to the 16th century.

I’m sure that this was just a way to fit it all on the tiny shell. What a lot of work to paint and letter this shell. I wonder if she made three, one for each of her children.

Happy holidays to you and yours! See you in the new year!

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Blogger buddy José at Enhanced News Archive sent me a link to the 1869-1870 Kalamazoo City Directory that lists only one person with one of my family surnames. His name was William DeKorn, and he was a laborer who lived right downtown (194 S. Burdick Street). This seems much earlier than my family came to Kalamazoo. “My” DeKorns first settled in Ottawa County, near Holland, Michigan, before they made their way to Kalamazoo.

I decided to see if this William DeKorn could be related to my family. There is another branch (connected much further back) that settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so I wonder if he connected with them or with my family that first went to the Holland, Michigan area. I wrote about the other branch in this post: The Confusing Saga.

First I went to Ancestry and discovered that  this City Directory is the only item that comes up for the name William DeKorn, living in Kalamazoo.

Next I went to the Dutch genealogy website, WieWasWie , and there were not any William DeKorns or DeKornes, with or without a space between the De and the Korn. So, knowing that Willem is the Dutch version of William, I looked up that name. Only one Willem DeKorne who had any documentation in the years before 1869-70. He was from Hoedekenskerke, which is apparently 6.5 miles from Kapelle where my DeKorn/DeKornes come from. The Willem documents that come after 1869 are from a town in between these towns, so all the DeKornes seem to be in the same general area. The Willem I found is the son of Paulus. So I looked up Paulus, and they were all connected with those same three towns.

At that point, it would have seemed logical to try to connect Paulus with my ancestors. I have the DeKorns going back five more generations before Boudewijn.

Instead, I thought I would check to see if my ducks were in a row first. In other words, instead of searching farther outward, I went inward and took a peek at my family tree.

I was astonished to see be reminded how early those first immigrants, Boudewijn and Johanna (Remijinse) DeKorn, must have moved to Kalamazoo. In the 1860 census, they were still living in Ottawa, four years after immigrating from the Netherlands. But Johanna died in 1864 in Kalamazoo. Boudewijn died in Kalamazoo in 1873 or 1875. As you can see, Johanna’s death predated the City Directory publication.

So I took a look at the 1870 census. There was William DeKorn, much as he was in the City Directory, except the census recorded that he lived with his three children: Richard, Mary, and Jennie. In short, William WAS Boudewijn. And why wouldn’t he have changed his name to an “American” one? With a name like Boudewijn . . . . Richard was already listed as a brick mason in the census, although he was only nineteen years old.


There never was an earlier DeKorn in Kalamazoo, after all. Boudewijn was the first of the family to venture to Kalamazoo, probably because of the housing boom. I’m not sure if there if a way to locate the address on the census since every entry is listed in numerical order, but apparently not tied to a particular address.


It did strike me as odd that there was only one Willem DeKorne listed before 1870 on WieWasWie because, for centuries, the Dutch consistently reused the same names, giving a child the name of a grandparent, most typically. If Willem had been a family name for the DeKorns I would have seen more Willems from earlier years.


Knowing that Boudewijn changed his name to William might make it easier to search for other traces of his life in the United States.


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