Posts Tagged ‘DeSmits’

After I posted the wedding invitation for John DeSmit and Nellie Squares, the mystery of Nellie was solved by Adri van Gessel.

Nellie was born Pieternella Paulina Schrier on Sunday, October 5, 1879, at Kortgene, the Netherlands. She immigrated to the United States in 1891 with her mother, the widow of Paulus Schrier, and 5 siblings.

On Thursday, July 20, 1899, Nellie married John DeSmit in Kalamazoo.

Wedding dress circa 1900

On May 9, 1900, Nellie died in Kalamazoo. She was a 20-year-old housewife, according to her death record.

But the story does not end here.

Adri found the birth of a girl, Nellie D. DeSmit, born April 30, 1900, in Kalamazoo. The daughter of Nellie and John. Sadly, Nellie must have passed away from giving birth.

Baby Nellie was not listed on the 1900 census with her father, John, who was living at home with his family. Instead, the baby was listed as an adopted daughter in the family of Christopher (Christiaan) Schrier, Nellie’s brother and baby Nellie’s uncle.

Baby Nellie, no longer a baby, was married on June 13, 1918, in Kalamazoo, to Garret Johnson, son of J.G. Johnson and Nellie Groenhuizen. Garret was born on May 11, 1895 at Hilversum, the Netherlands. He died August 18, 1961, in Kalamazoo.

It appears, though, that baby Nellie still considered herself the daughter of John DeSmit because in the 1940 census she, her husband, and son Robert (born 1935) lived in the household of John DeSmit and was listed as daughter.

One of the biggest mysteries has been why Nellie’s parents are listed as Mr. and Mrs. A. Ver Sluis.  At first I thought, well, Nellie’s brother Christiaan  married Nellie Ver Sluis in 1898, only a year before our wedding invitation for Nellie Schrier and John DeSmit. Does this have something to do with the fact that there was not a living father to give Nellie Schrier away?

No, it does not!

Nellie’s mother Pieternella de Looff Schrier was married on Wednesday March 2, 1892, in Kalamazoo, to Abraham Jacob Versluis, son of Willem Versluis and Pieternella de Lange.  Abraham had been previously married to Cornelia Verburg and had two children by her. He immigrated to the United States in 1891. Abraham was born on Sunday October 13, 1850 at Kortgene and died on Tuesday November 1, 1938 in Kalamazoo.

Look at the timeline:

1891, Pieternella and her children, including Nellie, arrived in the United States AND Abraham Ver Sluis and his two children, including his Nellie, arrived in the United States

1892, Pieternella married Abraham Ver Sluis (they got married in March, which is quite early in the year–is it possible that the two families traveled together, intending to marry in this country?)

1898, Christiaan married the daughter of Abraham Ver Sluis and his deceased wife Cornelia Verburg

1899, John DeSmit married Nellie Schrier, daughter of Pieternella and the deceased Paulus and stepdaughter of Abraham Ver Sluis

Was it customary to marry step-siblings, as Christiaan did?

Ring any bells?

In case the name Schrier rings any bells for those from Kalamazoo, there have been many residents with that surname.  The name comes from the Zeeland province of the Netherlands. Paul J. Schrier was the mayor of Kalamazoo from 1967-1969. He was the son of Peter Schrier, who was a brother of Nellie Schrier DeSmit. Therefore the mayor was our Nellie’s nephew, although he never knew her since she died at the age of 20 from giving birth to her daughter.

Paul J. Schrier Mayor of Kalamazoo 1967-1969

Paul J. Schrier
Mayor of Kalamazoo

What I don’t know:


If baby Nellie ever had any half siblings. Her father apparently married Margaret when he was between 42 and 52.

When baby Nellie passed away.

If baby Nellie perhaps lived with her uncle so that she would be raised with his two children. Did Christiaan and his wife already have their babies when Nellie was born or did they come after?

This still doesn’t explain the Corliss home for the wedding.

And we think families are confusing today . . . .



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Let’s take a little break from Theresa’s story this week. We can return to it next week.

Another branch of the family that I have not yet spent any time investigating begins with Richard DeKorn’s other sister Mary. His sister Jennie is the one who married John Culver, had two little girls, and took off for Seattle. It wasn’t until Joyce sent me the photo album that I began to learn more about that branch. But Richard’s other sister, the one who stayed put in Kalamazoo, I still haven’t spent any time with.

Mary DeKorn DeSmit

Mary DeKorn DeSmit


Mary died at age 98, two years before I was born. Maria Catharina de Korne was born on 4 Jan 1855 in Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands.  Mary married John DeSmit in Kalamazoo in 1873 and they had seven children–3 boys and 4 girls. That means that there are a lot of children to investigate. I wonder how many of their descendents are living in the Kalamazoo area.

In order to begin researching the DeSmits, I looked through my documents to see if I already had anything, and I discovered a wedding invitation from 1899. It amazes me how much it resembles a contemporary wedding invitation. It lists the names of the bride (Nellie) and groom (John) and her parents, although not his parents. The place is a residence with an address. I don’t know the connection of the location to the bride and groom.

The wedding was on Thursday evening, which seems like an odd time to me. Also, I wonder if it wasn’t the residence of the bride’s parents because perhaps they weren’t from Kalamazoo? Or perhaps their home wasn’t large enough? I wonder why the bride has a different last name, Squares, from her parents, Ver Sluis.

I found a newspaper announcement which lists Nellie’s surname as Squires, which makes more sense, but wouldn’t the printed wedding announcement be correct? Also, the newspaper lists John’s home as Battle Creek and Nellie’s as Kalamazoo.

But what is the bigger mystery is this. I show that a John DeSmit, the son of Mary and her husband John, and born approximately June 1877, was married to a woman named Margaret. The age would be right for John to be marrying in 1899, as he was 21 or 22. But who was Margaret?

On closer examination of the 1900 census, I see that John was listed as 22, living at home with his parents and siblings, and already a widower! Poor Nellie?! It seems that Margaret was a second wife, later in John’s life.


You can see that this invitation brings up more questions than I had to begin with, but it does give me some information to pursue.  The next thing I went to check out was the address listed: 702 East First Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan. According to Google Maps, it doesn’t exist.



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