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Posts Tagged ‘Reijerse surname’

Today I move on to Grandma’s 3rd set of Dutch great-greats. My 4x great-grandfather Willem Gorsse was born on January 25, 1802, in Goes, Zeeland, Netherlands to 19-year-old parents. At the age of 23, he married Catharina Opperman. They had eight children together. The four girls all survived into adulthood, but the four boys all died in infancy. With the birth of the eighth child, a boy named Kornelis, Catharina herself passed away in 1839. She wasn’t my ancestor, but my sympathies are all with her. She was only 38 years old.

Eleven months later, on 30 January 1840, Willem married my 4x great-grandmother, Neeltje Reijerse in Goes.

Neeltje was not a young girl. She was 34 years old (born 1805) and had given birth to at least two children. At the age of 19, when she was working as a maid, she gave birth to a son, Geerhard. No father was listed. That makes it appear that this was an illegitimate birth. Then nine years later, Neeltje gave birth to a daughter, Adriana. No father was listed for Adriana either. Both children had been given Neeltje’s surname at birth.

Here is Geerhard’s birth record:

Someone in a genealogy translation Facebook group kindly translated the record for me:

On the 31st of March, in the year 1824 at 11AM, in front of Gerard de Leeuw, servant of the civil register of the city of Goes, district of Goes, province of Zeeland: Maria Drentz, 40 year old midwife living here, showed us a male child born on the 30th of March 1824 in Goes at 4 in the morning in house #312 to Neeltje Reijerse, 19 year old worker, living in this city district, and declares that the child has been given the name Geerhard. Verifying this declaration is witness Johan Gerard van Maldegem, 43 year old cow-milker living in house 3w, and Willem Legs, 32(?) year old labourer living in house 312. [Note from me: I suspect that address 3w was actually 310. Take a look at the record yourself and see if you agree with me.]

This is the first time I have run across this issue of fatherless children in all my research on my Dutch ancestors. Sometimes the first baby was not a “nine month” birth. But years ago my grandmother told me that it was common in the Netherlands that after the banns were read (this indicated that the couple were to be married), a little fooling around was not frowned upon. This was meant to be a fertility check, according to Grandma. So what happened when the girl didn’t get pregnant?! I’d like more detailed information about this practice. Nevertheless, that isn’t what happened in Neeltje’s case. The father or fathers of her children remain anonymous, and I can find no record of a marriage for Neeltje before the one to Willem.

I wish I knew what made Willem and Neeltje decide to marry. Did Neeltje want a husband or a father for her daughter Adriana (Geerhard died as an infant)? Did Willem think a little older woman who had a living daughter might be able to give him more children? Or did she seem a good mother for his four daughters? We will never know the personal history of these two and how they knew each other and what led to their marriage.

Willem and Neeltje did end up having four children together. Geertruid and Marinus both died as infants. But Jan and Gerard lived longish lives. Jan, my 3x great, died in 1911 at age 70, and Gerard lived until 1920 at age 74.

Willem died on 29 November 1867, in his hometown at the age of 65. Neeltje passed away on 11 November 1869 also in Goes. Three of her six children survived, and six of Willem’s twelve children survived.

I have all the basic records for this couple except for Willem’s birth or baptismal record–as well as any military record that might exist for him. But I have both his marriages, his death, and Neeltje’s baptism, marriage, and death records. Willem’s occupation was bezemmaker. I believe, but am not certain, that this means broom maker.

The more I read about the infant mortality experiences of my ancestors and the deaths of young women from childbirth the more I wonder about the emotional landscape of these people. Although the experiences of both Catharina and Neeltje were different, their lives were completely defined by their childbearing. How did it feel to have and raise a daughter knowing that she might very well be dead a few years after she married? That she might spend most of her adult life pregnant or nursing? That the likelihood of a stepmother raising your grandchildren was so great? How did girls feel growing up seeing how dangerous childbirth was for women? Did it change how girls were raised and treated?

I keep thinking about the lullabye “Rockabye baby.” Although Wikipedia lists many possible origins, one that is not mentioned is the one I learned in researching for an academic text chapter I wrote years ago: the rhyme was meant to make the “evil eye” think the mother didn’t love her baby so that the baby wouldn’t be taken away (die). Did the children feel less loved because of these fears?

Rock-a-bye baby
On the treetop
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
And down will come baby
Cradle and all

History was one of my college majors, so I like to think I know a little bit about the subject. But the more genealogy I study the more I realize history was like a movie to me before. Now I really wonder about the interior lives of the people.

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