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Family research project targets offspring of coffee merchant Douwe Egberts

Release of book goal for 2006 bicentennial

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LEMMER, the Netherlands - The name Douwe Egberts for generations has been synomynous with Dutch coffee, tea and tobacco products. Founded by merchant Egbert Douwes and his wife Akke Thijsses in 1753, the business in ‘col-onial products’ in the central Frisian city of Joure widely became known by the name of his son Douwe Egberts (1755-1806). The merchant family - then headed by Douwe’s widow - in 1811/2 took the surname De Jong, now one of the most common surnames in the province.

In recent months, much attention has been given to the company’s 250th anniversary with more anniversary celebrations of the Sara Lee U.S.A.-owned company to follow throughout the year. Egberts’ descendent Jelle de Jong, an architect living in Lemmer, also has launched an anniversary project although he focuses on family history and on the death of Douwe Egberts. De Jong hopes to complete his family research project in time to publish it in a book to be released before or at the 2006 bicentennial commemoration of Egbert’s passing.

Among the descendents are a number of people De Jong has not been able to trace although in some cases there still was contact with those families some years ago. Contact still needs to be reestablished with grandchildren of the late Agnes Draisma and her husband Johannes A.J. Helders, a hotel manager in Vancouver, BC, in the late 1920s.

Another intriguing example of complexity in such research is the case of Ate Gerritsma who in 1911 was a priest at a Roman Catholic church in Winnipeg. Gerritsma abandoned his vows, left the priesthood and eventually taught French and Latin at a military academy in Los Angeles until it closed in 1918 because of the Spanish influenza epidemy. Gerritsma found work at a hospital, and married Ida Scott, a nurse. The couple had two sons and one daughter. Gerritsma who had changed his name to Joseph Athanasius Garry, served in 1953-4 in an undefined private organisation as the “Most Illustrious Grand Master of the State of California.”

De Jong is looking for information on descendents of these people as well as others who may trace their family lineage to the Roman Catholic Joure clan of De Jongs. He can be reached via email at