News Articles

Historian Robert Swierenga knighted by Queen Beatrix

Dean of Dutch-American studies honoured

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOLLAND, Michigan - Registrants of a recent conference on Dutch-American studies witnessed a rare happening when a startled celebrant Robert Swierenga in whose honour the biennial event was organized, was called up and knighted in the Order of the Netherlands Lion by Consul General G. Monod de Froideville.

Swierenga who last year took up a new challenge as the senior research fellow at the A.C. Van Raalte Institute, is turning 65 and plans to continue with his work. To keep his pace, Swierenga has registered to attend a conference at Stellenbosch University this summer.

Called the “dean” of Dutch-American studies, Swierenga has worked on about 20 books, and more than 100 articles and supervised the creation of a database on Dutch emigration between 1820 and 1880. Especially the latter - which is available in print and soon also on the Internet - has assisted genealogists in both the Netherlands and the U.S. immensily in tracing family roots.

During his career as a history professor, the Illinois-born Dutch-American encouraged students to join him in his endeavours. At the Holland-based A.C. Van Raalte Institute Swierenga now reports to Larry Wagenaar, also director of the Joint Archives of Holland, his former student who acknowledges that Swierenga had “a profound influence” on him.

The conference featured 16 speakers. According to emeritus linguist and former Calvin College professor Walter Lagerwey, himself a Knight of the Netherlands Lion, there are about ten people in Western Michigan who belong to the order.

Dutch royalty have regularly recognized North Americans involved in Dutch studies. Earlier, Charles Gehring who supervises the translation of colonial documents into English through his New Netherland Project in Albany, NY, was inducted as Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau.