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What exactly is the job description of a koster?

Next in surname series


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

The number of Dutch people named Koster and the variants Coster and Kuster on this surname run into the tens of thousands. They are found in nearly every region of the country. To many, a koster is a custodian of a church, which is the correct answer. However, since the answer is given in a time long after the age of specialization arrived, there is much more that could be added to the answer.

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Surname may pinpoint early roots

Peat soil happy Riet plant basic to a range of Dutch family names


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

Reed culture is very much part of Dutch history and tradition. The landscape, with its numerous rivers, canals, lakes and increasing number of wetland parks, are ideal places to grow and harvest the plant which for centuries has been used to economically supply thatch for houses and farmsteads. Depending on the quality and type of the reed, the Dutch used the material for a range of applications, including reed-based furniture, baskets, mats and woven seats for chairs.

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Reed just one of several types of material

Dutch entrepreneurs Dekker often thatched roofs as a summertime sideline


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

Most people have wondered about the significance of their surname at one time or other, and why a distant ancestor would have adopted it. A satisfactory answer to such a question can elude people for decades. Just as often, the answer can be fairly obvious if a serious effort is made to check what the meaning of the name or word was two hundred or more years ago. In some cases, antiquated Dutch or an obscure dialect might make it difficult to trace the meaning. The surname could be one as common as Dekker and still raise plenty of questions as to its origin.

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Veer part of numerous surnames

Ferrymen played a crucial role in early Dutch road system


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

Veerman or ferrymen have been navigating Dutch estuaries, rivers and streams for centuries. They were the people who travelers looked to help them get to the other side of the water with dry feet on a ‘floating bridge,’ or ferry. Veerman or ferrymen long played a crucial role in connecting parts of the Dutch road system when most of the country’s bridges only crossed canals within the walls of cities or on heavily traveled routes that could be bridged easily.

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Drost, Richter, Scholte and Schulte

Early Dutch surname Schouten has regional Lowland equivalents


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

North Americans wondering about their roots and identity frequently overlook the keyword that has identified them for a lifetime: their surname. If their surname is Schout(en), they can be fairly certain that their name has been used by their ancestors for hundreds of years already. The source of the surname, the office of ‘schout’ in the Dutch government was replaced in the late eighteenth century by ‘openbare aanklagers.’ While the given name Schoute has fallen into disuse its Frisian cousin Schelte 1) still survives to this day.

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From Agterhorst to Zwiekhorst

Horsts early farmsteads on elevated former wooded locations


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

Just picture the Lowlands without dikes, canals, ditches and other water-control mechanisms such as waterlocks and sluces. To many people, such a floodprone Delta region would not be very appealing as a habitat. Excess water can be a problem on higher plains too when it cannot drain away, making the wet surroundings difficult to access. Still, inaccessibility can offer protection from intruders and maurading bands. It does not have to surprise anyone that Lowlanders picked the most favourable locations in water-logged regions to settle, at spots that lay just a bit higher than the surrounding area.

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This spijkerman did not need hammer and nails for his job

Latin at the root of very old surname


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

The Dutch surname Timmerman (carpenter) most certainly represents a better tradition with a hammer than does a Spijkerman. While a timmerman requires spijkers (nails) to successfully carry on his trade, a Spijkerman should attribute the origin of his name to a very distant ancestor who very likely lived at a Spijker, where he may have taken in grain (spica) and other crops as payments for rent and other debts on behalf of his estate owner or tax franchise holder. Spijkerman, Spiekerman, Spijksma and Van ’t Spijker, along with many more obscure variations, all share the same Latin origin, spicarium (Spijker or granary). The surname Spijk(man) offers several options, it could be a shortened version of Spijkerman but just as likely refers to a ”landtong” in a meandering river or coastline.

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Tollgates left their many marks on a wide range of Dutch surnames


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

Topography, history and family identity are all subjects that come to mind when considering the origin of Lowlander surnames and place names. Many of these names, such as Tol, Tollenaar, Van Tol, Tolstra and their many variations, tell an interesting story. While some of these surnames may only have become permanent since about 1811 as a result of Napoleon’s surname decree, others such as the Van Tol ‘brand’ have very old currency. The Tol with the ‘stra’ ending is easily identified as Frisian by most Dutch people but that the Van Tols also have a very local origin is likely news to many people. As well, the story of the Tol-surnames is tied to a thousand year long Dutch history.

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Family genealogy traces origin to 16th century German-born liberator

Ancestor of Lautenbach clan served in army of Nassau brothers


Tags: Genealogy

LEEUWARDEN, the Netherlands - It took sixty years to research, compile and publish a book on four centuries of family history since Anton Lautenbach started it upon the urging of his sister. Assisted by an official Lautenbach family society, IJlst resident and author Jacob Lautenbach completed the task and he presented his book to Leeuwarden’s mayor Geert Dales near the grave of his earliest known ancestor at the Great or Jacobine Church. Research on German-born Jacob Lautenbach turned up so much information that the clan’s genealogy has become a 600-page family history, Lautenbach, vier eeuwen familegeschiedenis.

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Active family man Zylstra succumbs at age 106

One of Iowa’s oldest residents


Tags: Genealogy

SHELDON, Iowa - Keeping their family together was a compelling reason for Herman Zylstra and his wife Wiepkje to pull up stakes in Idsken-huizen in 1952 for a new life in the USA. A farmer in the Netherlands, Zylstra who then already was 54, took a job with a Sheldon carpenter but never became fluent in English. The Dutch American recently died at the age of 106, one of Iowa’s oldest residents.

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Offspring spans five generations for Dutch matriarch

Dictionary lacks applicable family definition


Tags: Genealogy

DEN BOSCH, the Netherlands - A greatgranddaughter of 96-year old Cornelia Brouwer recently became grandmother which places the matriarch outside regular Dutch language definitions. The Brabant woman now could be called bet-bet-over-grootmoeder (great-great-greatgrandmother), a ge-nealogical term used to define ancestral maternal roots but not for a living person.

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Iowa Peelen clan charted for U.S. version of Dutch book

Family history a retirement mission


Tags: Genealogy

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa - Retired hotel executive Fred Peelen wants to publish another book on his family’s history. After finishing a Dutch edition of ‘Five Centuries of Peelen Families’, the New York resident now wants to detail its American branch in a book. Peelen who in 1962 came to the U.S. to do graduate work at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, soon used the opportunity the visit distant relatives in Northwest Iowa. This summer he returned to Sioux Center to chart the Peelen clan there.

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Former Dutch island plans 2001 welcome of immigrant offspring

Numerous North Americans have family ties to Goeree-Overflakkee


Tags: Genealogy

OUDDORP, the Netherlands - Genealogists with roots in the former (twin) island of Goeree-Overflakkee hope for a large turn-out of Dutch-Americans in August 2001 when they gather for a reunion with former islanders and their descendants. The local group wants to show (distant) American cousins where their ancestors lived before these pulled up their roots to resettle in, notably, Paterson, New Jersey, and Holland, Michigan. A dinner has been planned in the room in which the RC priest of nearby Goedereede once lived (the pastor later became Pope Adrianus IV, the only Dutchman to reach this office). The significant move of emigrants started in the late 1840s and lasted until the 1920s. More 'islanders' opted for North America after WWII, this time largely choosing for a new life in Canada.

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Family names Grotemut and Snoap have many things in common


Tags: Genealogy

The family names Grotemut and Snoap have several things in common! First of all, both family names are an Americanized version of typical and unmistakably Dutch surnames. Both original surnames were transplanted to North America during the second half of the nineteenth century, both hailed from the Province of Zeeland, and both are featured in articles in a recent edition of Zeeuwse Emigranten, a publication of the similarly named task force of the Zeeland-chapter of the Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging (NGV). To remove all the suspense, the surnames Grotemut and Snoap are the Americanization of Grootemaat - not every branch of the family modified the name - and Snoep!

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The Bekins - real movers and shakers - meet in Michigan

Family's original surname was Bekius


Tags: Genealogy

BEAVERDAM, Michigan - An extended family of 'movers and shakers' in the business world recently gathered at a family reunion held at the farmstead where their ancestors settled in the 1850s. More than 700 of the nearly 2,000 descendants of Sjoerd and Tiertje Bekius converged on the 90-acre farm in Beaverdam now owned by a sixth-generation member of the family.

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Blauvelt clan proud of ‘Dutch’ identity after 363 years

Ancestor Gerrit settled on Manhattan land grant


Tags: Genealogy

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey - The Blauvelt family association hopes to release its own film for the occasion of the groups’s 75th Diamond Jubilee Reunion in September 2001. They want the clan to fully appreciate the story of its 363-year presence in the USA which started with the arrival of Gerrit Blauvelt on the tallship Kalmar Nyckel at Swede’s Landing in Delaware. Gerrit settled on Manhattan Island where he had received a land grant.

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Copy of forgotten Grandia letter brings on search for cousins

Clan has Spanish origin


Tags: Genealogy

PELLA, Iowa - It took nearly 120 years, but a copy of a letter Dutch emigrant son Jillis Grandia wrote in Orange City in 1883 to family in the Netherlands recently made it to Iowa and on to the pages of the Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Pella. The letter resurfaced in 1994 among the papers of a 80-year-old member of the Grandia family who had died that year. It subsequently prompted Dutch members of the Grandia clan to search for their American cousins.

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Sole surviving Anema sibling welcomes ‘home’ family from U.S.

Departure in 1926 remembered as tearful


Tags: Genealogy

ARUM, the Netherlands - Tears were shed seventy four years ago when 10-year old Harmen Anema waved his older brother Auke goodbye upon the latter’s departure for the U.S. The visit of three Californian ‘omkesizzers’ - Raymond, Clarice and Sam - for the Simmer2000 Anema family reunion again was an emotional experience for Harmen who at 84 is now the sole survivor of Auke’s siblings.

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Ancient Germanic given names origin of various Dutch surnames

The case of Wolf, Vink and Vos


Tags: Genealogy

THE HAGUE - Many Dutch families have - so it seems at first - surnames borrowed from animals and birds. This may be true of clans with names such as De Hond or Kiviet but not necessarily so for those with Kat, Vink or Vos.

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Search for family concludes with Michigan man visiting South Africa

Cache of decades-old Bonnema letters leads to reunion


Tags: Genealogy

GRANVILLE, Michigan - Former college instructor and long-time car salesman Jim Bonnema as a child heard his grandfather Mattinus Bonnema at times mention Mattinus’ brother Harm who in 1896 had left the parental home in Zijldijk, Groningen for South Africa. Only 15 years old at the time, Mattinus had been too young to go along but had promised Harm to join him within a few years. However, the Boer War scuttled any travel plans for Africa and the brothers never saw each other again.

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Digging up Dutch roots new pastime for Winnipeg-born senior

Search leads to ‘homecoming’ in Dinteloord


Tags: Genealogy

CHILLIWACK, British Columbia - Discovering family roots for the North American Dutch often is a tedious process. It covers great distances and could span a lifetime. The need to know did not come overnight to third-generation Dutch Canadian, Winnipeg-born Hermannus Sulkers, now 83, but became more compelling when he, accompanied by his daughters Catherine and Jane, in 1998 visited the Netherlands for the first time. He returned home with more questions than answers about his ancestors. This summer, another trip, his fourth, has been planned when he hopes with two sons to link up with namesakes in ancestral Dinteloord, a village south of national nature park Biesbosch.

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Collecting information for book on Meijer variants a daunting task

Researchers have a list of 700


Tags: Genealogy

VOORSCHOTEN, the Netherlands - Two Dutch genealogical researchers are preparing their so-called “Meijernamenboek” for publication next year. It is a volume which lists surnames that include the German/Dutch word Mei(j)er and their derivatives. The writers also want to include information about the origin of the more than 700 surnames they already have collected.

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Lynden North American ‘centre’ concentration for Tjoelker clan

Five generations in same area


Tags: Genealogy

LYNDEN, Washington - Five generations, two continents and covering just about a century is the summary of the Meindert Tjoelker legacy in this Dutch American town, located in the northwestern most corner of the U.S. mainland.Whatcom County has been home to 99-year-old Meindert Tjoelker and his family for 53 years. The former woodenshoe maker emigrated from the Frisian town of Surhuizum to Lynden where he capped his working life as a dairy farmer.

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Origin unclear but nickname stuck to family

Family tree republished in English


Tags: Genealogy

BARRHEAD, Alberta - The Doorne(n)bal clan members are still not sure why they and their ancestors were called by a nickname. After all, their earliest known ancestor was known as Pieter Van Schoonhoven who lived near the Dutch town of Rhenen in 1648. The connection between Van Schoonhoven and the Doorne(n)bals is not obvious but originates from church records that ascribe ownership of grave plot 183 inside Rhenen's Reformed church to the former.

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Name probably borrowed from farm and inn at Vlaardingen

Broom Maker Dirk Oldest Ancestor of Rijnsburg's Hogewoning Clan


Tags: Genealogy

RIJNSBURG, the Netherlands - Six children of Jan Hogewoning's family of eight perished in an Illinois house fire, just over fifty years ago. Six years later, the farmer, whose cradle stood in Rijnsburg, Zuid-Holland, lost his wife as well. Later on, Hogewoning remarried but he became a widower again in 1972. Thirteen years later, Hogewoning died at the age of 91, 65 years after he left his hometown for the USA.

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Woman still writes to family after 73 years in the U.S.


Tags: Genealogy

CALEDONIA, Michigan - A very surprised Pietje Van Mourik Alberts (82) recently learned from acquaintances that distant family in Friesland, the Netherlands was looking for her and her sisters to renew contact lost in 1976 after the leading letter writer there had died. The acquaintances alerted her to the Windmill Herald when they realized that it was Alberts the family in the old country was looking for. Van Mourik Alberts who immigrated with her parents and her four sisters at age 9, still has regular contact with another branch of her family.

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Fraser Valley man discovers canvas by ancestor in local antique shop

Painting part of immigration story


Tags: Genealogy

CHILLIWACK, British Columbia - One of the many canvases painted in the Netherlands by great-grandfather W.J. Lengkeek over 90 years ago, recently was purchased for a song by Fraser Valley realtor Art Lengkeek at an area antique market. Lengkeek was tipped off by an acquaintance who had deciphered the painter's signature and noting the name, asked Art if there had been a painter in his family.

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Descendents of Oldebroek immigrant have deep roots on Century Farm

Bought by John Vande Berg in 1886


Tags: Genealogy

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa - A Dutch-American family in Sioux County is the latest one to earn - on the threshhold of a new century - the designation Century Farm for its former homestead. Most of the 120-acre farm just east of Iowa's youngest of three Dutch settlements, Sioux Center, has been in the Vande Berg family since 1886.

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Origin Dutch surname Nordeman traced to Vorden area farmstead Norde

Knowledge of history, topography and naming conventions a help


Tags: Genealogy

It is always a pleasure to read the pages of the Windmill Herald.... Having been bitten by the genealogy bug, I am particularly interested in anything you publish about family research. Your article, “Willem, Gerrit and Karel serve as examples’ Numerous popular Dutch names traced to Germanic tribal origins” in the series “The Story of Dutch Surnames” (October 7, 2002 issue) in which you show how numerous popular Dutch names can be traced back to Germanic tribal origins, reminds me of the challenges I encountered in researching my own surname, Nordeman.

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