Monday, March 1, 2010

Biography of Henriette Geertruida Lamboo

I’m currently writing the series Looking for Lamboo, about the research I’m doing on the Lamboo branch of my family. At present, the series focuses on my research into the life of Henriette Geertruida Lamboo, my maternal grandmother. I’m a bit further along in my research then this series shows, but right now I’m a bit stuck, not knowing if there are any great gaps or which points I still have to look into. Therefore, I’m eagerly using this COG’s topic to write a biography of my grandmother with all the information I currently have, just to have an overview of things.

The first thing I did was make a timeline, which can be found here, in which I put the most important pieces of verified information I have about her. It gives a nice, clear overview of her life. In one quick scan, it becomes clear that after Henriette’s birth on 15 December 1913 until her marriage to Adolph Knura on 11 May 1938 I have no information. From her marriage on out, I can track her life fairly good, however the information that I have is pretty bare bones. It’s all dates and little personal information. Clearly, there is room for improvement there. Let’s take a closer look, because a timeline isn’t meant to hold all information and a biography highlights what you have so you know where to start looking.

Henriette’s birth is well documented. I know she was born to Anna Hendrika van Dijk and Bernardus Johannes Lamboo in Zoeterwoude on 15 December 1913. I know she wasn’t an only child, but so far I haven’t taken a look at the rest of the family yet. However, I do know that the part of Zoeterwoude she was born in alternated between being Zoeterwoude and Voorschoten. So without moving, she could’ve changed towns.

I’ve found nothing so far about her childhood, but there are some things I know without having to look for sources. I know she went to primary school, because she could read and write quite well and took great pleasure in it. I also know that in that time period here in the Netherlands we had what is called the ‘verzuiling’. Basically, it means that there were three ‘columns’ of people in the Netherlands that did not mix. Roman-Catholics, Protestans and the Liberals (which was basically everybody else). If you were Roman-Catholic, you went to a Roman-Catholic school, grocer, hairdresser, club, pub, etc. So, knowing she went to school, I also know she went to a Roman-Catholic School, most likely local. Since she lived in Voorschoten (or sometimes Zoeterwoude because of changing boundaries) all of her life, there’s really only one school she could’ve gone too. The local Roman-Catholic school. For after primary school, however, I do not know anything. She could’ve continued to study, most likely then in Leiden, or she could’ve stayed at home. I do not know.

When we get to 1938, however, we do go into a part of her life that’s pretty well sourced. On 21st of April 1938 a letter notifying the family of the marriage ban of Henriette Geertruida Lamboo and Adolph Knura was send. In it was also the invitation to the wedding, which was to take place on Wednesday 11 May 1938 at the Roman-Catholic church of H. Laurentius in Voorschoten, at 9.30 in the morning. It also gave the current addresses of Henriette and Adolph and the address of their new home, which they would move in after the wedding. Further sources show that the wedding did indeed take place on this day.

Wedding picture of Adolph Knura and Henriette Geertruida Lamboo - 11 May 1938, Voorschoten

A little more than a year later, the first child, a daughter, is born on 29 May 1939. On 1 September of that same year, Nazi-Germany invades Poland and World War II has officially begun. On 10 May 1940 Germany invades the Netherlands. It has to have been a tense time for my grandparents, seeing that my grandfather was German, not neutralized at the time, and most of his family still lived in Germany. On 16 March 1941 Henriette had her second child, another girl.

Henriette Geertruida Lamboo with either her first daughter or her second daughter - approximately 1939-1941

Sometime after this, my grandfather Adolph was drafted into service. He was basically told to either serve in the German army or his family would be deported to a prison camp, or worse. There really wasn’t a choice and my grandfather left. Henriette stayed behind with two young children. Family tales are that she helped Jews during this time, but I haven’t been able to find out anything definite yet. At the end of the war, my grandfather was injured in the fight against Russia. He was send to a hospital in the Netherlands, according to family tales, from which he escaped and made his way back to my grandmother and his two daughters. Not long after that, the Netherlands were freed.

Five years after the war on 1 May 1950 Henriette and Adolph have another child, a boy this time. Five years might seem like a big gap, but I know that my grandmother had at least two miscarriages, so one of them could very well have been in this gap. Another three boys follow quite rapidly, on 27 October 1951, 25 November 1953 and 19 June 1955. Then, at 45 years of age, against all odds and expectations, my grandmother has another child on 27 March 1959. It’s another girl this time, my mother.

A mere two years later, tragedy strikes the family as they lose their youngest son, Lambertus Johannes Adolphus Knura. He’s only six years old. He’s buried in the children’s section of the Roman-Catholic cemetery of the Roman-Catholic church of H. Laurentius in Voorschoten and my grandmother continued to visit his grave at least several times a year until she died.

From 1961 until 1973 I have virtually no documentation about my grandmother’s life. However, in 1973 Adolph and Henriette celebrate 35 years of marriage. There’s no real documentation, but I do have pictures of the party. The same goes for the party they threw 5 years later for their 40th wedding anniversary.

However, their 50th wedding anniversary in 1988 was quite a party, and I have more sources about that than just the pictures.

Picture of 50th wedding anniversary party of Henriette Geertruida Lamboo and Adolph Knura - 11 May 1988

In fact, in one of my grandfather’s In Memoriam’s, written by Willem van der Linden in name of the entire soccer club, this party is mentioned:

Almost two years ago we got to do something in return, even if it was very little in comparison. For the occasion of the party for his 50 years of marriage, which Dolf was anticipating eagerly, we had the opportunity to show Dolf and his wife our great appreciation for everything this couple has done for us.

As can be ascertained from the above piece, two years later, to be precise on 30 January 1990, Adolph Knura dies. Not long after that my grandmother moves out of the house she had lived in since shortly after the second World War and into a smaller home in a compound especially for self-sufficient elderly people. From that time onwards it is that my memories of her begin. I remember visiting there, the candy she always gave that you always had to check to see if it hadn’t gone bad. I remember the way we could talk for hours, I remember the hugs. I remember some precious gifts she gave me, just because.

I also remember being on holiday in Mexico, to celebrate my parent’s being married for 25 years. I remember getting a call at 5 o’clock local time on 27 December. We’d celebrated Christmas two days before. Had an after-party of sorts the day before. When we got the call, we knew it was bad news. Nobody ever calls at that time, especially not when you’re on holiday, with good news. We heard that my grandmother had fallen ill, been taken to the hospital and had been operated upon. The operation had gone well, but she now had an infection and the doctors didn’t expect her to survive. We needed to come home, immediately. I remember being numb, mostly. An ocean away from the place you most want to be. To have something to do, I started packing the suitcases, while my parents tried to contact the insurance and travel agency to get us on a flight home. When the suitcases were packed, I turned on the tv. We could receive CNN, and on it we saw the news of tsunami’s that had devastated so many people. At that point in time, I really couldn’t bring myself to care. The magnitude of that disaster missed me and my family completely, because we were dealing with a tragedy so much closer to home. My memories of that morning are patchy. I remember sitting in the lobby of the hotel, crying, when a Canadian woman came up to me and asked me if I was all right. We talked for awhile about my grandmother. She was nice, but if she ever told me her name, it didn’t penetrate my brains. I also remember another Canadian offering to buy us tickets back to the Netherlands if we couldn’t arrange anything. Eventually, we had a flight for all three of us, and at around 10 o’clock local time we headed to the airport of Cancun. On the way to Mexico we had a direct flight, but now we had a stop in Houston for an hour and a half. With all the new security measures in place, we barely made it to the plane in time. It was a flight of over 10 hours, from Houston to Amsterdam. The first thing we did upon landing, while waiting for the luggage, was call somebody for an update on my grandmother. She’d died while we were up in the air, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

My grandmother died on 27 December 2004, having achieved one of her greatest wishes, never to live in a nursing home. Until the day she died, she lived on her own, took care of her own. In the end, I’m grateful we never made it to the hospital on time. She never woke up after the operation, so talking to her one last time wouldn’t have been possible, and according to my uncle she’s looked terrible. It’s better to remember her for the vibrant, smart, sometimes ‘catty’ woman she was.

Personal knowledge J. Mulder, granddaughter of Henriƫtte Geertruida Lamboo
Persoonslijst: CBG, persoonslijst Henriette Geertruida Lamboo (1913-2004).
Ondertrouw aankondiging van A. Knura en H.G. Lamboo, 21 April 1938, Voorschoten, Zuid-Holland, Familiearchief Mulder, Voorschoten
"Bidprentje Lambertus Johannes Adolphus 'Bertje' Knura," 14 september 1961, Voorschoten, Familiearchief J. Mulder, Voorschoten
In Memoriam voor Adolph Knura uit de krant," undated clipping, February 1990, from unidentified newspaper; Familiearchief Mulder; privately held 2010 by J. Mulder, J. Mulder, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Voorschoten
Persoonskaart, CBG, Den Haag; Adolph Knura (1914-1990)


  1. JM, The story of your grandmother was, as advertised, "a must read." Enjoyed it thoroughly.

    BTW, a veterinarian friend of ours by the name of van Dijk was in the Dutch East Indies when he was a child - either before or during WWII. If this is of importance or interest, you can stop by RootsNLeaves

  2. Joan, thank you for your comment.

    Van Dijk is a pretty common surname in the Netherlands, and I don't have any evidence yet that anyone from that side of the family would've been in the Dutch East Indies, but I'll keep it in mind in case I come upon information pointing in that direction.

  3. Nice memoir of your grandmother. You are lucky to have such nice memories of her. Well written and researched. Perhaps you would be able to find some information about her primary education in the church records there in the Netherlands. Nice job.

  4. J.M. your thoughtful account of your grandmother's life is wonderful. It has given me a geography lesson as well as a lesson on your homeland and its people. But the memories of her after your grandfather died and your struggle to get home to her at the end has really touched a cord within me, as my own grandmother died shortly before I could reach her while flying from North Carolina to Texas. Thank you for the beautiful timeline, too. I must try that website.

  5. @Jo: thank you for your comment. I'm not sure if the church kept the school records for her primary education or if there was already a civic registration. I'm currently in the progress of figuring that out. I did, however, find out from my mother, after I wrote this piece, that she did not study any further after primary school.

    @Judith: thank you for your comment. Being up in the air and not being able to do anything but wait for the plane to land is about the worst wait there is, as I'm sure you know.

    The website is great, but I don't know if there are any English instructions. It is, however, very easy in use. I must've tried out dozens of time-line makers on-line, but this is the only one I actually liked.