Friday, October 22, 2010

Spreading the Christian Faith

Although the mission is not technically a religious rite or ceremony, it was an important part of the church around 1900 and played an important part in the lives of some of my ancestors. Gerardus ten Broek, who was married with my great-grandmother’s sister Jannetje Wesselo, was a protestant missionary-teacher in Great-Sangir in the Dutch East Indies. The newly wedded couple went to the Dutch East-Indies in 1911 to spread the Christian faith. Unfortunately, Gerardus died from the Spanish Flu in 1918 at 33 years of age. Jannetje continued her husband’s work alone for some time until a new couple took over.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the lives of this couple, but when the topic of this COG came up I thought it was time to take a closer look at the history of Dutch missionaries in the Dutch East Indies. There are basically three periods when looking at this.


The VOC, the Dutch East Indies Company, had never really cared about spreading the Christian faith, only about profit. When they bankrupted in 1798, the Dutch East Indies and surrounding territories had few Christians. In fact, it was mostly Islamic. But when around 1800 freedom of faith became a right in the Dutch East Indies, the mission got a large impulse. Special societies for the promotion of the mission were started, but the government in Batavia was afraid of unrest and refused to give the missionaries access to overwhelmingly Islamic areas. This changed in 1850 when the government reluctantly allowed missionaries on Java.

The missionaries in this time period came overwhelmingly from the middle class. After a brief education, which usually didn’t prepare them in the least for the differences in culture, they were sent off with the instruction to report often by letter. Parts of these letters ended up in newsletters for their philanthropists, because the mission had to fund itself completely.

After a century of spreading the Christian faith the success was marginal. Small parts of the Dutch East Indies had been christened, but large parts were still overwhelmingly Islamic.


In 1901 the political climate in the Netherlands toward the Dutch East Indies changed. The new policy was to give something back to the colony in return for everything the Netherlands had taken from them with the occupation. The government gave great sums of money to set up hospitals and schools. It were often the missionaries who set up these hospitals and schools. This was very favorable for the mission, because it brought them into contact with the children and once they were converted to the Christian faith, the older people usually followed. At the same time, the Netherlands got a firmer grip on the more wild areas, like Netherlands New Guinea, making them safer and thus accessible to missionaries.

In this time period organization of the mission improved as well. In the Dutch East Indies the cooperation with the government improved greatly after a special mission consulate was opened. At the same time, the many organizations in the Netherlands started working together and a joint school for missionaries was opened in Oegstgeest. Research into languages, countries, and people had been done and the results were used to educated prospective missionaries. This caused the new missionaries to be far better informed about where they were going to be working.

From 1890 onwards, more and more unmarried women went to the Dutch East Indies as nurses, teachers or social workers. The male missionaries had to spend more and more time on administration, becoming managers instead of missionaries. The direct contact with the parish was done more and more by locals.


World War Two made an end to the mission. In 1940 the German missionaries that where in the Dutch East Indies were interned in camps by the Dutch. The Dutch missionaries followed them when the Japanese started their occupation of the Dutch East Indies in 1942. Proportionally a lot of missionaries died during the war because of the bad conditions and executions. After the war, the mission never really got started again. In fact, it slowly came to a complete stop. It was the end for European missionaries in this area of the world.


Throughout the many years of mission work, a lot of archives were made. A very big list of (almost) all archives that have anything to do the mission for the time period 1800-1960 can be found here. For my own research, this archive is very important, as it is the combined archive for all the missionary work done in the Dutch East Indies for the denomination Gerardus ten Broek was a missionary for. Also interesting is the Dutch book Zending en volksleven in Nederlands-Indiƫ by H.T. Fischer, for those who read Dutch.


The little I know about Gerardus ten Broek fits completely into the image I’ve gotten from the mission in 1900-1942. He spoke Malaysian, a testimony to the improved education prospective missionaries got in the Netherlands. He opened a Dutch-Malaysian school, following the newly installed politics of the early 20th century. Whatever else I may discover about him and his wife, I am sure that the background I now have about the mission in the Dutch East Indies will help me place it in the right context.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Reasonable Exhaustive Search – How Far Is Far Enough?

The Genealogical Proof Standard is used to raise genealogical research to an academic level and to make sure that whatever conclusions you draw are as near to the truth as they can get. The first step in the Genealogical Proof Standard is to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search for all information pertaining to your question.

Now, when doing research and looking for answers to certain questions, I can most certainly see the use in this. However, I am currently faced with a bit of a conundrum. I am currently in the process of writing a biography of Lodewijk Wesselo. His life was very well documented and all of this documentation was collected by another, now deceased, genealogist and donated to the CBG, where I checked it out. There were a few pieces missing, like official birth, marriage and death certificate, which I looked up, and some photographs, which I also located as far as I was able.

Yet, I know that there are some sources still untapped. I know I can request a persoonskaart, yet I also know it will tell me nothing new. In fact, this data would’ve been transferred from the official birth, marriage and death certificates, which I’ve got. There’s an archive a couple of hours from here that might have some more information about the company Lodewijk was a manager of for eight years, and the archive in Den Haag might have some information on a company he worked for briefly. These things are stones unturned.

However, if I look at the mountain of data already available to me, I know I’ve got more than enough to accurately tell his life story. I have his own words about the companies he worked for, both from letters and from his brief autobiography. There is no real need for this information, especially considering the costs and time it would take to get the information, if there is information at all. Not to mention the fact that he has 11 other brothers and sisters, who have an equal amount of information in the archive I have yet to look at. And it took me five whole days for Lodewijk!

On the other hand, I know that if Lodewijk was my direct ancestor (he wasn’t, his sister Alida Petronella was) I would go and look this information up. So maybe I’m being a bit hypocritical here. But still, I wonder, when is it exhaustive enough? Should I look up this information, if it is there, or can I let it go, knowing I have his whole life laid out in front of me already, sources and all?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Amenuensis Monday - Lodewijk Wesselo's World War Two Letters

I've been steadily working on Lodewijk Wesselo's letters. Currently I'm working on the letters he wrote during World War 2. In the beginning of the war he's still writing letters to his brother and sister-in-law in the Dutch East Indies, but later on the letters are to his brother in Voorschoten, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands.

Sometimes, when I am transcribing these letters, I stumble across something which I just don't understand. Most of the times, it's just one sentence that makes me go: "huh?" This time, it was this specific sentence:"

"Nothing more to do in the business, we open at 9 and close at one, on Monday's the whole day, with permission from the police because of illness."

The business he's talking about is a store that sold jewelry and objects made of precious metals like gold and silver. The date of the letter is 10 October 1944.

Now, I understood why they didn't have much to do, but what I couldn't understand was why he would need permission from the police to close early, or even the whole day. So I turned to the people at a forum about World War Two, thinking it probably had something to do with the war. The answer I got surprised me, to say the least.

Appearently, the law in those days about the opening hours of shops was much more strict. The police were the ones enforcing those laws. In those days, certain types of shops were closed on certain days. Stores that sold food items were often closed on Wednesday afternoons, whereas clothing and jewelry shops were often closed on Mondays. If you as an owner were in the store after closing hours, you had a high chance of a police officer coming by to check on you, making sure you weren't trading outside of authorized hours. So, you had to notify the police of any changes in openingstime.

I never knew this, and according to the people on the forum, this meddling happened as late as the 60s! It wasn't, as I thought, connected to World War Two at all. Instead, it was just as society was at the time, and I merely lacked the proper knowledge about how things worked back then. So it goes to show, that every historical document, especially things like letters, should be seen in light of the time they were written to make sense!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: School Memories age 6-8

In the Netherlands children enter the schoolsystem at age 4. They start when they turn 4 in classes where you mostly play, with some playful education thrown in, until the children are about 6 years old, when they enter the class where you start to learn how to read and write. You stayed at this school, called primary school, until age 12. Then you’d go to high school until graduation at age 16, 17, or 18, depending on what level of education you were getting.

Class 3

This was the class where we started on learning to read, write and basic math. I know we had a female teacher, Miss H. who I didn’t like very much. I remember being friend with E. still and I was also friends with a boy named H. This was also the class where the real bullying started, which didn’t let up until I left school.

H. had a lot of problems with Miss H. He also had something along the lines of asthma, I think, although later on he didn’t have any problems with that any more, as far as I know. I remember one morning it was very, very foggy outside. The fog was thick and if you stretched out your hand, you had to concentrate to see it clearly. H. was late for school that day, because he’d had an asthma attack because of the fog. I remember Miss H. being angry about that, even though H.’s mother explained why he was late. H. cried because of the whole thing. Eventually, the situation between H. and Miss H. became untenable, and H. transferred to another school.

I also remember M. She was the daughter of one of the teachers at school and afraid (or more accurately made afraid by her overprotective mother (the teacher)) of every little thing that could potentially be scary. Witches, monsters, everything out of fairytales except for the princess, basically. One time, during craft hour, we were making these witches out of paper. She was excused from class and went and sat in the hall with a book, because making a witch out of paper would be too scary for her. Another example of this: we watched the educational series Ik Mik Loreland, where the main character Mik is searching for the letters of the alphabet which were stolen. In this series there was a monster. Sure, it was a bit creepy, but it wasn’t that bad. Yet every time a scene with the monster was coming, Miss H. had to stop the tape, excuse M. from class, then re-start the tape. After the monster was gone again, the tape was stopped again and M. could come in.

This was also the class I first kissed a boy in. I was kind of friends with C. and one day we were both sitting on Miss H.’s desk (don’t ask me how or why), Miss H. wasn’t there and we got dared to kiss, which we did. Just a small peck on the lips, but still, that was my first kiss.

Class 4

I had a female teacher for this class, but can’t for the life of my remember her name. If I remember correctly, this was the school year in which my best friend E. moved. I didn’t make a new friend until class 6, so it could also be that E. moved in class 5. It was also the year I started answering the bullying by getting so angry I started hitting the bullies. Not the best way to deal with things, but the only way I knew.

Class 5

Yet again a female teacher, the name I can’t remember. This was the year we were working on my anger problems. I had a notebook and every day at the end of the day, the teacher would write down how that day had gone, and if there hadn’t been any problems, I’d get a sticker. Five stickers in a row would get me a little treat from my parents, five times five stickers in a row (so 25 in a row) would get me a book. Now, I’ve always loved reading, so that was a pretty good incentive. The method worked, albeit with some bumps in the road. The bullying didn’t stop and they seriously provoked me, which my mother later told me that if she’d known about that, she would’ve insisted on more measures being taken against the bullies.

I don’t have a lot of memories of class 3 to 5, not only because I was still fairly young, but also because they weren’t very pleasant years. I’ve blocked out a lot of things and the professionals I later talked with said it’s best left alone. Still, I remember some things, like my friendship with E., and I remember those few things with fondness.

Ik Mik Loreland Intro

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tombstone Thursday – Hunting for Wesselo graves

Imagine this: a busy shopping street in the middle of town on a Saturday morning. As you walk it’s length, you pass two supermarkets, several clothing stores, a candy story, a sportswear store, a lunch room, and a furniture shop. In the end, you stop in front of a department store that’s housed in a building where there used to be a school.

You might ask yourself, what’s that got to do with hunting for graves? It’s simple really, because when you turn around, at the other side of the road, is a church with a cemetery. The weird part is that the moment you walk through the cemetery gate, the sounds from the busy street get hushed. It’s a bit of a creepy feeling, to be honest.

It’s this cemetery where my Wesselo ancestors are buried. It was closed for burials around 1960, as the cemetery was full. Only graves that had already been bought were allowed to be used. A lot of graves are old and there are a lot of family graves. Some of the graves don’t have headstones anymore and there are plenty of graves that have ‘disappeared’, simply because other people were buried there too. In a country where land is scarce, it’s normal practice to ‘shake’ the graves after a certain amount of time, unless of course you pay for it not to happen. The grave can then be re-used. Because the burials stopped around 1960, the shaking of the graves did as well.

It was with this information I went there in hopes of locating at least some of the graves of my ancestors. On one hand, I was unlikely to find older graves because of the ‘shaking’ and the fact that the cemetery is very small causes the ‘shaking’ to happen more often. On the other hand, the burial stop around 1960 meant that some graves might have survived.

In the end, the only gravestone I could find was that of Abraham Bernardus Wesselo, my great-great uncle, and his wife Hendrika Johanna Wilhelmina Broer. If there were others there, they are now in unmarked graves.

Abraham Bernardus Wesselo 21-1-1884 19-9-1961
Hendrika Johanna Wilhelmina Broer 30-6-1889 16-4-1965

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: School Memories Age 4-6

School Memories Age 4-6

In the Netherlands children enter the schoolsystem at age 4. They start when they turn 4 in classes where you mostly play, with some playful education thrown in, until the children are about 6 years old, when they enter the class where you start to learn how to read and write. At my school, Het Kompas, there were three of these ‘not-quite-school’ classes, class 1, class 1.5 (I’m still not sure why we had this class and not every child went here) and class 2. The teacher of class 1 was Miss N., I have no idea who the teacher of class 1.5 was, except that it was a woman, and the teacher of class 2 was Miss M. You stayed at this school, called primary school, until age 12. Then you’d go to high school until graduation at age 16, 17, or 18, depending on what level of education you were getting.

Class 1

My first memory of class one is from my very first day there. It was a kind of introduction day and I only spent a few hours there, if that. My mother was also there that day. I had grabbed a jigsaw puzzle and turned it over, not realizing it was a special puzzle. Instead of the normal, one layer, it had three layers. The bottom one was a caterpillar in several pieces, then on top of that there was a cocoon and at the very top it was a butterfly. It was much too difficult for me and I got really frustrated. I think in the end either my mother or Miss N. helped me? I don’t really recall.

What is perhaps most vivid in my mind from this period is my friend E. We met at school and were best friends. As long as I’ve known her, she suffered from cancer. When she started school, she’d already been fighting it for over a year, if not two, and had lost all of her hair due to chemotherapy. She always wore headscarves or hats. One of the things I remember most vividly about her is the fact that she always brushed her teeth after lunch. All of the other kids I knew, including myself, only brushed in the morning and at night. I do know her Mom was really strict about it. Now, looking back on it, it probably had something to do with her weakened immune system, but at the time, it was just a weird quirk, nothing more.

Another very vivid memory of this year is connected to E. There was a boy in our class, I have no clue what his name was, who was teasing E. He pulled her hat off, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. In those years I had a pretty explosive temper and now I was very, very angry. I grabbed him by the throat and pushed him up against the wall. Basically, I was choking him. Our teacher, Miss N., told me to put him down but she had to say it several times before I did, that’s how angry I was. I’m sure I was punished for it, but I don’t remember that. I do remember that Miss N. was very shocked, but honestly, it wasn’t that hard to shock her. I also remember that boy never teased E. again.

The last memory I have from this class is a P.E. lesson. I know it’s from this class because my friend S. was there and this was the only class we were in together, seeing as that he skipped class 1.5 and I didn’t. We were indoors and had to walk/run a track with obstacles. I jumped of a higher level, as required. Unfortunately, I ended up literally jumping on top of S., who was running below. I hit the top of his head with my chin, resulting in a teeth through my bottom lip for me. I never liked P.E., perhaps this was where the hate started?

Class 1.5

I have no memories of this class whatsoever. Isn’t that weird? It must not have been very memorable. I can’t even remember the teacher’s name. I do know that S. skipped this class, marking the ending of our time of being in the same class. We kept and still keep in touch, but we never again shared a class.

Class 2

Class 2 was led by one of my favorite teachers from my primary school, Miss M. She was always cheerful, always willing to listen, and later on, one of the very few teachers who I felt was on my side. One of the vivid memories I have of her is that she would always sit on the bench near the sandbox on a cushion during recess, on the schoolyard for the classes 1, 1.5, and 2.

In this year, there was a great party at our school. I think it was because the school existed for a certain number of years. There were a lot of different activities. E. and I sang (playbacked?) a song from the band Kinderen Voor Kinderen, called Groen (Green). It was a lot of fun! But at the end, someone forgot to stop the tape and the next song, Lege Plekken In De Klas (Empty Spots In The Class) started. So we sang that too!

Song: Green

Friday, October 1, 2010

What Happened To September?

What happened to my Sentimental September posts? Well, they're all on paper, but a spotty internet connection and a very busy time kept me from typing them out and posting them. In fact, I had to scramble to get my COG post up in time!

All in all, though, Sentimental September was succesfull, as the memories are on paper! They'll be showing up in the coming Sentimental Sundays.

On to October, which has two goals:

1. Send out several inquiry letters (yes, sometimes it has to be done in a letter, even now) for my research on Adolph Knura

2. Finish the biogrpahy of Lodewijk Wesselo

Both seem like easy tasks, but they'll eat up more time than you expect.