Monday, November 22, 2010

Military Monday: Prisoners of the Japanese

One of three ancestors I am currently focussing on is Salomon Mulder (1900-1986). He was a career military man who was stationed in the Dutch East Indies when World War Two broke out in that area. From his military file, I know he was captured and imprisoned in a POW camp in Singapore.

But while there are plenty of resources available about civilian internment camps in the Dutch East Indies and surrounding areas, there is precious little information specific about POWs. What little I knew was gleaned from various books, most often the introduction, and cursory. The most information I could find was about the Thailand-Burma Railroad, also known as the Death Railway, but as far as I know or could determine, my great-grandfather never worked there.

But during my last trip to the library, I found a great book called Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific by Gavan Daws. It deals exclusively with POWs, has many pages in which Singapore is mentioned according to the index in the back, and although the stories in it are exclusively American POWs, the author explains in his introduction he did this because the American POWs, unlike the POWs from other nationalities, were in every single POW camp to exist.

I am very hapy with this find and I'm certain I'll learn a lot about this period of Salomon's life, even though there won't be any information specific to him in the book. I also saw there was an extensive list of archives used in the book, most of them abroad, so I might even come across an archive I never would've thought to look for Salomon in.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

There's one in every family: Genealogy Researchers!

There’s one in every family. One what, you might ask. Well, one ‘nutjob’ who takes on the daunting task of delving into family history. And of course, when you’re starting out with genealogy, you hope to be lucky enough that there was one such person in your (distantly related) family who already did some of the research.

I was lucky, very lucky. I didn’t have one, not two, not three, but four such people who’ve researched entire lines that I share. I’d like to take this 100th edition of the COG to put them in the spotlight, as a thank you for the work they’d already done. It really helped me this first year to find my footing in amongst the masses of paper, photographs and information.

The very first person who’s helped me on my path to genealogy is Jan Correljé, a cousin of my father, who’s researched many lines and has a great website, which has greatly helped my own research. Although he has information on the Wesselo and van Grasstek family line, I am particularly grateful for the information he has on the Bolle family, as this is information that is, as far as I know, all his own work.

The Bolle family is my paternal grandmother’s line and Jan’s research goes back to Adriaan Bolle, born around 1595 in Haamstede, the Netherlands. I have not looked at this line, aside from what Jan has on his website, but from what little I have taken a look at, it all checks out.

I mentioned that Jan’s site also has information on the van Grasstek family line. This is the family line of my great-great-grandmother on my paternal grandmother’s maternal line. Although Jan Correljé has the information on his website, this line was not primarily researched by him. In fact, it was researched through many generations. The first researchers were George Willem van Grasstek (1875-1942) and his cousin Lodewijk van Grasstek (1919-1996). After the war, Wilhelmus Hendricus van Grasstek (1921-1974) took over the research, adding yet more information together with his wife. The research was then taken over by his nephew Jan van Grasstek (1943-1994) and is now in the hands of his younger brother Lodewijk van Grasstek and his family. And then I am still leaving out many of the contributors to this genealogy.

Considering the amount of people who’ve worked on the van Grasstek family line, it shouldn’t be surprising they’ve managed to trace it back all the way to Lodewijck Thomasz. van Gresteck, born around 1585 in Monschau, Germany. I haven’t taken a look at this line yet, but the knowledge that all the information is there, just needing a check, is a comforting thought.

Then of course, there is the Wesselo family line, also on Jan Correljé’s website. This is my maternal grandmother’s maternal line. The bulk of the work on this name was done by Willem Lodewijk Wesselo (1893-1960). He’s the one that made the Wesselo family archive, now residing at the CBG in Den Haag.

This line I am actually working on, trying to fill in some blanks that the family archive doesn’t cover, writing biographies that show (hopefully) the life stories of the Wesselo’s a bit more than the meager facts and small bio’s that are available on the website. I am carefully checking the facts with original sources and transcribing with endless patience (if I do say so myself) the dozens of letters in the Wesselo family archive. In the end, I hope to flesh out these people and maybe even discover something new!

Aside from Jan Correljé’s site and the researchers behind the data he has there, I’ve had the pleasure of having contact with other researchers who’ve researched shared lines. The most notable of these is Jan Lamboo. He actually found me through this blog, shortly after I started it, and has researched my maternal grandmother’s line, the Lamboo family, extensively. He’s managed to trace this line back to Hermannus Lambo (also Lamboij), born around 1690 in most likely Kranenburg, Germany.

I haven’t been able to check back so far yet, but the little checking I’ve done all seems to indicate everything is correct. I did a lot of work on my grandmother Henriëtte Geertruida Lamboo, but this line is not a priority for me at the moment, because all older members of this line have passed away already. Instead, I am currently focusing on the Mulder line, where my great-aunt is still alive to tell tales. I do plan on returning to this line in the (probably) near future and am very grateful to have this research as a starting point.

I also had contact recently with Nienke Kuurstra, who I found through an online family tree, who shared a common ancestor with me. I contacted her and she was kind enough to send me the information she had about Willemijntje van Veen, an ancestor in my Versloot line. She had information about Willemijntje and the three generations before her, tracing the van Veen line back all the way to Jacob Jansz. van Veen, born in 1687 in Nieuwkoop, the Netherlands. I’ve not had the time to check out the information, or even enter it into my database, but I am very grateful for her friendly and very speedy reply.

Last, but not least, there is the Versloot line. This is the line my great-grandmother on my paternal grandfather’s side and a line I am actively working on. I found two researchers with information on this through online family trees and contacted both of them. Peet van Dee emailed me back with the information he had, providing information on my great-grandmother’s parents and siblings.

Then there is H. Versloot, who also has a family tree online in which my great-grandmother appears. He’s managed to trace back the Versloot line all the way back to Gerrit Jans Versloot, born around 1638 in Reeuwijk, the Netherlands. I’ve contacted him, but haven’t heard back from him, unfortunately. I also haven’t seen the information I offered on Adriana Versloot, which was missing from the online family tree, appear. Still, I am thankful for his work and the fact that he saw fit to share it online, often with sources. It’s immensely helpful when doing my own research.

As this long list of people who’ve done genealogy research on the same ancestors that I can call mine shows, we are never alone in our work. Our direct environment might call us insane for loving genealogy, but there are people out there working on the exact same people! I’m very lucky to have found so many wonderful researchers, who’ve elected to share their finds with the world and with me. I can only do the same, here on my blog, and hope that I might provide future researchers of the lines I am working on with the same help as they have provided me, simply by sharing.

To all those named in this post, I give a heartfelt thank you. Thank you for the years and years of work you’ve all put into your research. Thank you for your generosity in sharing. And might I just say, I’m glad that there really is ‘one in every family’!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One Year Blogiversary

I can’t believe it’s been a year already! And what a year it was. From having done nothing at all in the area of genealogy to researching closed archives with special permission, I’ve done a lot this past year. I’ve had my ups and downs in posting as well, both in number of posts per month as in content. Sometimes it was just a silly, little post, no more than a reminder that I was still alive and kicking, this last month a good testimony of that. But sometimes I produced posts I’m still very, very proud of.

And although an anniversary is always a good time to look back, I think it’s an even better time to look forward. So, I’ll lift a tip of the veil and show you some of what I am planning for my second year blogging!

You’ll hear more about the primary people I am now researching, namely Lodewijk Wesselo (writing his biography now), Adolph Knura (his Dutch period) and Salomon Mulder (in particular his time as a POW). There are also two series in the planning, one which will chronicle my journey to uncover the truth behind a family legend and another series about the Dutch monarchs.

So, plenty to look forward to this next blogging year. Onwards, I say!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We Are the Bards of Our Age

Bard: those who sang the songs recalling the tribal warriors' deeds of bravery as well as the genealogies and family histories of the ruling strata among Celtic societies.

In the old days, it were the bards that preserved history. Both the history of an entire people as the more personal history of some families. Since that time, a lot has changed. Nevertheless, people still have history, we all still have ancestors and a lot of people are interested in those histories and ancestors.

But in these times of Google and Facebook, information is more often than not fleeting. People rarely take the time to sit down and talk about the past. The retelling of family tales is getting more and more rare and with that, more and more of our own personal history is lost.

However, there are those brave few (although we are growing in numbers!) that wade into the swamp that is family tales, stacks of unidentified photographs and towering piles of paper to delve into the past. We are genealogists. We construct our history, the lives of our ancestors and with every piece of information we find and add to our databases, we are preserving this history.

Yet this history, saved though it is for the moment, is still in danger of being lost. Try as we might, we cannot stop time, nor are we immortal. There will come a day that we will no longer walk this Earth. If we are not careful, our painstakingly reconstructed family history will be buried alongside us, the stories once again lost in time.

Therefore it is up to us to not only put our research in a genealogical database, but also to write the story of our ancestors down. Because it will be these stories that will be remembered by our non-genealogically inclined family members. And it will be through these stories that our history and ancestors will live on.

So I call on all of you, my fellow genealogists, to join me in becoming the bards of our age!

Definition of a bard taken from Wikipedia.