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WWII Photo: Crowd celebrates as armored car drives down street in Netherlands

An armored car rolls down the street a s a crowd celebrates in the Netherlands during WWII. (Philip Siersema/Contributed)

An armored car rolls down the street as a crowd celebrates in the Netherlands during WWII. (Philip Siersema/Contributed)

This photo was in a box that belonged to my grandfather Johan Nico Siersema, so I could infer that it was taken in the Netherlands during WWII — likely by one of his relatives. But, since I didn’t know much else about it, I posted on the military history sub-Reddit to see if anyone might know more.

Alex Clumpkens identified the car as being of the Canadian Corps’ 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, aka “the Polar Bears,” and suggesting Utretch as a location:

“It is probably a candadian Humber Armoured car. As far as I can make out it belonged to the British 49th(West Riding) Infantry division, nick named the Polar bear division. It was attached to the Canadian 1 Corps during the later stages of World war 2

This Unit was heavily involved in the liberation of Utrecht! Hm saw that city mentioned in your blog. For pictures see http://www.mapleleafup.ca/ve2.html

Redditor hydrogenjoule also responded, but with an alternative location:

“Because your grandfather was Dutch, and there seems to be a Dutch flag in the photo, I’m going to say that this was at Arnhem in April 1945, during I Canadian Corps liberation of the city. This was, as far as I know, the only major action in the Netherlands that the 49th took part in, and would certainly have merited a celebration.

After the failed Operation Market-Garden in ’44, Arnhem was the front line of the German resistance in the Netherlands until I Canadian Corps secured it during Operation Anger.”

So! We know who is in the photo now, just not the when and where. If anyone has any ideas, let me know!

Helena ‘Lenie’ de Wit’s identification papers circa 1944

The cover of Helena de Wit's identification.

The cover of Helena de Wit’s identification.

The inside of Helena de Wit's identification.

The inside of Helena de Wit’s identification.

The back page of Helena de Wit's identification.

The back page of Helena de Wit’s identification.

These are — as near as I can tell — my great-grandmother Helena de Wit’s identification papers from 1944, complete with photo, fingerprint, and address.

Johan Siersema’s University of Amsterdam student ID from 1947

Student identification for Johan Siersema for a university in Amsterdam, dated 1947-1949.

Student identification for Johan Siersema for a university in Amsterdam, dated 1947-1948.

Student identification for Johan Siersema for a university in Amsterdam, dated 1947-1949.

Student identification for Johan Siersema for a university in Amsterdam, dated 1947-1948.

These are scans of the student ID my grandfather Johan Siersema was issued while attending the University of Amsterdam following WWII. By that time, he had fought in the Dutch resistance, been a POW twice over, and lived through a difficult period of starvation during which he lost some family members. The new Dutch army wanted him to stay on, but he decided to go to school instead.

Now, by “go to school,” I don’t mean that he went to classes. He was incredibly intelligent, with a 139 IQ, so he simply read the books, showed up to take the tests and then graduated with a degree in a economics — in two years instead of the usual four.

I’ll write more about him in his bio, but I’m still collecting information on that!

Map: Family marriages, births in Mexico

Maps of my family's births and marriages in Mexico from the late 1600s to the late 1800s, based on  research done by Gloria Delgado and original documents scanned by LDS. (Screen capture in Google MapMaker)

Maps of my family’s births and marriages in Mexico from the late 1600s to the late 1800s, based on research done by Gloria Delgado and original documents scanned by LDS. (Screen capture in Google MapMaker)

When I picked up the phone in late February and dialed a number 20 years old, I hoped the person I was looking for would answer, but I knew it was a long shot. So you can imagine my delight when Gloria Delgado [n. Calvillo], the woman I was trying to track down, picked up. I had in my possession a Family Group Record that Gloria had compiled for one of my great aunts, and I told her how I was trying to look into my family ancestry and asked if she had any information she would be willing to share with me.

Did I speak Spanish she wanted to know? Did I know how to read Latin? Sadly, after four years of high school Spanish, I cannot claim to speak or read either of those languages. But Gloria sounded excited to share what she did have, so we exchanged information and she told me she’d try to get back to me after tax season.

Over the past few months, I found a couple emails in my inbox from Gloria — her letting me know that she was still planning to send information my way and that she hadn’t forgotten about me, and that she was having great success in tracking more details and original documents down. Which makes sense, because not only does Gloria know more languages than I do, but she’s been doing genealogical research longer than I’ve been alive. And luckily, my family, Gloria said, was much easier to track down than her own.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I got this in the mail:

BlogPic

It’s quite a hefty binder, containing about two hundred years of records of my family’s history in Mexico. Not only did Gloria find and photocopy the original documents, but she typed out the cursive and then translated everything. (Needless to say, I will be sending her the biggest box of chocolate I could find at See’s Candies.) It’s been quite exciting to go through, but with a lot of the research done already, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it all.

Then, I just decided to start mapping. I don’t know a lot about Mexico and if I’m going to start learning, I decided to pinpoint the regions in which my family was more highly concentrated.

I created this map, which tracks where births were, or baptisms if I couldn’t find the actual birth place:

And this map, which tracks where marriages took place:

To see the hybrid map layering both in Google Map Maker Lite, go here. And you can expect more details on all these people in the coming  months!

And, because I had a fun time figuring it out, Gloria and I are related like this: My great-great-great grandfather Miguel Marin Rosales [born 1848 in Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico, to Casimiro Marin and Manuela Rosales] and my great-great-great grandmother Rosa Hernandez Lopez [born 1853 in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico, to Jose Nepomuceno Hernandez Ramos and Maria Petra de Jesus Perez Robles] are also Gloria’s great grandparents.

Mystery photos from an early 1900s album belonging to Helena de Wit

An album that belonged to my great-grandmother Helena de Wit in Beverwijk, Netherlands, in the early 1900s was in the box of photos and documents my grandmother gave me. If you follow this blog, you’ve seen many of those photos retouched over the past year and a half or so. These are the photos that remained untouched, with their subjects unidentified.

I know that without any additional information, the chance that readers here will know any of them is slim. But, please, if anyone recognizes an individual in one of the photos, mention it in the comments.

To see larger images, you can click on one and scroll through.

Photo: Vargas Marin siblings send snapshot to sister Lucy Calvillo in the states in 1939

From top and left to right, Nieves "Nancy" Vargas Marin, Alfonso "Pancho" Vargas Marin, Atenojenes Vargas Marin, and Luis Vargas Marin in Mexico, D.F., in 1934.

From top and left to right, Nieves “Nancy” Vargas Marin, Alfonso “Pancho” Vargas Marin, Atenojenes Vargas Marin, and Luis Vargas Marin in Mexico, D.F., in February, 1939.

I recently sat down with my uncle Art Vargas to talk about the Vargas Marin side of the family (our common ancestors were Mariano Vargas Ramos — born November 1870 in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico — and Candelaria Marin Hernandez) and he shared with me the postcard above. It turns out, the Vargas Marin side of my family immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the early and mid-1900s in two waves.

The first time around — my best guess this was around 1925-1927, but I have no documentation as of yet — the family made it to the San Francisco Bay Area by way of Texas. It was tough to find work, so after awhile, the brothers decided to move back to Mexico. At that time, the sisters were all already married, so they stayed. Everyone, my uncle said, worked in the canneries.

The brothers returned in a second wave during World War II, when there was more work available. But between the two immigrations, judging from the postcard, Nancy visited them back in Mexico.

Here’s the back side of the postcard with a message to Lucy:

NancyVargasandBrothersBackofPostcard

Portrait: Engbertus Swalve and Wubbina Engellina Haken

Wubbina Engellina Haken and Engelbertus Swalve. (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Wubbina Engellina Haken and Engbertus Freerks Swalve. (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Few photos have amazed me by their mere existence, but this one did. To give you some perspective, that handsome devil on the right lived 200 years ago. Photography hadn’t even been invented when he was born.

If you follow this blog, then you know that Willem Vlietstra, the grandson of my great-great-great uncle’s sister-in-law, has been sending me some old photos from an album that was passed down to him. If you’re new to this blog, well, you’re caught up now, but you should also know that the album has labeled photos, which helps immensely in identifying the ancestors in pictures (not all generations had the foresight to label such things).

Wubbina Engellina Haken, my great-great-great-great grandmother, at left, was born to Jantje Hinderks Fols and Geerd Jans Haken in Boen, Ostfriesland, Germany, in about 1825. Engbertus Freerks Swalve, at right, was born to Daje Engeberts Brouer and Freerk Bellinga Swalve in Landschaftspolder, Ostfriesland, Germany, in February of 1812.

Most of the information I have of Engbertus (and for that matter most of the Swalve side of the family) comes from Roger and Marilyn Coeling Peters, who have their detailed Ancestors and Related Families project online.

What I find most interesting is that Engbertus was a master baker. The way certification is set up now, before becoming a master baker, one must first be certified as a journey baker, a baker, a decorator and a bread baker, according to the Retail Bakers of America. That can give you an idea of how much work one must put in before earning the title, but back in Engbertus’ time, things were a bit different. Roger Peters wrote in an email, “It was a common practice to travel to an new area to serve as an apprentice until they became a ‘master.'”

A big part of why I find this so interesting is that Engbertus’ brother Beene, and two of his sons — Freerk and Heinrich — also worked as bakers in Beverwijk, North Holland, Netherlands. Beene was a bread baker, and Heinrich had his own bakery, which he told Willem about when Willem was a boy. I am certain they all must have been very tight-knit, coming from the same family and all residing in the same city. In fact, disregarding traditional naming conventions, Freerks’ second daughter, Lucretia Anna, was named after Beene’s wife. And she was born in a bakery, as was her sister Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve.

But, ah, before I get too far off track, a little more on Engbertus and Wubbina. They had 11 children over an 18-year period, although not all of them lived into adulthood. Their son Engbertus Freerks Swalve also followed in the elder Engbertus’ footsteps and was a master baker in Bovenhusen, Ostfriesland, by 1892. The elder Engbertus lived until he was 61, passing away on April 30 in 1873 in Böhmerwold, Ostfriesland, Germany. Wubbina lived until she was 64, passing away on Sept. 7 in 1889.

All those dates and places are from the Coeling Peters’ Ancestors and Related Families project online, so don’t forget to check their site out. It even has footnotes and an organized index. Pretty much I’m in love with it.

Editor’s note: I cleaned up the photo a bit in Photoshop to eliminate some dust and discoloring along the top.

A FAMILY BUSINESS: Details, photos of the H.C. Kool hat shop in Groningen

A photograph of the H.C. Kool hat shop window in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

A photograph of the H.C. Kool hat shop windows in Groningen, Netherlands, taken about 1925. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

I have heard about my mom’s great-grandparents running a hat shop in Holland for just about as long as I can remember. On the ground floor was the hat shop itself; on the second floor, the factory; and on the third floor, the family apartment. Recently, I’ve had a little more time to look into it and finally put up this blog post, which I’ve been meaning to do for about six months or so. So here goes…

Portrait of a young Halbo Kool, taken about 1898-1900. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

Portrait of a young Halbo Kool, taken about 1898-1900. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

A young Chirstina Kolle, date unknown. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

A young Chirstina Kolle, date unknown. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The shop was named simply for my great-great-grandfather H.C. Kool (Halbo Cornelis Kool), who was born on Feb. 11, 1873, in Veendam, Groningen, Netherlands.

Halbo was 26 when he married my great-great-grandmother Christina Kolle, also 26, on Feb. 23, 1899 in Groningen. On their wedding certificate, he is listed as a merchant, which I believe allowed him to travel and procure materials. While Christina did not list an occupation, she did have a reputation as an excellent seamstress.

In March of that year, the advertisement below was printed to announce the shop’s opening. From what I can tell via Google Translate, the writing essentially says he has opened a shop for women’s and children’s hats in mid-March with many French styles.

He also writes that it is in the “Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat” — a street that cousin Anje says exists and has existed since 1739 — following that with the abbreviation “H 178,” which I am inclined to think was the address, or House 178 Anje suggested.

An advertisement for the H.C. Kool hat shop in Groningen, Netherlands, dated March, 1899. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

An advertisement for the H.C. Kool hat shop in Groningen, Netherlands, dated March, 1899. (Carolyn Kool/Contributed)

Cornelis Kool. (Carolyn Kool/Contributed)

Cornelis Kool. (Carolyn Kool/Contributed)

The next year, when their first son (Cornelis “Cees” Kool, July 6, 1900) was born, Halbo was listed as a “reiziger,” or a “traveler” in English, on the birth certificate. I suppose working as a traveler could be similar to working as a merchant, but I do not know why the wording changed. Because the store — with the three levels — was located at Stoeldraaierstraat 2  later (see the address on the brochure below), I wonder if the first store did not thrive at the first location, a second was at Stoeldraaierstraat 2 and in the meantime Halbo kept things running by securing materials in his travels? Or possibly it just moved and there’s no real distinction to be made between the Dutch words for merchant and traveler.

The cover of the hat shop brochure, or so-called fashion magazine, for H.C. Kool in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The cover of the hat shop brochure, or so-called  “modemagazijn” or “fashion magazine,” for H.C. Kool in Groningen, Netherlands. Likely printed between 1905-1920. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The inside of the hat shop brochure, or so-called fashion magazine, for H.C. Kool in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The inside of the hat shop brochure, or so-called fashion magazine, for H.C. Kool in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The Kools on Jan. 25, 1907, had a second son, whom they named Halbo Christiaan, making it a family of four in the apartment above the workshop and store.

Christina ran the shop and trained the women who worked there, but now she had two sons to raise as well, according to cousin Anje (a descendant of Halbo Christiaan) and her aunt Anneke, who also noted that Christina traveled to Paris and Brussels to buy stock for the stock — so it wasn’t just Halbo securing materials.

Kool famille

The Kool family, from left: Halbo Christiaan Kool, Christina Kolle, Cornelis Kool, and Halbo Kool. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The Kool family apartment above the H.C. Kool hat shop at Stoeldraaierstraat 2 in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The Kool family apartment above the H.C. Kool hat shop at Stoeldraaierstraat 2 in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

A photograph of the inside of the H.C. Kool hat shop in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

A photograph of the inside of the H.C. Kool hat shop in Groningen, Netherlands. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

“When Halbo and Christina where married 25 years, in 1924, their employees made a small picture book with photos of the shop and the house to congratulate them,” cousin Anje wrote in an email, which also noted that there was a basement floor of the building that acted as the kitchen. The two images to the left are from the anniversary present.

Anje estimates Halbo and Christina purchased a home in Haren, a village near Groningen, between 1920-1935. Around 1934, Halbo and Christina were renting out the shop and enjoying their free time, vacationing at “Noordwijk bij Zee” a small popular seaside resort in province South-Holland, according to cousin Anje.

Halbo eventually passed away on October 4, 1942, after which Christina went to live with Halbo’s brother, Germ.

Germ was “A former ship’s captain, who had a housekeeper, so Christina couldn’t even cook herself,” according to an email from Anje. “I can’t imagine how this must have been for this strong independent woman. Eventually in 1956, she was “allowed” to go back to her house in Haren. But not before her two children, Cornelis and Halbo Christiaan had discussed this thoroughly and given their permission.

“Cornelis was afraid that something could happen to her in that big house, my grandfather Halbo Christiaan said ‘just let her go, if she wants to.'”

The shop was leveled on April 15, 1945, less than a month before WWII ended. An “exploding ammunition car destroyed some streets in the center of Groningen, including the hat shop,” Anje wrote. Christina was given financial compensation by the council for the loss.

Eventually, Christina passed away — in her own house mind you — on November 21, 1957. She was buried next to Halbo and the grave still exists to this day.

Photo: Freerk Bellinga Swalve out on a drive in 1908

Freerk Bellinga Swalve driving a horse-drawn buggy in 1908.

Freerk Bellinga Swalve driving a horse-drawn buggy in 1908.

This is one of those classic photos that will come in handy when my sister and I try to convince my niece that, yes, people did use to sit in big wood and metal contraptions and make horses pull them around — that’s where we get the term “horsepower.”

In the photo (dated August, 1908), my great-great-grandfather Freerk Belling Swalve (born in Bohmerwald, Prussia, in 1855) is driving a horse-drawn carriage with at least one passenger aboard. He would have been 53 years old, and this photo likely would have been taken in the Netherlands.

As with most of the photos I post here, I did some retouching in Photoshop (that’s a disclaimer for the purists). This one was riddled with scratches, dirt, and tears, but it didn’t turn out too bad. I felt that this was a good time to post the photo, given that I confirmed the other day that the man was, indeed, Freerk.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how people got around about 100 years go!

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: Ancestor identified as Freerk Bellinga Swalve!

Freerk Bellinga Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Freerk Bellinga Swalve, was born in Bohmerwald, Prussia, in 1855. He would have been about 35 years old in this photo, estimated to have been taken around 1880. (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

This is an exciting moment — the first photo mystery that has been solved on this blog! And it’s all thanks to Willem Vlietstra, who sent me some late-1800s photos of the Swalves last week. Among the photos was the one above of Freerk Bellinga Swalve (taken around 1880), as well as one of Helena Catrina Koster in the thumbnail to the right.

Helena Catrina Koster (Willem Vlietstra)

Helena Catrina Koster (Willem Vlietstra)

If you remember in our second Mystery Photo Series post, I was thinking that the older gentleman in the group photo was Freerk and that the woman next to him might have been his wife Helena. However, since receiving the photos from Willem, I now have the answers to both those speculations. As it turns out, I was half right, and also half wrong.

The gentleman is most certainly Freerk, but the woman (unknown ancestor No. 2 in the photo below) is definitely not Helena. So possibly a sister instead, since she does have those light-colored eyes? Well, she is one of my new mysteries, as she is in many photos with Freerk, but remains unidentified. As with most answers I find in my genealogy research, more questions always arise. You can expect the next Mystery Photo Series post to be all about her.

From left to right, Dirk de Wit (1878), unknown ancestor, Hendrika Goudsblom, Dirk de Wit (185X), unknown child, Helena Fredrika de Wit, Wubbina Engellina Johanna  Petronella Swalve, and unknown woman in Beverwijk, 1910.

From left to right, Dirk de Wit (1873), unknown ancestor No. 1,unknown ancestor No. 2, Freerk Bellinga Swalve, unknown child, Helena Fredrika de Wit, Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve, and unknown woman in Beverwijk, 1910.