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 Christina Kolle, date unknown. (Anje Belmon/Contributed)

The shop was named simply for my great-great-grandfather and great-great grandmother: H.C. Kool (Halbo Christina Kool).

Halbo 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.

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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.

 

Klaas and Helena Siersema’s calling cards from the 1920s

Callings cards for Klaas Siersema and Helena de Wit. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Callings cards for Klaas Siersema and Helena de Wit. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

These are another couple finds from the box my uncle Philip Siersema lent me to scan — actual calling cards from the 1920s! They belonged to Klaas Siersema and Helena de Wit. Apparently, they were stored in a little envelope, so they’re still in pretty good condition. Kind of a cool little piece of history.

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: Could this be Arentje Vermaas, Klaas Siersema, Bets Siersema and Leentje Siersema?

Mystery Photo No. 3. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Mystery Photo No. 3. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

I recently came upon this lovely portrait in a box of old photos and documents that I borrowed from my uncle Philip Siersema. At first, my reaction was, “Great! Another photo where I have no idea who the people are!”

But upon looking closely, the mother in the photo looked a lot like a woman I’ve seen in some other photos who thought was likely my great-great-grandmother Arentje Vermaas. It would make sense: They look similar, and she was a mother of two girls and one boy, my great-grandfather Klaas Siersema.

So, I’m polling you, dear reader. I cropped photos of who I think are Arentje, Klaas, Helena “Bets” Elizabeth, and Leentje from two group photos based purely on speculation. What do you think?

Arentje Vermaas? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Arentje Vermaas? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

A young Klaas Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

A young Klaas Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or "Bets" Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or “Bets” Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or "Bets" Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Leentje or “Bets” Siersema? (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Photo: Anthonie Johannes Swalve

Anthonie Joahnnes Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Anthonie Joahnnes Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Anthonie Johannes Swalve, shown above in a photo contributed by Willem Vlietstra, was born Anthonie Johannes Koster on Nov. 8, 1876, to Helena Catrina Koster. A little more than two years later, Anthonie took the last name Swalve when Freerk Bellinga Swalve married Helena. This was noted on their marriage certificate, which I found on the now-nonexistent Genlias.nl site.

Some believe this may mean Anthonie was the son of Helena and Freerk, and some believe this may mean he was the son of Helena and another man. I have been unable to confirm via digital research and so would be interested to know if anyone has more information on Anthonie, who also went by the name A.J. It’s also probably worth noting that, despite traditional Dutch naming conventions wherein the first born son takes the name of the father’s father, in this case A.J. was named after his maternal grandfather, Anthonie (or Anthonij) Johannes Koster.

As for the photo itself, I find it to be a bit perplexing. A.J. is clearly has an anchor on his shirt and is posing with cooper props. If anyone can elaborate on that, I would be interested as well! He looks to me to be 15 or younger, which would date this photo sometime before 1891.

Klaas Siersema’s pocket photo book

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I recently borrowed a box of old photographs and documents from my uncle Philip Siersema, and in it I found this little gem. It’s a pocket photo book with images of Klaas Siersema’s second wife Maria Wilhelmina van Erp and his son, Johan. Klaas (born 1895), as I’ve noted before, was a career military man, so it would make sense that he was away from home a lot and wanted something with him to remember his loved ones by. I also like that it shows a softer side of him, especially since his reputation wasn’t exactly super warm and fuzzy.

Photos: Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

As promised, here is another photo Willem Vlietstra sent me recently. This one is of my great-great-grandmother Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve (in case you were wondering, yes, the breakdown of the ancestors she was named after is extensive). This is one of the best conditioned photographs of her in my possession, and the oldest I’ve seen of her. In others, there are acid marks, white fading, or distance between her and the camera is a factor, and she is older.

Wubbina was born in 1879 and I wouldn’t guess she is much older than 15 in this photo, so I would date it before 1895.

I also have this one (below), which must have been produced en mass seeing as I have at least three copies of it more than 100 years later. In it, she holds my great-grandmother, Helena de Wit, who was born in 1903. For the longest time, my mother tried to tell me the woman holding the baby was a wet nurse and I was like, “Um, no.” The resemblance between her and my cousins is way too strong (I call them ‘those Swalve eyes’ because they’re so distinctive).

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve with daughter Helena de Wit. (Photo by A.J. Swalve.)

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve with daughter Helena de Wit. (Photo by A.J. Swalve.)

 

 

Photo: Helena Catrina Koster

Helena Catrina Koster (Willem Vlietstra)

Helena Catrina Koster (Willem Vlietstra/Contributed)

I don’t even know where to start with the story behind this photo, except to say that I am incredibly excited to have it. The woman in the photo is Helena Catrina Koster — my great-great-great-grandmother, whom I have very little information about — and it was sent to me by a gentleman named Willem Vlietstra.

Last weekend, I found an unexpected email in my inbox from Willem, who stumbled across a mystery photo on this blog and decided to reach out. Willem, who was born in 1941 in Beverwijk, in his youth met the younger brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Freerk Bellinga Swalve and even remembers having conversations with him!

Now, see if you can follow me here. Freerk’s brother’s name was Heinrich. Heinrich was married to a woman named Rijntje Hagen. Rijntje had a sister, and that sister’s grandson is Willem. Which leads to how he has in his possession the photographs he sent me and granted me permission to share here.

That’s right — Photographs. As in, more than one! I’ll try to post more here in the coming days, as well as an update to that mystery photo mentioned above, as time allows.