Photo contributed by A.M. "Toon" Blokand.

Bio: Klaas Siersema

I recently got a message from my uncle asking what I might know about Klaas Siersema, my great-grandfather. Well, the truth is I know a lot, I’ve been remiss in writing down all in one place, and I would love to know more. So, here goes. If anyone has additional information about Klaas Siersema, please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for the kick in the pants, Uncle Mike!

Klaas Siersema.

Klaas Siersema.

Klaas Nicholas Siersema was born on September 15, 1895, in Groningen, Netherlands, to Arentje Vermaas and Gerrit Siersema.

Klaas was the youngest of three siblings. He had two older sisters, Helena Elisabeth “Leentje” Siersema and Elisabeth Helena “Bets” Siersema. Leentje eventually died of starvation during World War II and Bets was rumored to be a medium who could speak to the dead much like her grandfather.

Arentje left Gerrit, who was supposed to be a terrible drunk, taking their children with her when they were still young. She later worked in a shop, but it was likely she went to stay with relatives and did not wholly support herself and her children. It’s possible she stayed with Jacoba Antoinetta van Eijsden in Brielle (I like this theory because in 1909 when Jacoba died, she left half her house and courtyard to Arentje). Jacoba also left Klaas 50 gilders, according to the record Cousin Anje found online.

Mystery Photo No. 3. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Family Photo. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Klaas would go on to become a career military man. He had joined the Royal Netherlands military by the age of 20, and I believe he was a Vaandrig (officer cadet) when photographed with fellow soldiers in Kampen in 1915.

He was promoted to Tweede-Luitenant (second lieutenant) on September 25, 1917, by the Ministry of War–although this was during WWI, the Netherlands was neutral in the war.

After what was in part a long-distance courtship, Klaas married Helena Frederika de Wit at the Netherlands Reformed Church in Hertogenbosch, where her father was a highly respected member of the congregation. According to their calling cards, Klaas and Helena both lived in Hertogenbosch prior to their nuptials. At 27 years old, Klaas was listed on their wedding certificate as a First Lieutenant of the Infantry. They wed on August 28th, 1923, and he was eight years her senior.

Wedding portrait of Klaas Siersema and Helena "Lenie" Frederika de Wit.

Wedding portrait of Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” Frederika de Wit.

Their first son, Johan Nico “Hans” Siersema, was born in Venlo a little more than a year later on October 9, 1924.

Antony Dirk “Tonny” Siersema, their second son, was born on November 15, 1927.

The death of Tonny on August 1, 1929 precipitated Klaas and Helena’s eventual divorce in that it brought the family doctor deeper into their lives. Helena would go on to have a committed relationship with the doctor for about 50 years.

Klaas remarried to Maria Wilhelmina van Erp, whom he remained married to until his death.

Klaas and Wilhelmina van Erp's wedding portrait.

Klaas and Wilhelmina van Erp’s wedding portrait.

Together, they supported Je Maintiendrai, one of the most prominent underground newspapers in the Netherlands during WWII.

By March, 1938, Klaas had achieved the rank of Kapitein (captain) of 2e Compagnie II Bataljon in the 6e Regiment Infanterie, according to a newspaper clipping. He was photographed with fellow military personnel on July 15 with three stars pinned on either side of his collar.

In 1942, Klaas was captured by the Nazis as a prisoner of war. He was held at Oflag XIII-B, a prisoner of war camp for officers that was at the time in Hammelburg, Germany. There or sometime after, I believe he drew this sketch. He also wrote letters to his wife.

Following his release, his son Hans also escaped from a POW camp. According to one family story, when Hans returned home, Klaas saw the car pull up outside and immediately went into his backyard to hide in the bushes. He thought the Nazis had returned for him, but it was only his son returning home.

Klaas is said to have done important work at the Militair Revalidatie Centrum Aardenburg, where as Director of the institute he helped pioneer new methods of treatment for shell-shock soldiers. According to my step-grandmother, those suffering from what we now call PTSD could live on the grounds with their families, which was unheard of at the time. The hospital does cutting edge medical work to this day. Klaas was succeeded in his position at the MRC by Lcol. Th.A.J. van Erp, according to A.M. “Toon” Blokand.

In 1952, Klaas was named an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, which honors selective individuals for their contributions to society through either civilian or military efforts.

KlaasMilDoc-A

Klaas died of a heart attack while reading “Mein Kampf” at the age of 60 in Doorn on October 14, 1955. I’m not sure if that phrase means he was literally reading it, but that’s how I’ve heard it referenced. My mom still has the book with  his bookmark in it.

Click on the photos below to enlarge them.

Click here to see the images Klaas kept in his pocket photo book.

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Letter from the Roman Catholic Military Society from 1896

Dutch Reformed Church document from 1896. (Front)

Dutch Reformed Church document from 1896. (Front)

Dutch Reformed Church document from 1896.

Roman Catholic Military Society document from 1896

 

This is the oldest written document in my possession. It’s in some hard-to-read cursive (and Dutch), so I turned to Cousin Anje to learn a little more about it. Here’s her summary:

It is a letter of the Roman Catholic Military Society, signed 4 August 1896 by the chairman and secretary. It is a letter to a honorable man (whose name is not mentioned), who has been selected as an honorary member of the society in the meeting of 3 June 1896. The letter tells him that he will also receive a “material token of a appreciation.” They express the wish that this present will serve him well and that it will remind him of the Society.  
What the present is and to whom the letter is written remains a secret to me. It is mentioned that he served in a garrison in den Helder (den Helder is a marine city in the dutch province Noord-Holland). 
My best guess is that this document somehow ties to Dirk de Wit, who was an active member of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Photo: The Vargas sisters

 

Vargas sisters family photo. (Courtesy Carmen Gullickson)

Vargas sisters family photo. (Courtesy Carmen Gullickson)

This is a photo of a picture my grandmother had of my great-grandmother Carmen Vargas Marin and her sisters. From the top, left to right, Consuelo Vargas Marin [1912-2005], Nieves “Nancy” Vargas Marin [1914-?], Lucy Vargas Marin [unknown], and Carmen Vargas Marin [1906-1984].

There were originally six Vargas sisters, but two of them died in their late teens. All of them were born in Mexico and worked in the canneries in San Francisco after the family emigrated, according to my uncle Art.

Here is another photo from the same day, which Cousin Carmen gave me:

Vargas Sisters

Vargas Sisters

Portraits of Hendrik Kool

Hendrik Kool, birth date unknown.

Hendrik Kool, birth date unknown. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is a portrait of a relatively young Hendrik Kool and below you’ll find one of him a little older. Hendrik was born around 1870 to Cornelis Kool [1838] and Gonda Maragaretha Duuntjer. Hendrik lived to be 92 years old and died on January 24, 1962. I don’t know anything else about him but would like to, so if you have any information to share, please post it in the comments.

Hendrik Kool

Hendrik Kool. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: Mother, child in Groningen in 1800s

Mystery photo likely on the Kool family side taken in Groningen.

Mystery photo likely on the Kool family side taken in Groningen. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

There’s a good chance the subjects in this mystery photo are directly related to a previous mystery photo subject I mentioned recently on this blog. Both photos came to me through Halbo Kool and both appear to have come from the same place and have similar coloring. In that mystery photo, I postulated that the subject was a brother of Cornelis Kool [1838]. It would stand to reason then that the woman and child in this photo were his wife and child. That’s the best educated guess I have, however, so I’m open to other hypotheses.

Portrait: Cornelis Kool (1838-1923)

Cornelis Kool [1838-1923]. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

Cornelis Kool [1838-1923]. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is another portrait Halbo Kool sent me, this one of our common ancestor Cornelis Kool. Cornelis was born September 9, 1838, in Gieten, Aa en Hunze, Drenthe, Netherlands, to Elsien Cornelis Schreuder and Halbe Geerts Kool. He was both a sailor and a skipper in his lifetime, according to his marriage record and a child’s death certificate, before he died on March 16, 1923 in Groningen.

Portrait: Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (1840-1921)

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer [1840-1921].

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer [1840-1921]. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is another photo sent by Halbo Kool and one I feel very fortunate to have. The only other photo of Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (my third great-grandmother) that I have is from when she is much older, perhaps an anniversary photo? She was born and lived her whole life in Veendam, Groningen, Netherlands.

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: The man with the chin curtain

Mystery Photo

This photo, while likely taken of an ancestor, is a complete mystery to me and Halbo Kool, who sent it to me.

Look at that beard! I looked it up. It’s not quite an Old Dutchman, funnily enough. This is a style of facial hair often called a Chin Curtain or The Lincoln. I’m going with Chin Curtain, since the one thing I do know about this photo is that it was taken in the Netherlands, not America.

Anyways, this photo was in with others of the Kool family in the possession of Halbo Kool (the living one, not any of the previous generations). He doesn’t know who it’s of, but we are able to tell it was taken in Groningen and you can see a slight resemblance to Cornelis Kool [1838] in the eyes, nose and lips. His clothing is similar to that of ancestors in other photos I’ve estimated to be from the mid- to late-1800s. All this leads me to guess that the ancestor in the photo is likely one of Cornelis Kool’s brothers, of which he had three: Jan Kool [1840], Heero Kool [1844] or Harm Kool [1846]. There was a fourth brother, but he did not live to adulthood.

1800s portrait of Wubbina Engellina Haken

Wubbina Swalve [n. Haken]. I'm not sure when this photo was taken, other than it was during her lifetime. The website Cousin Anje and I were referencing to evaluate fashion to narrow down the decade seems to be down. (Courtesy Willem Vliestra)

Wubbina Swalve [n. Haken]. (Courtesy Willem Vliestra)

I was looking through some old emails recently and realized I haven’t yet posted all the photos Willem Vliestra sent me. This portrait is of Wubbina Engellina Haken. I’ve mentioned or written about her on here a couple times before and there’s not a ton of information on a woman who lived so long ago, so I’ll recap what I do know, mostly from the Peters’ research, here:

Wubbina Engellina Haken was born to Geerd Jans Haken and Jantje Hinderks Fols in Boen, the center of the municipality of Bunde, Ostfriesland, Germany — just near the border of the Netherlands — in between May of 1824 and May of 1825.

Wubbina was 26 when she married Engbertus Freerks Swalve on May 4, 1851, and he was 39. She was living in Boen and he was living in Bovenhuisen at the time, but they moved in together Böhmerwold, Germany, after they wed. She was with child before the end of the year, starting a fertile trend that would last 18 years.

Wubbina bore 11 children, including one set of twins, but one of the twin girls died the day of childbirth. Eight of the children lived to adulthood. They were: Geert Engbertus Swalve [1852], Dajes Geziena Swalve [1853], Freerk Bellinga Swalve [1855], Johann Engbertus Swalve [1859], Engbertus Freerks Swalve [1859], Gepkea Wubbina Swalve [1861], Heinrich Engbertus Swalve [1867], and Aaltje Engbertus Swalve [1870].

Wubbina’s husband, Freerks, who was a master baker, died on April 3, 1873. She passed away many years later on September 7, 1889, in Böhmerwold.

Editor’s note: Wubbina was born in the early 1800s. This was written incorrectly –although hopefully obviously so when compared with the photograph –in an earlier version of this post.

From left to right, Wubbina Swalvea, unknown ancestor, Freerk Bellinga Swalve, and Dirk de Wit.

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: Likely Swalve ancestor appears several times

I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while now, and by “for a while” I mean a couple years. In the following photos, you will see an ancestor I believe to be on the Swalve side of the family. Initially, I thought she was Helena Catrina Koster, who married Freerk Bellinga Swalve and was mother to Wubbina Swalve and A.J. Koster (Swalve).

Not only is she photographed with Freerk and Wubbina, but the years that she lived line up with the photos. Koster was born in 1852 in Amsterdam and died on January 10, 1912 in Beverwijk. However, cousin Willem Vliestra sent me a photo from an old album that actually noted a portrait as Helena Koster-Swalve, which none of these photos do. (Otherwise, they wouldn’t be mysteries!)

Helena Catrina Koster (Willem Vlietstra)

Helena Catrina Koster (Willem Vlietstra)

Sometimes, I think the woman in the portrait could be the same as the woman you see in the following photos, but then I dismiss it because of her dark eyes. This effectively leaves the mystery of who is in these photos (and repeatedly with Freerk). A general consensus could sway me, but in general, I don’t trust my own judgment on this since I don’t want to re-write history all willy nilly like.

In the first photo, the woman’s head appears just behind a wagon driver with supplies for the Swalve bakery in Beverwijk:

A wagon of supplies outside the Swalve family bakery in Beverwijk in 1887. (Willem Vliestra)

A wagon of supplies outside the Swalve family bakery in Beverwijk in 1887. (Willem Vliestra)

The bakery is where Helena Catrina gave birth to her children.

Here is the unknown ancestor’s portrait:

Unknown ancestor.

Unknown ancestor.

Here she is again, with Wubbina, Wubbina’s husband, Dirk de Wit, and father, Freerk.

From left to right, Wubbina Swalvea, unknown ancestor, Freerk Bellinga Swalve, and Dirk de Wit.

From left to right, Wubbina Swalve, unknown ancestor, Freerk Bellinga Swalve, and Dirk de Wit. This photo was initially very washed out, so I did some editing for better or for worse in Photoshop to try to make it view-able.

And, finally, here she is with Freerk and possible Wubbina:

Freerk Bellinga Swalve with unknown ancestors.

Freerk Bellinga Swalve with unknown ancestors. This photo is one of those that gets darker with age.