1910 photo of Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve in Beverwijk, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, in 1910.

This is probably my favorite photo of Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve. Some others I have look like they are from while she’s pregnant or after giving birth, or after her husband died and she was confined to a wheelchair. In this one, she’s dressed all fancy with her big hat and umbrella.

Since it was my favorite, I edited back in the detail in the photo editing app Snapseed. Previously, it was too washed out from age to really see. It’s grainy, but at least you can see it now.

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.)



MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: De Wit family photo circa 1910 holds a clue, more questions

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.

Update: Ancestor No. 3 has since been identified as Freerk Bellinga Swalve.

As with many mysteries, just as soon as I found a clue that might help me solve one, two new questions popped up.

If you remember the subject in the photo from the post “Image taken in Rotterdam in the 1800s by A. Boeseken,” you may notice the uncanny resemblance between her and Unknown Ancestor No. 1 in the image above. Since we know that the Rotterdam photo was taken between 1867-1877 and that this photo is taken in 1910, I was excited to look at my family tree to see who the woman might be. Based on birth and death records, a huge amount of people were immediately dismissed through process of elimination. While my records that far back are a little spotty (mostly with birth dates, but no death dates yet), there was one person who fit the criteria: Anneke van de Graaf.

Anneke van de Graaf entered my family tree through marriage to Hermanus de Wit, who was the brother of my direct ancestor and great-great-great-grandfather Dirk de Wit (1833). So, essentially, she would have been the aunt of the Dirk de Wit standing next to her, if the person in the photo is indeed her. She was born in Beesd, Netherlands, in 1838 and died in Beesd in 1913.

That said, I have no way to verify it yet — and let’s not forget that the image above also raised two additional questions with Unknown Ancestors Nos. 2 and 3. Who are they? For a moment there, I was excited, thinking that perhaps they were the elder Dirk de Wit and his wife, but that is an impossibility since they died seven years earlier. Unknown Ancestors Nos. 2 and 3 could, then, very well be Wubbina’s parents, Freerk Bellina Swalve and Helena Catrina Koster, who did live in Beverwijk judging by the record of their wedding on and postcards Freerk sent to Helena. Until I find their death records, though, I cannot confirm. And so the mysteries continue!

1959: Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve dies

This is the death announcement for Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve, who died the 7th of March, 1959. As far as I can tell, her daughter, Helena de Wit, took care to use elegant stationary for important occasions, and this was no exception. Below, you will find scans of the announcement and thank you card that were mailed out, and a rough translation at the bottom of this post.

You may notice the initials are mixed up on the announcement. My only guess is that Helena was quite distressed when she sent them out, so that could have contributed to the typo.

Rough translations:

“Our gentle and calm, dear mother, grandmother and great-grandmother has died

W.J.E.P. Swalve
Widow of D. de Wit,
At age 79 years

H.F. de Wit

Beverwijk, March 7, 1959
Vondellaan 64
Condolence address:
H.F. de Wit, Tolsteegsingel 37, Utrecht.

The deceased will be laid out in the funeral at Velserweg 18, Beverwijk. Visit from 3-4 and from 7 am to 7.30 am. The funeral will take place Wednesday, 11 March …”


“For the many condolences for the death of our dear mother, grandmother, great-grandmother

Mrs. W.E.J.P. de Wit-Swalve

we express our heartfelt thanks.

H.F. de Wit

Utrecht, April 1959”

Early 1900s postcards from Freerk Swalve to daughter Wubbina (in Dutch)

UPDATED SEPT. 20, 2012: These are postcards sent from my great-great-great-grandfather Freerk Bellinga Swalve to his only daughter, Wubbina, in the early 1900s. Originally, there was one more in this collection, but it was removed after my cousin, Anje Belmon read over them (she know Dutch) and determined that one was actually from an aunt. As for the rest, Anje says, “Most of what is written is about small illnesses, and wishes that things will be better soon, so they can visit each other.” Which, of course, sounds exactly like something a father would write to his daughter.

Hint: Click on the images to make them bigger.

Bio: Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve

Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve was born about 3 a.m. the 25th of October 1879 to Freerk Belinga Swalve and Helena Catrina Koster in a house at the bakery on Breestraat in Beverwijk, North Holland, according to a birth certificate scan on

Wubbina had one sibling who lived to adulthood, Anthonie Johannes Swalve, who was her older half brother or brother and later an amateur photographer. She also had a sister, Lucretia Anna Swalve, who died very young.

When she was 22, Wubbina married a teacher named Dirk de Wit — at least four years after their courtship began — in her hometown on August 15th in 1902, according to a digital record on

Two years later, she gave birth to a daughter, Helena de Wit.

Wubbina was widowed in 1926 at which point she went into seclusion.

She died in March 1959. She was 79 years old.

LOVE LETTER FROM 1898: Century-old poem from Dirk de Wit to Wubbina Swalve

I recently procured a box of old documents and photos from my grandmothers house. In it, I found this 114-year-old love letter from my great-great grandfather, Dirk de Wit, to his then future wife, Wubbina Engellina Petronella Swalve.

My distant cousin Anje Belmon, who lives in the Netherlands and knows English as well as Dutch, helped translate (she also notes that, in Dutch, the letter rhymes):


When you friendly eyes
May rest upon these pages,
Think about him,
Who wrote these (pages), and who loves you,
More than the light of eyes.

May everything on this globe perish
His love for you will always exist.
But he also hopes for thy love:
Your love gives him joyful pleasure
In restless working and striving.

And if sometimes adversity threatens
Stand firmly! Hold your head up high!
Be aware that at heaven’s proud bow,
Clouds also pass through!

Thine, thou always loving, Dirk