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.

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.

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: 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.