Talking to the dead: Ancestors who were reputed to be mediums

A stack of notes.

This is what’s currently at the top of my stack of ancestry notes. If you’re like me, you have plenty of notes written by random family members that need to be deciphered.

I’m one of those people who likes to think things through logically and at times I can be downright cynical, but I will also admit that while I would like to think ghost stories aren’t real, I’ve had some very strange, inexplicable experiences in my life.

It would seem I am not alone.

As I was organizing my ancestry documents and photos this weekend, I came across some notes I believe my grandfather Johan Siersema wrote about the Siersema line of my family, which mentioned two reputed mediums.

Klaas Nicholas Siersema, who went by his middle name or “Nico,” was born Feb. 3, 1836 to Ettje Wolthers and Gerrit Siersema (1813), and was christened two days later. He had two sisters, Attje Siersema and Maike Siersema, and a half brother, Nanno Claussen Siersema. He married Elisabeth Clasina van Eijsden (or Eysden) on Sept. 30, 1863 in Groningen.

Klaas was reputed as a medium who would stand above graves and speak to the occupants, according to my grandfather’s note.

Klaas and Elisabeth had two sons, Gerrit Siersema and Johannes Elto Siersema. Gerrit’s daughter Elisabeth Helena Siersema (or “Bets”), who was born July 22, 1894 to Gerrit and Arentje Vermaas, inherited her grandfather’s talent for talking to the dead. Bets may or may not have been mentally handicapped (Cousin Anje found records of employment for her), according to one note, and did not have any children.

Anyways, as always, if you do have any info the share, please post the details in the comments!

Note: I should add that the sources for this post were handwritten notes and results on and the old website.

SKETCHBOOK FROM THE 1800s: Drawings by Gerrit Siersema, Johannes Elto Siersema

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These are scans of a sketchbook belonging to my great-great-grandfather, Gerrit Siersema, who was born on the 14th of June in 1864 in Groningen, Netherlands, and was named after his grandfather, who was an artist.

The text on the front says, “Teekenboek van G. Siersema. 3 Sept 1875. M. Smit, Groningen.” Teekenboek means ‘drawing book.’ For being so old, the pages are held together quite well by string.

In the book are two loose sheets dated 1885 with the signature J E Siersema, indicating they were likely drawn by Gerrit’s brother Johannes Elto Siersema, who was born in about 1870. Nearly identical sketches can be found bound in the book, but they are clearly drawn in different styles. In my mind, I like to picture the brothers sketching together how many brothers nowadays might sit around and watch TV.

My distant cousin Anje also pointed out that some of the sketches are of the Lichtenberg ruins, which were likely copied from a book, since the journey from where Gerrit and Johannes lived would have been long and expensive in those days. (Note: The second image down on the webpage that the link above leads to looks extremely similar to the sketches.)

I have a feeling the camel and other animals may also have been copied from a book, unless they visited a zoo.

Also, here’s a link from Anje of photos of ruin that inspired the gate sketch.