Mystery photos from an early 1900s album belonging to Helena de Wit

An album that belonged to my great-grandmother Helena de Wit in Beverwijk, Netherlands, in the early 1900s was in the box of photos and documents my grandmother gave me. If you follow this blog, you’ve seen many of those photos retouched over the past year and a half or so. These are the photos that remained untouched, with their subjects unidentified.

I know that without any additional information, the chance that readers here will know any of them is slim. But, please, if anyone recognizes an individual in one of the photos, mention it in the comments.

To see larger images, you can click on one and scroll through.

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)

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.)

 

 

WHO WORE IT BETTER?: Helena de Wit or Klaas Siersema?

This is the first (and likely the only) “Who Wore it Better?” post you will ever see on this blog, so — remember — your vote counts! On the left, we have my great-grandmother Helena “Lenie” de Wit, and, on the right, we have my great-grandfather Klaas Siersema.

Lenie never served in the military, but she had many friends, including her husband, Klaas, and longtime partner, Gerard Berends, who did. Plus, she’s just so darn cute.

Then, we have Klaas, who was a career military man. He worked his way up from lieutenant to colonel before retiring. Clearly, his look is more stoic (that might have something to do with the fact that he is quite literarlly in the field in this photo, which I believe was taken during WWII).