Thursday, December 31, 2015

Here Lies Dirck Under the Floor of the Church

Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar!

If you've followed this blog the past 4-5 weeks, you know that the Fonkert family first appeared in the 1500s on the Hoekse Waard, an island of reclaimed land in the Rhine delta just south of Rotterdam.

The western part of the island was still swampland when the Count of Egmont gained ownership in 1531. The Westmaas-Nieuwland polder, where Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert lived (see Dirck Fonckert: "He Lived in a Former Monastery of Monks," 10 December 2015), was drained by 1539. The two polders to the west where later generations of Fonkerts lived -- Oud Beijerland and Nieuw Beijerland -- were created in 1557 and 1583, respectively.*

The earliest Fonckert known with certainty is Adriaen Willemsz Fonckert, who died at Rhoon, on the next delta island to the north (IJsselmonde) in 1594. He was married to a daughter of the schout (sheriff) of Rhoon and had there at least four children, including Dirck. While his parents and birthplace are not known, it is estimated that he was born about 1535. Dirck and his two married sisters moved to the Hoekse Waard to farm the new land.

They were landholders of some means. Dirck was an alderman in de Group and in 1622 was appointed dijkgraaf -- dijk sheriff. As a man of some status, he was buried in the Westmaas church upon his death in 1641. The outer part of the stone reads: "HIER LEIT BEGRAVEN DIRCK ADRIAENSZ FONCKERT IN LEVEN DYCKGRAEF VANT WESTMAES" -- Here lies buried Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert  who during his life was dijkgraaf of Westmaas. His first wife, Bastiaantje Zegers Craenendonck, who died in 1626, is also buried in the church. At the base of their bas-relief stones are the family wapens, or arms. They were badly damaged in 1795 by French revolutionaries  who sought to destroy symbols of nobility. A corner of Dirck's gravestone is hidden under the choir "loft."I don't seem to have a photo of Bastiaentje's grave.

Dirck's daughter, Haasje, married Symon Huygen Splinter and is buried in the church at Mijnsheerenland, less than a mile from Westmaas. I do have a photo of her gravestone.

As noted above, Dirck Adrianesz Fonckert came to the Hoekse Waard from Rhoon. There were several Fonckerts at Rhoon in the 1500s, but details about them are fuzzy. Next week, I will kick off the new year with some fairly wild, yet, I think, credible speculation about the origins of these Fonckerts.

And, if you haven't figured it out yet, "Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar" means "Happy New Year." For good measure, I also wish you "een verspoedig Nieuw Jaar.

* It is not clear whether drainage of these polders began, or was finished, in these years. This short description the polders and the role of Adriaen Willems Fonckert is from

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My 4th Great-Grandparents and the Silver Baptismal Bowl

Fröliche Weihnachten, God Jul, Merry Christmas, and Vrolijk Keerstfeest!

My sixth-great grandfather, Zegert Dirksz Fonkert (1685-1737) had established a farm in the Oud Beijerland polder by the early 1700s. His grandson, Pieter Dirksz Fonkert (1762-1865) had inherited the farm and expanded it to 129 hectares -- an impressive estate in those days. When Pieter's son, Dirk Pietersz Fonkert died in 1860, the farm was sold at auction. A third son, Pieter, received an unknown cash settlement. Pieter was my great-great-grandfather.

The Dirk Fonkert whose Zinkweg farm was sold at auction in the 1860s had married a daughter of one of the richest farmers in the region. Neeltje was a daughter of Klaas Rochus Schelling and Jannetje de Koning. This was no random marriage. Dirk Fonkert and Neeltje Schelling were first cousins. The bride's and groom's mothers were daughters of Ary Klaas de Koning and Jaapje Bastiansdr de Vroom.*

Lasting evidence of the Schelling wealth is a silver baptismal bowl still in use in the Klaaswaal Dutch Reformed Church. Klaas Rochusz Schelling and his siblings gave the bowl to the church in honor of their parents, Rochus Arysz Schelling and Neeltje Troost. Set side-by-side in the bowl are the Schelling and Troost wapens. An inscription on the bottom of the bowl honors the legacy of Schelling and Troost, who had died in 1786 and 1776, respectively. The outside rand, or edge, named the heirs, all parishioners of the parish, including "Klaas Schelling Gehuwt met Jannetje de Koning."**

Why does this Schelling-Troost bowl matter to me? Because Klaas Schelling and Jannetje de Koning were my 4th great-grandparents. Put another way, they were my immigrant Fonkert great-grandfather's great-grandparents. A bit distant, yes, but to see something of such value still in use after 225 years is a treat that few family history researchers experience.

The problem is, I haven't yet seen it. The church was closed the first time we visited Klaaswaal in 1993. When my brother and I went back several years later, we timed our visit to stop by the church right after the Sunday service, but the church had emptied and been locked faster than we anticipated. Thankfully, a few years later, I was able to help a New Mexico cousin arrange for a visit, and her husband brought back photographic proof that the baptismal bowl is still there.

Ancestors of the Iowa Fonkerts moved only a few miles over 400 years.

Adriaen Willemsz Fonckert lived in the 1500s at Rhoon, a settlement on IJsselmonde, and island in the Rhine delta. A well-to-do farmer, his father-in-law was sheriff. He died in 1594.

Dirck Adriaensz Fonkcert was born about 1565. By 1610, he occupied the house that still stands just outside Westmaas in the Hoekse Waard -- an island diked and drained during the 1500s. Appointed dijkgraaf  is buried in the church at Westmaas.

Seger Dirksz Fonckert, born about 1600, farmed at least 50 hectares (124 acres) in the Nieuw Beijerland and Zuid Beijerland polders in the Hoekse Waard. He was a member of council (heemraad).

Dirk Segersz Fonkert farmed on the south side of Nieuw Beijerland polder. He died before 1690.

Zegert Dirk Fonkert was the first Fonkert to farm at the corner of the Plaastsweg and the Zinkweg dike in Oud Beijerland. By 1730, he had 65 hectares (160 acres).

Dirk Zegers Fonkert (1723-1768) worked his father's farm in Oud Beijlerland.

Pieter Dirksz Fonkert (1762-1815), the youngest son of Dirk, inherited his father's farm at age 6, and enlarged it to 139 hectares (319 acres).

Dirk Pietersz Fonkert (1789-1860), with the Fonkert's growing wealth, married into the rich Schelling, but at his death the Zinkweg farm was broken up at auction.

Pieter Fonkert (1815-1882) did not receive any of his father's land; he instead farmer nearby at Klaaswaal.

Pieter Fonkert (1845-1891), with diminished prospects in the Hoekse Waard, emigrated to Iowa where he farmed.

* N. Vels Heijn and F. M. van der Kolk, Kwartierstaat Fonkert-Steehouwer, self-published (Zeist, Netherlands, 1986); available at Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, Den Haag.
** Bas Schelling, Pieter Schelling, and Bert Schelling, De Familie Schelling uit de Hoeksche Waard (Schoorl, Netherlands: Priola, 1994), p. 22.

Photo of baptismal bowl courtesy of John Puckett, Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Fonkert Mystery on the Zinkweg

The day -- 16 August 1993 to be exact --  had exceeded my fondest expectations. We had stood in the house where Dirck Fonkert lived in 1610 (see 10 December post). We had, completely by accident, found a ninth cousin under the Fonkert Technoservice sign in Klaaswaal (see 3 December post).

Oud Beijerland polder, 1810*
With a few more hours of summer daylight, I had one more lead to follow. The family history passed to me by a New Jersey cousin included a map showing the location of two 19th-century Fonkert farms a mile or two west of Klaaswaal on the Zinkweg. One farmhouse had burned in the late 1800s, but been renovated in 1903. According to the family history, a stone table stated: "The first stone was laid by Nelia Jansje Fonkert, 24 years old, 1903."

We found a farm house at 277 Zinkweg that seemed to fit the location indicated by the map, but it was getting on toward dinner time, so I drove wife and daughter back to our hotel in Oud Beijerland before returning on my own to investigate.

There were people in the yard so I walked down the driveway to make inquiries. They knew little English, but eventually a young woman figured out that I was asking about Fonkerts. She pointed to a tablet set, perhaps, 12 feet high on the north exterior wall.  Sure enough, it read:
OP DEN 5 MEI 1858

No complaints, but it was not the tablet I was looking for. The current ownders said they knew of a Fonkert family up the road and led me to 276 Zinkweg, where a knock on the door brought out a real Fonkert. Aart invited me in, but language remained a challenge. Luckily, Aart's sister soon arrived and helped with the translating. Looking at the family history that had led me to the Zinkweg, she recognized their great-grandfather: Dirk Fonkert, born 1833 to Dirk Pietersz Fonkert and Neeltje Schelling. According to the family history, after the elder Dirk died in 1860, the younger Dirk bought the parental farm house and 24 hectares of the 100-hectare farm (about 247 acres).

Aart drove me to a second farm house, the next house south of the first house I had visited. The first was about 500 feet north of where the Plaastsweg, now called 2nd Kruisweg (crossway), dead-ends into the Zinkweg. The second house was on the south side of the Plaatsweg. Aart's sister thought her father's cousin had lived there until 1960. My journal, written later that evening, says there, "sure enough, was the 1903 Nelia Fonkert stone I had been looking for." There is a problem, however: from the photo I took, the inscription appears to read:

DEN 12 JULI 1800

Something is wrong. The name is slightly different (Jansje instead of Jannetje) from the translation above, but more importantly, it is in error by 103 years. (My journal entry says "1903," but I probably copied the name and date from the family history later that evening at the hotel.) The "8" in 1800 might possibly be a "9," but the lower loop seems to be closed in the style of an "8." Is it possible the stone should read "1900?"

Aart Fonkert had said that Nelia was his grandfather's sister. Indeed, civil registrations document that Nelia Jannetje Fonkert was born at Oud Beijerland 31 December 1875, the daughter of Dirk Fonkert and Jannetje Saarloos; she would have been 24 in 1900. The family history says the farm house was rebuilt in 1903 after a house fire, but "1903" might be the author's typo. Possibly, Netherlands property records might clarify the date.

The day already had delivered more "happy dance" moments that a family history researcher could ever expect, but more surprises were in store. The Zinkweg is a dijk-road -- that is, it runs on top of the dike forming the west boundary of the Oud Beijerland polder. In front of the second house, a small arched stone and brick bridge connects the farm house to the the Zinkweg. It, too, has a stone tablet. It reads: "DEN EERSTEN STEEN GELEGD DOOR DIRK FONKERT DZ OP DEN 26 JUNI 1856." This was likely Nelia Jannetje's father, Dirk, son of Dirk Fonkert and Neeltje Schelling.

The biggest surprise was back at the hotel. I had been gone longer than I should have been. When I belatedly returned, I found wife and daughters sitting in the dining room with the woman from Marienhof (see "Dirck Fonckert," 10 December 2015). An unfamiliar man was with her. He, too, had a notebook. He was Henry den Hartigh, the local historian who had researched the farm history. He told us that 17th-century house (now used as a garage) we had visited at Marienhof was the oldest surviving building in Westmaas. He had photos of the hearth, ceiling timbers, windows and other architectural features of the 1610 house.

But, what about those houses back on the Zinkweg? The two sons -- Dirk and Klaas -- who bought the two farm houses were brother of my great-great-grandfather, Pieter Fonkert. Pieter got cash, but apparently no land from the 1860s auction. My Christmas Eve post will summarize 300 years of Fonkert history in the Hoekse Waard, including two sets of cousin marriages and the gift of a valuable silver baptismal bowl to the Klaaswaal church.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dirck Fonckert: "He Lived in a Former Monastery of Monks"

The Fonkert Technoservice sign (see December 3 post) was pure serendipity. What happened earlier that day was founded on a little preparation.

(Before correcting myself, I typed: "What happened next..." Let this be a lesson about memory. When I wrote last week's post, I was certain in my memory that the first extraordinary event of the day back in 1993 had been the Fonkert Technoservice sign. Looking back at the journal I kept, I now realize that the story I'm about to tell actually happened first. This tendency of memory to warp is precisely why genealogists are so cautious when using records created long after an event).

 From the family history I had received from the New Jersey cousin, I understood that the original Fonckert homestead was just west of Westmaas, a small town less than two miles from Klaaswaal.  Here's what it said about Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert:

He lived at Westmaas in a former monastery of monks who since 1538 opened up new land, but who pulled out when Protestantism got the upper hand. Parts of this building still exist, mainly the former chapel, now a large barn. It is situated some miles west of Westmaas, where the Smidsweg crosses the canal Vliet, in the area which is called the Group.*

Not familiar with the territory, we struck out on what seemed like a westerly course from Westmass. I tried to converse with a kindly landbouwer (farmer) at the first farm we came to. "Fonkert" didn't seem to mean anything to him. We continued, taking a couple of left turns, which left us headed back toward Westmaas.

As we crossed a small canal -- a mere drainage ditch by Midwest standards -- I wondered: could this be the Vliet canal?  A sign at a driveway just past the canal announced the Marienhof farm. With some trepidation, I turned in and stopped in front of a fine brick farmhouse, leaving wife and daughters in the car. A middle-aged woman answered my knock on the door. Again, the best I could do was a few words in German. Just when the conversation, if it could be called that, seemed to be going nowhere, she stopped and said, "Fonkert?"  "Yes," I said. She said something that I interpreted as "wait." She went into the house and returned a couple of minutes later with a large black notebook.

It was a history of the farm. The first paragraph reported that the first owner of the farm had been Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert, who had lived there in 1610. We were instantly invited in for tea and given  a tour of the 17th-century house -- now garage -- with the original hearth and ceiling timbers intact. Few words were understood, but much meaning got through. Just to be clear, the chapel was not converted to a barn, but to Dirck Fonckert's house. The attached barn was built later.

The location described in the family history had been good enough to get us there, but was not completely accurate. Marienhof is only about two-thirds of a mile (about 1 km) west of Westmaas; a visit to Google Maps shows "Greup" a bit more than a mile farther west. Greup is a dijkdorp -- small settlement on a dike -- between Westmaas and Oud Beijerland. Without the described geography, we would never had found the home of Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert.

Left to right: new house, barn, original house (garage)
A door in the back of the original house leads to the attached 1750 barn. Yes, the barn is more than 250 years old. In the old world style, the barn is attached to the new house, built about 1850.

I have since been back to visit Familie Quartel and stayed overnight in the "new" house. A few years ago, I took my brother back for a visit to our Dutch ancestral homes. I will be forever grateful for the generosity of Jaap and Mevrouw Quartel.

 "A day to be remembered" is an understatement. In one afternoon, we had, with some preparation, found the original Fonckert homestead on the Smidsweg. A few miles away, complete serendipity led us to the home of a 9th cousin -- whose family had moved less than two miles over the course of nearly 400 years.

The sun had not yet set. The day was not yet over. The story of one incredible family history day continues next week.

* Dr. Nicholaas Vels Heijn and Fenny M. Vels Heijn-van der Kolk, Pedigree Fonkert, 1988, prepared for Phyllis Good (deceased) of Butler, New Jersey, who gave a copy to the blogger. This English version is drawn from a more detailed Dutch-language version, Kwartierstaat Fonkert, which is held by the Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie in den Haag (The Hague). The sketch-map is from Kwartierstaat Fonkert.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

At the Right Place at the Right Time: Meet the Fonkerts

You had to be there.

You have to make your own luck.

Would you believe that a Google search for "make your own luck" returns 322,000 hits?

What does all this have to do with genealogy?  Well, sometimes you have to prepare to be lucky, and sometimes, you just have to be there.

Back in the olden days, before I knew anything about FamilySearch or, I had some amazing luck. On my family's first European trip in 1993, I had the most memorable family heritage day of my life. I had been in touch with a 2nd cousin in New Jersey, who had shared a copy of a family history that said that, going back to the 1600s, Dirck Adriaensz Fonckert (yes, with a "c") had lived just outside the town of Westmass in Zuid Holland.*  That's South Holland in the Netherlands. I was prepared -- at least a bit.

Westmaas is on an island in the Rhine delta called de Hoekse Waard, just a few miles south of Rotterdam. We crossed under the river (through a tunnel) and came to the exit off the A29 freeway for Klaaswaal -- another town that appeared in the Fonckert history. A left, and a right, and another left brought us to the corner of Oud Cromstrijendijk and Molendijk. When I pulled off the road to get my bearings, my wife pointed up at a sign on the building on the corner: "Fonkert Technoservice." Klaaswaal is less than two miles from Westmaas. I thought, this must be my family! (O.K., the sign in the photo does not say "Technoservice," but I'm pretty certain the sign at the corner of the building did say Fonkert Technoservice; it was was a small electronics shop.

A short (actually, rather small) man was just locking up. I jumped out and accosted him (so it must have seemed to him), pointed up at the sign, and then pointed back at myself and said, "Fonkert aus America" (yes, that was German; I knew no Dutch). I swear, he nearly fell over in surprise. Language was no barrier. Rokus gestured for me to follow him. He led me a couple of doors down the street, entered a "Fonkert" bicycle shop, walked through, and passed through another door that opened into his home.

He pulled down a three-ring binder off a shelf above the couch. It was a lengthy Fonkert  family history (not the one I received from my cousin). I scanned through the notebook, but did not recognize any family connection. Language was now becoming a problem, so Rokus called his daughter, who came over to help translate. I don't remember a lot else, but I left with the name and address of the nephew of Rokus who had done the family history.

We ran out of time to track down the nephew, but after our return home and an exchange of letters we determined that the nephew and I are 9th cousins. That's a completely un-close relationship, but we were both Fonkerts! We have since had the pleasure of visiting Pieter Pot and his parents in 's-Gravendeel.

I must tell you that a good friend who can not resist a good joke likes to tell this story for me, but in his version the Fonkert Technoservice sign translates to mean "no parking." And, to be honest, I do think I was probably illegally parked.

Quite a day, but this was just the beginning of my good luck. I was in the right place at the right time, and there was more genealogical good fortune around the corner -- which means there is another blog post coming next week.

* At left, is an illustration of the Fonckert wapen, or arms from Dr. N. Vels Heijn and F. M. Vels Heijn-van der Kolk, Kwartierstaat Fonkert-Steehouwer, 1982. A condensed English version was given me by Phyllis Good (deceased) of Butler, New Jersey.