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.

1 comment:

  1. how wonderful to have the clues that led to an even more terrific finding!