Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Family Affair -- Ridott or Bust

One of the benefits of spending time in the records of a place -- whether viewed live, on microfilm, or on the Internet -- is that you become familiar with names you might encounter elsewhere as you research your family history. Such was the case with the Terschelling civil registrations (births, marriages, deaths) and the Midsland parish records (baptisms, marriages, burials).

As you might recall, Sipke Zorgdrager landed in Ridott, Stephenson County, Illinois, after his 1868 migration. Scrolling through the census, other Terschelling names appeared, including Cupido, de Vries, de Graaf, Limburg, and Schaap -- although some were fairly badly mangled by the census enumerator. Obviously, this spot on the prairie had triggered at least a small-scale chain migration.

1870 Census, Stephenson Co. IL
Sipke Zorgdrager, written something more like Seipke Syadager, was living in the household of Peter "de Fries" (see February 11 post).  Peter was Pieter de Vries, the older brother of Sipke's wife, Tryntje de Vries. This caused me to wonder if other members of Sipke's and Tryntje's Terschelling families had also emigrated to Illinois. Time spent correlating information from Dutch civil registration records, emigration records, and U.S. Census records said "yes."

Tryntje de Vries had  six siblings. At least three emigrated, all leaving Terschelling in 1868 -- probably at the same time as their sister and Sipke Zorgdrager.

Maria married Johannes Cornelis Schaap. They also left Terschelling in 1868. They were in Stephenson County in 1870, but by 1880 Johannes was in Washington Township in the far northwest corner of Butler County. Maria was absent; she had died shortly after the family went to Iowa.

Jan married Geertje Cornelis Groendijk. They, too, left Terschelling in 1868,  and were settled in Etna Township, Hardin County, Iowa, in 1870. Their 1 year-old daughter had been born in Illinois -- likely in Stephenson County -- suggesting their move to Iowa was late 1869 or early 1870.

Pieter married Maamke Cornelis Bos. They left Terschelling in 1868, and made room in their Illinois home for Sipke's family in 1870. By 1880, they moved on the to far northwest corner of Butler County, Iowa, just a few miles from  where his brother Jan lived in 1870.

Sipke Zorgdrager had five brothers and sisters. Three emigrated.

Jantje Zorgdrager and Foppe de Graaf, Newkirk Cemetery
Jantje married Foppe Dirks de Graaf. They left Terschelling in 1867, a year before Sipke. By 1870,they were living next door to Jan Pieters de Vries (John De Fries) in Etna Township, Hardin County, Iowa. Foppe and Jantje had apparently paused at least briefly in Illinois, because their 2 year-old son had been born in Illinois.

Andries married Tyntje Iemkes Kooyman; she died on Terschelling in 1862. Andries remarried to Keyke Hek. They emigrated in 1868, probably along with Sipke. They lived in Etna Township, Hardin County, Iowa, in 1870 (clearly entered as "Andrew," but indexed "Anchises Sorgadrane"). The family might have gone straight to Iowa; they certainly didn't stay long in Illinois, because their 1-year-old daughter had been born in Iowa.

Jan married Neeltje Cornelis Swart. Jan was the laggard, not leaving Terschelling until 1882. He was, after all, the youngest child of Pieter Zorgdrager and Martje Cupido. By this time, they probably went directly to Sioux County in northwest Iowa, where Sipke and his other siblings ended up. Their son, Pieter, was born in March 1880. A daughter, Jennie, was born in Iowa about 1883 (1900 U.S. Census, O'Brien County, Iowa). Jan's (and Sipke's) father probably emigrated at the same time. The elder Pieter was living with Sipke Zorgdrager in Holland Township of Sioux County in 1875.

When I searched the index for Netherlands-born families in the 1870 census, I saw several families from "OS Friesland." At first, this made sense, because Terschelling lies just off the coast of Friesland, a northern province of the Netherlands. But, when I also saw near neighbors from Hanover (in northwestern Germany), I realized that "OS" stood for  "Ost," as in Ost-Friesland, a distinct area in northwestern Germany along the Netherlands border.

The question arose: Is there a good explanation for why the Dutch Terschellingers settled in Illinois amongst the Ostfries? I will tackle that question next week (hopefully) when I write about what I call the Ikea Effect.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Gold in Dutch Civil Marriage Records -- The Zorgdrager File

Marriage records are among the most sought-after genealogical records because they often state the age of the bride and groom, as well as the names of their parents. American records, which vary widely across states and time, often give little more than the bride's and groom's age, but European records are often genealogical gold mines.

Dutch civil registrations of marriages commonly give information about age, birthplace, current residence, occupation, and parents' names, age, and occupation. The May 1862 marriage registration of Sipke Zorgdrager and Tryntje Jans de Vries provides the following information.

Sipke Zorgdrager-Tryntje de Vries marriage, excerpted from Terschelling civil registrations*
  • Sipke was a 22 years-old and born at Terschelling.
  • He was a zeeman (sailor).
  • His father, Pieter Andries Zorgdrager, was a farmer living at Terschelling.
  • His mother was Martje Pieters Cupido.
  • His bride, Tryntje, was the 22 year-old daughter of Jan Pieters de Vries and Trijntje Douwes Cupido.
  • Witnesses for the groom were Pieter Pieters Zorgdrager, a 29 year-old zeeman, and Tijs Dirks Pals, a 21 year-old zeeman.
  • Witnesses for the bride were Pieter Jans de Vries, a 33 year-old farmer -- and identified as the brother of the bride -- and Cornelis Johannes Schaap, a 38-year old farmer.
 As you may recall, my grandmother, Kate Zorgdrager, was a daughter of Sipke Zorgdrager and Tryntje de Vries. The information marriage record alone, is a good start for sketching out Kate Zorgdrager's family tree -- We have names, ages and occupations of both sets of grandparents, plus the name of an uncle on her mother's side. Pieter Pieters Zorgdrager was probably Tryntje's brother. The other two witnesses likely were near neighbors, possibly even related.

The document carries the signatures of  all involved:

S Zorgdrager [Sipke Zorgdrager]
T J de Vries [Trijntje Jans de Vries]
P A Zorgdrager [Pieter Andries Zorgdrager -- father of groom]
T D Cupido [Trijntje Douwes Cupido -- mother of bride]
 P P Zorgdrager [Pieter Pieters Zorgdrager -- brother of groom]
Tijs D Pals [second witness for groom]
P J de Vries [Pieter Jans de Vries -- brother of bride]
J C Schaap [second witness for bride]

C Ruyg was the official who signed for the municipality.

The bride's father, Jan Pieters de Vries, is absent because he had died in 1856.

The amount of information in the civil registrations makes it easy to follow a family back in time to 1811; before 1811, church records document births, marriages and burials.

In this case, I quickly discovered two things of interest. First, when he married in 1831, Sipke's father, Pieter Andries Zorgdrager, was a schipper (skipper). While it might have been a small boat, I like the idea of having a schipper ancestor. The same record stated that Pieter Andries' father, Andries Pieters, was a winkeler (shopkeeper). That's also a first in my family! However, when he died in 1856 Andries Pieters -- yes, the names get confusing -- was a plain old farmer.

Second, Sipke Zorgdrager and Tryntje de Vries were 2nd cousins -- not a particularly unusual thing, especially on an island in the North Sea. Sipke's mother, Martje Pieters Cupido, and Tryntje's mother, Trijntje Douwes Cupido were both granddaughters of Pieter Willems Cupido and Tryntje Jongkin. Next week -- perhaps -- I will show the evidence from church records.

* Digital image from Alle Friezen,

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Haven't Lost My Mind... Found it... The Photo, I Mean

A few weeks ago (January 28), I wrote about how I discovered that Kate Zorgdrager's given name was Tryntje. The entire time I was working on that blog post, I thought I was losing my mind. In my minds eye I could see a colorful certificate, complete with bluebirds and colorful flowers, documenting the marriage of Kate Zorgdrager and John Fonkert. I knew I had a photo of it, but after searching high and low, through photo albums and boxes, I could not find it.

Well, I just found it last night!

This scan is from a 3.5" x 5" print, which tells you something about how many years ago I took the photo -- sometime in the 1980s before I even knew genealogy existed. It also means I should have a color negative or transparency (slide) of it somewhere.

Why just a negative or transparency?  You see, I am quite certain I do not have the certificate itself.  As I recall, my Dad had borrowed some old family photos -- and, I think, also the marriage certificate -- from my Dutch aunt. I laid them out on the floor of the garage and photographed them. My memory says that they all then went back to my aunt (died 1902), and despite queries to her children, never saw the again.

So much family memorabilia is lost between generations. Thankfully, I took photos of this certificate.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Strand to Prairie, Zeeman to Farmer

A blogger on the dunes
It was spring and the northern evenings were lengthening by the day. After an evening meal of pea soup, bread, and cheese, Sipke Zorgdrager walked down the lane to the dunes lining the strand. He gazed out over the North Sea, imagining the Illinois prairie sea described in letters from Terschellingers who had preceded him. He and his brother had decided to go before the end of summer.

The Terschelling departure record identified Sipke as a laborer, but other records identify him as a zeeman -- a sailor. At 53 degrees north latitude, sailing was probably a seasonal occupation, so many men probably worked on small farms when not at sea. When he boarded a ship for the crossing, it certainly was not his first time at sea.

Sipke married Tryntje Jans de Vries in May 1862. He was a zeeman. A son, Pieter, was born 16 October 1862. Yes, you can count the months. Sipke's occupation again was recorded as zeeman. witnesses were Tijs Dirks Pals, a schipper (skipper) and Rijn Alberts Roos, a zeeman. Sipke's son, Pieter, died only 16 months later in February 1864. The death registration again identified Sipke as a zeeman, but added the additional information that the family lived at Kinnum, a small village about two miles up the island from the port of West Terschelling.

Maria Zorgdrager birth registration, September 1867

TheTerschelling civil registration records record no more children for Sipke and Tryntje until the birth of Maria 2 September 1867. Again, Sipke was identified as a zeeman. The birth registration stated that he was not present to register the birth, which was declared by his father, Pieter Andries Zorgdrager.* Sipke was probably at sea.

Dutch emigration lists record the departure of Sipke, a wife, and one child in 1868 -- the child presumably being Maria. No record has been found of the family arriving on the far shore of America. The family appears next in the 1870 U.S. Census of Stephenson County, Illinois. In the town of Ridott was "Seipke Syadager," with "Tria" and a 6-month old girl, Mary, who had been born the previous November in Illinois.

Mary was not the daughter Maria that left Terschelling in 1868. Maria must have died either en route to Illinois or shortly after the family reached the rolling prairie west of Chicago. Without a passenger arrival record, it is not known if Maria survived the trip across the ocean. Illinois church records might record a death or burial in or near Ridott.

The first years in America were almost certainly hard. In the summer of 1870, the Zorgdragers were living in the household of Pieter and Martha "De Fries," and their four children. "Fries" was obviously "Vries." Pieter de Vries was Sipke's brother-in-law; he was Tryntje's sister. They had also sailed from Terschelling in 1868.

The 1870 Census reports that Sipke was a farm laborer. He lived a short distance east across the county-line in Seward Township in 1880. He was now a full-fledged farmer -- at least in the eyes of the census-taker. By 1885, he had moved another 150 miles west to Hardin County, Iowa. He lived the last 20 years of his life in Sioux County, Iowa. He probably never saw the sea again. The Midwest prairie was his ocean.

* Thanks to Yvette Hoitink for assisting with translation. The digital image of the birth registration is viewable at

Thursday, February 4, 2016

More Dutch Name Fun: Zorgdrager and Qoryedruger

Let's be clear about one thing: Fonkert is an odd name. Let's be clear about one more thing: Zorgdrager sounds at least as odd.

Those are my two main Dutch lines.  My grandfather was the son of an immigrant from the Rhine delta are south of Rotterdam. My grandmother was the daughter of immigrants from Terschelling, a narrow sandspit of an island off the coast of Friesland.

Sipke Zorgdrager
I wrote about the Fonkert name a few weeks ago. This week, the focus is on Zorgdrager. Sipke, that is. Sipke Zorgdrager emigrated from Terschelling to Stephenson County, Illinois, in 1867. Upon his departure, his occupation was classified as arbeider, or laborer. But, several months earlier, upon the birth of his daughter, Maria, the civil birth registration stated his occupation as zeeman (seaman). It is not known how much time he spent at sea -- it could have been a seasonal occupation -- but there no doubt was a zeeman or two among his ancestors.

Terschelling had a long sailing history, including whaling and exploration. The famous Arctic maritime explorer Willem Barents was from Terschelling. He died in 1597 during the sail home from Novaya Zemblya after being stranded there over the winter. As you can imagine, he was not the only zeeman to not come home to Terschelling from the stormy North Sea.

This may explain the origin of the Zorgdrager name. In Nederlands, een zorg is a care or a worry, perhaps even a sorrow. The verb dragen means to carry or suffer something. So, there you have it: a Zorgdrager is a bearer of sorrow -- perhaps for a zeeman who didn't come home.

Three Zorgdrager brothers -- Sipke Pieters, Andries Pieters, and Jan Pieters -- emigrated to North America, eventually all settling in northwest Iowa. Their elderly father joined them sometime in the early 1880s.

The name gave American census-takers some trouble. While it's not always clear if the informant gave a variant spelling of the name, the enumerator wrote it down incorrectly, or the enumerator just had bad penmanship, the name has been indexed a variety of ways: Syadager, Zorganager, Zorggedrazar, Zorgdragar, and even Gorgedrager.

Andries Sorgdrager, Alton, Iowa
Andries, or Andrew,  seemed to give census-takers the most trouble. First, he sometimes spelled his name with a "Z," but seemed to prefer it with an "S" -- Sorgdrager. His gravestone reads Sorgdrager. It is not clear why he preferred Sorgdrager, but the S-spelling was not unheard of in The Netherlands. It was in use on the eastern part of Terschelling in the early 1800s, but in later years was found mostly on Ameland, the next Frisian Island to the east.

In census indexes, the name seems to flip back and forth from Z to S.

  • 1870, Hardin County, Iowa -- "Anchises Sorgadrane"
  • 1880, Sioux County, Iowa -- "Andrew Qoryedruger"
  • 1885, Sioux County, Iowa -- "Andries P. Zorggedrazar"
  • 1900, Sioux County, Iowa -- "Andrew Zorgedrag"
The spellings are all understandable -- even "Qoryedruger" in the 1880 U.S. Census. In some handwriting styles, a capital Z can look like a Q. If you look at the actual census manuscript, you can see that the enumerator meant the first letter to be a Z. index and manuscript, Sioux County, IA, 1880 U.S. Census