Last week I wrote about one of the projects I did in 2015/2016. This week I want to talk about one of the most fun projects I did in 2017: a heritage trip with Kathy and Jim from the United States.
Heritage trips are one of my favorite products I can offer as a professional genealogist. I love these trips because I can combine two things I like to do very much: family history research and show interesting and beautiful places in the Netherlands. Fortunately, more people are into traveling to countries where their ancestors once lived. This means I do get several questions from clients per year, either to create an itinerary for them or to guide them on their trip. In most cases the heritage trips are an emotional adventure for my clients. Not one of them ended without someone shedding a tear. To be honest, that is the most rewarding part of the producht: to really connect people with their Dutch heritage.
In February 2017 I received an email from Kathy. She and her husband Jim were planning a trip to visit some of the cities where their ancestors lived. She was looking for “someone who could spend a half day or day guiding us through the area so that we can make the most of our time.” In following emails Kathy explained that her family originally came from Colijnsplaat, Wissenkerke and Kortgene (all in Zeeland) and her husband’s family from Pernis, Rhoon and Poortugaal (Zuid Holland). So both had Dutch ancestors. Even better! Two months later I sent them an itinerary for a trip in early June.
Through research in the population registers and the land registration (kadaster) registers I was able to find the exact location of a house in Colijnsplaat where Kathy’s ancestors lived. It turned out that the correct house was one of a row of six, where families lived that received money from the Poor Relief. They were located right behind the church. The houses do not exist anymore, at this location new houses were built in the 20th century. Nevertheless, Colijnsplaat was the first place we visited.
We had a marvelous time together. It was a nice sunny day. I picked up Kathy and Jim from the train station in Bergen op Zoom. From there we drove to Colijnsplaat, where we had a cup of coffee. I showed them some old photographs of the town, including the church and the old houses. After the coffee we walked through the town to get a good impression of the roads and houses. Some of them already existed when Kathy’s family lived here. On our way Kathy stood face to face with a bust of her ‘famous’ relative: Johannis de Rijke (1842-1913), who was a water engineer working for the Japanese government. After thirty years in Japan, he came back to the Netherlands and died in Amsterdam. Every year a Japanese delegation visits his grave. He has a bronze statue in Nagoya.
Kathy, Jim and I enjoyed our lunch in Brielle, a historic sea port that received city rights in 1306. The town is famous for its role in the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain. The conquering of Brielle marked a turning point in the conflict. Today Brielle is a quiet place, where many tourists enjoy a good meal on one of the terraces. From Brielle we drove to Pernis, close to Rotterdam. I arranged a meeting with a volunteer from the local historical society who knows a lot about life in Pernis in the 19th century and especially about the families that were into cod fishing. Jim’s family was one of them. Several months a year, the men in his family would travel by boat to Iceland to catch this valuable fish. Many of these fishermen never returned. The volunteer had some details about Jim’s ancestors too. He found out where they lived and he showed an old photograph of the house. Highlight of this part of the trip was the moment when Jim stood literally on the doorstep of his ancestors’ house. Even a bigger surprise: the volunteer’s grandfather and Jim’s great-grandfather were neighbors and colleagues!
At the end of the day Kathy and Jim were exhaused and emotionally drained, but they enjoyed every minute of the trip. As Jim would write a few days later: “John was able to take the black and white facts of genealogy and discover the colorful story of our family history.” Kathy added: “It was really a thrill to walk in our ancestors’ footsteps.” What more could I expect?
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The question to win this gift card is: in which Japanese city one can see a statue of Kathy’s relative? Send me the answer in an email or through a private message on social media. Do not be afraid: it is all for free (it is a party after all!) and there are no strings attached. Perhaps you can do me a favor and share my posts on social media so that more learn about Dutch genealogy, about #5YearAntecedentia and about the great giveaways.