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A journey to the west – part 1

October is history month. Some countries – like the United Kingdom – focus on black history, other countries – like Canada – on women’s history. In the Netherlands, we celebrate history month each year with a different theme. The 2020 theme is: east-west. Multiple interpretations of this theme are possible, and that is exactly the intention. In this article we focus on one of our own family members, who decided to move to the west. He was born in the Netherlands, married in England and lived most of his life in the United States. Meet Jack Snoeren…

Jack Snoeren came into the world on 20 June 1885. His official names were Jacobus Henricus Snoeren. Jack was the third child of twelve siblings, of whom only four reached adulthood. His parents – Martinus Snoeren and Anna Robbeson – lived at the time in Tilburg, a city in development in the south of the Netherlands. Father Martinus was a house painter and lived with his family in various places until he took his wife and children to Antwerp, Belgium in 1889. Later in life Martinus and Anna separated.

North German Lloyd steamer “La Prusse” in the port of Antwerp, photochrom print, between 1890 and 1900 (Photo credits: Library of Congress, lot 13422, no. 009)

Marriage in England

At some point, Jack met Mary. Her full name: Maria Ludovica Hellemans. She grew up in Antwerp and at the age of 20/21 she had two children, but no husband. Her first daughter was Mary (January 1906), the second was Margaret (March 1907). Were they Jack’s children? One thing that suggests he was, is that he reported the death of little Mary in September 1906. The death record names him Jacobus Sloeren (sic!), a 21-year-old joiner, who was a ‘neighbor’.

For some reason both Jack and Mary relocated to London. Here they married, in the Roman Catholic church of the Holy Ghost and St Stephen, Ashchurch Grove (district of Fulham), on the 29th of December 1907.

At the time of his marriage Jack was a carpenter. He lived at 38a Collingbourne Road, Shepherds Bush. His bride lived at Collingbourne Road as well. But at number 38. Did they come to London together, but – as an unmarried couple – lived in separate rooms or parts of the house?


Shortly after their marriage Jack, Mary and Margaret moved back to Antwerp. Here Jack acknowledged Margaret as his daughter, who bore the surname Snoeren from that moment on.

In 1911 Jack, Mary and Margaret were back in London. The census of that year shows them at the address 40 Palace Road, Upper Norwood. Jack was still a carpenter, but the census schedule adds an interesting fact: “working at Crystal Palace”.

Exterior of Crystal Palace in Sydenham with gardens and fountains, albumen print by an anonymous photographer, between 1880 and 1910 (Photo credits: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, object RP-F-F01134-AL)

By 1912, Jack and Mary had moved west twice, both times from Antwerp to London. In that year they decided to move even further west… a new life in the United States was beckoning. This journey will be the topic of next week’s article.


Thanks to the Aliens Police in Antwerp we know a lot more about Jack and his family. This special police force supervised all foreigners who lived in Belgium. Every person with a foreign nationality had to report himself to the police and complete questionnaires. These forms are a treasure for genealogists. They contain loads of personal details, for example name, date and place of birth, and (an) address(es) of the person, his/her parents and children. The more recent ones also have photographs and fingerprints.

Jack’s file contains several documents, including a questionnaire with photographs of him and his wife Mary, as shown above.

FamilySearch has an index on the Aliens Police files and images of the actual files.