Columns Spotlight

A journey to the west – part 2

Last week we described the first part of Jack Snoeren’s life story. As a young boy, he moved with his parents from the Netherlands to Belgium. There he met Mary, whom he married in 1907. They lived in Antwerp and London. The two had bigger plans, they wanted to go further to the west… the United States.

On 4 May 1912 Jack boarded the S.S. Lapland, sailing from Antwerp to New York. He arrived ten days later. Jack paid for the ticket himself, and had $40 in cash. His wife Mary and daughter Margaret stayed behind, Jack’s task was to explore his options in this ‘land of limitless possibilities’.

View of Mahoning Location rail yards, mining shops and location houses, August 1910. (Photo credits: Hibbing Historical Society & Museum)

Hibbing, Minnesota

Jack’s first stop was the Star Hotel at Clarkson Street, New York. From there he traveled to Minnesota, where he settled in Hibbing. Six months later Mary and Margaret joined him. The reunion must have been very ‘cordial’, as it led to the birth of Carl Lloyd Snoeren in September 1913.

Jack and his family lived in Mahoning Location from 1912 to 1917. Mahoning was one of almost thirty ‘locations’ in the Hibbing area. A location was a group of residences close to mine sites. [source] In these years he was still a carpenter or joiner.

In 1914 Jack applied for citizenship. In his declaration of intention he said that he had a light complexion, dark brown hair and grey eyes. He had a scar at the corner of his left eye. He was 5 feet and 7.5 inches tall and weighed 130 pounds.

Fragment of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Mahoning Location, Hibbing, Minnesota. This map shows the situation in 1913, with a red line around Jack’s house. (Photo credits: Library of Congress)


Five years later Jack took his family to the big city. They arrived in Detroit, Michigan in 1917. He first found a house at 1196 Montclair Avenue and later the family moved to 5112 Montclair Avenue. Jack worked as a carpenter and joiner for Slone & Wrbelis, a company based in Nemacolin, Greene County, Pennsylvania.

In July 1921 the whole family traveled on the S.S. Zeeland to Antwerp. This was the first time in almost ten years that they would see their relatives. Jack applied for a passport for himself, his wife and their two children. How wonderful that this application still exists and has a group portrait of the whole family! [source]

The family stayed in Antwerp for almost nine months. On 19 April 1922 they boarded the S.S. Scandinavian, which brought them to Quebec in Canada. From there they traveled to Detroit.

Last time, further west

Back home Jack found a house at 5821 Springfield Avenue. He worked as a carpenter for the Royal Oak Wholesale Company. After his retirement he and Mary moved one more time. To the west, again. To Los Angeles this time, where their daughter Margaret also lived. Here Mary died in 1962. Jack survived her for only nine months, he died in June 1963. As far as we know Jack and Mary never returned to the Netherlands or Belgium again.

So what happened to their children? Margaret married two, perhaps three times. She died in Los Angeles in 1976. Carl married twice, stayed in the Detroit area and died in 1973. He and Margaret both died without children. So, as far as we know, this family line has died out.

Learning Point

Always read your documents carefully, and make no assumptions. We had the UK Census return (1911) and Carl’s birth certificate (1913) in our possesion for years. Nevertheless, we did not notice the remarks about the number of children Mary had: one of her children died. Once we figured this out, we assumed that this child was born between the birth of Margaret (1907) and the 1911 census. We looked for a birth in the UK and in Belgium, but could not find any. How wrong we were by assuming that she had this child with Jack! It turned out that she had two children before her marriage: Mary and Margaret. Mary was the one that died as an infant.