Columns Spotlight

The Goeree-Overflakkee Exodus

In the 19th century a large number of Dutch families moved to the United States. We wrote about emigration in previous articles. Often we think of those who left the north or east of the Netherlands. For example, from the provinces of Friesland and Groningen, or Gelderland and Overijssel. However, we should not forget the vast groups that emigrated from Zuid-Holland. Especially families and individuals from the island of Goeree-Overflakkee.

Fragment of a map of the island Goeree-Overflakkee, by Leonardus Schweickhardt, 1821 (photo credits: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, object RP-P-1939-949)

Zuid-Holland emigrants database

The National Archives of the Netherlands has an index of persons (landverhuizers) that left the province of Zuid-Holland between 1851 and 1900. This index contains the names of 3,815 persons; men, women and children that decided to start a new life in the United States, South Africa, the Dutch East Indies or South America (for example Argentina).

When we look at the numbers, we see that almost 25% emigrated in the year 1886-1890, with 1887 as the absolute top year with 341 persons. Although the 1880s and 1890s show the highest numbers, one other year stands out 1854. Not less than 238 persons left in that year.

Something else that we can learn from this database is where in the province families lived before they emigrated. It is no surprise that large cities like Rotterdam, ‘s-Gravenhage (The Hague) or Schiedam are in the top 10. But what do we think of places like Ouddorp, Goedereede, Dirksland or Middelharnis? Ouddorp is even second on the list, with a total of 454 emigrants. And Goedereede fourth, a total of 122 people decided to go elsewhere. Ouddorp and Goedereede are neighboring places on the west point of the island Goeree-Overflakkee.

Pieterstraat in Goedereede (photo credits: John Boeren)

New Jersey

A very interesting article about the Dutch immigrants of northern New Jersey appeared in the Castle Genie in 2009. The author calculated that in some years the emigration ratio was 100x higher in Goedereede and Ouddorp than in other places in the Netherlands. Many of these Zuid-Hollanders went to New Jersey. Places like Paterson, Passaic and Lodi were very popular.

Matthijs Lokker and his (second) wife Pieternella Moelaard were part of this group. They lived in Goedereede, where Matthijs lost his first wife in 1830. He remarried Pieternella two years later. In 1854 Matthijs, Pieternella and their children – like so many of their friends, associates and neighbors – left everything behind, step on a ship and headed to the United States.

The 1860 US census shows Mathew and Peternillie Locker with the three youngest children (Marinus, Clarra and Anny). They lived in Lodi, Bergen, New Jersey. Ten years later – in the 1870 US census – Mathias and Petrina Locker lived without children. He was unable to read or write, and worked “in print works”. Matthijs died in December 1879, 25 years after his arrival in New Jersey. [source: 1880 US census mortality schedule] His wife died two years later, in November 1881. [source: New Jersey, Death and Burial Index, 1798-1971]

Hendrik (or Henry) Lokker, first son of Matthijs Lokker and Pieternella Moelaard (photo credits: Amy Karras)

Mathijs’ sons Corneli(u)s Lokker (1830-1910), Hendrik (Henry) Lokker (1832-1923), Johannes (John) Locker (1837-1894) and Marinus Lokker (1839-1920) all had offspring. Some of their descendants use the family name Lokker, others spell the name as Locker.

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