Friday, 6 July 2012

Tragedy, a 100 years ago

As you perhaps know I am an amateur-genealogist. I have been able to trace our family to ca. 850 AC. Hubbies side is more difficult: because of the Holocaust. There are almost no family members left to ask, traces had been removed from archives and complete cemeteries even had been destroyed and disappeared, as for example the cemetary of Konin, the birth-town of hubbie's grandfather.

Last week I made new progress however in the family history of my mother. My mother's grandmother Helena Jantina Scholtens (my mother's name is also Helena Jantina), came from a family of four sisters and two brothers in the province of Groningen, northern Netherlands. Her sisters were named Alida Wilhelmina, Elsina Maria (my name is also Elsina Maria) and Maria Regina. Parents: Jan Scholtens and Helena Kappen.

The two sisters Maria Regina and Helena Jantina married two brothers from Friesland, the northern province of the Netherlands, named Fokke Annes Wijbenga (marriage 1906) and Brand Annes Wijbenga (marriage 1902).

In 1906 Maria Regina and Fokke had a baby boy named Anne (pronounced as Ah-neh and not pronounced as the English girls name Anne) who died when he was just 3 months old. 
In 1907 they got a new baby boy, named Anne again. 
In 1908 they had a girl Helena Jantina, who died aged just 11 months old in 1909. 
They tried once more and got twins in 1910, Jan and Brand. Jan died in 1911, 7 months old and from Brand I lost track, but I believe he reached adulthood, as my mother remembers him, when she and her mother, visited Anne, when she was a girl. Anne died in 1964.

So there she was Maria Regina in 1911 with a four-year old (Anne) and a six-month old (Brand) and 3 children in the grave.

Her husband Fokke was a merchant and had his own small ship. With this ship he would sail to the city of Groningen, trough the canal (Winschoterdiep) and buy supplies. In October 1911 he returned from such a trip on the canal, when he heard Maria screaming. The little boy,  Anne of 4 years old had been playing and fallen overboard in front of his mother (who I guess was with the baby).

Fokke, fully dressed (I don't know if he could swim), jumped in the already cold waters of October and floated on his back in the water with the child on his stomach, hoping to keep him afloat until being rescued. Indeed a bystander jumped in and pulled the child to safety, but by than Fokke had disappeared. A doctor summoned was unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead, aged just 29.

The paper appeals to the public to have mercy on the poor widow who for sure now will fall into poverty without her husband.

[Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, October 10th. 1911]

The only way of survival was living with family or to remarry and so Maria remarried Douwe de Bruin.

In 1914 a daughter Antje is born and in 1915 a daughter Helena Jantina. In April 1918 a third daughter is born, Maria Douwina.

Than fate strikes again, when the Spanish Flu arrives in the Northern Netherlands in November 1918. There had been an earlier wave in May, but the second wave was deadly. All in all 27.000 people died in the Netherlands, over 17.000 in November 1918 alone and most of them in the city of Amsterdam and in the North-East of the Netherlands, Groningen and Drenthe, in rural small villages, with small homes in which a couple of children together slept in one "bedstee", a bed in a closet type room.

On November 18th, 3-year old Helena Jantina died of the Spanish Flu, on November 24th also 4-year old Antje passed away of the decease and a day later Maria's mother, 72-year old Helena Kappen, my great-great-grandmother died of the Spanish flu, November 25th 1918.

Apparently Maria and Douwe got one more daughter, Geertruida, whom I still need to trace. I don't know what became of them. Maria died in 1950, just 65 years old. She had buried five of her nine children, before their fifth birthday. 

Just a story in a family, a hundred years ago. Forgotten by all.

Each day I count my blessings!
Have a wonderful weekend!


Elna said...

Very interesting reading. I've tried to find my ansisters but it's not easy. Have a great weekend.


It's me said...

Wat een verhaal......liefs fijn weekend van

Willy said...

Mooi om het allemaal uit te zoeken, maar wat een drama heeft zich daar afgespeeld.
Lieve groet,

Susan said...

Great story -- what hardships!!

I noted at CSD that today is your birthday. Happy birthday! May it be the start of a marvelous year. :)