Frisian Roots part 1: Ferwerda emigrants

This week, I am in Friesland with one of my clients, Roberta Estes. Roberta is visiting Friesland together with her husband Jim Kvochick and first cousin once removed Cheryl Ferverda. Roberta and Cheryl are descendants of Harmen Baukes Ferwerda, a Frisian who emigrated to Indiana in 1868. Cheryl is his granddaughter, Roberta is his great-granddaughter. I have been researching Roberta’s family for almost two years now and am showing them the places where their ancestors came from, in collaboration with Tresoar, the provincial archives of Friesland.

Cheryl near the Baard cemetery

Cheryl near the Baard cemetery

How it started

Almost two years ago, I was reading a blog about DNA: DNA Explained, in which the writer, Roberta Estes, famously stated:

Dutch lines tend to be rather hopeless, especially when you’re back to when surnames were being formed. [...] All of this, combined, makes finding Dutch ancestors very challenging and surname projects difficult.

I commented that there were in fact a lot of options to pursue, and gave Roberta some links to online documents that traced her line back further. The online scans included the signatures of her ancestors, which Roberta was thrilled about. When she discovered that I was a professional genealogist, she hired me to research her ancestors and prove that these lines were anything but hopeless.

When I started, Roberta had traced Harmen’s ancestors back to his grandparents, born about 1800. I have now traced his ancestors back nine generations (twelve generations from Roberta), the earliest lines going back to the late 1500s, with several probable but yet unproven ancestors going back even further. I have found almost eighty ancestors so far and have not hit many brick walls yet.

One day as I was researching Roberta’s ancestors at the archives in Tresoar, Bert Looper, the director of Tresoar, asked me about my project. The Frisian archives is working on developing a Roots Tourism project, where the archive will create a custom itinerary for tourists of Frisian descent, taking them to their places of origin. They want to have this service up and running by 2018, when Leeuwarden is the cultural capital of Europe. Roberta was a perfect candidate to do a trial for this project. She was immediately on board and agreed to be a ‘test rabbit’ (Dutch version of a guinea pig) so Tresoar and I agreed to work together to prepare for her the trip of a lifetime. Starting from my research, the ‘Roots Team’ at Tresoar located several interesting places to visit and compiled a wonderful personalized guide. This week, we are following the routes described in that guide.

First route: South-West Friesland

Last Friday, we visited some of the De Jong and Ferwerda locations. Harmen Baukes Ferwerda’s mother was called Geertje Harmens de Jong. Her father, Harmen Gerrits de Jong, was a prosperous merchant in Baard. He owned several properties in and around Baard, including a piece of land near Huins upon which a mill was built. Of course, we just had to visit that mill.

Huins mill

Huins mill (detail)

Huins mill (detail), with duck baskets

Cheryl at the Huinsermolen [Huins Mill]

Cheryl at the Huinsermolen [Huins Mill]

Roberta at the Huins Mill

Roberta at the Huins Mill

Jim and Roberta viewing the landscape from the Huins Mill

Jim and Roberta viewing the landscape from the Huins Mill

Baard

We also visited Baard, where we found the location of the house where Harmen Gerrits de Jong and his father had lived. Unfortunately, the original buildings no longer existed.  Right next door was the Anabaptist church where several De Jong ancestors worshiped. Thanks to a detailed estate inventory, we also managed to locate the graves at the cemetery that Harmen Gerrits de Jong used to own. The graves of himself and his wife have been cleared, but we found headstones for grandchildren of theirs on three of the eleven (!) plots that he owned, which confirmed that we located the right spot.

Roberta (left) and Cheryl locating the graves of their distant cousins at the Baard Cemetery

Roberta (left) and Cheryl locating the graves of their distant cousins at the Baard Cemetery

Former Anabaptist Church in Baard

Former Anabaptist Church in Baard

Oudega

Next up was a visit to Oudega in Hemelumer Oldeferd. Here, Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda (Hendrik’s father) was a school teacher until the family emigrated in 1868. The school was located next to the church and parsonage. The school building is gone, but it was very special to stand in the exact location from where Roberta and Cheryl’s ancestors had left Friesland, almost 150 years after they emigrated.

Roberta and Cheryl at the Oudega church

Roberta and Cheryl at the Oudega church

Church at Oudega

Church at Oudega

Parsonage at Oudega

Parsonage at Oudega

Bolsward

We then drove around the countryside and visited Bolsward, the home of merchant Geert Foppes Heslinga (1717-1800) and his ancestors. In 1749, Geert lived on the Market Square in Bolsward. He was the son of Foppe Heslinga, a doctor who received his M.D. from the University of Franeker in 1707.

Bolsward

Bolsward Market

 

Roberta and Cheryl at Bolsward Town Hall

Roberta and Cheryl at Bolsward Town Hall

Next up: Northern Friesland

Tomorrow, we will go to the north of Friesland to trace more Ferwerda ancestors. You can read a live account about our trip by following @DutchGen on Twitter.

Do you want to visit the places of origin of your own family?

If you want to follow in Roberta’s footsteps and need help to prepare for your own trip to the Netherlands, please contact us.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for 20 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

Comments

  1. Emily Peterson Crespo says:

    Hi,
    My mother is a Ferwerda whose father came over from Holland when he was 11. His name Hein Johan Ferwerda and his mother’s name was Dina Faas. I know that they were from Friesland. Maybe we are related. I am definitely interested in visiting that part of Holland. I have twice passed through Holland but never visited ancestral sites such as these. I’m glad to see your work Ms. Hoitink.
    Emily

    • Emily Peterson Crespo says:

      Also that picture is fabulous but it is not representative of myself.

      • I’ve set this picture as the default avatar as I thought it more interesting than the faceless picture that WordPress provides out-of-the-box. Some male visitors were even more surprised than you :-)

    • How interesting that you have Ferwerda ancestors too. There were several people by that name in Friesland. The name “Ferwerda” can either mean “from Ferwerd,” a town in Friesland, or “painter.” As there were many painters and many people from Ferwerd, the name is not uncommon. I can’t find a Ferwerda-Faas marriage in the public records of the civil registration but perhaps they were married less than 75 years ago, in which case their marriage record isn’t public yet.

Leave comment

*