Droppers, Garrit Jan and Janna Geertruid Vardink

Garrit Jan Droppers and Janna Geertruid Vardink were one of the families who decided to emigrate even though they were already middle aged. The benefit of this was that they had grown up children who could help them build a new life. Because several letters of this couple still exist, a lot is known about their experiences in the United States.

Gerrit Jan Droppers

Garrit Jan Droppers was born in Winterswijk on 3 January 1792 as the son of Gerrit Jan Droppers and Geesken Samberg. His family had lived on the Droppers farm in the hamlet of Woold for generations.

Janna Geertruid Vardink

Janna Geertruid Vardink was born on 19 March 1796 as the daughter of Jan Derk Vardink and Aleida Dierkink.


Garrit Jan and Janna Geertruid were married in Winterswijk on 22 July 1818. Afterwards, they lived at the Stroete farm in the hamlet of Woold.

The couple had the following children:

  • Johanna DROPPERS, born on 02 June 1819 in Winterswijk.
  • Janna Gesiena DROPPERS, born on 03 February 1822 in Winterswijk.
  • Aleida DROPPERS, born on 23 June 1824 in Winterswijk, died on 09-06-1825 in Winterswijk.
  • Aleida DROPPERS, born on 25 October 1826 in Winterswijk. She was first married to a man named VEENHUIS and on 27 January 1870 she was remarried to Jan Albert MEENK, born in Winterswijk on 12 October 1820, son of Garret Jan MEENK and Geertruid VEENHUIS.
  • Gerrit Jan DROPPERS, born Winterswijk 11 March 1829, died Sheboygan, WI 02 February 1892, buried Cedar Grove Cemetary. He was married in Town of Holland, Sheboygan County, WI on 24 July 1857 to Wesselina Gezina RAMAKER, born Dinxperlo 21 March 1838, died Sheboygan, WI 18 December 1892, buried Cedar Grove, daughter of Lambertus RAMAKER and Hermina KLOS.Photograph of tombstone
  • Jan Derk DROPPERS, born Winterswijk 24 July 1832. He was married in Milwaukee on 23 July 1853 to Geertruida BOEIJINK, died 1880.
  • Janna Geertruid DROPPERS, born on 24 February 1835 in Winterswijk. She was first married to Jan BOEIJINK, a brother of Geertruida Boeijink married to her brother Jan Derk. Marriage certificate She was remarried in Milwaukee on 4 October 1864 to Willem Frederik WESTENDORP. They were members of the church in Milwaukee and adopted a son named George Brijsbij, baptized on 2 November 1862.
  • Berendina DROPPERS, born in Winterswijk on 31 August 1839. She was married to Gerrit DEUNK.


In a letter dated 23 December 1847 Gerrit Jan describes his trip:

Dear Brothers and Sisters we have all come across the sea thanks to the Lord’s blessing you must be curious te hear how we fared we have not had much seesickness I had it rather long but we are all healthy again now and cannot thank Him enough for all the good things He did for us.

About the trip to America, the 2 August, as you know, we left from Winterswijk and the 5 we arrived at Rotterdam and there we stayed until 12 Thursday.

When we came there the first night we had to go to an inn and the next day we already came on the ship where we stayed until the 12th, the ship was already under steam and the 12th in the morning we went with the ship to Helversluis [Hellevoetsluis] and we came there on the same day in the afternoon on the 12th and we stayed there with the ship until the 14 Saturday morning and then we sailed away with favorable winds full speed ahead.

We have not had storm on the sea and not much headwind either and saw no danger at see we had a good captain on the ship and good sailors, so we came across the sea with the Lord’s blessing rather quickly. The 12 September Saturday we came to Staten Island. There people came on the ship to see whether there were any sick aboard the ship, there were two and they were taken by sloop to Staten Island. We were all healthy then and were there until Monday the 14 September when we left the ship and went on a boat with our goods that brought us to Niwyork [New York]. There the scipper brought us then we loaded our goods on a large boat and that went in the evening around 6 and we came in the morning of the 15th in Albanij [Albany] and from Albanij we went on a pull-boat to Buffelo and then on another boat that was very large and there we brought our goods and the 16th in the evening it went away and on the 30th we were in Milwakie [Milwaukee], this was 300 hours. There we arrived.

In this letter to his family, Gerrit Jan also writes about the Phoenix disaster that many of his fellow travelers were involved in. Fortunately, they took another ship. In Milwaukee, they met a fellow emigrant from Winterswijk, J.W. Dunnewold, who helped them rent a home.

Life in the United States

A later letter tells that they settled in the woods 15 hours from Milwaukee and were building a church with minister De Zonne. This might have been the Cedar Grove church. Three of their children had remained in Milwaukee because they were making good wages.

On 2 March 1860, Garrit Jan dies. The next day, his family writes about this sad event to the family in the Netherlands.

In 1873, Jan Derk writes a letter in which he tells about his family and his shop in Milwaukee. At this time, Milwaukee has about 200 Dutch families, all of them craftsmen. His sister Aleida now lives in Alto, WI. Another letter by Jan Derk from 1881 tells how the family is living far apart but that they can visit each other thanks to the railroad.


  • Stroet: Transcriptions Winterswijk church records
  • WieWasWie
  • Winterswijk census records
  • Willem Wilterdink: Droppers family story
  • Willem Wilterdink: Winterswijkse pioniers in Amerika
  • Henk Voges: De Plantenhoektragedie – Kotten 1847
About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Jan Kleinnijenhuis says

    Geachte mevrouw Hoitink,

    De moeder van de bekende wiskundige George David Birkhoff, geboren op 21 maart 1884 in het door afgescheiden gereformeerden gestichte Overisel, Michigan heette Jane Gertrude (Janna Geertruid) Droppers. Waarschijnlijk heeft ze de naam van haar grootmoeder gekregen. Weet u welke zoon van Janna Geertruid Vardink en Gerrit Droppers de ontbrekende schakel tussen hen en hun kleindochter Jane Gertrude Droppers is?

    Met vriendelijke groet, Jan Kleinnijenhuis

  2. Jan Kleinnijenhuis says

    Aansluitend op de vorige vraag: is Jane Gertrude (Janna Geertruida), de moeder van wiskundige George David Birkhoff, en grootmoeder van wiskundige Garrett Birkhoff, wellicht het op 18 april 1862 vijfde kind van Jan Derk Droppers en Geertruida Boeijink?

  3. Holly Ten Pas Beachum says

    Thank you for your public work on this lineage, Yvette. Garret Jan and Janna Vardink Droppers are my ancestors, through my father, John Ten Pas. It is your website and information that has helped me determine this. I wonder if you are still publishing or active on these sites? I haven’t seen updates since 2009. I have some additional information I might be able to add, as well as a question. I notice that Garret’s gravestone marks his name with the spelling G-a-r-r-e-t, yet you spell it differently. Which one is the appropriate spelling?
    I am creating a photo//genealogy album for my father with his heritage included. Again, I thank you for your work and for making it accessible for those of us who are just novices at this.

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