Unusual death place case study: Thomas Cammenga

When Thomas Cammenga died on 5 May 1842, he did not die in his place of residence, Leeuwarden in Friesland, but in Deventer, Overijssel. His death record showed he died at the Bagijnenstraat.1

Death record of Thomas Cammenga

Deventer was 120 km/75 miles from Leeuwarden. Whenever we notice something odd like this, we have to ask ourselves why:

Why did Thomas die in Deventer even though he lived in Leeuwarden?

Let’s go through some of the common reasons why somebody died away from home:

  • Jail. Leeuwarden had its own jail, so Thomas would not have been sent to Deventer.
  • Military service. Thomas was 42 years old and a book binder. He was not serving in the military when he died.
  • Trade. As a book binder, it is possible that he was in Deventer to purchase books or supplies, though unlikely.
  • Family visit. No family members were known to have lived in Deventer.
  • Hospital. A Google search showed that there was a mental hospital and a pauper hospital at the Bagijnenstraat in Deventer.2 Many places had hospitals where poor people could receive care. But mental hospitals were few and far between. If Thomas was in a mental hospital, that would explain his presence in Deventer. He died at the Bagijnenstraat, consistent with him being in the mental hospital there.

So we now have a hypothesis why Thomas died in Deventer. How can we check if he was in a mental hospital?

  • Death records may give clues, for example if the informants worked at the hospital, or the address of the deceased matched the location of the hospital.
  • Hospital registers may include lists of patients
  • Census and population registers may list long-term patients of such facilities.
  • Court records may show if somebody was involuntarily committed.
  • Municipal records may show if somebody was involuntarily committed, since the municipality would often pay for the hospital costs.

The resolutions of the city of Leeuwarden are online at the Historical Center Leeuwarden website. An entry for 6 November 1841 discusses Thomas:

Information by Martijntje Goos, wife of Thomas Camminga, book binder in this location, that her husband suffers from losing his senses and that the court has ordered him to be placed in an insane asylum, which she cannot afford.
Mayors and aldermen decide that the city will provide the means and request permission from the States Deputies to place him in the asylum in Deventer, 6 November 1841.3

This entry shows that Thomas did suffer from a mental health condition and was committed to the mental hospital in Deventer. Court records could be consulted to find more details.

  1. Deventer, Overijssel, Netherlands, civil registration death record 1842 no. 130, Tomas Cammega, 7 May 1842; “Netherlands, Overijssel Province, Civil Registration Records, 1811-1960” browsable images, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : accessed 8 May 2017), path: Deventer > Overlijden 1840-1842 > image 280.
  2. “De geschiedenis van korps Deventer,” Leger Des Heils Korps Deventer (https://www.legerdesheils.nl/korpsdeventer/de-geschiedenis-van-korps-deventer : accessed 8 May 2017). Also, “Stappenconvent,” Rijksmonumenten (http://rijksmonumenten.nl/monument/12415/stappenconvent-grote-en-voorster-gasthuis/deventer/ : accessed 8 May 2017).
  3. “Besluiten Leeuwarden 1811-1850” [Resolutions Leeuwarden 1811-1850], abstracts, Historisch Centrum Leeuwarden (http://periodieken.historischcentrumleeuwarden.nl/ : accessed 10 May 2017), entry for Thomas Camminga, 1841.
About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Piet Molema says

    Hallo Yvette,
    Ik heb vernomen vaneen archivaris dat men naar een gevangenis werd gestuurd waar plek was. Het kon dus zijn dat iemand uit Drenthe in Hoorn terechtkwam.

  2. Piet Molema says

    Hallo Yvette,
    Ik heb vernomen vaneen archivaris dat men naar een gevangenis werd gestuurd waar plek was. Het kon dus zijn dat iemand uit Drenthe in Hoorn terechtkwam.

  3. Shirley Crampton says

    I had a similar issue with a great-great uncle that died in a city distant from his home. I did the usual research into whether he had moved, etc. About a year after I found his death notice I found a local history book of his hometown. It indicated that he had died while on vacation in this city.
    That was certainly a lucky find.

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