Saturday, November 26, 2011

The letter that started it all

89 years ago today, my Great Grandfather, Laas "Lawrence" Broersma, wrote a letter to a girl that he had never met. Her name was Grace Gertrude Wichers. The only connection he had with her was that his brother Thys was courting her sister Gertrude.

Laas Broersma Letter pg1

In the letter Lawrence introduces himself and hopes that Grace will write back. She does and they eventually get married. From that marriage they have 12 children. And in case you were wondering, Thys and Gertrude also were married.

Here is the full transcription of the letter, as best as I can make out the handwriting:

Ireton 26th Nov. 1922
Miss Grace Wichers = Downs, Kansas

Well I suppose you will be very much surprised to get a letter from somebody you've never heard of before, and I am sure you've never seen me either. But then that would not make any difference. I guess you like to know how I happen to know you. Well I'll tell you. It was a dark night once in the early spring this year, that my brother was cranking his Ford. I of course was wondering what was going on, but I found out that he went to Maurice to get somebody from the train. He came home late that night. The next Sunday he introduced me to miss Gertrude Wichers the one he got from the train as I said before. We are still very good friends. Of course my brother is a little better friend to her as you can imagine.

So you see that is the way that I happen to know you for she told me a lot about you. And while I know you I think you have the same right to know me also. Well I guess you almost know who I am now. My first name is Lawrence and my last is Broersma. I do not know if you ever will answer this letter, yet I'll be very much pleased if you would for the more friends a person has the less enemies he'll get. Garrett and Gertrude are making it fine. Gertrude is a true lady as you will know by this time. Now I will close this letter and see if I get the answer someday.

In doing so I call myself with greetings,
Lawrence Broersma
c/o R de Boer
Ireton (IA)

Laas Broersma Letter pg2
Laas Broersma Letter pg3

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mayflower Descendant

Just a couple weeks ago I made the discovery that my family descends from William Brewster (1566-1643), who immigrated to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Technically it's my wife's side that descends from him, so I guess I'm a Mayflower descendant-in-law. My kids would still count though. And for my kids, William Brewster would be their 12th Great Grandfather.

According to a grave marker put up by the William Brewster Society, he was patriarch of the Pilgrims, and their ruling elder from 1609-1644. He was the founder of the Plymouth Plantation and helped establish civil and religious freedom in the new world.

On a side note, another branch of my wife's family (the Coggeshalls) came to the new world and ended up in Boston the 1630's. The Coggeshalls were later exiled, and they ended up going to Rhode Island where there was true religious freedom for everyone. John Coggeshall became one of the eighteen original proprietors of Aquidneck, who settled Pocasset (later Portsmouth), 1638. One of the nine who settled Newport, 1639 and President of the Colony, May 1647 to May 1648. So even though the Massachusetts Colony had religious freedom, it still wasn't totally free which helped spawn the Providence Plantation and Rhode Island. So members of my family were involved in the founding of both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I think it's pretty interesting history, and have learned a lot researching these families.

I think it's pretty cool that a relative of mine was at that Thanksgiving in 1621, and today in 2011 - 390 years later - we are celebrating Thanksgiving day today with other Mayflower descendants.

Happy 140th Birthday Marinus Wichers (1871-1962)

My Great Great Grandpa, Marinus Wichers, would be 140 years old if he was still alive today. In this picture, with his parents and siblings, he is in the back row on the left. On a side note, man can he grow a thick mustache. And the dude in the back row center (oldest brother Henry) kinda looks like Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters. Again, probably because of the mustache.

Hendrik Jan Wichers and Geertruida Dengerink Family

My Great Grandma, Grace (Wichers) Broersma, wrote down all the birthdays of her relatives and grandchildren in a small notebook. There are also a few short family histories written down, and here is what she has to say about her dad, Marinus.

GraceWichersBook 1Marinus "Rene" Wichers was born Nov. 24, 1871. Died March 20, 1962. Annie (Rosendale) Wichers was born Feb. 13, 1876. Died Jan. 1, 1953. These were my parents. Grace G. Wichers-Broersma is writing this. Grandpa & Grandma Wichers (Henry & Gertrude) came to America in 1871 to Patterson, New Jersey. Grandpa & Grandma Wichers moved to Kansas when my father was 7 years old. They first lived in a dugout, then homesteaded a farm, and built a home. They had 2 sons when they left Holland. My father was born 2 months after they arrived in Patterson, NJ. He often told us that he was almost a man without a country. Grandpa H.J. Wichers was a baker in Holland, a very good one. When he came to Kansas he farmed near Dispatch Kansas.

For more info on Marinus, check out my info on World Connect on

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oliver Orrell dies of typhoid fever...149 years ago

I think having someone in the family that served in the Civil War is pretty cool, but unfortunately his service was not very long. Not even 3 months after enlisting in the Union Army, Oliver Orrell died of Typhoid Fever. Pretty much the only battle that his regiment was involved in before he died was The Battle of Perryville, also known as the Battle of Chaplin Hills. I was digging around on and found his record info from the war:

American Civil War Soldiers Record info
Name: Oliver Orill,
Residence: Tripton, Indiana
Enlistment Date: 30 August 1862
Distinguished Service: DISTINGUISHED SERVICE
Side Served: Union
State Served: Indiana
Unit Numbers: 638 638
Service Record: Enlisted as a Private on 30 August 1862
Enlisted in Company E, 82nd Infantry Regiment Indiana on 30 August 1862.
Died Company E, 82nd Infantry Regiment Indiana on 19 November 1862 in Bowling Green, KY

Another person doing research on the Orrell family has a transcription of a letter that talks about the death of Oliver, as it relates to his widow who was filling to receive his pension.

I would really like to find his grave. The researcher who has the above transcription has also tried to find his grave. He told me that the National Cemetery Association told him that Oliver was most likely buried in Bowling Green, KY with a wooden cross. The cross probably rotted away and then he may have been moved to a national cemetery and buried as an unknown soldier. That's a lot of probablies and maybes. If I knew where to begin I might be able to follow the trail, but right now I haven't been able to figure out which cemetery he was originally buried in.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grace Gertrude Wichers turns 106...

Today is another birthday. This one is my Great Grandma's: Grace Gertrude (Wichers) Broersma, born 16 Nov 1905. She was born in a very humble home in the side of a hill on a farm, in the area of Downs, Kansas. The type of home was called a dugout, very similar to what they might have had in the "Little House on the Prairie" books.

My family took a summer trip in 1988 and drove through Kansas. We took along a picture of the dugout we had hoping to find it. We stopped in at the Dispatch Christian Reformed Church, as I recall, and asked if anyone had seen this.

Dispatch Christian Reformed Church 1 Dispatch Christian Reformed Church Quilters
In the church there were a group of old ladies working on quilts, and we discovered that they were all related to us in some way. One of the ladies said "that's on my land!" So she took us to go see it.
Dugout Kansas 1988 1 Dugout Kansas 1988 2
As you can see it was pretty run down, but it was still cool to see. I hope to get back there one day and see if it is still there. I'm also going to see if I can find some green striped shorts and a "Shark Attax" shirt with holes and fake blood to try and recreate the moment.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Jeremiah Jack and a Canoe

Jeremiah Jack Sr., born 261 years ago on 13 November 1750, seems to be a semi-famous person in American history, or at least he was around other people who were famous. I need to do some more digging, but based on what others have written Jeremiah Jack was under Gov. Sevier at the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina. His 1st cousin once removed was Captain James Jack of Charlotte, NC who carried the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to Philadelphia in 1775. On July 16, 1792 Jeremiah was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Knox County. Jeremiah Jack's wife was Martha Gillespie. Martha was the daughter of Col. George Gillespie who had one of the 1st stone houses built in TN, located in Limestone, TN near the log cabin birthplace of Davy Crockett. Davy Crockett's father helped Col. Gillespie clear his land when he settled in Limestone, TN.

As I was researching Jeremiah Jack and looking up some of those facts, I came across this account is from the year 1782 or 3.

The Annals of Tennessee to the end of the eighteenth century
by James Gettys McGready Ramsey

During the infancy of the settlements on Nollichucky, corn had become scarce, and availing themselves of a short suspension of hostilities, Jeremiah Jack and William Rankin, of Greene county, descended the river in a canoe, for the purpose of bartering with the Indians for corn. They reached Coiatee without interruption. The warriors of that place refused to exchange or sell the corn, and manifested other signs of suspicion, if not of open enmity. They entered the canoe and lifted up some wearing apparel lying in it, and which covered their rifles. This discovery increased the unwillingness of the Indians to trade, and they began to show a disposition to offer violence to their white visitants. The beloved woman, Nancy Ward, was happily present, and was able by her commanding influence to appease their wrath, and to bring about friendly feelings between the parties. The little Indians were soon clad in the home made vestments brought by the traders--the canoe was filled with corn, and the white men started on their return voyage well pleased with the exchange they had made, and especially with the kind offices of the beloved woman.

On their return, the white men landed and camped one night, a mile above the mouth of French Broad, on the north bank of the little sluice of that river. Mr. Jack was so well pleased with the place, that he afterwards selected it as his future residence, and actually settled and improved it on his emigration to the present Knox county, in 1787.

Nancy Ward (Nanyehi) was a Cherokee. She was the daughter of Francis Ward, a white man living in the Cherokee nation, and a Cherokee woman called Tame Doe. She later became Ghigau, a title which means Beloved Woman. She was given final say on any prisoners taken by the Cherokee, and she was known for believing in peace between whites and the Cherokee. There are a number of books and other sources that talk about her. I guess she was pretty famous. I think it's pretty cool that my 6 Great Grandfather is mentioned in history with her. If you want to read more on her, check out her page on Wikipedia. This drawing of her I got off of Wikipedia, and was done by George Catlin, an American painter who lived from 1796-1872.

There is also a short bio of Jeremiah Jack in the book History Of Lebanon Presbyterian Church 1791 "In The Fork". He was a member of that church and you can find his grave, now with a new marker it looks like, in Lebanon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cornelis Wops & Maartje Hendriks 318th Anniversary

My 8 Great Grandparents were married 318 years ago today, on 12 November 1693 in St. Jacobiparochie in the Netherlands. A couple generations later their family name would eventually be de Groot. I have only been able to attribute 1 child to their marriage, and his name was Wop, born around 1704. Here is the record of their marriage, and pretty much the only record I have found on them:

Trouwregister Hervormde gemeente St. Jacobiparochie, 1693
DTB nr: 123, 1650 - 1772
Vermelding: Bevestiging huwelijk van 12 november 1693, St. Jacobiparochie
Man: Cornelis Wops, St. Jacobiparochie
Vrouw: Maertje Hendricks, St. Jacobiparochie

Gestandaardiseerde namen: KORNELIS WOPKES en MARTJEN HENDRIKS

So that's about all the info I have on them. Not very much. Maybe in the future more sources will be available online. I guess that gives me an excuse to post this picture of the town of St. Jacobiparochie from around 1790. I think this series is pretty cool and I'm sure I'll find excuses to post more of them when I don't have much else to say.

`t Dorp St. Jacobiparochie.jpg

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

80 years ago, Gertrude Dengerink Wichers died at 80

Geertruida "Gertrude" (Dengerink) Wichers died 80 years ago today, on 9 November 1931 in Dispatch, Smith County, Kansas. She was born in Zutphen, Gelderland, in The Netherlands on 14 June 1842. She was 80 years old when she died.


Here is a link to her memorial on

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Allert Broers Broersma baptized 307 years ago

My 7 Great Grandfather was baptized 307 years ago today, on 2 November 1704 in the town of Wons, Wonseradeel, Friesland, The Netherlands, as Allert, the son of Broer Pijtters. Here is a index record of his baptism from

Wonseradeel, dopen, doopjaar 1704
Dopeling: Albert
Gedoopt op 2 november 1704 in Wons/Engwier
Kind van B(roer) Pyters, mr. en Orseltje

Gestandaardiseerde namen (voornaam en patroniem):
Vader : ..... PIETERS
..... = naam of patroniem komt niet voor in de Thesaurus

Collectie Doop-, Trouw-, Begraaf- en Lidmaatboeken (DTBL)
Herv. gem. Wons en Engwier, doop 1683-1811
Inventarisnr. : DTB 830
Op microfiche beschikbaar op studiezaal Tresoar

Unfortunately, the original text is not available to look at online yet, but I think most of the info is probably included in that index. Since they didn't keep birth records back then, the baptism record is the closest that can usually be found. Infants were typically baptized from a few days after birth to maybe a few months. So Allert may have been born in October.

Allert Broers is significant because he is the first member of the family, in my direct line, with the family name of Broersma. However, his older brother Pieter is the first documented with the name Broersma that I have found.

The tradition of names in the Netherlands was to name your children after your parents. So the firstborn son would be named after the father's father, and the firstborn daughter would be named after the mother's mother. Then the second son would be after the mothers father and the second daughter would be after the father's mother. The children that followed would be named after aunts and uncles and others in the family. Then the child's second name would be the father's name with either a zn, z or more commonly an s added to the end of the name. Zoon means son in dutch, so basically the second name would be "son of " so and so. In the case of Allert, his father was Broer, so his name was Allert Broers.

As I mentioned earlier, Allert's brother Pieter is the first documented with the name Broersma that I have found. Pieter is the first son, so he is named after his father's father. The first mention of the family name Broersma is in the baptism of Pieter's son Broer in 1732.

Wonseradeel, dopen, doopjaar 1732
Dopeling: Broer
Gedoopt op 13 januari 1732 in Wons/Engwier
Kind van Pieter Broers(ma), mr. en Dieuke Ruurds

Gestandaardiseerde namen (voornaam en patroniem):
Dopeling : BROER of BROERKE
Vader : PIETER .....
..... = naam of patroniem komt niet voor in de Thesaurus

Collectie Doop-, Trouw-, Begraaf- en Lidmaatboeken (DTBL)
Herv. gem. Wons en Engwier, doop 1683-1811
Inventarisnr. : DTB 830
Op microfiche beschikbaar op studiezaal Tresoar

People in general didn't have a family name at this time. It wasn't until 1811 that all people in the Netherlands had to register a family name. Allert and Pieter were both school masters, as was their father. So they were probably well educated and respected in their communities. Many Frisian names (Friesland is the province in the Netherlands where my family is from) end in either inga, ma, stra or sma. (Find out more on Frisian last names here.) So Broersma became the family name, after Allert and Pieter's father: Broer Pijtters.

After an upsurge of riots in the Republic of the Seven United Provinces aimed against letting out tax collections, tax assessments were also adjusted in the province of Friesland. This led to the introduction of, among other things, quotisatie, a taxation system according to people's ability to pay. An overview of families in every city and region was made in 1749. It is in the quotisatie that I found the first reference to Allert having the family name of Broersma:

Quotisatiekohieren 1749
mr. A. Broersma, Wonseradeel
          Plaats:   Dedgum
Omschrijving:   tamelijk welgesteld
   Gezin volw:   3 en kind: 1
       Aanslag:   41-17-0
    Vermogen:   2000
            Bron:   Wonseradeel, fol. 93

Gestandaardiseerde naam: A. (m) / A. (v) BROERSMA

Right now, Allert's father Broer Pijtters is the furthest back I have been able to trace in my paternal line of Broersma. There are records that go back further in the towns where he lived, so I still hope to trace the family line back further. I guess that's one of the limitations of doing most of my research online, is that I don't have access to all the sources that are out there in the archives of the Netherlands.