Tangled Interrelationships in Arnhem

Face it, genealogy can be boring. Sometimes, I get bored after processing just a few birth, marriage, or death records. But there are times when things get interesting, and I can’t wait to see what comes up next in my research. That happens typically when I see the same surname crop up multiple times, or when I see a surname I’ve come across before. I can’t resist digging further to see if there’s a connection.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been researching distant cousins in the Arnhem area with surname de Roos.  The following photo shows the notes I’ve taken during this time, five pages of drop charts mapping out the tangled interrelationships.

There’s too much information to cram into one post, so today I’ll concentrate on just one page, the page at the lower left, where I started this particular line of research.

 

In this drop chart, blue indicates distant cousins. While researching the inlaws of my third cousin four times removed Jan de Roos (1821-1886), I noticed the name van Grootheest appearing multiple times. It turned out that Jan’s daughter Johanna WIllemina de Roos (1862-1915) married her first cousin Willem Hendrik Nikkel (1852-1928). Their common grandparents were Willem Hendriksen van Grootheest (1796-1872) and Maartje Willemsen van Grootheest (1786-1841). With the same surname, I had to find out if those two were cousins.

I quickly found the names of their fathers. But the trail turned cold. Hendrik Petersen van Grootheest (1767-1833) and Willem Petersen v Grootheest (1753-1824) were both born in Bennekom. However, familysearch.org did not have the church records for that village. I then did a Google search, which turned up some genealogies indicating that the two were brothers, with father Peter Hendriksen.

I don’t like citing secondary sources, so I asked on-line if the church records for Bennekom were somewhere on-line. I quickly got the answer that the records were indeed on familysearch.org, and could be reached through the web site zoekakten.nl.

Very grateful, I then easily found the baptism records I was looking for. It turned out that there was a different mother listed on the two baptisms: Maartjen Hendriksen and Willemtjen Tijmensen. There were several possibilities: First was that one of the names on the baptisms was incorrect. Not likely, but I have seen cases like that. Second, there could have been two people named Peter Hendriksen in Bennekom. Third, and most likely, was that Peter Hendriksen was married twice. I needed to dig a bit further.

So here’s the vital piece of evidence, the marriage banns record showing Peter’s second marriage in 1757:

There are a couple of lessons from this: First, if you don’t find what you’re looking for on familysearch.org, check out zoekakten.nl. Second, although secondary sources may be helpful, don’t fully trust them. Go to the primary sources.

Cheers! Hans

Snow

Nothing defines Canada as much as Winter. Every December, the question everyone asks: Will it be a white Christmas? This year, there was no doubt. Considering the amount of rain we had during the rest of the year, the quantity of snow falling in December didn’t come as much of a surprise. We had a fair bit of snow in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and still more snow on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was bright and sunny, with even more snow on the ground.

We had no choice. We planned on having lunch with my mother-in-law on Christmas day. At her retirement home, they had a special turkey dinner planned, and we promised to be there.

We started shoveling, but I had my doubts. It didn’t take long to clear half the driveway, enough to get the car out. But our street looked bad. Fortunately, a few cars had already carved out some furrows in the snow. When we set out, I once again appreciated the advantages of front-wheel drive as we made our way, slowly, along the snow-covered streets.

Fortunately, we didn’t have far to go since it’s only a 3km drive to my mother-in-law. The biggest challenge was crossing Taylor-Kidd Boulevard, where we saw one car that needed to be pushed through. But with patience and careful navigation through the snow, we managed. And the closer we got to our destination, the better the roads became.

These photos show our street on Boxing Day. The snow plow finally came by late on Christmas Day, which meant I had a bit more shoveling to do. Certainly, we’ll see more snow this Winter. But we’re only five days into the season, and the snow piles can’t get much higher.

Cheers! Hans

Researching My Boldt Ancestors

I started researching my ancestry back in the early 1990’s. Back then, the best way to do the research was by poring through microfilmed civil and church records at the local LDS Family History Centre. But often, other resources must be used.

Half of my ancestry was easy to uncover, since the LDS had microfilms for the Netherlands up to 1902. After finding birth records for both of my Dutch grandparents, going back further was clear sailing. However, the German side of my pedigree was not so easy. In this essay, I’ll discuss how I got a handle on my Boldt ancestors.

From documents in the possession of my grandmother, I knew that my great grandfather, Heinrich Christoph Hans Boldt, was born in 1873 in the village of Hindenberg in the former Grand-Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a predominately rural region on the Baltic Sea coast.

Unfortunately, the LDS microfilms for that particular parish stopped at 1871. Fortunately, I did find a baptism record for a Wilhelmine Johanna Elisabeth Boldt born 1870 in Hindenberg. Her parents were Johann Joachim Hans Boldt and Marie Catharina Dorothea Wulff. I proceeded under the assumption that Wilhelmine was my great grandaunt.

From this information, I was able to go further back through several generations of Boldt’s. However, the evidence was circumstantial. I still didn’t have that smoking gun proving a connection between Heinrich Boldt and these other Boldt’s. Five years later, however, I got the evidence I needed.

In the Spring of 1997, Sylvana and I took a trip to Europe, with visits to some of the places where my ancestors lived, including Hindenberg, a nondescript rural village of no more than a couple dozen houses and agricultural buildings surrounded by yellow fields of rape-seed flowers.

We left Hindenberg heading north on an unmarked back road, and within minutes came upon the parish church at Kirch-Grambow. It’s a typical church for that part of Germany, red bricks, red tile roof, and a steeple clad in gray slate, surrounded by pine trees with a grave yard on both sides. We quickly found several gravestones with the name Boldt, so we knew we were in the right place.

Since there was no one around, we decided to return on the following Sunday. We arrived shortly after the service started. Since there were no more than a dozen people in the church, our arrival drew the attention of the young minister who stopped what he was doing and came back to greet us and show us to our pew. He asked if either of us could play organ. He pointed out a new organ in the loft at the back of the church, but unfortunately, they had no one who could play it.

It was a pleasant service. Without anyone to play the organ, the minister led the hymns a capella. His sermon was a gentle admonition on taking life one day at a time, an appropriate topic I thought for people still getting used to a new political and economic reality in a recently reunited Germany. Although he had a small attendance at his service, this young, fresh out of seminary minister clearly enjoyed his rural posting.

After the service, the minister showed us around. I told him I was interested in researching my ancestors, some of whom were baptized in that church. We asked to see the church records, and he readily agreed.

At the parish office, he pulled out a stack of books, some going back to the late 1600’s. I didn’t need to touch the really old books, but I couldn’t resist a peak inside the oldest one.

Quickly, I found what I was looking for, the baptism record of Heinrich Boldt. And yes, as suspected, his parents were indeed Johann Boldt and Marie Wulff. I finally had the vital evidence linking my great grandfather to another four generations of Boldt’s going back to 1735.

We spent a couple hours more searching through the records, and found the baptism records for my grandfather, Hans Wilhelm Joachim Boldt (born 1900), as well as a number of other Boldt’s.

One more thing about the church at Kirch-Grambow: The parking lot at the church was circled by a dozen rough-hewn stones, one for each village in the parish, each with the names of soldiers killed during the First World War. The stone for the village of Hindenberg listed two names, Ludwig Boldt and Martin Boldt. These two brothers were half second cousins of my grandfather. Both were killed and buried in France.

Genealogy is a lengthy process, often requiring patience and diligence. But for most of us, the records are out there, waiting to be uncovered.

Don’t Cite My Site!

For decades, I’ve made the results of my genealogy research public via my website. I think that’s a necessary aspect of the whole endeavor. I want people to take advantage of my research. In my opinion, it is fundamentally wrong to do all the work and keep it to oneself.

Now and then, I come across information on the internet that clearly originated in my research. Sometimes, it’s clear since it’s an older version of my results. But lately, I’ve seen cases where my website, boldts.net/gramps,  is cited in someone else’s work.

On the one hand, it’s good to see my work being credited. And it’s good to see other people citing their research.

But on the other hand, this is not correct. Wherever possible, you should cite primary sources in your research, not secondary sites like mine. We all know what the difference is. A primary source is something like a civil registration record or a baptism book, written by an official within days or hours of the event. Secondary sources include published genealogies or history books.

We all take advantage of research done by others, and that’s fine. But in a secondary source, there’s always the chance of errors slipping in. I’ve certainly found a goodly number of errors in published genealogies, in print and on-line. That’s why it’s standard practice in my own research to cite only primary sources wherever possible. And use trusted secondary sources only when the primary document is not available.

For researching ancestors from the Netherlands and Mecklenburg in particular (my specific areas of interest), most primary documents are on-line. When I include a fact in my database, I normally download and edit the scanned image of the primary source record, and include that image in the citation. When Gramps produces the website for my data, it includes all data, including the primary source images.

So please do use the information on my website. But don’t cite boldts.net/gramps. Instead, download the images and cite them in your research.

To remind people, I even added a note at the bottom of each page of my genealogy site:

Note: If you find this information useful, do not cite this web site. Instead, cite the primary sources listed here. Feel free to download the images and include them in your own database.

Cheers! Hans

On Leaving The Fellowship

The Decision To Leave

It’s not easy leaving a church. We stayed with the Kingston Unitarian Fellowship (KUF) for as long as we did because we valued the friendships we made there. I also very much enjoyed my volunteer duties within the fellowship, which included managing the website and editing the monthly newsletter.

Our decision to leave KUF was several years in the making. Over a period of about three years, our dissatisfaction gradually grew. By December of last year, we both knew it was just a matter of time before we would submit our resignations from the fellowship. That time came in the Spring with the selection of a candidate for settled minister.

Regarding that candidate minister, we read every word on her biography website. We both came to the conclusion that, although she seemed very qualified, and certainly very personable, she was not our minister.

The Theist – Humanist Divide

Unitarians are a varied bunch. One of the biggest challenges for any church is to balance the needs of all of its members. The biggest divide is between the theists who want a more spiritual church and the humanists who generally want a more rational, issues-oriented church. This is the so-called “theist-humanist divide”.

When we first went to KUF back in 2010, its services reminded me of the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto, where I sometimes attended service back in the 1980’s. In 2012, I gave a short talk in a series called “Personal Theologies” which reflected my views on Unitarianism: “A Personal Theology – Heresy and Universal Truth”. As far as I could tell, it was well received at the time. Here’s the key paragraph from my talk:

But finally, I come here to be challenged. To me, the most important avenue to personal growth is to stretch the limits of your comfort zone. I don’t just want an environment where people are unconditionally accepting of my beliefs and values. Although we should be respectful of each others’ beliefs, I believe that you honor my beliefs best by understanding them and expressing your thoughtful disagreement with them if necessary.

Since then though, a gradual change occurred. The word “covenant” kept cropping up, defining how KUF members were expected to behave towards one another. I cringed whenever I heard that word, since it was often used in a context of criticizing someone. I often heard people accuse someone of acting not in accordance with covenant.

For us, Unitarianism was losing its edge. Accord among members was being seen as more important than issues. The fellowship was shifting that delicate theist-humanist balance in favor of some sort of feel-good spirituality. And the choice of candidate minister just seemed to shift that balance even more into the spiritual end of the spectrum. This was not the Unitarianism we embraced six years earlier.

We know that many people joined KUF because of social activism. We also know that some people checking out KUF don’t stay since they didn’t find the social activism they expected.

The Wider Context

Over the Summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about what happened. My research led to an interesting finding, that the trend to a more spiritual church was not limited to KUF. Rather, it seemed to be a more widespread trend. The decision to re-brand Unitarianism was made at the UUA back in 2012. This was described in an article in Boston Magazine called “Selling God”. This paragraph sums it up:

What UU needs to survive, he [Dave Ruffin] believes, is a radical rethinking: It needs to stop defending its liberalism and embrace being a religion. “We need permission to be the people of faith that we are,” he says. “We need to actually get religious.”

When I read this, it hit a nerve. After announcing our decision to leave KUF, I often told people that we left when it stopped feeling like a church and started feeling like a religion.

Another article I came across described exactly what I was feeling. At the TheHumanist.com, you can find a piece written by Michael Werner called “Regaining Balance – The Evolution of the UUA”. It’s worth reading the entire article, but here’s its conclusion:

Can humanism in the UUA be revived? I think so, but it must be led by a ministry that sees the need for the humanist lifestance to be unapologetically embraced as it once was. It will require courage and open minds to balance tolerance and reason, heart and mind. This form of humanism won’t appeal to everyone, but a return to humanism offers the UUA a chance to revive itself for the twenty-first century’s secular revolution.

To be clear, I don’t want to be seen as bitter about what happened. I still very much value my experience as a KUF member. And I certainly don’t want to burn bridges. I offer this in the spirit of the Unitarianism I used to know, to encourage people to think about their place in a changing church.

Cheers! Hans

 

 

 

Take Back Control Of Your News

Face it, Facebook sucks at news. We all know that. This was all too painfully clear over the past year, with fake news stories being spread like wildfire throughout the social media. Facebook understands the issue and is taking steps to mitigate the problems. Whether or not these steps are enough is, however, questionable.

Personally, I’ve never been much of a Facebook fan. I use it since it’s pretty much a fact of life these days. Like it or not, it’s now the way to connect with people. My main issue is that Facebook decides what we should see in our feeds with precious few options to customize our preferences. (For the past few weeks, it seems that Facebook has decided not to put any items from my liked groups and pages into my news feed.)

But still, a lot of people get their news from Facebook. One study found that a majority of Americans get their news from Facebook. This is a frightening result considering the control Facebook has over what we read. What can we do?

A few days ago, I came across an article that reminded me of a protocol that has dropped in popularity over the past few years, but still has relevance: Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter For Tracking News.

RSS stands for “Rich Site Summary” (or “Really Simple Syndication”). RSS provides a standard way for news sites and blogs to present information. Using an RSS aggregator, you can view news and opinions from the sources you trust, not just the stuff Facebook thinks you want to read.

To get started, check out one popular RSS aggregator, Feedly. It’s what I now use to read news on my tablet. You can easily search for news feeds and select the ones you’re interested in. Alternatively, if you know the URL for a blog’s RSS feed, you can paste it into the search field and add it manually to your list. For example, to see the RSS feed for this blog, click here. If you want to read my ramblings as soon as they’re written, just add the URL of that page to your aggregator.

It’s time to take back control of your news feed. Don’t count on Facebook for news. Go take advantage of RSS aggregators, and view the news you want.

Cheers! Hans

4 String Chord Explorer

Some time ago, I wrote about a method of building your own ukulele chords. I’ve always realized that the process can be done automatically. But only recently, I finally got down to coding, and came up with an easier solution, which you can now try, at 4 String Chord Explorer.

This is a set of tools any ukulele player can use. Or the player of any stringed instrument with four courses, such as tenor banjo or mandolin. I realized that the algorithm used for determining ukulele chords could apply to any instrument. You can even choose your own tuning if I’ve missed any instrument. (Once you get past four courses, things get more complicated, so to make things easier, I decided to limit the tools to just four courses.)

There are six separate tools. First, choose the instrument you’re dealing with. If you want a completely different tuning, you can select the notes for each string. Next, choose the function. Currently, there are six you can choose from, each one using the specified instrument or tuning.

Chords by chord type: Select the root note and type of chord. Then click on “Selected Chords” to show possible fingerings for that chord.

Chords by root note: Select the root note, and click on “Chords by Root”. You’ll see 24 different chords for that root: major, augmented, 7th, minor, etc.

Chords by family: Select the key, and click on “Chords by Key”. You’ll get a table showing the most common chords for that key.

Search for chord: Finally, a reverse-search tool. Specify the fingering for a chord, click on “Search for Chord”, and you’ll see the chords that match the fingering.

Custom chord chart: Start by clicking the “Chord Chart” button. You’ll get a bunch of chord diagrams, 13 for each key. If you prefer a different fingering for a particular chord, click on the chord. Once you’re satisfied with the selection of chords, go to the bottom of the page. Specify a custom title and page size, click on “Create PDF”, and you’ll get your own single page chord chart that you can print out.

Create chord collection: Use this to create a zip file containing diagrams for the selected chords in png format. After you extract the image files on your computer, you can  drag and drop the images into a word processor document.

Cheers! Hans

I Am An Atheist

Some four decades ago, I read a book, a collection of essays by some famous scholar. In one essay, he promised to offer a proof for the existence of God, and I must admit, I got rather excited. I eagerly turned the page and continued reading. But I still remember my disappointment when the “proof” turned out to be nothing.

Frankly, no one would be more pleased than me if there were solid proof for a supreme being. I’ve often wondered if there is something just beyond what our senses and instruments can observe. Sometimes I wonder if I have some sort of “guardian angel” watching over me. And sometimes I wonder if there is some higher purpose to my existence.

But over time, I’ve come to accept the conclusion that there’s no proof for any supernatural deity. Indeed, no proof is at all even possible. How can there be? The best tool we have at our disposal for understanding the world around us is science. And yet, science can only deal with issues in our natural existence, not in some vague concept that exists in some hypothetical supernatural realm.

There is simply no evidence for anything supernatural. Over time, every phenomenon that was once assumed to have a supernatural origin has been found to have a natural cause. Consider lightning for example. It was once believed that thunder and lightning were caused by demons in the clouds. Churches, which were often the tallest structures in most towns, were often struck by lightning. Frequently, these structures caught fire. And bell-ringers, who were called upon to drive away the demons, were often electrocuted.

But eventually, one scientist, Benjamin Franklin, determined the true nature of lightning. Franklin used that knowledge to invent the lightning rod. Churches were reluctant at first to use this simple invention. But soon, most churches recognized the usefulness of this scientific advance.

Over time, my own level of atheism has changed. Since any concept of any possible supreme being is untestable, there’s always the possibility that such a being (or beings) might exist. But since such a being is not making itself obvious to us in this natural realm, it’s useless to belabor the point. The only reasonable conclusion is that there is no God.

Richard Dawkins proposed a seven point scale, where 1 represents a strong belief in God, and 7 represents a strong conviction that there is no God. For a long time, I was a 6. That is, a “de facto atheist”. But lately, I think I’m moving ever closer to a 7.

This is a big topic, and I’ll have more to say later.

Cheers! Hans

 

New Age Woo

I’ve always been interested in religion. I even took a course in comparative religion in university. During that course, I became interested in some Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism. And I enjoyed reading the Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi.

But over time, I realized that, no matter how noble the original intentions of any religion are, inevitably all religions become corrupted. And that there’s nothing as dangerous as religious leaders and teachers who seem to feel ennobled by their “holiness”. Many may well be sincere, but even the most sincere can be corrupted.

Yesterday, in my wanderings through cyberspace, I came across Naropa University, a liberal arts school in Boulder Colorado. Initially called Naropa Institute when founded by Chögyam Trungpa in 1974, the school offers a unique “contemplative liberal arts education”. Although it claims to be secular, its programs are heavily influenced by Buddhism. It’s reputation is, however, questionable since its credits are not recognized by any other university.


By BuddhaNU (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL]

 

Chögyam Trungpa is an interesting character. Although revered by many, he clearly suffered from human failings. Here is a excerpt from the Wikipedia story on Trungpa:

In some instances Trungpa was too drunk to walk and had to be carried. Also, according to his student John Steinbeck IV and his wife, on a couple of occasions Trungpa’s speech was unintelligible. One woman reported serving him “big glasses of gin first thing in the morning.”

The Steinbecks wrote a sharply critical memoir of their lives with Trungpa in which they claim that, in addition to alcohol, he spent $40,000 a year on cocaine, and used Seconal to come down from the cocaine. The Steinbecks said the cocaine use was kept secret from the wider Vajradhatu community.

Trungpa’s successor as head of the institute, Ösel Tendzin, was no angel either. He lied about his HIV positive diagnosis and transmitted the virus to at least one of his students. Worse, Trungpa told Tendzin that as long as he did his Vajrayana purification practices, his sexual partners would not contract the virus. (See Controversy.)

There’s more. According the RationalWiki article on Naropa University, one student fell under the spell of her dance instructor, which, it is believed, led to her psychological breakdown and suicide. In response, her parents established the organization Families Against Cult Teachings.

For more interesting reading, visit the blog The Boulder Buddhist Scam, written by a former student.

Kingston Pen Tour

We finally got around to taking the tour of the old Kingston Pen. Last Summer, the tours were very popular, and by the time I went on-line to buy tickets, they were all sold out. This year, I booked tickets well in advance, and had a good selection of tour times.

Here are some of the pictures I took during our visit: