On Poe’s Law

Recently on Facebook, someone posted a quote which, on first glance, seemed totally absurd. It took a bit of googling to realize that the quote was intended as satire. And indeed, a brilliant piece of satire it was. After thinking some more about it, I realized something I’d known for some time: The best satire is that which is virtually indistinguishable from what’s being satirized.

Googling some more, I was reminded of “Poe’s Law“, which states that without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers or viewers as a sincere expression of the parodied views.

RationalWiki has a good list of examples of Poe’s Law. One of the oldest and still best examples of such extreme parody on-line is the website for the Landover Baptist Church.

Which brings me to the point of this tome, the current president of the United States, whose name I can barely utter without reaching for the barf bag. As many of my friends and acquaintances know, I’m no fan of the “orange asshat” (Also sometimes called the “talking comb-over” or “Decomposing pumpkin pie inhabited by vicious albino squirrels“.)

But here’s one reason why I personally detest the man so much: He has spoiled late-night TV for me. Ever since the “Hairpiece come to life” was elected, I can’t watch such great shows as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. And especially not The President Show.

After all, how can you satirize someone who himself is such a parody? Who in their right mind can take such a man seriously as a politician? How can you read about him hiring a Disney star to his staff or his lunatic tweets without wondering if it isn’t all some big joke. True satire just can’t compete with the reality of the “Hair plug swollen with rancid egg whites“.

We can only hope that this nightmare of a presidency will soon come to an end. At least we all know that now, fewer and fewer people in politics are taking him seriously, while more and more people are ganging up against him. He is the true epitome of a lame-duck president, holed up in his bedroom in the Executive Residence, simply counting the days before he’s hauled away in chains.

Cheers! Hans


The Tangled Web In Rheden

A Bridge Between my Moll and van Sadelhof Ancestors

I was casually recording information about some distant cousins with surname Brouwer, descendants of my Moll ancestors, and I came upon one distant cousin named Christian Brouwer, born 1847 in Zevenaar.  As I sometimes do, I did some searching on his wife’s family.

Christiaan Brouwer was married to Cornelia Jurriens, born 1843 in Rheden, a place that was home to many other cousins and ancestors. Her mother was Johanna Belder, born 1811 in Velp, a village just west of Rheden. When I found a few other people with surname Belder in my database, I had to dig further. Quickly, I discovered connections between the Belder family and my van Sadelhof ancestors.

In this drop chart, red indicates my ancestors and blue indicates other blood relatives. Most of these people lived in Rheden or in neighboring villages such as Velp. (To follow along better, open the chart in a new window.)

First, I must note that as we go further back in time, the evidence becomes more and more sketchy. But we do the best we can with what we have.

Within the van Sadelhof family, we see a couple of cases of cosanguinuity (or marriage between cousins). In 1774, Antonij van Sadelhof (born 1747) married his second cousin Bartjen van Sadelhof (born 1748). And in 1790, Jan van Sadelhof (1754-1831) married his third cousin Hendrina Wamsteker (1773-1820).

Not shown in this chart, the first wife of Jan van Sadelhof was Jenneke Brouwer (born 1759 in Lathum). Her sister Fenneken Brouwer (1761-1801) married Jan’s brother Willem (1759-1831).

But let’s get back to the main theme of this posting, the bridge between my van Sadelhof ancestors and my Moll ancestors. Jan Belder (1745-1797) married twice. First in 1788 in Rozendaal to Anna Maria Ekses (died 1789), and then in 1790 in Lathum to Gardina Hermsen (born 1766 in Lathum).

From his first marriage, Jan Belder’s son Martien Hendrik Belder (1789-1849) married Hendrika van Sadelhof (1792-1858). And from his second marriage, Jan’s son Hendrik Belder (1793-1827) married Margrieta van Sadelhof (1791-1863). Both weddings occurred in 1812.

Jan Belder’s brother Cornelis Belder (1754-1832) was married in 1808 in Velp to Enneken de Winkel (1785-1866). These were the grand-parents of Cornelia Jurriens, mentioned back at the beginning of this tome, thus completing the bridge between the van Sadelhof’s and the Moll’s.

Some additional notes: Note that there’s another Belder, Teuntje Belder (1745-1799), who was married to a distant cousin, Willem Wamsteker (1717-1784). It isn’t yet clear if she is related to the other Belder’s in the chart. Also, the name Brouwer shows up a few times. Unless otherwise indicated, no relationship is known between them.

Anyways, this particular diversion opened up several new avenues of research, which I hope to get back to once I resume my research on the Brouwer’s.

Cheers! Hans


Skate The Lake

Every year, Portland Ontario hosts an event on the Big Rideau Lake, about an hour north of Kingston. They clear a one kilometer long track on the ice and host skating races. Here are some pictures from this year’s event:

Start of the 5K race
Skater approaching the finish line
Impressive back-lit scene during the 5K relay
Warming up on shore
Snert is a thick pea soup, popular with the skaters

A Walk Through a Graveyard

It’s a popular theme that genealogists like visiting cemeteries and graveyards. If you see a bumper sticker that says “This car stops at all cemeteries”, you know you’re following a genealogist. That said, looking at gravestones is not really much use from a research point of view. Normally, if you visit a cemetery, you already know what you’re looking for. But occasionally, a visit to a cemetery can turn up some useful information.

I started genealogy back in 1992. Although I could immediately find ancestors in the LDS microfilms for the Dutch side of my pedigree, I seemed to hit nothing but brick walls on the German side.

In this post, I consider the mother of my paternal grandmother. Here’s the information I started out with, given to me by my father and grandmother: My great grandmother was Anna Schmidt from Satow, born May 17, 1877. She had a half sister named Marie Diederich who lived in Hohen-Luckow. Her maiden name was something like “Elerd”.

Church at Hohen-Luckow, 1992.

In the Spring of 1992, I visited these places in Germany. Hohen-Luckow is a small village south-west of Rostock, with a modest church. A few meters from the entrance to the church yard, I found this gravestone. Back home, I verified with my dad that Marie Elhers was indeed my great grandmother’s half-sister.

Gravestone for Werner Diederich.

So then it was back to the local LDS Family History Center. I searched the IGI and found a marriage record for Ernst Carl Josua Ehlers and Elisabeth Sophia Maria H Schmidt, dated May 13, 1880, in Satow. Assuming Ernst Ehlers was the father of Marie Ehlers, could Elisabeth Schmidt be my great great grandmother?

Since Anna Schmidt was supposedly born in Satow, I ordered the microfilm for the Satow church records. Unfortunately, the baptism record of Anna Schmidt wasn’t there. I did find the marriage record of Ernst Carl Josua Ehlers and Elisabeth Sophia Maria Hennerike Schmidt on June 4,  1880. But, if Anna Schmidt was the daughter of Elisabeth Schmidt, wouldn’t she have the name of her father instead of her mother?

I was getting rather discouraged by this line of research and was about to give up for the evening when I decided to have a look at the confirmation records on the film. There, I found a confirmation record dated March 22, 1891 for Anna Dorothea Frederike Schmidt born May 17, 1877, in Reinstorf, a village south of Satow. Certainly, this was my great-grandmother! Her mother was listed as Elisabeth Sophia Maria Hennerike Ehlers, nee Schmidt, of Satow. It is interesting that in all other confirmation records, the father of the child is listed. But in this case, the name of the mother is listed. Clearly, I was dealing with an illegitimate birth here.

I then ordered the microfilm for Reinstorf and found Anna Schmidt’s baptism record. As expected, it was an illegitimate birth – the name of the father is left blank in the record. Interestingly, in all other records where the name of the father is unknown, the entry states “Unbekannt“. Perhaps they knew full well who the father was? Perhaps this child would have been an embarrassment for him?

So now I had a definite handle on this branch of my ancestry, and was able to go back further through the microfilmed records. You can find more information on Anna Schmidt and her ancestors here.

Cheers! Hans

More Tangled Interrelationships in Arnhem

In my previous posting, I discussed some tangled interrelationships in the city of Arnhem, in the southern part of the province of Gelderland. Today, I continue the discussion. In the previous missive, I considered one line of descendants of Jan de Roos (1756-1810) and Evertjen Evers (1750-1791). In this, I look at some of their other descendants.

As before, blue indicates my distant cousins.

First, we have what I believe is the marriage between third cousins, Jan de Roos and Evertjen Evers. Their common ancestors (not shown) are Steven Berends van Sadelhoff and Hendrina Willems. However, this conclusion is based on secondary sources which I can’t confirm in the records publicly available. Of course, details get more and more sketchy the further back you go. So the best you can do is make your guess and document the reasons behind it.

The next thing to note is a connection between two separate ancestral lines, with the marriage of Lubbertus Moll (1812-1877) and Everdiena de Roos (1818-1894). Lubbert was my second cousin four times removed, and Everdiena was my third cousin four times removed. (Looking at their descendants in my database, I see some more tangles that I haven’t discussed yet in this blog.)

The Moll’s and de Roos’ both also have a common connection to an in-law family, the descendants of Pouwel Baerents and Mechtelijna van Someren. On the Moll side, it’s with the marriage of Lubbert Wander Moll (1802-1886) and Megchelina Raadman (1815-1893), the grand-daughter of Pouwel Baerents.

On the de Roos side, the Baerents’ have numerous connections to the de Roos’. First, note the marriages between two de Roos siblings with two Berends’ siblings. Two generations later, there’s yet another marriage.

Anyways, it’s back to the research. There are always still unexplored alleys in this adventure.

Cheers! Hans


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


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