A Tangled Web

When researching my distant cousins, I normally try not to put much effort into the in-laws, and devote most of my time into finding blood relatives. I suspect that’s true for others as well. I do try to find birth, marriage, and death records for the spouses of blood relatives, but usually that’s as far as I go. However, when I see the same names crop up again and again, I can’t help but investigate the interrelationships between various in-laws.

In this essay, I consider some distant cousins who lived in the south-east corner of the Dutch province of Gelderland, east of Arnhem and south of the Veluwe, in the villages of Velp, Angerlo, Lathum, Hummelo, and Westervoort. This is an area where it seems like everyone knew everyone, where many people seem to be related, if not by blood, at least by marriage. Let’s look in particular at the immediate family of my distant cousin Willemina Woutrina Moll (1808-1882).

Family of Willemina Woutrina Moll (Not all relationships shown)

Willemina was married twice, in 1829 to Barend Thomas van Zadelhoff (1793-1832) and in 1833 to Nicolaas van Zadelhoff (1792-1872). Barend Thomas died before the birth of their third child. Seeing the same surname twice was certainly enough to raise my curiosity, and a bit of investigation revealed that the two men were first cousins. The children of Barend Thomas and of Nicolaas had an interesting relationship since they were related in two ways. First, they were half siblings. Second, they were second cousins. That means they shared six of eight great grandparents: All four of Willemina Woutrina’s grandparents, plus the two common grandparents of Barend Thomas and Nicolaas.

But there’s more to this tangled web. The two daughters of Barend Thomas and Willemina Woutrina, Catharina van Zadelhoff (1830-1897) and Berendina Theodora van Zadelhoff (1832-1914), married two brothers Lambertus Wentink (1825-1899) and Jacobus Reinerus Wentink (1832-1914), respectively. In fact, the two weddings happened on the very same day, with the same four witnesses. There were children from these two marriages. Whenever two siblings marry another pair of siblings, their children are known as “double cousins”. Normally, first cousins share two grandparents. However, double cousins share all four grandparents.

The same pattern repeats with the children of Willemina Woutrina and Nicolaas, not just once, but twice. And in one of those cases, three siblings marry a trio of siblings. We have Nicolaas van Zadelhoff (1839-1909), Wanderina Margaretha van Zadelhoff (1842-1869), and Barend van Zadelhoff (1850-1914) marrying the three siblings Elsken Smit (1841-1904), Hendrik Smit (1839-1890), and Christina Smit (1844-1892). And we have Hendrik van Zadelhoff (1844-1875) and Antonica Geertruida van Zadelhoff (1854-1936) marrying the siblings Jacomiena Ploeg (1842-1933) and Wessel Ploeg (1838-1929), respectively.

The interrelationships don’t end with what’s depicted on the diagram. For example, Barend van Zadelhoff was married twice. His second wife was Elske Geurdina Kets (1835-1931), a first cousin of his first wife Christina Smit.

How far does one go when investigating in-laws? It’s entirely up to you. With almost all the records available on-line, it’s now much easier to see the tangled web of interrelationships of our ancestors.

(You can read more in a followup at A Tangled Web, More Interrelationships.)

My (Distant) Kamerlingh Onnes Cousins

As we all know, genealogy can take us anywhere. We don’t know what we’ll find when exploring down some dark alley. A few days ago, I was researching some distant Moll Schnitzler cousins when I came across a photo from 1928 of the staff of the Bureau voor Handelsinlichting in Amsterdam. The man standing at left was A.J. Moll Schnitzler. The surprise came when I looked at the names of the people. The man sitting in front of Anthony Julius was O. Kamerlingh Onnes.

25th Anniversary of the Bureau voor Handelsinlichting, 1928.

Now then, “Moll Schnitzler” is not a common name. Everyone with that name is a distant blood cousin of mine. Likewise, with the exception of one person, everyone named “Kamerlingh Onnes” is also a distant blood cousin of mine. A bit of investigation revealed that Onno Kamerlingh Onnes was my 4th cousin twice removed. I was intrigued, and decided to do a side trip into the Kamerlingh Onnes family.

Some twenty years ago or so, I received an e-mail from a distant cousin stating that I was related to not just one, but two Nobel Prize recipients, Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (second cousin twice removed) and Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (4th cousin twice removed). As someone interested in science, I was surprised and honored to be related to two of the most significant scientists of the early 20th Century.

Heike (1853-1926) was the oldest of seven children of Harm Kamerlingh Onnes (1819-1880) and Anna Gerdina Coers (1829-1899). (I’m related via the Coers family.) Heike is best known for his research into the properties of matter at extremely low temperatures, which earned him his Nobel Prize. In particular, he was the first to liquefy helium and the first to observe the property of superconductivity.

Onno (1861-1935), pictured above, was the fifth child of the family, and was the director of the Bureau voor Handelsinlichting. However, later in life he became an artist, following in the footsteps of other close family members.

Their brother Menso (1860-1925) was a relatively famous portrait artist. Among his subjects were professors at the University of Leiden, including his brother Heike and Hendrik Lorentz. One of his more famous portraits hangs in the Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal in Leiden, portraying his sister Jenny (1863-1926).

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, painted by Menso Kamerlingh Onnes

Jenny Kamerlingh Onnes, painted by her brother Menso

Menso’s son Harm (1893-1985) was also an artist, working in a variety of media, including drawings, watercolors, oil paintings, and ceramics. Some of his designs for stained-glass windows depict discoveries and instruments of contemporary physicists, including, again, Lorentz.

Fall trees in the city park, painted by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes

Stained-glass windows designed by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes depicting the Zeeman effect with explanation by Hendrik Antoon Lorentz

The connections to the arts do not end there. For a time, Menso shared a studio with artist Florist Verster (1861-1927), who in 1892 married Menso’s sister Jenny. Verster was known for his bold and colorful still-life and landscape paintings, many of which hang in museums in the Netherlands.

Of the other three siblings, one died in infancy and the others emigrated to North America and India.

Throughout this missive, I’ve mentioned physicist Hendrik Lorentz. Clearly, there were connections between Lorentz and the Kamerlingh Onnes family. But it’s not clear whether or not they knew that they themselves were distant cousins. Lorentz was a fifth cousin to Heike and his siblings. Getting back to the photo that initiated this diversion, Onno Kamerlingh Onnes was not a blood relative to his coworker Anthony Julius Moll Schnitzler. However, they also probably did not know that a distant great grand uncle of one was married to a distant great grand aunt of the other.

For additional details about this family, start with my page on their father, Harm Kamerlingh Onnes.

A Short History of Free-Form RPG

Free-form RPG is back in the news with the announcement of free-form D, F, P, and H-specs. In this short essay, I look back at the history of free-form syntax in RPG.

It all started more than twenty years ago, back when RPG IV was being designed. At the time, there were two distinct schools of thought. On one side, there were people who insisted RPG should have a fully free-form syntax. On the other, were those who strongly believed that RPG should remain in its traditional fixed-form layout. The result was a compromise that leaned heavily towards a traditional fixed-form syntax, but with some free-form elements, such as keywords on the new definition specification and expressions in an extended factor two entry.

My first task in the implementation of the RPG IV compiler was coding the new D-spec, along with its keywords. Later, we were able to convince our planner that keywords should also be allowed on the F-spec. Later still, keywords on the H-spec became an obvious design change.

The extended factor two opcodes, such as EVAL, IF, DOW, etc., were a riskier proposition. At first one developer was assigned the task, and later another to help out the first. But as time went on, it was clear that they weren’t making any progress. Late in the development cycle, I w
as assigned that piece of the language. Scrapping the work already done and starting from scratch, I finished the feature well in time for the initial release of RPG IV.

With the release of RPG IV, the development team was scaled back, leaving two developers working on new features. Because the extended factor two calcs were such a hit, one proposed enhancement was a fully free-form syntax for C-specs. However, we believed that it would require 100% of all development and testing resources for one release. When considering potential enhancements, this item would always get pushed well down the priority list.

This changed during the planning cycle for V5R1. I realized that common coding standards had changed somewhat during the past few years. I realized that a new free-form C-spec did not need to include all traditional C-spec features. Conditioning indicators weren’t needed now that we had the IF opcode. Resulting indicators were largely deprecated in favor of built-in functions. And some opcodes were no longer needed, such as IFxxand the MOVE opcodes. We just needed a few additional built-in functions to fill in some gaps. With this strategy, free-form calcs could be implemented relatively easily, along with other useful functional enhancements.

But of course, this proposal was not without controversy. In order to get the proper design, we had approval from management to discuss the proposal publicly, on a popular RPG related mailing list. Many people loved the idea, but some were vehemently against the proposal. Personally, although I knew we had something good, I was so disheartened with the criticism that I gave the feature a 50/50 chance of making it to release. However, in 2001 it was released, and over time, most critics came around to accept the syntax.

With V5R1 and /FREE released, we started thinking about moving towards a free-form syntax for other spec types. However, while free-form syntax made a lot of sense for calc specs, we could see little benefit for the rest of the language. Other enhancements of a more functional nature were always considered more important.

In the summer of 2003, the iSeries group in the Toronto Lab could not escape the “staffing actions” rampant throughout the Software Group, and the RPG compiler development team was reduced to one person. I was moved to a new team responsible for PL/X, a compiler used internally within IBM for the development of mainframe software.

So now we come to the Fall of 2013, 12 years after the release of  free-form calcs, 18 years after the release of RPG IV. A few weeks ago came the announcement of free-form D, F, P, and H-specs in RPG. Although I’m happy to see this come about, I’m also puzzled. It seems all too anti-climactic, too little too late to save an anachronism of a programming language. In a previous missive entitled Is RPG Dead? The Autopsy, I list half a dozen features common to modern programming languages but missing from RPG. Note that free-form syntax is not included in that list. At the time I wrote that, significant parts of the language were still fixed-form, but I didn’t consider the lack of a fully free syntax significant.

So what’s the big deal about the additional free-form syntax? More than ten years ago when I was part of the RPG development team, we always looked for useful functional features to add to the language. That is, features that would help improve programmer productivity, or allow programmers to do things they couldn’t do easily before. But that seemed to change about ten years ago. In the last release that I had any involvement with, one feature added was XML operations within the language. It wasn’t as if programmers couldn’t handle XML before since there were already XML API’s in use. But as far as I could tell, the only reason the XML opcodes were added was because COBOL was getting XML operations, and someone within the management team decided that RPG needed them too. I considered it a goofy feature, but I was too tired and jaded to argue. (Now that JSON is commonly used in places where XML was previously used, should RPG now include JSON opcodes?)

Lately, the major enhancements to RPG seem to be accompanied by major coverage in the iSeries press. Consider that silly Open Access feature, which seems primarily designed for ISV’s helping to modernize old monolithic applications, which in most cases probably should be rewritten from scratch instead. And now with the new free-form specs, a lot of pundits are writing about how the feature will make the language more acceptable to other programmers, while ignoring the functional deficits previously mentioned. That is, these days, it seems like planning RPG content is more of a public relations exercise geared towards managers of client RPG shops rather than providing real improvements making the job of RPG programmers easier. As RPG falls further and further behind the modern programming languages, I suspect the PR show will become more and more prominent.

In my opinion, although I think the new free-form specs are a nice improvement to RPG, they will not make RPG more palatable to the programmers of Java, Python, PHP, etc. A dozen years ago, we saw little justification for the feature, and I don’t see what has changed in the meantime. If anything, RPG has become less and less relevant as applications programmers continue to discover the productivity gains to be had by using modern interpreted languages like Python and PHP.

Genealogy and Technology

We all know that a big part of genealogy research is managing the data. So it comes as no surprise that computers are an essential part of the research. Fortunately these days, the technology is quite affordable, both in terms of hardware and software. In this blog posting, I consider some of the hardware you need.

If you download lots of images from FamilySearch.org or some other similar web site, you’ll need lots of hard disk space. Disk space is relatively inexpensive. And these days, computers with terabyte hard drives are common, even in budget priced computers. If you need more, you can easily add an external drive for about a hundred dollars per terabyte. How much can you store in one terabyte? Roughly half a million images from FamilySearch.org.

Next, consider your displays. If you’ve ever used multiple monitors, it’s hard to imagine having to put up with just one. On my system, I have Gramps running on one monitor and a web browser open on the other. In addition, I also have multiple virtual desktops configured for one of the displays. I use the virtual desktops to further organize my work. On one, I do my image editing. On another, I have a number of folders open for various other sources of information. Note that your monitors can be different sizes and orientations. Some people even have one display positioned horizontally and the other vertical. The latter may be useful for word processing.

Another useful piece of hardware is a scanner, so you can easily digitize old document and photos. If you already have a multi-function printer, you already have a scanner. If you don’t, then you should consider getting a new printer. The latest generation of multi-function color ink-jet printers are inexpensive, with a cost per page that’s lower than ever. And some of these affordable printers even support duplex printing, allowing you to stuff twice the number of pages into your three-ring binders. (That is, if you still keep paper documentation!)

Finally, note that even if you read films the old-fashioned way using microfilms at your LDS Family History Center, you can usually scan the films there. So always remember to bring a memory stick with you. It may not be practical to scan everything you find. But you should at least scan records that are related to direct ancestors, or records that you’re having trouble deciphering. The former is useful in establishing certainty about the family members that are the most relevant to you. The latter is important so you can ask others for help in reading the difficult records.

Hard drives, monitors, scanners, memory sticks. These are some of the more important hardware tools we now use in doing genealogy. I’ll discuss the software tools another time.

Cheers! Hans

Ukulele Chord Diagrams

After I started playing ukulele, I realized that I needed a way to create my own song arrangements. There are numerous web sites that offer chord arrangements for songs, many specifically geared to ukulele. We all know that Dr Uke ‘s Songs and Richard G’s Songbook are great sources of ukulele arrangements. And of course, Chordie.com has everything.

But I’m not always satisfied, especially with Chordie. Chordie often provides a good starting point, but I always want to do things differently. There are always multiple ways to finger every chord, and often, there’s a better sounding alternative to the standard open fingering used in most song arrangements. Here’s an example of the three main chords in the key of D, using my favorite alternative form of A7:

To prepare your own chord arrangements for your favorite songs, you need a couple of things. First, a good word processor. LibreOffice Writer is my choice since it has full-fledged desktop publishing features. It also runs on a variety of different operating systems.

Second, you need a source of graphics for the chord diagrams. One way to do that is to download the chord graphics from a site like Chordie.com. But finding all the diagrams you need can be tedious. If you’re technically oriented, you can figure out a way to download them all, but then you’d have a torrent of files to sort through. And you still won’t get diagrams for alternatives, such as the 0454 A7 (pictured above).

And so, I created my own chord diagrams, which you can download from my Ukulele Chord Box Collection. There are six collections to choose from, with chords geared to standard GCEA tuning, ADF#B tuning, and standard baritone tuning. In addition, there are left-handed variations for them all. The diagrams come in two sizes: 48×64 pixels and 36×54 pixels.

I’ve made these available under a Creative Commons License, so you can do what you want with them. If you find these chord diagrams useful and want to show your appreciation, there’s a Paypal link on the download page where you can donate $10. I certainly won’t get rich from these donations, but $10 will pay for a couple of beers at the local bar where we hold our monthly ukulele jam in Kingston.

Using LibreOffice Writer, I usually include the chord names within parentheses within the song lyrics, and highlight the chord names in red. I then put the chord diagrams at the bottom of the page. If there’s no room at the bottom, I add a frame to the side, and put the chord diagrams there. With a folder view of the chord diagrams open, I drag and drop the image into the document. With a right mouse click on the image, I choose “Anchor”, and then select “As character”. I then cut and paste to position the diagram where I want.

Cheers! Hans

Six Things To Know About Dutch Genealogy

So you’ve got ancestors from the Netherlands. Congratulations! There are great resources available to you to make your genealogy research easier. But there are a number of things you need to know about before you jump in and research your Dutch ancestors.

First, FamilySearch.org. In the past, we did our research by reading microfilms at the local LDS Family History Center. Now, a lot of source documents can be viewed on-line. So much so that you can literally spend all your time doing just on-line research. You can find those source records in the Netherlands section of FamilySearch.org. It doesn’t contain everything, though. But if, for example, you need to see church records from Overijssel, you can try Von Papier Naar Digital. After downloading the records you need, you can crop and resize the images, and then insert them into your database. You can’t get better citations than that! (You do cite your sources, right?)

Second, WieWasWie.nl. While access to the source records is great, you can’t just scan them one by one to find what you want. There are just too many records, so you need an index. WieWasWie allows you to search the civil registration records using a number of different criteria, such as surname, given name, patronymic, and role in the event. If you’re searching for a marriage record, you can search on the surnames of both the bride and groom. Unfortunately, not all records have been indexed. One big deficiency in the index that affects my own research is birth records in Gelderland. Fortunately, you can often find an index in the source records.

Third, understanding the Dutch language. At least a basic knowledge of Dutch is needed since most public records are written fully in Dutch. That is, even ages and dates are written using Dutch words rather than decimal digits. FamilySearch.org provides a useful document entitled Netherlands Language and Languages. In particular, here are a few basic things you need to know: The letters “ij” together are considered equivalent to the letter “y”. That is, the names “van Dijk” and “van Dyk” are considered the same, and will sort as “Dyk”. Oh yeah, for the purposes of sorting, prefixes like “van” and “de” are ignored. So look for your “van Dijk” ancestors under “D”, not “V”.

There are, of course, exceptions. To read Catholic church records, you’ll need to know some Latin. Some churches used German. And some civil records during the French occupation were written in French.

One more thing about sorting: In some alphabetical indexes, names within a particular letter group may not be ordered alphabetically, but rather by date. In such indexes, you’ll have to read through all the names in that letter group.

Fourth, Dutch script. Dutch handwriting in the civil registration is generally relatively easy to read, following a style that should be familiar to most English-speaking people. But as you go further and further back, especially in the church records prior to 1811, the hand-writing can become harder to decipher. Here’s an example from the Arnhem marriage book:

Again, FamilySearch.org has some good resources to help you learn how to read Dutch records. Check out these on-line lessons.

Fifth, patronymics. A pivotal point in Dutch history of special importance to genealogists is the French occupation of 1810 to 1813. A number of reforms were established by the French. The first was civil registration. The second was the abolition of patronymic naming in 1811. That is, the system where your surname was based on your father’s first name, not surname. Surnames were formed by adding a suffix to the father’s first name, such as “sen”, “sz”, or “s”.

Not all regions of the Netherlands used patronymics. For example, while northern Gelderland used patronymics, the southeast corner of the province generally did not. But even in areas where patronymics were common, if someone had a conventional family name, it would be recorded in the church records. Needless to say, it can get a bit confusing.

Theoretically, then, you shouldn’t see patronymics in the civil registration. However, many families held on to their patronymics well after 1811. I even found one ancestor in the 1830 census still using their patronym.

Sixth, infant mortality. Like most other regions, infant mortality was high in the Netherlands prior to the 20th Century. In my own data, where age at death can be computed, roughly 18% of all deaths occurred before the age of five. So be prepared emotionally to view lots of infant deaths in the burial records. To make things for difficult for genealogists, names of children are often not written down. Here’s an example of one month of deaths in Nijkerk:

Of the 22 deaths reported in that month, 14 were unnamed children. Linking the burial record to a particular person is not impossible, though. In one family with eight children, through a process of elimination, I was able to identify a date of death for all but two children. For each of those two, I just listed both possible dates in my Gramps database.

For those starting out with Dutch genealogy, this may be a lot of information already. And you’ll discover more things with experience. If you have any more tips for beginners, please add them in the comments.

Cheers! Hans

Cite Those Sources!

We all know the importance of citing sources in genealogy. It is absolutely a necessary practice in any form of research. Why then do so many published genealogies lack citations?

Citations are important for several reasons. First, when publishing your research, you need to convince others that you applied a sufficient level of due diligence to ensure the correctness of your work. For example, many of us have looked for people in the IGI, and so we all know how unreliable it can be. But think about it: Each entry in the IGI is based on the work of a genealogist. If you see a published genealogy without citations, you really have no idea about its quality.

Second, citations can help you in your own work. When I started genealogy 22 years ago, many programs didn’t have any meaningful support for citations. We had to use notes for that, if we cited our data at all. So when I resumed my interest in genealogy a year ago, I had to spend some time to line up all my data with my sources, mostly hand-written notes in a number of three-ring binders. I was able to find a source for everything, except for a few things. I ended up deleting some people since I had no record of how I got their data.

When you know where your information came from, you have a good idea about its quality. If you get some data from a published source with no citations, you can flag that with a confidence of  “Low”. Or perhaps “Very Low”. You can then use that information as a starting point in locating sources with a higher confidence level, such as the original civil or church records.

Version 5.5 of the GEDCOM standard has been in force since 1995, and so all genealogy software now should have a reasonable level of support for sources and citations. Unfortunately, not all do. For example, when evaluating WikiTree, I was disappointed in how the data was presented after importing some sample data. While it does a reasonable job with citations on import, WikiTree requires you to manually edit the raw GEDCOM data into a presentable form. For any new data, you need to manually edit the text, including the citations. Clearly, in my opinion, WikiTree is unsuitable both for serious research and for publishing data. However, note that point VIII of the WikiTree Honor Code is “We cite sources”. When I considered joining WikiTree, I took that point to heart, and spent considerable time making sure all my facts were properly cited. Time well spent, though. It had to be done.

I use the program Gramps, which does have good support for citations. Now, I never add any information to my database without also adding a citation. Here’s a useful tip when using Gramps: Always keep a clipboard window open. Since one citation can support multiple facts, when you create a new citation, drag and drop it right away to the clipboard window. Then when you need that citation to support another fact, you can drag and drop from the clipboard to the new fact.

Here’s another Gramps tip: You can create a custom event filter to find events without citations. Set the name to ‘Events with <count> sources‘ and values to ‘Number of instances:=”0″‘. This way you can easily find uncited events.

These days, there’s really no excuse not to include good citations. Considering that you can now easily download images of original source records, you can even include those images in your citations. Even if you still read microfilms at your local LDS Family History Center, you can often digitize images from the microfilms. Sure, a single image may take up a lot of disk storage. But disk drives are cheap, with external drives costing roughly $100 per terabyte. How much can you store in 1TB? About half a million images from FamilySearch.

So get to it! Cite those sources!

Cheers! Hans

Dr. Anthonij Moll (1786-1843)

As I mentioned earlier, there were some rather important people among my roster of distant relatives. In this posting. I’ll say a few words about my 2nd cousin, 4 times removed, Anthonij Moll.

Anthonij Moll was born in Maassluis March 8, 1786, the eldest of the Reverend Evert Moll (1755-1805) and his first wife Catherine Knipschaer (1766-1790). He attended the University of Leiden from 1801 to 1806, and graduated as Doctor of Medicine after defending his thesis entitled “Specimen med inaug, exhibens generalia quaedam circa theoriam, sic dictam, Incitationis”, which he dedicated to “the friends of truth”. He then moved to Nijmegen, holding the position of assistant extraordinaire in the military hospital, which at the time was treating numerous Prussian prisoners of war.

He also served as city physician, and later in 1814 became surgeon-major extraordinaire in the militia. He showed dedication and courage during the 1813 typhus epidemic. He himself was affected by the disease, which nearly killed him, and never fully recovered afterwards. In 1927, Moll succeeded Dr. F.W. Everts as town doctor of Arnhem. He also became president of the provincial committee of medical research in Gelderland.

Moll was a skilled speaker and writer, giving numerous speeches. In addition to original publications, he also translated a number of works on natural philosophy from German. He was one of the first doctors in the Netherlands advocating for the importance of hygiene, and defended the therapeutic benefits of a seaside climate. He was a member of numerous societies, and was bestowed several honors, including Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion (1841).

Moll married Albertina Mos (1791-1866) in Nijmegen, May 26, 1813, with his brother Jacob performing the ceremony. From this marriage came four children: Evert (1814-1896), Johannes Gijsbertus (1816-1817), Anna Sophia Catharina (1819-1898), and Johannes Gijsbertus Jacob (1822-1903). Anthonie Moll died in Arnhem, March 16, 1843.

My Boldt and Moll Families – a Short Overview

As I mentioned earlier, about half a year ago I returned to my hobby of genealogy after a 15 year break. Since my return, I’ve added significantly to my database. It’s now time to start blogging about some of what I’ve learned.

My Boldt ancestors lived in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a small Grand Duchy at the western end of Germany’s Baltic Sea coast. This was always one of the more rural of the German states, with a predominately feudal society up until the end of the 19th Century. Most people worked as peasant farmers or day laborers. For most, their only hope of bettering their lives was to move away. My 4th great uncle Jochen Boldt (1824-1910) moved his family to south-central Ontario in the 1870’s. where many of his descendants still live.

My earliest known Boldt ancestor was Aßmus Bolt, who lived in the village of Dümmerstück in the early 1700’s. His son Christoph Boldt (1735-1821) moved to Vietlübbe. His great grandson, born in Hindenberg, was my great grandfather Heinrich Boldt (1873-1957). Like many others, Heinrich worked as a day laborer. That is, he did, until he discovered that the land owners were cheating the workers out of their fair wages. When he could no longer find work in Hindenberg, he moved with his family to Hamburg, joining other relatives who moved there earlier. The surviving descendants of Heinrich Boldt, all four of us, now live in Kingston, Ontario.

There is a lot more information available on my Moll family. One of the single most important documents is a list of the descendants of Evert Moll, born about 1628 in Velp. (The document incorrectly lists the progenitor of the Velp Moll’s as Claas Moll.) This was published by the Vereeniging “Families Mol(l)”, an organization active during the 1930’s and 40’s. You can find scanned copies of their publications at Jan Wies’ website. This document includes more than 450 descendants in the Velp Moll clan, including three of my aunts (#384 Geertje Johanna, #385 Marritje, and #386 Gerrie).

In general, the Moll’s were fairly well off. There was even a coat of arms described: three black moles, one above the other, on a field of silver. My direct Moll ancestors were generally bakers, merchants, or farmers. My great great grandfather Herman Moll (1822-1902) moved to Nijkerk shortly after getting married in 1847, and worked there as a baker.

Looking further afield at some distant Moll cousins, you can find some relatively famous individuals. For example, my 2nd cousin, 4 times removed, Antonie Moll (1786-1843) was a distinguished medical doctor and surgeon in Arnhem. His first-born son Evert Moll (1812-1896) was a learned liberal theologian and minister who served the congregations of Hengelo, Vollenhove, and Goes. My 4th cousin, twice removed Evert Moll (1878-1955) was a well-known painter, known for his impressionist paintings of the Rotterdam harbor.

But my most famous distant cousins weren’t Moll’s, although one was the grand-son of my 3rd great aunt Teunisken Moll (1803-1839). My 2nd cousin, twice removed, was the Nobel-Prize winning physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1853-1928). But he’s not the only Nobel Prize recipient in my list of relatives. I’m also related to Nobel Prize recipient Heike Kamerlingh-Onnes (1853-1926) in two ways: As 4th cousin twice removed, and also as 5th cousin twice removed. The two of them were 5th cousins, and although they both worked as physicists at the University of Leiden, they probably didn’t know they were related.

There were also a few “black sheep” amongst my distant relatives. For example, Elisabeth Keers-Laseur (1890-1997) was an unrepentant Nazi supporter both during and after the war.

For some of these people, I’ll write more in the months ahead.

Cheers! Hans

Dealing With Death

Last year, I worked for a couple of months for a company located in a renovated factory on the Cataraqui River. The clients for this company were funeral homes. What was it like working in that line of business? It’s hard to find the right adjective to describe that business domain. Weird, perhaps. No other type of business deals with such an emotionally charged issue as death.

One of my tasks was scraping the existing client web sites to extract obituary data. Technically, the PHP programming was fairly straight-forward. However, the task also required reading through the extracted data to make sure it was read correctly. While I had no problem with most of the obits, which described rich, full lives of people who died of old age, other obits were more difficult to read. Such as obits for young children, including a brave 12 year old girl who lost her battle with cancer. One time, I read a death record that listed the place of death as “airplane” and the address of death as the World Trade Center. There’s a certain quality needed for people working in the funeral industry, a quality I lack. Even now, 14 months after I quit that job, I still have little desire to read obituaries.

Then again, I must still read death records, since one of my interests is genealogy. Finding the death or burial records for someone is just as important as finding their birth, baptism, or marriage records. But looking at the death records overall, the life expectancy statistics in past centuries can be quite shocking. Consider the following graph:

There are about 4500 individuals in my Gramps database. Of these, I know the age of death for 1149 of them. Most of these people lived in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The largest single lifespan age group is children younger than 5 years old. Prior to the 20th Century, high infant mortality substantially brought down the overall average life expectancy. That is, if you survived childhood, you stood a good chance of  living into your 70’s or 80’s.

Take one family of distant cousins I researched yesterday using WieWasWie: Jacob van de Klomp and Hendrica van der Wepel (my 1st cousin, 3 times removed) were married in 1882 in Zeist, and had a total of 12 children, born between 1882 and 1898. Of the 12, four made it past their first year of life: Reijer born in 1882, Gosina born in 1889, Hendrica born in 1896, and Willem born in 1898. If they had lived just 50 years later, the vast majority of them would have survived infancy.

Prior to the 20th Century, certain things we take for granted today just didn’t exist. Things like sanitation, immunization, and proper health care. Epidemics, such as cholera, spread rapidly throughout Europe. I saw this clearly in the church records of Gielow, a small town in the south-east corner of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. While reading the microfilmed church records, I came across the burial record of  Wilhelm Ludwigs in October 1850, who died at age 6 of cholera. Several pages later in the church book, I found the burial record of Magdalene Millhahn who also died in October 1850, three days old. Scanning through the pages, I found a total of 50 people who died in October and November of 1850 in that one small town, almost all of cholera.

I find genealogy fascinating since it brings history to a personal level. Looking at the death and burial records can be difficult emotionally, but really shows how difficult life was in past centuries, and how lucky we are today.