It was not until I filled in the In-Depth Genealogist’s writers inquiry that I realized foster children are part of my family history. It came to me that my mother’s family has a long history in fostering children. This blog post is about them, my nonblood-related family members. Note: all families lived in Loon op Zand, a small village in the south of the Netherlands.
Adriana ‘Jaoneke’ Maas (1855-1936) was the widow of my great-great-grandfather’s only brother Gerrit Jansen. She had seven children of her own. When in the 1910s, most of her children had left the parental house, she welcomed two foster children into her home: the brothers Wilhelm Johannes Hendrik van Ewijk (1908-1932) and Johannes ‘Jo’ van Ewijk (1911-1940) from Deventer.
Both came to a tragic end. The older one drowned in the IJssel river at the age of 24 when playing with a little boat. The younger one died in the first days of World War II on the battlefield of Grebbeberg, in the area of Rhenen. Only 29 years old, he was survived by his wife and two children.
One decade later, my grandfather became a foster son himself. His mother was often too sick to take care of her five children and therefore my grandfather Adrianus ‘Jos’ Jansen (1916-1999) was raised by his uncle Petrus Johannes ‘Pieter’ Jansen (1886-1966) and aunt Huiberdina ‘Dien’ van de Graaf (1885-1958), a childless couple. After Dien had died, Jos moved in with his foster father. He, his wife and their three children lived with ‘grandfather’ and took care of him, until he died at the age of almost 80 years.
My grandfather’s brother, Cornelis Petrus ‘Kees’ Jansen (1913-2000), and his wife Anna Elisabeth Antonetta ‘Annie’ Donders (1914-2002) even had four foster children, all living with them at the same time. The children grew up as brothers and sisters and they were always a part of the Jansen family.
But also on the other side of my mother’s family, fostering children was not uncommon. My great-grandparents, Josephus Petrus ‘Sjef’ Snoeren (1889-1988) and Adriana Cornelia ‘Jaon’ Biemans (1891-1966), had three children of their own, of which one died as an infant. They had also two foster children. Of one I know nothing more than her first name: Fien. She came as an infant and stayed only for a short period with my grandmother’s family.
Let me start with a few lines of an email message that I received in August 2017.
“I will be in Amsterdam from 24-28 September (2017) and had hoped to contact a local genealogist, well before now, to access further family records prior to my arrival. Given the time lines at this point I imagine that this might not be possible.”
These words were written by Eileen Baker of Canberra, Australia. In another email she wrote: “During my visit to Amsterdam I had hoped to visit some of the areas that the Bouman family lived in.”
Although there was only one month left, I wanted to give this a try. Could I help Eileen find some locations in Amsterdam, that were related to her family history? Without specific locations for her to visit she would still enjoy Amsterdam. But it was my strong intention to give her that special feeling when you step into your ancestors’ footsteps.
What could I do? I started with her great-great-grandfather, Johannes Bouman, who was born in Amsterdam in 1828. He was the family member that decided to emigrate to Australia in 1852. From his birth record I learned the names of his parents and with help of their names I found the birth records of his siblings. These records showed the names of three streets: Wittenburgerstraat, Kattenburgerplein and Kattenburgerdwarsstraat. I then looked for the Bouman family in the population registers of Amsterdam for the periods 1851-1853 and 1853-1863. All entries showed the same street name: Kleine Kattenburgerstraat.It was clear the family lived in the Kattenburg area. Could I help Eileen find the addresses in nowadays Amsterdam? The answer was disappointing: no, not really. In the 19th century the Kattenburg area was famous for shipyards. Many people in this neighborhood worked on one of the shipyards, as a sailor, carpenter or porter. The Bouman family was no exception. In the 1930s – during the great economic recession – the deterioration of Kattenburg started and by the 1960s the whole neighborhood was impoverished. Large parts of the area were demolished, except for the facades of some houses on Kattenburgerplein. On the spots of the removed premises, modern flat buildings were built.