Wednesday, May 30, 2012

COG: The Love of Reading

Life is funny sometimes, wouldn’t you agree? I sit here this evening checking out my blogger dashboard and find Jasia’s post about reading for the Carnival Of Genealogy. Ah, reading! One of my absolute favorite pastimes. And Jasia wants to know my family’s history of reading? How ironic that on the third anniversary of my father’s death, I am asked that question, for he was influential in the development of my love of reading. Furthermore, I was in a training at work today and we were asked to discuss characteristics about our fathers that we would like to keep, toss, or add in reference to their values, beliefs, etc. One of the items I listed in the “keep” column was his emphasis on the importance of reading and education.

My mother tells the story that my father had heard that reading to your child was a good thing, so he instructed my mother to read to me every night. (Until I was about eight, he was often away because of his Navy service.) He purchased several books for me, including those beloved Golden books. Unfortunately, my mother was not a keeper and gave away most of my books when I grew up. I was certainly delighted to have one of them presented to me shortly after my father’s funeral by a friend who had found it in my mother’s home after she had packed to move closer to my sister. This copy of the Big Brown Bear was inscribed by my father when I was three. I have started collecting here and there other Golden Books that I remember from that time period. (Although I have not yet found Walt Disney’s Uncle Remus, one of my favorites.)

My mother, too, was a big influence on my reading. Not only because she was the one who read to me each night (and oh, how she gave such voice to the characters!) but also because she was a reader herself. She enjoyed big, thick books and favored those regarding the World War II era.
I went from the little Golden Books to Little House on The Prairie to Nancy Drew Mysteries and all things in-between. Then there was Stephen King and Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children Series. When I was dating my future husband, he and I would share Western novels with his father, passing them back and forth; Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, John Jakes. We named our first dog, Toby, after a hero in one of Jakes series. He and I also enjoyed science fiction.

Then we passed that legacy on to our children. I read to them from almost day one. I can remember very clearly seeing the light dawn in my youngest child’s eyes when she made a connection to what was being read to her life. She was not quite two years old and I had just given her a bath and dressed her in pajamas. She sat on my lap in the rocking chair and I picked out a board book to read before putting her to bed. It was a book called “Kisses.” I got to the page where it said, “After my bath, I give daddy a silly, soapy kiss.” My little one looked over at me with a look of surprise as if to say, “I just had a bath” and leaned over and gave me one of her famous open-mouth kisses.

The children eventually picked up the habit and ran with it themselves. All three read nearly every evening before turning off the lights and going to sleep. I introduced them to books I loved as a child and they in turn have introduced me to many more. There have been several times we have all read a series together. Even their father has joined in on some. Ironically, they all enjoy science fiction, too. I’ve also taken it to the next generation as well, giving away mostly books as gifts to my great-nieces and nephews.

I have a couple of books pinned on one of my Pinterest boards that I would recommend. If you do a search of my blog (just click on the "books" tag), you will find a few more book reviews and recommendations. And if you’re interested, I will share my 100 top book reads. Just drop me a line. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Memorial Day Memories

I wrote the following six years ago after a local Memorial Day celebration that my children and I participated in:

In Thomas Moore's book, Care of the Soul, he writes that our goal should be "a richly elaborated life connected to society ... woven into the culture of family, nation and globe ... profoundly connected in the heart to ancestors and to living brothers and sisters in all the many communities that claim our hearts."

The Memorial Day celebration this past Monday presented just such an opportunity to be connected. As a history lover, I often have viewed myself as a bridge between the past of my ancestors and the future of my children. In my role as bridge, I've nurtured the children in activities that allow them to participate in community events such as the local parade. And so there I was watching the future walk down Main Street.

But before they got too far, we stopped at the town gazebo where the local American Legion Post Commander talked of some of those who had gone on, reaching all the way back into the community's memory to the time of the Revolution. While standing there, I thought about what a pretty picture it made with the gazebo in the foreground and the former Methodist church behind it. This reminded me that religion often plays an important part in maintaining the ties of family and community and connecting us to past generations.

But the future stirred (and wiggled and squirmed) and after the ceremony, the children couldn't wait to rush off for lunch. We spent the rest of the day celebrating like others have both past and present. We ate our fill of hot dogs and chips, went swimming on the gloriously hot day and in the late afternoon sat on the porch and had ice cream.

Later I remembered what local historian Lois Siggelkow wrote about one of the area’s cemeteries. Buried in Ellicottville’s Bryant Hill Cemetery is a man named Justin Rust. While still part of the future at the age of seventeen, Justin enlisted in the colonial forces and fought under General George Washington. His wife Margaret had a hand in making community connections in the village as one of the original organizers of the Presbyterian Church in 1829. 

The Rusts are not my ancestors. Like them, I originally came from somewhere else. But through time and place and choices made, we are connected by the community we settled in. It has become a community that claims our hearts. The Rusts are now a part of the past. By writing of them and others who have gone before, I continue to play a part in bridging the gap between the future and the past, until one day, I, too, become a part of the past. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A Foreign Cemetery

Stedum, Groningen, Netherlands

Hendrik Timmer born 27 August 1845, died 7 May 1899. 
His wife Frouke Westerhof born 2 August 1840, died 19 November 1909.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday’s Tip: Writing About Family

Product Details
I ran across a new book at my local library a few weeks ago. It’s an anthology entitled Women Writing On Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing. It’s edited by Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland and published by The Key Publishing House, Inc. of Toronto, Canada ( There are fifty-five chapters in eight parts including Personal and Legal Issues about Family Topics; Making the Most of Your Family Experience; Exploring Family in a Variety of Genres; and Publishing, Marketing & Promoting.

In the introduction, the editors quote a Proust passage from The Remembrance of Things Past which says: “When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.” The editors remark that for many women, their memory essentially is through family and note that Virginia Woolf once said, “We think back through our mothers if we are women.”

Some of the contributions I enjoyed were:

#15 Making Up Grandma: How to Blend History and Imagination Into Powerful Family Narratives by Lela Davidson. The first sentence in her chapter says, “The best family histories are rich in detail.”

#17 Telling Our Truth: Writing the Legacy of the Dead by Carol Hawkins who poses several questions to serve as guideposts for writing and suggests that we be careful in choosing which stories to tell.

#26 Mothers and Daughters: Telling Shared Stories by Diane LeBlanc who offers suggestions on writing shared stories in ways that both reveal and respect and reminds us that when we tell our stories, we tell our truth, not necessarily the truth.

#32 Creating the Fictional Family: No Character is an Island by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. The contributor of this article suggests creating a family history and historical setting for characters in a fictional piece.

#33 From Memoir to Fiction by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. This contributor offers several suggestions for mapping your own journey of turning family stories into universal truths of a literary novel.

#41 The Roles of Women in Narrative by Mary Rice. This writer discusses that women are often the keepers of experience and keepers of humanity and as such are at the forefront of stories that create a coherent sense of community among characters.

There are also practical chapters for finding online writing niches and the like as well, but I found the above most useful in writing family history. If you get a chance, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Military Monday: A Hero and Member of the Dutch Resistance Movement

"Index cards with names of people from the opposition" from the Netherlands Archives 
I promised to write more about my Netherlands cousin who was a member of the Dutch Resistance Movement during WWII. Harm Molenkamp was the oldest child and only son of Jan Molenkamp and Frouke Olthof (Frouke’s mother was Jantje Timmer, my great-grandfather’s sister).  Harm had two sisters, Siep and Jantje.

As mentioned in my previous post about the subject, I first heard about cousin Harm from another cousin who lived in the Netherlands about twenty years ago but we lost track of each other. I didn’t get much information to begin with. I’ve always been curious to learn more and have been fascinated to have such a close tie to the historical events that took place during that time. I included the photocopy of the photo I have of Harm when I did a photo history presentation for one of my daughter’s classes a few years ago. For the presentation, I started with a tintype photograph from the 1860s of a girl who is likely a distant cousin who shares my birthday. I presented a historical photograph of a young man or woman for every decade from then until my baby photo from the 1960s. For each decade, I discussed a key event in history that took place then. Harm was my example from the 1940s. Maybe I should do a post of that project sometime. Heaven knows where that will take me. It was because of this blog that my newest-found cousin, Hans, contacted me and I was able to learn more about our mutual cousin Harm.

 Anyway, to get back to that subject, I told Hans about my curiosity about Harm and asked if he knew any more. Following is what he shared with me through email. (Which, by the way, is much easier than using international reply coupons, let me tell you.)

I've met both Jan and Frouke when I was a child, also their daughters Siep and Jantje and their families. I remember them as deeply religious people.”

“What I know of Harm is that Jan and Frouke had quite a few ‘onderduikers’ hidden on their farm during the war. First Jewish people, later resistance fighters also sought refuge. This is how Harm came in contact, being a target for the labour camps in Germany himself (as all young men were) also added to his choice. The Germans were already suspicious, and made several checks on the farm.  After a couple of searches Frouke was taken to the "Scholtens huis" in Groningen -  the headquarters of the SD, the German "Sicherheids Dienst" (Security Service) and severely beaten up as a warning during her stay in prison for several days. My grandmother took care of Frouke during the days after her capture (I still remember my grandmother telling that story, and how shocked she was even after so many years)

In 1944 Harm joined a group who mainly did raids on ‘coupon’ distribution centres. Since most of the food and goods were exported to Germany the Dutch people were given coupons for the bit the Germans left behind. As the story goes Harm and his group were betrayed by a local NSB man (the collaborators party).”

 “Harm used the codename ‘Anne’, was the leader of the group…Harm’s parental farm…was raided by the Germans.  He did escape, had to hide in the forest of Anloo…in an underground shelter with the rest of his group. He was captured on 30th September 1944, and shot two weeks later in Camp Westerbork.”

Harm is on the national ‘Erelijstvan gevallenen 1940 – 1945’, the ‘honorary list of the fallen’. Camp Westerbork was one of the two prison camps in Holland from where the transports to the concentration camps in Germany departed (the other one was Camp Vught). Every year, on the 4th of May, which is our national Remembrance day, there is a service held at Camp Westerbork, broadcasted on national television”

Hans also shared a link to more information on Harm from the online collection of theNetherlands Archives, which Hans described as “This site contains a massive collection of witness reports of resistance fighters, containing 8 pages of Harm. His parents are also mentioned. Both Jan and Frouke were imprisoned and interrogated several times in ‘German style’”. Hans also mentioned that the event of the German raid on Jan and Frouke’s farm is described in detail.

Here is a portion of detailed information on Harm from the Archives Collection:
Molenkamp, Harm
Eenum, E 8
BS 42, 352, 380, 382, 516, 803; G1 144, 146, 150, 154; G2 633; Hoe Groningen streed 43 ev, 237, 253
1921-01-29 te 't Zandt
Samen met Bruggema en Oosting gearresteerd in de boshut bij Anlo, 1944-09-29
Vanaf begin '43. Werkte ook samen met de groep Bedum. Naar de veenkoloniƫn gegaan, 1944-01-31, ondergedoken in Zuidlaren, 1944-06-10. Had ook veel landelijke contacten
Stolwijk, Cor; Broens, Jan; Cnossen, Piet; Omta, Albert; Pijper (verloofde), Alie; Til, Giene van; Wiersema; Niemeijer, Harry; Dijkema, Reint; Broekstra, Henk; Leugs; Douma, ds; Wiersma, ds; Borgdorff; Woltjer, K.; Haan, Henk; Hemmes, Edo
Molenkamp, Harm
Gefusilleerd te Westerbork, herbegraven op het Groninger Esserveld, 1945-11-02

TRANSLATION (using Google Translate):

Molenkamp, Harm

  Location: Eenum, E 8

BS Report: BS 42, 352, 380, 382, 516, 803, G1 144, 146, 150, 154, 633 G2; How Groningen fought 43 et seq, 237, 253

Born: 01/29/1921 in 't Zandt

Deceased: 10/12/1944

Occupation: Accountant

Ideology: Reformed

Event: Together with Bruggema Oosting and arrested in the mountain lodge at Anlo, 09/29/1944

Resistance: LO, KP

Resistance Activities: From the beginning of '43. Also worked with the group Bedum. In the peat gone, 01.31.1944, hiding in Zuidlaren, 10/06/1944. Had a lot of national contacts

Contacts: Stolwijk, Cor; Broens Jan; Cnossen, Piet; Omta, Albert; Pijper (fiance), Alie, Lift, Giene of; Wiersema, Niemeijer, Harry; Dijkema, Reint; Broekstra, Henk; Leugs; Douma, DS; Wiersma, dS; Borgdorff, Woltjer, K.; Haan, Henk; Hemmes, Edo

Shelter Names: Anne

Name: Molenkamp, Harm

Specifics: shot at Westerbork, reburied at the Groningen Field Esser, 11/02/1945

Location: Groninger Archives

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Finding a Family Hero

Back in 1989, I sent my aunt and uncle a letter to inquire about what they knew about our Timmer family, who had came to the U.S. from the Netherlands. The story (which was true) was that my great-grandparents, John and Martha (Bolhuis) Timmer came over in 1906 on their honeymoon and never went back. Aunt Jeannette was gracious enough to send me what they had and also provided me with the name of a family friend who lived in the Netherlands. Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Fred (John and Martha's youngest son) had taken a trip to the Netherlands around 1980 and shared with me some postcards from the province of Groningen where she said the Timmers came from among other tidbits of information and some photographs.

I explored the world of international postage and return replies and wrote to this family friend. It turns out he was part of a family that one of my great-grandfather's aunts had married into. He, in turn, gave me the name and address of the daughter of my great-grandfather's sister.  I promptly mailed a letter to her as well and received a reply from her son, Harry Haakman.

The same age as my mother (and her second cousin), Harry and I corresponded for a couple of months. He shared with me photocopies of several photographs he had of his Timmer family connections. My great-grandfather John had two sisters Trientje and Jantje as well as an older half-brother named Thomas Timmer. (Refer to My Dutch Heritage page for more information.) Jantje Timmer (born 8 May 1875 and died 27 June 1963 in the Netherlands) married Eltje Olthof. Jantje and Eltje had Frouke, Floris and Tryntje.

This Tryntje was Harry's mother. Floris had no children. Frouke married Jan Molenkamp and had three children, one boy and two girls. Harry sent me copies of photographs he had of his Molenkamp cousins. The first one was labeled "Harm Molenkamp and fiancee. Harm was born 29 January 1920 and killed by the Germans 13 October 1944. He was a member of the Dutch Resistance Movement."

I have always been fascinated by stories of World War II in relation to the Holocaust. It started in school when we were instructed to read the Diary of Anne Frank. History was made real for me when one of my teachers invited a Holocaust survivor to speak to the classroom as well. I became a lifelong sympathizer of the plight of the Jews.

And here later I discover that I had kin who apparently also was a sympathizer.

I got married shortly after I began my correspondence with Harry and we lost track of each other. I tried several times to reconnect but never had any luck. Last year, I tried to make contact through the internet with someone from the family but again was not successful.

It's been over twenty years and that's the most I've known about my hero cousin. I've also tried off and on to "google" for information on the internet to discover more about Harm, but was unable to learn any more.

That is until last week, when a Netherlands cousin posted a comment on my blog and sent me an email saying that if I wanted to get in touch about the Jantje Timmer family, I was welcome. Boy, did I! And one of the first things I asked about was our mutual cousin, Harm Molenkamp.

I am learning a lot more and will share it with you on this blog in coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: O’Brien-Devereux Family,

In keeping up with my O’Brien research I’ve been posting lately, the will of Delia Lyons certainly yielded a treasure trove of information on her family. I suspect that Daniel O'Brien's wife, Teresa, was Bridget’s sister, who apparently had died by the time Delia wrote her will in Humphrey, Cattaraugus County, New York on 29 January 1879. (If this is indeed the case, this narrows Teresa’s death to the year 1878.) This is based on the fact that Daniel O’Brien was not listed as an heir in Delia’s probate records but his son William O’Brien was listed as her nephew. The 1893 Cattaraugus county history indicates that Teresa’s maiden name was Devereux.
Delia/Bridget gave her husband Peter her “farm of 45 acres” in the town of Humphrey. Other heirs named included her sister Jane Edwards (age 62) of the town of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland and her sister Mary King (age 74) of Humphrey, New York. Also named as next of kin (no relationship stated unless otherwise noted) were John Devro age 65 of the town of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland; Owen Devro age 65 of No. 86 Horatio St, NY City; William O’Brien, nephew age 27 of Humphrey; James T. Devro age 35 of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland; Thomas Keenan of same place and Peter Kelly age 30 at same address as Owen Devro. Her will mentions leaving money to the St. Johns Catholic Church in Utica, New York and to the Green Chapel Church in the town of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland “where her mother and father belonged at the time of their death.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - O'Brien Surname, Town of Humphrey, Cattaraugus Co, NY

"In Memory of Ann O'Brien, born in Co Westmeath, Ireland, Feb. 2, 1834, Died June 9, 1902"

From the St. Pacificus Roman Catholic Churchyard, town of Humphrey, Cattaraugus County, New York:

"Bridget, wife of Peter Lyons, Died Feb 5, 1879, Ae 58 Years"

"Daniel O'Brien, Died Nov. 16, 1883, Aged 82 Y S, Native of Co. Westmeath, Ireland"

"Teresa, wife of..." Tombstone was found broken in March of 2012, but an online inscription found here indicates that she was the wife of Daniel O'Brien, and died Aug. 27, 187- , age 50 years 9 months. Daniel listed her as an executor when he wrote his will in  December 1876, so she must have died between 1877-1879.

These four tombstones are found to the immediate left of the front of the churchyard in a row. They are posted in the row order from left to right.