August 11th, 2012

The Not So Elusive Janna Abbenhuis

I haven't been working particularly hard on genealogy for the last few months (it's an artifact of the time of year and other commitments), but I do occasionally poke at the 1940 Census, especially since's index is complete.

I've commented before on the difficult trade-off between the wonderfulness of an unusual surname (once you've found your guy, you know it's your guy) and the awfulness of an unusual surname (so very, very many ways to spell it incorrectly and then transcribe it some other way, making even soundex mostly useless). I had a couple of ideas, however, to find my Abbenhouses. One of them worked instantly: Cornelis Philip was living next door to his brother Henry in the 1910 census. Convenient. Also, explains why his brother's brother-in-law appeared on C Ph's wedding certificate as a witness: they were living together. I _still_ can't find any of them in 1920, and that's saying something, because the brothers had had all their kids by that point and the names weren't _that_ normal.

The next thing I went looking for was their mother, who immigrated to join her boys (leaving her adult, married daughter behind). Her immigration year was conveniently (albeit incorrectly) listed on the 1930 census, when she was living with my great-grandfather, so I knew I was looking for another single traveler in a passenger record (the brothers did not come over together). I had two possible last names, because I knew her birth name from genlias. But nothing I did in turned her up.

Before I gave up entirely in favor of an easier nut to crack, however, I said to myself, Self, you know perfectly well that other people have these records and they have their own indices and every index has its own problems. FamilySearch, obviously, but in this case, I headed over to, where you can enter whatever you think you know. And lo, there was Jennie, complete with her daughter's address in the Netherlands and Henry's in Newport, Washington.

Easy, Peasy. When I browsed's ship's records, I realized that boat for that date isn't listed (even tho the Noordam is listed for other dates) -- this wasn't an indexing problem at all.

ETA: Another trip through the Gelders Archief turned up a birth record for the daughter left behind. Either it wasn't there the last time I looked or I missed it. Both are possible, since the provincial archives are entering records as an ongoing process. A lot of what is findable in the Gelders Archief is, similarly, not yet in genlias, which is a nation wide searchable database.

ETA: And FamilySearch has Janna's immigration record as the first hit on her name as well, however, if you want to view the image, you have to go to the Ellis Island site. So I would have wound up in the same place, regardless of where I started.

Dutch Occupations, the Abbenhuisen, etc.

I keep poking at this family, because it just seems like there's a story here, if I can just figure out what it is.

Gijsbertus Abbenhuis was born around 1850 in Amsterdam -- I don't have his birth record yet. He married Janna Jager in Gelderland in 1879. His occupation (beroep) is given on the marriage record as bediende, which could me a really wide variety of things possibly including "clerk" in an office or a store. Janna Jager's occupation is given as "dienstbode", which we would probably call a domestic. Her father is listed as a "tabakker", and good luck figuring out precisely what one of those is, but I think it is a retailer of tobacco, rather than a person who grows or processes or otherwise intermediates tobacco.

Gijsbertus and Janna had three children who grew up and got married. The two boys immigrated to the United States; the girl stayed in the Netherlands with the mason (son of a mason) who she married. Why did Janna immigrate with her grown sons? Hard to say, but the extremely early death of Gijsbertus in 1886 and Janna's apparent failure to remarry (whether by choice or lack thereof) was presumably a factor. When Gijsbertus died, his occupation is given as "assurantienagent", which is just what you think it is: an insurance agent.

The oldest son, Henry, my great grandfather, was only about six when his father died. His father's parents both died, either on the same day, or within a day, of each other at the end of January in 1892. I figure there's a story there, too, altho it might be something as simple as a fire, or influenza, or cholera, or a bad winter storm. Henry married Hendriena Poldervaart in 1906 -- the same year his younger sister married her mason. Hendriena Poldervaart lost BOTH her parents when she was five (she was the 8th of 11 children) and grew up in an orphanage. Henry's occupation is listed as "fruithandelaar"; I suspect that means he was one of those guys who walked around with fruit and advertised to housewives by calling out what he had that day, but for all I know he was a jobber to markets or any number of other layers in the fruit selling business. Hendriena is listed as "dienstbode", just like her mother-in-law had been when she married. In any event, H & H Abbenhouse immigrated almost immediately after marrying and had my grandmother very shortly after that, followed a couple years later by twin girls. Hendriena's older brother Pieter had come over about five years earlier. The 1910 census shows them living next to each other, and Henry's younger brother has arrived and is working as a hired hand for Pieter's family. A few years after that, Cornelis Philip marries a woman who will eventually Americanize her first name to "Ruth" (because Ralphie would be weird, and that's probably how Roelofje would translate) and then the brothers and their families pick up stakes from Skagit and move to Idaho around the time their mother immigrates to the United States. Idaho doesn't work out (I think one of my great aunts died either really young, was stillborn, or was miscarried while H & H and their girls were all living in a tent in the winter) and at some point late in the teens or in the early 1920s, they all move back to Skagit (where I cannot find them in any records, beyond my grandmother attending high school there and Ruth's obituary saying they went there and left in 1929). C Ph, "Ruth", and his four sons then went to Seattle, where they would remain. H & H and their three daughters are in "White River Precinct" in 1930, which is northwest of what is now Kent and on what is now the Green River. "Jennie" Abbenhouse is in White River for a while, and in Skagit for a while, and in Seattle for a while where she dies in 1932.

C Ph makes it past a hundred and his wife, Ruth, to 78. They lived an amazingly long life, married to each other, watching their four boys grow up and have very successful (if very different from each other) careers, with successful marriages and families and extremely long lives of their own (I think three of them are still alive, in their 90s).

H & H, as I have blogged about before, get divorced, and Henry has three more marriages, at least one of which ends in divorce as well. Their three daughters marry men from the Netherlands and maintain some amount of contact with people back in the Netherlands.

In the process of trying to understand the kinship network the Abbenhuises came from (I am still not 100% I have identified Roelofje's parents correctly), I started paying closer attention to the "andere informatie" fields in genlias, which is typically where occupations are listed (if they are present in the underlying record and make it into the transcription, which is more consistently the case in the Gelders records than some of the other provinces). The Abbenhuises and their spouses seem to have been more urbanized through the 19th century than my Frisian relatives. Rather than endless variations of "worked on farm", they have occupations like koetzier (coachman), several variations on what seems to mean "domestic servant" (I'm sure the variations have meaning, but I'm not able to tease it out), timmerman (carpenter), a few variations on shopkeeper and so forth (the coachman/domestic combo keeps cropping up). There are a bunch of something-knegt or knecht, the latter of which means "mate" or "hand" or "assistant" and a scattering of millers (molenaar) and masons (metselaar -- including the one Heintje married) and painters (schilder) and so forth.

Google translate is mostly adequate to figuring out the occupations. Failures happen with alternate spellings/inaccurate transcriptions so it can be helpful to have a woordenboek, so you can sort of scan the page for alternative spellings. There aren't so many different occupations -- once you've absorbed a few dozen, you'll recognize almost everything, so it's not unlike a vocabulary exercise in a language class.

I'm not sure what, exactly, I got out of this, but it was interesting to watch it unfold. I'm also trying to understand access to the gezinskaarten in Amsterdam's Stadsarchief -- and whether I'm willing to pay for acccess to some of the records there in hopes it'll tell me a little more about the Abbenhuises while they were there.