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DNA confirms identity of drowned bargeman after nearly 120 years

Remains belonged to Jan Kisjes

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LELYSTAD, the Netherlands – The human bones found thirty years ago near a shipwreck excavation site have been identified as those belonging to the freight barge’s owner, who disappeared during a storm on the Zuiderzee in November 1888. A great grandson of the bargeman recently donated his DNA for the research project which helped close an unfinished chapter in the Kisjes family history.

Skipper Jan Kisjes, a 68-year old resident of Hoogeveen, and his 64-year old assistant Reinder Tulp were on their way back to Zwartsluis with a very heavy load of shells and bricks. They had decided to make one more trip that year to distant Brielle. Another skipper had report their distress sign when he arrived in Zwartsluis but had been unable to help them. The the ship went down near the location where decades later the town of Swifterbant was built. The wreck of the Lutina was unearthed in 1976. Archeologists found the remains of a man who had been pinned down beneath a winch.

Laborious research in archives eventually led to the conclusion that the wreck was the Lutina. They were also able to determine the date the ship went down. It was assumed that it never would be known whose remains had been found in the ship.

Leiden’s Forensic Laboratory as part of a post graduate study at the Leiden University Medical Centre conducted research on the remains for the Archeological service, a government agency. Although the chances at identification were thought to be slim, as the bones are nearly 120 years old, the laboratory was able to match the DNA of the great grandson with that of the remains of the ancestor.