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Vanished siblings often linked to Napoleonic campaigns

Genealogical research often frustrated


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Genealogists frequently wonder if the disappearance of an ancestorís 1800-1812 sibling can be attributed to one of several Napoleonic wars. Dutch boys were pressed into service not only for the 1812 Grand Army but also for the campaigns on the Iberian Peninsula.

There were some survivors of these campaigns, yet these remain mostly unnamed. It can be fairly safely assumed that the stories by veterans of such campaigns would have been passed along through the generations of nearly all families.

This is certainly the case among the descendants of the Groningen conscript Nicolaas Timans (1774-1854). In recent years, his descendants have been exploring further details of his life online.

Another survivor was Hannover-born Dutch officer George Diederich Benthien, who distinguished himself in the Hannover, French and Dutch armies and later again impressed his superiors for his heroism in the Dutch East Indies. He is viewed as the founder of the Dutch regiment of Pontonniers, Mineurs en Sappeurs.

Benthien was the commander of 400 Dutch pontonniers who under extreme circumstance bridge the Berezina River in Belarussia, allowing Napoleon to escape a military trap. Only six of the 400, and their commander, survived the ordeal.

Millions of Dutch people have an ancestor with a sibling who served in one of Napoleonís armies, possibly contributing to the interest among many in identifying missing names in family trees.

If the particulars are known, an online check at www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr could help fill information gap.