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How Dutch families got surnames such as Calkoen and Haas

Clay tablets on old houses still tell the story

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

It probably was nothing more than just coincidence that the Dutch government of the day in 1727 sent a new ambassador named Cornelis Calkoen to the Ottoman Empire. The coincidence is more obvious today, considering that this country is now better known as Turkey which is the translation as well of Calkoen. It sounds good, Mr. Calkoen off to Turkey!

Todays Dutch ambassadors may well be envious of Cornelis. After all, Ambassador Calkoen’s legacy lives on by way of a painting, on which he is shown being introduced in 1727 to the Ottoman ruler, Sultan Ahmed III. Will their photograph be worth thousands of dollars years from now and be displayed in a museum?

Cornelis Calkoen belonged to the rich merchant class of Amsterdam and descended from textile merchant Jan Willemsz van Dorth (born about 1575-1624), who hailed from the Achterhoek region. Since Calkoen’s ancestor already had a topographical surname, probably tied to family history further back, it is a legitimate question why his family’s identity changed to one of an ugly, noisy bird?

The answer to that question may surprise many people and will be of interest to many others who go through life wondering why their family has a surname tied to birds, animals or even insects. What were ancestors thinking?

To obtain the entire 4-page illustrated article on the this very interesting article on Dutch surnames, request a copy of the February 24, 2012 issue of The Windmill Herald (as long as supply lasts).