News Articles

Copy of forgotten Grandia letter brings on search for cousins

Clan has Spanish origin

Tags: Genealogy

PELLA, Iowa - It took nearly 120 years, but a copy of a letter Dutch emigrant son Jillis Grandia wrote in Orange City in 1883 to family in the Netherlands recently made it to Iowa and on to the pages of the Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Pella. The letter resurfaced in 1994 among the papers of a 80-year-old member of the Grandia family who had died that year. It subsequently prompted Dutch members of the Grandia clan to search for their American cousins.

In his crudely written letter, Jillis apologizes for just knowing the spoken Dutch since he only was taught to read and write ‘American’. He then informed his correspondent, 48-year-old cousin Johannes Grandia in Barendrecht that his uncle Jacob - Jillis’ father - already had died fifteen years earlier and that his mother since had remarried. Jillis praised life and its opportunities in America but stopped short of urging him to come, “I do not want to counsel you to come; ... you should come of your own free will ....” Johannes died three years later in the Netherlands.

Jillis and the other eight children of Jacob and Marija (Colijn) by then had between them fourteen children. Five sons were farming near Pella while Jillis (32) and his wife Elizabeth (Jongewaard) farmed 160 acres near Orange City. Jillis later died at the home of one of his children in Edgerton, Minnesota.

An introduction to the letter by Pella historian Murt Kooi, who hails from the Dutch-American community of Fulton, Illinois (on the border with Iowa and the banks of the Mississippi), also provides interesting clues on the origin of the Grandia clan. The family’s earliest common ancestor presumably is Geraldo Grandia, a Spanish soldier who served in the army of the Duke of Alba (known as Alva in Dutch).

Geraldo’s son Sebastian was raised near the central Dutch village of Brakel on the Waal River. Although there are still Grandias in Brakel, in the 18th century some crossed the river to settle in Beesd and took up residence in the abandoned convent at Marienwaard while others relocated near Rotterdam. The Grandias in the Netherlands continue to concentrate in South Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland and in the adjoining area in North Brabant while they are far more widely scattered in the U.S.A. It is not clear if all the American Grandias hail from the Netherlands.

In Canada the Grandia family is found in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. They all hail from the Netherlands.

The Spanish city of Barcelona lists about 45 addresses with Grandia as part of their surname (i.e. Alfonso Capella Grandia).