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Former Dutch island plans 2001 welcome of immigrant offspring

Numerous North Americans have family ties to Goeree-Overflakkee

Tags: Genealogy

OUDDORP, the Netherlands - Genealogists with roots in the former (twin) island of Goeree-Overflakkee hope for a large turn-out of Dutch-Americans in August 2001 when they gather for a reunion with former islanders and their descendants. The local group wants to show (distant) American cousins where their ancestors lived before these pulled up their roots to resettle in, notably, Paterson, New Jersey, and Holland, Michigan. A dinner has been planned in the room in which the RC priest of nearby Goedereede once lived (the pastor later became Pope Adrianus IV, the only Dutchman to reach this office). The significant move of emigrants started in the late 1840s and lasted until the 1920s. More 'islanders' opted for North America after WWII, this time largely choosing for a new life in Canada.

The large-scale, 19th century outflow of people to the USA was preceded by migration of labourers looking for work elsewhere in the Netherlands. One of the places where a group of Goeree-born families settled to build dikes and reclaim some land was the island of Texel. After the Eierpolder was turned into farmland - with disappointing results since the soil was not as good as hoped for - some of these labourers moved on to the reclamation works of the Haarlemmermeerpolder, now home to Schiphol airport.

U.S. destinations

Emigration from Texel to the USA started shortly after that from Ouddorp, the largest (fishing) village on Goeree. Among the earliest to leave Ouddorp in 1847 were Abraham (70), Cornelis (65) and Jan Witte (35) with the latter's family of four children. Three Verhage brothers - Aren (33), Bastiaan (27) and Maarten 29) likely all unmarried - followed in 1848 (the year political unrest in many European capital peaked). From then on numerous households moved across the Atlantic, including that of Willem Breen with eight children and Jan Koman with nine in 1849. Many of the emigrants settled in Paterson, New Jersey, which soon became one of the two main focal points for Goeree in the New World. The following year, Ouddorp-born farmer Paulus den Bleijker headed a group of seven families - almost all born elsewhere in the country, notably in the provinces of Fryslan and Groningen - from Eierland to Michigan. The wealthy farmer himself settled in Kalamazoo. In total about 750 of the 1,500 Texel residents who emigrated the following decades had lived in Eierland, among them other Ouddorp families. In the New World the Texel immigrants also settled in Paterson and Holland.

Especially the Dutch community in Paterson, then already an industrial town near New York City, soon mirrored the family mix of Ouddorp. Over time, most Goeree surnames also could be found in Paterson and vicinity.

The emigration fever was not restricted to frontrunner Ouddorp. Nearby Goedereede as well (formerly a harbour town before it silted) and Flakkee towns of Stellendam (built at the juncture with Goeree), Sommelsdijk, Melissant, Stellendam, Dirksland, Den Bommel, Herkingen and Oude en Nieuwe Tonge all supplied their share be it in (much) smaller numbers. A quick review of the list of families that left the province of South Holland during these decades suggests that over half of them hailed from Goeree-Overflakkee. Many of the remainder had departed from the adjoining areas. A significant part of all Dutch emigrants between 1820 and 1880 pulled up roots from the islands of Zeeland to the south of Goeree-Overflakkee, which likely prompted the islanders from South Holland to join the exodus.


The emigration during the 1880s had such a drastic impact on the centuries-old fishing community that many houses just stood empty for years. Since the area only could be reached by ferry and after often arduous travel, the prospects of inbound migration were not favourable although Goeree genealogies do show evidence of at least some inbound growth from other areas. Especially since the 1950s, the entire region benefitted from the Delta Works. Bridges replaced the ferries and roads linked it with the rest of the country, allowing tourism and some light industry to become a source of income in addition to agriculture and fisheries.

North American participants of the reunion will need to be careful in their analysis of life on Goeree-Overflakkee. While many may be able to actually locate the home their ancesters left and so connect with family history, the area in many others ways no longer is an island. Of all the island's towns, Ouddorp likely has maintained its own identity best even in the face of numerous visitors who flock to nearby beaches.

The reunion - August 27 through September 3 - allows participants to take in Zeeland's annual NGV genealogy day, guided tours and visits to specific family sites. Organisers can be contacted via Leo Akershoek at or at .

Numerous North Americans trace their roots to these familie Some of the other, more unique surnames originating from Goeree-Overflakkee are: Dubbelstuiver, Poland, Gerij, Sperling, Haamstee, Orgers, Sinon, Van Splunter, Van Londen, Van der Gevel, Tiggelman, Grinwis, Vlietland, Admirant, Hollaar, Van der Bok, Jongste, Heerschap, Aleman, Bosloper, Kaptein, Kastelein, Koole, Molesteeg (Molster in WI and Miller in NJ), Hameeteman, Mierop, Hoek, Komtebedde (Comtabad in NJ), Lodder, Troost (Troast in the U.S.A.), Vroegindewey, Padmos, Westhoeve, Ruigentuin (Roughgarden in NJ), Soeteman (in the U.S.A. Sweetman), Quaadlant, Hoogmoed, Klepper, Mastenbroek, Touw, Slingerlant, Steurenburg, Witman, Warnaar, Ihrman, Pikaart, Regenmorter, Visbeen, Vogelzang and Sonnemaire. Many of these also spread to the Rotterdam vicinity and beyond.

Pre-1850 emigrants were: 1846: Hendrik Springvloed (with 1 child); 1847: Teunis den Uil (7), Andries Esveld (5), Dirk Goemaat, Jacob Kaslander (1), Stoffel Kaslander (6), Cornelis Laauwe (7), Herman Roon (3), Jan Reijchel (4), Jacob Tak, Cornelis van der Stad, Leendert Van der Waal, Johan Van 't Hof, Hendrik Waling, Lambrecht Wijmeijer, Abraham, Cornelis and Jan Witte (4);

1848: Kommer de Vogel, Aren Mus, Kuna Ruigentuin (5), Pieter van der Wende (3), Willem van Halteren (5), Pieter and Philippe Venneman, Aren, Bastiaan and Maarten Verhage;

1849: Cornelis Akerhoek, Hendrik Bakelaar, Willem Breen (8), Johannes den Bout, Jacob Emaus, Ary, Cornelis and Klaas Kievit, Jan Koman (9), Cornelis Krijger (2), Cornelis Laauwe (7), Cornelis Laauwe (1), Cornelis Moijses, Leendert Noorman, Teunis Noorman (1), Pieter Prol, Teunis Rijnbrand (8), Cornelis Sandifort, Leendert Schaddelee (3), Jan Tanis (7), Klaas Tanis, Kommer Tanis (7), Dirk van der Made, Leendert van der Sijde (4), Abraham van Hoven (1), Jacob van Putten (5), Dimmen Westhoeve, Mattheus Witvliet (6) and batchelor Mattheus Witvliet.

Nearly all of these migrants were registered as member of the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK) upon departure although the colony of Holland, Michigan, which was founded by Secession leader Rev. A.C. Van Raalte attracted many of the Goeree-Overflakkee folks.