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Ship passenger lists key to non-official documentation of modern-day, cross-Atlantic Dutch mass people movement

Departures for U.S.A. in 1956 at an all-time high

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Dutch Immigration Series -Installment #1

The story of a modern ‘volksverhuizing’ (mass migration) of which all of us are participants. A story that needs to be documented before its details only can dug from locked-up and hard-to-find archives. What did happen aboard these Dutch immigrant ships? How did these people without sea legs coexist for ten days or more on an often stormy Atlantic Ocean? Who were these travellers? What has become of them? Where are they now? Numerous questions, few answers. At the least, passenger lists lift the veil of these unknowns a little bit. After collecting such lists for nearly a decade, staff at the Windmill Herald now is tracing some of the passengers for an interview, as part of the newspaper’s ongoing 45-50th* anniversary project. The review of a Zuiderkruis journey launches the series.

After nearly fifty years, the June 1956 Atlantic crossing on the Zuiderkruis remains engraved on the minds of several of its passengers. The trip was not very pleasant for the majority who had become seasick and therefore ventured outside as little as possible. Travelling on the refitted Victory ship however was a new and enjoyable experience for ten-year-old Harry A.M. Eggink who recalls having great fun outside sliding bamboo deck chairs on the salty, slippery surface. Louis Meinema who was sixteen at the time, remembers children having a blast. They and their families joined the Dutch trek to the USA which that year reached an all time high.

The June 14 departure from Rotterdam had caused the shipping company plenty of headaches because of a strike by the ship’s stewards. Students from the Leiden University had been hired as replacements but lacked ‘sea legs’ and dining room experience. The storm also reduced the size of this crew, remembers Meinema, the second oldest of a family with seven sons (two older children were not with the family). Few people made it to the dining room for meals.

Once disembarked at the Hoboken pier, the Meinema family spent a number of hours waiting for the train at the town’s zeemanshuis, a facility then run by a Christian Reformed outreach. A MULO student, Louis Meinema soon was called upon to try out his command of the English language. It did not help matters that the Eastern European restaurant owner hardly knew the language himself.

Hailing from De Lier, the Meinema family who were accompanied by fellow villagers Mr. and Mrs. J. Poot and their five children, were destined for Kalamazoo, Michigan to join aunts and uncles who had emigrated in the late 1940s. The decision by the Meinemas to emigrate was employment related. Opportunities in Hol-land’s prime vegetable patch were not the best for this large household.The jobs just kept evaporating. In Kalamazoo, Meinema Sr. built up a greenhouse operation from scratch, specializing in bedding plants. The business now is run by one of the younger sons. Two other sons now are retired from the U.S. Navy while son Louis Meinema capped his career as postmaster.

Joining the immigrants

Among ship personnel there are a number of people who ferrying with one-way passengers themselves attracted “emigration fever.” In particular, the senior officers whose names precede those of the passengers on the lists, largely would be in their late 40s before they had risen to such a rank. Among those who later joined the exodus from the Netherlands was the June 14, 1956 Zuiderkruis first mate (stuurman) Adriaan Schweitzer who in 1970, at age 57, retired from Maatschappij Nederland as a Captain and settled in West Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Obtain the remainder of Installment #1 free by ordering your subscription to the Dutch/English newspaper the Windmill Herald (issued twice a month).

The above only is a part of Installment #1 of the Dutch Immigrant Series. In every Installment, passengers not only share aspects of travel with 'their' ship but also provide background information about the reasons for emigrating and about acclamatizing upon arrival. Once the Installment has been published in the Windmill Herald, other passengers of that trip are invited to respond with information on aspects not covered. These may be published as well.

The series will be illustrated with
* rare and never-before published photographs of the trips
*copies of immigration documents
*June 18, 1956 Zuiderkruis passenger list.

Sample of Passenger List presentation:
Ament, Ms. M.M.H.
van Baars, Mrs. M.J.
van Baars, Mr. F.L.
Bagmeyer, Mr. H. & Miss T.
Bakhuyzen, Mr. W.T. & Mrs. H.
Bakker, Mr. W.T.
Bartlewski, Mr.J.
van Beek, Mr. L. & Mrs. A.

The series is ongoing.

Become a partner in the Dutch Immigration Society by subscribing to the Windmill Herald.