News Articles

Kroft diary documents Canada-bound move step by step

Sharing the Story of Emigration

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SUDBURY, Ontario – For many children of immigrant parents, the process of leaving home and family in the Netherlands always will remain an obscure part of family history. Why did they really leave and what was all involved? Most people did not record the many steps it took before they saw their country’s coastline disappear behind the horizon. Fewer still described the emotions of the numerous farewells of family, friends and neighbours. In a postwar society where most items still were rationed, few people spent their hard-earned money on a camera and pictures.

The Canada-born children of warehouseman Adrianus Petrus Kroft and his wife Lena Droogh Kroft, who on a one-way honeymoon trip boarded the Beaverbrea in Antwerp on February 11, 1950, can consider themselves privileged. They possess a telegram-style diary which provides them with a step by step overview of dates and places, of the numerous farewell visits to family members (including the names and how they were related), the goodbyes to friends and the attention to detail concerning the one-time experience of emigration.

The busy itinerary during the four-week period before the departure of the Teraar/Zwammerdam couple included visits to and from tax inspectors (their clearance was a necessity), bank officials (there was very strict control on currency exchange), a series of visits to passage booking agent Lindeman. Every detail then was verified in person or by mail (a telephone also was a luxury and only could be installed after lengthy waiting periods), as did cash payments for the deposit and the balance of the fare.


As part of the preparation for the big move to Canada, farmers’ cooperative Aartsdiocesane Rooms-Katholieke Boeren- en Tuindersbond (A.B.T.B.) put on courses for aspiring emigrants. Various speakers at such five-day gatherings at an estate in De Steeg, near Arnhem, presented Canada as they themselves had experienced it during visits to Ontario and further West. ABTB held separate gatherings for men and women. The course included information on Canadian society and on such practical issues as living great distances from civilization. The men, for example, were given tips on what to do if their wives went into labour, out of necessity forcing them to deliver the baby.

At such a De Steeg gathering for women Lena Droogh (now Kroft) got acquainted with Anna Tolboom (now Van Vulpen) from the Scherpenzeel area. Together with other participants, they posed for a memorable picture, promised each other to keep in touch but quickly lost contact once they went their separate ways home and off to Canada. How small the world can be in such a huge country as Canada, became obvious a few years later. After the initial years in Quebec, the Krofts resettled in the mining town of Sudbury. To earn extra money, the stay-at-home Mom took in Dutch immigrant bachelors. One day, a bachelor named Tolboom who had found a mining job - as many did to quickly earn a downpayment for a farm - knocked at the door for room and board. The rest is history. The Krofts and Van Vulpens (of the Pictou area in Nova Scotia who arrived the same year on the Volendam) still keep touch with each other.