Fri 29 May 2015
In this issue, we head to mainland Europe and the beautiful town of Winterswijk in Gelderland, Netherlands. Winterswijk, with a population of around 29,000, is one of one-
BY YVETTE HOITINK
Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist, lecturer and writer in the Netherlands who helps people from all over the world find their Dutch ancestors.
Yvette writes about Dutch Genealogy and her one-
My father’s family is from a small village in the Netherlands called Winterswijk.
All 2,000+ ancestors of his that I’ve been able to trace so far were from Winterswijk or the immediate surroundings.
People first started living in that area in the early Middle Ages and I would not be surprised to find out that most of my paternal ancestors descend from that initial group of Saxons who settled there.
‘Kissing cousins’ turn into a one-
When I started researching my ancestors, I quickly discovered that my grandparents shared several different ancestors. Marriages between distant cousins were common in a place where no newcomers ever settled. Like my grandparents, who were seventh cousins several times over, most people who got married did not know they were related. I soon realized that everybody was related to everybody.
To understand the family dynamics and solve my brick walls, my family research quickly turned into a one-
DNA matches descendants of emigrants
Out of scientific curiosity, and in the hope of solving some brick walls on my mother’s side, I took autosomal DNA tests with the three major companies (23andMe, Ancestry.com and FamilyTreeDNA). These tests analyze the 22 pairs of non-
I never thought the test would be helpful for my father’s side, since I had managed to trace all of his ancestors back ten generations. But it was!
Among my DNA matches, I soon discovered dozens of American descendants of the emigrants I’m tracing. Most of their immigrant ancestors settled in places I was familiar with, like Clymer in New York and Sheboygan county in Wisconsin. Hundreds of Winterswijkers settled in these locations.
But some Winterswijk ancestors of my DNA matches were in places where I had never thought to look; in small towns in Minnesota, South Dakota and Massachusetts, off the beaten track. Some of their names were changed almost beyond recognition but the DNA evidence made me look hard and see who was hiding underneath the new name.
Emigrants often wrote letters home, urging people to come over, so where there’s one Winterswijker, you’ll often find several. By checking the census records for the places where I found an emigrant through DNA, I managed to find several more.
High level of endogamy in Winterswijk
One reason this probably works so well for me is the high level of endogamy in Winterswijk. The same bits of DNA have been tossed around for centuries, making relationships look closer than they are. Those shared bits of Winterswijk DNA can show up in very distant cousins. What the testing companies predict to be a 4th cousin may well turn out to be an 8th cousin four times over.
Finding out which ancestor contributed the shared DNA is a headache, since I share multiple ancestors with most of my cousins. But that doesn’t matter for my one-
Classroom picture of school O in Winterswijk. September 1921.
Hendrik Hoitink is sitting in the front row in the middle, holding a package of some sorts.
To keep property within the family, it was often convenient to marry a cousin. Marrying a first cousin required a dispensation from the Court of Gelderland and later from the King, but this was routinely granted.
When cousins marry, you get pedigree collapse: instead of having all different ancestors, the same couple appears more than once in your pedigree. First cousins share a pair of grandparents, for example, so any children they have will show one pair of great-
Worst case of pedigree collapse ever?
The person with the highest case of pedigree collapse that I have ever seen is Engelberta Harmina Roerdink, born in 1850. Her parents, Engelbartus Roerdink and Harmina Engelberta Roerdink, were first cousins twice over: Engelbartus’ father was a brother to Harmina’s mother and his mother was a sister to his wife’s father. To make matters worse, these two brother-
Click on image to view
In Engelberta Harmina Roerdink’s pedigree chart, the boxes for her 16 great-
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With special thanks to Yvette Hoitink
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