Sunday, July 15, 2012

"The Red Notebook"

In the 1960s, Mom’s cousin Jasper in the Netherlands put together an album for her about the Van den Bergh and Daams genealogy. It includes much information about the hometowns of our grandparents. What follows is Jasper D’s (lightly edited) article about our Van den Bergh forebears and some of the social history of their region of origin dating back to the 17th century:

Genealogy, the English say, is a hobby for fools with a long memory. This may be true for maniacs, but I hope to show you that if you look at your own family history, there are some general interesting aspects.

It looks quite simple to draw up a family tree, but it takes time. To start with the Van den Berghs, you try to get as much information from still living relatives, which in this case is rather easy as Tante Ger ["Aunt Gertie"] had many data going back to about 1880. The official registers from small towns and villages are deposited in the Rijks-Archieven, where you can consult them without cost. After 1811, all baptisms, marriages and deaths [in the Netherlands] had to be registered at the Burger-Stand, a government institution, due to Napoleon who introduced a modern registration system (which was very convenient for his conscription). Before 1811 all data were registered by the churches.

Van den Bergh is a very common name in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam at least 7000 people with this name are living [in the 1960s]. They are generally not related to each other. Van den Bergh, sometimes spelled van den Berg, van de Berg, van den Berghe is a topographical name. “Berg” is the Dutch word for “mountain” or “hill.” Mountains we have not in Holland; some hills; and people living near or on a hill, sometimes not more than a mole-hill, are called by that name. 

Van den Bergh family,  in 's-Graveland, ca. 1910
 Around Amsterdam there is a good possibility that the name is derived from Nederhorst den Berg and Muiderberg. In ‘s-Graveland, people living in Nederhorst den Berg and working in‘s-Graveland are mentioned as “komende van den Berg” (i.e., "coming from the mountain).

The letter “h” at the end of the name is by many people considered as a sign of distinction, which it is not, as it is only an old spelling.

In the family tree I could trace the Van den Berghs back to about 1750, when they were living at Ouder-Amstel, a village near Amsterdam. You’ll see, that the same first names occur repeatedly and also that large families were common. Of course many children died very early in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Your grandfather [i.e., my great-grandfather] Jacob, born 1865, was a gardener on a big estate, owned by Jvr. de Backer, in ‘s-Graveland, which village lived a 17th century life till 1925. It consisted of about ten big estates, owned by members of the Amsterdam ruling class of “regenten,” since 1634.

Living conditions of the working people, mainly in the service of the noble families and working at the many laundries in this village, were very bad. Tante Ger ["Aunt Gertie"] still remembers that she had to work from 5 o’clock in the morning till 10 or 11 at night, especially in summer. Those people were called “blekers” [bleachers] and “wassers” [washers or laundresses].

Now it is a very picturesque village; some of the old estates are national parks and on one of them, your not-too-distant relative is working for his daily bread, in a park where your grandfather [i.e., my great-grandfather] has been often, as those old-fashioned gardeners kept close contacts with each other, as it was their pride to have the most beautiful garden and the rarest plants. Not far from our “Boekesteijn” he worked for about 50 years, after which he was pensioned at f. 2.-  [2 guilders] a week. 
Ouderkerk aan den Amstel 1670 etching

His father Barend was born in Ouder Amstel, came to Loosdrecht as “schildersknegt” [painter's apprentice] and married Gerbregtje Vakker. The information below is copied from the [archival] documents:  [See translation below.]

“Barend van den Bergh, geboren te Ouder-Amstel op 6-5-1795, zoon van Abraham van den Bergh en Hendrikje de Roos, wonende te OUder Amstel, Nr. 3 geloot by Nationale Militie, ingelijfd by 5e Afdeling Infant eerier en den tijd van 5 jaar hebbende gediend, behoorlijk out de dienst ontslagen is.

“Getuigen by het huwelijk: Klaas Bakker, broer van de bruid; Tomas Meijers, oom van de bruid; Meijndert Meijer, behuwdvader van de bruid.

“Signalement van Barend:
Land: 1 el, 5 palm, 9 duim, 6 streep
aangezicht: bleek
voorhoofd: plat
ogen: blauw
neus: klein
mond: ordinaries
kin: rond
haaren: bruin
wenkbrauwen: bruin
Merkbare tekenen: gene
Beroep Barend: schildersknegt

He marries Gerbregte Bakker, daughter of Pieter Bakker and Neeltje Schipper.

Both Bakker and Schipper are so-called professional names, in English “Baker” and “Skipper,” both very common in Holland.

This part of the Netherlands is lowland with many lakes and canals. In the past there has always been heavy water traffic, as this was a center of peat production for towns like Amsterdam and Utrecht. Besides there was always been much sand transport from Hilversum, ‘s-Graveland and Bussum to Amsterdam, so many “skippers” were needed.

Many [Daams] ancestors found their daily bread in the peat industry, but in the Van den Bergh history, I found no traditional profession, in contrast with the Daams family, where many members were blacksmiths.

From old postcards of Loosdrecht, you can get an impression of how this village looked in your mother’s (i.e., my grandmother’s) youth [around 1901]. I assure you that something changed in the meantime. From a quiet village, still in the 1930s, it changed into a crowded holiday resort with 4000 yachts on 220 hectares.

The most characteristic features of this old village disappear quickly, making place for summerhouses and expensive bungalows for the rich, old and new.

Some early Van den Bergh "huismerken", i.e. trademarks, recorded by Jasper D.

Translation of marriage record:

"Barend van den Bergh, born in Ouder-Amstel on 6-5-1795 [May 6, 1795] son of Abraham van den Bergh and Hendrikje Roos, living in Ouder Amstel, No. 3 of the National Military lotery, conscripted into the the 5th detachment of the Infantry, and having served for 5 years, given an honorable discharge.

" Witnesses to the marriage: Klaas Bakker, brother of the bride; Tomas Meijer, uncle of the bride; Meijndert Meijer, father-in-law of the bride.

"Description of Barend:
Height: 1 yard, 5 hands, 9 thumbs, 6 strokes [!]
Complexion: fair
Forehead: flat
Eyes: blue
Nose: small
Mouth: ordinary
Chin: round
Hair: brown
Eyebrows: brown
Distinguishing features: none
Occupation: painter's apprentice"


  1. Thanks for this blog - The Bakkers from Loosdrecht are my ancestors too and it was nice to read about Barend and Klaas being brothers-in-law. Klaas is actually Klaas Pieterz. - not to be confused with his grandson Klaas. Klaas Pieterz went on to have 11 children with his wife Wilhelmina Johanna van Meurs. One of their sons Jacob was the grandfather of my grandfather.

    Best regards.
    Fred Bakker

    1. Hello Fred, thanks for your comment! So we have a distant family connection! My grandfather was the Barend Van den Bergh born in 1888. He is the tall man labeled as "Pop" (for Papa, I think) in the photo in this post. The names get confusing sometimes, because they are repeated from one generation to the next!