Update about blog

Come on over to my other blog, Alchemy of Clay and Living in Black Mountain NC, where the scenery and my ceramic arts life are combined. I've moved some personal blog posts, (as well as those that are about my ancestors) back here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Let's go Dutch

I've been doing lots of fun things in genealogy lately.  Yesterday I proved my great grandmother's maiden name started with a "Z" rather than a "T" which opened up a whole new world.  Now I want to figure out where people named Zylstra might have originated.

She married a Swasey, lived in Charleston, SC, and her mother came from England.  Perhaps her mother had originated somewhere else and gave that as her origin to the census taker.  There aren't any birth records for Mrs. Charlotta Zylstra nor any note (yet) of who her husband was.

Holland seems to be the first choice on Ancestry, with a few people immigrating to the US from Germany of that name.

And the meaning for Zylstra that Ancestry DOT com gives is...Frisian: topographic name for someone who lived by a sluice, from an agent noun based on zijl ‘sluice’, ‘pump’. Compare Van Zyl.

Another source speaks about Dutch surnames...
From about 1812 through 1826, the Dutch were first required to choose surnames. This event is called the "naamsaanneming". It was ordered by Napoleon who occupied the country at that time and was trying to take a census. These surnames would later come in handy for legal purposes such as inheritance. Prior to the introduction of surnames, the Dutch used a system of patronymics - the surname of the child reflected the first name of the father - similar to the system used in the Scandinavian countries. Jan's son Willem would be known as Willem Jans/Jansz/Janszoon or something similar. Jan's daughter Grietje would use the surname Jans or Jansdr.

Unfortunately some Dutch citizens did not take this name choosing seriously, thinking it was just a passing fancy, and selected names such as De Keyser (The Emperor), Lanckpoop (long poop) and Zondervan (without a surname). To this day these names are still in use.
Other Dutch naming customs took a physical attribute of the person or surroundings, a trade, a title or even an animal as the surname. Examples are de Jong (the young), van Dyke (of or living near a dyke), Meijer/Meyer, meaning bailiff or steward and Vos, meaning fox. Towns and physical features were also source of names. The words "van der", "aan het" and "de" that are part of many Dutch names are called tussenvoegsels. Although they are officially part of the name they are not included in searches. If the surname is van den Berg, then Berg is the important part of the surname that should be entered in the search criteria on Dutch websites. In the United States, the same name might be entered as one, two or three separate words. It should also be noted that the letter combination "ij" is changed to "y" in many Dutch names. One other useful tidbit about the Dutch is that the women retain their maiden names on most records. This makes it much easier to find their families as well.
Except for the colonial period of exploration and trade that lasted from the early 1600s through 1664 when New Netherland (New York) was sold to England, Dutch families did not appear to move around very much until the mid -1800s. That first early migration during the 1600s resulted in a large Dutch population living on the east coast of the United States, especially along the Hudson River, New York City, northern New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware. Dutch immigration to the United States prior to 1845 averaged about 200 people per year. After 1845 that number increased rapidly due to a potato famine, high unemployment and division in the Reformed Church. The major destinations for the Dutch were the New York/New Jersey area; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Holland, Michigan; and Pella, Iowa.  A large number of these immigrants came from the rural provinces and were farmers.  (Source: http://www.archives.com/genealogy/family-heritage-dutch.html)

And more information is here...
This surname of ZYLSTRA was a Dutch topographic name for someone who lived by a patch of stagnant water, i.e. a lake or canal. The name is also spelt ZIJLSTRA, VAN DER ZYL, VAN ZIJL and ZYLMAN. Habitation names were originally acquired by the original bearer of the name, who, having lived by, at or near a place, would then take that name as a form of identification for himself and his family. When people lived close to the soil as they did in the Middle Ages, they were acutely conscious of every local variation in landscape and countryside. Every field or plot of land was identified in normal conversation by a descriptive term. If a man lived on or near a hill or mountain, or by a river or stream, forests and trees, he might receive the word as a family name. Almost every town, city or village in early times, has served to name many families. The Dutch language is most closely related to Low German, and its surnames have been influenced both by German and French naming practices. The preposition 'van' is found especially with habitation names, and the 'de' mainly with nicknames. Compared to other countries, Dutch heraldry is notably simpler, some of the shields bearing only a single charge. Generally speaking one helmet, one shield and one crest has been used, quartering is uncommon and mottoes are rare.
Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.   (Source: http://www.4crests.com/zylstra-coat-of-arms.html)

Welcome to my entry to Sepia Saturday this week. 

I know I don't have any shots of men with pipes, nor shaking hands, nor wearing funny hats, nor boys sitting on walls overlooking the whole shebang.

We have 3 children born of Charlotta Zylstra, in Charleston, SC.  She and 2 of her grown children had moved to St. Augustine, FL by 1850.  Actually her son, Peter was appointed the Postmaster there in 1840. 
1850 St. Augustine FL Census

Her daughter had married Captain Alexander Swasey, who also called Charleston his home.  He did have residency in St. Augustine, Florida territory, in the 1840 census however. 

For now I'm settling into knowing a part of my ancestry is probably Dutch, and still to be explored, if possible.  And Captain Swasey married the daughter of an immigrant who was listed when she was around 65 as being from England.  


Kristin said...

Good find and yay for the Dutch women keeping their own names. That would make it so much easier to trace women.

Wendy said...

History of surnames is always so interesting. And you're right -- the point of emigration is only part of the story. She could have lived in England only a couple days waiting on a ship or her line could have been there hundreds of years having immigrated from Holland or who knows where LONG before.

Postcardy said...

I enjoyed reading the interesting information about surnames.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Yes, Kristin, the Dutch genealogists brag about the women keeping their own names making it easier for research. I agree Wendy, but have no idea yet how she got to Charleston...so much room to dig further. Thanks Postcardy...did you get your link on SS fixed yet? It didn't connect to anything when we were clicking on it this morning!

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

The naming information is so interesting. You'd think the people named Lanckpoop would be eager to trade the name in for something else. Reminds me of my Dad's lame joke about the guy named Harry Shyt who went to great lengths to change his name to - Fred Shyt.

Bob Scotney said...

Tracing the origin of names can become a time consumimg pastime as you get side tracked so easily no matter what your nationality.

Anonymous said...

My husband is descended from a Fylstra (Fijlstra) which is pretty close. I have to wonder if it was a misspelling of Zylstra because I haven't been able to find a meaning of that surname!

Little Nell said...

You’ve done well with your Dutch research. I can just imagine that finding that Z at the beginning of the name was quite startling.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Oh Helen, your Dad's lame joke is a hoot. Sheetar, that would be great if your husband's family name was also a Zylstra...well, we're all cousins somehow or another. Bob, you are so right about getting sidetracked. While doing this post I started looking at the ships that my ancestor Captain Swasey might have sailed. A whole nother ball of wax. Yes, Little Nell, it sure changed my whole family tree to have that name added. Something like 10 new people, as well as some interesting stories!

Anonymous said...

Spelling of surnames is always a genealogical hurdle. One name I have had to work with is Sellick,Selleck, Zellick and in one particular parish in Devon the clerk always spelled it Sellek.

Tattered and Lost said...

Nice research and lucky you figured out the name. I have my maternal great-great-grandfather's birth certificate from 1830, but can't read any of the names other than his. I don't know the name of his father or mother though it's right in front of me. I can't read the handwriting. So very frustrating.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Yes, penmanship is a hurdle, as well as spelling. Clerks, and family and attorneys, those in charge of writing things just didn't pay that much attention to penmanship and spelling. I wonder about the children of today who have "spell check" and an app for cursive, how is anyone going to keep track of their own records if digital isn't available! My own handwriting is atrocious.