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Van Essen Immigrants
Six-Generation Tree
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Dutch Ancestors
Irish Ancestors
Polish Ancestors
French Ancestors
Swedish Ancestors
Colonial Ancestors
Civil War Veterans
Dutch Mortuary Card
1888 Autograph Book
Van Ussen Monument
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Surnames of Interest
What I Need to Find
Van Essen Origin
Genealogical Links
Databases & Forums
Top 10 Discoveries
Net.Relatives
Acknowledgments
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The Genealogy Pages of John Van Essen

I was born and raised in Brainerd, Crow Wing County, Minnesota. Six generations of my family have lived, died, and been buried there - a fact I didn't know until I began my genealogical research in 1997.

Except for my New England roots, some of which go back to immigrants from England (including some Mayflower passengers) in the 1600's, all my ancestors came from Europe to the New World (Canada or the U.S.) between 1857 and 1875, emigrating from (and immigrating to) Ireland (Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada), Holland (Oconto County, Wisconsin, on the north shore of Green Bay), Poland (Todd County, Minnesota), and Germany and Sweden (Crow Wing County, Minnesota).

Two great-great-grandfathers and four great-great-granduncles from the Gardner and Sleeper families in Vermont fought in the Civil War. Sleeper ancestors in New Hampshire were in the Revolutionary War.

My emigrant great-great-grandfather's last name was Van Ussen. His only son was the one who started using Van Essen here in the U.S. So the Van Essen relatives that I already know about are the only Van Essens that I'll be related to.

I was a Rootsweb Sponsor from 1998 until 2000 when they were 'acquired' by Ancestry.Com, and I have been a member of the Morse Society since 1999, the Crow Wing County Historical and Genealogical Societies since 1999, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants since 2000, the Irish Genealogical Society International since 2001, and the NEHGS since 2006.

I have a GEDCOM at the WorldConnect project at RootsWeb. This icon - WorldConnect Entry Icon - when it is next to a person's name, is hyperlinked to the entry for that person in the GEDCOM.

Throughout these pages, the unvisited links are in red (to get your attention), and the already-visited links are in blue. Feel free to contact me with any suggestions or to make a genealogical connection. Enjoy!


Surnames of Interest That I Am Researching

Here are most of the direct ancestor surnames, up through my 4th-gr-grandparents, that I have found so far. I've left out names beyond that in my New England lines since they are already pretty-well researched. I've also left out all the Swedish names, since those patronymic names change from generation to generation. Check out the Six-Generation Tree (see the menu above) for details on how they all relate. In alphabetical order (with links into the index of my WorldConnect database) they are:

Ariens, Baron / Barron, Bujala, Bellmuth, Bock, Bongers, Cebula, Ceelen, Chubbuck, Claesen / Claessens, Davis, De France, Flanders, Gardner, Geelkens / Gielkens, Gerardu, Gilson, Hill, Ibach, Kala / Kalla, King, Lamusga, Langley, Lyssy / Lysy, Maghan, Menting, Mitternacht, Morse, Pitman, Pendexter, Raaijmakers, Rausch, Robbins, Schumacher, Schuurmans, Sleeper, Smits, Swift, Tilton, Toner, Van Grunsven, Van Loon, Van Ussen, Welling, Weishalla / Wieshalla / Wiessalla / Wieszala, Zeegers / Zegers,

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Research Dead-Ends - What I Need to Find

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has any information on the ancestors listed below, or who has suggestions on where to look for information to help locate their origins. Thanks!

GARDNER, Adam D. Link to entry in WorldConnect Database and Rebecca C. Link to entry in WorldConnect Database
Living in Bartlett, Coos County, New Hampshire from 1816 - 1850+. In 1850 census, Adam D. Gardner is age 60 and Rebecca C. Gardner is age 59, both born in New Hampshire. They had at least eight children - among them Joseph P., James K., Mary P., and Levi C. Mary married Freeman DINSMORE in 1848 and they were living with her parents in 1850. What is Rebecca's maiden name and where were Adam and Rebecca born?
30-Mar-2001 UPDATE Rebecca Pitman was born in Bartlett, NH, daughter of Joseph and Alice (Pendexter) Pitman. Adam Gardner, via much circumstantial evidence, is clearly the son of Ezekiel Gardner, of Bedford, NH, where Adam must have been born.

HILL, Nathan Link to entry in WorldConnect Database and Lucy (KING) Link to entry in WorldConnect Database
In 1860 census for Waterbury, Vermont, Nathan Hill is age 56, born in Hew Hampshire; wife Lucy is age 54, born in Vermont; and children Sarah age 27, Julius age 19, Delia M. age 16 - all born in Vermont. Another daughter, Elizabeth, was already married. A map of Waterbury, VT in 1873 (Original at Ancestry) shows the location of the "N. Hill" residence in District No. 6. Who are the parents of Nathan and Lucy, and when and where were they born?

MAGHAN, William W. Link to entry in WorldConnect Database and Margaret (TONER) Link to entry in WorldConnect Database
Emigrated from Ardstraw Parish in County Tyrone around 1857 and settled in Sunnidale Township, Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada. They and their 7 children (all sons) all emigrated to the U.S., living in Duluth, Minnesota, at one time or another. William's date and place of death, and the names of his parents are unknown. Margaret died in Duluth in 1896 at age 59. Her parents were Thomas TONER and wife, Margaret. Margaret and William were married Jan 25, 1856. He was from Coolaghy, she was from Meaghy. Who are William's parents, where and when did he die? Where, precisely, were William and Margaret born?

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Origin of the Van Essen Surname

===>   DISCLAIMER :   This information has not been verified. For entertainment purposes, only. :-)   <===

25 Apr 2000 NOTE: Although I have now learned that the Van Essen name was a post-emigration change from the original Van Ussen, I've left this in for now.

The Van Es, Van Ess, and Van Essen surnames are of Dutch origin, but did not come into common usage until the beginning of the 19th century.

After Napoleon had conquered most of Europe, he decreed that starting January 1, 1811, accurate civil records of births, deaths, and marriages shall be maintained by the civil (instead of church) authorities in all the nations now contained within his empire.

In the area of what later became the Netherlands, surnames were not yet universally in common use. Part of Napoleon's edict required that every person must have a specific last name rather than continue to use patronymic "son of" names.

What's a poor peasant to do? Those that were living in the surrounding countryside for generations had never had to bother with last names. During the Middle Ages, when many cities were founded, it was common practice to build the city on higher ground. This not only made the city somewhat easier to defend against attacking armies, but also kept it high and dry in the Spring when the many rivers that run to the sea would overflow their banks onto the low-lying areas surrounding the cities.

The Dutch had a word for the ring of lower-lying pockets of farmland (usually separated by forest) that surrounded each of the cities. That word was "es". The Dutch word for "from" is "van". So - if you were from this outlying area, you were "van es", the plural of which is "van essen".

Thus, a last name of "Van Es", or, less frequently, "Van Essen", was chosen by many unrelated farmers around the pre-Dutch countryside, making those surnames very common - a fact that is still true in the Netherlands in modern times.

The bottom line? All Van Essen's are not necessarily related. The same goes for Van Ess's and Van Es's.

Once the ancestry is traced back before 1812, the civil records are not available (they didn't start until about 1812). Church records are about the only resource for tracing back further - and many of the people in those records might have single names, with some independent indication of family affiliation or parentage.

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Links to Interesting Genealogical Pages/Sites

Genealogische website van Roland van Essen
A family tree with many van Essen ancestors (In Dutch). No known relation.

The Fate of the 1890 Federal Population Census
Article at NARA describing the disastrous 1921 fire and its aftermath.

Revolutionary War Records
Article at NARA describing the collections available. Most original documents were destroyed in a fire in 1800 and most the of remainder were lost during the war of 1812.

The Destruction of the Irish Census (and Other) Records
Article describing the records lost in the destruction of the Public Record Office during the Irish Civil War in 1922. The census records up to 1851 were lost in this fire. The records from 1861-1891 had previously been pulped for paper during WWI.

Diary of Friedrich Nohl
Describes his 1849 emigration with his family from Westphalia, Prussia to Ripon, Fon du Lac County, Wisconsin, on the west shore of Lake Michigan. He's not a relative, but he took much the same route as other immigrants to the Upper Midwest - it's very interesting reading.

The Flanders Family: From Europe to America, 2nd ed.
A 4-part downloadable version of this book is available on-line.

Becky Schultz's Sleeper Family Tree
One of the most extensive Sleeper Family Genealogies on the 'net.

Archaic Medical Terms
Dr. Paul Smith's collection of old medical terms and their descriptions. Very useful for genealogists.

Ranks, Professions, Occupations, and Trades
Occupations likely to be found in censuses and other historical documents.

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Databases and Forums on the Internet

My Family Tree GEDCOM Database in the WorldConnect Project at RootsWeb
WorldConnect is a searchable collection of user-submitted GEDCOMs at RootsWeb. My userid there is "johniel", a name invented by my clever and talented niece, Tina.
Here is a link to my own individual entry Link to entry in WorldConnect Database. You can view my pedigree from there.
Try this search for "Van Essen" in all GEDCOMs. Or try it excluding my GEDCOM.

My Surname List in the RSL (RootsWeb Surname List) at RootsWeb
The RSL is a searchable collection of user-submitted surnames with dates and places.

Crow Wing County Query Forum in the Message Boards at Ancestry.Com
I'm interested in these GenConnect geographical bulletin boards: Massachusetts ( Essex ~ Middlesex ~ Plymouth ) ~ Minnesota ( Crow Wing ~ Todd ) ~ New Hampshire ( Carroll ~ Coos ~ Hillsborough ~ Merrimack ~ Rockingham ~ Strafford ) ~ Vermont ( Essex ~ Orange ~ Washington ~ Windsor ) ~ Ireland ( Tyrone ) ~ Netherlands ( Gelderland ~ Limburg ~ Noord-Brabant ) ~ Poland ( Opole )

Crow Wing County Query Forum in the boards at GenForum (My Messages)
I'm interested in these GenForum geographical bulletin boards: Massachusetts ( Essex ~ Middlesex ~ Plymouth ) ~ Minnesota ( Crow Wing ~ Todd ) ~ New Hampshire ( Carroll ~ Coos ~ Hillsborough ~ Merrimack ~ Rockingham ~ Strafford ) ~ Vermont ( Essex ~ Orange ~ Washington ~ Windsor ) ~ Ireland ( Tyrone ) ~ Netherlands ~ Poland  and I'm interested in these surname bulletin boards: Bongers ~ Chubbuck ~ Crowl ~ DeFrance ~ Flanders ~ Gardner ~ Gilson ~ Hill ~ King ~ Langley ~ Mahon(Maghan) ~ Morse ~ Parcher ~ Pendexter ~ Pitman ~ Robbins ~ Shattuck ~ Sleeper ~ Swift ~ Tilton ~ Toner ~ Welling 

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Top 10 Genealogical Discoveries and Connections

Here is a list of my Top 10 most exciting or surprising "finds":

10. All sorts of wonderful relatives (including distant cousins in Europe) who share my interest in family history and genealogy.
9. All sorts of wonderful pictures, copies of which I've obtained from various relatives and some of which are on my Image Gallery page.
8. The home village and the Catholic church records for my Polish ancestors, with the help of a researcher in Montana who, to my great fortune, already knew about that family line.
7. The cemetery file in Brainerd for my Swedish 2nd-great-grandaunt had a single supplementary sheet with details about the people in that lot. Much to my surprise, one of them was the mother, which of course, is my 3rd-great-grandmother, who I didn't even know had immigrated!
6. An 1888 autograph book in the possession of the grandchildren of its owner provided the link that re-united descendants of our Swedish immigrant ancestors. It turned out that my ancestors were using the surname from a recent second marriage. I never would have found them using that name!
5. The death record and final resting place of my Irish great-grandfather who had left his wife and three children in Brainerd in 1900 and moved away. He died in 1903 in Duluth and was buried in the family plot of his brother, where, by a nice stroke of luck, their mother was also buried! Later, we found an 1885 obituary for his father, who drowned in the Mississippi river.
4. Two 2nd-great-grandfathers and four of their brothers served in the Vermont Volunteers during the Civil War. Other ancestors were in various Revolutionary War battles.
3. Researching my Colonial New England ancestors paid off nicely when I finally linked into a Mayflower Family line!
2. A document in the archives in Oss, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands archives confirmed the family legend that the "van Essen" surname used to be "Ceelen"! A transcription of the 1811 name change petition (in French, since Napoleon had recently annexed the area) was provided by a distant cousin, Mark van Loon, for the change from "Ceelen" to "van Ussen". I had earlier discovered that it was "van Ussen", first, before the son of the immigrant "van Ussen" started using "Van Essen" here in the U.S.
1. The Catholic church baptismal record for my filia illegitima paternal grandmother listed the patria putativo as Thoma(s) Bock! My grandmother's mother refused to talk about the situation, so my grandmother lived her entire life without knowing who her biological father was. I found it a few months after starting my research. He's the only possible source of the dark brown eyes that my grandmother, father, two surviving brothers and I have. And indeed, his WWI Draft Registration Card confirms the brown eyes.

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Net.Relatives - Relatives on the Internet

To avoid SPAM, the email hyperlinks have a '+' where there should be a '.' (edit the To: line if you are sending email).

Common ancestors are given within small {italicized curly brackets}.

Paternal Relatives

Maternal Relatives

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Acknowledgments and Credits

Frans de Vries and Jan-Albert van Ree, my Dutch friends, patiently taught me some Dutch history and were kind enough to look up some records for me in the Netherlands.

Maudean Neill, Certified Genealogist, did a great job of tracing my Sleeper lineage in Vermont to New Hampshire where I connected with already-established pedigrees.

Frances Freitag spent hours doing volunteer lookups seeking my Dutch ancestors in Wisconsin censuses and immigrant passenger lists.

Ed and Peggy Stellmach have done extensive research with Catholic Church records from the region around Opole, Poland (Oppeln, Silesia, Prussia in the 1800s), and they already knew about my ancestors in that region and steered me to the exact records.

John and Mary Rhodes have an autograph book that belonged to their grandmother that was given to her by a cousin who was my gr-grandaunt, and with the added information of the names of my Swedish immigrant ancestors, John was able to provide enough info to Jill Seaholm (see below) to make the Swedish connection and John has been able to trace the line back from there.

Jill Seaholm is a researcher at Augustana University's Swenson Swedish Research Library whose detective work and persistence enabled her to identify Christina Rydén and daughter Emma Rydén in the emigration records of Göteborg (even though their surnames had been listed as Torsas and Thor) and subsequently found the entire family in a parish census.

Dr. Charles Flanders is working on the next edition of the "Flanders from Europe to America" book, and he sent me information about my 4th-gr-grandfather, Samuel, that was in the book's database.

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Updated: November 10, 2007
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