|My Dutch great-great-grandparents all emigrated to the town of Oconto, Oconto County, Wisconsin in the 1860's and 70's. Their children met, married, and became my great-grandparents with the birth of my grandfather in 1891.|
|Ancestor Surnames: ||Bongers ~ Ceelen ~ Claessens ~ De France ~ Geelkens ~ Gerardu ~ Menting ~ Raaijmakers ~ Schumacher ~ Schuurmans ~ Smits ~ Van Ussen ~ Welling ~ Zegers|
|Sibling Surnames: ||Bettine ~ Boerboom ~ Campshure ~ Holland ~ Van Able|
|The Bongers Family||Elizabeth Bongers emigrated from Arnhem with her husband, Anton.|
|The De France Family||Anton De France emigrated from Arnhem, Gelderland in 1875.|
|The Schuurmans Family||Hermina Schuurmans emigrated from Oss with her husband, Cornelis.|
|The Van Essen Family||Cornelis Van Ussen emigrated from Oss, Noord-Brabant, in 1864.|
|Connecting in Oconto||John Van Essen and Helena De France got married in Oconto in 1889.|
|Dutch Surname Origins||Researching the origins of the Van Ussen and Ceelen surnames.|
|Acknowledgements||Giving credit to the people who aided my research.|
Matthew Bongers was born in Arnhem, Gelderland, Netherlands, on December 27, 1832, the first of at least 9 children born to Joannes BONGERS and Jacoba SCHOENMAKER. He was ordained a Catholic priest and served as a missionary in the West Indies until his retirement from missionary work in 1885, when he came to Oconto and then to Green Bay.
Elizabeth Bongers (my great-great-grandmother) was born in Arnhem, Gelderland, Netherlands, on May 9, 1838 - She married Anton DE FRANCE in Arnhem in 1864 and had several children by 1875, when the family emigrated to America. See the De France and Oconto sections, below, for details of her marriage, children, emigration and life in the New World.
Geertruida Bongers ("Gertrude") was born in Arnhem, Gelderland, Netherlands, on March 23, 1846 and married Rut CAMPSCHREUR there on June 18, 1873. They emigrated to the U.S. in 1874, shortly after the birth of their first child, Johannes. See the Oconto section, below, for details of her life after arriving in America.
Hendrina Bongers ("Henrietta") was born in Arnhem, Gelderland, Netherlands, on May 3, 1852. She married Franciscus ("Frank") BOERBOOM in Arnhem in 1873 and their first son was born there in 1874. The family emigrated to Oconto in 1875 on the same ship as the De France family. See the Oconto section, below, for details of her life after arriving in America.
There were at least 3 other adult siblings who did not come to America.
Their father, Joannes Bongers , was born in Wehl, Gelderland, Netherlands, around 1804, and their mother, Jacoba Schumacher , was born in Wehl around 1808. The record of their August 18, 1830 marriage in Arnhem has their ages and also the names of their parents, all from Wehl. They were Joannes Bongers and Hendrina Welling , and Johann Schumacher and Aleida Mentinck (Jacoba used the Schumacher spelling when she signed the record, but the birth records for her children all used Schoe(n)maker). Jacoba died April 4, 1876, in Arnhem. At age 74, Joannes came to America aboard the W A Scholten, arriving in New York on August 16, 1878. He died in Oconto June 25, 1881, according to his mortuary card.
As I researched the families in Wehl, I noticed the preponderance of Germanic-sounding surnames (like Schumacher instead of Schoenmaker) and the frequent use of German given names (like Johann instead of Jan). It was also surprising that Johann Schumacher crossed the border from Ratingen, Germany to settle in the Dutch town of Wehl. It turns out that the area around Wehl was not originally part of the Netherlands.
Here are some key dates in the history of Wehl (provided by Karel Bongers, a Dutch citizen and a distant cousin):
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Anton Lambert De France (my great-great-grandfather) was born in Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands, on June 9, 1835 - one of at least three children born to Charles DE FRANCE and Helena GEELKENS. The family moved to Arnhem, where Anton met and married Elizabeth BONGERS. They had at least six children in Arnhem, two of whom died as infants or young children. In 1875, Anton and Elizabeth emigrated to Oconto with their children and began their life in the New World. Their story continues in the Oconto section, below.
There were at least 4 other adult siblings who did not come to America.
Anton's father, Jean Charles De France , was born in Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands, on April 1, 1810, and his mother, Maria Catharina Helena Geelkens , was also born in Maastricht, on January 4, 1811. Helena died in Wijhe, Overijssel, Netherlands, June 6, 1886, and Charles died in Zwolle, Overijssel, Netherlands, January 21, 1894 (here is a web-page reproduction of his mortuary card). There are pictures of them in the Paternal Section of my Image Gallery.
Anton's paternal grandfather, Charles Joseph De France , was baptized in Auxerre, Yonne, France on August 22, 1772, and died in Givet, Ardennes, France on January 27, 1832 (here is a web-page reproduction of his 1832 death record). He was a retired corporal receiving a pension so he must have been in the French army during the time of Napoleon, which explains how he would have gotten from Auxerre to Maastricht and then retired to Givet. He was married to Marie Catherine Gerardu .
Anton's maternal grandfather, Frederick Geelkens , died in Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands, in 1827. He was married to Anna Mechtildis Claessens .
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Hermina (Wilhelmina) Schuurmans (my great-great-grandmother) was born in Oss, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands on December 4, 1832. Her death record had no parent info, but by a stroke of good fortune for me, she had a sister, Nicolasina, who lived and died in Oconto, and her parents were listed as John SCHUURMANS and Mary JAEGER. Wilhelmina emigrated to Oconto in 1864 with her husband Cornelis VAN USSEN. Her story continues in the Oconto section, below.
Nicolasina Schuurmans was born in Oss on August 21, 1840. She came to Oconto in 1864, at the same time as her sister. She was already married to Peter VAN ABEL, who was born in Haps (not in Oss as his obituary stated). They lived right next door to the Cornelis and Hermina VAN USSEN family in the 1870 census. Another stroke of good fortune for me!
Gerard Schuurmans was born in Oss around 1829, and Adrianus (Adrean) Schuurmans was born in Oss on December 29, 1830. They were living in the Van Abel home in the 1870 census and that provided the first clue that the spelling was Schuurmans instead of Sherman, that Mrs. Nicolasina VAN ABEL was very likely their sister, and their neighbor, Wilhelmina, was probably also a sibling (she's definitely a sister of Nicolasina). No further info, yet, on these two fellas.
Their father, Johannes Schuurmans , and mother, Mary Zegers , were also born in Oss.
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Cornelis Van Ussen (my great-great-grandfather) was born in Oss, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands September 25, 1839, the second of five children born to Giele VAN USSEN and Anna Maria RAAIJMAKERS. He married Hermina SCHUURMANS in OSS on March 31, 1864, and they emigrated to Oconto shortly thereafter. His story continues in the Oconto section, below.
His father, Machiel "Giele" Van Ussen , and mother, Anna Maria Raaijmakers , were also born in Oss.
Machiel's parents were Willem Gerard Ceelen and Wilhelma Smits .
Astute readers will notice the Ceelen surname.
In 1811, Willem's father,
Gerard Guillaume Ceelen,
petitioned to change the family surname to van Ussen.
I found a partial transcription of the Oss document concerning
this name change and saved it here.
In 2011 I received a
the original document (2480 x 3508 - 3.3 MB) from
(Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum).
The thumbnail at left shows the neighborhood of Ussen as part of the
town of Oss. Click on it to pull up the larger map of Oss
(2000 x 1768 - 550 KB) originally found at
"van Ussen" in Dutch means "from Ussen", so that's where they must have
been living in 1811.
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Cornelis VAN USSEN and Hermina SCHUURMANS arrived in Oconto in 1864 sometime after their marriage in Oss in the spring of that year.
Oconto was a booming lumbering community, and Cornelis found work in the local sawmills. They lived in a house in the East Ward had at least three children:
Anna Gertrude Van Ussen was born in Oconto on April 5, 1865. Her baptismal record listed her godparents as Gerard SCHUURMANS and Maria VAN USSEN (I haven't found anything further on Maria, yet). Anna died at age 16 in 1881 and is buried in the Oconto Catholic Cemetery. There is a picture of her in the Paternal Section of my Image Gallery.
John Peter Van Ussen (my great-grandfather) was born in Oconto on January 22, 1867. His godparents were Mr. and Mrs. Peter VAN ABEL. More on him, below.
Peter Van Ussen was born in Oconto around August 15, 1868. His godparents were Peter VAN LEISHOW and Christina LOGAN. He died soon after, as he was not listed in the 1870 census.
In 1875, the family of Anton DE FRANCE emigrated from Arnhem to Oconto. Anton came over by himself, arriving in New York aboard the Maas on April 6, 1875. Elizabeth and the children arrived in New York aboard the W A Scholten on April 22, 1875, along with her sister, Hendrina, and her family.
The DE FRANCE family lived practically next door to the Cornelius VAN USSEN family (they were on the same page in the 1880 census). In Arnhem, Anton had worked as a lettergeiter (the guy who made the letters out of lead in a print shop), but in Oconto he worked in the sawmills like many others. Anton and Elizabeth had another child after setting in Oconto for a total of five living children:
Helena "Lena" De France (my great-grandmother) was born in Arnhem on October 22, 1866. Her recorded birthname was Jacoba Elisabeth Henrica - I don't know where the Helena came from. More info below.
Hubertina Marie Bertha "Bertie" De France was born in Arnhem on October 6, 1868. She took care of Fr. Matthew Bongers (her uncle) in his declining years and then married William HOLLAND. They had no children.
Carolus Johannes Lambertus "Charles" De France was born in Arnhem on April 1, 1872. Charles married Janette BAENEN in 1895 and died in Green Bay in 1929, survived by four sons and five daughters.
Antoinette Marie Wilhelmina "Nettie" De France was born in Arnhem on June 19, 1874. She married Michael BETTINE and lived first in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and later in Green Bay, raising their nine children. She died in 1956.
John De France was born in Oconto on April 6, 1877. He married Mary RENTMEESTER in 1904, divorced in 1941, and then married Lydia STRUP. He died in Green Bay in 1942. He was survived by four sons and three daughters, all children with Mary.
Gertrude Bongers and her husband, Rut CAMPSCHREUR (spelled CAMPSHURE in America), arrived in the U.S. on April 20, 1874, but without their infant son, Johannes, who died on the voyage over and was buried at sea. They settled in Oconto and went on to have 7 more children, 6 of whom survived to adulthood:
Beth Sorge is descended from Gertrude (through her son, John) and would like to hear from any 'cousins' or anyone researching this line (see the Net.Relatives section on the introductory page for contact information).
Henrietta Bongers and her husband, Frank BOERBOOM, arrived in the U.S. in 1875 aboard the W A Scholten along with her sister, Elizabeth, and her children. They also settled in Oconto. These 6 children were still alive in 1900:
All surviving children spelled their last name Boerboon ('n' instead of 'm'), except for Henry, who used Boerbon (one fewer 'o').
Around 1889, she married Charles HANEKAMP. In the 1900 census, they were married for 11 years and apparently had no children together. Charles died in St. Paul on September 11, 1906.
Around 1915, she married John MILLER, who died in 1921.
In 1921, she was living in the Minneapolis area when Gertrude died. In 1926, she was living in Los Angeles when Elizabeth visited her. She died there March 11, 1942.
A research note: Learning the name of her first husband turned out to be a bit of a challenge... The informant on the California death record for Henrietta MILLER was Mrs. Elizabeth MASHEK of Minneapolis (her daughter). The death of Elizabeth MASHEK was found in the Social Security Death Index. Her SS-5 form (application for Social Security Number) had the following:
Full Name: Elizabeth Marie Boerboon
Birth: 7-24-87 in Oconto, Wis
Father: Frank A. Boerboon
Mother: Henderena Bongars
There is a group picture of the three sisters in their later years in the Paternal Section of my Image Gallery.
Reverend Matthew Bongers retired for health reasons from his missionary work in the West Indies and came to Wisconsin in 1885. His retirement didn't last long, as he took a position in a small church in Green Bay. He retired for good in 1901 and died in 1902.
On the 4th of September in 1889, the entire town turned out to witness the marriage of John VAN USSEN and Helena DE FRANCE. Or that's what I'd like to think, but since they were from two working-class families, they probably just had family and friends.
About the time of his marriage, John started using VAN ESSEN, with an 'E', instead of VAN USSEN. But Cornelis and Hermina continued using VAN USSEN, even as late as the 1900 and 1910 censuses.
John worked as a laborer, probably in the lumbering camps. Their first three children were born in Oconto, and by 1900, they were in the lumbering camps up by Quinnesec, Michigan. They moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin sometime between 1905 and 1909.
Seven children survived to adulthood:
Clarence Cornelius Van Essen (my grandfather) was born in Oconto on November 13, 1891 and was registered with a Van Essen surname (but no first name was given). He lived in Brainerd, Minnesota, where he and his wife, Clare DE ROCHER (born Clara WEISHALLA - see my Polish Ancestors page), raised 3 children - Marcie, William (my father), and Gloria.
Anna Van Essen was born in Quinnesec, Michigan, on December 5, 1894. She lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she and her husband, Harris JACQMIN, raised 3 children - Robert, Bernice, and Marian.
Ethel Van Essen was born in Quinnesec, Michigan, on October 25, 1896. She married George TASKER, a Naval Officer, and lived in various places around the world. They had no children.
Harold Van Essen was born in Quinnesec, Michigan, on October 7, 1898. He and his wife, Hazel HANRAHAN, lived in Mason City, Iowa, where they raised 2 sons - Harold, Jr. and George.
Mildred Van Essen was born in Quinnesec, Michigan, on February 10, 1901 (a twin, Mabel, born at the same time, died in infancy). She lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she married Al NEVILLE and helped raise his children. They had no children together.
Raymond Van Essen was born in Quinnesec, Michigan, on July 21, 1903. He lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he and his wife, Muriel BARTELME, adopted a son, James. They had no other children.
Lucille Van Essen was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on June 13, 1912. She lived just outside Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she and her husband, Louis GIBSON, raised 2 sons - Donald and David.
Cornelis and Hermina stayed in Oconto, except for a couple of years spent with their son in Michigan. After Hermina's death in 1913, Cornelis went to live with his son in Howard Township in Brown County. He died in 1921 (the informant, John, gave his father's name as Van Essen, not Van Ussen). They are buried alongside their daughter, Anna, in the Oconto Catholic Cemetery in (previously) unmarked graves registered under Van Ussen. This page shows the monument that I put on their family plot to mark their passing.
Anton and Elizabeth joined their daughter's family up in Michigan for a few years before they all moved back to Green Bay. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there on May 4, 1914. There is a family picture taken at that time in the Paternal Section of my Image Gallery. Anton died in 1918, and Elizabeth died in 1932. They are buried in Allouez Cemetery in Green Bay.
John and Helena lived for a while in Howard Township, just north of Green Bay toward Oconto but then moved into Green Bay around 1940. John died in 1944, and Lena died in 1953. They are also buried in Allouez Cemetery, along with two children, Lambert and Marcella, that died young in Green Bay.
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During my research I've often wondered about what motivated the change of my paternal line surname from "Ceelen" to "van Ussen", and what the surname "Ceelen" meant. I've made some discoveries about this, and will share them here. To start with, I need to discuss Dutch surnames.
Dutch surname conventions in ancient times well into the 1700's were quite varied. A surname could identify the village or geographic feature where the family originated, such as "van Ussen" (which used the name of a neighborhood in the village of Oss). It could be a name of a profession, such as "Schoenmaker" (shoe maker).
The most common surname convention used patronymic surnames incorporating the name of the father (usually by adding "en", "s", or "sen"). So Geert, son of Jan, would be named Geert Jansen. His daughter Anna would be named Anna Geerts (or even Anna Geerts Jansen to further identify the father).
By the time civil recordkeeping started in the Netherlands in the 1790's through the mid-1810's, patronymic surname usage generally had fallen by the wayside. Families that were using patronymics just started using the same recent patronymic surname for subsequent generations. Some families with common patronymic surnames adopted other surnames, most often of the "van" variety. For example, "Ceelen" might have been changed to "van Ussen", or "Geerts" might have been changed to "van Doornik".
In the Catholic church records, the mixed usage of Latin and native Dutch forenames and surnames also presents some challenges. The male name of Johannes (or Johannis) in Latin can be Jan in Dutch, and the female name of Joanna in Latin can be Jantje or even Jenneke in Dutch. So familiarity with forename variants is needed, including diminuitive forms of a name. "Nele" is short for "Cornelis" and can also be short for the possessive "Cornelisse". Female diminuitives often use a "ke" or "ken" ending. In the above example, "Jenneke" is short for "Jantje".
And then there's the Latin male possessive form usually created by stripping off an "es" or "us" ending and adding "i". This was used often in church records. For example, the possessive of Henricus is Henrici.
The name that presented the most confusion is the name Marcel. In Latin, it's Marcellus with the possessive being Marcelli. In Dutch, it's Ceel with the possessive (and surname) being Ceelen. (Here is a citation for how Ceelen is derived from Ceel which is short for Marcellus.)
So a son named Hendrik born to Marcellus Hendriks would be Henricus Marcelli Henrici in Latin, but Hendrik Ceelen Hendriks in Dutch (the second part of the surname being optional in both cases).
Here's how my paternal surname trail now shakes out (dates are marriage dates):
1951 : Van Essen, William m. Maghan, Patricia
1917 : Van Essen, Clarence m. DeRocher, Clare
1889 : Van Essen, John m. de France, Helena
1864 : van Ussen, Cornelis m. Schuurmans, Hermina
1836 : van Ussen, Machiel m. Raijmakers, Anna Maria
1804 : Ceelen, Willem Gerard m. Smits, Wilhelmina
1782 : Ceelen, Gerard Willem Hendrik m. van Doornik, Geertruij Frans Geerts
1750 : Ceelen, Wilhelmus Henrici m. Cornelisse, Emerantiana Joannis
1718 : Ceelen, Hendrik m. Michels, Mechtildis
1684 : Hendriks, Ceel m. Janssen, Heilken (Heilken is short for Heilwig)
|Oct 9 1689 "Bapta est Henricus filius Marcelli Henrici et Heijlwigis ..."|
So now I finally understand the origin of the "Ceelen" surname (it's a common patronymic-based surname used widely in the Netherlands). Gerard probably wanted a more distinctive surname and decided to change from the patronymic-based surname to a brand-new distinctive "van Ussen" surname. But Machiel was the only child to actually be given that surname at birth so the name change from Ceelen apparently wasn't accepted very well among Gerard's descendants.
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I'd like to thank my dad's relatives that gave me copies of some wonderful old pictures and helped me piece together much of this information - Don Gibson and his mother, Lucille; Bernice Jacqmin Andrews; George Van Essen; and Beth Campshure Sorge. I'd also like to thank Frances Freitag for her tireless efforts at locating my ancestors in various Wisconsin records.
Many special thanks to my Dutch friends, Frans de Vries and Jan-Albert van Ree, and my distant cousin, Karel Bongers, for looking up records in the Netherlands. Another distant cousin, Mark van Loon, had transcribed and put online an 1811 document (in French) with the petition for name change from Ceelen to van Ussen that had the evidence I needed to prove the family legend about our name having been changed from Ceelen. Mark also pointed me to the fabulous Netherlands Digital Resources pages by Herman de Wit, which have been an immense help in finding websites with online records, such as the BHIC.
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John Van Essen, Fridley, MN
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Updated: December 28, 2010