My paternal grandmother surely knew me, but I have no memory of her. She died in March 1951 when I was only 17 months old. I was probably 40 years old when I first saw a picture of her.
She was known as Kate. It seems I have never obtained a copy of her death certificate. Her obituary in the Sioux County Capital named her four surviving children, but it told nothing about her beyond the fact that she would have turned 67 the day after she died. Nothing. Nothing about her husband (who had died in 1944). Not her maiden name. Nothing about parents or siblings.
She was presumably Dutch, but censuses make clear she was born in Illinois. A marriage record helps. John Fonkert, 27, married 19-year-old Katie Zorgdrager at Newkirk on 17 February 1903. Parents of the bride were Sipke Sorgdrager – yes, with an “S” – and Trijntje De Vries.
With the online databases available today, is easy to track Kate’s family back to Terschelling, a North Sea island off the coast of the northern Netherlands. But when I was just beginning my search in the early 1990s, it wasn’t so easy.
Part of the problem was that I could not find any U.S. record of a Kate Zorgdrager (or Sorgdrager) who matched my grandmother. “Sip” Zorgdrager lived in Sioux County in 1900, but he and his wife Mary had no children at home. To this day, I don’t know where Kate was.
Census searches for the Zorgdrager name are not straightforward. I have seen the name indexed “Syadager” and “Zoryedruger.” Kate’s family used “Z,” but her uncle’s family settled on “S.” The 1890 census does not survive, but the 1885 and 1895 Iowa censuses offered hope. Sipke Zorgdrager and apparent wife Tryntje lived in Holland Township in 1885. They had a 1-year-old daughter, but her name was Tryntje.
I can’t recall exactly how it happened, but it eventually dawned on me that Kate was an anglicized version of Tryntje. You see, Trijntje is a shorted version of Kathrijntje, which itself is a diminutive form of Katherijn. Thus, Kate.
That’s how my Terschelling adventure began. Of course, there is no birth record for Kate, or Trijntje, but the family appears Stephenson and Winnebago counties in the 1870 and 1880 censuses.
Sipke’s family had apparently immigrated between 1865 and 1870. Today, the civil marriage registration of Sipke Zorgdrager and Trijntje de Vries can be viewed on the Wiewaswie (who was who) website. Sipke, 22, married Trijntje Jans de Vries 15 May 1862 on Terschelling.
When one blogs, one doesn’t always no where the blog will lead. While I can’t promise a straightforward path, the intent of this blog – at least for now – is to tell the story of Terschellingers who emigrated to Illinois and Iowa between 1865 and 1870. Sipke and Trijntje were among them.
1. Sioux County Capital, Sioux Center, Ia., 8 March 1951, p. 1.
2. Iowa State Board of Health, Return of Marriages in the County of Sioux for the Year Ending December 31, A.D. 1903, John Fonkert and Katie Zorgdrager.
3. 1900 U.S. census, Sioux County, Enumeration District 136, Holland Township, sheet 5B, dwelling 94, family 94, Sip Zorgdrager.
4. 1885 Iowa State census, Sioux County, Holland Township, p. 201 [stamped], dwelling 26, family 26, Sipke Zorgdrager.
5. 1870 U.S. census, Stephenson County, Illinois, Ridott Township, p. 1, dwelling 6, family 5, Peter De Fries household. 1880 U.S. census, Winnebago County, Illinois, Enumeration District 234, Seward Township, p. 13, dwelling 109, family 110, Sip Zordrager.
6. Burgerlijke Stand Terschelling, Huwelijksregister (marriage register), 1862, no. 9, 15 May 1862, Sipke Zorgdrager and Trijntje Jans de Vries; transcript and image viewable at www.wiewaswie.nl.
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I'm just an old GenGenealogist with more articles to write than I'll ever have time for. Thus, a blog.