Genealogy: How deep are your roots?

The BlogHer Find Your Roots prompt for today: Three generations ago, where were your family members living?

My Japanese grandparents lived in the small town of Tokorozawa, now a bustling suburb of Tokyo. My grandmother’s family was probably from that area since her sister and brother lived around there, but my mom had no idea where her father’s family was from. When my mother was a child, Tokorozawa had dirt streets, and the storefronts went right up to the street, with merchant families living above their shops. Mom’s dad was a shoemaker carving the wooden geta shoes, and was known for the homemade noodles he made and sold for special occasions like wedding celebrations. Mom’s mother sewed silk kimono, and I have inherited some.

My dad’s father grew up farming in the very northeast of the Netherlands, around Groningen, a very old city and now the largest city in northern Netherlands. I just got a geography lesson looking this up. The country is made up of provinces, and Holland was one of them, on the western edge, but now split into North Holland and South Holland provinces. Often the whole country is referred to as Holland. Dad’s father came to the Chicago area in 1912 and farmed.

Dad’s mother’s parents were from Delfseil, a seaport near Groningen. Her grandfather was born in Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) in 1828 to a preacher and his wife whose maiden name was Boer. Very interesting! Can you tell I’m researching online as I write this? Boer is an Afrikaan name meaning farmer, so Eskede Boer’s family must have been Dutch settlers in South Africa. Dad’s mother’s parents moved to the Chicago area and farmed. There were lots of Dutch truck farmers in Chicago then. They loaded their produce into open-bed trucks and drove them to market, reminiscent of today’s farmers markets.

I love the Dutch side of my family, too. Even though I can trace farther back in the lineage, I don’t have any traditions or know much about their culture. I like the names of my relatives. My grandmother’s real name was Grietje, and her mother was Tryntje. Grandma pronounced that with the rolled r and made it sound like it was twinkling … Trent-ya. A great-aunt’s real name was Frientje. My paternal great-grandmother’s name was Aaltje. Of course we have Pieters.

I’m curious. For those whose family trees come right out of another country, how far back have you managed to trace your roots? I’m particularly curious if the language is different.

Note: Not many novels are set in the Netherlands so it’s odd the two I know of are about the artist Vermeer. Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier is the best known, but I enjoyed Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue, which follows the ownership of a (fictional) lost Vermeer painting.


Old truck


About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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