Steltjes Family in Germany and the Netherlands

As a boy, I met only one grandparent, Joe Hermsen. Early in the 1940′s he  visited us  in Yakima, Washington. Later, on a trip to the Coast we motored north of Seattle to Bellingham. We dropped in on him and his wife, Ann. I remember not being too sure how she figured into our family. (She married Joe Hermsen in 1939. His first wife, Amelia Fleming, had died two years earlier.)  I understood that once a butcher he now sold real estate.  My mother, Winifred “Mike” Hermsen, had grown up in Bellingham. How the family landed there I had not a clue.

After she died in 1960 and my father in 1989,  I began searching for her Hermsen roots and mine.

She had a brother, Ed, somewhere near Los Angeles. I thought of contacting him but did not know how to do so. Then in a preserved letter from Mildred Hermsen, my mother’s oldest sister, I came across her mentioning, quite favorably,  another Ed Hermsen in southern California.  She listed his address. I wrote him hoping for information about my Uncle Ed .  A son wrote back; his father had recently died; he was forwarding my letter to a cousin in Green Bay who was interested in family genealogy. The cousin, Janet Schoenebeck,  responded. She informed me that her branch of the family sprang from Christian Hermsen, a younger brother of a Henry Hermsen who had taken his family to the Northwest in the late 1800′s.  I had never heard of Christian; nor did I  know that Joe Hermsen’s father was named Henry. So, the family had traveled from Wisconsin to Washington. How had they first settled in the area of Green Bay? When I asked Janet, she said that the Hermsens had come from “Nutterden Kreis Kleve” in Germany. She had no more information than that about its foreign origin.

I had never heard tell of that place. But I was able to locate a scattering of  towns named Kleve in Germany. Because of the sen ending of Hermsen, and not son, I reasoned that the family name might have originally been Dutch. One city of Kleve dominated the Lower Rhine region in Germany’s northwest corner, not far from its border with the Netherlands. I would begin searching there.

The City of Kleve, Lower Rhine Region, Germany

Since the Hermsen-Willis family in America practiced Catholicism, I surmised that they had Catholic roots in Germany. I addressed a letter  to the Pfarrer (Pastor) of a Catholic church in Kleve. A colleague of my wife at Yale translated it into passable German.

A reply, dated January 1, 1991, followed. It read: “We have given your letter to the church of St. Peter and Paul, and to the priest Franz-Gunther Aengenheyster, who will get in touch with the priests at Nutterden and Frasselt.”

I heard first from the pastor at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Frasselt, Fr. Ruhl. He established the link between the Hermsen and Steltjes families. He cited from the marriage registry: “24 April 1858, Brautpaar (bride and groom): Henricus Hermsen und Theodora Steltjes, Trauzeugen (witnesses) Petrus Wanders und Gerardus Verfurt.”  The register produced no other notices involving Theodora, but it offered valuable data about her family.

 Her parents, Antonius Steltjes and Johanna Holtermann, bore at least three other children:  Johanna, born August 22, 1839 and baptized the next day; Petronella, born and baptized on February 15, 1843; and Gerhardine, born on May 23, 1850 and baptized the following day. In addition, from the marriage register, I learned that Gerhardine married Casper Rutten on January 10, 1872.  Johann Hermsen and Johann Rutten vouched for them. Yet another sister, Gertrude, married Johann Kersten on April 12, 1866; Johann Steltjes and Christian Hermsen stood witness to the event. 

The church’s death registry recounted: “am 14 Juni 1854 der Tod (death) der Frau Johanna Holtermann, ehefrau (wife) des Antonius Steltjes, eingetragen, gestorben  in Alter von 50 Jahren (at the age of 50 years).” Two years later,  on April 21, 1857,  Antonius would remarry:  “Brautpaar: Antonius Steltjes und Christina Cleusters; Trauzeugen: Johannes Hermsen und Christianus Hermsen. Finally, these records reported that Antonius  Steltjes died on June 21, 1871, at the age of sixty-five. From this and other entries it appears that the two families were closing ranks.

 Side Altar,  St. Anthony Catholic Church, Frasselt, Germany

I  received another letter from the Lower Rhine, not from Nutterden as I had expected, but from nearby Donsbruggen. As the writer informed me, from 1483 to 1841 the Catholic people of Nutterden worshipped at St. Lambert Church in Donsbruggen. Therefore,  parish documents concerning them during this period resided there.

St. Lambert Catholic Church in Donsbruggen

In the present day, Highway #9 runs northwest from Kleve toward the city of Kranenburg and, finally, the Dutch border. One passes first through Donsbruggen, then Nutterden, to Kranenburg. Frasselt is situated off of Highway #504, slightly south of Kranenburg. I came to understand that the “Nutterden Kreis Kleve” of family lore meant Nutterden in the vicinity of Kleve (Kreis means circle or around).

If  any  questions lingered about the Hermsen/Steltjes/Cleusters connection, the letter from the St. Lawrence pastor, Fr. Leopold Fonck,  dispelled them. Five children born to Henrich Hermsen and Christina Cleusters of Nutterden entered the community through their church: Albert, born and baptized on February 27, 1827, with godparents being Heinrich Hermsen and Johanna Cleusters; Johann, born on December 24, 1828 and baptized two days later, Johann Cleusters and Johanna Reintjes acting as witnesses; Arnold, born and baptized on March 23, 1830, Theodore Hermsen and Alberta Albers godparenting him; Heinrich, born on May 3, 1832 and baptized the next day; and Christian, born on Christmas Day in 1833, baptized two days later,  Wilhelm and Hendrina Jansen standing for him. Notice the predominance of various Hermsen and Cleusters family representatives as official witnesses.

 “At four in the morning of May 3rd, 1832 Heinrich Hermsen, son of Heinrich Hermsen and his wife, Christina Cleusters, was born in Nutterden. He was immediately baptized, and rebaptized in the church on May 4th. Witnesses were Gerhard Hermsen and Everdina Cleusters.”

Hermsen Family Home in Nutterden

This marriage register delighted one tracing family roots. Heinrich Hermsen and Christina Cleusters had married at St. Lambert on May 4, 1826. He was twenty-six,  a widower; his first wife, Aleyda Hendricks, had died in Nutterden. Christina was twenty-five; both her parents, Albert Cleusters and Johanna Peters of Nutterden, were deceased.

The genealogical prize, however, went to this entry in the baptismal register for November 25, 1799. On that day, Heinrich Hermsen, the father of Heinrich who married Christina Cleusters, and grandfather of Heinrich Johann, the husband of Theodora Steltjes, was born in Nutterden and baptized.  Heinrich Hermsen and Johanna Hendricks gave him earthly life ;  Gerhard Hendricks and Johanna Derks promised to promote his eternal life.

An escalating series of life events propelled the Hermsen/Steltjes merger into one coherent family:

  • Heinrich Hermsen wedded Aleyda Hendricks on October 13, 1824.  She died five months later, March 18, 1825;
  • The widower, Heinrich, remarried the next year, on May 4, 1826. He selected as his second wife, Christina Cleusters;
  • Antonius  Steltjes married Johanna Holtermann on July 1, 1829.  After giving him seven children–six girls and one boy–she passed away on June 15, 1854;
  • After having eight children–seven boys and one girl–with Christina Cleusters, Heinrich Hermsen expired on December 6, 1853;
  • In 1854, therefore, Christina Cleusters Hermsen was left alone with eight children,  two being teenagers. At the same time, Antonius Steltjes without a wife had four daughters needing his care;
  • On April 21, 1857 the two families merged through the marriage of Antonius  Steltjes to Christina Cleusters Hermsen.  Antonius still had two daughters at home: Petronella (14) and Geraldine (6); Christina was watching over her twelve-year-old Johanna and possibly eighteen-year-old Friedrich. The couple and their children probably settled down as a new family unit in Antonius’s home in Frasselt;
  • As if to seal the union, Theodora Steltjes, at age twenty-four, married her twenty-six-year-old stepbrother, Heinrich Johann Hermsen,  on April 24, 1858;
  • Finally, on April 16, 1866 Petronella Steltjes, now twenty-three, wed another stepbrother, Christian Hermsen;
  • When her second husband, Antonius  Steltjes, died on June 21, 1871, Christina Cleusters Hermsen Steltjes survived among her family:  eight Hermsens who called her mother,  seven Steltjes  whom she guarded and cherished as stepmother. In a twist worthy of “I’m my own Grandpa,” both Theodora and Petronella recognized her as their stepmother and  mother-in-law, while their husbands, Heinrich and Christian, could claim her both as their mother and stepmother-in-law!

Jacqueline Hermsen Resick at Grave of Heinrich Hermsen in Nutterden

In the baptismal register at St. Lambert,  the last three Steltjes children–Johanna, Petronella, and Gerhardine–appeared.  I had to wonder where the earlier born had first breathed into life.

Realizing that marriages in Germany had to be performed also in a civil venue, I wrote to the area metropolis, Kranenberg, to request a copy of Theodora’s marriage certificate. I lucked out! It came. Moreover, it noted her birth in Groesbeek, Holland.

 [Note: Line 1)  Official district: Cranenburg...Cleve...Dusseldorf. Line 3)  April 24th. Line 5)  Heinrich Hermsen. Line 6)  Born in Nutterden.  Line 8)  Wed in Frasselt. Lines 9 & 10) Son of Heinrich Hermsen of Nutterden and Christina Cleusters.  Line 12) Theodora Steltjes.  Line 13 & 14)  Born in Groesbeek, Holland.]

I  contacted the Association for Family Research (Mosaik)  in Kleve. They possess microfiche records for many areas around Kleve, including Groesbeek. I received back from them xerox copies of the baptismal register in Groesbeek for the years 1833, 1834, and 1837. They established the baptisms of Maria (1/14/1833), Theodora, and Gertrude (6/13/1837)  Steltjes in Groesbeek;  Antonius  Steltjes and Johanna Holtermann being their parents.

 

 

 “Baptized was Theodora, legitimate daughter of Antonius Steltjes and Johanna Holtermann, on December 11, 1834. Heinrich Jansen and Maria Holtermann witnessed.”

As Antonius  had been born in Frasselt and Johanna in nearby Gocherheide, I have no knowledge of what led them to dwell in Groesbeek from 1832-1838.  The earliest Hermsen records I have indicate that the Hermsens resided in Nutterden as far back as 1764. Therefore, my initial reasoning about Hermsen being a  Dutch form of the word may or may not be true. However, a Dutch connection clearly existed through these lowland births of three of Antonius  Steltjes’s  daughters, and through their combined families’  Low-German-speaking-towns nestled up to the German-Dutch border.

We have no written account of motives behind the Hermsen/Steltjes family immigration to America. However, we may surmise the impetus. In 1853, as we have seen, Heinrich Hermsen died. Closely following this, Johanna Holtermann Steltjes succumbed to death’s call in 1854. Both families would be in a state of transition.  The two surviving parents united in 1857. Christina transferred her household to Frasselt. The next year Theodora Steltjes and Heinrich Johann Hermsen wed; they brought forth their first child, Andrina “Delia,” six months later.  Neither family could remain the same; both families opened readily to change.

Twenty-five-year-old Christian dared the first move. No longer residing at home and yet unwed, he could seize the moment. He found his way to Liverpool, England; there he boarded the ship  Kangaroo destined for New York. He disembarked at the Port of New York on May 11, 1859.

On April 12, 1866 Christian reappeared in Frasselt. At St. Anthony  he witnessed with Johann Steltjes the wedding of Gertrude Steltjes to Johann Kersten. As if to use his visit well, he married four days later: his bride–Petronella Steltjes. Both couples straightway departed for the United States and Brown County, Wisconsin. The John Kerstens settled in De Pere; Christian and Petronella went back to his place in nearby Holland. Within the year both began their families in the New World. It seems likely that John Steltjes traveled with them. On June 28, 1870 he married Joanna Verboort in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in De Pere, Wisconsin.  His sister Joanna Steltzes Coenen and her new husband, Wouter “William,” officially witnessed their union. This couple had married in Frasselt two months previously, on April 25th.

 Christian and Petronella Hermsen and Family in 1889

The death of Antonius  Steltjes in 1871 probably sealed the family transplantation to America.  In the following June,  Heinrich and Theodora Hermsen, their three children, ages fourteen, nine, and five,  sailed out of Bremen on the Ocean for New York. His brother Johann accompanied them.  They arrived in the Port of New York on June 11, 1872. They located their new home in De Pere, Brown County, Wisconsin.

 Henry and Theodora Hermsen and Family in 1889

At some moment  during the 1870′s–perhaps with Henry and Theodora–Christina Cleusters Hermsen Steltjes, born in Sheffenthum, Rhine Province, in 1801,  left her lifelong German homeland. In the 1880 census for Brown County she was noted as dwelling with Christian and Petronella. She died  soon after.

Gerhardine Steltjes had married Casper Rutten in Frasselt in 1872.  With all but her oldest sister Maria gone to America–she had married William Coenen twenty years earlier, on April 30, 1852, and had her own family life– she decided to pick up the family trail. The couple departed Amsterdam on the ship “Rotterdam”; they disembarked in the Port of New York on July 31, 1880. The migration from Germany and the Netherlands to a new homeland was now complete.

 

12 Comments

  1. Janet Schoenebeck said,

    Nice piece of work Bob! Thanks for compiling this.

    • rjjwillis said,

      I am happy that you approve, Janet. Without your work, and your information about the Hermsen/Steltjes extended family in the Rhineland, I would not have been able to trace this ancestry. As with any family, it is only the family that makes life–and family research–possible.

  2. Pat Hardy Macaluso said,

    Dear Bob:
    Your vast research is unbelievable. Thank you for all you have done for our branch of the Hermsen-Stiljes familes. I could not believe all the beautiful pictures and documents that you have attached to your history.

    You have inspired me to do further studies on my father’s family: Owen Hardy/Caterine Newcomb from County Louth, Ireland. They immigrated in the 1840′s and lived in Outagamie County, Wisconsin (Brown County) just like the Hermsen family. A real coincidence since my father and mother met in Tacoma, Washington.

    Thank you again.

    • rjjwillis said,

      Dear Pat,
      I am happy that you approve. You were most helpful to me some years ago when i was first looking into the Hermsen clan in Tacoma.

  3. Susan Rynders Kopec said,

    This was a wonderful read–my own family members were from the Kleve area and Holland. I recognized most of your family names, as I studied many microfilms in my own search. My family settled in St. Martins, Franklin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1851-1855. Many many persons from the Kleve area settled in this place, building and making Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church their place of worship and burial. My family names were Rynders (Reinders), Bosch, Verhallen, Weinhoff, Neilesen, Jansen, Acker, Arntz, Berntz, Berst and many more. A few Holtermanns settled here as well. Many people in this place farmed or opened small family run businesses. The language was Dutch and German and quite a few families still wore wooden clog shoes. I’ll mark your web site for further study. Thanks again
    Susan Rynders Kopec
    Waukesha, Wisconsin

    • rjjwillis said,

      I appreciate your comment, Susan.

      I recognize only one name among your list of family surnames: Jansen. My grandfather, Joseph Nicholas Hermsen, had an older sister, Andrina “Delia” Hermsen. On 10/31/1882 in De Pere, Brown County, Wisconsin, she married Jacob J. Jansen. Jacob had been born to Anton Jansen and Hendrina Lenders in Broekhursenvorst, Limburg, Holland on 4/23/1858.

      Delia and Jacob would have three children: Mary A. (Mamie), born on 10/21/1886 in New Rockford, Eddy Conty, North Dakota; Anthony Christian, born on 12/25/1888 in St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota; and Henry George, born on 5/4/1891 in Tacoma, Washington.

      From 1890 on this branch of the Hermsen Family and the Jansens lived in Tacoma, Washington.

      The Hemsen family in Germany lived in Nutterden Kreis Kleve (in the vicinity of Cleve), situated in the Lower Rhine region and not too far from Groesbeek, Gelderland, Netherlands. I can trace them in Nutterden as far back as to 1771. I suspect that some time previously they had moved from the Netherlands to Germany, probably because of their Catholic religion and animosity toward it in that Reformation country.

  4. Dan Dovey said,

    What an amazing story, with incredible detail. Thank you so much for sharing this on the web. My gg grandmother is Gertrude Steltjes, and you’ve filled in a number of blanks on her and her parents in my family tree (Dovey, Vanderzanden, Kersten, Steltjes). Many of us are also in the northwest. Your blog is a most worthy source in my family tree references now.

    • rjjwillis said,

      Dan,
      Nice to hear from you.

      Gertrude Steltjes and John Kersten had nine children. John died on May 31, 1891 in DePere, Brown County, Wisconsin. That, and the marriages (or marriages to be) of five of the six older children in Wisconsin, seems to have been the stimulus for the move west for Gertrude and her three youngest daughters in 1899: Lizzie (married Henry Vandyke in Verboort, Washington County, Oregon on 2/1/1899), Minnie (married William Smith on 5/18/1901 in Verboort), and Nettie (married Joseph Austin Moore on 11/6/1901 in Verboort). In the 1900 census for Columbia Precinct, Washington County, Oregon, Gertrude and her unmarried daughter Nettie are living with Henry and Lizzie Vandyke. Minnie is in Portland, Oregon, working as a housemaid in the Van Coelen residence. The other six childen stayed in Wisconsin: Johanna married Barney Lasee on 4/19/1887 in DePere; Mary married Cornelius Biersteker in DePere on 1/21/1891; Nellie married Joseph Crabb on 11/5/1899 in DePere; Delia married Frank VanDreel in DePere on 6/26/1892; George married Mary Van Den Busch on 11/29/1899 in Wisconsin. I have no data on Adrienne except that she was born in DePere in 1874.

  5. John Jansen said,

    Hello Bob…

    I found your article while researching my Jansen Liniage back to Nuetterden. I have been searching on FamilySearch.org for records and have found a number of possibilites. My Great Great Uncle Gerhard Jansen immegrated to the US in 1860 and became the Pastor of St Joseph’s church in Freeburg. I also have an Great Aunt Hendrika Jansen who supposedly emigrated to the US in 1893 and is now burried in St Mary’s cemetary Mt Carmel Illinois. I believe Gerhardus (#2) in the tree below is my GGU. It is interesting that there is a “Stiltjes” at the top of this tree. Do you think this may be your family?

    Henrici Jansen
    M:Gertrudis Stiltjes (Hiltjes)
    ….1:Petrus Jansen 12 July 1843
    ……..M: Petronella Derks (Derksen) M- 05 Jun 1861
    ……..1:Aleida Jansen 28 Jul 1863
    ……..2:Anna Maria Jansen 04 Dec 1864
    ……..3:Joanna Gertrudis Jansen18 Dec 1866
    ……..4:Johanna Jansen 02 Apr 1869
    ….2:Gerhardus Jansen 02 Apr 1845 (1846?)
    ….3:Antonius Jansen 19 Nov 1846
    ……..M:Sophia Jansen 27 Apr 1861
    ……..1:Gerardus Jansen 24 Nov 1866
    ……..2:Wilhelmina Jansen 22 Apr 1869
    ….4:Theodora Jansen 20 July 1848
    ….5:Wilhelmus (Guielmus) Jansen 26 Oct 1849
    ……..M:Helena Gietmann M 15 Feb 1869
    ……..1:Theodora Jansen 20 Jul 1860
    ……..2:Johanna Theodora Jansen 18 Oct 1861
    ……..3:Theodorus Jansen 04 Mar 1864
    ……..4:Gertrudis Jansen 03 Dec 1865
    ……..5:Guielmus Jansen 15 Sep 1868
    ……..6:Still Born Baby 08 Nov 1870
    ……..7:Hermannus Jansen 15 Jan 1873
    ….6:Theodora Jansen 24 Dec 1851
    ….7:Theodora Jansen 20 Mar 1853

    • rjjwillis said,

      John,
      Thank you for your inquiry. I do have both Jansen and Steltjes in my family tree. I do not see any immediate connection betsween our families. However, you may have more information that could establish that connection. I can share with you the background for both families as I have them.

      Anton Jansen was married to Hendrina Lenders. They had a son, Jacob J. Jansen, on 4/23/1858 in Broekhulzenvorst, Limburg, Holland. By the 1880′s he immigrated to Brown County, Wisconsin. There, in DePere, he married Adrina “Delia” Hermsen on 10/31/1882. The couple had three children: Mary “Mamie” Jansen, 10/21/1886 in New Rockford, Eddy County, North Dakota; Anthony Christian Jansen, 12/25/1888 in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Henry George Jansen, 5/4/1891 in Tacoma, Washington.

      In the Rhine Province, Germany, my Hermsen family lived in Nutterden, about 15 miles to the west of Kleve. This family married into the Steltjes family which lived in Frasselt, about the same distance from Kleve to the southeast. Since I do not know if Jacob Jansen had any brothers, it might be possible, if he did, that the family immigrated from Holland to Nutterden and then on to the United States.

      As for the Steltjes family, it came from Frasselt, Germany and from Groesbeek, Gilderland, Holland. Anton Steltjes was born in Frasselt on 10/14/1805. He married Johanna Holtermann on 4/1/1829 in Kranenburg which is situated between Nutterden and the Dutch Border. They had seven children, four of whom were born in Groesbeek, Holland: Maria (1/14/1833), Johann (1834), Theodora (11/11/1834) and Gertrudis (6/13/1857). The other three were born in Frasselt: Johanna (8/22/1839), Petronella (2/15/1843), and Gerhardine (5/23/1850). Gertrudis married John Kersten in Frasselt on 4/12/1866. That couple came to Wisconsin in 1867. After John Kersten died in DePere, Brown County, Wisconsin on 5/31/1891, his widow went with her three youngest children, all daughters, to Washington County, Oregon. The three married there: Wilhemina “Minnie” to William Smith in 1901, Adelaide “Lizzie” in 1899 to Henry VanDyke, and Antoinette “Nettie” in 1901 to Joseph Moore.

      Of some interest may be the following. Heinrich Hermsen, the father of the family that married the Steljes family, was baptized in St. Lambert Catholic church in Donsbruggen (near Nutterden) on 11/15/1799. The witnesses were Gerhard Hendricks and Johanna Derks.

      Perhaps in the above you will find some clues. I hope this helps.

  6. John said,

    Hi Bob.. Thanks for the reply.. At this point, everything is a clue. Basically, I have 3 people that I am tracking backwards into the history books. Opa Johann Jansen, Great Aunt Hendrica Jansen and Great Great Uncle Gerhard Jansen. As all of these folks at one time or another hailed from Nuetterden, so I have started my search there. I find it interesting how few family’s there were back in the early to Mid 1800′s in that area. I have some very good resources from the chruches at the time and am building a database of the connections. I have seen documents from Frasselt and will spend some time looking for the Steltjes connection there.

    May I ask where you are finding on-line information? I am almost at a point of writing letters to the various towns, but still need to connect some dots first.

    If there is a way to communicat directly, I would like to share my spreadsheet with you.. You may be able to fill in some blanks.

    Thanks

    -John

    • rjjwillis said,

      Hi John,

      I would suggest that you look at the posts I have on this blogsite (they are listed on the left-hand side of the blog). One of them is entitled “Genealogical Research in Germany.” I have listed there the four main sources I have used to track my family in the area of Cleve. I also have put there their addresses.

      I have found most useful The Association for Family Studies in Cleve. It has records of births, marriages, and deaths in both Nutterden and Frasselt, as well as many other towns in the area surrounding Cleve.

      Since in Germany there is a requirement of a civil marriage, you can find records of civil marriages at the civil center for the area, Kranenburg. I have listed its address in the above-mentioned post.

      You can communicate with me directly through rjwinct@aol.com. Best regards.

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