Hot on the Trail - A Surprising Conclusion

Prompt:  Share a story where the conclusion of your search totally surprised you after believing otherwise.

“My maternal great grandparents Folkert Teunis Folkers and Hilje Mulder were both orphans and the records of the orphanage were destroyed, so we haven’t been able to trace the family tree earlier than their personal knowledge.”

So went the family tradition that was passed down to me.  Three generations believed the family tradition and the family tree was never extended beyond the personal knowledge of my great-grandparents.

For over thirty years of my life I spent time trying to document and verify information on the Folkers and Mulder ancestry and my other Dutch lines and was able to trace most of them from 1811 when civil records began and were  indexed.  In about 1999, I retained Lars and Femke Roobol at Family Affairs  in The Netherlands to help research the lineage prior to 1811.  A report that I received in 2004 documented findings that surprised me.

Teunis Folkers, my 2 gg father, was a ship’s captain.  In September of 1870 his ship was lost at sea between The Netherlands and Scandinavia and four years later, Foekje Severien, his wife died.  This left five children as orphans. 

Folkert Teunis Folkers, my great grandfather, being the oldest of the children, never entered the ‘Groene Weeshuis’ [Green Orphanage]; the fact that he was fifteen years old might have to do with that.  But his exact whereabouts could not be found in the city of Groningen.  He would have visited his siblings at the orphanage whenever he could, though.

The Guardian's Room [Voogdenkamer] in the "Green" Orphanage in 1858 - Wikipedia "Groene Weeshuis" by Albert Jurardus van Proojen

Some time in the 1870s (the exact date was not recorded but it was probably about the same time the orphans entered the orphanage) Folkert was living as a servant with Bentie Jan Mulder, a vegetable farmer in Groningen.  He lived there until he married Hilje Mulder in 1885.  Folkert was a policeman—later he was a caretaker in a shelter for the homeless.

Folkert’s siblings all entered the orphanage on 22 Jan 1877.  Harm, the youngest of the children was seven years old when he went into the orphanage, and he died there three years later.  The surviving children each received an inheritance from the estate of their grandfather Christiaan Severien on January 1, 1884, just over a week after his death.  

The "Green" Orphanage in 1858, by Albert Jurardus van Proojen-Wikipedia "Groene Weeshuis"

Sara was fourteen years of age when she entered, and she left the orphanage when she was 23 years old.  Geertruida was thirteen years old when she was placed in the orphanage and she was also 23 years old when she left.  Berend was 10 years old when he entered the orphanage and left it just after his 23rd birthday, as well.

Hilje Mulder, my great grandmother, was from Marum, an agricultural village about 27 kilometers [17 miles] from the city of Groningen, but she had been born at Aduard, about 8 kilometers [5miles] southwest of Groningen.  At the age of 14 years, she lived in the family of Brundt Jakobs Reitsema, cow milker, and Auktje Wattenburg.  Her father, Hendrik Mulder, had died the previous year and, being the oldest living child, probably had to make her own way.  There is no indication that Hilje ever lived in an orphanage.

Since she moved in with the cow milker in 1872 and was living there during the time period Folkert’s siblings were in the orphanage, it is possible that she delivered milk to the orphanage.  It is also possible that Folkert T. may have either been visiting his siblings or perhaps delivered vegetables to the orphanage and they may have met there.  All in all, it is difficult to say how Folkert and Hilje met, exactly, since this was not recorded in any way.  But the marriage records of Groningen show that on 7 May 1885, they were married there.

As is most often the case, there are some facts contained in family traditions, but the records do not bear these traditions out.  Such was the case of the family tradition for Folkert Teunis Folkers and Hilje Mulder.  Records for both the “Red” Orphanage and the “Green” Orphanage were extant and preserved in the Groninger Archives and were not destroyed.  Since the time of this report, we have been able to document seven more generations on the Folkers line and five more generations on the Mulder line.

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