Before I tell you about yesterday, I know you’ll want to see this photo I took this morning of the sand hill cranes. They are off the nest! I hope this is good news, and it seems like a reasonable time has passed to expect eggs to have hatched. I’m not sure what they eat out there, but I hope it is weeds and bad insects… Thanks to the burn we can see them just fine!
OK. Yesterday we went to the Heymans family reunion in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. I don’t consider myself particularly interested in history, but I am interested in stories, and I was quite excited to hear the Heymans stories. I was not disappointed. It was a great time.
The Heymans (Heijmans) are Dutch. And of course, they have a myth about their arrival in the New World. The story is that their ancestor Anton (one of three brothers) was a merchant and the owner of seven ships. They were named after the days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. Well, all seven of them sank in a single voyage, leaving Anton in debt he couldn’t hope to ever get out of and so– off to America and Minnesota!
Doubt was cast on this story by the fact that he and his wife Antoinette, who emigrated with him, owned a large and successful farm in America. He didn’t seem to have come here with “nothing.”
A connection was made to the Dutch relatives only in the last decade. A man named Rob Heijmans who was very involved in tracing the genealogy, found some of the American relatives. We met Rob about four years ago when he visited the US. He came to the farm and knew all about it– from Google Earth, I suppose. Rob died shortly after his trip, but two of his cousins came from Weerts, Netherlands, for the reunion. They all said emphatically that there were no ships. We asked them if Minnesota was as they expected. They said that Rob had filled them in quite completely, and they knew what Minnesota would be like, but that before Rob brought back pictures from his trip they had actually thought Minnesota was part of a large desert!
One of the cousin’s spouses, Mike, was from Surinam (formerly Dutch Guyana), and one of the highlights of the day was his presentation on Anton’s brother Franz, the “lost brother.” Mike’s wife Joanne and her brother Alys who were also there are descended from Louis, Anton’s other brother. But Frans had been difficult to track down– mostly because he left Holland to become a missionary to Africa in the 19th century and much of his information, including the information on his gravestone in Italy, has been recorded incorrectly.
I have to say I adore the 19th century photos of the Dutch and German ancestors. Often bearded and with indistinct features, like Franz the missionary, they look decidedly Old World!
Another great story was about Uncle Joe, who lived in California and about whom there were many stories. The one I liked best was about how he got picked up for bootlegging in the 1920s. They put him in the back of the police car, along with the evidence, several cases of bottles of the stuff. Every time the car went over a rut in the road, Joe threw out a few of the bottles. By the time they got to the station they had to release him for lack of evidence!
Another highlight was arranged by my brother-in-law Tim, a reading of one act of their Grandpa Martin’s play, “Gilded Youth.” Roles were assigned on the spot and we discharged our duties pretty well, to the amusement of all gathered.
Anton and Antoinette had many children, and we were organized all day by the son or daughter to whom we were attached. We were Martin’s family, and also present were members of Al’s family and Margaret’s four girls, and Leora’s (with a lovely display that included a copy of her favorite book, Girl of the Limberlost, and a cloth book of tasks she sewed for her grandchildren). We gave reports and ate in the birth order of the children of Anton. And Mike, whose contact has been closest with Margaret’s daughters, presented them (and symbolically, all of us) with framed copies of the birth certificates of Anton and Antoinette!
On the way home we took a detour that brought us right through Hutchinson, Minnesota. We had to stop for dinner at Zella’s, a great locavore restaurant. They were serving morels, asparagus and fresh greens, and a darn good lamb burger.