I recently became a great-grandma. I thought I was a bit young to become a great, yet I eagerly anticipated having a baby in the family again. Our youngest grandson, Graham is 7 already. Jovi Marie, our darling little babe of 2 months has the whole family smitten. She smiles, coos and has a language all her own, which she uses frequently.
|Jovi Marie, one month…|
Since this is a big deal for me, I’ve been thinking of my grandparents and greats lately. I never heard Dad talk about his grandparents. He was 10 years older than Mom, and I think his grands were long gone by the time I was born. Dad’s parents lived in Rock Valley. There weren’t many days while I was growing up when Dad didn’t stop and see his folks. I actually went along quite often. Dad and his folks would talk about what was going on in town or grandma might say she got a letter from one of Dad’s sibs that day. But we never did grandma-granddaughter stuff together. No baking cookies or tea parties.
|Arie, Bessie Gerritson w/Shannon 1975…|
Dorothy married Mom’s brother Floyd. After Dorothy retired, she was interested in genealogy. Uncle Floyd passed away in 2003, 10 months before my Mom (strange, Floyd passed right after their 77th birthday, Mom a couple months before their 78th). Whenever I was visiting in Iowa, I’d stop to see her in Sioux Center. Once in a while she’d bring out this huge 4 inch thick binder. All the relatives history on both sides of my Mom and Floyd. I asked her if I could make copies of all the sheets in Sioux Center? She politely but very firmly refused. A few months later, Aunt Dorothy mailed me several copied sheets from her original. I think she felt bad about refusing to let me make copies. Although the 20 sheets are not even one percent, I’m grateful. And fascinated.
|Aunt Dorothy and me around 2005…|
It’s surprising what can be gleaned from such a small amount of information. Although some of the sheets don’t tell much, recorded are births, deaths, baptisms and marriages. Dorothy managed to pack a lot of extra news about the family. She copied archived articles from the Sioux City Journal and Sioux Center News (called the Nieusblad, Dutch I assume for news). At times not very many words but profound. December 13, 1926, my Mom, Florence Elaine and her twin brother, Floyd Dwayne were born in Sioux Center, Iowa. Here’s an example of an article two days later as it appeared in the Sioux Center paper.
|Floyd and Florence, 1928…|
Mr. and Mrs. G. Wanningen, Jr. were gladden by the birth of twins, a son and a daughter. (Less than 2 weeks later, this was the following article). Early Monday morning, 27 December, 1926, our hearts were cast into deep sorrow, when we afflicted a heavy blow, that pleased the Father to take away my beloved mate, Coba Wanningen, geb Berghuis at the age of 20 years, after a blessed marriage of two years. Great was our joy when two weeks before, twins were born. But in the counsel of the Father, our joy was of short duration. The Father took the young mother to Himself, after a short serious illness. We don’t understand the Father’s ways, but our ways are not His. We rest our desires in Him, knowing and trusting in His goodness and wisdom. In the name of the sorrowful family of Gerrit Wanningen. P.S. To neighbors and friends, our sincere thanks is assured, for their help and showing sympathy.
|My grandma Coba, pregnant with Mom and Floyd, early fall, 1926…|
Though finding this horribly sad, the language used to write the obituary is profound, churchy, understanding, Godly, forgiving, compassionate and a bit odd. Hard for me to describe the feelings I have, but I’m really glad I have all these little additions from my past. I can’t believe the first sentence starting with “early Monday” contains 8 commas. Count them, 8!
|My grandpa Gerrit (Lakey) about 1915…|
But the lady on my mind lately is my paternal great grandma. Her name was Jantje (yon-chee) Frantzen. She was born on December 20, 1867 in Steenwijkerwold, Overijssel, Netherlands. I don’t know what year she immigrated to the US, but she was sponsored (someone in Sioux Center who would help her with housing and find a job). She married my great grandpa Geurt Wanningen, (8 years her senior) in 1889. They lived on 20 acres near Sioux Center. She never learned to speak English and always wore wooden shoes. Jantje and Guert had 2 children, a daughter, Jantje (Jennie) and a son Gerke (Gerrit), my grandpa.
|My great grandma Jantje Frantzen Wanningen around age 45…|
Jennie married Paul Van Donge in 1915. She must have been about 16. Soon she became pregnant. There were health issues causing complications in Jennie’s pregnancy. My great aunt Lena was barely a teen at the time said Jennie had cancer in her eye, and a bad case of flu right before her due date. Jennie went to a hospital in Sioux City by train and delivered a boy, Peter who was stillborn. Jennie died the next day. What a blow for Paul, Jantje and Guert. Their only daughter and firstborn grandson, both dead. Jennie and Peter returned to Sioux Center by train to a grieving family. For the funeral and burial, Peter was placed in his mother’s arms in the same casket. Life was not easy around 1920. The life expectancy for a woman was 42. Jennie didn’t make half that. Loss was a huge part of life.
|Sibs, Jennie and Gerrit around 1915…|
Jantje and Guert sold the acreage and decided to build a big house in Sioux Center. Townsfolk thought it a bit odd since Jennie had passed away and Gerrit (my grandpa, nicknamed Lakey) was in his mid-20’s already. In 1924, 28 year old Lakey married Coba Berghuis, 18. She had graduated from high school in May, then attended school in Des Moines for 6 weeks to become a teacher. She taught in a one room school house for 2 years. Coba gave up her teaching position in the fall of 1926 because she was pregnant with Mom and Floyd. Coba died 2 weeks after their birth at the age of 20. Jantje lost her daughter, first grandson and daughter-in-law in a 8 year span.
|Florence and Floyd, 1933…|
Coba’s Parents, Pieter and Aafje (Effie) Berghuis took care of the twins for about a month but it was decided that Jantje and Guert would raise them after that. Bigger house, more money. The Berghuis’ insisted Jantje hire a nanny, which she did until the twins turned 2. My great grandparents were now raising newborns when Guert was 67 and Jantje was 60. Wow. And I get weary canning a few jars of jam. Mom never said too much about her father when she and Floyd were very young. The Sioux Center Nieusblad did mention a couple months after Coba died that Gerrit and his twins moved in with his mom and dad. Mom always felt her dad blamed her and Floyd for causing their mother’s death. Maybe blame is too strong, but Mom felt he harbored bitterness towards her and Floyd. Gerrit remarried in 1933 to someone with several children and offered to raise the twins who were then 7. They tried it for a short time, but Floyd and Florence were so miserable they soon moved back with Guert and Jantje.
|Great grandma Effie Berghuis with Florence & Floyd, 1927…|
A few years before Mom passed away I realized the urgency of getting some family history. Mom and I would just be talking about something inconsequential when she’d start reminiscing about her childhood with her grandparents. I’d grab a piece of paper and start writing. One paragraph was about Guert’s driving. Mom claimed he was so bad that Jantje insisted he sell the car after he drove Jantje to town and took a corner on 2 wheels.
|My beautiful grandma Coba, 1906-1926…|
Jantje was not someone who went to the doctor. One day she was feeding the chickens from a feed bucket and stuck her hand inside and was bit by a rat. She got pretty sick but would not go to the doctor. Another time she had an abscess. She did doctor that time and was unable to care for the twins so you know how serious it was. The twins stayed with their dad and stepmom for a few weeks.
|Jantje, Guert, Florence & Floyd by the big house in Sioux Center, 1930…|
Every winter Guert would buy a huge wooden barrel filled with fish which he kept in the garage. Northwest Iowa, you know it stayed frozen all winter. This was a mainstay for many suppers. When they were going to have fish, Guert would take a knife and chop the ice to removed chunks of fish. Jantje was always fearful Mom and Floyd were going to choke on fish bones. Funny what parents and grands worry about isn’t it?
|My handsome great grandpa Guert Wanningen, about 55…|
Guert died in 1938 at the age of 78. I came this close to meeting my great grandma Jantje. She passed away in August of 1950, about 3 months before I was born. The older I get, the more I long for additional snippets about my grands and greats. I know Mom talked about them frequently, especially the most important person in her life. Jantje. I needed to be more steadfast in my listening ability, ask more questions and jot those memories down as she was reminiscing about them for me.
|Florence and Floyd around 1995…|
Why didn’t I jot down more tidbits surrounding the birth of the twins? I don’t know if Floyd was born first or my Mom. Every time I read something about their birth, it says, a boy and a girl. Does that mean Floyd was the eldest by a few minutes? I can’t believe I never asked, and if I did, why can’t I remember? Or was a son usually mentioned first back then? Argh.
|Partial 1923 Sioux Center girls basketball team. My grandma Coba on far right.|
One page of miscellaneous stuff I wrote was about glassware I’ve since inherited. When it was given and what was the occasion. Many of the pieces were gifts from people they sponsored after they arrived from The Netherlands. Although the names of the givers mean nothing to me, I smile when I read about these tokens of deep appreciation. But it’s the tiny toothpick holder that makes me cry. It’s textured and shows clusters of grapes, though some of the coloring is gone or faded. Mom always loved it as do I. For the life of me I can’t remember the history on this itty-bitty thing. Every time I walk past it, I’m frustrated because I cannot remember anything significant about it. What I wouldn’t give to ask Mom the history of her favorite little toothpick holder…
|Such a petite toothpick holder, but lacking knowledge on its history…|