Research Update

I was in Salt Lake City recently doing research and I worked hard on the Burggraaf information that I was missing.

There was no record found concerning the death of Peter Burggraaf (b. abt 1824) in either Marion or the surrounding counties. There was also no record of land exchanges concerning Peter Burggraaf.

There was no record of death for Willem Burggraaf (1822-1900) or Sygje Stek Burggraaf (1820-1901) I checked Marion County for Willem and Marion, Sioux and Lyon counties for Sygje. The last document I find is a land sale in April 1900 for Willem and the best I can figure is that Willem sold his property off shortly before his death.

There is no record of death for Elizabeth Burggraaf (John’s first wife) or for Little Albert in either Sioux or Lyon counties.

The only thing left to do will be to attempt to find a church in Holland Township, Sioux County that may have recorded the passing. Failing that I will be reduced to hiring a researcher to look at the Dutch papers in both areas for information.

Ah well, a negative result is still a result, but I sure would have liked some closure on these folks.

The Children of Willem & Sygje

This is what little I know about the four older children of Willem Burggraaf and Sygje Stek. Youngest son Jan will be addressed in his own series of posts.

Jantje Burggraaf is the oldest daughter of Willem and Sygje and was named for Willem’s mother Jantje Van Stenis. Jantje was born 17 July 1850 in Pella, and Christened in the First Reformed Church 26 March 1859.1 She married Jan Van Ginkel on 5 April 1872 in Marion County, Iowa.2 Jantje and Jan had six children:
William Van Ginkel,
Heintje Van Ginkel Elings
Aaltje Van Ginkel,
Albert Van Ginkel,
Dirk Van Ginkel,
Sygje Van Ginkel Cross

Based on the 1900 census3 on which Jan lists himself as a widower, Jantje died between 4 January 1891 and 1896. The 4 January date is based on the baptism record of daughter Sygje.4 If she was not alive at the baptism it would have been noted at that time. I believe that she was probably deceased prior to 1896 because I have not found her on the 1895 Iowa State Census, but the rest of Van Ginkel family is in Mahaska County on that census.5 I have found no death or cemetery record for Jantje.

Albert Burggraaf was the oldest son of Willem and Sygje and was named for Sygje’s father Albert Stek. Albert was born 8 August 1853 in Pella, and baptized 26 March 1859.6 Albert married Gertie De Penning on 3 August 1871 in Marion County7 and they had 11 children:
Nellie Burggraaf m. Everett Plate,
Sallie Burggraaf m. Gerrit Plate,
Leonard Burggraaf,
Minnie Burggraaf m. Cary Edward Smith
Katie Burggraaf m. James R. Kisor
William Burggraaf m. Cora Addie Smith
Jennie Burggraaf m. John Elmer McMahan
John Burggraaf m. Anna M. Jones
Walter A. Burggraaf m. Leola Patton
Martha A. Burggraaf
Andrew Lewis Burggraaf m. Elsie Collins

An unsourced family group sheet states that Albert died 14 May 1928 in Mahaska County. I have not yet searched for a death certificate or cemetery for Albert.

Goverdina Burggraaf was born 27 March 1855 in Pella and baptized 26 March 1859 in the First Reformed Church of Pella8. I don’t know who Goverdina was named for – if anyone. It was a popular name in this time period and usually becomes Diana/Dina/Deena on census records. Deena married Dries (Charles) Van Hulzen (possibly Van Houlzen) on 15 January 1872.9 After this date the only documentation I have found is the 1880 census10 where they are next to Willem and Sygje. This census shows Deena with her husband Chas Van Houlzen and their four children:
Charles Van Houlzen,
Colins Van Houlzen, (indexed as Cohus, but who knows)
Jane Van Houlzen,
Willemine Van Houlzen

According to Sygje’s 1900 census records Goverdina is deceased prior to 1900.

Annetje Burggraaf was born 19 April 1857 in Pella and like her older siblings was baptized 26 March 1859.11 Anna married her cousin Arie Burggraaf on 4 October 1886 in Sioux County -this date is from an unsourced family group sheet. Anna appears on the available census records through 1930 and Sygje was staying with Anna when she passed away. Anna and Arie had three children:
Peter Burggraaf
Sadie Burggraaf m. Hans Kiel,
Jennie Burggraaf m. Alfred P. Beckman

She and her husband Arie died in Sioux County, Iowa.



1, First Reformed Church (Pella, Iowa, USA), “Communicants and Baptisms 1857-1975,” Baptism Jantje Burggraaf 26 Mar 1859; FHL microfilm 0,985,401
2. “Iowa Marriages, 1851-1900,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 10 Jan 2010), Jantje Burggraaf to Jan Van Ginkel, 5 Apr 1872.
3. 1900 U.S. census, Polk, Iowa population schedule, Des Moines, enumeration district (ED) 94, p. 8B, dwelling 161, family 164, J. J. VanGinkel, age 54; digital images, Ancestry (htp://www.ancestry.com: accessed 11 Jul 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 454
4. First Reformed Church (Pella, Iowa, USA), “Communicants and Baptisms 1857-1975,” Baptism Sygje Burggraaf 4Jan 1891; FHL microfilm 0,985,401.
5. State Historical Society of Iowa, “Iowa State Census, 1895,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 10 Feb 2010), John Vanginkle.
6. First Reformed Church (Pella, Iowa, USA), “Communicants and Baptisms 1857-1975,” Baptism Albert Burggraaf 26 Mar 1859; FHL microfilm 0,985,401.
7. “Iowa Marriages, 1851-1900,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 10 Feb 2010), Albert Burggraaf to Gertie De Penning, 3 Aug 1871.
8. First Reformed Church (Pella, Iowa, USA), “Communicants and Baptisms 1857-1975,” Baptism Goverdina Burggraaf 26 Mar 1859; FHL microfilm 0,985,401.
9. “Iowa Marriages, 1851-1900,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 10 Feb 2010), Goverdina Burggraaf to Dries Van Hulzen, 15 Jan 1872.
10. 1880 U.S. census, Marion County, Iowa population schedule, Lake Prairie Twp., enumeration district (ED) 120, p. 524, dwelling 72, family 72, Deena Van Houlzen; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 17 Feb 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 354.
11. First Reformed Church (Pella, Iowa, USA), “Communicants and Baptisms 1857-1975,” Baptism Annetye Burggraaf; FHL microfilm 0,985,401.

Dutch Naming System

It is important to understand the Dutch naming system since it frequently provides clues about other generations. The Dutch followed a basic pattern of naming their children for relatives. Generally it went in this order:

First son – maternal grandfather
Second son – paternal grandfather
First daughter – paternal grandmother
Second daughter – maternal grandmother
Note – if one of the grandparents is deceased then that name is often used first.

The next children are usually named for brothers and sisters of the parents. There is not a specific order that I have seen.

Not every family followed this practice! It is not unusual to find siblings that take different naming paths with one brother following the tradition, and one brother not. The naming pattern simply becomes another tool for you to use in researching.

Recycling names is the hardest thing to get a grip on. When a child died then the next child of that gender would often receive that name – especially if it was the name of the grandparent. When researching on Genlias I once ran into a family that had five children named Jan, four that died in infancy and one that reached maturity. Also a little unusual to us is the naming of a child from a second marriage for a deceased first spouse.

Female names are frequently the same as male names with only the suffix difference of ina, the, pje, je, or simply an “a.” The male Cornelis becomes the female Cornelia or Neeltje, Hendrik becomes Hendrika or Hendrikje, Jan become Jantje.

When you begin your research, you may need to do additional research to find the other versions of your ancestor’s name. Sygje Stek is listed on her tombstone as Sallie. Sygje is how it appears on her birth registration signed by her father, but I have seen it spelled in several different ways both in Dutch and in English.

Dutch to English

Easy to see:
Jan = John, Pieter = Peter, Matthijs/Thijs = Matthew, Dirk = Richard,
Hendrik = Henry, Maartje/Marie/Rie = Mary, Sienje = Cynthia.

Some are not so easy to see:
Teunis = Anthony, Tryjntje = Katherine/Katie, Sygje = Sadie/Sallie,
Klaas = Nicholas.

There are a lot of sites available online if you are interested in finding out more about Dutch naming practices or a particular name.

The Stek Family

Before I move on I want to talk a little about Sygje and her family. I found it fascinating that this tiny little woman would come to America all by herself. I spoke to a woman who specializes in Dutch history and research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City about Sygje. She told me that Dutch women were notoriously independent, and in fact, many of the Puritans that had fled England found these women to be too independent. While they shared a religion they certainly did not share the same cultural norms. Dutch women experienced a large amount of freedom and equality in their history and the English were not interested in having their women influenced by this. The English moved on to America with the Great Migration in the 17th and 18th century.

Sygje was born on 7 March 1820 and I have attached a copy of her birth registration. She is the oldest child of Aalbert Stek (abt 1793 – 26 December 1829) and Anneke (Anna) Van Blokland (abt 1783 – 13 December 1842) and was quickly joined by brother’s Ruth, Jan, Kornelis, and Pieter, and then sisters Kornelia and Aafje.

After Aalbert’s death in 1829,1 Anna married Teunis Sprong. Sygje would have been 11 at the time of their 5 March 1831 marriage.2 Her mother Anna died in 1841,3 and I can theorize that she may have taken care of her younger siblings until they were old enough to care for themselves or married. Sygje left with the first wave of immigrants in 1847 at the age of 27. Did she leave because she had no future at home after her siblings grew up? Had she already met Willem Burgraff who came from Schoonrewoerd, a village only a few miles from her home? Whatever the reasons, I believe that Sygje made the trip alone. I find no evidence of a close relation with her even though I have looked for aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins; but I find no relationships that I can pin down.

Sygje’s younger brother Jan Stek apparently makes the trip in 1870.4 He appears in several documents that discuss the later group of immigrants to Pella. I have found no records indicating that Jan ever married and I have found no record of him in Iowa other than those immigration documents. I believe that Jan Stek died in Iowa before 1880.

I have not yet been able to determine all of the siblings of Sygje’s parents. As Genlias loads older records I hope to someday be able to determine all of the family members and cousins to see if any of them immigrated.



1. Genlias database, Genlias (http://www.genlias.nl/en: accessed 9 Jul 2009), Aalbert Stek, death 26 Dec 1829, age 36, parents Jan Stek and Sijke Romijn; Civil Register – Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
2. Genlias database, Genlias (http://www.genlias.nl/en: accessed 9 Jul 2009), Marriage – Anna van Blokland and Teunis Sprong 5 Mar 1831; Civil Register – Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
3. Genlias database, Genlias (http://www.genlias.nl/en: accessed 10 Feb 1842), Death, Anneke van Blokland, 27 Dec 1841, Kedichem; Genlias database, Genlias (http://www.genlias.nl/en: accessed 9 Jul 2009), Marriage – Anna van Blokland and Teunis Sprong 5 Mar 1831; Civil Register – Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
4. Gale Research, “Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s,” database, Ancestry (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 Feb 2010), Jan Stek, 1870, Pella Iowa.

Tomstone Photo

Willem & Sygje

The Last of Willem & Sygje

Willem died in early 1900, probably in April in Marion County. I find several land transactions in April 1900 between Willem and his son John during that time. I will do further research when I’m in Salt Lake City and see if I can narrow down the date.

Sygje is enumerated with older son Albert in Union Township, Mahaska County on 6 June 1900. She appears as Sallie on this census record and is listed as a widow. On this census Sygje informs us that she is the mother of 7 children – we only know about 5 – and only 3 of them are living at the time of the census. She’s living with Albert, Anna is in Sioux County, and John is in Minnesota, so Jantje and Goverdina are both deceased before this census. This record also confirms that Sygje still does not read, write, or speak English.

Sygje dies in 1901 according to her tombstone, and I have found an obituary for her that is a little confusing. The obit reads:

MRS. WILLIAM BURGRAAF,
Died, Friday of last week at the home of her daughter in Rock Valley in Sioux county this state, Mrs. William Burgraaf, aged over 81 years. The remains were brought to Pella Saturday. Funeral services were hel Sunday forenoon at about 11 o’clock in the First Reformed Church by the pastor, Rev. H. J. Veldman after which the burial took place at the Porterville cemetery about six miles southeast of town, where they were deposited at the side of those of her husband, who preceded her in death only a few months ago.—Pella Blade.

This obituary came out of a loose group of clippings that someone had collected and has a handwritten date of 13 June 1902 on the right side. I believe either the handwritten date is in error or perhaps this is one of those “One Year ago today” or some type of compilation item. Notice it says her husband “preceded her in death only a few months ago.” Also, note that the name of the paper is at the end of the piece, indicating that this clipping is from another location and not from the Pella Blade. I have no idea of the actual date of death, but I’m sticking with the tombstone for now. I hope to clarify Sygje death date this summer.

While Willem and Sygje started out in the Porterville Cemetery they were eventually moved to Graceland Cemetery in Pella when Porterville was closed.

Willem & Sygje Photo

Willem & Sygje Burggraaf

Willem & Sygje in Iowa 1

When Willem and Sygje arrived in Pella that fall of 1847, it must have been a shock. There were few houses available and winter was coming. I have no idea where they lived that first year, but I am making a guess that it was hardly the clean dry surroundings they were used to. There is a wonderful book called Iowa Letters: Dutch Immigrants on the American Frontier by Johan Stellingwerff. It’s a slow read (not a cover to cover thriller) but it is translations of letters from immigrants to their families in Holland and from those families to the immigrants. It was amazing to read about the variety of experiences different people within the same group had, and to also to find out that not everyone stayed. The letters help you grasp the enormity of the struggles, the political and religious problems within the community, and the simple joy of a letter from home. I loved reading the parts about day-to-day life and the things that the immigrants asked their families to send or bring with them when they came.

No doubt those early years were a struggle for Willem and Sygje as they broke the land and built a home. I’m not sure where the young couple stood in the religious politics that played out in the community. They were married by Henry P Scholte, Justice of the Peace, and I also noticed that the first four of their children were all baptized on the same day, 26 March 1859, two months before youngest son Jan is born. I found no baptism record for Jan in the First Reformed Church of Pella. This does not seem to indicate regular church attendance.

Willem and Sygje appear on the 1850 census with daughter Jantje.1 The cool thing about the 1850 census in Pella is that all the Dutch women used their maiden names. When I first saw this record I thought Willem and Sygje were not married and just living together. Later I learned that the Dutch women had always used their maiden names on their government records in the Netherlands and they did so here on that first census. Willem is a laborer on this census as are his two brothers. This meant they did not own a farm, as owners in this location are listed as farmers. Older brother Pieter and his family are next door to Willem and Sygje and they appear on the bottom of the previous page.



1. 1850 U.S. census, Marion County, Iowa population schedule, Lake Prairie, p. 289, dwelling 141, family 146, Willem Burggraaf; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 9 Jul 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 187.

Leaving the Netherlands

There are lots of great books and sites that can explain, far better than I, why so many Dutch migrated in the mid-1800s. The IowaGenWeb Project has up the Pioneers of Marion County by Wm. M. Donnel,1 and Part II, Chapter VI provides a good basic story of the immigration to Pella. Our three Burggraafs, Pieter, Willem, and Peter, departed Rotterdam in April 1847 aboard the Maastroom.2 Pieter Burggraaf was the third child of Jan Burggraaf, (1811-1892); he came with his wife Cornelia Verschoor (1816-1896),3 his sons Teunis (1842-1904) and Jan (1846 – ). According to the records on Genlias, Pieter and Cornelia had two other children, Jan and Jannigje who had died young.4,5

The passenger list was my first discovery of Peter Burggraaf. He is #59 on the line directly above Pieter and lists his age as 20. Willem is passenger #196 on a separate page of the passenger list and Sygje Stek is on the line directly below him, indicating there may already have been a relationship between them. Sygje is the only member of the Stek family listed, but she may have traveled with other relatives. It should be noted that Dutch women were known to be very independent and many did travel on their own.

They arrived 2 June 1847 in Baltimore, Maryland and there are some interesting accounts of the trip available from letters and also some fun things written up in the Souvenir History of Pella.6 Apparently the Dutch women cleaned the ship from stem-to-stern while at sea, and it was remarked upon by the inspectors at the Port of Baltimore.

From Baltimore the group of immigrants traveled to Pella via Pittsburgh and St. Louis and finally arrived in the fall of 1847. Sygje and Willem married in 1848 and settled into the hard work of farming in Marion County, Iowa. Their family of 5 children is fairly small by Dutch farm standards of the day. Also unusual is that all their (known) children survived to adulthood.

Older brother Pieter had a total of 9 children and he died in Pella on 20 Jan 1892.7 He is buried in Graceland Cemetery with his wife Cornelia. I have posted a family group sheet for Pieter Burggraaf, but I don’t plan on providing any more information on his family in this blog. His line is well documented on Ancestry, Rootsweb and FamilySearch.

The family of Peter Burggraaf (I have come to think of him as Peter the Younger) will be discussed as they are closely intertwined with Willem’s family.



1. William M. Donnel, Pioneers of Marion County (N.p.: n.p., 1872), Part II: Chapter VI, transcribed on the Iowa GenWeb Project, http://iagenweb.org/marion/DONNEL.
2. National Archives, Washington, D.C., “Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1848,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Jul 2009), Ship name: Maasstroom, Passenger: Willem Burggraaf, age 24, Farmer; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, Maryland.
3. Genlias database, Genlias (http://www.genlias.nl/en : accessed 9 Jul 2009), Marriage – Pieter Burggraaf and Cornelia Verschoor 2 May 1840; Civil Register – Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
4. Genlias database, Genlias (http://www.genlias.nl/en : accessed 9 Jul 2009), Death – Jan Burggraaf, 24 May 1841; Civil Register – Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
5. Genlias database, Genlias (http://www.genlias.nl/en : accessed 9 Jul 2009), Death – Jannigje Burggraaf, 12 Jun 1845, age 1; Civil Register – Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
6. G.A. Stout, Souvenir History of Pella Iowa, (Booster Press, 1922).
7. Graceland Cemetery (Marion County, Iowa), Pieter Burggraaf marker.