A New Beginning

A widowed farmer,  Marinus headed back to Holland in December 1926, in search of a wife and a mother for his three children.  What compelled him to travel 2500 miles to New York,  cross the Atlantic by ship for about 10 days,  three young children in tow,  just to find a wife.  Surely,  Oregon had respectable women to choose from.  Apparently John,  one of Marinus’s brothers, also returned to Holland in 1921 to marry after being in the states for several years.

Sometime in 2001 or 2002,  my grandma stayed with me for two weeks.  I have notebooks containing some of her family stories.

After arriving in Holland,  it is unclear where Marinus was staying and if he actually went to work while he was there.  But I do know that my grandma says she was not with her dad,  but she was staying with good friends or her real mom’s parents.  He was probably staying with his family,  giving his children time to be with their grandparents.  According to my grandma,   her mother’s family had been good friends or lived across the street from a family with several girls.  I believe she was spending a lot of time with this family and getting to know them well.  They had been there for several months and my grandma felt like her dad was starting to give up on finding someone.  A little 11-year-old matchmaker,  she told her dad, “I know just the one for you.”  She introduced them and said,”they liked each other instantly.”

Paula Heinink and her 4th grade class in HollandHer name was Paula W M Heinink.  She was born February 19, 1898 to Antonius Heinink and Wilhelmina Reyers.  She was a fourth grade school teacher at the time.

They were married August 24,  1927.  He was 45 and she was 29.

On October 6, 1927 they left Rotterdam via the S.S. Volendam steamer 2nd class, arriving directly in to New York,  by-passing Ellis Island.  Paula had eye surgery when she was two and they were afraid Ellis Island Immigration office would turn her away.

She arrived in America for the  first time,  October 21, 1927.  Married,  an instant mother of three,  she must have been a little apprehensive about her new life.  But it appears,  as she settled in,  she began to take on her new role quite nicely….


My ggrandfather, Marinus Smit, was born October 24, 1882 in Heemskerk, Holland to Adrianus Jacob Smit and Maria Hilbers.

He came from a large family.

Six brothers and one sister.  All but two brothers we think,  ended up coming to the states.

Intelligent, handsome and hard-working as I have been told many times.  Per manifest in 1910,  6′ 1/2″,  medium complexion,  light brown hair and blue eyes.  His education included reading and writing English before he came to the U.S. and am hoping to find out all that consisted of.

I don’t know much about his life pre-America,  but as I search,  I hope to discover more stories that I will scatter throughout my blog.

In my previous post,  I said I only had one picture of Gysbertha.  I do have a couple more.  Marinus with some of his family – he is third from left back row and Bertha is standing in front of him.  My grandma is sitting on the ground,  first child on the left.  I believe her to be about three or four in this picture.  In October of 1910,  he arrived at Port Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  He is listed as single, a 27-year-old farm laborer,  last known residence living in Holland with his father.  His brother Nicholaus is also listed but unclear if they arrived together.  Manifest shows different dates.  Nicholaus is listed as married and 25 years old and last known residence is Canada.  It is likely he must have went to Holland and made the return trip back to Canada with his brother.  The manifest shows Nicholaus had previously been to the U.S. in 1905 and 1909.  It is unclear whether the Port of arrival was just through Canada or if they stayed there.  I do not find any other arrivals to the U.S. until the arrival with Bertha in 1914.  It appears the younger brother was possibly more adventurous or established,  showing he had been to the states 5 years before his brother and had paid for himself and Marinus.  Nicholaus  discloses he is carrying $120 in his pocket,  and Marinus $20.

At some point,  we know he returned to Holland where he married his first wife,  Gysbertha Van der Leauw.  Will I ever find out if he knew her before and went to states to establish some kind of plan for their life and then went back to marry and bring her back.  Hopefully I will get some answers.

In 1914,  they returned from Holland and settled in Nyssa,  Oregon.  They made their living farming crops,  etc.  Unknown amount of acreage but the farm is still there.  There are more details about their life in my previous entry,  but in their 11 years together,  they shared three children,  heartache and loss,  and I hope to think they shared a little happiness along the way.

In February of 1926,  he found himself widowed with three children.  Ages 11, 9 and 4.  This was apparently was more than he could handle because on December 23, 1926,  he was issued a sworn affidavit in lieu of a passport,  to return to Holland,  “to find a wife.”  The story as I know it.  This picture says it all.  It’s about a father not giving up on his children,  it’s about hope for a better future….

Affidavit to travel to Holland

Out of Darkness comes Light

Give me just one version of the surname on each document I have and it would be so easy.  One name.  One theory.  One answer.  But piecing the puzzle together is what attracts us to search in the first place, isn’t it?

My ggrandmother, Gysbertha (Bertha) Van Der Leauw,  was born September 21, 1887 in Hillegom, Holland/Netherlands.   I know very little about her, including the correct spelling of her given name.  Language barriers and pronunciation issues make it difficult especially when you are coming from the Old Country, as referred to in my family as, “anywhere but the United States.”  I know my own interpretation of “sounds like this” is completely different from “looks like this.”

She was born to a G. or S. Van Der Leauw and an unknown mother.  She had two sisters, Gertrude  (who married a man named Martinus M. Kock or Koch) and Marie.   One  brother,  Frances.  Unknown if death or marriage played a part in her mother remarrying to a man named Frances Smit.  They had two sons John and Simon.

Gysbertha married Marinus Smit in Hillegom sometime in 1914.

To complicate matters to the family researcher, my gggrandmother’s second  marriage to  Frances Smit and my ggrandmother’s marriage to Marinus Smit are two totally different Smit families.

Scan 130060005 My ggrandparents Marinus and Bertha left the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands August 1, 1914 via the ship the Potsdam  and arrived at Ellis Island August 12, 1914.

Scan 130060004

The ships manifest list her as 5’7″ tall and 26 years old.  So far,  this is the only picture I have of her.  It is her wedding picture.Scan 120380014

After arriving in New York,  they moved to Nyssa, Oregon and in 1915,  Bertha gave birth to their first son, Adrianus J. Smit.  A.k.a. – Harry, Arie, Smitty or Smit.

On October 18, 1916 my grandmother Hillengonda ( Hilda) Marie Smit was born.

Two stillborn births followed, Anthony and Frances.

In 1921 another son, Marinus ( Nean) Smit was born.

And finally in 1925,  Bertha was pregnant again.  She gave birth to yet another stillborn baby.  A girl named Marie.  She had developed “toxemia of pregnancy” and “double pneumonia” as listed on her death certificate.  She died in childbirth.  She was 37 years old.

She is buried in Ontario, Oregon at Sunset Cemetery.

Although this  was far more common back then,  it is still incredibly sad.  My grandma was 9 years old when she lost her mother.  I can’t even imagine.

But the story doesn’t end here.  Out of darkness comes light…

Might as well start somewhere right?

Smit family photo, circa 1925

SMIT  family photo, circa 1925

Creating this blog in September of 2012 quite frankly intimidated me so much that I logged off and pushed it aside until now.  What the heck?  A new year, might as well start somewhere right?    With very little knowledge of how this whole thing works,  my blog will mostly be photos, stories, documents,  and information to pass on to my relatives.  In the process, it would be amazing to find a connection to my past.

I’ve decided to start with one of my favorite photos I have of my mother’s mother’s  side of the family.  My Catholic relatives from Holland.

With very little detective work,  it makes the most sense that this photo was possibly taken in 1925.  A family gathering for the funeral of my great great- grandmother.  It was taken in Ontario, Oregon (Eastern Oregon), at the Molenaur  home.  My great great-grandmother is absent in this photo but her husband and children are present, along with his brothers and families.  My grandma’s mom died when she was 8 or 9 and it appears she was about that age in this photo.  She was born Gysbertha Van Der Leauw  on September 21, 1887.

This family used a lot of name abbreviations and a lot of people were named after others.  John, Mary, Maria, and  Marie were extremely common so it can get confusing.

BACK ROW-left to right

Arie Smit, son of Nick Smit, nephew to Marinus, Marinus Smit (my great great grandfather), Nick Smit, brother to Marinus, Garret Smit, brother to Marinus,  BJ Schram ( Mace, married to Mary), brother-in-law to Marinus, John Smit, brother to Marinus, John Smit, son of  Nick Smit, nephew to Marinus, and Arie Smit, brother to Marinus.

SECOND ROW-left to right

Arie Smit,(Uncle Harry),  son of Marinus and Gysbertha Smit,  my grandmother’s oldest brother, and Jake, son of Nick Smit, nephew to Marinus.

THIRD ROW- left to right

Liz daughter of Nick, Mary married to John, Johanna married to Nick, Mary married to Garret, holding baby Core, Mary married to Mace, Mary married to Arie.


Marie, daughter of Mary and John.

Mary, daughter of Mary and Mace.

Marie, daughter of Mary and Arie.

FRONT ROW SITTING-left to right

Marinus Smit, (Uncle Nean), son of Marinus and Gysbertha Smit, my grandma’s younger brother, Hillegonda (Hilda), Marie Smit, my grandmother, daughter of Marinus and Gysbertha Smit, Arie Smit, (Ike), son of John and Mary, Mary, daughter of Johanna and Nick, Arie, son of Mary and Garret, Pete, son of Mary and Garret, John, son of Mary and Garret, Rudy, son of Mary and Mace, Arie, son of Mary and Arie, and Johanna, daughter of Mary and Arie.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.