A touching farewell to a Dutch husband

Dirk van den Heuvel (1725–1800) is my 5th-great-grandfather; a Dutch man who apparently spent his entire life in the Netherlands. In fact, his children and grandchildren on my line stayed in Holland as well. It wasn’t until his great-granddaughter (and my great-great-grandmother) Anna Kant van den Heuvel came to North America that his family ventured beyond Holland.

In my great-aunt Anelia Hayes’ 1991 “Edell Family History,” she stated on page 58 that “Anna Kant Vanden Heuvel’s other great grandparents were Dirk Vanden Heuvel born in 1725 and died in 1800 and Cornelia Zweart born in 1734 and died in 1814.” She appears to have based this on a pedigree chart done by Marie Hogan on November 3, 1990, and included on page 61 of Anelia’s family history.

This was how I first learned the names of Dirk van den Heuvel and his wife Cornelia Zwart. Almost 30 years ago I added these names and dates to my family tree and there they’ve stayed without much further attention for three decades. Until today.

So why did I decide to give Dirk van den Heuvel attention today? Well, first I found a series of blog posts by a professional Dutch genealogist who’s trying to prove her 29-generation descent from Eleanor of Acquitane using the rigorous Genealogical Proof Standard. On her possible Eleanor of Acquitaine line are two ancestors with the last name of van den Heuvel. For those descended from my Edel and van den Heuvel ancestors, don’t get your hopes up of French royal ancestry—”van den Heuvel” is a toponymic surname meaning “from the hill,” and is the 31st most common surname in the Netherlands. But if got me thinking that I should look at my van den Heuvel line again.

The Dutch have taken a very open and comprehensive approach to records of interest to family historians. With free sites like WieWasWie (Who was who) and openarchives for vital records and church records, and Delpher for historical newspapers, there’s a wealth of Dutch family history waiting for those willing to look.

In fact, I started to write this post ten days ago, but was overwhelmed with the amount of new information I found (and continue to find) on these and other Dutch genealogy websites. But rather than overwhelm you with what I found, I’ll just present one little gem I found.

My 5th-great-grandfather Dirk van den Heuvel died 220 years ago today (on January 9, 1800). Among the documents I found this past week was Dirk’s obituary, published on page 1 of the January 13, 1800, edition of the Haagsche Courant newspaper. It was written by his widow, my 5th-great-grandmother Cornelia Zwart (1734–1814):

Communiceere aan alle Vrienden en Bekenden dat heden avond ten half negen uuren, het den alleen wyzen God van Leeven en Dood behaagd heeft, myn waarde Echtgenoot DIRK VAN DEN HEUVEL, Heere van Genderen, na een langzaam Verval van Krachten in den ouderdom van circa 75 Jaaren het tydelyke met het Eeuwige zagt en zoo vertrouwe Zalige te verwisfelen.
den 9 January 1800
C. de Zwart, Wed.

My translation of the original Dutch:

I wish to communicate to all friends and acquaintances that this evening at half past eight, it has pleased the only God of Life and Death that my dear husband DIRK VAN DEN HEUVEL, a Lord* of Genderen, after a slow decay of vitality at around 75 years of age, has passed peacefully from this temporary existence into the eternal and ever-trusting bliss. Genderen, January 9, 1800 C. de Zwart, widow of DIRK VAN DEN HEUVEL.

*According to two native Dutch speakers I consulted, “Heere van Genderen” (Lord of Genderen” or “Master of Genderen”) appears to indicate an official title or status for Dirk. According to one of my Dutch informants, when I asked if this meant he was a mayor or council member, or just a respected elder, told me:

It sounds like he was a minor noble, with the title to the town of Genderen, and not a mayor. Genderen is a really small town, so he would probably have been the poshest person in that town, and be a member of the nobility.

Well, that’s certainly an unexpected development, and one that will be an interesting avenue for future research.

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