Ever since I was little I’ve been aware of my unusual last name. My grandfather told me our name was correct and in the village where he grew up and lived his whole live was one branch of our family that changed their last name as they found it a bit ordinary. So my grandfather told me. I’ve always wondered how we got our last name. I know it must have been around 1811 when Napoleon obliged last names.
Thankfully my ancestors didn’t come up with an awkward last name. I praised myself lucky with that. And in school, in history class, I got told my last name was probably german. Which posed all kinds of problems as the other kids decided this was yet another way to bully me. But maybe more on that in a later blog post.
When I was 18 I tried to find out more about my ancestors, but didn’t get very far. When I met my husband he was intrigued when I told him the story my grandfather told me. He wanted to find out more. So we went online. Luckily for us Tresoar, the Frisian historical center had put lots of archives online in the intermediate years.
I knew the names of my great grandparents and within a few hours we found out so much. We found out my great great grandmother had 16 children, of which were 4 twins. & children died within the first few years of their life. I also found out that my great great great grandfather had lost his father when he was just 4 years old. His brother was 2.
We also found that another ancestor was born 11 months after her “father” died…
These stories are very intriguing, but not as intriguing as the story of how our name came to be. In 1886 the first ancestor we could find traveled with the french army from Rotenkirchen in Germany to the Netherlands. He married a Frisian girl and they had 8 children. Their 3rd son married in 1819. But instead of his last name having LD in it, the official made a spelling error and he ended up with LL in his last name. His first-born son was born with that error in his name.
This, in a nut shell is how our name came to be. But the funny thing is that what my grandfather told me about the other branch of the family wasn’t true at all. But his believes (which he had gotten from his father) made that he never talked to the other family members. Since I’ve found out what went ‘wrong’ the two sides of the family are now talking to each other.
I’ve also found a cousin in the US. Her great great grandmother and my great grandmother were sisters. Three of the children from that family moved to the US in 1913. I can’t even begin to imagine how that must have been. I don’t think the two girls ever went back to the Netherlands, but their youngest brother did go back. He fought in WWI and WWII and, unbelievably, survived both wars. I sometimes wonder if he ever went back to see his mother and father.
I’ve told my cousin as much as I know of our family. I’ve found pictures that I didn’t even know we had. I’ve found death notices, names, dates, all kinds of information.
But what made me smile was a little note on my ancestors log from the french army (1886) in which they described how he looked. He was 165 cm tall, had blond hair and blue eyes. This might not be important to anyone else, but it is to me.