My Bevers Family History
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Coming to America - The Great Migration

The Bevers Family's participation in the Great Migration of the late nineteenth century begins with the marriage of Elisabeth (Bet) Bevers to Pieter Spierings in 1882. Immediately after the wedding (Feb. 16) they gathered up their belongings, along with Bet's younger brother Johannis, and a month later arrivedin the United States aboard the SS Maas. They made their way to what is now Kaukauna, Wisconsin, where they made their home.

Young Johannis, age 24, is identified in the manifest of the Maas as Janus Bevers, age 24. For some reason, perhaps from childhood, he went by the name Adrianus. In 1889, the genealogical record says, Johannis returned to Nistelrode for his marriage to Josina Wonders, on February 21.

This is a pivotal time for the family of Johannis Bevers and Adriana van de Laar, for in August of that year, nearly everyone in the family left for America... everyone, that is, but his son Leonardus, and his wife, Antonette van Schijndel. Antonette was nearing the birth of their first child, Johannes. A passage across the Atlantic for Leonardus and his family is apparently ruled out at this time.

I have spent a lot of time in an attempt to locate the ship and its manifest accounting for this passage, with no success. Someday, the Immigrant Ships' Transcriber's Guild will be caught up, and hopefully, I'll finally find this precious record. For now, I must bide my time, waiting, much as Leonardus did, until March of 1893.

By that time, Leonardus' father, Johannis Bevers had died in Green Bay, Green Bay, Wisconsin. His mother, Adriana van de Laar, had probably moved to the Little Chute area to live with one of her daughters. His parents had never seen his children, their grandchildren. Enough time had passed. If he was going to move his young family to America, it was now, or never.

He packed those possessions he and his family could, and in late March, Leonardus, Antonette, and their three sons Johannes, Wilhelmus, and 9-month-old Antonius boarded the SS Werkendam in Rotterdam, bound for New York via Boulogne. Making the crossing in third class steerage, the Bevers family arrived at Ellis Island in the Port of New York on April 5.

Below are fragments of the manifests for the passage of Piet Spierings, his wife Bet Bevers, and her brother Johannes aboard the SS Maas; and for the passage of Leonardus Bevers and his family aboard the SS Werkendam. I've also found a photo of the Werkendam, possibly from its days when she was known as the British King.


SS_Maas_manifest

This is a page from the manifest of the ship SS Maas, indicating Bet Bevers, Pieter Speirings, and "Janus" Bevers as passengers.


This is a page from the manifest of the ship SS Werkendam, indicating Leonardus, Antonia, Johannes, Wilhelmus, and Antonius Bevers as passengers. (Courtesy EllisIsland.org)

Werkendam Manifest
SS Werkendam

Photo of the ship SS Werkendam, undated, on which Leonardus and his family made the crossing to America. Prior to being scuttled, it served for a time christened as The British King. I cannot be certain about which christening this photo represents.


The first member of our Bevers family to become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America was Johannes (Adrianus) Bevers, younger brother of Leonardus, who came to the U.S. with his sister Elizabeth and her new husband in 1882. Notice that the signature is "John Bevers"; this was an early point of confusion for me, as Johannes' death card identifies him as "Adrianus". John Bevers would return to Nistelrode to marry Josina Wonders in 1889. This marriage was a trigger point for his parents and most of his brothers and sisters to emigrate to America. (Copy courtesy of Jim Bevers)

Adrianus Bevers Citizenship
William Bevers Citizenship

I have no record indicating that Leonardus or his father, Johannes, ever became naturalized citizens of the United States. Its likely that Johannes died before learning to speak English, and thus did not qualify for citizenship. Perhaps Leonardus also died as a subject of Dutch Royalty. What is known is that Leonardus' son, William, became a naturalized citizen in August of 1914. What I find fascinating about the naturalization papers of this era are the descriptive comments about the individual. William, for example, is described as being 5 ft. 9 1/2 in. tall, with a medium complexion, brown hair, blue eyes, and a scar on his middle finger of his left hand. Also note the lack of knowledge regarding the vessel on which he arrived in the USA as a very young boy. (Copy courtesy of Jim Bevers)


The next of Leonardus' sons to proudly become a naturalized citizen of the United States was Antonius (Anton), in March of 1916. Anton is described as being over 5 ft. tall, dark complexion, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. I take interest in the fact that Anton's occupation was electrician, the first of many that I'm aware of in our family. As was his brother, Bill, Anton was unaware of the name of the correct vessel that brought him to America. (Copy courtesy of Jim Bevers)

Anton Bevers Citizenship
John Bevers Citizenship

The eldest son of Leonardus Bevers, Johannes (John), was the last of his Dutch-born sons to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, in May of 1917. At 5 ft. 9-1/2" tall, 165 pounds, with a medium complexion, brown hair, grey eyes, John's other identifying feature was a crooked little finger on his right hand. Like his brothers before him, he was under the impression that he arrived aboard the ship "Rotterdam". Unmarried at the time, John was on a mission to obtain his citizenship, as he was about to return to Europe as a soldier in the US Army during the Great War. (Copy courtesy of Jim Bevers)

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