My Bevers Family History
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Home at Dijk 40

The forebears of Leonardus Bevers, as far back as the year 1600, are known to have been born in and around Nistelrode. Except to marry, very few left, and even then they didn’t wander far. The records show a few that married or died in Uden, a few kilometers away.

The lure of a new life in America was surely strong, as evidenced by the enormity of the Great Migration in the second half of the nineteenth century. There were certainly reports from an enclave of Dutch émigrés in an area of Wisconsin that was reported to be much like Nistelrode and the surrounding area of towns and hamlets. Father Theodorus van den Broek had helped to establish a settlement in Little Chute, along the fertile banks of the Fox River in 1848. One of his parishioners, Arnoldus Verstegen, had created a sensation with his letters home to his family. He had also accumulated a modest bit of wealth as a miller and businessman. His success epitomized the vast opportunity that America had to offer to hard-working men and women. Nearly everyone in Noord Brabant knew of someone who had settled along the Fox. Among that first group of settlers was the family of Martinus Jansen, my forebear on my paternal grandmother's family.

But how strong did the draw of new opportunity have to be to uproot Johannes Bevers, and then his son, Leonardus, from the ancestral familiarity of Donzel? Was life becoming so harsh in Holland?

For a brief insight into day-to-day life in Nistelrode, let’s take a look at a typical household at Dijk 40 in Part A (Donzel) in the years 1850 to 1859. This crowded household was headed by the family matron identified in the Housing Register (Bevolkingsregister) as Hendrina van der Broek, widowed farmer. Her husband, Geerts Cornelis Bevers, was deceased by this time. Hendrina is identified elsewhere in our family record as Gerdina, but transcription errors or deteriorated records could easily account for this discrepancy. Perhaps Gerdina is a family name in honor of a family member. Hendrina would die in Nistelrode on April 4, 1877.

Also counted in this household are Johannes Bevers, and Adrianna van de Laar, at first not married, then their status amended to husband and wife on February 27, 1851. Theodorus Bevers, born 1823, farmer. Cornelis Bevers, born 1827, farmer. Geertruida van den Broek, born 1832, maidservant. Luidina Bevers born August of 1852. Johanna van der Broek, born 1802, widow. Petronella Bevers, born May, 1853. Elizabeth Bevers, born October, 1854. Leonardus Bevers, born April, 1856. Johannis Bevers, born December 28, 1857.

We know many of these people. Petronella (Nelly), Elizabeth, Leonardus and Johannis came to America as Nellie, Elizabeth (Bet), Leonard, and Adrian. Luidina is identified in the family record as Geerdina, who died in 1861. Still to be born to Johannes and Adrianna, Cornelis, (born March, 1861), a second Geerdina (born and died in January, 1863), Johanna (born September 1866), and Anna Maria (born April, 1871, died May, 1872).

Theodorus and Cornelis are brothers of Johannes the elder. They marry cousins, Antonia Manders and Arnolda van de Ven (respectively) on the same date, February 4, 1863.

Johanna vd Broek is likely the younger sister of Hendrina, and Geertruida, a daughter or niece.

Elizabeth married Petrus Spierings on February 16, 1882. A month later, she and Petrus, with her younger brother, Johannis, would arrive in America the following month aboard the “Maas”.

Whatever drew Leonardus’ siblings to America had not yet convinced him to leave. This is fortunate for us, as Leonardus and his parents appeared before the magistrate in Uden on May 20, 1887 to declare his intent to marry Antonia Maria van Schijndel.

Young Johannis Bevers would return to Nistelrode to marry Josina Wonders on February 21, 1889. He would return to America twice before returning to Nistelrode, where he died in about 1914. His death card is printed in Dutch, and search of the Dutch archives indicates that Josina, daughter of Antonie Wonders and Theodora Keeris, married again in Nistelrode, a year after Johannis death. She would die at the advanced age of 92, in the year 1942, in a convent/retirement home in Nistlerode, during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

Sister Johanna would marry Martinus van der Heijden in Little Chute, Wisconsin, in April, 1894. She would die there in February, 1899.

The marriage of Johannis (aka “Adrianus) and Josina Wonders seemed to have triggered a massive migration of the Bevers family to America. A genealogy offered by Mr. W.A. Rovers in Breda, Netherlands, suggests that Johannes and Adrianna left for America on August 17, 1889, with all of their children, except Leonardus and his family, and Adrianus and his new bride. Leonardus remained behind, the genealogy reads, because his wife, Antonette, was pregnant with their first child, Johannes.

Mr. Rovers’ genealogy indicates that Leonardus and Antonette set up a farm at Dijk 43, likely leaving the family homestead, Dijk 40, to Johannis and Josina, or other members of the Bevers family.

Life at Dijk 43

Mr. Rover’s genealogy indicates that Leonardus left his parents and the farm at Dijkstraat 40 sometime in his 20’s. It places him at Zeeland between June of 1884 and June of 1887, when he took as his bride Antonette van Schijndel.

Based on the genealogy, it appears Mr. Rovers used the Housing Register of 1890 as his guide. He refers to Area 7 of Nistelrode, known as the hamlet of Donzel, Dijk 43. Living here, Leonardus and Antonette, and their son, Johannes, born September 11, 1889. Referring to this pregnancy, Mr. Rovers indicates that the family did not leave for America on August 17, 1889, with the rest of the Bevers family because of the imminent birth. Birth at sea was obviously hazardous, and there must have been much discussion for this to be mentioned.

Another son, Willem, was born on September 6, 1891 at Donzel. Although the decision to remain in Nistelrode must have been a difficult one, it seems that Leonardus was comfortable with it. There had to be letters passing back and forth over the Atlantic… I’d give my eye teeth to see some of them!

Then, on a cool, clear December morning, in the year 1892, the farmer Leonardus Bevers, age 36 made his way from the hamlet of Donzel to visit the registrar in the town center. He had business to attend to. Yesterday had been a long day. After a long night of difficult labor, his wife, Antonette, had delivered their third son, Antonius.

His father, Johannes, would have been proud. A third son! But thoughts of his father, who had died in October of 1891, would have to wait. First, he must certify the birth of the latest addition to his growing family.

Along the way, Leonardus stopped to see his friend Hendrickus van der Heyden, the merchant. He would need witnesses to the declaration of Antonius’ birth. Giving him the good news, he gathered up Hendrickus and continued on his way. Passing the bakery, Leonardus hailed its proprieter, Lambertus van Drunen, to join them on this happy mission. There would be time for a quick measure of ale after finishing at the registrar’s, but then he would have to be on his way. There were plans to be made. This would be his last walk to the registrar’s.

At the top of this page, I've included a graphic depicting a map of the Nistelrode area circa 1865. Its intent is to give one an idea of the area as it may have looked in that time frame. For a modern roadmap of the Nistelrode area, click here. For a satellite view of the same scaled area, click here.

"View of Road to Braband" - Nicolaes Wicart (1768-1815)

Recently, I received this goodwill piece from Mr. Steef Pennings of Heemkundekring Nistelvorst, the Nistelrode Historical Society. In September, 2009, the society sponsored a local exhibit, "The Card", in which they explored the use of old postcards to trace and reconstruct the development and growth of the Nistelrode area. The centerpiece of this exhibit was a card with this watercolor painting on its face. Mr. Pennings describes the painting as "Old Church of Kleinwijk at District 4 of Nistelrode". In his e-mail, he notes that the church in the watercolor stood in Kleinwijk, a hamlet visible in the old map above, to the north of central Nistelrode. Note that to get to Kleinwijk, one would have had to use the road that passed through Donzel. It is quite possible that this scene was painted from a vantage point near there. Wicart probably painted this in the latter 18th century.

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Theme art copyright Virginia A. Cisewski (2008)