Monday, November 29, 2010

A Dutch Man in England

My maternal grandmother was named Wanda van der Sluys. She was born in 1911 and raised in Utah. Her father William George van der Sluys was born in England in 1865. I was able to trace the family history in England back another three generations to one family of origin who appeared to have emigrated from Holland. I didn’t know how or where or when however. I will list the male line for simplicity:

William George (born 1865) to James Richards van der Sluys
James Richards (born 1837) to George
George (born 1790) to Lambertus
There may be another Lambertus born to a Lambertus in here, but no proof yet
Lambertus (born 1727) to Jan who was a wine merchant and Amsterdam Theater and Bar manager
Jan (born 1690) to Lambertus (born 1677) who was a goldsmith, Amsterdam Theater manager
and so on

I am not sure if Lambertus was the son of the Lambertus (b. 1727) I am about to discuss or the man himself. If this is the Lambertus born in Amsterdam he would have had a second family very late in life. But given that he died about 1800 and was called a dancing master it could be the same Lambertus.

Several van der Sluys descendants were looking for the answer to the same question: How did a Dutch man come to be in England? The answer came from an Australian angel. Last year I was contacted by a man in Australia named Leslie van der Sluys. He is a lithographer and had been corresponding with a colleague in Holland. The colleague noted the Dutch surname and asked Leslie if he would like him to do a bit of research in the Amsterdam archives for the van der Sluys name. Here is the story that was uncovered:

The van der Sluys family were prominent members of the Amsterdam theater scene in the 1600‘s and 1700's.There are numerous mentions of the family in books on the theater and their connections to other theater people. For generations they married other theater people and their kids went on the stage as early as possible. They sent their children to Paris to be trained with the best dancers and singers. Lambertus Vandersluys and his wife Alida Crull/Krul had three children Jan, Paulina, and Willemijna. Paulina went on to marry Jacob Backer and they owned property in Utrecht. Jan was my ancestor. He had four children with his first wife, Hendrina Duym. The Duym family were also noted actors and Hendrina’s parents, Isaac Duym and Lysbet Hendrie, took her three living children from their abusive father upon Hendrina’s death at the young age of 23. Her husband Jan went on to marry Maria Voster. The two fought bitterly. However, Maria bore Jan seven children. During all this upheaval Jan was managing the careers of two of his children from his first marriage, Lambertus and Alida. The children studied in Paris and when grown joined Jan at the theater in Amsterdam. To be the theater manager was coveted position and had been held by both Jan and his father Lambertus. In other words they had a life that would have been the envy of many and not to be taken for granted.

Jan and his second wife were fighting so much that he arranged another husband for her, to which she agreed. Maria Voster’s lawyer opposed the new marriage. The lawyer was causing such a problem that Jan sent a Swedish sea captain to coerce the lawyer into allowing the marriage. The lawyer and the sea captain got drunk and they started fighting. The sea captain killed the lawyer. He then dismembered the body and spread it around the city to conceal his crime. Eventually the whole sordid affair came to court and Jan was suspected of murder for hire. The captain confessed, taking full responsibility and exonerating Jan. The sentence imposed on the 82 year-old captain was to be drawn and quartered in a public square. Although Jan was not charged he did spend time in jail awaiting trial and at trial he was banned from the city of Amsterdam for life. He took his two protege children to London and they began appearing on the stage at Covent Garden in 1748, the same year Jan was banished.

After years of wondering how Lambertus van der Sluys came to be in England I finally had an answer. He joined his father in exile and remained in England thereafter. There is a great book about theater people in England which gives the rest of the story. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors and Actresses ... By Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans. The book can be found on google books in it's entirety. Alida van der Sluys married Joseph Granier of a famous French theater family. They are listed in playbills and pay rosters in England, Ireland, and Scotland for the next few decades. Lambertus and Mrs. van der Sluys, probably his wife, are also on the bill in Dublin, Glasgow, London, and Hull, England. As far as I know Lambertus (or his son) ended up in Lostwithiel, Cornwall, England. That Lambertus was listed as a Dancing Master in a parish register, so the theater arts were passed down if it was his son and not the man himself.

Years later there was a story in the local Amsterdam newspaper about Jan living in Rotterdam in a house along the river with his own personal barge for traveling the country.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Maglehem, Sweden

Maglehem is pronounced MAH gle hem, similar to Bethlehem.

My great great grandfather Jens Monson was raised in Olseröd, Kristianstad, Sweden. Although he lived in Olseröd I visited the nearby village of Maglehem, about two kilometers south. Jens first wife Hannah Swenson descended from many generations of Maglehem residents, although she was born elsewhere. Jens and Hannah married in the U.S. but both originated in Maglehem. Because of the timing of the trip I was not able to see both Maglehem and Olseröd and had to make a choice, I chose Maglehem. Maglehem literally means Big Home. A bit facetious maybe given that it currently has 160 residents and does not appear to have ever been much larger.

Maglehem was where the Monson family worshipped, attended school, and shopped. By bus the two villages are about 45 minutes south of the metropolis of Kristianstad and are still almost exactly as they would have been 130 years ago. There are no modern houses and the businesses are gone. The area once boasted numerous breweries and distilleries. Only a couple remain today, including the Absolut Vodka distillery in Åhus, about 20 kilometers north of Maglehem.

I spent many hours planning the logistics of my trip to Maglehem since it was a bit off the main rail line. I did not know it when making my plans that the day I picked for my expedition was a national holiday, All Saints Day. I settled myself on the highspeed train at 8:00 a.m. and as the train pulled away from the station the conductor announced the destination, Göteborg in Western Sweden. I was supposed to be on the train bound for Malmö in Southern Sweden. This little mistake would cost me three hours and I was certain that my plans for the day were ruined. I am meticulous and careful and I do not get on wrong trains. How this could have happened this day of all days was beyond belief. I could not have known then that it was the best thing that could have happened.

As I stepped off the bus on the side of the highway at 4:00 p.m. just as the sun was setting and waited for the bus to pass I turned to the only other passenger to disembark at the Maglehem stop and asked, "Do you live here?" As Bergitta and I made the 15 minute walk into town together I learned that this night was a special celebration unique to this part of Sweden, called the Festival of Lights. It did not really have to do with the holiday, All Saints Day, it had just developed a few years earlier as a competition among cities in Skåne (pronounced Skona) to see who could put on the best light display.

Next thing I knew I was having dinner at Kerstin's house, Bergitta's friend. We enjoyed homemade beetroot soup, some kind of berry drink, that the two of them could not translate into English, home-baked bread, and apple crumble for dessert. Kerstin told me the history of the area and the Festival. The townspeople put candles in their windows and the roads were lined with candles creating a beautiful spectacle. The most amazing thing though was the church was open and candlelit. I could not have asked for a more amazing experience. Kerstin told me the church is normally only open for Sunday services and if I had been there on any other Saturday of the year it would have been locked up and dark. I was able to touch the twelfth century baptismal font where many of my ancestors were baptized. I sat in the pews where they would have sat for Sunday services. The church was built in 1300 and last altered in 1640. It would have been largely as it had been when the family left Sweden in 1875.

If I had arrived in Maglehem three hours earlier I would have never known that a celebration was happening that night. I would have walked into town alone, photographed the locked church from the outside, and got back on the bus without knowing I had missed anything. There was no indication that a celebration was going to happen once darkness fell. After dark every resident in the town was out on the streets. On the walk into Maglehem from the bus at sunset we did not pass a single soul. I have to believe there was some sort of divine intervention keeping me from my carefully planned agenda.

As Kerstin, Bergitta and I walked over every inch of the village Kerstin relayed the history of nearly every building, she told me about the thatched roofs and how it is done in Sweden with crossed wooden beams holding down the thatch at the peak. She told me how important eels are in this part of the country and that most villages have an eel hut, a thatch roofed building dug down into the ground so that as you enter you step down below the soil line. Every year there are huge eel harvesting parties. For days the residents, mostly male, use handmade nets to harvest hundreds of eels. The community uses the eel huts to process the eels, eat heartily, and drink heavily until the eel season is over. I felt like I saw nearly every building in Maglehem including the school building which was used from 1846-1916. This is where the Monson children most likely would have attended school.

After walking from one end of the village to the other the three of us ended up at the firehouse where a band was playing traditional Swedish folk songs and there were Swedish hotdogs which I am told are an essential part of any Swedish celebration. We returned to Kerstin's house where we warmed up a bit before Bergitta and I caught the bus back to Kristianstad. Upon my return to the U.S. Kerstin sent me photos she had taken in Olseröd. Pictured are the beach front at Olseröd, a traditional Swedish house near Olseröd beach, and the thatched building is an eel hut with the tall posts used for the nets.

All the nighttime photos were taken with no flash and I have no idea how they turned out so bright. For example, I had no idea there was a painting above the altar in the church. It was dark enough that I could not see it. I was surprised to see it when I viewed the photos. I will be forever grateful to my generous hosts Kerstin Dahlberg and Bergitta.

Friday, May 21, 2010

An Accidental Mother Book Review

The Accidental Mother The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman

I liked the message in this book. Sometimes you have to pay attention to the promptings and abandon your own agenda. I normally read books in a day or two, but this one I read on the plane to and from Japan, during downtime at the hotel, and I still did not finish it for a day or two after coming home. I found myself reading every word and savoring the story. Sometimes I cannot wait for what's on the next page. This story was more laid back and unfolded in a natural real life way. A possible, yet improbable story.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Flaming Gorge

How do you sum up Flaming Gorge? So beautiful and rugged. We went camping and boating with a few other families. We toured the lake, went fishing and snorkeling. We sang songs around the campfire while Jerry played guitar. A good time was had by all. We cannot wait to go back next year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rest in Peace little doggies!!!

Fifteen years ago we got our first puppy, a pomeranian we named Django. We read a book about poms which described them as, "robust and lively dogs". Django lived up to that reputation. He ran away at least once a week until I finally figured out he was climbing the fence. We thought he might like a friend and when he was two we adopted Chili a rescued dog. She walked in the house walked straight up to Django grabbed his scruff in her mouth and yanked straight down causing Django to flip over on his back. Chili was top dog from that day forward. That was the one and only time she pulled that stunt. Django was so passive he wouldn't even eat until Chili gave her consent. The two dogs never really played together or slept together. The only way you could tell they cared about each other is if Chili yelped Django would come to her rescue.

Last week Chili died of congestive heart failure and Django, a diabetic, refused all food for seven days and slipped into a diabetic coma today. These two dogs who lived together for thirteen years died a week apart, just like an old married couple. We'll see how the cat fares after the death of his best friend, Django.

There are a million funny stories about Chili, but the top photo sums up how bossy Chili could be. Notice how she has the cat shaking in his boots...not. She was also the kind of dog who would stay by your side if you were sick. During one illness I had Chili refused to leave my bedside to eat or go potty. When Jerry picked her up to carry her outside she bit him so hard he dropped her. Every day when Jerry kissed me goodbye she growled and yipped until he backed off. She followed me wherever I went in the house. Even with a broken leg she refused to remain immobile.

They both brought us a great deal of joy and heartache. Chili was hit by a car, injuring her back right leg. A kennel visit resulted in severe nerve damage to her front right leg. A stroke a couple of months ago weakened her two left legs. Poor dog had damage to all four legs in the end. I told Jerry that I never had a down day in the last fifteen years. No matter what went on out there, I would come home to pure love and adoration.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I could post a dozen pictures of our trip to Yellowstone, but nothing can match seeing a grizzly in the wild. This was Jerry's first trip to Yellowstone. I went a few times when I was a kid and it looks nothing like I remember. The 1988 fire was HUGE!!! 

We saw every animal imaginable and had some great picnics in the snow. Our mantra became, "Where's the bears?" We did not see a single one...until...we were heading home and just before we hit the main road after checking out at Grant's Village we saw a couple standing on the side of the road. We asked, "What do you see?" Grizzly was the answer.

Holy Cow! We stood and watched the bear graze all over the hillside for a half hour before it disappeared over a ridge. We pulled onto the main road and I wondered aloud if the bear might be nearby because of the position of the ridge. We pulled the car over and ducked into the bushes. There 25 yards in front of me was the bear. 

Oh my gosh!!!

Has it really been three months since I posted? Wow I am such a slacker. Well it turns out that I would need another two to four years of education to practice as a counselor or therapist in the state of Utah. It is a pretty special feeling to have a masters degree with absolutely no occupational value whatsoever. 

Anyway... In the last three months I have:
been to Nashville
paid for doggie dental surgery "OUCH" 
been to Yellowstone
been looking for a real job

Genealogy just doesn't pay. My clients send me money and then I do the work so I feel that I am perpetually in debt to my clients. I have to figure out another system.