Archiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-06 > 1120085064

Subject: Dutch Roots
Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 18:44:24 EDT

Digging up Dutch roots new pastime for Winnipeg-born senior
CHILLIWACK, British Columbia - Discovering family roots for the North
American Dutch often is a tedious process. It covers great distances and could span
a lifetime. The need to know did not come overnight to third-generation
Dutch Canadian, Winnipeg-born Hermannus Sulkers, now 83, but became more
compelling when he, accompanied by his daughters Catherine and Jane, in 1998 visited
the Netherlands for the first time. He returned home with more questions than
answers about his ancestors. This summer, another trip, his fourth, has been
planned when he hopes with two sons to link up with namesakes in ancestral
Dinteloord, a village south of national nature park Biesbosch.
Complicating Herm’s searches are a lack of sufficient fluency in the Dutch
language, no known family and the fact that his grandparents launched their
overseas venture from a different place than their ancestral town.
The Sulkers family left in stages for Canada from around Zaandam. In 1906,
their 17-year-old son Herb left for Winnipeg to be followed two years later by
siblings John, Cornelis and Antonia. In 1910, their Dinteloord-born parents
Hermannus and Maria Johanna Sulkers (Vriens) embarked for Canada on the ship
S.S. Victorian with eight of their other nine children. The one daughter who
had stayed behind died in 1945 and was buried in Zeist.
Return to Netherlands
Grandfather Sulkers soon deeply regretted his emigration to Canada and was
troubled over the family’s separation from the daughter who because of health
reasons had been denied permission to come along. He died fairly soon after
arriving in the country. In the early decades of the twentieth country, a
significant number of Dutch immigrants around Winnipeg, like their counterparts
near Chicago, made a living as market gardeners. They and most of the Sulkers’
grew vegetables which they sold in the city, usually off the back of their
horse-drawn wagon or truck.
Although a steady trickle of newcomers joined the Dutch community of
Winnipeg, few went the opposite direction. Herm’s father Peter and his mother went
in 1951. Of the others who did, it will be quite safe to state, nearly all had
joined the Canadian war effort, Herm as a navyman on Canadian destroyer
Athabaskan. Following of a disastrous naval battle during which the ship was sunk
off the French coast in May 1944, Herm was rescued and send to a German POW
camp. While he never came close to setting a foot on Dutch soil then, Sulkers’
interest in Athabaskan commemmorations and reunions eventually brought him
back to Europe.
This year’s visit to Dinteloord will be Sulkers’ second. Accompanied by a
fellow Dutch genealogy enthusiast who has assisted him with his research he had
no contacts for the first visit to the 17th century village in
Prinsenlandpolder (so named after a son of Prince William I, the Taciturn, who spearheaded
the diking project for the area around 1600). With help from sources in
Canada, Sulkers learnt that his surname is most common in a half-moon around the
Biesbosch where his upcoming visit already has been announced.
Sulkers’ grandparents with their four eldest children left Dinteloord during
the 1890s for a farm job in the Zaandam vicinity, likely joining others who
had migrated there earlier (the Haarlemmermeer reclamation works of 150 years
ago also attracted people from the Western part of Brabant). Circumstances
around Dinteloord in the late 1800s were far from ideal for farm labourers.

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