24    Sep 20139 comments

Our Stories: From the Netherlands to Australia

MyHeritage members come to us in various ways. Maria Keep, 63, born in the Netherlands and now living in Australia, tried a free MyHeritage CD that came in a magazine.

Maria was born in Renkum, Netherlands. She, her husband and adult daughter and son live in Forster NSW Australia. She is a full-time caregiver for her husband who is vision impaired and suffers from total memory and short term memory loss.

Family wedding in 1954

Maria has been collecting family history for some four decades.

I am from a very big family and have always been interested in family history and had been collecting little bits of information on bits of paper and putting them in a book with the intention of putting it all together one day into a proper family tree record. I started collecting this information about 40 years ago.

She was a computer magazine (no longer in print) subscriber which included free programs to try. One was MyHeritage.

This gave me the incentive to start putting some of my information into a more formal format.

Maria comes from a very large family (she had 10 siblings) and it was important for her to have the information should any other relatives become interested or, as it happened, needed it for a school project.

We immigrated from the Netherlands to Australia in 1954 when I was just 4, so I have very little memory of any relatives in the Netherlands. I never knew my grandparents and only met two aunts when they visited Australia, so there was a large family that I knew nothing about.

Arriving to Australia in 1954

As many readers of this blog have also experienced, Maria left the asking of real questions too late. Her oldest sister – whom they had always relied on as being the keeper of family history – died suddenly 12 years ago.

My father (one of nine children) died at about 65. All his family had passed away at an early age which made it difficult to find information. My mother (one of five children) only died three years ago at 98. However, during the last 10 years or so, she often got people and dates mixed up as I asked questions.

Maria thus relied very heavily on MyHeritage Smart Matches™ to check the information she had and to fill in gaps.

I find that I am still occasionally finding a snippet of information, maybe a date of birth or death, which I didn't have and each discovery of a new tidbit of information is always exciting.

Although Maria has not had too many surprises, she has been able to contact some previously unknown cousins. She’s very interested to remain in contact with them, even if only occasionally.

Here are the names she is researching:

--My father’s family: Schelle, Von Avontuur, Penninx, Mustaers, Van Heeslwuijk, Sterkx, Van Der Boggart, Hendrix, Goijers, Schellen, Van Oers. Maria’s tree for her father’s and mother’s family is at nearly 800 individuals, most of whom lived in the Netherlands.

--My mother’s family: Van Hees, Wynen, Ver Bunt, Van Heesch, Schalk, Verhaere, Van Schalk, Van Spijk,  Strijp – some 336 people, who mostly lived in the Netherlands.

--My father-in-law’s family:  include Keep, Richard, Godfrey, Simmons, Elmer, Tobin, Bates, Larkins - some  415 people, most of whom lived in Tasmania and the UK.

--My mother-in-law’s family: Keep, Bennett, Stevens, Eatly, Holtham, Ball, Smith, Waldon – some 247 people, most of whom lived in the UK. Holtham is of Spanish descent.

She is also collecting information for her husband's family and had great pleasure in being able to tell her father-in-law that his great-great-grandfather was a convict who had been transported to Tasmania.

Is her family involved in the project? Maria has learned that most of the family is not really interested, with the exceptions of a few of her nieces.

However, I suspect that somewhere down the line there will be someone who is as interested as I am, so I will be very happy to be able to share with them.

Maria has discovered that it has been much easier to collect information for her father’s and her father-in-law’s families.

It seems that my mother's family and my mother-in-law’s family are unwilling to take the time to pass on the information I need. Is this common of all female members?

Johanna Avontuur, paternal grandmother

This is a disappointment to Maria and leaves gaps that she would like to fill.

I find the birthday reminders we get in our email box a help sometimes. For instance, I got a message about an upcoming birthday of a cousin. I sent him a birthday wish and, after thanking me, he told me that his birthday actually wasn't until another date. So I was able to change the MyHeritage details with this new correct bit of information. I love the birthday reminders from MyHeritage.

What does Maria like about MyHeritage?

I’ve tried other free versions of family tree programs before MyHeritage but have found this the easiest and most efficient and I never continued with any other program beyond putting in just a little information as a trial.

She began with the basic version of MyHeritage, with separate trees for her father, mother, and her in-laws.

When my father's got too big, I paid for the Premium version. I have my parents’ information on the same tree now, but I want to add my in-laws’ families in the future.

Maria says that this is very much an ongoing project. She suspects it will never be completed, but she’s having a lot of fun trying.

Finally, she shares tips for beginners just beginning their research:

  • Start with one member of the family, either your mother or father and work backwards until you have gone as far as you can before starting on the next one.
  • Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get back to it for awhile.
  • Try and change errors as soon as possible.
  • Watch out for the order of the date (day-month versus month-day). "I had so many dates wrong before I realized that the month came before the day!" she wrote.
  • Most of all, enjoy!

Did you enjoy Maria's story? Do you have a story to share? Send it to stories@myheritage.com.

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Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hello Maria: I loved reading about your enthusiasm for your family's history. Sometimes it can be a great conversation piece if you have others that are interested in their history and don't know how to start. I have five siblings and none of them wanted to hear about the information I had. However, my son started a tree and called me for the information I have. I have discovered cousins I never knew I had and have gotten in touch with a cousin I hadn't seen since I was 9 years old. This is because my mother stopped going to visit my dad's side of the family when he died. Have you gone to genforum.com if you get stuck? I got loads of information from a family historian who paid a professional to seek out my dad's side. Also somebody suggested seeking Home Children for my grandfather as it seemed his family dropped off the face of the earth. It turned out he was a home child and was sold to "the Americas" to be sold again for farm work in Canada. He had told my mother he was adopted. but you don't treat adopted children the way he was treated. Well, glad to have somebody who is excited about seeking old history. Have a great time!
  2. Thanks P Gull for your comments and suggestions. It is great to hear how others find information and lovely to find another enthusiast.
  3. Dear Maria, I have to comment on your tip about the order of the date (day-month versus month-day). You wrote, "I had so many dates wrong before I realized that the month came before the day!" I think that is the "American" way. In Canada, or at least for me, the order in my family tree file is dd mmm yyyy (n.b. 04 Mar 1936). The sequence is in order of unit size from smallest to largest. For a database file this is reversed (yyyymmdd n.b. 19360304). The logic here is when the database file is asked to rearrange itself by calendar dates. This latter example was for our multiple non-related family trees database at our worldwide one-name Hodgson society SHARE (Surname Hodgson Association & Resources Enterprise). The society no longer functions but its large web site remains accessible. / Bruce G. Hodgson
  4. Hi Maria,

    Loved your story and well done for collecting so many records, you certainly have spent many hours researching. Your family will be very grateful.
    I'm doing something similar at my end, made the mistake of doing father and mother's relatives together. It gets very confusing at times. I signed up to myheritage 2 years ago and it's this time of year I get stuck back in and do a little more. I'm looking forward to adding more this winter.
    Best wishes and keep up the good work
    Irish Scannell - Murray family tree
  5. Hello Maria,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I also find the birthday reminders very helpful. I relied on my Mother, while she was alive to remind me of important family dates.
    Like you I had gathered information over the years and have been able to put it all together when I discovered MyHeritage.com. I agree that this is the best online family tree site available.
    I consider myself lucky that I have a few family members that contribute and check in on the site to keep up with any new pieces of information I gather. In fact they are very impressed with my work on our family site. It feels good when they compliment me and call me when they have a question about a family member and I will research for them. I have one niece that has been so helpful with adding family photos and data. In fact she thrilled me when she added her husband's family information to our site.
    Then again I have had negative input from a couple of family members who ordered me to remove all information about them and their close family members for fear of identity theft. I tried to reassure them that my heritage is a safe site, but I respected their feelings and did as they requested. It does leave a hole in our family tree.
    Thank you for your encouragement.
  6. Hello Marie
    I received this newsletter in my email yesterday and as i was browsing i came upon the picture of the Schelle family coming off the plane ,i've seen that picture before said i and sure enough
    we most probably have the same photo in one of mum and dads photo albums(now your wondering who is this bloke?). Hint: we used to live with yous in about 1956.I just spoke to Mum on the phone about the early days in Holland and like Tante Marie she is forgetting a lot now. Mum still sees Nellie
    regards Allan
  7. Dear Maria, Nice to read your story. I feel we have a lot in common. I also immigrated from the Netherlands to Australia but in 1953. I was 3 years old, so that makes me 63 also. I live in Melbourne, Victoria with my wife and adult son and daughter. My name is Harry Wyma (Wijma ) The name was changed from Wijma to WYMA in Australia. I am also with my Heritage but as yet have not up graded my subscription. I also have found it much easier to research my fathers side of the family than my mothers. I have not done much for some time but your story may inspire me to have another look.
    regards Harry
  8. i HAVE BEEN DOING MY FAMILY HISTORY FOR ABOUT20 TO 30 SOME YEARS, DEARLY LOVE IT HOWEVER I CAN"T Find MUCH ON MY G FATHER ON MY DADS side SO i'm hoping to focus my intentison just him for awhile and see if it works out. enjoyed your letter , .
  9. Thank you all for taking the time to comment on my family story. It is really great to hear from others who are doing family research and using the same program and it is lovely to hear your stories too. Best of luck to all of you.

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