How to reconcile indirect evidence that doesn't match expected behavior

 
 
 
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yhoitink
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How to reconcile indirect evidence that doesn't match expected behavior

I'm trying to apply the GPS to tear down one of my brick walls in Aalten, the Netherlands. 

My ancestor Hendrik Bengevoort married in 1767, had three children with his first wife, remarried in 1778 (no children) and again in 1795. He then went on to have two more children with the third wife, the last of whom was born in 1799. Hendrik had died in 1798, leaving a pregnant wife behind. 

The usual places to look for the names of his parents in this area in this period are the marriage and burial records. Unfortunately, the Aalten records are very terse and do not include this information. I've searched census, notarial and judicial records and came up with several more records about Hendrik and his wives, none of which give a clue about the parents of Hendrik or any other relatives, FAN-club or property.

The usual place to look for birth information is the baptism records. I've searched the baptism records of Aalten and all of the surrounding parishes and came up with only one candidate, a Hendrik Bengevoort who was baptized in 1716. That would make him 50 at the time of his first marriage and 82 at the time he fathered his last child.  

One of the things I read in the BCG standards manual is that we must assume people behaved normally. To get married for the first time at age 50 wasn't usual at all in that area (or pretty much anywhere else for that matter!). Most men married in their late 20s, early 30s. And only one individual in my database that includes information about over 50,000 people in that area fathered a child after the age of 80. 

There is one other loose end: no Hendrik Bengevoort could  be found in the 1748 census of Aalten and the surrounding parishes. Since he was probably older than 21 (the age of majority) when he got married, he must have been born before 1746 and should have been in the census. This suggests he may have come from elsewhere.   

Personally I don't think I've got a solid proof argument to convince myself or anybody else that the Hendrik b. 1716 is my ancestor. I'm pretty sure I've got the reasonably exhaustive search part of the GPS covered though. So I wonder how you would handle a case like this, when the available evidence doesn't match conventional behavior?

EE
EE's picture

>I've searched census, notarial and judicial records and came up with several more records about Hendrik and his wives, none of which give a clue about the parents of Hendrik or any other relatives, FAN-club or property.

Yhoitink,

We need to first clarify this sentence and your concept of the FAN Principle  [QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer's Guide to Cluster Research (4 pp.)].

Are you saying that the censuses, notarial records, and judicial records that name Hendrik do not identify any friends, associates, or neighbors with whom he interacted?

The Editor

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

Unfortunately, yes. He wasn't in the 1748 census and didn't live to the next (1811) census. All I did find were documents regarding his minor children after his first wife and he died, but these do not name more people then his immediate family. Neither do the baptisms of his children: no witnesses or other people than the parents are mentioned.

Yvette Hoitink, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

Also, I found no indication that he owned any property. He probably leased a farm like most people in the neighborhood. No records about any lease were found, nor would I expect any because these transactions were usually not registered before the court but handled in private.

Yvette Hoitink, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

EE
EE's picture

Yvette wrote: "but these do not name more people then his immediate family. Neither do the baptisms of his children: no witnesses or other people than the parents are mentioned."

Yvette,

On the positive side, you do have documents that name his immediate family. Have you done exhaustive research on each and every known family member? Have you combed every surviving record to assemble everything possible for each of them? Have you identified their FAN Club and extended that search to every document created by those people?

If you have a copy of EE's QuickSheet The Historical Biographer's Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle), you will have noticed the bull's-eye on the back cover, demonstrating how we first focus on our target person but then extend outward in ever-widening rings. Many times, we have to work ourselves out to the outer-ring of the bull's eye, those associates of associates, before we find a document created by one of them that gives us the information we seek about our elusive person.

Have you tracked those minor children to their deaths to find every possible record they created? What about the three wives and their families? Have you combed every record created by each of their family members? Did any of them create property records that you can use to pinpoint more precisely the geographic area in which your man operated?

You say you have baptismal records that don't name individuals other than the parents and the child. What about the other entries in the register? Starting with the page on which you find each relevant baptism entry, are there any other individuals on that page (or the pages before and after) who brought a child in for baptism the same day? Are godparents or witnesses not named in any of the church registers? Typically they are, although an occasional lazy pastor will do otherwise. Have you read those registers page by page to see if your elusive man served as a godparent or witness or stepfather for any other child?

The Cluster Research QuickSheet offers many other suggestions.

The Editor

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

I honestly think I can say "yes" to most of not all of these questions. I've been working on a population reconstruction of this area since 1991 so I've gone through records on all of the people on all of the pages of any source I could lay my hands on.
I've got hundreds of thousands of scans and digital photos of original records of this area at home, that I've gone through looking for any clues.
For example, the third wife went on to marry again after 1811, the year the civil registration was introduced. Her marriage record comes with a bunch of "marriage appendices", proof that the spouses had to submit like abstracts of their baptism records and deaths of previous spouses. They included some great details about her family, including affidavits of people who had known her grandparents who were born in the late 1600s. But nothing more about Hendrik or any of his associates.
The baptism records in this period don't have information about witnesses for any baptisms. The pastor was very terse, especially when compared to records of the surrounding parishes.
I haven't got the cluster research sheet yet but will remedy that :-)

Yvette Hoitink, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

EE
EE's picture

So you have 8 church records that name Hendrik: his three marriages and the baptisms of his five children? (Or nine, if you have a burial?)  Exactly what did the first of those say? (English translation)

In your first message, you also say you found "several more records about Hendrik and his wives." In your last message you mention the marital documents for the third wife's remarriage. Are the former and the latter the same, or did you find something else on Hendrik himself outside of church records?

Does anything name his occupation? 

Presumably his three wives had sisters as well as brothers. Have you accounted for every record created by the husbands of his sisters-in-law?

Given your suspicion that Hendrik came there from another village, your community study is especially important. Who else came into the village about the same time as Hendrik? (Men tended not to migrate alone, unless they were pulled to an area by someone they already knew there.) Did any of those incoming males marry into the same families as Hendrik? Have you sought Hendrik in all villages identified for all other incomers of his era? 

Have you also considered the possibility that his baptismal record may be under a surname other than Bengevoort?

 

The Editor

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

 

The very first record (his first marriage) translates to:

18 September 1767, Hendrik Bengevoort, "jm" [=jonge man; bachelor] and Janna Boumeijster, "jd" [=jonge dochter; bacholorette]. 

That's it... All the other marriage records in that time are equally uninformative although some records, including other marriages on the same page, mention a place of origin. The fact that Hendrik's marriage doesn't list a place of origin is consistent with him coming from Aalten, so that was my initial assumption. 

The records that I've found that I've positively identified with Henry are:

  • His 3 marriage records
  • Baptism records for his 3 children with his first wife and 2 children with his last wife
  • A prenuptual agreement between him and his second wife (nothing to identify property or additional relations)
  • A burial record for his second wife
  • The marriage record of his daughter from the last marriage that mentions him as her father (all of his other children were married during a time when parents weren't mentioned in the records, their parent-child relationship was established through indirect evidence but that's another story)

None of these list his occupation. I'm currently on holiday so can't access all of my records but I think that's it. 

I haven't positively identified the parents of his first wife (Janna Boumeijster) yet. There are two candidates for her baptism, with not much going for one or the other. Boumeijster is an indigenous Aalten name, the name of a farm there. People in that area named themselves after the farm they lived on. So I am pretty confident she's either of the two Aalten Janna Boumeisters, just not sure which. I have gone through all the basic records (baptisms, marriages and burials) that allowed me to reconstruct the two families. I've also gone through some of the legal records which not provide additional information.

The second wife was named Gezina Degelink. Her place of origin wasn't known, but Degelink is not the name of an Aalten farm. This suggests she or her ancestors may have came from elsewhere. I know her father's name (Harmen) but haven't been able to find her in the baptism records in Aalten. Other Degelinks married in Aalten come from Bocholt, just across the border in Germany. Combined with the fact that I haven't found his first wife's burial in Aalten may suggest he lived there. Hah! Look there! A new hypothesis to work with :-)))

His third wife Christina Scholten is actually a niece of another ancestor of mine so I've got her family documented pretty well. However, she appears to have been an only child so there are no documents about her siblings or in-laws. 

About other people coming into the area: this was a very stable population with not many people coming in. 99% of my father's ancestors were born within 10 miles of the house where he was born. Some people came in from nearby Germany but not many. I have searched for Hendrik in all the Dutch places of origin mentioned in the Aalten records but not the German places of origin. So two of your suggestions lead to the same new research plan: look for Hendrik in German records.

Because of the vagaries of last names in this area being dependent on the farm where you lived, and prone to change every time you moved, it is very common to find people under different names in different records. So I did consider whether Hendrik's baptism would be under a different name. However, since Bengevoort is not an Aalten farm name, it doesn't make sense for anybody to change their name to Bengevoort. If anything, his name would have changed from Bengevoort to fit the farm he moved to.
Hendrik is one of the most common names in the area and burials and deaths weren't recorded in this town prior to 1763, tracing all of them is not possible. The chance that any of them died is far more likely than them changing their name to Bengevoort. 

One thing I hadn't included in my previous information is that I've also collected data on all of the descendants of the parents of the Hendrik Bengevoort born in 1716. His father also came from Germany (Rhee). His parents had  several descendants in Aalten that I've traced to be able to place any Bengevoort finds in their context. But the fact that that father came from Germany too and that Bengevoort is not an Aalten name suggests I really need to go there. It may be that 'my' Hendrik wasn't their son born in 1716 but rather a younger nephew that followed his uncle there. 

The next step for me is to do some research on where the records might be that I need. The German archives in that area can be pretty hard to get at, most church records still being at the churches instead of in archives like in the Netherlands. It may take me a couple of more years to find and go through all of them. I'm just glad I started doing this when I was 14 so I still have time to follow all these leads :-) 

I really love how going through this with a fresh pair of eyes has led me to new ideas of how to approach this brick wall of 20 years. Thank you so much! 

Yvette Hoitink, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

I forgot to mention that I've also found the burial record of Hendrik. All it says is the date and "Hendrik Bengevoort" so that's not very helpful.

Yvette Hoitink, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

EE
EE's picture

Yvette wrote: I really love how going through this with a fresh pair of eyes has led me to new ideas of how to approach this brick wall of 20 years. Thank you so much!

It's amazing how often a Q & A like this will trigger new thoughts. EE can't solve research problems for users, but encouraging users to rethink what they know (or think they know) is definitely our mission.

 

 

The Editor

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

To me, the biggest eye-opener is that you shouldn't just research the Friends/Associates/Neighbors of the person of interest, but also try to find out how he fits into the FAN-club of his wives. If I can't find out how he met her, maybe I can find out where she met him. It seems like a very obvious thing, but it hadn't occurred to me yet :-)

 

Yvette Hoitink, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

pdryburn
pdryburn's picture

Loved this thread.  Thanks for sharing your brick wall, Yvette!

 

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

You're welcome! I love it too :-) It's not only helped me to discover some new strategies to tackle this particular problem, but in a broader sense showed me some of my own preconceptions that may have prevented me from tackling some others too. I've been working on this closed community for so long that just the idea that somebody could have come from somewhere else doesn't occur to me unless it stares me in the face :-)

Yvette Hoitink, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services