Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Beginning - Holland and Husum

How much can be learned about Jan Fransse Van Husum, the first Van Huss in America?

Four centuries have erased any images, personal letters, and artifacts that might give us an insight into Jan's life. Still, a few historical records have survived since 1639 when Jan and his new wife Volkje Juriens sailed from Amsterdam in the Old World for New Amsterdam in the New.

One, we do know that on March 28, 1639, Jan and six others signed on with Killiaen VanRenssalear to serve with the West India Company in New Amsterdam for four years.

Van Hooze History and Court Records Page


The Amsterdam that Jan and Volkje lived in before departing for the New World was a commercial hub. The United Provinces of which Amsterdam was the principal city, was engaged in a decades long struggle with Spain for political control. In 1639, a Dutch fleet convincingly defeated a larger Spanish fleet at the Battle of the Downs and ended Spanish interference in Dutch political affairs.

For a brief time Holland and the Provinces bloomed. Its commercial success was undoubtedly the result of many factors including its tolerance of differing religious views, its openness to immigrants, and the free-spirit of its capitalism. Success can be measured in many ways. Amsterdam transformed from a city of 50,000 in 1600 to 200,000 in 1700. Its harbor contained thousands of ships. And these ships sailed to the four corners of the earth, establishing commercial ventures and new colonies everywhere. The East Indies Company was perhaps the most successful of these ventures, but lesser known was the West Indies Company with which Jan signed up.

It is tempting to set sail for the New World with Jan and Volkje. But we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. From Joyce Lindstrom's History detailing the marriage record of Jan and Volkje:
The church banns of April 30, 1639 are translated thus: "Appeared as before, Jan Franz from Housum, sailor, age 30 years, living in the Corte Tuijnstraat, having no parents but assisted by his cousin, Anna Jans, and Volckje Juriaens (daughter?) from Noorstrant, age about 21 years , of the same (street), having no parents, but assisted by her acquaintance, Isaack Pietersen. " They were married in the Dutch Reformed Church at Nieuwe Kerk at Amsterdam, Holland on May 15, 1639.
Tuijnstraat still exists on the map of the city of Amsterdam and can be found intersecting with the canal Prinsengracht, near the Anne Frank House. Tuinstraat, as it is spelled now, is still a residential area where an apartment can be found for 1750 euros a month.

Likewise, the Dutch Reformed Church at Nieuwe Kerk can still be found a short distance away at 17 Gravenstraat, next to the Royal Palace. Today, the church is no longer used as a church, but is now an exhibition space. Learn more about the Nieuwe Kerk.


Husum North Sea by Anne VanHoozer Burke
Jan had a father named Frances or Franz, or Fransse, depending on the language one uses. He was born about 1582, probably in Husum, Schleswig-Holstein, now part of Germany.

Husum is a seaport as far north in Germany as one can go. The city is described as the "Grey City" which is accurate as a description of any city on the North Sea in winter. A stiff breeze blows often making the area a center of wind power. The buildings are often pained in gay colors to offset the greyness of the sky.

I have not been there, but Anne VanHoozer Burke has.Click on her web page above and you will see several images of the city in winter.

It is likely that the landscape of the coast of Schleswig has not changed much in the intervening years since Jan lived in Husum. A description of Holland's north coast by one of Louis XIV's ambassador's in 1699 would probably fit the coastline of Schleswig as well. It is "...taken up on the seaward side with barren sand-dunes, subject ... to frequent flooding, and fit only for the grazing which is the country's sole wealth..."

View a 360 degree panorama of Nordstrand.

map of Johannes Blaeu, 1652
The flooding came from the cruel North Sea.

In 1634 a terrific gale hit Nordstrand, an island just off the coast where Husum is located. The sea swallowed more than half of the island, breaking it up into three smaller islands. More than 6,000 people drowned, over a thousand farms and houses were washed away, as were 28 windmills and 6 clock towers.

Among the dead were Volkje's parents. After the storm Volkje and her sister moved to Husum, where no doubt Volkje met Jan. The flood devastated the entire area. The salt from the sea covered the fields, rendering them useless. No doubt, this was the reason why Jan and Volkje moved to Amsterdam.

"The Van Hoose, Van Hooser, Van Huss Family in the United States", by Joyce Lindstrom

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