Life in the Netherlands


While Willem van Wijk and Trijntje van den Heuvel both lived with their immediate families and began their married life together in Haarlemmermeer, it is interesting to note that they were coincidentally both born in Genderen, which is some distance from Haarlemmermeer.

Genderen is a small village in the province of Noord Brabant, lying on the north bank of what is now known as the Bergsche Maas. The landscape would look far different now compared to when Willem and Trijntje lived in Genderen. Formerly, the old Maas River joined the Waal River near Woudrichem, which is northwest of Genderen. Both of these rivers carried a tremendous amount of water, often causing major flooding events during times of heavy rains or storm surges. In 1883 the Dutch government passed the Maasmondwet (literally: Maas mouth law) which ordered that a new river bed for the Maas be dug directly to the sea, so that it emptied there rather than in the Waal. From 1888 to 1904 an entirely new river channel was dug south of Genderen to give the water a straight outlet to the sea, and once the old Maas was dammed to prevent it from flowing north to meet the Waal River, this brand new river named The Bergsche Maas fllled the new channel and became part of Genderen’s landscape.

Genderen is in an agricultural area and, at the time when Willem and Trijntje were living there, most of the farmland was in the hands of wealthy landowners who rented it out to tenant farmers. With large families, a limited amount of land, little industry in the area, and the lack of educational opportunities, life was often bleak with poverty a constant battle to those of the lower class. While little is known about the personal wealth of the Willem and Trijntje’ s respective van Wijk and van den Heuvel childhood families, it is speculated that their financial situations were not all that desirable, which is why each family was so eager to take a chance on any betterment that might be available in the Haarlemmermeer Polder.

As a community, the very first written reference to Genderen was around the year 1100, when a document at the Vatican noted that a Roman Catholic chapel was located there. The area remained decidedly Roman Catholic until the Reformation, when the church building was taken over by Protestants and became a Reformed (Hervormde) congregation. But from a religious history standpoint, Genderen’s true claim to fame occurred in 1834.

In 1832 Dominee (Reverend) Hendrik Pieter Scholte became the pastor of the three point charge of the nearby communities of Doeveren, Gansoijen, and Genderen. (You can no longer find Gansoijen on the map, as that village was destroyed by the dredging of the new channel for The Bergsche Maas.) Dominee Scholte was a well-liked pastor, who was becoming increasingly skeptical of the state sponsored Hervormde denomination that he served. In October of 1834 he made a trip to Ulrum in Groningen to preach at the church of Hendrick de Cock. Hendrick de Cock had already been suspended by the Hervormde denomination’s leadership as he had expressed the same denominational reservations that Scholte carried. However, despite this suspension, de Cock maintained a large following of supporters in his congregation. While there, de Cock informed Scholte that his Ulrum church was going to secede from the Hervormde denomination. Scholte returned to Genderen and encouraged his parishioners to follow suit. With de Cock’s Ulrum congregation leading the way, Scholte’s congregation in Genderen became the second one in the Netherlands to secede, with many van Wijk, including Willem Pieters van Wijk (1794- 1854), grandfather Of Willem Van Wijk (1849-1917), van den Heuvel, van der Beek, and Boll names on the Act of Secession that was sent to the king. These members who seceded named their church the Christelijke Afgescheiden, which literally translates to “the Christian Separatists.” Later on the church became known as the Gereformeerde Church. Many other congregations began following the leads of Ulrum and Genderen by pulling out of the

Hervormde denomination. The immediate reaction to these Acts of Secession was one of fines and persecution on the part of the government, using an old law that required government permission for more than 20 people to gather. The lack of government tolerance of this new denomination eventually caused Scholte to create an Immigration Society, which led him to the founding of the colony of Pella in 1847. The familiarity of Dominee Scholte in the Genderen area resulted in many people from the broader surrounding region immigrating to Iowa, not only with the initial group but also in the many years that followed.

As time went on, the new denomination became more accepted as the Dutch government relaxed its position on this group. The need for unobtrusive worship services in houses and barns ended, and in 1865 a new Gereformeerde church was built in Genderen. By that time Trijntje van den Heuvel’s family had already left for Haarlemmermeer, but Willem would have attended church there. During World War II, the Bergsche Maas was the dividing line between the liberated south and the occupied north in the Netherlands, putting Genderen in the direct line of battle. The Gereformeerde church was completely destroyed in 1944.  A new building replaced it in 1950, and is still in use today. The Hervormde kerk, the church home of Willem and Trijntje’s ancestors, sustained severe damage during the war but was not completely destroyed. The church and its distinctive tower were rebuilt, and the building was once again in use by 1953.


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Act of Secession of 1834.
(Click to enlarge)


While we may well be familiar with the Van Wyk immigration to America, this immigration was actually the second immigration of Willem and Trijntje Van Wyk. The first immigration brought them to Haarlemmermeer, with this area having an interesting place in the history of the Netherlands.

Haarlemmermeer, which literally means “Lake of Haarlem,” is now a “gemeente” in the Netherlands, which can best be compared to a “county” here in the United States. But at one time, this former peat bog was just one specific marshy lake, lying not far from the Dutch cities of Haarlem, Amsterdam, and Leiden. In 1531 the Haarlemmemeer consisted of 10 square miles, and near it were three smaller lakes: the Leidsche Meer, the Spiering Meer, and the Oude Meer, with a combined area of 12 square miles. These four lakes were formed into one by successive floods, causing villages to disappear in the process. By 1647 the new Haarlemmermeer had an area of about 58 square miles, and a century later had increased to 66 square miles. In Dutch, the tendency for lakes to grow over time is called the waterwolf, with this name bringing to mind the menacing wolf sneaking up on its prey.

While over time there had been various schemes and plans to drain the lake, things got serious in 1836, when two furious storms brought water to Amsterdam’s gates in November and submerged Leiden in December. This prompted govemment action, with King Willem I creating a commission to study the matter. This commission recommended that 79 windmills and three steam mills be used to drain the lake.  The King disagreed with this recommendation, and ordered further studies, which created fights between the wind power and the steam power special interests. By 1840 the decision was made to drain the lake entirely by steam power, which was a bold step as this had never been done before and previous projects with steam power were met with mixed success.

The first stage of the project was to build a 38-mile canal around the lake, appropriately named the Ringvaart (Ring Canal). Since ships and barges would no longer be able to go through the lake, a replacement means of transportation was needed. The earth excavated from this canal was used to build a dike around the lake, with this dike ranging from 100 to 160 feet wide. As the lake now had no natural drainage, the power of steam lifted the water out of the lake into the canal which drained it away. Pumping began in 1848, and, by July 1, 1853, after 800 million tons of water had been removed, the lake was dry. One of the huge steam-powered pumps and pumping stations survived in its original form, and is now a museum, being declared an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

It was now time for the Dutch government to recoup its investment: in 1853 the first lands were offered for public auction. The prospect of adding territory to the tax rolls prompted the city of Leiden to annex the territory. This resulted in a court battle, with the final decision being that Haarlemmermeer could be its own separate government entity. The interest to purchase this real estate was high—the Dutch government received enough money to reimburse itself for all the funds spent on the project. The final net cost to the nation was only the interest expense on these funds while invested in the project. But with the high demand for the property, the common person could not afford to purchase this new land—most of it went into the hands of speculators and the wealthy, who would in turn rent it out to tenant fanners.

Even without the ability to own land, the prospect of brand new land to farm was very appealing to many farmers in overcrowded Holland. This created a big rush to the new territory, which was composed of 42,000 acres which had once been lake bottoms. Both the van Wijks and the van den Heuvels had lived for generations in the province of Noord Brabant, around the cities of Genderen, Eethen, and Doeveren. While both Willem van Wijk and Trijntje van den Heuvel were born in Genderen, each of them immigrated to this new land. Willem went there in 1873 as a young adult at age 24—his parents moved there as well, as they both died in Haarlemmermeer.  Trijntje was younger when she went, travelling with her widower father and two siblings sometime between 1856 and 1864, when she was between the ages of 2 and 10. Trijntje’s father remarried in Haarlemmermeer in 1864 to a lady who was also from the general Genderen area (town of Giessen), and together they had 11 more children in Haarlemmemeer. Trijntje and Willem married in 1873, and all their Dutch-born children were born in the Haarlemmermeer.

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Wedding Certificate of Willem and Trintje Van Wyk

Translation of Wedding Certificate of Willem and Trijntje van den Heuvel
Wedding Certificate of Willem van Wijk and Trijntje van den Heuvel
(On record at the Noord-Hollands Archiefi Haarlem)

Today, the twenty-sixth of February, Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-Three, is before me the undersigned, Official of the civil registry of the community of HAARLEMIVIERMEER, in the court-house of the same community, with the objective of becoming united in marriage, appearing Willem van Wijk, farmer, aged twenty-three years, born at Genderen and living here, legal-aged son of Jan van Wijk, farmer, and of Hendrina van der Beek, without occupation, living here, the one side. And Trijntje van den Heuvel, without occupation, nineteen years old, born at Genderen, living here, minor-aged daughter of Dirk Jan van den Heuvel, farmer, living here, and Hendrika Boll, deceased, as to the other side.

And to reach that objective they have brought to me, first: the documents where it appears that both pronouncements have been posted without objection on the Sundays the Sixteenth and Twenty-third of February of this year, at the door of the court-house of this community; second their birth certificates; third: the death certificate of the mother of the bride; fourth: the proof that the groom has completed his duties with the National Militia.

The parents of the groom and the father of the bride are here present, declaring their permission for this Marriage to go forward

After which I have asked them whether they take each other to be spouses, and faithfully all duties shall fulfill, which through marriage they are bound to perform by Law, and from which they responded verbally with Yes as their answer, have I in the name of the Law declared, that they are united together in marriage. In the presence of:

Otto van Dalen, farmer, thirty-two years old, Lambert van Wijk, farmer, twenty-five years old, brother of the groom, Antonie van Wijk, farmer, forty-nine years old, and Leendert van Wijk, farmer, thirty-six years old, brother-in-law of the groom, with the first two and the fourth witnesses living here, and the third living at Eethen.

And this document has been completed by me, and after reading it by me, is signed by the appearing groom and bride, the parents of the groom, the father of the bride, and by the witnesses.

(Signatures:)                                                                                                                      The named Official

Willem van Wijk

  1. van den Heuvel A.J. J. Timmerman

Jan van Wijk

Hendrina van der Beek                                  A van Wijk

  1. J. van den Heuvel L. van Wijk
  2. van Dalen L. van Wijk



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Marriage Certificate Attachment: Certificate of Willem van Wijk’s Military Service

{As stated in the Wedding Certificate of Willem and Trijntje van Wijk, they had to bring documents
of proof, one of which was “the proof that the groom has completed his duties with
the National Militia. ” This is a copy of such document.)

A series of poor harvests and poor commodity prices prompted the second immigration of Willem and Trijntje—to America in 1892. Eventually, the land in Haarlemmermeer slowly converted to ownership by the farmers themselves instead of wealthy landlords, and these farmer owners became successful as commodity prices improved over time. Additionally, the development of greenhouse farming greatly increased the agricultural prosperity of the area. The proximity to the large cities of Haarlem, Amsterdam, and Leiden also contributed to the general population growth. And, finally, an airport for the old military fort of Schiphol has turned into one of the busiest airports in Europe, with Schiphol International Airport now comprising 15% of Haarlemmermeer’s territory.

The Van Den Heuval Connection ->

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