The Van Wijk Name

Our family name derives from the village of Wijk in the former “Land of Heusden,” province of Noord Brabant, the Netherlands. In the Middle Ages this village belonged to a family of feudal barons, the Kuysts, who adopted the name of Wijck or van Wijc, and gradually dropped the surname Kuyst. One of them, Willem van Wijck, placed the first stone of the church of Wijk, in 1395. The first time the name Van Wijk is mentioned in history was in the year 1287, when Arnoud van Wiic was an alderman of Heusden.

The name Van Wijk (Wijck, Wyck, Wyk, Wijc, Wyc) indicated a connection with one of the three or four existing place names in the Netherlands, such as Wijk bij Duurstede, Wijk bij Heusden, Wijk bij Maastricht. As such, there are many, many people with the last name of Van Wyk or a variation thereof that are not related. Additionally, different unrelated people near the same town of Wijk could have chosen the name “Van Wijk” (literally: from Wijk) as their surname.

The “ij” in Wijk is not a separate “i” and a separate “j”. It is actually an extra letter in the Dutch alphabet, right after the “x”. So therefore the Dutch have 27 letters in their alphabet versus the English alphabet of 26 letters. Since the “ij” sound in Dutch is very similar to the “y” sound in Dutch, with non-Dutch people not able to tell them apart, and since the combined “ij” symbol is not available on American typewriters, virtually all Dutch immigrants converted the “ij” to a “y” when they began using the English language. One notable exception to this is the 200-store grocery chain in Michigan known as Meijer’s, founded by Hendrik Meijer.

When Napoleon conquered the Netherlands in the late 1700’s, one of the big changes he instituted was to move the record-keeping duties from the church to the local government. Another was to force everyone to have a last name, also known as a surname. In the southern part of the Netherlands, this was not much of a problem, as people there had been using surnames for generations. But in the northern part of the Netherlands, the naming system called patronymics was far more common. This system did not use a surname, but rather the name of the father as a second name. So if a man named Willem had children named Jan, Trijntje, and Lambert, these children would be known as Jan Willems, Trijntje Willems, and Lambert Willems.  And when Jan got married and had children named Dirk and Hendrika, those children would be named Dirk Jans and Hendrika Jans.

So when forced to do so, it was relatively easy for Willem’s ancestors to pick “van Wijk” and Trijntje’ s ancestors to pick “van den Heuvel” as their surnames, as these family names had already been in use for generations. But in the northern Netherlands provinces such as Friesland, brand new names had to be created, with these names often referring to a town or occupation. This was the case with Willem’s second wife Taekje—her maiden name was Tigchelaar, which translates to tile-maker.” Her first husband’s name was Pieter Bontekoe, with that translating to “spotted cow.” These surnames had to be officially documented in the municipal records at the time they were chosen. But many Dutch people, particularly those in the north but also those that used surnames for years, clung to part of the system of patronymics by using the father’s first name as a second name for each child. So again, using the Bontekoe children as an example, their given names were Ruurd Pieters Bontekoe, Dieuwke Pieters Bontekoe, Teunis Pieters Bontekoe, Sierk Pieters Bontekoe, and Pieter Pieters Bontekoe.

Another Dutch naming tradition concerns the first name. It was expected that the first male child would be named after the father’s father, the first female child would be named after the mother’s mother, the second male child would be named after the mother’s father, and the second female child would be named after the father’s mother. Thus the names of the grandparents would generally be repeated in a family. If the first four children weren’t evenly split between boys and girls, names of the parents’ brothers and sisters were often picked. The Willem Van Wyk family dutifully followed this rule, with Jan and Dirk, the oldest two boys, named after their grandfathers. Hendrika came next and was named after maternal grandmother. But then a long list of boys came, and it wasn’t until Hendrina (Irene) came along with Willem’s second marriage that he was able to name a daughter after his own mother. But along the way, several boys were named after uncles—Lambert, Jan Willem, Allettinus, Ben, and Gerrit were all named after brothers of Willem, Trijntje, or Taekje. As the sons and daughters of Willem married, particularly the children of his first marriage as they were the older, more connected to The Netherlands, and likely more traditional, they generally followed this same naming pattern. There were, therefore, many grandchildren with a variation of the names of Willem for a son and Trijntje for a daughter.

There were other people of the Van Wyk name that settled in the Pella area:

Johannes Van Wyk—came to Pella in 1848, and later went to Sioux County, Iowa, with the group that started the colony in Orange City. He was from Berkel en Rodemijs, and while his Van Wyk forebears were from the town of Dussen which is in the general area of Genderen, it appears that he was not related to the family of Willem van Wyk.

Dirk Jans Van Wyk—immigrated to Kansas with his wife Aletta Antoneta Branderhorst in 1893. He is distantly related to the Willem Van Wyk family, as he and Willem’s father Jan van Wijk were third cousins. His son Blees Van Wyk married Jennie Van Mersbergen and settled in the Oskaloosa area, and many of his descendants still live in this area.

Gerrit Jacob Van Wyk—came to the Pella area in the early l870’s, and his descendants settled primarily in the Otley, Monroe, and Prairie City areas. He was originally from the Oldebroek and Doomspijk area in the province of Gelderland, with some evidence that the name was originally “van de Wijk.” Not related to the Willem Van Wyk family.

Jill Van Wyke—born in Colorado, a descendant of Jan van Wijk and Neeltje van’t Zant who immigrated to Colorado in 1893 as part of a failed attempt to establish a Dutch colony in Alamosa. She originally was a reporter for the Des Moines Register but now is a journalism professor at Drake University in Des Moines. Very distantly related to the Van Wyk’s here, as her father and the grandchildren of Willem van Wyk are sixth cousins. Her mother Millie Van Wyk wrote a very interesting book about the lives of Jan and Neeltje entitled “A Dutch Romance…An American Dream!”

Willem P. Van Wyk—shown living in Pella as a 20-year old carpenter in the 1895 State of Iowa census.  He was the brother of Jan van Wijk described in the preceding paragraph. He later gave up carpentry and went into the seminary, becoming a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.

The Village of Wijk ->

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