Contributed by:

Don Emelander

Bokke Jarigs Amelander and his wife Lucille were the first Amelanders (from our family) to arrive in this country from Friesland. They came with one son named Jarig Bokkes Amelander and an unnamed daughter. The daughter’s name was probably Anna. She was ten months old and Jarig was two months shy of being two years old. The daughter later died. Their next daughter was named Anna also, which was a common practice. They had four children survive to adulthood out of seven. They came June 2, 1881.

Bokke Jarigs Amelander changed his name to Benjamin and actually went by the name of Henry. He stayed in Grand Rapids and worked at American Seating. He had a another daughter named Anna, a son named Henry, one daughter named Alice and a set of twins named Peter & David. His oldest son named Jarig changed his name to Jan and died Sept 28 1898 at the age of nineteen. He was working as a clerk in Grand Rapids at the time. Bokke’s son Henry had a large family with several sons. Peter had two sons and their descendants carry on the line.

Bokke’s brother Douwe Jarigs Amelander and his son Tjeerd Douwes Amelander came here June 15, 1881. Tjeerd’s name was eventually changed to George. George was born May 13, 1879 in Ferwerderadeel, which is like a township. He was the youngest son of Douwe Jarigs Amelander & Ytske Tjeerds Eisma. Douwe & Ytske were married November 9, 1872 in Ferwerderadeel, Friesland. Ytske died three months after Tjeerd’s birth. Of their six children only their oldest daughter named Aaltje and son Tjeerd (my grandfather) survived to adulthood. Aaltje (named after Douwe & Bokke’s mother) was raised by her grandparents and uncle from the Eisma family in Friesland. Tjeerd was farmed out to the Visbeek family for care until they came over here. This was the family of Douwe and Bokke’s mother. Douwe left his oldest daughter, who was eight at the time, in Friesland. Aaltje Douwes Amelander never came to the US. She stayed in Friesland and married Egbert Van Huizen. They were a skipper couple who transported freight up and down the canals there. Their boat’s name was "New Hope". They had no children. She died sometime after 1942 surviving her husband. I believe they were Mennonites . Aaltje and her husband left all their positions to the church. Douwe and Bokke were common laborers in Ferwerderadeel, as far as I know.

Douwe Jarigs Amelander married Sjoerdje (Susie) Hovinga on May 5, 1882 in Kent County, Michigan. They lived in Sparta township where all the children were born, except possibly Clara and John. The first two daughters had the last name of Amelander, the next son Yerick (Jarig) name was spelled Emelander. Some time between 1900 and 1910 they moved to Hudsonville, Michigan. They had a total of twelve children of which ten survived to adulthood. That makes a total of eighteen children between the two marriages. I know Douwe was a hard worker but he obviously found time for other activities.

Douwe and Bokke’s father’s name was Jarig Bokkes Amelander. They had uncles named Jacob, Pieter, Jan and Bartel and aunts named Antje and Sybrigje. Jan was the only one other than Jarig who married and had children. Bartel died young at the age of twenty three. I think they were carpenters. Their grandfather Bokke Jacobs Amelander was a carpenter for sure. In 1811 he was the only one in Friesland who adopted the name "Amelander" as a surname. Before that his name was Bokke Jacobs. On December 3, 1835 he and his family were part of a group called Secessionists. They were separating themselves from the state run church. They were baptized and joined the Christian Reformed Church in the town of Blija where they lived. It is on the northern coast line of Friesland, just south of Ameland Island and east of the town of Ferwerd. Before this time, your last name was your father’s first name with an "s" added to it. His father’s name was Jacob Dirks. Jacob Dirks married Antje Bokkes on July 28, 1776 in the town of Blija which is in the township of Ferwerderadeel. His father’s name was Dirk ?????. That takes us back to about 1720-25. I can’t find anymore written records with Jacob Dirks name. Bokke Jacobs had to have been the second child of his parents. I know the math doesn’t work out but he was named after his grandfather on his mother’s side. Bokke’s grandfather on his mother’s side was a Bokke Watzes ca. 1715. Bokke Watzes wife’s name was Trijntje Pieters ca. 1720.
According to family tradition we were supposed to have come from the Island of Ameland, just off the coast of Friesland. I haven’t been able to document it. Anne Watros and I have both contacted the genealogy site on Ameland Island and we cannot trace our line back to the Island itself.

Douwe & Bokke’s dad died the year Douwe married the first time in 1872. Their grandfather died before they were born as mine did as well. I believe we were named after the Island but not because we came from there.

Douwe & Bokke’s uncle Jan Bokkes Amelander had only one surviving son named Jetse Jans Amelander. He came to New York in 1888 with his wife Baukje Jans Kok and three children. All three child producing sons of that generation came to the USA. Jetse changed his name to John. Jan, Bokke and Anna were their children’s names. Jan disappeared. And probably died young as no one in the family could remember him. Bokke Jetses Amelander changed his name to Bert and married a Mary (surname unknown). He died in 1917 with no children. Anna married a man by the surname of Martin. No further records, not even her husband’s first name. Jetse had a another son born in the USA named George John Amelander and he had a son named John George Amelander. John served in France in World War II. He received a "dear John" letter while there. When he returned home he married a woman who already had children and they never had any more of their own. John died in 1988. It was a shame because he traveled sometimes in Michigan and never knew he had living relatives here. The name from that line has disappeared, as it has in the Netherlands. I talked with his stepdaughter Sally quite often. She and her husband are real nice people. I have pictures and her stepfather looked like the rest of the Emelanders. When I first spoke to her after she had sent me pictures I called her back and told her I couldn’t prove it yet, but I knew we were related to their New York branch. I have letters written from the Amelanders then living in the Netherlands to the ones in New York written in Fries. The letters showed they were good God fearing Christian people. The New York branch never changed the spelling of the name. Jetse Jans Amelander was Douwe & Bokke’s first cousin.

I’ve found the surname Amelander as far back as 1715, when I found a Anna Christine Van Amelander from Amsterdam. There were about twenty Amelanders in the 1700’s that we are not related to. One family were of the Jewish faith from Amsterdam in 1743. There have been Emelanders living in the US that weren‘t related to us. One P.A. Amelander came here in 1810. I could find no descendents from that line. A Jacob & Anna with their eight children (six were sons) and Jacob’s mother Anna lived in Minnesota at one time. They came from Friesland in 1891. They stated their birth place was Germany, they were Jewish. One family in New York stated their birth place as Finland. That is probably correct. I found some birth certificates in Finland in 1808-1810. Another family said they came from Germany and that could be correct. In any case I can find no surviving Emelanders from those lines.

The people from Friesland are a different people. I believe there is some fishing done off the coast and some farming done inland. They have their own language which is really much different than the Dutch spoken by the rest of the country. My own grandfather spoke Fries and my grandmother spoke Dutch. Friesland was the last province to be Christianized. Have you ever been told by your husband, wife, brother or sister that you were stubborn or bull headed: it’s in your genetics. The people from Friesland are stubborn and proud of it.

When pilots were shot down in the North Sea during WW II they would take boats out to save them. The Germans were returned to their units and the Allies were hid until they could be shipped back to England. They also hid as many Jews as they possibly could from the Nazi’s.

I’ve spent three years working on this tree (the older generations) and I’m finally finished. It’s been a lot of fun meeting new relatives. If your name is Emelander, you’re related to all the rest of them.
I wish to thank Sarah from the bottom of heart for all the work she’s done. Anna Watros has done a whole lot of work on both the Emelander and the entire Hovinga family tree as well. Also I am deeply indebted to Jitze de Jong, Lucy DeYoung and Catharinus van der Ploeg for all the information and help received. Thank you all very much and we all owe you a lot!

Yours Truly,
                       Don Emelander
                               from Tjeerd's (George's) line