We may as well begin with the marriage of Theodore Frederick Jansen and Frederika Paulina Vanderdonck. The certificate which appears here was among the papers my mother gave me. According to family legend, my grandparents met each other “on the boat coming over,” and were married immediately upon reaching New York. There was some story about how the two women wouldn’t be allowed to stay without a man to support them, or that the young man was too young — 19 — to stay in the country without any cash — something his new mother-in-law could concieveably provide. In fact, my sister Anne Marie reported this tale at a family reunion held in the 1980s. (I’ll post her version of the family history at a later date. ) The couple was married on September 13, 1890, in New York City. The name of the officiant is nearly illegible; no church is indicated.
It’s a nice story, but it’s not the whole truth. There’s the little matter of a police report filed by Frederika’s father, Alexis Dieudonne Egide Vanderdonck, on September 3, 1890, in Rotterdam. Steven and I found the report in the Dutch national archives at The Hague with the help of Eric Ruijssenaars, a professional geneologist working in Holland. (You can double click any of these images to enlarge them.)
The last paragraph is the one of interest. It says (and I translate it a little loosely, my Dutch skills being what they are), that Paulina Frederika Vanderdonck , aged 20, born in Amsterdam, has been reported missing by her father on September 3, 1890. She was recently working as a dressmaker in Utrecht, and disappeared in the company of one Theodore Jansen, 19 years old, without her father’s permission. The young couple is suspected of heading toward Amsterdam or Arnheim, and there is a description of the girl (my grandmother!) She is described as small, with an oval face, a high forehead, brown eyes, an average nose, a round chin, her hair medium brown to black. The High Commissioner of Police of Utrecht is looking for her.
So much for “we met on the boat.” I don’t think anyone realized that Grandmother had been working as a dressmaker in Utrecht, where Grandfather lived. She may have even worked in a shop owned or managed by Petronella Jansen-Ashof, Theodore’s mother. It was called Magasin du Modes, located on the main square of Utrecht, the Domplein.
We do know that Mr. Vonderdonck did not find his daughter and her lover in time. In fact, it would take him some years to find them. But that’s another story.