Family and Migrating.


My Paternal Grandfather.

I remember my grandfather more than my grandmother. He was a joker often playing pranks on me but without malice. I remember their house. It was large and had a garden in a very beautiful part of Holland not far from Amsterdam. My grandfather and grandmother with so many other relatives we never saw again. It was a goodbye forever. We did see my mother’s sister and one of my father’s sister on a few occasions when we visited them. My father never saw his parents again.  I wonder how it must have felt for my parents saying goodbye all those many years ago?(1956)


Paternal Grandmother.

The above painting of my grandmother is the only image I have of her. It would have been painted by her husband, my grandfather. He was a painter of church murals as well as designer in glass in lead works.

I remember less of her than granddad. I don’t know why. I recently discovered a letter my granddad wrote to my parents in Australia. A rather formal letter which made me think that in those earlier times relationships were perhaps more formal between parents and children than today. Looking at old photographs people often look more serious. Perhaps getting a photograph taken took time and one can only keep a smile for that long.

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Granddad painting while smoking a pipe.

The above photo portrays an idyllic afternoon. At the bottom it show my grandmother carrying a cup of something. Perhaps there were guests?


Pensive grandparents wearing slippers.

This photo might well have been one of the last taken. Granddad died in an ‘old age’ home in Amsterdam at the respectable age of 87.

And that’s how it goes.


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13 Responses to “Family and Migrating.”

  1. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    Hi Gez. My paternal grandfather was an orchardist and dairy farmer up on the Hawkesbury at Lower Portland.

    So was HIS dad William John Jones.

    Pop Jones was one of 10 children – none of whom I met. He moved to Drummoyne and then Burwood and worked at Paddy’s markets through the Depression.

    Pop Jones died at age 89 – in 1957, when I was 4. I think my Dad was born in 1925 so he was a late surprise for the old man.

    I do remember (dimly) visiting Dad’s sister Betty and my cousin Billy in Burwood. The whole huge backyard was still under cultivation – veggies and fruit trees everywhere – people determined to never go hungry again. Dad told me stories where the poor kids would beg apple cores from the rich kids at school. Not like the Dutch famine but alarming by Australian standards.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. gerard oosterman Says:

    It’s funny but my daughter and our grandchildren are not that interested in our heritage. They look forward and reflecting hasn’t arrived as yet. Can’t blame them. Who wants to know about potato peeling soup or apple cores?

    A beggar now can live richly from what gets thrown out. Large pizza slices, just flung out, still warm. Bags half full of chips. Bottles of Coke 3/4 full and still bubbling. Have you looked lately in those public garbage disposal bins?

    Just walk around restaurants with half-full plates discarded with reckless abandonment.
    Still with turmeric laced curry, or lamb bones smoked with hickory chips. Pasta dishes laced with spices freshly imported from Messina’s shores. I feel like doing the rounds now!
    Thanksgiving to belching opulence.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    Oh! I love hearing about your grandparents and seeing the photos and painting, Gerard! The painting is lovely and I will click on the link to learn more about your grandfather.

    Those had to be some very difficult goodbyes. 😦

    My maternal grandmother’s family came to the USA from Holland. And my maternal grandfather’s family came to the USA from Austria.

    I didn’t get to know my grandparents. All of them had died by the time I was 5 years old. I am the youngest of 8 children and my mom was the youngest of 7 children. So her parents were quite old by the time I was born. I feel like I really missed out by not knowing them. 😦

    I always wondered why we rarely see smiles in the vintage photos.

    Thank you for sharing about your grandparents.
    (((HUGS))) for you and Helvi 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I like the photos, Gerard. I have many of my grandparents and even some of my great grandparents. Slightly sad on the separation. It would be less separated in this day of instant communication. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It was sad in those days. As you point out, Curt, today we can skype and stay in contact.
      Here a bit of my memoirs dating back to our departure 1956.

      “After a few days, arriving first in Genoa then Naples and finally Messina in Sicily, where I then witnessed the goodbyes of all goodbyes. Not only to Mama, Papa, sorelli and brothers, uncles and aunties, the barber, grandparents, villages and brotherhoods, but also forever and ever with the unrelieved and spine tingling goodbyes that haunt those harbours still. With great heaving, wailings, endless sobbing, and despair soaked up in acres of their best hankies. These were the goodbyes at their best and saddest and so final.

      Those were the farewells of no return.

      As the ship of Johan.V.Oldenbarnevelt finally pulled away from moorings and thick ropes, huge cries would rise again; reach across the widening gap of water. One old man, and papa to dear son Luigi departing, the best cobbler of the village, so unrelentingly steeped in grief and sobbing, lost his dentures in the water as well as son (going far away,) no doubt to be found that same week by a keen archaeologist of that ancient harbour.”

      Liked by 2 people

  5. shoreacres Says:

    Some photographers have told me that your explanation of the serious looks in old photos is exactly right. Because such long exposures were necessary, smiling simply wasn’t a good option. I have a tintype of my gr-gr-grandparents and their three daughters; you’d think they were about to be hanged, but all the information I have about them describes them as perfectly lovely and lively.

    I was so interested and so impressed by your grandfather’s art work: both the painting and the stained glass. Have you ever been back to see any of that work? No one in my family ever achieved such heights, although they had other skills that were just as useful.

    I know almost nothing about my paternal grandparents. Both came from Sweden in the late 1800s. Coincidentally, both came on the same ship, but didn’t meet until they were in this country. They never said a word about their parents, or their lives in Sweden — and of course I never asked, because I was a child and not interested in such things.

    I do know that their town (Gefle) had a fire in 1869, approximately 8,000 of 10,000 inhabitants lost their homes, and about 350 farms were destroyed. The latter part of the 1800s were a time of poor crops and high unemployment, too, so that might have helped them make their decision to come to the U.S. Whether they left family behind, I don’t know. I do know that one great-aunt whom I never met returned to Sweden twice by ship, so I presume there was someone there for her to visit.

    The photo of your grandfather painting is especially nice. You must be happy to have such treasures.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, Linda. I did go back and found some of his work. One of his sons, also named ‘Jan’ became a ceramic artist and we bought a piece of his when we lived in Holland 1973-76.

    I don’t know how my grandfather made his living. They had 6 children. I was told that in those days artists were much supported by aristocracy and churches.

    It is not unusual that people talk very little of the country they have left. It was a drastic move especially when driven by poverty and hunger. I have recently met some ex- Dutch people whereby we share learning the Dutch language course run by the University for the aged. A few did not want to hear or talk much about Holland. Perhaps all a bit too painful. This made me wonder why they wanted to learn Dutch language again. A secret yearning for the past, perhaps?

    Our grandchildren are also not that much interested in our background. A pity, because both Holland and Finland are great countries now. A kind of reverse migration is taking place where many Australians are now working and living in other countries.

    A son of my brother from Brisbane, married a Brazilian woman and are now living permanently in Majorca. He has two children. They love it there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. rangewriter Says:

    Gerard, you made an interesting observation about the level of formality between generations in the family. My grandfathers letters to my mother, even when she was a small child, seem cold and judgmental to me. But perhaps you are onto something and that communication was just more formal and distant then than it is now. (However, I have also read lovely letters written during those times that were full of warmth and giving. Maybe this is more an issue of family traits.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Parents during my time as a child were addressed in the polite form of the Dutch language by children. The same as in French with ‘tu and vous’.
      That has all disappeared and parents are lucky not to get a kick up the bum by kids.
      My parents were amused when they came here to hear the word ‘love’ used so often. They could not understand that verb was used to describe a nice baked leg of lamb or a nice flowering plant.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. freefall852 Says:

    This nice little post now gone quiet, may I post a link to a story on this very subject told me by a Greek man I once did work for…


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