Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jeltje "Jennie" van der Ploeg Korstanje - my 2nd great grandmother

I was going to stick to my Perkins family theme from my last blogs but after Memorial Day and making a trip to the cemetery last night to give a badly needed cleaning to Jennie's headstone I decided I'd write what little I know about her.  I'll start with her headstone as that's fresh in my head:

 I've always kept an eye on Jennie's headstone as she and 3 of my grandpa's uncles are buried in close proximity at Greenwood Cemetery in Grand Rapids MI.  They are right as you pull in the cemetery and close to the road so easy to find.  My dad remembers finding them when he used to work at the cemetery (he didn't know who they were).  My grandpa took me here once to visit them and after my grandpa's health started to slide (and he's now since passed) I've taken it upon myself to be the caregiver.
As you can see, Jennie's stone was in pretty bad shape.  The top photo is actually easier to read than it really was because I soaked it down in preparation for cleaning before I took the "before" photo. 

I brought my grandma with me and as we were leaving the cemetery I told her I like to think my grandpa smiled with his approval that I came and did this.  Jennie has very few descendants and even fewer that know she existed so I don't believe anyone else is going to do it.

Jennie was born Jeltje van der Ploeg 2/16/1871 at Hantum, Friesland Netherlands to Jan Folkerts van der Ploeg (1827-1879) and Etje Sjoerds Heeringa (1834-1917).  She was one of only two children born to them, the other being her sister Folkje "Florence" (1867-1941) who married 1st to Jan Gerbens van der Woude (1862-1907) and 2nd to Anne Jans Machiela (1865-1949).

I know very little about Jennie's life.  In 1861 her father's occupation is listed as farmer - in 1871 (at her birth) he's listed as a "roadworker".  I'd assume they were just your average family.  Upon his death the family stayed in Hantum until 3/27/1893 when they embarked (as steerage passengers) for Grand Rapids MI aboard the ship "Obdam" under the family name "van der Woude".  Folkje and her husband had their children Gerben Jans and Ettje Jans, Jeltje and their mother Etje traveled with Jan Gerbens and his mother and 3 of his siblings.  I'm unsure why they left the Netherlands or chose Grand Rapids as their new home.  They arrived in New York 4/15/1893.

Ship "Obdam" - source of photo unknown
 Jennie married Jan Korstanje (of Wolphaartsdijk, Zeeland Netherlands) 4/8/1896 at Grand Rapids MI.  This photo is from their wedding.  It was in an old steamer trunk that was in my grandpa's half-brother's possession (it has since vanished under despicable circumstances).  The trunk had a bunch of old family memorabilia in it including Jan's funeral book, my great grandpa's (Jan and Jennie's son) auxiliary police effects and these 2 photos.  I believe it belonged to Jan, was passed down to his son James and upon James' death became the property of my great grandfather Nicholas.  As you can see this photo was folded in half (it was a hard cardboard photo).  Luckily I scanned this before the belongings were stolen.  I had seen a head shot of Jennie from this picture from an album my grandpa had but for years didn't know it was her wedding photo or that any other photos of her existed. 
 When I met with my grandpa's half brother he also showed me this photo that was in the trunk.  Luckily this one wasn't folded in half (it probably would have ruined Jennie's face).  This is the only other known photo of Jennie.  My great grandpa Nicholas (1903-1981) is the baby so this is circa 1903-1904.  The older boy is their son John (1898-1919) and the 2nd youngest is James (1900-1954).  I'll blog about the Korstanje boys at a different time.  Their son Edward (1906-1923) hadn't yet been born. 

Jennie died 3/24/1918 at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. Due to the butchering of the Korstanje name (that I still deal with myself to this day with Korstange) it took me years to find the death record or an obituary.  The Western Michigan Genealogical Society ( has it indexed as Korseanje (I've sent them a request to update).  It's indexed even worse at as "James Koestarve".  Looking at the obituary I can understand the error there - the death certificate, not so much. 

Jan went on to remarry but didn't have any more children.  He's buried with his 2nd wife but Jennie's 2 young sons are buried near her and her son James within a few lots.  My grandfather always told me that she died during the flu pandemic of 1918 which made him guess that's how she died.  When I finally found her death certificate it showed she died of uterine cancer.  I've been in touch with grandchildren of her sister Florence but I don't know of much contact between the families otherwise.  I wish my grandpa could have known his grandmother and that I had a better story for Jennie.


  1. Do you know where the Van Der Ploeg surname originated from in The Netherlands, and if you have some historic family history. There are Van Der Ploegs living here in Cape Town, who are trying to find their roots. My e-mail address is ''''.

  2. I missed your comment somehow - they were from Friesland, Jeltje born at Hantum.