Friday, December 16, 2011

Genealogical Riddle Solved

As the strange ways of luck and synchronicity would have it, not too long ago, on the very same day and at the very same moment, I received emails from two unrelated people both offering me the complete overview of the descendants of Elize van Zuylen-Niessen. Both were responding to my blogs about Pekalongan in which I scratched my head and wondered out loud about my genealogical connections with Elize, the remarkable and famous batik maker in Northern Java.
Photo by MJA Nashir
Sandra Niessen holding up a batik made by
Eliza van Zuylen Niessen

Both thought that I might be a descendant but I knew that this was not the case and that I would have to dig much further back, before the birth of Elize’s father. One of my correspondents was able to tell me enough about Elize’s father’s family that I could finally make the connection. The great grandfather of Elize’s father’s was also my ancestor, a man called Wijnand Niessen, born in 1712 in Hundshoven, The Netherlands.

In the 18th century, the enterprising son of Wijnand Niessen, named Dionicius, left home and settled in Buren further north. For generations his branch of the family, from which I hail, lived along the Lek/Rhine river leading to Rotterdam. Elize’s father’s people stayed in the region around Heerlen, Sittard and Hundshoven. Her father, Matthias Nicolaas (the spelling varies), after a long stay in the Netherlands East Indies, returned to the region of his youth where he died.

Elize van Zuylen-Niessen’s father, Matthias Nicolaas Niessen, was a KNIL (Royal Dutch-East Indies Army) officer who received a military medal called the Willemsorde. He fought in Bali in 1849, in Borneo in 1850 and Riau (Sumatra) in 1858 and 1959. He was then Luitenant.

Elize’s mother, Elisabeth Christina Anna Geertruida von Ranzow, was the fourth generation of the Von Ranzow family to live in the East. Her great great grandfather sailed for Ceylon from Germany. Two generations of his descendants lived on that VOC Island, but her father was born on board ship heading towards Batavia. His mother was a “princess” from Palembang.

In other words, aside from a common last name, probably half of The Netherlands, to say nothing of a certain family in Palembang, is as closely related to Elize van Zuylen Niessen as I am. There are 6 generations between myself and the ancestor that Elize and I have in common. Moreover, Wijnand, our common ancestor, married twice; she descends from the second wife while I descend from the first. Very distant family indeed. Nevertheless, it is always nice to have an illustrious family member; I enjoy feeling a personal attachment to her life and times in Indonesia.

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