© 2020 by Roots & Wings Research, LLC

  • Kristin Wenger

The name that unlocked a 130-year-old mystery (#52Ancestors week 6: Favorite Name)

Updated: Jan 23

Two weeks ago, I shared a biography of my great-grandfather Peter Groenendaal. I hinted that contrary to our family’s belief, he was NOT an only child. Here is the story of his sister, how I found her, and a family reunion across an ocean and a century in the making.

As I wrote earlier, Petrus Johannes Groenendaal was born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on 7 June 1887. His mother, Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent, was apparently unwed as there was no father listed on his birth certificate.[1] On 24 July 1890, Amalia married Gerardus Johannes Groenendaal.[2] Gerardus officially adopted seven-year-old Petrus on 11 July 1894.[3]

What a name!

I was taken with his mother’s name: Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent.

A photograph of Amalia in her later years.

When I found Peter’s birth record, it was the first time I saw this unique, lengthy name that rolled off the tongue. In fact, the name was uncommon enough that it led me to another record that caused me to question everything I had been told about my Dutch immigrant great-grandfather.

A second birth record listing Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent as the mother [4]

This birth record was for a little girl born on 8 December 1884 in Amsterdam to a mother with the same name as Peter’s. The child was given the exact same name as her mother: Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina!


Could the mother of both children be the same woman? The facts certainly made it seem so:

  • The mother had the same unique name.

  • The children were born two and a half years apart, a reasonable spacing.

  • No father was listed for either child.

  • The mother worked as a housekeeper and lived at the exact same address in Amsterdam: Koestraat 17!

My mind was spinning. My grandfather (Peter’s only son, John) said that his father was an only child who immigrated to the United States. Could Peter actually have had a sister? And if so, what happened to her? The research led to a heart-rending saga and eventually, to family we never knew we had.


Amalia II (born 8 December 1884)

I traced this daughter (whom I will call Amalia II, so as not to confuse the mother and daughter of the same name) and learned the following:

  • She married Frans Naerebout at age twenty-two.[5]

  • It appears she gave birth to twin boys in May 1907. Mattheus died on 6 June 1907 (age two weeks) and Cornelis died on 9 June 1907 (age three weeks).[6]

  • A daughter, Marretje (Martha) was born on 16 October 1912.[7] (Martha would later die at the young age of 28 on 5 December 1940).[8]

  • Her husband, Frans, died on 3 August 1916, at age 30.[9]

  • Amalia was left as a young widow who had suffered the great loss of two infant sons and her husband. She supported herself and her daughter by working as a seamstress.[10] After a decade of this difficult life, she met Joseph Kreuger, a wealthy and well-known widower with two teenage children.[11]

  • Joseph and Amalia married on 14 December 1927.[12] On 1 January 1929, at the age of 44, Amalia gave birth to her only child who would survive her, a daughter she named Tinie Amalia Kreuger.[13]

After learning the basic facts of Amalia II’s life, I had more questions than answers.

  • Were Peter and Amalia II raised together?

  • Did they have the same father?

  • Why did we know nothing of her existence?

The key to unlocking this mystery was found in Tinie Amalia’s obituary which listed her husband and three children.[14] These children would be my mom’s second cousins. After searching social media for these children, I encouraged my mom to try contacting them through Facebook. We were blessed to receive a response from Tinie Amalia’s middle child Liesbeth, and here is where the adventure unfolds.


Aunt Neeltje’s Letter Liesbeth was a tremendous help in figuring out some of this mystery. She went to her elderly father’s house to see what she could find in her mother’s family papers or photographs. She shared this letter with us and was kind enough to translate the Old Dutch into English.

Letter written in Amsterdam on 21 August 1931 by Neeltje Prent, sister-in-law of Amalia I [15]

Before reading the letter, we must return to Amalia II’s birth mother (Amalia I) and her husband, Gerardus Groenendaal.

Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina (Prent) and Gerardus Johannes Groenendaal

Amalia I was born in 1863 and died on 21 December 1922.[16] Her husband, Gerardus Groenendaal, outlived her and died in 1928.[17]


It seems that sometime after Gerardus died, Neeltje Prent (the wife of Amalia I’s brother, Gerrit Prent) contacted her biological niece, Amalia II, who by this time was in her mid-forties. She sent her a photo of her birth mother (Amalia I) and explained what had happened in December 1884.[18]


Hold her [Amalia I] in high honor because she has suffered more than you think. She could not do what she wanted herself. She depended on her husband… When you were born and went to your foster parents, your mother was dying. Against expectations, she became better again… She felt badly that you were taken away. When she was better, she went directly to Den Helder to be with you. She then saw you for a short moment. When she came again, she was sent away at the door of your foster parents and she was told that she would never see you again. She came home with us and cried terribly. Often she said to me:
“Oh, if I could only get her back. I would like to crawl from Amsterdam to Den Helder on my bare knees. And do everything to get her back with me.”
But her husband was against it. I dare to assure you that if her husband would have died earlier than her, everything would have been well between you and your mother. She has always suffered terribly, so you can understand that she also experienced a lot of misery…
Your aunt Neeltje”

This letter, written by a family member who was an eye-witness to those events, provides an explanation for why Peter did not know his older sister. After Amalia I gave birth in December 1884, she was close to death; therefore, her infant daughter (Amalia II) was sent to a foster family. These foster parents were the Steens, who lived in Den Helder. [19] It seems Amalia I miraculously recovered, but when she attempted to reclaim her daughter, she was denied. Perhaps the law of the time did not favor an unwed mother, and it appears that after she married Gerardus, he was not supportive of trying to get Amalia II back. One can only imagine the lifelong grief of a mother who was prevented from raising her only daughter.


Questions Remain

  • Did Peter know about or ever get to meet his older sister?

Liesbeth noted that it was curious that Peter took his wife and son to the beach in Den Helder in 1916. “Most Amsterdam people often go to the prominent beaches of Zandvoort or Bloemendaal. It is remarkable…because his sister lived in Den Helder. Did he know about her?”[20] Or was it just a sad coincidence that they were so close, yet so far away? The fact that Aunt Neeltje waited until after Gerardus died to contact Amalia II suggests that perhaps Peter was unaware of her existence.

  • Was Gerardus Groenendaal the biological father of Peter, Amalia II, or neither child?

No father is listed on either birth certificate; however, it is quite possible that Gerardus was the father and simply did not marry Amalia until a few years later, requiring him to formally “adopt” his son for legal purposes. On the other hand, if he was Amalia II’s father, why would he not want to reclaim her from the foster parents? This issue could easily be laid to rest with DNA testing, but in the end it does not matter to us if Peter and Amalia were full or half siblings. We are just delighted to have found our Dutch cousins.


A Long Overdue Family Reunion My mom has always wanted to visit the Netherlands, especially since her father had lived there as a young child. She and her husband planned a trip that included a stop in Amsterdam and the surrounding area in the spring of 2016. After she connected with Liesbeth via Facebook and email, they made plans to meet.

Amalia I’s great-granddaughters meet in Delft, 2 May 2016


Dee meets more of her Dutch cousins:

Left: Liesbeth’s sons Michiel and Olivier Schuringa

Center: Kees Duininck (Dee's 2nd cousin, Liesbeth's brother) & his children Puck and Marijn

Right: Dee, Pim Lerou (Liesbeth’s husband) and Liesbeth Duininck


When they met in the Netherlands, Liesbeth shared some photographs of her grandmother (Amalia II) in her youth. Here are siblings, Amalia and Peter, finally reunited side by side.

Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent (II) Petrus Johannes (Peter John) Groenendaal

born 8 December 1884 born 7 June 1887

I think Amalia I would be overjoyed to see her children (and her great-grandchildren) finally together, don’t you? And it was her beautiful name, Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent, that unlocked the records that led to their reunion.


If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. – Michael Crichton


Do you have a family mystery that you would love to solve? Let me know how I can help!


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Sources:

[1]"Netherlands, Noord-Holland, Civil Registration, 1811-1950," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 January 2018), entry for Petrus Johannes Groenendaal, 07 Jun 1887; citing Birth, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem (Noord-Hollands Archives, Haarlem); FHL microfilm 1,203,891.


[2] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 January 2018), Gerardus Johannes Groenendaal and Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent, Marriage 24 Jul 1890, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Haarlem, record number Reg.18, fol. 31; Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem.


[3] Netherlands, Noord-Holland, Civil Registration, 1811-1950," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 January 2018), entry for Petrus Johannes Groenendaal, 07 Jun 1887; citing Birth, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem (Noord-Hollands Archives, Haarlem); FHL microfilm 1,203,891, especially note writing in left margin.


[4] "Netherlands, Noord-Holland, Civil Registration, 1811-1950," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018), Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent, 08 Dec 1884; citing Birth, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands, Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem (Noord-Hollands Archives, Haarlem); FHL microfilm 1,203,888.


[5] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018), Frans Naerebout and Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent, Marriage 15 Mar 1907, Den Helder, Noord-Holland, Nederland; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Bron: boek, Periode: 1907, archive , inventory number , record number 1907/067; Bron: boek, Periode: 1907; Regionaal Archief Alkmaar.


[6] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018), entry for Mattheus Naerebout, Death 06 Jun 1907, Den Helder, Noord-Holland, Netherlands; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Den Helder, inventory number , record number 156; Noord-Hollands Archief. Also, "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018), entry for Cornelis Naerebout, Death 09 Jun 1907, Den Helder, Noord-Holland, Netherlands; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Den Helder, inventory number , record number 159; Noord-Hollands Archief.


[7] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Population Registers," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QG2P-M7TM : 23 January 2018), Marretje Naerebout, 23 Apr 1886 [date error]; from " Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Public Records," database; citing Municipal Census, Den Helder, Noord-Holland, Nederland, citing OpenArchives, Netherlands.


[8] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018), Marretje Naerebout, Death 05 Dec 1940, Den Helder, Noord-Holland, Netherlands; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Den Helder, inventory number , record number 440; Noord-Hollands Archief.


[9] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018), Frans Naerebout, Death 03 Aug 1916, Bloemendaal, South Holland, Netherlands; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Den Helder, inventory number , record number 250; Noord-Hollands Archief.


[10] Liesbeth Duininck (granddaughter of Amalia II) to Kristin Wenger, e-mail, 2 February 2018, “re: Translations Dutch and English,” Personal Correspondence, Prent Research Files, privately held by Wenger, Lititz, Pennsylvania, 2018.


[11] Ibid.


[12] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018). Jozeph Kreuger and Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Prent, Marriage 14 Dec 1927, Den Helder, Noord-Holland, Netherlands; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Haarlem, inventory number , record number 260; Noord-Hollands Archief.


[13] “Tinie Amalia Duininck-Kreuger,” Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant, obituary, 26 September 2012; digital image (https://www.mensenlinq.nl/mensenlinq/overlijdenpcz/site/advertentie/detail?pid=4641089 : accessed 6 February 2018).


[14] Ibid.


[15] Neeltje Prent to Amalia Kreuger, handwritten letter, Amsterdam, 21 August 1931; copy provided by Liesbeth Duininck, Rotterdam, granddaughter of Amalia Kreuger.


[16] “Amalia Polisiena Wilhelmina Groenendaal (Prent)” newspaper clipping, December 1922; copy provided by Liesbeth Duininck, Rotterdam, granddaughter of Amalia Kreuger.


[17] "Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 6 February 2018), Gerardus Johannes Groenendaal, Death 18 Mar 1928, Rheden, Rheden, Gelderland, Nederland; from database, openarchives (https://www.openarch.nl : 2016); citing Velp (Rheden), archive 0207, inventory number 8691, record number 52; Gelders Archief.


[18] Neeltje Prent to Amalia Kreuger, handwritten letter, Amsterdam, 21 August 1931.


[19] Liesbeth Duininck (granddaughter of Amalia II) to Kristin Wenger, e-mail, 2 February 2018, “re: Translations Dutch and English,” Personal Correspondence, Prent Research Files, privately held by Wenger, Lititz, Pennsylvania, 2018.


[20] Ibid.