Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jennie James VALK



Source: Valk, Jennie James. Photograph. C. 1915. Original photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

This lovely lady is Jennie James VALK, a younger sister of my maternal great-grandfather, William James VALK. They and their youngest sister Geertje James "Gertrude" VALK were three of eight children of Tjamme Wiegers VALK and Berber J. DeJONG that survived childhood.

Jennie was born 29 December 1888 in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan and, except for a few years spent in Holland, Ottawa County as a small child, lived most of her life in the Grand Rapids area. She attended school in Walker Township, now incorporated into the west part of the city, and as a young woman worked with Gertrude in a cigar factory. Another young woman who worked there, Agnes TUINSTRA, eventually married their brother William.

This photo may have been taken in 1915 to commemorate Jennie's engagement to Gerritt John HEIDEMA, whom she married on July 16th in Grand Rapids. An infant son, James John, was born around 1917, but died young. Gerritt succumbed to the Spanish Influenza on 21 December 1918; on 10 June 1919, Jennie gave birth to their son, Gerritt, Jr. In 1925, she remarried, to John S. VANDERWAL, and exactly a week before their first anniversary, their son John, Jr. was born.

Jennie's father passed away in 1922. When her mother died in 1934, she was the executrix of her parents' estate. Because of this, the Valk family documents have been carefully preserved in the hands of her descendants. Her grandson made contact with me many years ago, and generously shared copies of family documents, records, and photos as we traced our family tree together. This photograph was given to me by my cousin as a gift, and is something I will treasure as long as I live. Not only is it a family memento from one cousin to another, it is a fascinating portrait of a lovely lady. If you look closely, you can see that she is wearing glasses, and that in itself is a remarkable thing. Women of this era rarely wore spectacles for a "photo shoot." This photograph is considered rare just for that reason, and makes it all the more endearing to me!
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