Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ancestors in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census - Part 12

View historical documents and photos from America's Boom and Bust era (1920 - 1935) here.

April 1st was Census Day for the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. In honor of that census day, throughout the month of April I posted lists of my known direct ancestors and where they were residing during that census. I am continuing this series into the subsequent months. I'll also list who's missing; for us family historians, missing individuals on census records can be the most frustrating and intriguing challenges of genealogy!

I introduce you to Martin HOEKSTRA and Jennie TON, my great-great-grandparents on my mother's side. Both first-generation Americans born of Dutch immigrants, it is possible they met while working in the laundry business, perhaps the American Steam Laundry Company of Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan, in the mid 1880s. Martin was a teamster; his job would probably have entailed driving wagonloads of dirty clothing and linens from the customers to the steam laundry, and then delivering the cleaned items back to their homes. Jennie was a laundress, and doubtless had one of the hardest and most thankless tasks in the business! Isabella Mary Beeton's Book of Household Management (paragraph 2372) describes the duties required of laundry maids in private homes in the 19th century...they must have been similar to those in a laundry company of that era. Hot, wet, and dirty work involving dangerous machinery and chemicals would have been the working environment for a laundress in those days.

Jennie and Martin were both probably very used to hard work. As children of immigrant laborers, they had grown up expected to do their share. Jennie, especially, had had a hard life. Her parents had immigrated from Nieuwerkerk, the Province of Zeeland, the Netherlands, with an infant daughter to Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio in 1857. Although they apparently had nine children in all, only three--Jennie and sisters Nellie and Mary--survived to adulthood. By 1873, the family had moved to Grand Rapids, and her father died the following year. Jennie's widowed mother remarried to a widower in 1875, but died herself three years later. The step-father in turn remarried another widow, and Jennie and her sisters were expected to contribute to the household. The older girls worked as domestics and Jennie, at 11 years old, was working as well. Probably not welcome in a household where both adults were step-parents, she ended up living with her mother's brother and sister-in-law, never obtaining more than a third-grade education.

Martin and Jennie were married in his parents' hometown of Holland, Ottawa Co., Michigan on 27 November 1886. It's possible that Jennie was expecting their first child at that time, as she was born less than eight months later. I have blogged about finding their marriage record in a previous post.

By 1930, the days of working for a laundry company were long over. Martin and Jennie had raised four children, Grace, Maude Mae, my great-grandfather John Martin (I blogged about his 1930 enumeration here), and Peter Louis Ton HOEKSTRA. These children were married with families of their own, producing eleven grandchildren. Martin had worked for years as a carpenter and contractor, both privately and for the railroad. Sometime between 1920 and 1927, they had bought a home at 1225 Cooper Avenue in Ward 3 of southeast Grand Rapids, a predominately Dutch immigrant neighborhood. In 1930, Martin was working as a decorator in building construction. Their home was worth $3,000, although they did not own a radio. Neighbors on both sides of them did own radios, so that indicates there was electricity in the neighborhood.

On 15 April 1930, Martin and Jennie were enumerated at their home at 1225 Cooper Avenue in Ward 3, Block 1478 of Grand Rapids (ED 26, Sheet 21A):

Household 7; Family 7; Hoekstra, Martin; Head of household; owner of home worth $3000; No radio; Family does not live on a farm; Male; White; age 61; Married; age at first marriage: 19; Did not attend school since 1 September 1929; Able to read and write; Born in Michigan; Parents born in the Netherlands; Able to speak English; occupation: Decorator for Building Construction company; Works on own account; Employed; Not a veteran

Jennie; Wife; Female; White; age 62; Married; age at first marriage: 19; did not attend school since 1 September 1929; Able to read and write; Born in Ohio; Parents born in the Netherlands; Able to speak English; occupation: none

Jennie was very close to her granddaughter, my maternal grandmother, Ruth Lillian HOEKSTRA, who shared stories of her grandmother with my mother and me over the years. According to Grandma, Jennie was sweet and gentle. She had learned how to cook and make bread at a very young age. She called her husband "Pa," and did whatever he said. My grandmother, an independent-minded woman, used to get riled up over this, because according to her, Martin was "a tartar"!

I look forward to when the 1940 U.S. Federal Census is publicly released, as Martin and Jennie should appear on it in either Grand Rapids or Allegan, Allegan Co., Michigan. The latter location is where their son Louis lived and they moved in with him and his wife in their old age. Jennie died at the age of 76 in Allegan. Martin was visiting or living with their daughter Maude when he died in Detroit the following year, also at age 76. Both are buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Allegan, along with son Louis. Their graves can be seen at the Find A Grave website here. They are the only photographs I have of this couple's life.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11)


Janice said...

Okay Miriam,

Now you have to explain "tartar" to me... I've never heard it before!


Miriam Robbins said...

Janice, has a Random House Unabridged definition of "an ill-tempered person." They also have an American Heritage Dictionary definition of "a person regarded as ferocious or violent." Their WordNet definition is "a fiercely vigilant and unpleasant woman."

Terry Thornton said...

Miriam, What a great article! I feel as if I know your people --- I'd never heard "tartar" used in this sense before either. The reference to Beeton's Book of Household Management offers a wonderful insight into how life was lived, doesn't it? Thanks for the reference --- and the good article.
Terry Thornton
Hill Country on Monroe County, Mississippi

Colleen said...

What a great idea! How do you keep all your information straight? Respond to my TAG and tell me ;).

Check out my blog at for the tag topic!

Miriam Robbins said...

Terry: I'm glad you feel like you've gotten to know my people! That's the essential ingredient of AnceStories! Now if only my relatives were as excited about getting to know my ancestors as you are!

I discovered Beeton's Book of Household Management through an excerpt on laundry maids in History Magazine, published by the same company as Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy.

Miriam Robbins said...


I wish I could say I keep it all straight because I have an impeccable workspace! With the help of my RootsMagic family tree software and a good filing system (despite my messy desk and work space), I do keep it straight!

I'll take you up on your challenge and hope to have a post for you sometime this weekend!