352 years ago, my 9th Great Grandfather was a Dutch button maker

352 years ago, my 9th Great Grandfather was a Dutch button maker

The Dutch are meticulous record keepers and have records that stretch back hundreds of years. Baptisms, marriages, wills, bills of house sale and orphanage registries. My mom was born in Rotterdam in 1947 and emigrated to America in 1953 with my grandfather's job as a cocoa salesman. 

Shortly after my mother's death in 2006, I moved to Amsterdam to attend graduate school. During weekend excursions to Middelburg and Leiden, I visited the civic archives. A basic grasp of Dutch knowledge allowed me to read names, numbers, occupations and town names on the old scripts. With online archives, I have traveled back nine generations in some places. My family has been a series of laborers, seamstresses, shoemakers, carpenters and milk sellers. It is a story of scraping by, surviving many childbirths, or not. Two sets of orphans who were raised by the state. I traced two generations back in Rotterdam, then two in Den Haag, and five before that in Leiden, and then I found a buttonmaker!  

You can see the writing style change around 1700:

This receipt book from 1665 shows my ancestor, Baltus Ulrich, knoopmaker (buttonmaker).

Here is a painting of a graduation ceremony at Leiden University in 1650 by Hendrick van den Bergh. My ancestor did not attend university, but this scene is about 15 years before his entry in the record book so this was the world he lived in.

He might have made buttons like these, found by a metal detectorist in the Netherlands:


This engraving by Jan Luyken from 1711 shows a button maker's shop - this was probably not so different from the workspace of my ancestor.

Looks like buttons just run in my blood. 

Shop our original antique button jewelry

Shop our sterling and bronze Modern Heirlooms button jewelry


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