Year of publication 1991, issue 1
This is a new publication! We issued a Dutch version in Holland some month ago and the response was sufficient to continue. Now we want to find out if there is sufficient interest for an English version.
The purpose is firstly to keep you informed on additions and rectifications to our family tree, starting from the publication in the "Nederlands Patriciaat 1988". Secondly we like to have a medium to announce our plans for reunions, trips and such. Last but not least we want to publish stories concerning our Boissevain family.
Our first article is the paper Charles read at our reunion in Amsterdam a year ago. Of course we do not expect to have such a well wrought historical story every time. Anecdotes on members of our family or depictions of family life in times past will be very welcome. So many good stories get lost because generations die out. We hope that many of you will contribute to our bulletin in the future.
This first edition will be send to all Boissevains of whom we have the address. Further numbers will only be sent to those of you that have become members of our Boissevain Foundation.
We will issue a minimum of one bulletin per year. The next bulletin will appear in the beginning of next year. However, we would appreciate to have your reactions as soon as possible. We enclose a form which you might use.
Ernst Boissevain, president
Committee and editorship of the Boissevain Foundation
From left to the right (standing) : Jan Willem, Anneke and Charles
(sitting) : Ernst and Daan
Absent : Bob
This year through rise in the stock market, ended well
Much in this town of Amsterdam reminds us of the 17th Century, the "golden Age" of the Dutch Republic. Although I will mainly restrict my talk to the 19th Century, I do not have to remind you all that it was at the end of the 17th Century that Lucas Boissevain, for religious reasons, left the Dordogne and settled in Amsterdam in 1691.
The following 18th Century is known as a period in which few spectacular activities in the economic sense, took place. As we can see in the "Little Blue Book", there was not much change in the economic situation of our family. We do know, however, that memories of Mother Country formed strong bonds between the French refugee families in Amsterdam.
With the invasion of the French in 1795, Amsterdam receded economically and restoration of the House of Orange in 1813 Hardly revived trade activities. It was therefore very interesting to see that Daniel Boissevain saw a future in co-founding the firm of Retemeyer and Boissevain in 1797, from 1813 on called Boissevain & Cie.
From the diary of his son we gather that this Daniel, 30 years old, travelled by boat and coach through Belgium and France, to smuggle wine to Germany. Also colonial goods such as sugar and coffee from England (but forbidden by the French) were traded at great profit in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, as being of German origin.
But especially after 1810, the presence of the French dominance was felt when the interest on State-bonds was reduced and 50% of the value of colonial goods had to be paid to Napoleon in silver. Daniel's warehouse was filled with these forbidden goods and soon after, these were seized and burnt.
After the fall of Napoleon, the Boissevains carried on with their trade and life became more normal again. Daniel became a member of the Chamber of Commerce from 1816 - 1821. In the twenties of that century a canal was dug from Amsterdam to Den Helder, as if steam had not been invented, and whilst the Industrial Revolution was in full swing and the gap between Holland and the old competitor England was getting immeasurably wider.
In 1839 the first railway between Amsterdam and Haarlem was opened. In his diary Daniel's son writes: "Sunday, the last of September, with Maria and the boys to Sloterdijk. The steam wagons behind seen coming along the iron way. It went good and fast. This iron way has been driven on for the first time on 25th August. Rain and wind on the first journey!" Although in the twenties, steamships were used on the route to Zaandam and London, for many years Amsterdam was mainly a harbor for sailing ships.
The eldest son of Daniel (see above), named Gideon Jeremie, was a member of the Boissevain & Cie Shipping firm from 1816 - 1868, but whether they used steamships in the early years is not known to me.
In the beginning of last century, the "Leidschenplein" opened out onto the countryside between Amsterdam, Leiden and Haarlem. From the Leidse Gate with its medieval aspect, there was a narrow bridge to the very rural "Leidse Bosje (wood)". On the town-side of the gate was the entry to the "Cafe du Theatre" where the visitors to the "wooden theatre" could partake of refreshments. That very rural aspect of Amsterdam continued until far into the 19th Century.
Gideon was a Boissevain who had been married several times. In 1830 he married for the third time, namely daughter of the banker Van Heukelom. Gideon was a well known businessman and the 40,000 guilders his wife brought in as her dowry he invested in Dutch funds. He had a great confidence in the future, although still ignorant of the Belgian Revolt in that year, which would separate Belgium and Holland. In his diary he daily notes the market values and relates them to the political developments in the world. On December 31st he writes "This year, through the Belgian uprising, funds have plummeted. Calamitous! And nearly no profit because of the market." What a difference with preceding year! On Thursday 31st December he writes: "Completed accounts. Shares very buoyant. In the evening sat in the parlor and had supper in the dining room. This year, through rise in the stock-market, ended well. My health fairly good."
The many developments in the town and the wealth it brought to the Boissevain family also shows itself in the social functions of its members. Apart from functions in the "Eglise Walon", there are many others in the social and economic area. Gideon Jeremie was Commissioner of the "Entrepotdok" and his daughter, Hester, married a Den Tex, member of the chamber of Commerce and member of the Committee that laid out the Vondelpark, and Director of the Royal Dutch Steamship Company, etc.
It is clear that family links are growing between the entrepreneurs of developing Amsterdam who are helping each other in their enterprises. It is interesting to see how they are taking up politics. For instance: the wellknown Jan Boissevain (who lived from 1896 - 1904 at Herengracht 386, a 17th Century canal house), son of Gideon Jeremie, is not only head of the shipping company KPM, but is also a member of the Town Council and the County council.
He was the elder brother of Charles Boissevain, of the "Algemeen Handelsblad" (a quality paper in Amsterdam), who in his book "Onze Voortrekkers" paints a typical picture of life in Amsterdam in our family circle, taken from the diaries of his father and grandfather.
Between 1860 and 1900, a revolutionary explosion took place in sleepy Amsterdam. When in 1872 the canal locks at Schellingerwoude were completed, Amsterdam's harbour - not influenced by tides - was connected with the North Sea and the Zuiderzee and via the Merwede Canal, with the Rhine. Because of this, shipping increased by 400% between 1876 and 1896. Many families with well known names came up in the world. You will find them in the "Little Blue Book" but I will also mention the Van Eeghens, the Van Lenneps and Petronella, the daughter of Jan Boissevain who married Adriaan van Hall, Director of the Amsterdam Trustee's Kantoor N.V., member of the firm Jan Kaliff & Cie. and of the bankers H. Oyens & Sons.
But let us not, as in the 17th "Golden Century", close our eyes to the other side of the coin! 10% of the 250.000 inhabitants of Amsterdam lived in great poverty, basement dwellings, a high percentage of child death, beggars, muggings and robberies were rife in the town, where many smelly canals had to be filled in for hygienic reasons. In 1900 the population had doubled to over 500,000. For many people spec-built housing, with all it's faults, was the norm. Luckily, we see that many Boissevain were well aware of these desperate circumstances. For instance: Matthijs Gideon, son of the wellknown Jan, was a member of the Welfare Society and the Committee of Prisoner's Welfare. His mother was on the Committee for the Education of Deaf Mutes and on the Committee of Secondary Education for girls.
And now I am coming to the end of my far from complete story about the 19th Century Amsterdam of the Boissevains.
It is extremely interesting to read in "Onze Voortrekkers" about the way they lived.
At the end of the 1970's, the archives of the firm Boissevain & Cie. were included in the Archives of Amsterdam and in the 1980's also our family archives, and now our genealogy has been published. All of great importance, but for me not the main purpose. They are steps to help future researchers (and that could be one of you) to find out and write down what was the driving force of the late 18th Century entrepreneurs, how family relations helped the reconstruction of the Amsterdam economy, what was the influence between commerce and politics and what was the influence of the Boissevain on public life in which they were involved.
Only then can we get a good insight into the real influence of our family, and by that I do not mean only the males. The female Boissevains, apart from producing and raising large families, often fulfilled important and progressive functions in a social work. Let us honor them also by naming them and including them in future family trees.
With this encouragement to further research, I conclude my story.
Drs. Charles F.C.G. Boissevain
To keep alive the memory
February 25, 1991: Decisive day in Kuwait in the fight for freedom against Sadam Husayn. Exactly 50 years before on February 25, 1941: Decisive day in Holland in the fight for freedom against Hitler, a collective strike as deed of resistance. Many members of the Boissevain family have been killed by World War II, have sacrificed their lives for the freedom and peace of their fellow men. We should do them honor to recall their names.
(Name, NP p. .. nr. .. as mentioned in the book Nederlands Patriciaat 1988)
There was the Resistance Group CS-6, named after the address of a Boissevain family, Corelli Street nr. 6 in Amsterdam. Some of their activities are described in the Dutch History of World War II, "Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog" by Dr. L. de Jong; see Part 6, page 158/159 and 546, Part 7, p. 924-933: they collected military information, they sabotaged the German machinery by all deeds of wrecking, they killed prominent enemies such as General Seyffardt. In 1943 many members of the group were arrested after betrayal. Father JAN Boissevain (1894-1945) died in the concentration camp Buchenwald (NP p. 55, nr. IXa). Son JAN KAREL Boissevain (1920-1943, NP p. 56, nr. IXa1) was shot in Overveen with 13 others, amongst whom his brother GIDEON WILLEM Boissevain (1921-1943, NP p.56, nr. IXa2) and his far cousin LOUIS DANIEL Boissevain (1922-1943, NP p. 128, VIIIv2).
Read more about the Resistance Group CS-6: They chose for Resistance (in Dutch)
Others have died in a German concentration camp, after having been caught. My father, ROBERT LUCAS Boissevain (1895-1945, NP p.74, IXh) died in Zwieberge, after other prisons in Holland and concentration camps in Germany. Since the beginning of the war he was involved in different anti-enemy activities, but he never told his family or others what it was exactly. He was caught by betrayal in 1943. GIDEON JEREMIE Boissevain (1903-1945, NP p. 133, VIIIz) died in the concentration camp in Neuengamme. His resistance, as a bank director, had to do with administrative falsifications of the names of Jewish clients and the German coupon systems. He also did not tell his wife and others.
Two American members of our family were killed as soldiers. FREDERIC WILLIAM Boissevain (1904-1943, NP p.81, nr. IX-1) died in Canada during armymaneuvers. HENRY GLENN Boissevain (1920-1944, NP p. 120, nr. VIIIt1) was shot in an air-fight above Germany.
Two members of the Boissevain family lost their husbands of the war. GON Boissevain lost her husband EDUARD VELTMAN (1909-1943, NP p.60, VIIIb4), who was made prisoner of a war in Indonesia by the Japanese enemy and was killed on transport in the Java Sea. MARY Boissevain just in time fled from Indonesia to America, but her husband JAN HENDRIK DE JONG was captured and sent to a concentration camp in Thailand (1895-1946, NP p. 71, VIIIc5), where he survived the privations but not his illnesses, especially tuberculosis.
Many other members of our family have fought against the enemy, have suffered from the war, have wept for their beloved. The reader may forgive if I mention only three names. "Mammie" MIES Boissevain-van Lennep (1896-1965, p. 56, IXa) was mentioned by Dr. L. de Jong in Part 1, p. 489, in Part 6, p. 338, in Part 8, p. 871 and 924 and part 9, p. 529. She was active with the reception of Jewish children and giving help and food to prisoners. She lost het husband JAN and her sons JANKA and GI and has been herself a prisoner in Vught ans Ravensbrück (together with LOUIS' sister THEA, NP p. 128, VIIIv1). My mother SONJA Boissevain-van Tienhoven (b.1900, NP p.74, IXh) lost her husband. In 1980 she received the Verzetsherdenkingskruis and the Yad Vashem Medal for her active part in the resistance: the hiding during the war of 4 Jewish people in her house and some other things, such as making and spreading of underground press. GON Boissevain (b. 1914, NP p. 60, VIIIb4) was one of the many thousands of Dutch people who suffered in Japanese concentration camps; she wrote her experiences in a book "Vrouwenkamp op Java".
The strong character of our French ancestors has been maintained throughout the centuries. In memory of the dead we feel proud of them.
Charles Boissevain, Leidschendam, february 25, 1991
(NP p. 75, nr. IXk)