Year of publication 1997, issue 8

 

Preface

In 1997 the meetings of our committee were marked by finishing the reunion perils, promoting the sale of the family necktie and preparing this Bulletin. This all in the financial framework that we offer you as in article by tresurer Guus in this issue. Meeting with relatives, informing about the Boissevain history and preparing a souvenir like a necktie: these are all activities within the objectives of our Boissevain Foundation.

In this way we built further on a tradition that was founded in the thirties, when Barthold H. Boissevain was the secretary of our Family Society (later Family Union of Boissevains). Through his activities he published in 1937 the well known green book in which all members of our family had their place. In 1955 Menso became president and Daniël L.G. (Daan) vice-president of the Family Union of Boissevains, that in 1967 changed its name and formal status in Boissevain Foundation. Daan became president at that moment, Robert L. (Bob) tresurer and Otto van der Aa a member. And it was in this party I became introduced exactly ten years later during my student days In Amsterdam, when I showed interest for the family foundation.

In 1979 Daan (NP page 90) became 70 years old and could not be president anymore for statutory reasons. Ernst took his place and I became secretary. But Daan could not get away from family history and the committee could not get away from Daan. So for many more years we met in his appartment on the Parnassusweg in Amsterdam that was filled with "family souvenirs". This changed with the foundation of the present committee and by the time the contact with Daan faded. By letter, telephone and sometimes a visit I kept in touch with him and heard about his trips abroad, cultural daytrips (for instance with the genealogical society De Nederlandse Leeuw), his tennis games and his stories about our family in the earlier days. Yet, the message of his death last July was a surprise for us. The last person of a past generation, that has experienced a complete other world, passed away and will never be able again to inform us about the earlier days of our family. To Daan as a person and as a member of the committee of the Boissevain Foundation we owe him many thanks. We will continue our family tradition for the future generations and ..... in honour of Daan.

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain,

Chairman Boissevain Foundation

 

Boissevain reunion

Some 60 relatives attended the Boissevain meeting, held in Amsterdam in November 1996, less than the 80 to 90 at previous meetings. Several regular visitors were not present. However, other cousins took part for the first (and hopefully not the last!) time. Besides strengthening family ties and having a pleasant chat with known and unknown relatives we enjoyed an interesting programme. Venue were the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, which also houses our own Boissevain archive. It has been catalogued by staff members of the municipal archives; the catalogue is there available.

Especially for our meeting staff member Peschar made an interesting diversified selection from the many items in the Boissevain archive: foto`s, letters, diaries, travel stories, housekeeping books, press cuttings, etc.

After a short welcome by chairman Charles F.C.G.Boissevain (Nederland's Patriciaat page 116) a first example of our Boissevain necktie was presented to our former chairman Ernst Boissevain (NP page 111, see photo).

He mentioned the publication in the USA of the book Slow Train to Paradise (how Dutch investors financed American railroads), about which you will read more further in this Bulletin.

Charles also drew our attention to an article in the monthly Ons Amsterdam of October 1996 about the Boissevain family. It contains many interesting features, unfortunately disfigured by a few incorrect, unjust and even offending remarks: poor journalism.

About the book (mentioned in Bulletin 7) to be published by Matthijs G.J.(Tice) Boissevain (NP page 65) The Descendants of Lucas Boissevain and Marthe Roux (see elsewhere in this Bulletin) remarks were made by another Charles Boissevain (NP page 75). He had visited the author recently and gave some more details, enlivened with anecdotes and stories from the book. During his short speech cousin Karel den Tex (NP page 461), great grandson of Hester den Tex-Boissevain (NP page 49) arrived straight from America with an updated draft copy. This draft met much interest. Cousin Wim Le Rütte, son of Heleen Boissevain (NP page 55) drew our attention to another book worth reading, written by cousin Denis de Utheman, daughter of Tolly Mesritz-Boissevain (NP page 55) about 9 generations Boissevain: Du pays des rivières au pays des canaux (see elsewhere in this Bulletin).

Staff member Ellen Fleurbaay of the Municipal Archives gave a short lecture on the importance of family archives. Historians and other scientists use them for theses and to gain insight in social, political, economical and cultural developments. Particularly the so-called "egodocuments" (personal letters, diaries, etc.) but also other items are extremely valuable. Device: "Don`t throw away too soon!"

Finally some film fragments of the twenties (filmed with an old 16 mm filmcamera but converted for video display) were shown. The quality was mediocre, but the film gave a nice impression of special events and experiences of a number of Boissevains 70 years ago.

Following the "official" meeting more than a third of the participants continued the pleasant gathering at a dinner elsewhere in town.

Robert L.(Bob) Boissevain, Heemstede (NP page 74)

 

Boissevain by train

Carefully we turn our camper van through the curves in road 644 in Virginia (USA). Daughter Floor is excited about the Disney associations she has while reading the nearby place name of Pocahontas. When approaching the village of Boissevain I am thinking more about the importance of our family records and the published genealogy for the knowledge of the family history. In the preface of Nederland's Patriciaat 1988 (the "blue booklet") it is said, that the Boissevains played an important role in the economical field and special in banking, insurance and stockbrooking in 19th and 20th century Amsterdam. But how can you make that clear to the members of the Boissevain family?

Research in archives and family trees is time consuming and for most of us more or less dull. Well, a better way is reading the book Slow train to paradise: How Dutch invest­ment helped build America railroads by A.J. Veenendaal (ed. Stanford University Press, 350 pages). I was accompagnied by this book on my trip to the village with our family name located in the mountains of the United States.

Slow train to paradise describes in a clear way how Dutch investors got a financial interest in the American railroads in the second half of the 19th century. These railroads needed money and promised high returns of 10 % and more. Those promises gave way to swindling and speculation. Many investors hoped to pull off a big coup at once. Between the investors we meet various Boissevains and the publication points out in a very clear way how business and family affairs are mixed up. Not only in the Boissevain family itself, but also with families like De Marez Oijens, Den Tex, Wertheim, Oewel, Van Weel, Carp, Luden en Van Oss. These bankers attracked money from investors and put that into the building en development of the railroads. So it also was in their interest, that potential investors in the Netherlands had a positive view on the profits to be expected. Therefore investors guides and other publications were written by a number of bankers. Charles Boissevain (NP page 67), general editor of the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad from 1885 - 1908, travelled - by train of course - through the States and gave a close record of all the things worth knowing of the railroads that were financed with Dutch money. You can imagine he was a welcome guest at the Wall Street Stock Exchange, of which he made an accurate and witty description.

A.A.H. (Adolphe) Boissevain (NP page 93) was one of the leading persons at the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. In 1875 he himself started dealing stocks with his compagny Ad. Boissevain & Comp. and introduced for instance the shares of Union Pacific on the Dutch market. The Dutch investments in general were not meant as an active participation. But when an investment was in danger, sometimes one had to get involved with the management. Adolphe did this a couple of times in the States, not only for his own interest but also as a representative of various European parties together. In 1893 for example he represented the European shareholders in the reorganisation committee of the Union Pacific. He solved the issue of the debts that were claimed by the American government and he made UP a healthy company again.

Buying land along the railroad tracks in combination with the settlement of immigrant colonies was one way to make the railroads profitable. Many places derived their names of this, like Holland (Michigan, Virginia) but also Middelburg and Amsterdam. The immigrants delivered labour force for building the railroads and for the products that had to be transported by train. Through their correspondence with Dutch relatives they also contributed much to the image of the US in the Netherlands.

The origin of the Town of Boissevain in the southern part of the Canadian province of Manitoba is linked to the person of Adolphe Boissevain. The name of the village in Virginia is generally linked to the settlement of an immigrant colony. I was glad to have read these things worth knowing when entering the little village and when seeing that the inhabitants have a good life there. Slow train to paradise combines records from family trees, archives and literature and brought to life for me an important episode out our family history in a readable way.

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain, Den Haag (NP page 116)

 

The 2.300 descendants of Lucas Boissevain

As was mentioned in Bulletin 7 Mat­thijs G.J.(Tice) Boissevain collected data of a large number of descendants (since 1700!) of Lucas Bois­sevain and his wife Marthe Roux. Not only along the male lines (as in the book "Nederland's Patriciaat", with the name Boissevain), but also along female lines. His computerized files now contain over 2.300 descendants of whom more than 1900 in 30 countries are still living. Evidently not everything could be recovered. However, the results of the research so far are impressive. Partly because there is a continuous flow of new data the planned publication of the book "The descendants of Lucas Bouyssavy (Boissevain) and Marthe Roux" could not be realized yet. As soon as it is available we shall inform you.

Robert L.(Bob) Boissevain, Heemstede (NP page 74)

 

Du pays des rivières au pays des canaux

Refugees, that's what we were and looking for asylum, that's what we did. What were the circumstances when we fled France long ago? How did we manage after that? Only after a century we assimilated. Till that time we went on speaking French, we married French families like Roux, du Chesne and Quien and we kept on thinking of returning to France once.

But in 1795 Daniël married Maria Retemeijer (NP page 45) from Amsterdam. They got 14 children and 9 of them married. His younger brother Henri Jean (NP page 133) added 6 children and another 19 grandchildren. During 2 centuries the Boissevains spread out all over the world and assimi­lated. At this moment more than 2.300 descendants of Lucas are known!

Du pays des rivieres au pays des canaux is a pretty booklet about the Boissevains. It does not offer a complete family history, but may be therefore it is so readable. Each chapter pays attention to one Boissevain per generation. It starts with a pastoral romance between young Lucas Bouyssavy (NP page 42) and a French girlfriend. For not getting murdered he had to escape and leave her behind. Otherwise she would have become our ances­tress! But she was only 15 years old, with a "nuque fine dont le duvet de poussin retenait quelgues perles de sueur".

Whom do the chapters deal with? Extensively about Lucas of course and about his son and grandson. Then about Daniël and about Gidéon Jérémie. This all illustrated with pictures and fragments out of letters and diaries. After that about Jan (NP page 52), one of the "founding fathers" of the admission of the Boissevains in the Dutch patriarchate (= Nederlands patriciaat) and about his lesser known son Charles Daniël Walrave (NP page 55). Out of the 8th and 9th generation Jan and Mies ("Mammie") Boissevain - Van Lennep (NP page 56) and their sons Janki and Gi, who died in the resistance during the Second World War, are chosen.

Our grand niece Denise de Uthemann of Switserland, daughter of Denis Mesritz and Cornelia ("Tolly") Boissevain (NP page 55) is the one who plunged deeply in our family history. The book has 160 pages and I have read them all in one strech. It is a "must" for everybody who is still able to read a bit of French and has a slight interest in our family history. You can order the publication at Madame Denise de Uthemann - Mesritz, Vy des Crêts 2, Mies (Vaud), CH-1295 Switserland.

Charles Boissevain, Leidschendam (NP page 75)