Year of publication 2001, issue 12

 

Preface

What a great success the family reunion was 7 th of April of last year! Such a great turnout from so many different places and countries and with so many different ages! This will surely be something to be remembered by the attendants for a long time. The committee received several messages of thanks with words of gratitude, something that of course has a stimulating effect on the organizers. For those unfortunate enough not to be present, they can get a bit of a taste of the atmosphere through Bob’s account and the family photo’s that are the main theme of this 12 th number of the Boissevain-Bulletin. For those of you who were present, you will be able to pick yourselves in the pictures which of course can be ordered. Once we have completed that, we can state that we have strengthened the ties between the living family members considerably, something that is one of the important objectives of our family foundation.

This year there are a few less personal announcements. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that our foundation is forgotten when it comes to sending notices of births, deaths and marriages. That would be a pity because we would like to keep our address file as up to date as possible. This information is also vital in order to keep up to date with the family tree. Because of all the photo’s in the magazine, there is not much room left for the historical side, so we will wait a year for more of that. With a small article on the Cross of the Huguenots we can still take advantage to answer questions of some family members.

Talking of the Huguenots: if any of you readers ever intend to visit Berlin (Germany), I recommend you to visit the 'Französischer Dom' in the Gendarmenmarkt. The 'Hugenotten Museum Berlin' has been established here many decades ago. In a traditional but accurate manner it shows how the around 20.000 Huguenots fared, who fled to Germany more than 300 years ago because of religious beliefs. Even though it is a museum of the Walloon Reformed church, it became clear to me that it is important to save old family papers, pictures and objects in order to reconstruct a communal past.

Portable tin Communion dish, 18 th century

Huguenotmuseum, Berlin

And as far as this concerns Boissevains, you can always approach one of the committee members!

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain,

president Boissevain-Foundation

 

Family reunion

Our family meeting in Amsterdam on Saturday April 7, 2001 was a new record. More than 140 relatives attended, their ages varying from 4 weeks to 86 years. Among them about 30 from the USA, the UK, Denmark, France Switzerland and Israel. The program started with a cruise by boat through the famous canals of Amsterdam, followed by a pleasant gathering in Maison Descartes, the former Walloon Hospice, an orphanage and also a home for the aged. The undersigned wrote an article about its history in the previous edition of the Boissevain-Bulletin. The large number of participants – much more than expected – induced some modifications in the planning. Two boats were needed instead of one. And the idea of extending the meeting by those who wished to do so by dining together in a nearby restaurant, as after previous reunions, had to be abandoned as almost seventy people expressed the wish to take part. Fortunately Maison Descartes was willing to prolong our stay with a couple of hours. Thus we could, by using a catering service, dine there and continue our pleasant reunion.

The reunion started at a pier near Central Station. As there are several piers with many canal boats and since not all family members knew each other some relatives were not certain if they were at the right meeting place. Moreover, several participants underestimated the parking problems in the city, resulting in some delay in the planned departure. The cruise lasted more than 1 ½ hours. The route was as follows: IJ, Prinsengracht, Brouwersgracht, Keizersgracht, Leidsegracht, Herengracht up to the Brouwersgracht and back, Leidsegracht, continuing along Keizersgracht, Reguliersgracht, Prinsengracht and ended shortly after the Vijzelgracht. Disembarkment was near Maison Descartes. Somewhat more laborious than the embarkation, because a special landing stage was lacking and the embankment was rather high. But everybody came ashore. Unfortunately, just at that moment we were treated to a short rain shower. And if that was not enough, the street in front of Maison Descartes was broken up, so that the entry could only be reached by sand, mud and a small platform. It didn’t spoil the atmosphere however, and inside the building tea, coffee, (soft) drinks and nibbles were awaiting.

A canal cruise in Amsterdam is always fascinating, also for those who did it before. The large variety of monumental, stately and elegant mansions with different façades and other interesting architecture and ornaments, as well as the many (arched)bridges, is always very much worth looking at. The time of year worked in our favour because most trees were still without leaves. During the cruise the focus was on the Herengracht and Keizersgracht where many of our ancestors lived and worked. Guides on the two boats were Ernst (NP p111) and Bob (NP p 74). They told us a thing or two about the Boissevain-houses (along our route more than 45!) and their tenants. Because of the many foreign participants they spoke both in Dutch and English.

The first two generations Boissevain in the Netherlands (Lucas and Jérémie) had a rough time financially and their housing conditions were rather poor (apart from Jérémies years as “père” = father of the Walloon Hospice). With the third generation, Gédéon Jérémie the 1st from whom we all descend, things were going much better. He was admitted to citizenship which entitled him to certain municipal welfare facilities. He could afford to inhabit a large mansion along the Keizersgracht. His two sons of the fourth generation – Daniël the 1st and Henri Jean – further climbed the social economic ladder. In particular during the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries descendants of the former in the fifth, sixth and seventh generations played a prominent part in Amsterdam in overseas commerce, shipping, financial business and in politics. They became prominent tenants of the “ring of canals” (“grachtengordel”). The inhabitation of these large premises wasn`t a cushy job. The mansions usually consist of five or six stories and often have 15 to 40 rooms, mostly with a large hall as a living room. Many corridors were long and covered with marble. The staircases were narrow, steep and winding, hampering carrying goods. This is why most houses have a hoisting beam at the roof which are still used today.

From the boats only the outside of the mansions was visible. However, one of our relatives – Kim Buck-Boissevain from the USA – had the opportunity two days before the reunion to visit the house of her grandparents, where her father Tice (as well as her aunt Mia and other aunts) spent his youth. She was deeply impressed by the interior. Apparently not much had been changed. The cruise passed by two large mansions, birthplaces of two participants – Mia Canters-Boissevain and Sylvia de Groot-Boissevain – where they lived till they turned fourteen years old in 1940. Nowadays there are still two Boissevains living along the canals, Marianne and Aviva, albeit in a more modest way than previous generations. We past by their homes and Aviva participated in a distinctive way in the first part of the program. From her apartment she waved enthusiastically with a large cloth embroidered with the Boissevain coat-of-arms.

In Maison Descartes chairman Charles held a short speech of welcome. He rejoiced at the large attendance, also from abroad. To most participants the gathering marked new contacts with relatives they do not see often. In one case even the surprising encounter of the two half brothers Robert and Daniël who had never met each other before! A list was available on which the participants were grouped by family branch. Nine branches (starting after the sixth generation) were represented. Each participant had a name tag with different coloured stickers per branch. That facilitated a photo session per branch during the reunion. The result is shown further on in this Bulletin.

There was a special program for the kids. In a separate space they were entertained by the puppet theatre “Pierlala”. Obviously they enjoyed themselves very much and had a good time. Of course the reunion was too short and many participants felt sorry to have had so little time to talk to each other. Yet, altogether the reunion was an outstanding success.

Robert Lucas (Bob) Boissevain, Heemstede (NP p 74)

 

The Cross of the Huguenots

Completely independent of each other, we received several requests about information on the history of the “Cross of the Huguenots”. Amongst others the cross is depicted in the logo of the Dutch Huguenot foundation, so obviously that was the place to start making inquiries about information that also reached us via the Internet.

The main constituent of the Cross of the Huguenots is the Maltese cross, the badge of the knights of Malta. This is a clerical knighthood from the Middle Ages and to be viewed as heir of the Hospital knights of Saint Jan of Jerusalem. The Maltese cross has been accepted by the Huguenots, because they wanted to be Christians (characterized by a cross), but not Roman Catholic (which religion is characterized by the “Latin” cross). In the entire area where the Cross of the Huguenots was spread, monasteries existed that stemmed from the priorate Saint Gilles. These first settlements of Hospital knights in France date back to around 1100. The Cross was seen as a symbol of the renaissance. It has four identical arms, each with a widening top. This shape was probably established by pointing four arrows towards the centre. The eight points symbolize the eight Beatitudes from the Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 5:3-10). De arms of the cross are connected by a wreath of four lilies or hearts. These are the symbols of purity and faithfulness. The original appendage was a tear. This sign was symbol of the suffering of the French Protestants. In 1688 the tear was replaced by a dove, the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Apart from the accidental exception, the Cross of the Huguenots served as mutual identifying mark of the French 'heretics'.

The committee