One of the fun things about researching family history is delving into the reasons people leave their home country and immigrate to the United States. I find this fascinating whether it is my family I am researching or my husbands.
Pieter Luijendijk, Kirk's great, great grandfather, was born 29 August 1823 in Zuid-Beijerland, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands. He was the twelfth generation of Luijendijk men who lived in Zuid-Holland. I was curious what would make someone leave such strong family ties to the area and set out for the United States.
To understand his reasoning one needs to understand the history of the emigration in that period. Tom deMeijer shared the following with me, "Both Pieter and his father Jacob are known as “workman”. They were part of the rural upper class of that time, with official positions as deputy mayors, sheriffs and “dijkgraaf” which is the highest authority in each polder.
What happened? In the period after the Napoleonic wars ending with the battle of Waterloo in 1813, the population in The Netherlands was growing exponentially. After the Congress of Vienna, the Southern Netherlands (now known as Belgium and Luxembourg) were united with “Holland” under the Orange monarchy. The population initially got work, energy and children, a lot of them. In the previous period the land was attributed to the elder son or daughter and the others made sure that they married a wealthy farmer or farmer’s daughter as well. With the explosion of the population these options became increasingly scarce. At the same time there were no good alternatives yet. It was too early for the industrial revolution that started only after 1870 (that could have absorbed a lot of people) and there was no fertilizer yet, allowing more intensive agriculture. Result was impoverishment all over, rather than the improvement of conditions hoped for after the wars."
The reason Pieter stated for emigration was "improvement of existence". Like many others from many lands, he thought the United States would give him a better life. In 1849, at the age of 26, Pieter and his wife, Jaapje (Maasdam) emigrated to the United States.
Pieter and Jaapje Luijendijk settled in Owasco, Cayuga, New York for a time. They can be found in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Census in Owasco. Jaapje's brother, Johannes, settled in this area, too. Sometime before 1870, Pieter, Jaapje and their seven children migrated to the Grand Rapids area of Michigan. I don't know the reasoning for this move, but do know that the Grand Rapids area is heavily populated by Dutch people.
The migration of Pieter Luijendijk took him from Zuid-Holland, Netherlands to Owasco, Cayuga, New York to Grand Rapids, Kent, Michigan. A journey of almost four thousand miles. I hope he found the better life he was looking for.