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John H. Somsen Jr.

Internet Brings Somsen Family Together

Dagblad de Gelderlander - August 11, 1997


Door onze verslaggever
LIEVELDE - In family circles he is called the 'internet-guru'. John Somsen from Holyoke, Massachusetts is one of about fifty Americans and Canadians who belong to the extensive Somsen family. Also because of his call a lot of Somsens travelled to Lievelde last weekend for a big family reunion. “Three years ago I still thought there were about 30 Somsens,” says John wiping his sweaty forehead. He hasn't got much time to talk for besides being a computer-expert he is also a genealogist. And so everybody wants to talk to you especially at a family reunion.

“Almost every 5 minutes someone comes up and says: you are this John from Internet”, the stout forty-year-old says with a smile. “Well, I have just passed the message through actually.” But he was able to extend his knowledge concerning the family tree quite a lot. “I have now got 3800 names in my database. More than a thousand of them are people who are still alive and a hundred or two live in America.” This is John's first visit to Europe and he is very proud of the fact that the organizers have succeeded in bringing 435 relatives to Erve Kots. “When I came to the car park this morning and saw all those cars with number-plates from all kinds of countries it was overwhelming. It feels like I’m home.”

Derk and Theo present the first copy of the Somsen book to the eldest member of the family Gerda Johanna Somsen (86) and after that Ken Somsen from California assents that the Ameri-can branch of the family is very big indeed. “We are like rabbits”, the technician laughingly says.

Ben Somsen, producer of the documentary video that was shown shortly afterwards, chose a different industrious animal species as reference material. The artificial anthill of engineer Hans Somsen from Eindhoven was shown, which made quite a stir internationally. Scientists call this the Somsen-nest, the comment says. The real Somsen-nest, the farmstead 't Japikshuis in IJzerlo, also appears in the documentary as well as the marshy swamps the family is named after. Furthermore there are shots of the voyage Johan Somsen made on the Staten-dam in 1934. In Baldwin (Wisconsin) he met Ed Somsen who has opened his third hairdressing salon by now.

From the same city are Cindy Somsen-Zignego, Sally Berkholder-Rasmussen and Mary Ellen Gilbert-Somsen. These women, dressed in t-shirts with tulips printed on them, brought the organizers a beautiful tapestry. The mills and the clogs show the union with Holland. “In September we have Go-Dutch-Days,” Sally says, “Then we walk on clogs, clean the street and have a big parade.”

Roughly the same activities as the ones outside Erve Kots even with a real street organ and people showing old crafts. The organizers see only one flaw: the family book may well be adorned with the linden-tree from the city arms, the city counsil showed hardly any interest at all. But the Tourist Office was there to provide all guests with information to help them explore their ancestral native soil in the days to come.