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John H. Somsen Jr.


More than 400 Somsens from all over the world brought together

Aalten Vooruit - 13 August 1997

 


FOTO HANS LURVINK

The first copy of the book about the Somsen family, written by Theo (middle) and Derk Somsen (right), was presented to the 86 year old Gerda Somsen, the oldest Somsen (ninth generation) present at the reunion.
LIEVELDE/AALTEN - One hundred and fifty years ago Aaltjen and her husband Dirk Jan Rikkers left their farm in IJzerlo to start a new life in America. A century and a half later more than 400 Dutch and emigrated descendants from this family from the Achterhoek met each other. On Saturday at Erve Kots in Lievelde, on Sunday in Aalten and IJzerlo.


The Somsens, who did not know each other for the most part, were welcomed by the music of a street organ at Erve Kots last Saturday. They had come from far and near. About 60 reunionists even came from other countries such as the US, Canada, Germany, Portugal and some more. So it was an international Somsen company.


The presentation of the book ‘Somsen Omnes Generationes’ leads to this reunion. This book was written by two Somsens: Derk Somsen, a retired manager living in Zwolle and Theo Somsen, in every day life a revenue officer. For ten years both have tried to find out what became of Aaltjen Somsen and her husband. During their search they traced down 3900 (!) Somsens, 500 of them living in America. The emigrant couple Somsen/Rikkers joined a large number of fellow emigrants on August 14 1847. Within three years, ten percent of the population of Aalten fled from poverty, high taxes, bad harvests and religious disputes.


Book
The first copy of the book (over 300 pages, 150 illustrations) was presented to Gerda Somsen last Saturday. She was the oldest Somsen present in the hall. ‘Somsen Omnes Generationes’ offers both genealogical lines and a lively impression of the social, economical, political and religious circumstances between 1600 and today. Portraits and spirit of an era are described in the light of the family tales.


Derk and Theo Somsen spent many hours researching the Aalten archives. They were supported by archivist Peter Meerdink, whereas Aalten expert Evert Smilda gave his comments on the draft book.


After the presentation of the book on Saturday morning, hundreds of Somsens could witness the premiere of the professional video production, ‘Somsen Panorama’, made by Ben Somsen from Eibergen and shown on a large screen. An impressive recording of the work of Derk and Theo Somsen, but also of the history of the Somsens and of IJzerlo and Aalten. In the afternoon, the Somsens (from ninth up to twelfth generation) could visit the Somsen-market. In the market place there was a genealogy stall at which personal relationships charts could be printed out, there were Somsen stalls with painting, family pictures and documents and stalls with people showing traditional crafts. Somsen T-shirts and Somsen stickers were for sale at the market, too. In the evening the mutual links were forged even tighter while there was music and singing. The Somsen orchestra gave a great performance and the American branch of the family taught the Somsens how Square Dancing is done. On Sunday there was a memorial service in the St.Helena Church at the Market. Afterwards a linden tree was planted at the farm Japikshuis at the Rengelinkweg in IJzerlo, the farm Aaltjen Somsen and her husband left exactly one hundred and fifty years ago.


For quite a few Somsens, the Somsen party had not ended yet. They are staying at the camp-site 't Hoftijzer in IJzerlo or at hotels nearby and they are taking part in a lot of interesting activities such as a swamp trip across the ‘Vragenderveen’ (the name Somsen is derived from ‘sump’ or ‘somp’ meaning swamp), a visit to the archeologic park in Xanten, sightseeing in Aalten and Dinxperlo and a visit to ‘Schloss Anholt’.