Thursday, February 8, 2018

In the Footsteps of the Ancestors ~ A visit to Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Grote Kerk, Dordrecht, Netherlands

Part 3 of 3

My 3rd great grandfather, Peter Hoogerzeil (1803 – 1889) stated on documents in Massachusetts that he was from “Dort” in the Netherlands.  I never found a city or village named Dort on any map.  I started to research his story in the 1970s, but it was until the 1990s, when I started using the internet for my genealogy, that I solved this little mystery. On a bulletin board for Dutch genealogy I asked about “Dort” and someone told me that this was the nickname for the city of Dordrecht in South Holland.  Solving this mystery led to my finding six generations of Peter Hoogerzeil’s ancestors!

A list of HOOGERZEIL births in the Beverly, Massachusetts Vital Records
Note the "Dort" for Peter Hoogerzeil's place of birth.  Also note all the different
versions of spelling for the Dutch surname HOOGERZEIL! 

I recently blogged about my trip to the Netherlands, and my distant Hogerzeil cousin who led me on a tour of my ancestral origins.  Visiting Dordrecht was a highlight of this trip, because it was the place where my immigrant ancestor was born.  Sometime in the 1820s Peter Hoogerzeil, who was a mariner descended from many generations of whaling sea captains, stowed away in a ship that left Rotterdam, nearby Dordrecht.  This ship was full of hemp from Indonesia, bound for the ropewalk in Salem, Massachusetts.  Peter settled in Beverly, across the harbor from Salem, where he married and left many descendants.  I was born in Beverly, and grew up not far from where he lived on Bartlett Street.

Dordrecht is one of the oldest cities in Holland, and it was built on several rivers that drain into the Rhine.  At one time Dordrecht was considered to be more important than Rotterdam, but that changed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  I’m guessing that at the time Peter left Dordrecht, it was an important commercial port, which made it easy for him to take the chance at running away to America. 

My distant cousin, Hans Hogerzeil, and Erik Kon, met us in Leiden and brought us to Dordrecht, where our first stop was the part of the harbor called “Kalkhaven” (chalk harbor), where Simon Hoogerzeijl (1743- 1802) lived when he removed from Nieuwpoort.   This little harbor can be seen in this map from 1868 (below).  We also visited the outside of the Grote Kerk (“The Great Church”) where many Hogerzeil ancestors were married, buried or baptized.  It was a Monday on the day of our visit, which is a day many buildings, stores and museums are closed in the Netherlands, so we never saw the inside of this church. 

Kalkhaven "Chalk Harbor", in Dordrecht, the Netherlands
Grote Kerk, the Great Church at Dordrecht

We also took a walk through the medieval center of Dordrecht, and saw the city hall, and the city archive (closed!).  When we return to visit Holland again, we will be sure it won’t be a Monday!

Dordrecht City Hall

We were comparing Hoogerzeil genealogy notes at a Dordrecht cafe!

The streets were a maze, but we had a good tour guide!

The Dordrecht Museum and archive is in this building

Part 1 of this series, where I visit the village Krimpen aan de Lek:   

Part 2 of this series, where I visit the tiny town of Nieuwpoort: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “In the Footsteps of the Ancestors ~ A visit to Dordrecht, The Netherlands", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 8, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing experience to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, particularly when you have to cross the Atlantic to do it!