The Family Story

Compiled and collected by Margaret vanDam Allen. Exerpts taken from reports of Don vanDam are intentionally left in first person narrative form.

The following information was obtained in the old records in the City Hall in the Dutch town of Heukelum, South Holland, the Netherlands on the first day of April 1930. It is as complete and accurate as is possible to obtain from the records of births, marriages, deaths, etc., but dates back only to the year 1812 at which time the system of record-keeping by municipalities was installed. Before this time, the only baptism registers were kept by the various churches and to trace genealogy further, a great deal of time and expense would be involved. The credit is given to Napoleon for beginning this splendid system of record-keeping, which the Netherlands has very accurately kept since the year 1812.

The books in the city hall in Heukelum show that the vanDam family came originally from Groningen, or at least they lived there prior to moving to Heukelum. The first trace of the name was that of Jan vanDam and his wife Catrina de Bruin who resided in Gronigen, a city in the extreme northern part of the Netherlands. I will begin listing the descendents from this name and give all the information concerning them that I was able to find. There was very little to be found concerning the Exalto family between 1812 and 1864. There is still a family by that name living in Heukelum, but no one by the name of vanDam. It might be of interest at this point to briefly describe the small town of Heukelum where grandfather was born. It is a small dorp (town) of only several hundred inhabitants. There is but one Main Street paralleling a canal, with a number of side streets sloping away from the water. There were two churches, one of which was destroyed by fire some years ago and has not been rebuilt. All of the homes are of the customary redbrick that is used extensively throughout all the Netherlands. Frame houses are the exception in Holland.

The people in Heukelum are of a sturdy stock of farming and navigating occupations. From general appearances, I don't think the town has changed very much materially since the first party of Mormon converts left it in the year of 1864. The name vanDam of course, is a very common Dutch name as is also the name of vanDijk, both originating from the many dikes and dams common throughout the land. The name Exalto (grandfather's grandfather on his mother's side) is not a Dutch name. From what I could learn, it might have had its roots in France, from where the glassblowers came who settled in Leerdam many years ago. It is more probable however that the first Exalto came with the armies from Spain in the year 1672.

I was able to locate the names of two sons of Jan vanDam and Catrina de Bruin. They are Huibert VanDam, who is the father of Jan Cornelius Van dam (grandfather's grandfather on his father side) and the other, Dirk Vandam.

Dirk VanDam, I could not determine whether he was born in the city of Groningen or in Heukelum. The date of his birth was the 26th of December 1814. No further record of him could be found. He perhaps lived in some other village than Heukelum.

Huibert VanDam was born in Finster Walde, Groningen August 24, 1801. He was married to Arnolda Adriana Hol on November 18, 1826 in Heukelum. She was born in Heukelum in the year 1807, a daughter of Dirk Hol and Dirkje Exalto. The dates of her parent's births are not recorded.

The following are the children of Herbert vanDam and Adriana Hall and were born in Heukelum and all died young, but three. (Note in glancing over the books; it was apparent that infant and child mortality during this period was high)

Jan vanDam born July 18, 1827, died November 1, 1828
Jan Cornelis born September 18, 1829.
Dirk VanDam born November 1, 1832.
Garret VanDam born November 29, 1836, died March 1, 1837.
Cornelis VanDam, born March 10, 1842, died February 11, 1844
Catherina VanDam born July 23, 1845, died July 16, 1849

It was a very common custom in foreign countries in case one child died to name the next one of the same sex the same name. This is the reason for the same names appearing twice in one family.

The names of the children and their records will be found on the family group sheet, of Jan Cornelis VanDam and Maarigje Exalto, his wife. They were married on November 24 in 1852. She is the daughter of Cornelis Dirk Exalto - born November 11, 1799 and Geertje vanEkt - born June 27, 1801. This couple is the father and mother of grandfather Herbert vanDam Sr. (Huibert vanDam).

The Dutch names as given in the second books are of course different than those in English at the present time. I found that the dates of birth differ in several instances from those commonly thought to be correct.

Dirk VanDam, brother of Jan Cornelis, married Lammertje Vroegh on November 4 1853. She is the daughter of Joost Vroegh and Pietronell vanHerwijnen and was born sometime in 1826. Names of their children will be found on the family group sheet entered later in the book.

One other name was found, that of Leendert vanDam, a son of Gerrit vanDam and Cornelia Christina vanDaalen. He was born July 6, 1866. His father, Gerrett, is no doubt the son of Huirbert vanDam and Adriana Hol. The books show that Leendert and his wife moved to Willemdorp on the 6th of February 1869 (evidently taking the above Adrianna Catharina vanDam with them.) Gerrit's wife Cornelia Christina Van Daalen was born in Gorichem on August 17, 1837.

The records show that nearly all of the VanDam's living in Heukelum were skippers their occupations being of seafaring nature.

Don, son of Herbert vanDam Jr. gathered these records because of his interest in the matter and also to assist Aunt Lottie in her genealogy and temple work. Temple work has been done for all of the above names.

LDS missionary work in Holland.

The following information was gathered from three main sources as follows: names and dates from the actual records in the small village of Heukelum information, concerning the acceptance of the latter-day Saint religion by the vanDam and Exalto families from the writings in “Zwijndrechtsche Nieswlichten”, a Dutch book published in about 1903; and from information as remembered by grandfather vanDam now passt 83 years of age. The three agree very well as far as matters of importance are concerned, varying only slightly in details. Of course, because of incomplete records and the lack of any historical data regarding the family, many interesting details and incidents are entirely lacking. As far as can be determined there are no pictures in existence of grandfather's parents or grandparents.

On the 23rd of April 1861 Elders Paul Augustus Schettler and A. Wiegers vander Waude (the latter Dutch by birth) left Salt Lake City, Utah, the first missionaries to be called to the Netherlands mission then consisting of all of the provinces of Holland and Belgium. Before this time Elder Orson Hyde passed through Holland on his way to the holy land. Although he remained in Rotterdam long enough to have a number of pamphlets printed announcing the restoration of the Gospel, he made no formal attempt to organize or establish a mission. Between this time and 1861, several elders laboring in Germany ventured into the Netherlands, but more for curiosity than for missionary work.

These first two elders arrived in Holland on August 5, 1861 and immediately set about to preach the gospel to the Dutch inhabitants. Elder Vander Woude could speak the language but elder Schoettler had first to learn it. The beginning, of course was exceedingly slow and discouraging, however, the reports show that they labored in the region of Gorichem Leeuwaarden at Rotterdam, Workendam and Heukelum and by 1863, several people were baptized. Two individuals emigrated to Utah during this time, but their names were not recorded.

Sometime before Mormonism made its appearance in the Netherlands, there was an organization begun in the town of Zwijndrecht known as the Zwijndrechtsche Nieweulichters, translated "new light." These people were perhaps formerly of the Protestant faith and were a little more liberal minded than the old Orthodox Church. They had a dominee (minister) as their leader by the name of Oort. It is said that this so-called religion spread to Heukelum, when one of the members moved there from Zwijndrecht. The organization seemed to thrive in Heukelum and the Minister writes that he made frequent trips there to meet with his people.

In either 1862 or early in 1861 Cornelius Dirk Exalto seemed to be the outstanding one of the group and the leader in Heukelum Den Heer Oort refers to him as the leader and the mainstay of the organization. It was during this time that elder Schettler (grandfather remembers him) and made his way to the town and after some time converted the old gentleman Exalto. The Minister writes that in spite of his entreaties, more than 30 of his members left him and went with Exalto to the Mormon faith. As the foregoing genealogy shows, Dirk Exalto was the father of Maargje Exalto, who is the wife of Jan Cornelius VanDam and the mother of grandfather vanDam.

When Den Heer Oort heard that Dirk Exalto and his family were planning on immigrating to Utah, he went to him and according to his own words and in all earnestness, attempted to persuade him at least not to go to the land of the Mormons. He repeatedly refers to the old gentleman as a religious fanatic and quotes their conversation at intervals, one of which follows: Den Heer Oort, “Is het waar, gaat je weg?” (Is it true that you are going away?) Dirk Exalto, “Of ik ga, man? De geheele werld houdt miy niet vast. Nu zullen wij het ware krijgen. Nu weten wij waar de echte leifde is.” (If I go man, the whole world cannot stop me. Now we shall get the truth. Now we know where the real love is.”)

Den Heer Oort writes that Dirk Exalto was the one who insisted on leaving for America and that his daughter and her husband Jan Cornelis went only because they did not want their old father and mother to make the journey alone. Grandfather vanDam informed me that his parents were not anxious to come, at least not at that time, mainly because of the expected arrival of a child soon. It caused them much concern, but rather than being the last they decided to take a chance, knowing beforehand that the child would be born before they reached Salt Lake. Grandfather says that his mother felt, before she left, that she would never live to reach Zion.

On May 4, 1864 Jan Cornelis vanDam and his wife Maargje Exalto vanDam and their four living children Huibert, Dirkje, Adriana and Geertje left for Rotterdam. According to the mission records made up years later, the names were changed as follows: Huibert to Herbert; Geertje to Kate; Adriana to Jaantje, later changed to Lottie; Dirkje to Nellie. With them were grandfather's mother's parents Cornelis Dirk Exalto and Geertje vanEk and grandfather's father's father Huibert vanDam. The grandparents were all well along in years. Whether there were others from Heukelum I do not know- perhaps there were. Anyway, there was a party of between 50 and 60 made up in Rotterdam, the first Mormon immigrant party to leave the Netherlands for Utah. On the first day of June 1864 this group of men, women and children left for Liverpool, England.

Note: The Minister Oort seemed to have the highest regard for the old gentleman Exalto for he is the only one of the group in Heukelum that he mentions by name. He spoke of Jan Cornelis and Maargje Exalto only as the daughter and son-in-law of the old Exalto. He writes that it was a tragedy that they should go. He refers to Jan Cornelis as a “knape boer man” and his wife as “en allerliefste vrouw”. (nice appearing farmer men and a lovely wife).

On June 3, this company sailed from Liverpool on the ship S.S. Hudson. After three days at sea, it was discovered that a Jewish family had brought the measles aboard and that many of the other children had been exposed. This proved to be of serious consequence for before the trip was ended nine children had died. None of these, fortunately, were of the Mormon group. One child was born on the sea voyage to a Mormon family by the name of Kannegieter and was very fittingly named Henry Hudson after the boat. The mission records relate nothing further as to the sea voyage nor the date of landing in New York.

According to Grandfather's account of the journey from New York to the Missouri River, traveling by train was slow and tiresome. It seems that the train was so crowded that most of the men were compelled to ride on top of some of the cars. It was while riding such on a stormy night that Grandfather's father Jan Cornelis became wet and as a result took sick and died several weeks later. He had never been a very strong or healthy man, it seems. This sad passing was a terrible shock to the mother and the four small children and was almost too much for her to bear. Not long after this, while crossing the plains, she gave birth to a baby girl on September 6, 1864 named Cornelia. Although she died as a direct result of childbirth, it is said that the grieving over the death of her husband and the hardships of travel had much to do with it. Proper medical care, of course, was out of the question. Tragedy had robbed these children of both their father and mother and left a tiny baby with only the aged grandparents to care for them. Grandfather, then 11, had to drive the ox team on to Salt Lake City.

The church records show that most of the group of some 50 left the church after reaching Zion. The old Exalto couple, it seems, remained true to the faith, going to Arizona to live sometime after arriving in Salt Lake City. It is thought that they took the baby Cornelia with them, however, in view of the following information this may not be correct. She did go to Arizona at some later time, however.

(Don) "While stationed in the Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma with my family, my wife received a letter from Mrs. Annie Woods Westover in Mesa, Arizona. Sister Westover, a temple worker in the Mesa temple had seen an article in the Relief Society magazine telling of Relief Society work being done in the Army by Ada S. vanDam. She wrote to see if by any chance we were of the vanDam family that came to Salt Lake in 1864. She gave us the following information: her mother, Annie Woods, had taken Cornelia and raised her. Sister Westover said that she thought she was her older sister until after she died, when she first learned the real story.

She tells us that Cornelia was born on September 6, 1864; that she was baptized in Salt Lake City, when she was eight years old; endowed in the St. George Temple about a year after it was dedicated in 1877; was sealed in the same temple on the ninth of February. 1883 to Joseph S. Cardon of Taylor, Arizona, and she had one son by the name of James Ellis Cardon, born in Taylor, Arizona and died when 13 months old in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. Cornelia died of typhoid fever on the fifth of September 1886, one day before her 22nd birthday, in Woodruff, Arizona while on a visit to the Woods home. Sister Westover writes "Cornelia was a beautiful and gifted young woman and was loved by me as my only sister."

We corresponded for some time with Sister Westover and sent her all of the history and genealogy of the vanDam family as we had it at that time. (Don submitted these pictures)

From the Netherlands Mission Journal

Thurs. Oct. 15, 1863 -- Pres. John L. Smith arrived at Rotterdam on a visit from Switzerland. Holland at that time was a part of the Swiss-German Mission. Pres. Smith writes:

On the 13th, I took train for Mannheim and steamer down the Rhine, changing several times. Arrived at Rotterdam, Holland, at 3 p.m. on the 15th, and I went to Brother Timotheus Mets, the rain pouring down in torrents. I spent the rest of the month in company with Brother Mets, visiting all that we could reach in Rotterdam and out in the country for twelve or fifteen miles, of those that had formerly been known as the "New Light" group: "Nieuwlichters". Every hour of the twenty four, or at least the greater part of each day, was occupied in conversation, answering questions etc. Arrangements were made for one of the men that owned a boat to meet us at a certain point, and take on board a company of twenty-five. (Des. News 50:211)

Sunday Nov 1, 1863 -- Under this date, Pres. John L. Smith jour nalizes as follows, having baptized 21 persons during the day:

Rotterdam, Holland, Sunday, November 1st, 1863. -- Last evening, I received a letter from Mr. Willem Heystek, that the wind was so high that he could not come. Brother Timotheus Mets asked me if we had not better send word to the people not to come. I looked at him nearly a minute, and replied: "No; let them come; Mr. Heystek will be here and we shall have a good day." This morning the wind had toned down like spring. Mr. Heystek, with his boat, arrived, and the twenty-five persons went on board. He took us to a quiet nook where we were not likely to be disturbed, and ran a plank over the side, the boat being anchored. After a short meeting, I went into the water and Brother Timotheus Mets passed the people down the plank to me. I baptized twelve men and nine women, after which we met in the cabin and I confirmed them members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and ordained Timothy a priest and placed him to preside. We had a splendid time together, long to be remembered; for the Lord poured out His Spirit in rich abundance upon us, and all rejoiced greatly. After returning to Brother T. Mets', we spent most of the night in meeting. (Des. News 50:210)

The names of those baptized and their ages follow:

Twelve men:
Johannes Jacobus Huisman (57);
Willem Heystek (63);
Bastiaan Keyser (64);
Cornelis Dirk Exalto (63);
Huibert van Dam (62);
Jan Cornelis van Dam (34);
Pieter Olivier (37);
Bart Kuik (38);
Jacob Willem. Kannegieter (28); later spelled Cannegieter;
Samuel Mets (26);
Willem Heystek (18);
Dirk Bockholt (20).

Nine women:
Geertje Marrigje -- van (Eck) Exalto (62.);
Maartje van Dam (34);
Neeltje (Leuven) Olivier (37);
Geertje (de Jong) Kuik (31);
Susanna Xannegieter (25); later spelled Cannegieter;
Anna Catarina Bockholt (17);
Anna Tol (52);
Johanna Christina Huisman (26);
Anna Mets (19)

Wednesday, June 1: On this date, a company of Dutch emigrants left Rotterdam for Utah via England. They sailed for New York from Liverpool on the 3rd of June per S.S. "Hudson". Their names follow:

Willem `de Huis, Bertha H. de Huis, Cornelis D. Exalto, Geertje Exalto born van Ek, Hulbert van Damuornolis van Dam, Marrigje Exalto and children,Huibert, Geertje, Jaantje and Dirkje; Pieter Olivier and Netle Olivier (born Leuven) and children Pieter, Chrisstina (born van Dyk) and children Willem and Catherine.; Hark Kuik, Geertje K. Kuik, Willem Jacobus Caanegieter, Susannha K. Cannegieter, Bastiaan W. Keiser, Elizabeth Anna Keiser and children Anna and Bastiaan, Johan J. Huisman, Johanna Christina Huisman, Johanna Adriana, Christina Huysman, Anna C, Huysman, Anna C. Toll, Johannes H. Dykman and children Johannes, Maria, Hendrik, Alida and Christina; Jacoba C. Smuling (Smeeling?), E.Jasper, Elizabeth A, Jasper, W. Jasper, Cornelis Jasper, and Dirk Bockholt.

During the voyage, three children were born, and nine died, the high mortality being due to measles brought on board by a Jewish family. Before it was known, however, the vessel was three days out at sea.

One of the children born was from Dutch parents -- Brother and Sister Cannegieter. The child, a boy, was named Henry Hudson, after the ship he was born on. One of those that died was of Dutch parentage also -- little 3-year old Bastiaan, the son of Elizabeth Anna Keiser, a widow. (Emigration Record 1048:82, 83, 155, 156; Mill. Star 26:541; "De Zwyndrechtsche Niauwlichters" by Dr. G. P. Marang, published at Dordrecht by H. de Graaf, 1909, pages 232 'to 244; Frank I. Kooyman's Notes.)