Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Astrid.

Astrid Spaargaren became a WikiTreer in August of 2015.  She is a very active member of our Netherlands (Dutch Roots) Project and is one of our friendly, welcoming Greeters!

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Of course I started with the surnames of my and my husband’s direct ancestors. Like Schellenberger, Graf, Spaargaren and Wessels. But I am also working on the Dutch that went to Iowa in the 19th century as I found out one of my ancestors followed Ds.Scholten to Pella in Iowa. A part of the Dutch and American history I never heard of before, but learned about as a WikiTreer.

And I also love to research the rich and famous/notorious of the Golden Age in The Netherlands. There is so much info with reliable sources to find. Profiles with images look great at WikiTree and of many of the rich of that period are painted portraits left made by the Dutch masters like Ferdinand Bol and Rembrandt.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I do research everywhere in The Netherlands, but also in places where Dutch people went in history like Iowa. But I live around Amsterdam in The Netherlands so my heart lies there. 

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

Once upon a day……. I asked my mother to write down all names of my German father’s family she could remember. She already had a few strokes, becoming really old. None of my siblings were interested in the family history of our biological father. But I was afraid that that information would be lost after the day our mother left us. I didn’t know much about my father’s family at all, just where they had lived, but no names and I knew that most of them were lost in WW-II. 

My parents lived in Germany and our Dutch mother went back to The Netherlands after their divorce in the 60’s. As my paternal grandparents passed away in WW-II and I was born in 1960 and my parents did not stay in contact, the paternal family members were just not a part of my life.

I was not in a hurry to find info. About 20 years ago, once a year, I typed my father’s last name and my paternal grandfather’s name in the search bar of my old machine. I think after about 5 years, suddenly marriage pictures popped up at my screen. Marriage pictures of my parents I had never seen before. With names of the other persons in the pictures and a name beneath of the person who posted them. There my real hunting spirit bubbled up! 

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Easy! Maria Breen

That was just something special as I was only short here at WikiTree. Maria and me share her Great-Grandfather as common ancestor. 

It took a while before I was able to make nice profiles at WikiTree with links to reliable sources, references and how to add images etc. But fortunately I received the best help at WikiTree. People are all volunteers, equal and very friendly. I received soon after joining WikiTree an invitation to become a member of the Dutch Roots Project, after some hesitation I jumped into the Project and the wonderful and oh so patient leader Bea Weijma helped me lots with “how to” at WikiTree. 

After a while I was even able to help others and work on unsourced Dutch profiles, the target of the Dutch Roots Project. Nowadays I receive help request from around the world, resulting in such nice exchanges of messages and of information, images of documents and pictures.

I think the first profiles that I made and I was proud of, were the profiles of the family Breen in my ancestors. Working on the Breens is how I got to an already existing profile of a Maria Breen, born in 1825. In my research I found that Maria was married to a carpenter Cornelis Lauwe in 1848 and they sailed in 1849 with their 3 months old son Willem to America to join the Dutch that went to Pella in Iowa. 

But! At the already existing profile it said that Maria Breen was married with a Gradus Vriezelaar. How was that possible? I researched Maria Breen very well here in The Netherlands, provided with reliable sources such as original birth, marriage and  documents. I even found the passengers list of the embarking with Maria and Cornelis on it. 

The special coincidence was that I had been working on the ancestors of Gradus Vriezelaar who all lived in the middle of the Netherlands and I never saw anything about emigration!

Now this kind of puzzles I L O V E. Especially if you walk into the solution of the puzzle. First I found out on what Bark Maria, Cornelis and son Willem traveled. I even found an image of the Bark and added it to the profile. Making the profile more alive. Then I found a travel journal of that trip! Isn’t that a miracle?? I was really excited about my find. Especially because I was able to add it all to the profile with reliable sources!! 

Well, the sad thing is that many people passed away during these long, heavy sea journeys those days. And reading the journal I learned that Cornelis was one of those that passed away during the journey and got, as we say in Dutch a – “zeemansgraf” (sailor grave) -; He was buried at sea.

I felt so sorry for Maria, left alone at the age of 24 with a child of only a few months, on her way to the unknown. But I also found her very brave, and strong as she survived all and found in the end happiness with Gradus in Iowa. I found a wonderful story.

I also got in such sweet contacts with ancestors of the “Vrieselaars” living here in The Netherlands and in the USA, non WikiTree members providing me of for example of images of Anna Vrieselaar and Melis Polen.  

Oh and of course the profile of my maternal grandfather and of the paternal grandfather of my husband as we had so much info about them so we could improve the profiles with images and lots of information. 

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

As said my paternal ancestors are hard to find before about 1900. They lived around a historically turbulent area: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The oldest document I received of a far niece, of my fathers grandfather is a German census of 1900 saying he was born in Pesterwitz, Germany. 

My mother’s favorite aunt and her husband and three of their children emigrated to South-Africa. I am still trying to find when they emigrated. In the mean time I got a message of a (great-)grandchild via WikiTree as she was searching for her Dutch ancestors. She could answer some of my questions but I still have a lot of questions I hope they will be once resolved….. 

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re  involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I am WikiTreer since August 2015. I was ignorant about reliable genealogy. I was not even able to find original documents online besides transcriptions at WieWasWie (WhoWasWho), a Dutch searching page, that evolved during the years enormously, and shows more and more birth, marriage and death documents now a days. I never heard of FamilySearch and the treasures it holds. 

As I mentioned I was invited short after I joined WikiTree to join the Dutch Roots Project (DRP) as I am Dutch. But I felt lost the first weeks at the big tree, that felt more as a complete jungle, considering I was hardly a help/add for the Project. But after a week wandering around at WikiTree, I took the chance as I was eager to be part of this Tree and became a member of the Project. That was the best decision I could have ever made at WikiTree! 

The members of the project were so friendly and made me feel at ease to ask any question, without feeling stupid or less – and believe me I had many questions, particularly as I wanted to do everything right so I had not to do things over. There I learned all the ins and outs of WikiTree. I found out how friendly people are here and how I could ask anything at G2G! As long as you ask you will be helped. And pssst do not tell everyone, but my first made profiles are still to review as they are not my best.

At the Dutch Project we have an active group that does a lot to improve WikiTree. For instance many WikiTree Help Pages were translated into Dutch to make it easier here for the Dutch speaking. Besides improving profiles without sources on your own, we sometimes work together with a group to improve a whole family that is added here without reliable sources. We also organize challenges to improve existing profiles or start together a family of persons we think they deserve a place at WikiTree, like we do at the Liberation Challenge around Liberation Day for Dutch resistance fighters. But also, for example, the profile of one of our famous painters, Ferdinand Bol, and the profile of one of our historical heroes at sea Cornelis Maertenszn. Tromp was a result of collaboration of the Dutch Roots Project. 

We even organized a meeting with the project members in Amsterdam and visited the “Stadsarchief Amsterdam” – the city archive of Amsterdam – it was such an extraordinary day to meet each other, with the same hobby but so far only contact by internet. 

I participate in multiple projects. But the Dutch Roots Project and the Greeters are my favourite Projects.

As said, I am being an active DRP member and I am a WikiGreeter. I stepped back at the Greeters and other projects for a while due to real life duties and responsibilities. Real life always comes first is my motto. 

But I am so happy to be back now at the Dutch Roots Project and the “greatest gang” (greeters). The WikiGreeters are a close and very caring group of volunteers monitoring and greeting new guests and volunteers at WikiTree, almost 24/7, and offering help. It is easy to do, so much fun and it is giving lots of energy.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

I can make it a great story but it is not. It is just simple.

Of course I tried other genealogy pages, as many of us, but I got tired and mad that I had to pay at a point. Especially to pay for my own family documents or to see family trees of others. So I searched more at the internet for better programs and then I came across WikiTree. It is free to use as member but it is also free to see and search for non-members!! Wow! 

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?

Just one thing: The Honor Code. As that contains everything WikiTree is for me.

Now the first thing I liked most as I started at WikiTree, is that WikiTree is free for all. Not only for those that become members and can work at or add family to WikiTree, but especially that all info that is added is searchable and available for everyone, member or not, for free. Like Wikipedia. 

At the same time as I learned more about WikiTree, I learned that all people are equal here. No special memberships, no payed differences, no golden memberships. Difference here are only based on maybe more knowledge about genealogy and history and the time spent at WikiTree, as they had more time to learn how WikiTree works and how to find reliable sources etc. Of course there are leaders at WikiTree but they are also just equal as everyone and so patient and friendly. 

The second thing I love most is we have to collaborate, as WikiTree is totally different from other genealogy sites were you build your own pedigree, but here is the goal to create only one profile for any person that ever existed. The profile I created for my Aunt Betsie is never my profile, although I created it, but also of all other family of this Aunt.

And here we get to the essence of WikiTree: the Honor Code. 

The only things WikiTree asks for working here for free, is to collaborate and source the info you add.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Ask questions or search for answers at our G2G forum!  No matter if you’re new here or already here for a while. Make yourself visible, showing you are really into WikiTree and genealogy and you will get lots of help. There are so many friendly people here that love to share their knowledge and help you around at WikiTree. If you’re new here, just remember, do not feel wrong at asking, all were once starters here with the same questions. 

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  5 Responses to “Meet our Members: Astrid Spaargaren”

  1. Hello Cousin. Thanks for your recent additions. It seems we have more then 240 related relatives.

  2. Hello Astrid,

    In the 1970’s I lived in East London, South Africa.
    There was a Dutch family Spaargaren. The husband’s first name I do not remember but the lady was called Greet.
    They had a young son and daughter who were born in South Africa.
    To my knowledge, they went back to Nederland.

  3. Hi, would Astrid contact me….I’m a relative of Elsie Taylor (Bibby). I hope this is correct.

  4. Hello, Astrid. I am relatively new to WikiTree but have been having a wonderful time. Apparently we are related (my mother, Virginia Randhare, was of Dutch and German ancestry). One of my cousins did a lot of the legwork and went way back in the family. I’m hoping I can do as well for my father’s (Italian) side!
    Thanks for being so generous with your time!
    Camille Paglia

  5. I was doing research on Grace Livingston Hegger and found your name there. My family also Dutch and I used to live near Pella Iowa. I am interested in finding the connection with our family Hegger with Grace from New York..I saw her picture from the 1920s and she looks like my father and could be my daughter’s twin..Please respond if you know more about Grace Geneology..Very Grateful. Barbara Hegger

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