Geert "George" Aukes Tuinstra (1851 - 1928)

Geert Aukes Tuinstra
(1851 - 1928)

My great-great-grandfather, Geert "George" Aukes Tuinstra, was born 20 January 1851 in the city of Franeker, Friesland, the Netherlands.  His parents were Auke Caspers Tuinstra and Aaltje Jans Mud (in American records, Auke's name has been anglicized to both "Oscar" and "Albert"; and Aaltje's name is often shown as "Alice").  Geert's father Auke was married three times, and his mother Aaltje was the second wife.  Geert had at least 12, perhaps 13 siblings, although only nine of them survived to adulthood.

Geert's brother from his father's first marriage to Aagtje Ypes Staalstra was Casper Aukes Tuinstra (1842 - 1922).  Two infant brothers, born in 1845 and 1846, did not survive; Aagtje passed away, probably due to complications of childbirth, just a few days after the second baby boy died.

Geert's brothers from the marriage of his own parents included: Jan "John" Aukes Tuinstra (1849 - 1926); Auke Aukes Tuinstra (1852 - after 1890); Berend Aukes Tuinstra (1854 - bef 1928); an infant brother named Aan Aukes Tuinstra who was born and died in 1856; and Ale "Albert" Aukes Tuinstra (1857 - 1921).  Geert's mother Aaltje died the same day Ale was born; again, probably due to complications of childbirth, when Geert was six years old.

Left with six sons ranging from newborn to age 13, Geert's father remarried once again, this time to Antje Van Essen, who is often referred to as "Anna" or "Annie".  Four, perhaps five, more of Geert's siblings were born to this union: Meine Aukes Tuinstra (1864 - 1923); Eelke Aukes Tuinstra (1865 - bef 1928), who was also referred to as "Albert"; and Hylke "Henry" Aukes Tuinstra (1868 - 1934).  In the next paragraph, I will describe a puzzle over Geert's sister, or perhaps, sisters.

There is a birth record listed in the Friesland Provincial Archives for a Geertje Aukes Tuinstra, which records her birth as 13 March 1870.  Immigration records of 1874 show a Geertje Aukes Tuinstra with a birth date of 18 May 1871.  It is unclear whether this means there were two daughters named Geertje.  It was not uncommon in those days that when one child died, the next child of the same gender was given the same name, usually a family name that the parents desired to have carried on.  My question then is this: was there a girl named Geertje who was born in 1870 and died young?  If so, I have been unable to find a death record for her; this would also mean that the girl named Geertje who was born in 1871 was the second daughter to bear that name.  Or was there only one daughter named Geertje, who had her birth date recorded incorrectly on the immigration records?  It is known that Geert had a younger sister named Geertje ("Gertrude") who was alive at least until 1880.

At some point when Geert was an infant, his parents, his two older brothers and he moved from the Tuinstras' ancestral home city of Franeker to the city of Sneek, where all his younger siblings were born.  Although both cities are located in the province of Friesland, they are in separate counties.  I do not know what the reason was for this move; possibly it was for economic reasons, although it could also have been religiously motivated.  The family were all members of the Christian Reformed Church, Seceders sect.  This was a movement in reaction to the Dutch state church similar to that of the English Separatists (Pilgrims) of the early 1600s.  Perhaps the Tuinstras found more religious tolerance in Sneek, or perhaps there were a larger following of the Seceders in that city.  If they moved for economic reasons, it could be that the area was better for growing or selling the produce from their gardens.  All the family worked as gardeners; in fact the name Tuinstra means "from the garden" in Frisian.

After the family had lived in Sneek for 23 years, they emigrated to the United States.  Geert's father and step-mother, seven of his eight brothers, his sister, and his step-mother's father came over the Atlantic Ocean on the Netherlands-American Steam Company ship, the W. A. Scholten.  Geert's oldest brother Casper remained in Sneek with his wife and young family, and emigrated in 1880.

The Tuinstra family first settled in Wyoming Township, Kent County, Michigan, to the south of the city of Grand Rapids, a hub for Dutch expatriates.  There they worked a farm, and were enumerated as gardeners on the 1880 Federal Census.  However, by 1882, the family had moved into the city west of the Grand River, and were living on Grandville Avenue, just south of Fifth.  This may have been either the same house as--or the house next door to--what was then numbered 2 Fifth Avenue (the houses in West Grand Rapids were all renumbered in 1914, so this house was located on what is now either the 900 or 1000 block).  Geert's father and step-mother lived at that address for the rest of their lives.  Geert continued to live with them until at least 1890, and was always listed as a florist in the city directory.  Many of Geert's brothers, most of whom married late in life, also lived in the same household until they got married.  Most continued working as florists or fruit and vegetable peddlers (hucksters).  The farmer's market was located on West Leonard Street, not far away.  Geert's brother Meine eventually opened a grocery store on the southeast corner of North and Madison, where he employed his brothers.  The store was aptly named Tuinstra Brothers Grocers.

On 6 November 1884, Geert married Doetje Wiersma in Grand Rapids.  She was also a Frisian-Dutch immigrant, and her name was anglicized many different ways: Dorothy, Dora or Doris.  George and Dorothy lived with George's parents and brothers and started their own family.  It must have been a crowded house!  Their first known child was named Agnes; she was my great-grandmother, and was born 1 September 1885, probably at home.  There is some speculation that she was either a twin or a triplet.  Some vague family records indicate that there were possibly two other children born to George and Dorothy in 1885; one named Assar, the other Anke.  Assar's apparent death date was also 1885; Anke's was supposedly in 1891.  As Agnes's birth was never recorded with the county clerk, there are probably no official birth records for Assar or Anke.  There are some vague burial records in nearby Greenwood Cemetery that point to the possibility of at least one Tuinstra child being buried about that time.

At any rate, Agnes was the eldest surviving child.  Over the next 15 years, she was followed by eight boys, seven of whom reached maturity.  (See below for more information on these children.)  Fortunately, by the year 1900, George's large family was living at their own rented residence at 454 West Leonard Street.  During the following ten years, George and Dorothy moved their household at least five times, finally buying their own home on Division Street in the city of Grandville, located not too far from the original family farm in Wyoming Township.  By 1916, however, they had bought a different residence at 1332 Maude Avenue, Northeast in Grand Rapids.  Here Dorothy died on 5 December 1916 from heart disease.  She was buried in the Grandville-Wyoming Cemetery. (obituary)

Jessie, Henrietta and George Tuinstra, Sr. with three of the grandchildren, c. 1925The next year, on 25 September 1917 in Grand Rapids, George married a widow, Jitske "Jessie" (Tysma) DeGroot.  She had also emigrated from Friesland, but had lived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada before immigrating to Grand Rapids.  She had four children from her previous marriage who were either teenaged or grown.  One of these was her daughter Henrette "Henrietta" DeGroot, who married George's son, George Tuinstra, Jr. in 1918.  This meant that George, Jr. and Henrietta's four children were both grandchildren and step-grandchildren to George, Sr. and Jessie!  George, Jr., Henrietta and their children lived with George, Sr. and Jessie in their home on Maude Avenue.

On 14 September 1928, George died at home from chronic nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys.  He was 77 years old, and although one of the eldest sons of his father, he outlived all his siblings except his younger brother Hylke/Henry.  After a funeral at Coldbrook Christian Reformed Church on West Leonard Street, he was buried 18 September 1928 next to his first wife Dorothy in the Grandville-Wyoming Cemetery.  Jessie lived until 1956; she was buried in Fairplains Cemetery in Grand Rapids.  (obituaries)

Children of Geert "George" Aukes Tuinstra and Doetje "Dorothy" Wiersma:

Agnes "Aggie" Tuinstra - my great-grandmother

Assar Tuinstra - possible child of George and Dorothy; not proven.  Possible birth and death dates are 1885 - 1885.

Anke Tuinstra - possible child of George and Dorothy; not proven.  Possible birth and death dates are 1885 - 1891.

William Tuinstra was born 4 January 1887 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  He was a cabinet maker, a factory worker, and an owner of a greenhouse.  Around 1910 - 1913, he married Ida Schripsima (1892 - 1980).  They had four children, including George (1914 - 1980) and Mariana (1919 - 1920).  William died 14 November 1963.

John Tuinstra was born in November 1888 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  At one time, he was a weaver for a wire works; later he worked for the Veterans' Home in Grand Rapids.  He married Florence Vander Woride; I do not know if they had children.  John died in March 1952.

Jacob Tuinstra was born 17 June 1890 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  He married Jennie Sietsma (1892 - 1972) on 18 June 1916; they had five children, including Marie Jeanette (Tuinstra) Post (1919 - before 2002) and Robert Jay Tuinstra, Sr. (died before 2002).  Jacob inherited the family love of gardening.  He was a founding member of the Fruit Basket Flowerland store which exists today.  He died 3 August 1970.

Auke "Oscar" Tuinstra, named for his grandfather, was born 14 October 1891 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  He also was a weaver for a wire works, and later a machine hand.  He married late in life to his brother Herman's widow, Gertrude (Springslord) Korf Tuinstra (dates unknown).  I do not know if they had any children; it seems unlikely.  Oscar died in August 1965.

Dick Tuinstra was born July 1893 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  He married Marie Tiemeyer (dates unknown) and had two children.  He later moved to California for his health; it is presumed that he died there.

Geert "George" Tuinstra, Jr. was born 10 February 1895 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  He was a laborer in a furniture business.  He married Henrette "Henrietta" DeGroot (1894 - 1983), his step-sister; they had four children.  George died in January 1970 in Grand Rapids, and was buried on the 27th in Fairplains Cemetery.

Ale "Allen" Tuinstra was born in December 1896 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  He died of scarlet fever on 17 October 1900 in (Grand Rapids?) Kent County, Michigan.

Herman Tuinstra was born in 1900 in Michigan (probably Grand Rapids).  As a child, he contracted polio.  Like his brother George, he was a laborer in a furniture business.  He married a widow, Gertrude (Springslord) Korf (dates unknown) sometime between 1920 and 1939.  In July 1939, he developed an infection from a mosquito bite that spread throughout his body.  As he lay dying, he asked his brother Oscar who was caring for him, to care for Gertrude after his death; she had health problems and needed assistance.  Oscar ended up marrying her.

More about my great-great-grandfather, Geert "George" Aukes Tuinstra, can be found in the AnceStory of his daughter, Agnes "Aggie" Tuinstra, and the upcoming AnceStory of his wife, Doetje "Dorothy" Wiersma.  You will also find more about Geert's parents and family history in general on my Tuinstra Family History page.

I would like to acknowledge the research help of Nancy Firlik and Susan McGaughey Barillas for this AnceStory, as well as the resources shared with me by many Tuinstra descendants:  Wes Henry, Bernard Tuinstra, Tim Tuinstra, Jim Valk and Karla Zeilstra.  It has been an adventure putting together the Tuinstra puzzle with you all, and I hope we can continue to collaborate on the missing pieces!  Photo courtesy of Tim Tuinstra.

Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff
page created: 27 Jan 2004
updated: 27 Dec 2004

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