The History of
The Ton Family
ORIGIN OF THE TON
Ton is a Dutch word which means "barrel" or "buoy". It is most likely an occupational name, given to those who made their living making barrels, kegs, casks and buoys (made of floating barrels). The English equivalent of this surname would be "Cooper".
As early as 1790 (and probably much earlier), my Ton ancestors lived in what is now the province of Zeeland, the Netherlands. In 1648, Zeeland united with the other independent lowland provinces to become the Republic of the Netherlands. However, in 1806, the country was made a satellite state of France, with Napoleon's brother Louis as king. In 1813, after Napoleon's defeat, independence was won. It was during the years of French rule that the citizens of the Netherlands were required to take a surname for the purposes of French governmental records and a census, taken in 1811. Before this time, the Dutch used the European common system of patronyms, i.e. surnames derived from the father's name. Surnames were rarely used. A typical name could be Adriaan Geerts, which meant "Adriaan, Geert's son". Females used the same system; Suzanna Geerts meant "Suzanna, Geert's daughter".
When Dutch citizens were required by the French to take a surname, many chose their profession, the name of their city or village, or a physical description name, either of the area in which they lived, or a personal description. My ancestors had used the surname Ton as early as 1790, which probably indicated a family history of working as coopers. Thus, it is important to realize that all people with the Dutch surname Ton are probably not related, even if they were from the same town or county.
EMIGRATION TO AMERICA:
For at least three generations, my Ton ancestors lived in the city of Nieuwerkerk, Zeeland. The city's name literally means "newer church". Late in the year 1857, my great-great-great-grandfather, Pieter Ton, emigrated to Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, with his wife Maria Marina VanKlinken. They probably emigrated for religious reasons, since they were members of the Christian Seceded Church, a conservative sect which had broken off from the more liberal official state church, the Dutch Reformed Church . Many Seceders settled in Western Michigan and maintained their Dutch culture in tightly-knit communities. Between 1870 and 1874, the Ton family removed from Ohio to Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan, where some of their descendants live today.
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©Miriam Midkiff, 2003 - 2006