The Tuinstra Family



to the History of
The Tuinstra Family

Tuinstra (pronounced TOON-stra) is a Frisian name that means "from the garden".  Frisian is the language spoken in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands.  Comprised of the northwestern portion of the Netherlands mainland, along with a major portion of the Frisian Islands (a chain which extends from the Netherlands into Germany) this province is populated by an ethnic people whose language and customs are more closely related to the English than the Dutch.

Flag of Friesland
Flag of the Province of Friesland

Friesland united with the other independent lowland provinces to become the Republic of the Netherlands in 1648.  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.  A typical name could be Auke Caspers, which meant "Auke, Casper's son".  Females used the same system; Antje Caspers meant "Antje, Casper'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.  Because my ancestors were florists and vegetable gardeners, they took the surname Tuinstra.  "Tuin" means garden, and "stra" is a suffix which means "from".  Thus, it is important to realize that all people with the surname Tuinstra are probably not related, even if they were from the same village or county.

Franeker was the hometown of my Tuinstra ancestors for several generations.  It was once a favorite residence of the Frisian nobility.  In 1585, a renown university was established.  Its town hall was built in 1591, and an observatory was founded about 1780.  In the church of St. Martin, which was built in 1420, one can see several tombs from the 15th through the 17th centuries.  A farm market was set up in its center, and probably was important to my ancestors' livelihood.  It is one of the principal cities of the province.  

In 1851, my great-great-great-grandfather, Auke Caspers Tuinstra, moved his family from Franeker to Sneek, where they resided for 23 years.  Sneek is the second principal city of Friesland after the provincial capital of Leeuwarden, with which it is connected by a canal.  One of the province's main lakes, Sneeker Meer, lies to the east.  The city originally rose on the inlet which has become the Zuider Zee.  One of its city gates, dating from 1615, still remains to this day.  The tomb of the great Frisian naval hero of the 16th century, Lange--or Groote--Pier (Long or Great Peter) is in one of the city's churches.  Sneek is one of the province's greatest butter and cheese markets.  

In 1874, my great-great-great-grandfather, Auke Caspers Tuinstra, emigrated from theW.A. Scholten city of Sneek, Friesland, the Netherlands, to Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan.  His reasons were very likely religious and economic freedom.  Accompanying him was his third wife, his father-in-law, five sons from his second marriage, and his four children from his third marriage.  The entire family's occupations were listed as florists.  They left the port of Rotterdam on June 1, 1874 on the ship W. A. Scholten, of the Netherlands-American Steam Navigation Company (Holland-American line).  The W. A. Scholten was built that year, and the Tuinstras may well have been sailing on its maiden voyage.

The family first settled in Wyoming Township in Kent County, where they had a farm.  In 1880, Casper Aukes Tuinstra, Auke's oldest son, and the only surviving child of his first marriage, emigrated to the area with his own family.  He settled in Byron Township, Kent County.

Auke and his family eventually settled in West Grand Rapids, where they worked as fruit and vegetable peddlers and florists.  One of his descendants founded the Fruit Basket Flowerland company, which exists today in Grand Rapids; it is still run by the Tuinstra family.

To Choose an Ancestory, Click on One of the Hyperlinked Names:

Agnes Tuinstra (1885 - 1921)
Geert Aukes Tuinstra (1851 - 1928)
Auke Caspers Tuinstra (1818 - 1898)
Casper Aukes Tuinstra (c. 1788 - 1864)

Looking for information on a different Tuinstra than those listed above?  Do a search on my online database at WorldConnect!

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