Hemminga Families of Friesland, Groningen and America: What is a Hemminga?

Who is a HEMMINGA?

The use of a family name (or surname) started in urban areas of western Europe before 1500. In rural areas, and Friesland generally, the family name was not felt necessary as late as 1810. Simply "Jasper," or if there was more than one "Jasper son of Hille" (i.e., Jasper Hilles) was entirely adequate. (Note that in much of the Arab world and SE Asia, and among royalty in general, surnames are still not used.) The empire of Napoleon, with its modern systems of taxation and military conscription, required better identification. Emperor Napoleon decreed in 1811 that all should have a family name (surname).

In Friesland, eight people registered the name Hemminga:

Sjoerd Hendricks, Nijehaske;
Pieter Ruuds, Boornbergum;
Lieuwe Hendriks, Beetsterzwaag;

Jasper Hilles, Beets; with
his daughter Elske, his son Haye, and the children of his son Teije, Beetsterzwaag;

Jakob Foppes and his brother Sjoerd Foppes, Beets;

Pope Alderts, Kortehemmen; and

Sijmon Heeres, Holwerd (Dongeradeel)

Also using the name Hemminga but not registering it were several descendants Aijzo Haijes Hemminga in Dongeradeel - the Dokkum area.

Why did they choose "Hemminga?"

There were two old families that used the surname (van) Hemminga:

Hetta Hemmema (born circa 1363) was the earliest known member of a family that also sometimes used the name Hemminga. Their estate was in Berlikum (west of Leeuwarden). The male line died out in 1721 with the death of Doecke van Hemminga. The name Hemmema is still found on two streets in Berlikum. The family included some very influential people, and married (among many others) into the English Spencer family. We have to date found no links from this line to any of the other Hemminga lines.

Martinnes Jochems Hemminga was born about 1555 in Boornbergum. His father, Jochem, born circa 1500, apparently did not use the surname. The patrician status may have been gained by Martinnes' support of William the Silent in the revolution against the Habsburgs. The male line died out with the death of Martinnes' grandson Aijso Johannes Hemminga in 1690, but the surname continued through an illegitimate son of Aijso Johannes, Aijzo Haijes Hemminga (2x great grandson of Martinnes). In other lines of descent, Sjoerd Hendricks and Lieuwe Hendriks were 5x great grandsons, and Pieter Ruuds, the 4x great grandson, of Martinnes.

Hemminga as the name of an estate or two continued after the end of the patrician Hemminga line, with the properties apparently passing to van Boelens, Lycklama a Nijeholt, van Lynden, Eysinga, and eventually Harinxma thoe Slooten. (I have not traced the property records - the families involved are from descent and comments in books about Beetsterzwaag.) A gazetteer has two listings for Hemminga: an estate (also known as Hemmema) in Smallingerland 5 hours walking northeast of Heerenveen and belonging to the parish of Opeinde; and an estate in Opsterland, 4 hours northeast of Heerenveen and belonging to the parish of Beetsterzwaag. (Note that this could have been one property falling in two parishes.) Beets, Beetsterzwaag, and Kortehemmen are all quite close to the latter.

Jasper Hilles was a 5x great grandnephew of Martinnes - the descendant of Martinnes' brother. Jasper might have picked the Hemminga name because of family memory - but since Martinnes and his brother had been dead for nearly 200 years by 1811 one wonders whether Jasper even knew about the connection. Perhaps he just picked the name of the nearby estate, or perhaps he worked there.

Jakob and Sjoerd Foppes and Pope Alderts have no known direct relationship to any of the above, although they are indirectly related. They may also have picked a name from the neighborhood.

Sijmon Heeres' ancestry has not been found. However, his location (but not names) suggests a relationship to Aijzo Haijes Hemminga.

In Groningen the surname Hemminga was taken by a Abel Jans. His father was Jan Abels Hemmes - apparently a double patronymic - and Hemminga is a variations of Hemmes (of Hem). There is no apparently connection between the Groningen Hemmingas (who were/are Menonites) and the Friesland lines (who were/are Dutch Reformed.

last update 15 March 2008

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