Abstract of the Lensvelt family history and regional history in English

(Author: Marcel Lensvelt, Buenos Aires - Argentina)

This web site deals with the history of the family Lensvelt and has been last
modified on: November 5, 1999

Diging in the history: diging.gif (11.283 bytes)

This chapter will give a brief abstract of the above and an outline of the regional and national history to provide an interesting and understandable background setting as some of the Lensvelt branches have moved out of the Netherlands (and consequently probably neither speak Dutch nor or familiar with the regional or Dutch national history). This chapter is not a direct translation of the above nor will it go into any details concerning any specific family lines. It is meant to provide a general overview and for that reason the translation will loosely follow one line only until late last century.

If you wish further clarification or if you can provide any information, you are kindly requested to contact the administrator of this website by e-mail.
And, of course, detailed English translations from your line of inheritance can be provided upon request.

Content of this Family history:

The origin of the name

There are a number of theses around the original meaning of the name Lensvelt. It is not known with any certainty. But the area of origin is very well defined.
The first generations were wealthy farmers. Their real estate initially limited their mobility. Choosing other professions than farming in the later generations enabled a few lines of the family to move out of its place of origin.
This abstract will give a brief discussion on the origin of the name, the different versions of the name and a theses on how the name expanded in the Netherlands. The family name Lensvelt or its derivatives is not very common in the Netherlands. There are Lensvelt's abroad (in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Caribbean, England and France), but their numbers are expected to be even smaller. So far most of their Dutch connections are unknown.

Over the centuries the family name has been written in many different ways: Lensveldt, Lensfelt, Lensvelt, Lensveld, Lantsveld, Lansvelt, Leijnsveld, Lijnsvelt and Lijnsveld. There is barely any doubt that these names share the same origin. In the oldest certain sources (1634) the name is spelled as 'Lensvelt' and is placed in Dussen, in the Netherlands.

Roughly 250 years earlier (in 1394) there has been mention of the name 'van Lenxvelt'.

Gijb van Lenxvelt was born in 1354 and had two sons: Peter Gijb van Lenxvelt, who was born in 1386 and Henric van Lenxvelt was born around 1390. They lived around s'Hertogenbosch, in Noord Brabant (geographically reasonably close to Dussen). Henric married Jut Gerit Heijnmansz. (daughter of Gerrit Heijnmans) and had a daughter around 1426 that he named Ermgart van Lenxvelt. She married Jan Henrick Jan Spierinck, alderman from Galder. Hendrik van Lenxvelt died before 1454.

An immediate connection to the Lensvelt's from Dussen is likely as the family Spierink had vast properties in the area around Dussen. This explains the early occurrence of the family name in an area where family names were not that common yet. Until the 18th century family names were more common in the then more prosperous Southern provinces Brabant and Flanders.

As mentioned, the meaning of the name is not certain. The meaning of the part 'velt' is obvious. It is the old spelling of the Dutch word 'veld' and refers to a piece of land. The meaning of 'Lens' is uncertain. There a number of possible meanings of the family name.

Although the actual meaning of the family name is unknown and disputed, its origin is well defined.
The earliest traces originate from a very small area in the Netherlands which is called 'Het land van Heusden en Altena' [The land of Heusden and Altena]. Altena was nothing more than a fortified farm house (a 'motte') in the early Middle Ages. Its exact location is only roughly known. The city of Heusden was heavily fortified, but has been cut off from the land of Heusden by one of the rivers running just by the city walls. Today Heusden is only a small town, with much of the city and its walls the same as it has been for centuries.

The first Lensvelt's lived in the West of the land of Heusden and Altena. To be more specific West of and in a small town called Dussen. The Land of Heusden and Altena is in the North West corner of province of Noord Brabant in an area in The Netherlands that is typically referred to as 'between the rivers'. It is just East of the National Park 'de Biesbosch'. The Biesbosch is a swampland, where naturally tidal movements of up to 2 meters occurred before it got disconnected from the sea.

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The Shield of Knights of Dussen, the founders of the still existing middle age castle in Dussen.

The Netherlands are mainly below sea level and have always been divided by the three major rivers: the Rhine, the Meuse and the Waal. These rivers run closely together and were natural barriers for the old Germanic tribes, the Romans and even the Spanish, the French and in recent years the Germans.
Even today, although less meaningful, they divide the Netherlands in the predominantly Roman Catholic South ('below the rivers') and the Protestant North ('above the rivers'). Although this natural barrier is loosing importance fast, there are still distinct cultural differences between people above and below the rivers.

The event, that had the biggest effect on this regions' history, was the big St. Elisabeth flood of 1421.
Floods occurred commonly throughout the centuries in the Netherlands. But the St. Elisabeth flood swallowed a large part of what was then known as the 'Groote Waard' [the big polder]. It took centuries to regain most of the lost land. And even today parts of what once was 'de Groote Waard' remain unclaimed and currently form the swampy national park 'de Biesbosch'.

It is in this area, as man started to reclaim what was lost in the big flood of the St. Elisabeth night of 1421, that the name Lensvelt surfaced first in 1634.

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Before the St. Elizabeth's flood

For the longest time the area that is currently known as the Netherlands, or more appropriately the Low Countries, was nothing more than a swampy estuary that flooded twice a day. People lived on natural highs in the typically flat countryside that were just merely above the high waterline.
The Friesians were the first tribe to move in. They remained above the big rivers. The Bataven started to populate the area between the rivers, like 'Het Land van Heusden en Altena'. It was a river landscape. The meandering rivers were free to choose their paths in the flat soft earth, leaving old riverbanks behind that were slightly higher than the surrounding boggy, peaty swamps. Signs of settlements in this river landscape date back to well before the Romans. The old riverbanks were preferred, because of their relative height.

The Romans came as far North as the rivers. The Roman historian Plinius described the circumstances under which the locals lived as the most miserable he had ever seen anywhere in his vast travels. North of the rivers the Romans continued to have skirmishes with the Friesians. South of the rivers they managed to consolidate their power through a number of fierce battles, after which they destroyed most of the Bataven settlements.

Around 300 to 400 AD, as the Roman Empire weakened, the Romans were forced out of their Northern regions by the Franks and the Saxons. Which left the Netherlands inhibited by the Friesians, the Saxons and the Franks. The land of Heusden and Altena' was practically left uninhabited.

The land remained empty until well into the 7th century when it was slowly being reclaimed from the East. For centuries into the dark Middle Ages the sparsely populated country was plagued by regular floods, invasions of the Vikings (who used the river systems in their favor) and later into the Middle Ages the numerous regional wars between local knights. In particular the trials of strength between the Counts of Holland, the Bishop of Utrecht and the Dukes of Brabant over frontiers like the Land of Altena left their ongoing scars. Note that Holland is not synonymous to the Netherlands, it is only a part of the Netherlands.

In these dark Middle Ages there was a continuous state of war, battles, floods and dike break throughs, plagues (in 1348 in particular) and murders that demanded its toll on the population.
Still, it was in this environment that a big and prosperous polder called the 'Groote Waard' [big polder] or the 'Zuidhollandse Waard' started to develop and flourish in the 13th Century. The river Meuse had diverted its route Northward and, consequently, created this huge polder stretching 40 km by 10 km, from Heusden in the West to Dordrecht in the NorthEast and Geertruidenberg in the South.

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The Groote or Zuidhollandse Waard. From (East) Dordrecht till (West) Heusden and from (North) Woudrichem till (South) Geertuidenberg, with Dussen near by the Old Meuse in the middle of it.

The Groote Waard flourished for a century and a half. Geertruidenberg already received city rights as the first city in the province of Holland in 1213. Currently Geertruidenberg is a mere small town in the province of Brabant. However, the Groote Waard was faced with an organizational challenge, because it was so politically splintered. It were these internal political conflicts and wars that eventually resulted in neglected dike maintenance. The final price was paid on the St. Elizabeth's night (November 18) 1421.
In the same time the Southern province of Brabant and Flanders started to flourish. Cities were founded. Increased trade activity in its province, which was continuously plundered from the city of Heusden, made it necessary for the Duke of Brabant to found a city in 1185 close to his castle at a strategic position: the city of 's Hertogenbosch was the fourth city in the South. The city prospered and in its shadow, in Dungen, Gijb van Lenxvelt was born in 1354.

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After the St. Elisabeth flood 1421

That winter night the dike broke. An estimated 22 villages disappeared forever in the sea. A well known tale from the flood is the story of a baby that was dragged in its cradle by the ice cold waters. It only survived because a cat kept the cradle balanced in the waves.
An inundation was far from an exception in those days. Dikes broke occasionally. What made this flood exceptional was the inability to reclaim the land. The feeble efforts in the following years were not sufficient. The tides of the new inner sea and the floods from 1423 and 1424 took more and more of what still remained from the old dikes. Thus, making reclamation more and more difficult.

In 1461 the Eastern part of what once was the 'Groote Waard' was diked in by the 'Kornse dijk'. This dike is visible on the old maps. It runs North-South and lies just West of Dussen. West of this dike was given up and was now a vast sea, where once the 'Groote Waard' had been.

In and along this inner sea sediments were deposited by rivers and tides. These formed new lands in the following years and centuries. They were diked in piece by piece. This way the Land van Altena grew in the years 1552 and 1646. And it is in this context that the name Lensvelt surfaces in 1634.

On July 29 1634 Gerrit Janssen Lensvelt, Heemraad [Dike reeve] declares solemnly that the new deposits outside the dike of Dussen Munsterkerk have been part of this community as long as memories reach. This is important in light of the fact that that the Count of Holland claimed these lands. Although the Groote Waard had disappeared well over 2 centuries before there were still claims for the lands that had vanished into the waves.

The fact that Gerrit made this solemn oath, that he was the only one that did it that had an official family name and that dike reeves typically were important landowners can not mean anything else then that Gerrit must have been a notable within the community of Dussen.
A similar oath Gerrit had to make as an alderman on August 30 1636. The last time that his name is referred to is in a document dating back to 1649/50. From this document it becomes clear that he must have deceased and was generally well known and respected.
Considering this early occurrence of the family name and the likely family wealth the last two possible explanations of the family name (either a derivation of the verb 'lenzen' or 'lenen') become the translator's favorites.

In the 16th Century the government drew a great deal of money from the rent paid by farmers. To impose this rent appropiately the rented out areas were surveyed.

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The map from 1562 by the brothers Pieter and Jacob Sluyter, which is partly reproduced here, served this purpose.

Survey techniques were greatly improved through the development of the triangulation method and hence procured higher revenues for the government. For that reason the surveyors were not very welcome in the area. The map shows the process of accretion and embankment of the land just outside the Kornse Dijk. The white area designates the polder reclaimed after the St. Elisabeth's flood behind the Kornse Dijk (that had been completed 100 years before) including the village Dussen with its characteristic 'S' shaped river course. The lots of land that lay just outside the dike have an efficient drainage system by means of ditches. Next to these lie the marshy bushes indicated by dark green tones, creeks and a single decoy. The estuary is navigated by fishing boats and small freight ships. The area must have looked much the same 72 years later, when Gerrit made his oath.

The lots of land are distinguished by letters. In the corresponding index the names of the farmers and the surface areas of their land are listed next to the appropriate letters. Although the index has not been checked yet it is possible that Gerrit's father or grandfather had one (or some) of these fields. More likely, however, is that his fields were further to the West: one (or some) of the fields that is not marked. The islands that are drawn on the far West were later (in 1660) diked by the Buitendijk, along which the early generations Lensvelt lived.

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The 80-year war (1568-1648)

The land claims were just a regional issue. The Republic of the Seven Provinces (which were later to become the Netherlands and Belgium) had been in a state of war with their Habsburger King Philips II from Spain since 1568.

In those days, the provinces were looked upon as nothing more than mere a series of islands and swamps covered in eternal mists. The sparse inhabitants of the delta in the North Sea had nothing in common with each other. There were no nationalistic feelings. The Netherlands were a conglomerate of 17 independent states; of which Brabant was the biggest and the richest and included Brussels (currently in Belgium Brabant). Every state had its own monarch, law and habits. The Southern provinces were wealthy, but in the North there were still fierce skirmishes. There were groups that strongly opposed any central power. Northern bands roamed the areas South provoking the central power in Brussels and Spain; plundering anything on their way. The Royal army, that was send North as a revenge to maintain 'order', was as rough as the bands themselves. People in the frontier provinces Holland, Brabant and Gelre paid a heavy toll and dikes were once again seriously neglected.

There was a general resentment, mainly because of the exorbitant taxes and the alienation of the Government in Brussels and the far Spain. But especially Spain's religious intolerance, the Spanish Inquisition, was incompatible with the Dutch Protestant sympathies.
The iconoclasm started in the South in Flanders in August 1566. Spain's response was tough and when Spain had both official opposition leaders publicly beheaded in Brussels in 1568 a new era had started. The revolt was led by Willem van Oranje Nassau (also known as William the Silent). His descendants were later to become the Dutch Royal house.
Cities were under siege for months, conquered and plundered by both sides. Public tortures were a common occurrence. There were no liberators or aggressors. On both sides armies were made up of mercenaries of all nationalities, fighting for pay or a piece of the booty. The war was to last for 80 years However, in those 80 years, slowly a nationalistic feeling started to emerge.

The Land van Heusden en Altena was fairly isolated wedged in between the rivers and no major cities close by. The nearest cities like Breda and Geertruidenberg were under siege numerous times by both sides, with all the terrible consequences.

Only 9 years before the dike reeve Gerrit Lensvelt made his first oath North West Brabant had been worldwide front page news for a whole year. The city of Breda had been under siege for 9 months before it surrendered. During the war Breda changed hands no less then 6 times. It had about 8,000 citizens and there was nothing people feared more than the change of power. The previous time the power changed in Breda, in 1590, the city was spectacularly taken by the 'Staatse' (the Netherlands States) by means of a peat boat that, like the Trojan horse, was carrying 'Staatse' soldiers into the castle at night.

The siege of 1624 started in the hot burning summer. A Spanish army (mainly made up of Italian and German mercenaries) gathered between Heusden and Breda in the middle of what was considered 'Staatse' territory. Initially their intentions were unclear. But the cordon around Breda closed on August 27 1624. A siege that was to last 9 months. During these months the Spanish troops were in turn raided and molested by the 'Staatse' troops outside the cordon. Dikes were broken to flood the Spanish camps. The actual attempt to break the cordon took place in the beginning of May 1625. A 'Staatse'army (mainly made up by foreign adventurers and mercenaries) tried to break through between the Spanish camps at Terheyden and Teteringen, North of Breda. The citizens of Breda thinking that the end was near placed the 'Staatse' orange banner on the city walls. Unfortunately the battle of Terheyden had a different outcome. The city surrendered only days later, on June 2, with all the dreadfull consequences.

As usual, the real price was paid by the civilians both in and around the city that had to endure the ongoing plundering and restitution payments from both sides. Although geographically close (approximately 10 miles), Dussen in the land of Heusden and Altena was spared a lot of this grief because of the river.

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The Golden Century

In 1648, with the peace of Munster, the 80-year war ends officially. The new Republic of the United Netherlands had not only beaten Spain at home, but had also had made a large colonial power of itself by pushing the Spanish and Portuguese out of their own colonies and by exploring for new ones. The Golden Century had begun.
The Netherlands became a world power. The colonial empire and international prestige grew fast. Only 4 years after the peace treaty with Spain the first of a sequence of wars against England breaks out. These wars are mainly fought on the oceans. In spite of being dreadfully outnumbered the young Republic was very successful in these wars against England.

This is the era of the numerous glorious sea battles of the Dutch man of war that roamed the oceans. The era of Michiel de Ruyter who, in spite of being dreadfully outnumbered, sailed into the city of London leaving a trail of English wrecks behind. The era of the Dutch explorers. The era of the brilliant admiral Piet Hein who captured the whole home bound Veracruz treasure fleet (the Spanish Silver fleet) off the coast of Cuba in 1628; a feat so impressive that the Dutch still sing about it today.
These wars continued for the remainder of the century.

Later in the century also France gets involved and the war scenes cover most of the Southern Netherlands as well. In the disastrous year 1672 the Republic even found itself in war with both France and England allied with the German states Munster and Cologne all at the same time.
In that year the castle of Dussen and the surrounding region suffer because of the French invasion. In 1702 the French invade the Southern Provinces again with devastating consequences. However, the hegemony of the Netherlands does not decay until the early 1710s.

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The second generation

The alderman Gerrit Lensvelt lived through the 80 year war, but probably never saw the end of it. He had at least three sons, Simon, Jan and Aart. The sons lived in the middle of the Golden Century. All three had Geerts(en) and/or Gerritsen as their patronymic. In bigger cities family names were slowly being introduced and accepted. Family names typically were more differentiated and complex, because they often included professions and geographical origins or even addresses. In the country patronymics were still common in stead of family names.

Of the second generation Lensvelt, the sons of alderman Gerrit Janssen, little is known. Especially little is known about Aart, the line that is followed in this abstract.

Simon Gerritsen Lan(t)svelt, probably the oldest son of Gerrit Lensvelt, was probably born in 1630 and married Judith Jansen van Dijck between 1650 and 1655, just after the piece of Munster, which ended the 80 year war. Simon had at least seven children and numerous grandchildren: Gerardi Sijmonis (his date of birth is unknown, but he probably married the beginning of 1679 and had eight children), Simonis (his date of birth is also unknown, he probably married at the end of 1679 and had at least three children), Joanna Sijmonse (her date of birth is unknown), Walthery [Wouter] Sijmonis (born on October 29 1662. He had 4 children with his first wife and at least three with his second wife), Anna Simonis (her date of birth is unknown), Joannis Simonis (his date of birth is unknown. He had at least one son from his first wife, two sons from his second wife, at least another two children from his third wife and also another two children from his fourth wife).

The second son, Jan Geertsn Lensfelt, born between 1630 and 1635 and married Emmeken Jans Roubos between 1655 and 1665. They had at least three daughters: Maria Jansen, Elisabetha Joannis and Bastiaantie [Sebastiana]. Both Jan and his wife died before 1685.

The third son, the line that is followed in this abstract, Arnold (Aart) Geerts Lensfelt [Generation 2] was probably born in 1635. Unfortunately only little is known about Aart. He probably married in 1660. It is not known to whom. In the same year he probably had his son (and only child?) Gerardi Arnoldi Lensfelt/Leijnsvelt [Generation 3]. There was just one act on Aart: on October 20, 1668 Aert Geerts Lensfelt sold a house to Jan Geerts Lensfelt.

From the above it is evident that the size of the family started to expand early.

The town of Dussen was made up of two parts; Dussen Muilkerk and Dussen Munsterkerk. Dussen Muilkerk was the town Dussen and its Castle. Dussen Munsterkerk were the polders West of the Kornse dijk. In 1660 these were completely diked in by the Buitendijk. It is here, along the Buitendijk, where the first Lensvelt's lived. Houses were build against the dike. Later the town Hank developed on this spot along the Buitendijk.

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The third generation

The grandson of the alderman Gerrit Lensvelt, Gerardi Arnoldi Lensfelt/Leijnsvelt was probably born in 1660. He lived through a period that this were relatively quiet, although the republic was loosing his hegemony on the world scale. He was only a young teenager in the disastrous year 1672 when the republic was in war just about every country that surrounded it and the French invaded the region and damaged the castle.

He first married (on December 11 1685) Adrianae Richardi Stael and then (on November 17 1697) Agathae Anthony van Honswijck. It is worth mentioning that both spouses came from very respected families in Dussen.

The family name Stael had a status in Dussen since at least 1569 and continued to be so until a number of centuries to come.
The family name van Honswijck is less represented in the official documents in Dussen. However, already in 1514 a Jan Willemszoon van Honswijck filled a position as an alderman in Dussen. He was born in Dussen in 1481 and his family had been in Dussen for more than 4 centuries!

Both marriages produced big families. Big families were common. A lot of the children died early. Even until late in the 19th century a third of all children died in their first year.
The first marriage produced at least four daughters: Cornelia (1686), Petronella (1689), Antonetta (1691) and Guilielmina (1693). Only two of these children are mentioned (albeit not by name) in the last will of June 22 1720 from Gerrit Lensvelt and Aagtje van Honswijck. Each would get 50 guilders, which is a fair amount for those days. The remainder of all belongings would go to the survivor to raise the children of the second marriage. In case of a new marriage half of these belongings would be divided among the common children There were at least ten children born in the second marriage: Aart (1698) [Generation 4], Wilhelmina (1700), Anthonius (1703), Simon (1705), Jacobus (1707-1757), Maria (1709), another Symon (1712), Teunis (1714), Joannes (1714) and another Joannes (1717).

On April 24 1723 Aghtje van Honswijck, widower of Gerrit Lensvelt, trades a property in the 'Zuijdhollandschen polder', West of Dussen. Later that year, on December 4 1723, she sells a considerable amount of farming tools, some cattle and a number of horses. She received 240 guilders.
It is not clear why she needed the money or why she would consider to stop farming. There was still a considerable amount of real estate in her last will of October 28 1729. All her goods would be divided between her 5 children "conceived" by Gerrit Aartsen Lensvelt; Aart, Antonie, Seymon, Tuenis and Jan. There was only the condition that they could not be divided until her youngest (Jan) had become 25 years of age. It is not clear why her living son Jacob was not included in this last will. It could be speculated that this could be related to the (forced) sale of 6 years previous.
In her last will of May 10 1741, she divides between four sons (Aart, Antonie, Seymon and Tuenis; Jan must have died) substantial land and property in the Dussense polder, de Kalversteegh and in Klijn Suijdevelt, all West of Dussen, and a farm and orchard along the Buitendijk, where nowadays the town of Hank is located.

It is not completely clear how much of all these belongings Gerrit had brought into the marriage, but from the first will (where the two surviving daughters of Gerrit's first marriage are bought off) it can be concluded that Gerrit's second marriage was a convenient arrangement.

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The fourth generation

The oldest son, Arnoldus (Aart) Lensvelt or Arnoldi Lijnsvelt, was born on July 21 1698. He first married Marguarita v.d. Pluijm (Grietje Jansse) on January 27 1731. They had 6 children: Gerardus (1731), Joannes (1734), Jacobus (1738), Petrus (1741), another Joannis (1744) [Generation 5] and Maria (1747).

On May 7 1749 he married the widow Helena (Hijltje) Schippers. At the time of this second marriage Aart was already 49 years old. Probably this second marriage remained childless. This is likely, because his second wife Hijltje, only was entitled to a child's portion in Aart's last will on December 16 1756. This is described as a quarter, therefore probably only three of his children survived. At the time of his last will Aart was in bed and seriously ill, not expecting to live for much longer. The will was written at his bed side with his wife next to him. Aart must have recovered, because on April 19 1767 he bought a considerable piece of land along the Buitendijk for 3,300 guilders. Aart died on March 6 1770. From his death certificate and the bill of his funeral it becomes clear that it must have been a reasonable wealthy family.

The coat of family arms from 1739 was probably painted for him, either at his request or dedicated to him. It is about 37 x 20 cm. The coats' background colour is Silver, which, in the heraldry, signifies as much as 'innocence, cleanliness, joy'. The use of fruits or parts of plants signifies 'fertility' and was already used in the early heraldry. The acorns are painted in natural colours and a generally used as a symbol for masculinity.
Its' origin is uncertain. Typically they were painted when a person entered an official body like a water board or a board of alderman. The coat of arms could have been in the family for generations. Generally there was a higher loyalty to family arms than to family names.

The land of Heusden and Altena officially belonged tothe province of Holland although it had been disconnected from Holland since the St. Elisabeth's flood. Holland is predominantly Protestant. Most people had converted to become Protestants. But the majority of Dussen Munsterkerk had remained Roman Catholic in spite of the Protestant domination and privileges. It became difficult for Roman Catholics to fulfill public positions. From 1609 to 1677 Dussen even did not have its own pastor.

In 1732 there were 213 houses in both Dussens, or roughly 1300 people. By far most had an agricultural background. Rural life was far from easy. Cattle plagues and inundations regularly demanded their toll. Two third of all cattle died because of the plague between 1713 and 1720.
The winter of 1740 is so hard that all the rivers freeze over. In the country the starving population is hunting for wolves. Around Christmas a dike breaks because of the ice pressure. In less than no time the whole area is changed into one big ice field. A newspaper in Rotterdam reported:

The amount of cattle that drowned in the flood is innumerable. There are farmers that lost more than 40 head. The poverty and the needs of those who have fled to their attics and to the church towers can not be described. For 3 days bread was ferried by boats from one village to another. In the tower of Genderen [East of Dussen] there were 24 children, a heavily pregnant women and 14 elderly people isolated without light, bread or fire. At the first sight of bread they almost fought.

Four years later, from 1744 to 1756 cattle plague demands its toll again and from 1768 to 1786 again. And in 1775 another inundation.

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The family starts to branch out

As members of the family had to choose other professions than farming as the availability of farming property was limited, they moved out of the area. It is probable that in this time frame the family started to branch out of the Land of Altena into the rest of the Netherlands. People started to move to the relative richer cities in the North. Three main branches of Lensvelt's can be recognized in the Netherlands.

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The fifth generation

Jan (Johannes) Lensvelt or Joannis Lijnsvelt was born on April 3 1744. On the first of November 1769 he married Maria Schippers. She died a year and a half later on March 28 1771. Because of his wife's childless death all real estate had to be evaluated on June 10 of the same year. They had a lot of land and a house along the Buitendijk. Apart from this land Jan also held land on lease in the polder 'Boerenverdriet', outside the Buitendijk. A year after his wife's death he married Johanna de Bodt (March 24 1772).

The world was growing restless and the young States of America had thrown themselves in war for independence, in Latin America tension was building against the Spanish monarchy and France was soon to be dragged in a serious revolution that was to have its impact on the rest of Europe.
Johanna gave birth to four children: Arnoldus (1778- August 1831), Adriana (1780), Gerardus (1783-1853) [Generation 6] and Margarita (1785-1786; she only lived for a few months). In their last will from January 14 1801 all previous last wills are annulled. Unfortunately none of them have been found so far and no further information can be claimed from this last will.

The year after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, on February 23 1816 at 8 am Jan was reported to have died the day before at 8 am at the age of 73 years. Remarkably old for those days. He had seen his fair share of inundations, cattle plagues and wars. His death was reported by his son, the 34 year old farmer from the polder of Dussen Gerrit Lensvelt, and the brother in law, the 48 year old Wouter de Bot.
Jan's second wife Johanna died on March 4 1831. She outlived most of her children.

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French revolution

Apart from the fourth English war from 1780 - 1784 the remainder of the 18th Century is relatively quiet. In autumn 1794 French troops invade the Republic again and occupy s'Hertogenbosch. In the harsh winter of 1794/95 the French move North over the frozen rivers and occupy the remainder of the Republic.
With the invasion of the French the 'Bataafsche Republiek' is changed into a Kingdom. In 1804 Napoleon makes his brother, Lodewijk Napoleon the first King of Holland. Every inhabitant has to officially register and choose a family name. The family name officially became Lensvelt.
At the end of Napoleon's power, ten years later, Prince Willem van Oranje invades in the new Kingdom from the West (the North Sea) and becomes King himself in 1815. Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo (close to Brussels) the same year.

However, the post Napoleon Europe and the young Kingdom had not stabilized yet. After 15 years, following riots in Brussels in August 1830, the Southern provinces declared themselves an independent state: Belgium. It took 9 years of negotiations, skirmishes and troops mobilized in the Southern Dutch Province Noord Brabant before this came to a final treaty. Since 1839 they were officially two separate countries: the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom Belgium. During these 9 years the province Noord Brabant was not considered to be very reliable because of its Belgian sympathies.

Since 1810 the land of Heusden and Altena belonged to the Roman Catholic province Noord Brabant. In 1815 the population of Dussen consists of 1046 Roman Catholics and 644 Protestants. In the whole remainder of the land of Heusden and Altena there are only 137 Roman Catholics left. Dussen truly was a Roman Catholic island surrounded by Protestant villages.
Many in the South thought the rivers were a more logical border separating the Protestant North from the Roman Catholic South. Therefore, the mobilized Northern troops, 'the Hollanders', were not particularly popular in the poor Brabant. Although the West of Noord Brabant was fairly developed, poverty on the high sand grounds in the East of West Brabant was still indescribable.

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The sixth generation

Gerardus Lensvelt or Gerardus Lijnsfelt, was a farmer as well. He was born on December 16 1783 and married Maria Lensvelt (or Maria Lijnsvelt) on February 5 1817, a year after his father Jan's death and 2 years after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. Maria was born December 17 1791. The 24 year old Maria was not directly related to the 34 year old Gerrit although both lived along the Buitendijk (what is now called Hank). They had at least five children.
The first, a daughter called Johanna was born on November 8 1817 and died the next day. Then Maria had four sons who all lived to an old age, like Gerrit: Jacobus (1818-1878), Johannes (1821-1872), Adriaan [Generation 7] (1823-1905) and Cornelis (1826-1892). Maria died only a few years later on January 4 1829.
Although Gerrit had lived through the turbulent period of the French revolution and the Belgian struggle for independence he died (like his father) in his 70s, on April 10 1853 at 6 p.m. This was 24 years after his wife's death.
A month after their father's death on June 8 1853 the three brothers Johannes, Adriaan and Cornelis sell their share of the house, barn and orchard along the Buitendijk to their oldest brother Jacobus for the total sum of 787,50 guilders.

Although there were no more cattle plagues in Dussen and things were relatively prosperous, floods continued to demand their toll in 1837, 1849 and 1863. The worst flood occurred in 1880. A total of 42 villages were flooded killing 500 head of cattle. Houses in Dussen were so deep under water that winter that 47 families had to find refuge in the castle, even up into the tower. In Dussen alone 70 houses were lost in the waves.

On the 25 August 1892 practically the whole village of Dussen is destroyed in fire. The fire started at 2.30 p.m. and expanded easily, because all roofs were made of straw. A large part of the village archive is destroyed in the fire.

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After the fire, policemen inspecting the centre of Dussen around the R.C. Church

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The seventh generation

Adriaan Lensvelt was born on August 30 1823. On September 5 1850 he married Theodora Maria van Dinteren. She was born in Dussen on July 12 1823. She was the daughter of Cornelis van Dinteren and Maria Lensvelt!
Adriaan had a number of professions from farmers hand to farmer, from bartender to bar owner. It is likely that Adriaan used the money from his father's inheritance in 1853 to buy the establishment 'de Posthoorn'. A notorious bar within on the outskirts of the town Dussen itself that remained in the family until 1970, when the province ordered it to be broken down because the dike along which it had been build needed to be strengthened.
With this purchase the family line stopped farming and moved from the Buitendijk to the town of Dussen. From the documents it is clear that the family ties between Adriaan and his brothers remained close.

Adriaan had eight children: Maria Cornelia or Kee (1849-1922: note that she must have been born before the official wedding date), Maria or Mieke (1851-1925), Geertruida (1853. On August 30 1874 Adriaan's third daughter Geertruida delivers an illegal son and names him Adriaan. The grandfather personally registers his grandson. The boy dies only a few months later on April 3 1875), Cornelis or Cees (1856-1892), Gerrit (1858), Maria Antonia or Toontje (1861-1938), Adriaan (born and died in 1864) and Johannes (1865-1934).

With Adriaan this line Lensvelt stopped farming and moved out of the polders West of Dussen. Adriaan moved to the town Dussen itself and Adriaan's sons, Kees, Gerrit and Jan, all choose the profession of wooden shoemaker.
Because of Dussen's location in the proximity of the bigger cities wooden shoe making became an lucrative business. In 1866 there were 10 wooden shoemakers in Dussen; in 1898 there were 62! Apart from being a wooden shoemaker, the youngest son Jan also ran the establishment 'de Posthoorn'. The Posthoorn frequently had boarders. Usually other wooden shoe makers. Jan must have taken de Posthoorn over from his father when he died on March 4 1905 (81 years old). His wife died in Dussen on November 13 1914 (91 years old) just after the outbreak of WW1.

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Cafe De Posthoorn, at Putteneind - Kornse Dijk. Downwards, off the dike, the road leads through De Zuidhollandse Polder to Hank and Buitendijk

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Twentieth century

For any foreign Lensvelt recent history will be of less interest. For that reason this chapter will just be limited to WW2, which of course had the biggest impact in the twentieth century. The Netherlands managed to remain neutral in WW1. Although its troops remained mobilized along the Southern border, they fortunately never saw active duty.

WW2 was different. The Moerdijk bridge, just West of the national park de Biesbosch, was a key position both for the Dutch trying to stop the German invasion in May 1940 from entering the Northern provinces Holland as for the Germans who defended the bridge in November 1944 until the end to ensure all their troops could retreat behind the rivers before they blew it up. The rivers were once again separating armies. Only this time artillery was so developed that the whole winter 1944/45 the villages on both sides were shelled and raided continuously. That is how large parts of Dussen were destroyed by allied fire.

The swamps of the Biesbosch were important for Dutch resistance. In the first stage of the war whole ships that were officially confiscated by the Germans (who were too afraid to enter the labyrinth) were hidden in the swamps. Then as the South was liberated and the North was preparing itself for one of the worst winters in Dutch history, appropriately called 'the hunger winter', the swamps formed a key line of communications between the resistance movements in the North and the Allied forces in the South. And in the last stage of the war Dutch resistance managed to capture about 80 Germans and kept them prisoner until the end if the war.

Up until today there are still Lensvelt's living in Dussen. Like the administrator of this web site. Dussen has been terribly damaged in WW2, but the remainder of the land of Heusden and Altena has been beautifully preserved. Because it is between the rivers it has escaped most of the enormous population and industrial pressure that burdens the rest of the Netherlands since the 60s. Cities and places, so closely connected to the family history, are in a beautiful state: like the old cities Geertruidenberg, Woudrichem and Heusden (which are practically identical to how they looked in Spanish times with massive city walls that have lost all their importance), the national park the Biesbosch (which will give an impressive view of the environment with which the first generations had to deal; small boats can either be rented in Hank or Drimmelen to explore it properly), the castle of Dussen (where Gerrit Lensvelt can tell you all about its long history) and of course the new town Hank (where you can still see the old farms build against the Buitendijk).

This translation is dedicated to Ton Lensvelt for the vast amount of work that he has put into this interesting piece of our common history. For all the time he has put into this, the patience of his wife and the coffee and beer that I have enjoyed in his presence.
As mentioned before please contact him at tonlensvelt@ziggo.nl if you can provide or would like any information. It is surprising how much information a few little details can give.
Detailed English translations from your line of inheritance can be provided through Ton as well.

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