XYZ [???]

Birth Date - Death Date

ABC [Tiade Meints?]

born ca. late 1550s – dies after 1581
Birthplace Osteel?

[Fahlde XYZs]

hypothetical: born after 1581 – dies before 1628
Birthplace Osteel? (just north of Marienhafe, in Ostfriesland)
Burial Site

Claeß Janßen (“Witt Claass,” Claes de Wit)

Married probably before 1618 [in Osteel?], possibly before 1610
born probably ca. 1590 - dies 10 November 1659, at Ostbense, near Esens, Ostfriesland

Johan Claassen [probably unrelated]
First marriage 1631, so probably born ca. 1613. Appears to live in Werdum. Names of children could link him to this family. Probably just coincidence. His mother’s name could be Gretke.

Hilke Claessen [likely]

born 1610 - died 22 September 1675
(“Peke Ayken, Grossholum, Wittwe Hilke, 65 Jahre”)
married Peke Aytken (Grossholum Weinkauf Herd 32) 16 June 1630, Esens
children (Peeken): Aike 1634, Staas 1637 [or Claas, named for his father? no record exists past his baptism], Focko 1640, Faalde 1643 [named for Hilke’s mother?], Diurke 1647

Ancke Claessen

born probably 1618 or just before
could be named for Falde’s mother, or for the mother of Claes

First Communion Esens, 27 July 1632:
“Tiade Bremers Claes Johanssen, Ancke Claessen, Claes Johanssen Tochter.”
The likely explanation: Ancke Claessen is the daughter of Claes Johanssen, but she is probably not the daughter of Tiade Bremers (Claes’ second wife). Claes probably had a first wife, who has died: the conjectural Falde represented here. Now he is married to Tiade Bremers, and a daughter from that earlier marriage is receiving her first Communion. This is an interesting record, subject to careful reading. (Interpretation provided by Kay Blaas.)

On 27 April 1633, Ancke is again recorded as taking the Lord’s Supper.
This time her name is entered as “Ancke Witte Claeß,” referring to her father by his nickname, “White” Claes.

Kay Blaas notes that the variant “Ancke” for the name Ann/Anna/Anne/Annetta/etc. is more common in the east part of Ostfriesland and in Germany; in western Ostfriesland and the Netherlands, the more common variant is “Antje” or “Annetje.” The name written in the records would have been at least partly subject to the habit of the writer.


Hypothetically: When Gathe Tiarcks died in 1581, he left behind for his children a large dowry. The daughter he had with [Tiade Meints?], Tette Gathen, married Tiarck [Haiken] Bremers. Tette and Tiarck’s daughter Tiada Bremer was the second wife of Claas Janssen de Witt.

Gathe Tiarcks’ widow [Tiade Meints?] went on to marry before 1590 an unknown man XYZ, who then became the father of Fahlde, the first wife of Claas Janssen de Witt. This is conjectural.

If there is truth to the conjecture, then Tiade Meints was both the mother-in-law and the grandmother-in-law of Claas Janssen de Witt.

There is reason for this conjecture, arrived at by the sharp reasoning of Wiard Hinrichs. The name of Falde, if she existed and that was her name, does not appear to have survived on any written records. But a surviving record does exist that points toward the family relationship between the first and second wives of Claas Janssen de Witt.

At the time in the Harlingerland, when a husband or wife died it was common for the surviving spouse to remarry. What was less common: for the husband to marry the daughter of his first wife’s half-sister. Although the relation was tenuous enough—and the situation unusual enough—that maybe it wasn’t specifically forbidden, it was still close enough to raise eyebrows.

And that is what is described in a document unearthed in a loose collection at the Staatsarchiv Aurich by Wiard Hinrichs in 2013. He describes it in a note to Kay Blaas:

Rep. 135 Nr. 62a, Delicta carnis 1678-1723, Bl. 1-612, in which we find Bl. 63-69 (the whole book is, as we saw last month, totally chaotic; I happened upon this entry at random, when I first attacked the collection):

23 April 1627: The commissary Johannes John records as follows:

Clauß Janßen of Holum, that he slept with his late wife’s half-sister’s daughter, shall for the Brüche (violation) give 50 guilders to His Grace. [Standard rates at the time are 5, 10, 15 guilders; here probably higher because it was a relative, so a dispensation was made necessary because of the prior marriage.]

The child from this relationship (and later marriage?) could have been Tjark Claassen [de Witt]. (Thus in 1647 he would be old enough to become an unwed father.) If the (still unwed) mother described in this document was Tjade Tjarks Bremer, who later was the second wife of Clauß Janßen, that would make her mother (Tette Gathen, born before 1581, the second wife of Tjark Hayen Bremer) a half-sister of the first wife (Fahlde ???s, born around 1590) of Claas Janßen [de Witt].

The document found by Wiard Hinrichs does not confirm that Claes later married the woman who was the mother of this child. No baptism record survives. But the timing is certainly right for Tjerck’s birth, and we do know that Claes later had several children with Tiade Tiarcks Bremer. It seems at least reasonable, though by no means certain, to guess that the woman described in the document might well have been Tiade, and that the newborn child was Tjerck.

Regardless of whether this woman and Tiade are the same, it’s also fair to guess that Claes’s first wife was named Falde (Fahlde, Pelde, etc.). At the time, the convention was to use a deceased wife’s name for the first daughter of one’s second wife. (The overriding convention was to use one’s mother’s name for a first daughter, but assuming that had already been done, it was considered right to honor the first wife’s memory thus.)

So it is a bit of a leap of faith to guess that the first wife of Claes Janssen, whose name is presumably Falde, was indeed the half-aunt of his second wife. The documentary evidence hints at it, but doesn't say outright that the first wife’s half-niece was the one who ended up becoming Claes’ second wife.

But when we look at other associated records—the names of the Gathen family from Osteel and the names of the Bremer family in Lütke Holum and the Esens area, and the chronology—it appears likely that this is exactly what happened. The right family relationships are preserved in hints and peripheral documents. We may never know a certain answer. But this seems to explain the origins of Tjerck Claessen De Witt’s mother, and of his father’s first wife as well.

Another minor consideration: When Gate Tiarcks died, he left his daughter Tette Gathen with a large dowry, as described in later Weinkauf records. She married Tiarck [Haiken] Bremers. If his widow, [Tiade Meints?], left the rest of the family fortune to her daughter (with a second husband) Falde, then when Claes Janßen married Falde, he presumably came into a share of the Gathe-Meints fortune. If this were the case, then when Falde died and Claes went on to marry Tette Gathen’s daughter, he must have at least partly reunited the separate halves of this family wealth.

This fits in with the general impression that Claes Johanßen had some money when he arrived in the Holum area.

He appears to have settled in at first on the farm of the widow of Aytke Peken, at Groot Holum, and this may have been where he was living when he and Tiade Bremer had their first son, Tjerck Claesen. It is not unreasonable to wonder whether Claes may have had some familial relation with Aytke Peken’s widow; he loaned her money in exchange for a promise that he could stay there. His daughter apparently marries her son, so a close family connection is unlikely, but he must have picked the Peken farm for some reason, and it is more likely that he would have made a substantial loan to someone he already knew well than to a complete stranger. The identity of Aytke Peken’s widow is not known.

The suggestion from the later Weinkauf record is that Claes Johanßen bought the Bremer farm from Tiade’s older brother, although no record of this survives.

The general story also fits in well with the idea that Claes Johanßen came from outside of the Esens area, but not from too far. He is not described as a foreigner, and he is named as a member of a dike-maintenance commission. If he were originally from the Marienhafe area, he would have had ample opportunity to learn about dike building, since the marsh around Marienhafe was reclaimed in a steady series of polders over several generations, until Marienhafe, which had once been a port town, became completely landlocked.


Pix go here.


Much of the hypothetical reasoning here comes from Wiard Hinrichs.

For further details on this line of conjecture, and on the rest of the family, see Kay Blass’s notes on Tjerck Claessen De Witt.

Last Modified: Monday, August 4, 2014

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