Happy birthday, Theodorus Leonardus van Raaphorst

August 24, 2018, is the 193rd birth anniversary of my great-grandfather, Theodorus Leonardus van Raaphorst.

Which means, of course, that the 200th anniversary is right around the corner. I continue to be amazed that a person only three generations removed from me was born so long ago. That probably says more about my own advanced age than anything.

You might be curious about his name. Who gives their children Latin names, anyway (other than the Romans)? As it turns out, almost all of my male Dutch relatives born before 1900 had Latinized names. Until about 1800 the Dutch also used patronymics (for example, Corneliszn or “son of Cornelis”). They used it with their daughters, as well (Cornelisdr). It does help in doing genealogy research!

Speaking of which,  Theodorus Leonardus has always been the most mysterious of my Dutch ancestors, and he remains so in spite of my most recent genealogical efforts.

In about 1867 he abandoned his wife and two living children (Christiaan, my grandfather, and Antonius, his brother) and simply disappeared. He reappeared about 30 years later (after his wife’s death) and asked son Chris and his family to take him in. They did for awhile, but apparently the arrangements didn’t work out, and he disappeared again.

(The family story is that he flaunted an expensive-looking pocket watch when he knocked on Chris’s door, and they thought maybe he had come into money and I suppose might share it with them. It was when they discovered that the gold-plating on the watch was fake that they sent him packing.)

I recently discovered that Theodorus remarried (a widow some years his junior, Jannetje Maria van der Reijden) in 1899. I have now uncovered quite a bit about her, but I still have some pressing questions about him:

  • Where was Theodorus during the 30 years he was “missing”?
  • When and where did he die?
  • Did he earn the label “black sheep” of the family, as some have claimed, or was he justified in escaping from his “difficult” wife, as others have declared?

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