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Van Raalte Family Genealogy
A report from Karen Schakel

In the fall of 1998 we began what we thought would be a one- or two-year project - to write and publish a definitive genealogy of the Van Raalte family. We met with Marie Zingle and Sara Simmons to lay out plans. Marie is a well-known local genealogist; Sara is a Van Raalte descendant. Both had expressed great interest in working on such a genealogy. Sara had contacts with many living Van Raalte family members and would gather information and photos from them. Marie would do additional research and the actual writing of the genealogical information.
Elton Bruins would guide the project and write two chapters - one giving the story of Albertus C. Van Raalte to flesh out the dates and facts given in the genealogy and the other telling the history of the Van Raalte house. Karen Schakel would edit all of the material and document it. The Van Raalte Institute would give the project a home and make its files available to it.  

We are now entering the fourth year of this project. It has taken much longer than we anticipated, but we have learned a great deal along the way. We have combed files minutely, have written letters to archives, public record offices, and relatives to find correct and new information, and have sifted through Dutch documents to glean information about ancestors. These documents, which often needed to be translated, helped us to trace various family lines back to the 1600s. Two Van Raalte family reunions held in August 2000 and 2001 in Holland gave us an opportunity to fill in many details about living relatives.

We are hopeful that the genealogy will be completed by spring 2002, as we are now entering the final stages of checking facts and revising the written material. We believe the final product will be excellent, interesting not only to Van Raalte relatives but a wider audience as well and important to immigrant history. All of the information given in the book will be well documented, making this a very valuable work for future researchers and historians who will build on what we have found. The photos we will include will make the dates and details come alive. We will let you know when the volume is available.

As in many families, the generations spread apart. Although Holland was home to many in the second generation, and has continued to be the home of many in later generations, the descendants of Albertus and Christina Van Raalte live in many parts of America and the rest of the world. The generations spread apart in time, as well. Albertus was seven years older than Dirk, but Albertus' first child was born in 1859, Dirk's first child thirty years later. More than three decades - 37 years - passed between the births of the first and last of the Van Raalte grandchildren. More than a century - 123 years - separated the first and last deaths in that generation, from the first dead infant mourned by Mina and Pieter Oggel to the death of Mary and Gerrit Kollen's only child, Estelle Kollen Pelgrim, at the grand age of 98, in 1984.
Albertus Van Raalte's family honored his name by using it often. Albertus Christiaan Van Raalte IV was Allie, pronounced ah-lee, and descendants wondered how they were related to the Ollie they heard talked of. When he died in 1932, a newspaper article identified him as "the grandson of Dr. A. C. Van Raalte, founder of Holland, who settled in this wilderness before a tree was cut" and went on to describe his own interests: "Mr. Van Raalte was quite a horseman in his day and for many years owned 'Turk,' considered Holland's 'wonder horse' forty years ago." Albertus Christiaan Van Raalte Gilmore was known as Raalte - perhaps even as a child, when he was tucked in beside his visiting grandfather on cold winter nights. "The little Van Raalte sleeps with me," Albertus Van Raalte wrote to Dirk. "He is a precious talker. I hope that God will use him as a preacher of the gospel." It was yet another Albertus Christiaan Van Raalte, whom his grandfather never knew, who grew up to become a minister - Dirk's first son, born a generation later than his first cousin with the same name.
From "God's Temporal Deliverances Are Many; Each Settlement and Family Has a History of Its Own"in Albertus C. Van Raalte: Dutch Leader and American Patriot by Jeanne M. Jacobson, Elton J. Bruins, and Larry J. Wagenaar.