kolff: history: geography: 1: 1

kolff family coat of arms

The Family and our rivers - Kolffs: people from the rivers (1/2)

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In her fine publication on the history of our family (Kolff in Zeven Eeuwen) Mrs. Manneke gave some concise characteristics of the three branches of our family. She did not dare to do this for the family as a whole. A sensible decision for how could the hundreds of Kolffs through the centuries be denominated as one?

There is, however, one feature that could apply. This feature is the close connection between our family and the main rivers in our country (the Netherlands [Ed.]). Traces of that close connection can still be found with many of us and are important up to the present day.

It began when Wouter Kolff (VI), son of the Oisterwijk bailiff, sought refuge around 1586 at Geertruidenberg because of the troubles due to the Dutch Revolt. Geertruidenberg: the town where his spouse Anneken Pap came from.

His son Wouter (VII) went to sail, became a skipper and moved along the river to Nijmegen. He married three times, and one can say 'from along the rivers': the brides came from Antwerp, Tiel and Nijmegen.

Chain of the guild of the boatsmen at Nijmegen
chain guild of boatsmen

His son, also a Wouter (VIII), was dean of the guild of boatsmen, and got married more prominent, to a young woman from the Van Heteren family. This Van Heteren family was a somewhat chivalrous family from the Rijk van Nijmegen.

From their son, again a Wouter (IX), who became a vicar, we are all descendants. In certain sence he was a guy from the shore, however it is unmistakable, that his first position was at Vuren and Dalem. A small place on the outside of Gorinchem on the banks of the river Waal. His life ended, as all Kolffs know, as a vicar at the fishing town of Maassluis, where little ships were hanging in the church and where almost the entire population was dependent of shipping.

In the history of our country too often navigation of the seas is emphasised. As if anyone who wanted to become someone would first have to make a passage to the seas. In history we have neglected the importance of the sailing activities on the big rivers of our country. We had almost forgotten that the experience with water had to be built up during many centuries on the larger inland rivers.