Census results are one of the main sources used to analyse the population in a certain area. Within the Netherlands, aggregated Dutch census results can be found online. Personally, I love this easy access to 19th century data – it helps me in contextualizing a lot of my findings. For instance, the published data on the 1899 census allows a researcher interested in population ageing to quickly determine that eight centenarians lived in the Netherlands on 31 December 1899 (which results in Table 1 below). This information would have been much more difficult to gather through other sources, such as death records. However, I kept wondering about the accuracy of this information, especially when it comes to information about the oldest people in the Netherlands. First of all, some centenarians might be listed with an unknown age, and secondly, some people might have accidentally indicated an older age than they actually had.
As I got curious about the actual number of centenarians living in the Netherlands on 31 December 1899, I wanted to answer three questions:
- Who were the people listed as centenarians in the 1899 census?
- Are all centenarians listed in the 1899 census actually centenarians?
- Are there any centenarians who are not listed as such in the 1899 census?
As a starting point I decided to verify all information on the eight centenarians displayed in the published censuses. Using the abundance of 19th century Dutch population micro data readily available, such as population registers and civil registration records, as well as using newspaper articles and other publications. This information also allowed me to find information on centenarians who were not enumerated in the census.
The enumerated centenarians
Annetje Bijl (#8) was born on 28 December 1798 and baptized on 30 December 1798 in Hellevoetsluis. On 15 April 1827 she married in Oudenhoorn to Frederik van Harten, who died on 10 August 1868 in Hellevoetsluis. Prior to her marriage, she had already had two children – the first on 26 August 1821. She died on 18 January 1900 in Hellevoetsluis.
The 28th of this month there will be a 100-year old in the municipality Hellevoetsluis: miss Annetje Bijl, widow van Harten. Her oldest daughter is 77 years and five of her seven children are still alive, and blessed with many children themselves, which means that over 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren will celebrate the centenary of their (great-)grandmother. While the old woman is still in good physical health, she suffers from dementia.Haagsche Courant, 14 December 1898
Jacob Muilwijk (#7) was born on 31 January 1799 and baptized on 13 February 1799 in Giessendam. On 9 October 1818 he married in Giessendam to Jannigje de Ruiter, who died on 6 February 1836 in Giessendam. On 15 August 1839 he married in Giessendam to Joosje de Jong, who died on 19 July 1844 in Giessendam. On 14 November 1846 he married in Molenaarsgraaf to Aaltje van den Heuvel, who died on 15 March 1879 in Giessendam. During his life, he was a farmer. He died on 17 January 1900 in Giessendam.
A rare anniversary
Today there was a party in Giessendam to celebrate mister Jacob Muilwijk, who celebrated his 100th anniversary. He received lots of attention and presents on this rare anniversary. The old man still has good sight and a very good memory.De Telegraaf, 31 January 1899
Jan van de Water (#5) was baptized on 15 August 1799 in Schiedam. On 27 April 1823 he married in Schiedam to Agatha Reuvecamp, who died on 15 November 1892 in Schiedam. During his life, he was a butcher, and owned a shop. He died on 25 March 1901 in Schiedam.
Tuesday people in Schiedam have brought a serenade by torchlight to the 100-year old Jan van de Water. The singing association of the Dutch Roman-Catholic National Union marched to his house with music from the civic guard and performed several songs.
According to the Schiedammer Courant the jubilee was sitting in a room on the street side, one window opened, and one window – behind which the jubilee was sitting – closed. Shortly after the first tones of the music started, he stood up, straight as a candle, hitting the beat with his hands and head. After a few well-known songs had been played, the hundred-year-old started dancing with a daughter on each of his arms, and soon after all family members in the room and on the streets followed his example.Provinciale Overijsselsche en Zwolsche courant, 18 August 1899
The oldest citizen of the municipality of Schiedam, mister Jan van de Water, has passed away Monday afternoon in the age of 101 years. The brisk old man had fell ill fourteen days ago, as a result of a fall in his butchery (he was a butcher by trade), and his health had dwindled since. He was born in Schiedam on 15 August 1799 and has lived in three centuries.Het nieuws van den dag, 27 March 1901
Jochem de Graaf (#3) was born on 29 June 1799 and baptized on 30 June 1799 in Enkhuizen. On 19 March 1820 he married in Enkhuizen to Jantje Dangermond, who died on 31 August 1856 in Enkhuizen. On 2 April 1857 he remarried in Engeltje de Wit, who died on 31 May 1912 in Enkhuizen. During his life, he was a cattle farmer. He died on 10 December 1900 in Enkhuizen. A copyrighted photo can be found here.
Our 93-year old fellow townsman Jochem de Graaf has tied up his ice skates once again, to enjoy real Dutch winter entertainment. With his large, straight stature, the brisk old man did not make a fool of himself on the ice.Enkhuizer Courant, 11 January 1893
ENKHUIZEN. In the coming month, June 29th, one of our citizens, mister Jochem de Graaf, hopes to celebrate his hundredth anniversary. Born in 1799, the possibility exists that, given that he is still in good health, de Graaf will live in three centuries.Hoornsche courant, 4 June 1899
Klaas Eltjes Damhoff (#2) was born on 21 June 1799 and baptized on 14 July 1799 in Noordbroek. On 22 November 1827 he married in Noordbroek to Lammechien Engelkes Rozeboom, who died on 19 February 1874 in Midwolda. During his life, he was a shoemaker and shop owner. He died on 2 April 1900 in Midwolda.
A century old
The 21st of June mister K. E. Damhoff will celebrate his 100th birthday in Midwolda. The old man is still very brisk and has no injuries at all. His sight can still be called fine, and his hearing is also still quite alright. Up until a few years ago Damhoff still walked from Midwolda to Bellingwolde. He has never had to stay in bed because of illness, and has never any medicines from a doctor.De Telegraaf, 14 June 1899
Maria Blok (#6) was born on 6 December 1799 and baptised on 8 December 1799 in Bergschenhoek. On 22 December 1822 she married in Bergschenhoek to Frederik Lakeman, who died on 5 December 1872 in Bleiswijk. She died on 25 November 1900 in Bleiswijk.
The 100 year old widow Lakeman
Miss Maria Blok, widow of mister F. Lakeman in Bleiswijk, who – as has been reported – is hoping to celebrate her 100th birthday on Wednesday 6 December, was born on 6 December 1799 in Bergschenhoek alongside the Rotte, where her father was a carpenter at the place which currently houses the carpentry store of P. van den Berg. After having lived there up until her 13th year, her parents moved to the village of Bergschenhoek itself, where the carpentry store of mister L. Batenburg still exists.
At the age of 23, on 21 December 1822, she married with mister F. Lakeman from Noord-Holland and started to live in Bleiswijk, where she is still living today. 7 children were born in this marriage, who are still alive today: the oldest is about 75 years old and the youngest 63 years old. She was almost able to celebrate her 50 year wedding anniversary: her husband died on 5 December 1872.
She has always been very strong and healthy, and up until three years ago she could even walk very well. Due to an unfortunate fall she bruised her leg, which has caused her to walk with great difficulty since. Up until a few months ago she was still clear-minded, but in the last months there are moments at which she has no longer be able to think clearly. At her old age she is living a good life; she’s living with her son, who does anything for her, and whose housekeeper does everything possible to make her old life easier.
We hope that 6 December will be a great day for her and her family!Rotterdamsch nieuwsblad, 6 December 1899
Sophia Wijnberg (#4) was born on 17 April 1799 in Zwolle. In 1815 she was betrothed to Gabriël Philippus van Perlstein, but she never married him. On 25 March 1817 she married in Zwolle to Izak Daniël Abrahams, whom she divorced on 10 June 1830 in Amsterdam. She died on 11 July 1905 in Zwolle. At the time of her death, she was the oldest woman in the world.
A hundred-five-year-old, by E. de Winter.
The event, that someone in our country reaches the age of 105, is something that rare, that we couldn’t fail to provide a provide a photo of Miss Abrahams-Wijnberg from Kampen, who has entered her 106th year on the 12th of March. Born in 1799, she has lived in three centuries, and experienced a lot of things in full awareness!
A century has passed over this figure, a century in which so much has happened in our national history, or rather, she has seen the past century turn into history. In her younger years our country lay in the arms of the great gulp and was ruled by Lodewijk Napoleon. As a girl she sympathized with the victory rush of Waterloo and the fall of the “empereur”. Later, in 1831, she saw split what was united in 1815. Our country was searching her way until she found men like Thorbecke – in his days feared as a revolutionary – who raised the nations’ consciousness. From 1850 till 1870 bourgeois liberalism ruled the country. Then, the punishment by Douwes Dekker, whose works made the entire country shiver. And, a little later, Domela Nieuwenhuis, whose freedom demonstrations were met with disgust amongst the decent bourgeoisie. And that is just a small collection of everything that happened in the past century, which this old woman has seen as a silent witness.
Anyone who currently sees her sitting in her armchair, wrapped in her shawl, her head resting on her chest, will notice that the big life before her has already died. Her hearing has already left her, and the eyes to see she must miss as well. Only her taste, smell and feeling remain. In addition, her mind is occasionally relatively cheerful. When she is awake, she has enough awareness to ask her youngest daughter, who is 77 years old and faithfully staying with her, for a cup of tea or coffee. Besides, her body lives like a plant. These days she has to stay in bed most of the day, because her tired body collapses, whenever she attempts to sit in her chair.
She no longer speaks about the life that is behind her. As a married woman life has however made her face her trials. Only one of the six children she gave birth to is alive. Two of her sons moved to the United States and haven’t sent any signs of life since. Another son died in a fire in London.
Even though there once was a time that she was financially well, this is sadly no longer the case. She and her daughter have to be helped financially, but, like there is little compassion with such a high age, this help remains scarce. Anyone who wants to ease the life of this old woman, who we could easily consider to be the oldest living resident of our country, can send some money to D. Stibbe, Cellesweg in Kampen, which will be gratefully received. But send it quickly, as the number of years the youth still have to live, might only be the number of days for her.
While the Kamper Courant mentioned that this old lady from the Japanese-Russian war will probably not remember the joint invade of the English and Russian troops in Noord-Holland, a long and rich conscious life is between this era and the moment at which the question arises to which purpose this life was lived to end as unconscious as it was started. At this point we recall the words of Schopenhauer en Nietsche, who stated that the will to live is the driving force of all of us. Even if this gives little comfort, it gives strength. And who doubts that this old woman has had that strength to such great extent. This is the honour due to her old age.Op de hoogte, March 1904 (Note: This was horrible to translate)
Trientje Pieters Bies (#1) did not know how old she was. In her 1867 entry in the population registers (when she moved to Drenthe) we read that she was born in 1799, just like her death record, but a newspaper article mentions she was born in 1797. However, when she married on 21 November 1830 to Lammert Aukes Bakker, who died on 5 September 1879 in Norg, she had to supply a copy of her birth or baptism record. Using this information, I was able to determine that she was actually born on 14 October 1808 and baptized on 16 October 1808 in Haulerwijk. This means that she was “only” 93 years old when she died on 16 May 1902 in Barger Erfscheiderveen in the municipality of Emmen. But, considering that she had been cutting peat for most her life, even in her eighties, these 93 years must have felt like more than 100.
In response to a report recently published in our paper about a hundred year old woman in Nieuw-Amsterdam who was said to be in very needy circumstances, one of our correspondents has started an investigation. It seemed unlikely to us that a very old woman would be forced to live the last years of her life in such sad circumstances. Sadly, the story is true. This is what our correspondent writes to us:
The old woman lives with her 53-year old unwed daughter in an old shed on Hoogeveen, on the western side of the Siepeldijk, a timber trackway. The very dilapidated hut is built almost entirely of earth sod and peat, and is collapsed on one side. The roof, consisting of a thing layer of stray, is half decayed. The few pieces of furniture show their large poverty. Together they have a goat, which produced half a litre of milk a day, of which half is sold to buy a few eggs for the mother. They even have to buy peat. Last year Aaltje had asked a peat dealer whether she could collect some of the waste, the chunks of peat that remain on the field. She was refused this. Another peat dealer did however grant permission. However, now everything has been cleaned they will have to buy peat.
The old mother was laying in bed and started to upright herself when I came in. She told me that her name is Trientje Pieters Bies, born in Haulerwijk on the 6th of December 1797. Her husband was Lambert Aukes Bakkers, and has passed away about 27 years ago. Of her 7 children, two have passed away. The youngest, Aaltje, shares her joys and sorrows with her mother. The old woman still has all her senses and a unwavering confidence in God. She told me she was not afraid of death, but that she could not desire death, as that was a sin. Up until her 100th year, starting when she was a little girl, she had always laid peat, but she could no longer do this any more. Her biggest wish was “that she could once possess another, better house!” Up until last census they were supplied with f1.50 a week, but since then this has been raised to f2,-. This is far too little, as the daughter cannot earn any income because her mother is not able to miss her for any second.Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 7 March 1902
The missing centenarians
Searching for information on centenarians who lived around 1899, I encountered information on three different centenarians who were not mentioned in the census records but were alive on 31 December 1899, amongst which the oldest man and woman in the Netherlands! I have listed information on these three centenarians below. While it is impossible to say with 100% certainty that these are all centenarians, I am confident I have tried my best searching. Nevertheless, I would love to hear back if anyone has information on a centenarian I missed.
Atse Joostes de Boer was born on 24 March 1798 in Joure. On 25 August 1824 he married in Amsterdam to Hijlkjen Hindelopen, who died on 25 December 1865 in December. He died on 2 January 1900 in Dordrecht. At the time of the census, he was the oldest man in the Netherlands.
The oldest resident of Dordrecht, mister Atze Joostesz de Boer, former ship captain, celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday. De Boer was born in Joure.Provinciale Drentsche en Asser courant, 26 March 1898
A 100-year old
A female resident of Utrecht, H. H. Muller, living in the house of her niece miss the widow Vincent, Weerdsingel, celebrated her 100th birthday last Tuesday in the midst of her family and friends. The brisk 100-year old enjoys a good health and is still has all her capabilities. The neighbours showed their interest by putting out their flags.Limburgse koerier, 1 October 1896
Johanna Theodora Huijerman was baptized on 29 April 1799 in Amsterdam. On 11 May 1825 she married in Amsterdam to Jurriaan Bosdriesz, who died on 16 June 1876 in Amsterdam. She died on 18 April 1900 in Amsterdam.
A 100-year old!
In a few days Amsterdam will have a 100-year old resident. This old woman is Johanna Theodora Bosdriesz, nee Huyerman. She was born on 29 April 1799. She is currently living in the “Huiszitten Weduwenhofje” in the Karthuizerstraat.
The old woman has seldom been sick. Once, four years ago, she had some difficulties with her stomach, but after drinking milk on an empty stomach for quite some days, she now had a “stomach of a girl of twenty years old.”
Mother Bosdriesz has experienced a lot in her life, and she speaks very cheerfully about her husband, with whom she had been married for over fifty years. He was a plasterer, worked for the first patron of the city, and in hard times she, by dry-nursing at distinguished families, managed to make the finances of the family work. With price she tells about how her husband had experienced the battle of Waterloo as a fusilier and how he was awarded with a giant silver cross with a charter. The only thing she mourns, is that her legs don’t work as well as they used to…
Mother Bosdriesz has 4 daughters and 3 sons, 9 grandchildren and 12 greatgrandchildren; she could have had more, but most of her children did not marry or married at a later age, so she has to be happy with these numbers.Rotterdamsch nieuwsblad, 21 April 1899
Conclusion: centenarians according to the micro data
All in all, finding micro data for the centenarians mentioned in the Dutch 1899 census results allowed me to verify 7 out of the 8 centenarians mentioned in the 1899 census results. The other “centenarian” turned out to be only 91 years old at the time of the census, but did not seem to know her actual age. She was likely enumerated as being 100 years of age due to an error introduced into the population registers decades before – listing her as born in 1799. In addition to the seven centenarians I was able to verify, I discovered three centenarians who were not mentioned in the census at all. This means that the total number of centenarians listed in the census should have been 10, not 8: 5 males and 5 females. All Dutch centenarians alive on 31 December 1899 are listed in Table 2.
As these three centenarians include the oldest man and woman alive at the time, it is important to notice that the age of the oldest man listed in the census should have been 101, and not 100, and the age of the oldest woman listed in the census should have been 103, and not 101.
Considering the outcomes of this exercise in verifying the number of centenarians’ mentioned in the 1899 census, I would argue that it is important to verify census results when we are dealing with “outlier behaviour”. Especially when it comes to old age, people will be more likely to not know their actual age the older they are. This might even be a bigger issue in earlier Dutch censuses, as there might have been less need and ability to actually know ones’ age. Luckily other data sources, such a population registers, civil registration and church registers are available to verify Dutch census data.
In the process of finding centenarians I also encountered other centenarians I was able to verify. Although this is, by no means, an exhaustive list of Dutch centenarians born before 1800, I have listed the dataset below in case this information is useful to anyone – maybe to verify the 1889 census, for instance!