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Jacob Gijsen from Togtenbrugh

Peter Swart - 29th May 2022 - 0 comments

When signing on to the frigate Huis te Warmelo, sailor Jacob Gijsen gave an unusual place of origin. He came from Togtenbrugh. This geographical name did not ring a bell with me. A corruption of a foreign town or region is obvious. In that case, Toggenburg in Switzerland is a suitable candidate. Thus, I classified this sailor as a foreign crew member. However, recent research has another outcome.



Toggenburg is a region in north-eastern Switzerland. In the Middle Ages, it was an independent county until it came under the authority of the Abbey of Saint Gall in 1468.
The town of Lichtensteig is Toggenburg’s old administrative and market centre. Here, a bailiff stood for the abbot of Saint Gall.
In the eighteenth century, Toggenburg was a poor region. Many inhabitants, especially in the mountainous south, lived on small-scale cattle farming. Young men sometimes took the opportunity to enter foreign military service.
I recently paid a brief visit to the State Archives in Saint Gall and the Toggenburg Museum in Lichtensteig. Could a trace of sailor Jacob Gijsen be found there? With an entire region as a place of origin, the chances were remote.


From Toggenburg to Bovenkarspel

The visits were a pleasant introduction to the history of Toggenburg but yielded no trace of the sailor. In fact, experts on the spot opined that Jacob Gijsen was not a Toggenburg name.(1)
Back in the Netherlands, the search started from scratch, starting with the West Frisian Archives index of names. This index has four entries of a person named Jakob Gijsz from the Dutch village of Bovenkarspel. The entries are from as many notarial deeds from the years 1700-1727.(2)
In the oldest deed, this Jakob Gijsz is called the present groom of widow Lijsbeth Jans. On 7th February 1700, they visited together notary Pluijm in Grootebroek for dividing the estate between Lijsbeth and the children from her earlier marriage. This had to be settled before the upcoming marriage to Jakob Gijsz. According to the notarial deed, Lijsbeth Jans was living ‘at the Tochtbrug in Bovenkarspel’…(3)


At the Tochtbrug

Jacob Gijsen’s place of origin does not refer to a region in Switzerland, nor to a village or town elsewhere. It is a name of a bridge, a specific location in the village of Bovenkarspel. The Tochtbrug still exists and is in Broekerhavenweg, the connecting road between Bovenkarspel and Broekerhaven. North of the bridge is the Bovenkarspel Flora railway station. West of the bridge is the corn windmill Ceres.
Around 1700, Broekerhavenweg was a footpath. Near the Tochtbrug at that time there were only a few houses, a saw windmill and two beer warehouses.(4) These warehouses were used by local beer traders for the storage, sale and distribution of beer. Due to its favourable location on waterways, the Tochtbrug must have been an attractive location for beer traders.
One house and a beer warehouse near the Tochtbrug were owned by Outger Baan, the first husband of Lijsbeth Jans. After his death in 1695, the widow continued the beer business.(5)


Jacob Gijsen

On 8th February 1700, the marriage between Jacob Gijsen and Lijsbeth Jans was conducted by the civil authorities.(6) That was the day after the distribution of the estate at the notary’s office. Like Lijsbeth Jans, Jacob Gijsen had been married before, twice in fact. He married for the first time in 1679.(7) Assuming he was 25 at the time, Jacob Gijsen must have been about 60 years old when he signed on in 1715.
From her marriage to Outger Baan, Lijsbeth Jans had at least three children. Whether Jacob Gijsen also had children from his earlier marriages is not known. Together they had one more child: a girl called Dieuwtjen.(8)
Through his marriage to Lijsbeth Jans, Jacob Gijsen became involved in the beer trade of the Outger Baan heirs. For example, his name appears in a 1705 notarial deed because of the delivery and payment of a ¾ barrel of beer.(9)

The question arises as to why an older and settled man signed on as a sailor on a warship. We may never find out. Anyway, we do now know that Jacob Gijsen was from the Dutch village of Bovenkarspel.


Figure: Detail of a 1743 map of the dike county of Drechterland. On the right, part of the Enkhuizen rampart is visible. To the left of centre is the Tochtbrug in Bovenkarspel. (Westfries Archief)


(1) With special thanks to Christelle Wick of the Toggenburg Museum, as also thanks to Patric Schnitzer and Benno Hageli of Staatsarchiv St. Gallen.
(3) Westfries Archief (WFA), Oud Notarieel Archief Grootebroek, no. 1662, deed 108.
(4) WFA, Stede en gemeente Grootebroek, no. 2194.
(5) For the death of Outger Baan, see WFA, DTB Bovenkarspel no. 10, 17th August 1695.
(6) WFA, DTB Grootebroek, no. 15.
(7) WFA, DTB Grootebroek, no. 15, 23rd January 1679.
(8) WFA, Oud Notarieel Archief Bovenkarspel, no. 430, deed 90. This deed lists the children of Lijsbeth Jans, including Dieuwtjen Jacobs. Dieuwtjen saw the baptism of Elizabeth, a daughter of her stepbrother Cornelis Baan, on 31st January 1724. WFA, DTB Bovenkarspel, no. 8.
(9) WFA, Oud Notarieel Archief Bovenkarspel, no. 428, deed 53.