LETTERS LEAD TO DUTCH HISTORY BOOK
Curiosity about his ancestry
evolved into a book-writing journey when Trinity theology professor Don
Sinnema discovered letters written by Dutch immigrants near the beginning
of the 20th century.
While tracing his family's
roots back to their North American origins in New Jersey, Montana, and
Canada, Sinnema found letters by Dutch pioneers published in community
newspapers in Holland, Michigan, and Orange City, Iowa, during the early
1900s. After coming across dozens more letters, he incorporated them in
a book, The First Dutch Settlement in Alberta: Letters from the Pioneer
"These letters were written
during the homesteading era, when the Canadian government granted free
land that was to be used for farming," said Sinnema. "Immigrating families
moved into Canada for homesteading, and my great-grandfather was one of
the original homesteaders.
"Most of the letters describe
the immigration and homesteading experience: coming to a new land, not
speaking the native language, and learning a new culture. Although the
first few years of the settlement were times of great struggle, there is
a rapid progression from pioneer life to a developed rural community between
1903 and 1914. That was a radical transformation."
Nearly all of the letters
in the 400-page book originated from the Granum-Monarch-Nobleford district,
approximately 80 miles south of Calgary. Sinnema, who grew up in southern
Alberta, was determined not to overshadow the letters with his personal
commentary. He translated them into English and provided some annotations.
"I basically wrote a historical
introduction and allowed the letters tell the story," he said. "As I collected
and read more of them, I realized it was better to let the letters speak
Sinnema's book will be published
by the University of Calgary Press, "a prestigious academic press in Canada
and local to the setting of the letters." The publication date is set for