Historical research: crew members identified

The #Rooswijk1740 project not only focuses on archaeological research, but also on capacity building, awareness raising and historical research. For the latter the RCE cooperates with the International Institute of Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam, Huygens ING, the Amsterdam City Archives, and genealogists Willem-Jan van Grondelle and Els Vermij.

The following topics were subject of historical research:

  1. Silver smuggling on VOC ships
  2. Information about the ship, its construction and the way it was laid out on the inside
  3. Information about the cargo the Rooswijk took on its trip
  4. Information on the crew
  5. Information about money or other objects given by third parties to the people on board of the ship

In 2017, the IISG released a report on preliminary findings (Dutch) and in 2018, a  virtual exhibition was made in collaboration with the Huygens ING, IISG and Maritiem Portal which showcases the results of the historical research (Dutch).

Crew members identified

So far, 29 of the 237 members of the Rooswijk’s crew have been identified from documents held in Amsterdam City Archives. Those identified include a senior surgeon who travelled to the East and back several times (Gerrit Hendrik Huffelman), a 19-year-old on his first VOC voyage (Thomas Huijdekoper) and two sailors who had previously survived a shipwreck (the Westerwijk in 1737) at the Cape of Good Hope (Pieter Calmer and Jacob Morre). We know that most of the men on board the Rooswijk were born in the Netherlands, while eleven of them had German, Swedish and Norwegian backgrounds.

Many crew members of the Rooswijk were identified by research in the Amsterdam Notarial Archives. There one finds the so-called ‘obligaties’, debt certificates signed by VOC-employees at a notary shortly before departure. Also, some employees signed an authorization for relatives at home or they had their will drafted. These deeds contain not only the name of the deed owner, but also the name of the ship he was about to depart on.

Another source for names of the crew members are so-called transport letters in the Amsterdam City Archives. Transport letters authorised someone to collect a part of a crew member’s salary from the VOC. It is known that VOC personnel used these letters because of a lack of cash or credit - they used them to pay for accommodation, buy supplies for the trip to Asia or exchange them for cash.

Finally some names came up from the archives of several orphanages in Amsterdam. This concerned children who were taken in after their father had died on the Rooswijk, but also four boys who had been taken in many years before 1740 and who – 18 or 19 years old – now were enrolled on the Rooswijk.

Biographies crewmembers