Crew members identified
Researchers in the Netherlands have been able to postively identify and name 22 of the 237 members of the Rooswijk’s crew from documents held in Amsterdam archives. Until recently it was only clear that the Rooswijk was under the authority of skipper Daniël Ronzieres, as all other records of the crew and passengers were lost in the shipwreck. Two tibia (leg bones) from two individuals have been recovered from the wreck and there is potential for more human remains to be found.
Dutch genealogists carried out new archive-based research and have been able to identify several more crew members for the first time, and a little more about their lives before tragedy struck. 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 a sailor who had previously survived a shipwreck (The Westerwijk) at the Cape of Good Hope (Pieter Calmer). We know that the men on board the Rooswijk were born in the Netherlands as well as some coming from German, Swedish and Norwegian backgrounds.
Several crew members of the Rooswijk have been identified thanks to 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.
Other individuals were found because they visited a civil-law notary before setting sail, for example to draft a will. These deeds contain the name of the ship on which the voyage was to take place, linking person and place.
Daniël Ronzieres is from Amsterdam, where he was born in 1705 as the son of a button maker. When he is 23 years old, he performs the function of quartermaster on the VOC ship Prattenburg (rank between boatman and sailor). It is possible that Ronzieres has already gained experience at sea in the years before. After his first voyage for the VOC, he is constable (weapon superintendent), understeer and supreme officer on several ships of the Company, before joining in 1740 as skipper on the Rooswijk.
Barend Lont is supreme officer on the Rooswijk and with that the chief mate on the side of skipper Ronzieres. When he was signed on the ship, the Rotterdam-born in 1706 already had a nice career with the VOC behind him. Already at the age of ten he sailed as a ship's boy with the ship Rotterdam, where his own father as captain is in charge. In the years that followed, he was first a hopper (helper of the sailors) and sailor, and then a third guard (third mate), understeer and supreme officer on various VOC ships.
Michiel Sanders, born in 1715 in Amsterdam, is the son of a sailmaker who works for the VOC, among others. He himself joined the Company at the age of 12 as a ship's boy on the ship Elisabeth. After that experience, travels follow as sailor, third guard and understeer, after which Sanders joins the Rooswijk as understeer.
Third watchman Laurens Hansen is the highest in rank on the Rooswijk with a foreign background. Around 1696 he is born in the Norwegian coastal town of Kristiansand. When Hansen enters into employment with the VOC in 1725, he gets the rank of bosschieter (gunner) on the ship Heesburg. After his return to the Republic, it takes until 1736 before he returns to a VOC ship as a bosschieter, followed by a trip as schiemansmaat (assistant of the schieman). Then he embarks on the Rooswijk.
In addition to Laurens Hansen, Antoni Wijland is also third watchman on the Rooswijk . He was born in Amsterdam in 1713 and started in 1732 as a sailor on the ship Gaasperdam on his first voyage to the VOC. He then stays in Asia for a number of years before returning to the Republic. On his second trip to the East, Wijland has already risen to third watchman, a function that he fulfills again at the Rooswijk.
Cornelis Mazier is also from Amsterdam, where he was born in 1706. He works as a schieman at the Rooswijk, where he is entrusted with the care for the foremost mast on the ship. His travel experience with the VOC dates back to 1722, when he is part of the crew of the ship Stad Leiden. In the following years, Mazier makes journeys as a sailor and a bosschieter, followed by a period in which he does not work on VOC ships and then a journey as a schieman that starts in 1738.
It is not known which grade Pieter Beekman had on the Rooswijk. Willem-Jan van Grondelle and Els Vermij suspect that he was a quartermaster and otherwise a boatswain (responsible for the supervision of and around the big mast). Beekman, born in 1713, comes from the German city of Flensburg, and in 1733 sails aboard the VOC ship Van Alsum as a sailor. After a few years in Asia he sails back to the Republic.
This Swedish crew member of the Rooswijk is born on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. In 1735 he began his career with the VOC as a shooter on the ship Hillegonda. After a second trip in the same position, he boarded the Rooswijk as a boatman's mate.
Martinus van Geldrop
Born in Amsterdam around 1700, Martinus van Geldrop arrives in 1724 as a sailor on the VOC ship Berkenrode. After a long stay in Asia, he sailed back to the Republic, then as a bosschieter again to the East to leave. On his return, Van Geldrop will not sail for the VOC for a few years. His embarkation on the Rooswijk only means his next voyage, after which he retires his old job as a sailor.
Thomas Huijdekoper was born in 1721 and makes his first voyage for the VOC on the Rooswijk, probably as a young sailor. He comes from the Frisian village of Ferwerd and moves to Amsterdam in his youth. His father runs a cloth shop there, but goes bankrupt in 1739.
The background of sailor Hendrik Haas is still largely unclear. It is known that he comes from the German city of Bremen, and that the Rooswijk is probably the first VOC ship he is working on.
Jan Rauw is also of German origin. Born in the city of Lübeck in 1737, sailing as a sailor on the ship Oostrust was his first experience with the VOC. On board of the Rooswijk he makes his second trip, again in the position of sailor.
Pieter Calmer is originally from Norway and comes from the city of Drammen near Oslo. In 1733 he joined the VOC as a sailor on the ship Delfland . After arriving in Asia, Calmer stays there a few years before returning to Europe. In the meantime, he survives a shipwreck on the ship Westerwijk at the Cape of Good Hope. Back in the Republic, he again chooses to be a sailor on the Rooswijk.
Matthijs Castermans is from Maastricht and is present as a corporal at the Rooswijk. For him it is probably the first trip with the VOC. Castermans, born in 1706, is part of the military on board. In rank, for example, he stands above the midshipmen and soldiers, but at the same time also under the sergeant.
Johann Friderich Walter
Soldier Johann Friderich Walter has a German background, because he comes from the city of Hanover. The trip with the Rooswijk is his first for the VOC.
Gerrit Hendrik Huffelman
As a senior surgeon, Gerrit Hendrik Huffelman is responsible for medical care on board the Rooswijk. He is assisted by two helpers: the second and third master. All three have a German background. Huffelman himself possibly comes from the city of Hamm, and in 1726 he joins the VOC. He then sails as third master on the ship Karsenhof and stays in Asia for a few years. After his return to the Republic, he leaves for the East five more times, first as a second master and then as a super surgeon, including on the Rooswijk.
Pieter Mulder is the second master on the ship and probably comes from the German town of Soest near Hamm. Prior to his signing on the Rooswijk , he made two trips with the VOC. He starts in 1734 as third master on the Gaasperdam and fulfills that function on his second journey.
Daniël Georg Groothuijsen
Third master at the Rooswijk is Daniël Georg Groothuijsen. He was born in the German town of Otterndorf at the mouth of the Elbe, and began his first voyage in the service of the VOC. Willem-Jan van Grondelle and Els Vermij found out during their research on Groothuijsen that he had already been the second master, and on a Dutch merchant ship on a trip to the Mediterranean.
Jacobus du Toict
Jacobus du Toict is on board as a sub-merchant and thus belongs to the high ranks on the Rooswijk. Probably he is responsible in that role for the administration of the cargo, the food present and the salaries of the crew. It will also have been his intention to work on a trading post of the VOC after arrival in Asia. Born in Leiden in 1714 it is his first trip in the service of the Company.
Matthias Bloemendaal, born in 1695 in Delden, had been a wine merchant for most of his life, trading primarily with England. After two of his clients went bankrupt however, he went bankrupt himself in 1735. The Rooswijk was his first and last journey overseas, leaving a wife and son behind. Because of his past as a wine trader, he may have been a steward on the Rooswijk, but we do not know for certain.
Adrianus Steenbergh, born in 1724 in Amsterdam, was only fifteen years old when he joined the crew of the Rooswijk as cabin boy. He was the son of Fredrik Steenbergh, a carpeter who had worked on the Equipage-werf in Batavia for 10 years.
Dirk Sanders, born in 1719 in Amsterdam, was the younger brother of second mate Michiel Sanders. This was his second voyage, the first being on the ship Kerkzicht in 1738. Dirk may have been a young sailor or even a boatswain’s mate on board of the Rooswijk. Unfortunately we do not know.