THE RUESINK FAMILY IN AMERICA
AND ITS DUTCH ANCESTRY
William G. Ruesink
The Ruesink name is quite old, appearing first in 1349 as the name of a farm north of the village of Dinxperlo near the present border between Germany and the Netherlands. All of the Ruesinks in North America trace their roots to two ancestors who lived within a few miles of this farm in the mid-1800s, but even when we go back two more centuries, it is not possible to find a single common ancestor.
As far as we know all Americans by the name of Ruesink (also spelled Reusink or Rusink by some descendants) originally came from the Aalten-Dinxperlo region of the Netherlands. Much is known about the family there, going back as far as the mid-1600s.
The Land and Economy of the Dinxperlo Region
The "community" (the Dutch word is "Gemeente") of Dinxperlo lies on the German border in the southeastern part of the province of Gelderland. To the north and east lies the community of Aalten, to the west the community of Gendringen, and to the south Germany. The total land area of the community is 3300 acres; besides the village of Dinxperlo, it contains two rural areas, one called the Beggelder, the other De Heurne. Maps of the Netherlands and of the Dinxperlo area are on display.
The people of this area are of Saxon heritage, in appearance, speech and manners being more like the people of Germany than like the rest of the Netherlands. Even today they prefer to speak to each other in their local dialect rather than in Dutch. Perhaps the fact that they are so close to the German border has helped preserve the local language, for by using it they can communicate freely with their German neighbors. Consequently, the international border seems more like a border between U.S. states than between countries.
The climate in the Dinxperlo area has less seasonal variation than the Midwestern U.S., with the daily high temperature staying below freezing only 10 to 12 days each winter and only 25 to 30 days each summer going above 77 degrees. Snow covers the ground an average of 20 days each winter. Annual rainfall averages near 27 inches.
The soil is largely alluvial and very flat, mostly 60 to 70 feet above sea level. In the 1980s over half the land was in permanent pasture, with most of the rest being planted to cereal grains. Dairy cattle and feeder pigs are also very important parts of today's agriculture.
Population statistics show that the community of Dinxperlo has grown considerably since the early 1800s:
From this we see that when the main emigration of Ruesinks was occurring in 1854 - 1856, the population had increased dramatically from that of a generation earlier. The historical records confirm that population pressures were severe at this time. Jobs were very hard to find and wages were so low that it was nearly impossible to achieve a decent standard of living.
By the early 1800s linen weaving had become an important alternative to agriculture. Today, of the 18 industries in Dinxperlo employing over 10 persons each, three are still textile related. Seven deal in woodworking: some being wooden shoe makers, others are carpenter shops. Other industries include metal works, chemical companies and building contractors. The largest company has about 180 employees.
Political and Church History
What is now the Providence of Gelderland was an independent country until 1339 when it became a Duchy. Emperor Charles V then incorporated it into the Holy Roman Empire in 1543. For the next 25 years it was ruled by the Spanish crown, but following a revolt in 1579 it joined the Union of Utrecht, a confederation that predated the Netherlands as we know it today. Except for about 20 years under Napoleon, they have been part of the Netherlands ever since. The Germans occupied the Dinxperlo area between about 1940 and 1945, the only time since Napoleon that they have been under foreign rule.
Dinxperlo itself was originally under the control of the Lord of Bredevoort. In 1152 there was a rebellion and for awhile Dinxperlo was ruled by the Bishop of Munster, but later control passed to the Lord of Anholt whose castle and gardens can still be visited. They are on the German side of the international border.
The parish of Dinxperlo was once part of the older parish of Bocholt, but by 1281 Dinxperlo was a separate independent parish. This parish covered a fairly large area around the present village of Dinxperlo, on both sides of the present German-Dutch border. When the Protestant Reformation reached this part of Europe about 1597, practically the entire parish, including the priest, adopted the new doctrine. Not until 1864 was there a Reformed church built on the German side of the border. For this reason the ties between the people on the two sides of the border have remained quite strong.
Another reason that the international border takes on little significance here is that until the 1800s there were no churches in Suderwick, so the parish boundaries extended well into Germany. In those days certainly the church services would have been in the local language, not in either Dutch or German. And how could members of a single congregation feel strongly about a political boundary line drawn by outside interests through the middle of their parish?
Agriculture Then and Now
The earliest farming in this region began in about the 8th century. Before that forest and heath-land covered the area. Much of the land was too wet to farm in those days. The earliest farms were all located along the "Hoge Heurnseweg", a road that ran along a slightly higher ridge of sandy soil between Dinxperlo and Aalten. As population pressure grew in the Middle Ages, forest land was cleared and drainage ditches dug so that more land could be brought under cultivation. The usual progression was to use the land as permanent pasture for the first century or two after clearing away the forest and then begin to use it for field crops.
An agricultural census of 1854 reported that the main crops were rye and potatoes, with buckwheat and oats also rather common. A few acres were devoted to wheat, barley, hemp and rape seed. Milk cows were the only important livestock. By 1976 the acreage of rye and potatoes had dropped by 80%, buckwheat and rape seed had completely disappeared, while hemp, wheat and oats had declined by 90%. Barley had increased slightly, and some sugar beets and silage corn were being grown. About 70% of farmland is now in permanent pasture, compared with 35% a century ago. Today feeder pigs, dairy cattle and laying hens are the main source of agricultural income.
Because of the small farm sizes (perhaps 20 to 30 acres is usual), most livestock feeds must be bought instead of raised on the farm. Many farmers buy from a farmer's cooperative in Doetinchem called "Cooperatie Gelderland". The co-op varies the mix it sells from time to time in order to give its customers the lowest possible price while maintaining the proper nutritional value.
Probable typical migration route
For most of the Ruesinks who emigrated to America, we have absolutely no information on the route that they followed. For one, however, it was reported in some detail in the ----- ----- History (?). Since all of the Ruesink's traveled from the Dinxperlo/Aalten area to Wisconsin, and mostly between 1854 and 1856, it seems probable that they all used similar routes.
The first part of the trip was probably overland about 30 miles to the city of Arnhem. There it would have been easy to catch a small boat for the next 70 miles on the Lower Rhine to the port city of Rotterdam. From Rotterdam there were sailing ships leaving for New York City at regular intervals, probably about twice per week during most of the spring and summer.
The journey across the ocean usually included a stop in England, perhaps at Southhamptom. From there the crossing typically took from -- to -- days, depending on the weather. After clearing customs in New York, those bound for Wisconsin would board a "packet boat" for a trip up the Hudson River to Troy, and from there through the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York. At Buffalo they would switch to a lake boat, probably a steamer, for the trip through the Great Lakes to Milwaukee.
This route was very heavily traveled. Already in the 1830s about 100,000 people passed through Buffalo each year on the westward journey. In spite of the volume of traffic, the trip still included many hazards. Occasionally passengers nearly starved on the ocean crossing when winds failed and the journey took much longer than planned. Other times disease epidemics would break out on board the ships and more than half the passengers would died before the crossing was complete.
The trip up the Hudson and through the Erie Canal was much safer, but the final leg on the lake boats may have been the most dangerous of all. Storms on the Great Lakes can be very fierce and blow up quickly. The small lake boats were less able to cope with bad weather than were the ocean going vessels, consequently many stories can be found about boats lost in storms. A rather bizarre accident occurred on one of these lake boats when, as it was approaching shore in Wisconsin one night, the passengers spotted a fire on land. As they moved to the shore side of the boat to see what was burning, they so unbalanced the boat that it simple tipped over in the water and sank! Many lives were lost, including Dutch immigrants from the Dinxperlo area.
Ruesinks in America
It seems likely that most of the Ruesinks who immigrated to America settled first in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Some of them stayed there and some of their descendants live there today, but within a few years many moved to other parts of the Midwest so that by the time the 1900 U.S. Census was taken, there were Ruesink families in six states. By 1985 there were about 80 Ruesink households spread across 15 states (and 18 states by 2004), but the greatest concentration was still in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
My records show 32 Ruesinks immigrated to the U.S. between 1840 and 1890; these fit into nine family groups as follows:
b. 30 Mar 1800, Beggelder (Dinxperlo), Netherlands d. aft 1870, America
& Aaltjen te Warle b. 2 Sep 1798, Gendringen, Netherlands
| Arend Jan Ruesink [immigrant] - 1A
| b. 5 Oct 1828, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 30 Jul 1893, Chester Twp., Dodge Co., Wisconsin
| & Alida Engelina Klompenhauer [immigrant]
| b. 7 Mar 1833, Westphalen, Prussia d. 29 Aug 1891, Chester Twp., Dodge Co., Wisconsin
| Aleida Berendina Ruesink [immigrant] - 1B
| b. 4 Nov 1840, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 7 Feb 1922, Wisconsin
| & Adolph Berkelaar [immigrant] b. 4 May 1838, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 25 Jan 1903, Wisc.
b. 21 Aug 1816, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. aft 1900, Wisconsin (?)
& Grada Christina Rensink [immigrant] b. 12 Nov 1815, Varsseveld, Netherlands d. bef 1900, Wisconsin (?)
| Berendina Alida Ruesink [immigrant] - 2A
| b. 29 Jan 1841, Aalten, Netherlands d. America
| Derk Ruesink [immigrant] - 2B
| b. 5 Oct 1844, Aalten, Netherlands d. May 1925, Orange City, Iowa
| & Nancy S. ?? [immigrant] b. Nov 1849, Netherlands
| Mina Ruesink [immigrant] - 2C
| b. 24 Oct 1847, Aalten, Netherlands d. America
| & J.W. Beverly b. ca 1845
| Aleida Hendrika Ruesink [immigrant] - 2D
| b. 5 Nov 1850, Aalten, Netherlands d. America
| & H. John te Ronde b. ca 1850
| Evert Ruesink [immigrant] - 2E
| b. 17 Aug 1852, Aalten, Netherlands d. 17 Apr 1898, America
| & Janna (Jane) Heinen b. 19 Apr 1858, Holland Twp., Sheboygan Co., Wisconsin d. 22 Sep 1899
| Bernard Ruesink b. 1856, Milwaukee (?), Wisconsin d. Aug 1883
| & Katherine Eernisse b. ca 1860, Rochester, NY? d. 1890
| Lussana (Ana) Ruesink b. Apr 1859, Holland Twp., Sheboygan Co., Wisconsin
| & Dork Faas b. ca 1855
b. 25 Nov 1797, Klein Bredenbroek (Gendringen), Netherlands d. aft 1865, America
& Hermina Christina Blekkink
b. 26 Jun 1800, Aalten, Netherlands d. 1 Jun 1837, Aalten, Netherlands
| Everdina Ruesink [immigrant] - 3A
| b. 4 Nov 1829, Aalten, Netherlands d. ca 1910, America
| & Arent Jan Prinsen [immigrant] b. 12 Jan 1823, Aalten, Netherlands d. America
| Gerrit Jan Ruesink [immigrant] - 3B
| b. 18 May 1832, Aalten, Netherlands d. bef 1900, Wisconsin?
| & Hendrika M. ?? [immigrant] b. Mar 1829, Netherlands d. aft 1900, Wisconsin?
| Arent Jan Ruesink [immigrant] - 3C
| b. 14 Aug 1834, Aalten, Netherlands d. 11 Jan 1890, Lime Springs, Iowa
| & Janna (Jane) Grace Hoopman [immigrant]
| b. 24 Jun 1836, Netherlands d. 25 Dec 1911, Lime Springs, Iowa
| Willemina Ruesink [immigrant] - 3D
| b. 17 Oct 1836, Aalten, Netherlands d. America
b. 5 Jan 1813, De Heurne, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 16 Jan 1882, America
& Hendrika Berendina (Dena) Colenbrander [immigrant] b. 4 Jun 1816, Netherlands d. 1 Feb 1878, America
| Jan Willem Ruesink [immigrant] – 4A
| b. 9 Jun 1843, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
| Berend Hendrik Ruesink [immigrant] - 4B
| b. 22 Aug 1844, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
| Henry Ruesink [immigrant] – 4C (this Henry may not belong with this family)
| b. Aug 1848, Netherlands d. aft 1910, Wisconsin?
| Engelbertus Hendricus (Albert?) Ruesink [immigrant] - 4D
| b. 2 Jan 1853, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. ca 1860, America
| Bartholomew "Bert" Ruesink b. 19 Sep 1858, New York d. 29 Oct 1898
| Angelina Ruesink b. Mar 1863, Wisconsin d. aft 1910
Grades Ruesink [did not come to America]
b. 22 Feb 1802, Gendringen, Netherlands d. 8 Oct 1864, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
& Johanna Somsen b. 23 Feb 1806, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 23 Dec 1855, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
| Christina Ruesink [immigrant] – 5A
| b. 11 Nov 1830, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. America
| Derk Jan Ruesink [immigrant] – 5B
| b. 24 Sep 1835, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 7 Sep 1909, Fillmore Co., Minnesota
| & Berendina (Dina) Johanna Catherina Nagel [immigrant]
| b. 13 Sep 1843, Aalten, Netherlands d. 28 Jan 1909, Fillmore Co., Minnesota
b. 6 May 1826, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 14 May 1903, Michigan
& Willemina Berendina Hengeveld [immigrant]
b. 3 Feb 1842, Gendringen, Netherlands d. 1 Jul 1926, nr. Morenci, Michigan
Willem Ruesink [did not come to America]
b. 6 Mar 1813, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 24 Nov 1881, Dinxperlo?, Netherlands
& Hendrina Nagel b. 12 Jul 1822, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 17 Apr 1874, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
| Gerrit Willem Ruesink [immigrant] – 7A
| b. 16 May 1845, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 10 Apr 1889, Greenleafton, Fillmore Co., Minn.
| & Willemina Berendina (Mina or Minnie) Harbers [immigrant]
| b. 30 Jan 1852, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 7 Feb 1921, Prairie View, Phillips Co., Kansas
| | Hendrik Willem (Henry William) Ruesink [immigrant] – 7A1
| | b. 21 Jul 1875, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 24 Dec 1952, Prairie View, Kansas
| | & Anna (Annie) Erickson b. 24 Aug 1879 d. 21 Jul 1956
| | Dora Berendina Ruesink [immigrant] – 7A2
| | b. 13 Dec 1877, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. Oct 1962
| | & Henry Boeve b. 7 Apr 1876 d. Oct 1946
| | Gerrit Jan Derk Willem (John G.) Ruesink [immigrant] – 7A3
| | b. 4 Jun 1881, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 10 Apr 1962, Stewartville, Minn.
| | & Gertrude Grace (Gertie) Voss b. 20 Aug 1885 d. 15 Aug 1922, Prairie View, Kans. (?)
| | Gerrit Ruesink
| | b. 4 Nov 1886, Greenleafton, Fillmore Co., Minn. d. 24 May 1968, Greenleafton, Minn.
| | & Grace Elfrink b. 8 Mar 1894 d. 13 Aug 1990
| | Minnie Ruesink
| | b. 7 Sep 1888, Greenleafton, Fillmore Co., Minn. d. aft Apr 1962
| | & John Colsman b. 1 Oct 1885 d. 20 Sep 1952
| Derk Willem (Dick) Ruesink [immigrant] – 7B
| b. 16 Apr 1852, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 1923
| Gerrit Jan (John) Ruesink [immigrant] – 7C
| b. 15 May 1859, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 8 Sep 1940, Prairie View, Phillips Co., Kansas
| & Johanna Gertrude Pakkebier [immigrant] b. ca 1860, Aalten, Netherlands
| Geertruida Willemina (Gertrude, Gertie) Ruesink [immigrant] – 7D
| b. 26 Nov 1865, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
| & Henry Nonhoff b. ca 1855
Derk Jan Ruesink [did not come to America]
b. 7 Feb 1805, De Heurne, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 23 Feb 1875, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
& Janna (=Johanna) Smits b. 10 Feb 1808, Suderwick, Germany d. 17 Dec 1852, Dinxperlo, Netherlands
| Manes Ruesink [immigrant] – 8A
| b. 24 Jan 1830, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 19 Mar 1902, Fillmore Co., Minnesota
| & Gazina Elizabeth Meinen [immigrant]
| b. 28 Feb 1838, Winterswyk, Netherlands d. 25 Nov 1874, Fillmore Co., Minnesota
| Gerrit Jan Ruesink [immigrant] – 8B
| b. 26 Jan 1835, Dinxperlo, Netherlands d. 4 Sep 1901, South Dakota
| & Gezina (Zena) Abbink [immigrant] b. 27 Sep 1833, Netherlands d. 24 Aug 1911
Gerrit Willem Wilterdink [immigrant]
b. 26 Jan 1805, Winterswijk, Netherlands d. 17 Mar 1886, Holland, Michigan
& Johanna Ruesink [immigrant] - 9
b. 13 Feb 1819, Dinxperlo, Netherlands m. 12 Jul 1844, Winterswijk, Netherlands
| Janna Geertruid Wilterdink [immigrant] - 9A
| b. 6 Apr 1844, Winterswijk, Netherlands d. bef 1850
| Gerrit Willem Wilterdink
| b. 11 Mar 1847, St. Louis, Missouri d. 22 Jul 1919, Holland, Michigan
| & Jannigje (Jane) Plaggemars
| b. 29 Jul 1851, Michigan d. 2 Dec 1930, Grand Rapids, Michigan
| Geertrui G. Wilterdink
| b. 22 Dec 1850 d. bef 1852
| Geertruid G. Wilterdink
| b. ca 1852 d. 3 May 1878, Zeeland, Michigan
| & Thieme Beld
| b. ca 1844, Netherlands
| Hanna G. Wilterdink
| b. 28 Nov 1854 d. bef 1860
| Berendina Wilterdink
| b. 22 Mar 1857, Holland, Michigan d. 31 Dec 1924, Holland, Michigan
| & Jansen VanDoornik
| b. 11 Apr 1846, Hoevelaken, Netherlands d. 28 Oct 1921, Holland, Michigan
A database of about 5,000 people has been compiled and is available here for you to browse or search. Information about living people is largely suppressed in order to protect their identity.