My 3rd great grandfather, Anton Heerdink, has been a question buried in a puzzle and wrapped in an enigma since I began researching the Heerdink line.
Finally, I think I may have some answers.
His story goes something like this:
Anton Heerdink was born in Groenlo, Gelderland, Netherlands on 21 January 1836. He emigrated with his family to America in 1847 through the Port of New Orleans. By 1850, the family had migrated north to Evansville, Vanderburgh, Indiana. Anton’s mother died in 1850 and his father died in 1860. He married Mary Theresa Diefenbach in 1863 and had 3 children by 1870. Mary dies in July 1878, which is when Anton is abducted by aliens (who are civilized enough to allow him to place his children in orphanages and as servants in the homes of other families before he leaves).
… or so I thought.
While trying to find some clue as to where Anton may have gone after his wife died, I ran across a blurb in the March 5, 1879 issue of the Evansville Courier newspaper that simply said, “Anton Heerdink who was adjudged insane, started for Indianapolis yesterday, in charge of Sheriff Lemcke.” Well, of course this got me curious! Could this be my Anton? Could this be why he abandoned his children? I had to know who this man was!
I did a quick search and found that the only facility in Indianapolis was the Indiana Hospital for the Insane, located on Washington Street in Indianapolis. I went looking for the 1880 census to see if perhaps he was still in the asylum, but to no avail; no inmates with a name even close to his. But then I thought – what if he died while he was in the hospital? He was committed in March 1879, so he would have to be listed on the mortality schedule! And BAM! There he is … or is he?
The name is rare … and close enough that I can’t disregard the record … the rest of the conflicting information is another story. For example, Antony is listed as 54 years old, born in Indiana, and a farmer. My Anton was born in 1836, so he would have only been 44 years old in 1880. I also know he was born in Holland and was a tailor. He is also shown to have been a resident of Marion County for 2 years – even though he was living in Vanderburgh County as late as March 1879. But here’s the thing: he wasn’t alive to answer all these questions, so I’m skeptical.
So I did the only thing I could think to do … I requested the records from the State Archives! After a little over a week and the low, low price of $20 ($10 of which was because I lived out of state), I had a copy of all records from the Central State Hospital for the Insane that existed about Antony Neerdink. Even if this didn’t turn out to be my guy – how do you not LOVE the fact that I received insane asylum records?!
The first record I looked at was an affidavit signed by Conrad Muth on March 1, 1879, stating that Anton Heerdink is a resident of Pigeon Township, has been insane for two weeks, and is a danger to the community. It also states that these facts can be proven by Jacob Reis, D? Bryant, Bernard Yeager, and Sophia Bettag.
I was curious how these strangers (to me) could possibly be trusted to say that this man was insane, so I began to look for relationships. First, I consulted the Evansville city directory for 1879, knowing that the information may well be from 1878. My Anton is found in 1879 living at 220 Harriet. Know who else lives at 220 Harriet? Bernard Yeager (also a tailor). Conrad Muth lives at 116 W. Franklin, roughly 2 blocks from Anton. I was only able to find a D.C. Bryant living at 415 Upper 3rd Street who is a printer at the Evansville Courier. It’s too far to be a close neighbor, so I’m unsure of their relationship. I could not find an entry in the directory for Sophia Bettag, but did find a Casper Bettag and Joseph Bettag. I suppose she could be a spouse or daughter of one of them. I could not find Sophia locally on the census for either 1870 or 1880. Oh, and Jacob Reis? He runs a saloon in town. That relationship pretty much speaks for itself.
The next document I reviewed was the Physician’s Certificate. It is undated, but it had to have been completed within a day or two of the other commitment documents. This document gives Anton’s age as 51 (off by a few years from the mortality schedule). It says that the “supposed exciting cause of the disease is loss of his wife destitution and being unable to obtain employment.” He is listed as a widower, Catholic, and a tailor. It is signed by A. H. Bryan, MD.
A few things strike me about this document. Other than the age (which is now only 7 years off), all the other allegations match what I know about my Anton. He was Catholic, he was a widower, and he was a tailor.
Next was the hospital admission page. This is when his name was changed to “Neerdink.” This paper claims Anton was admitted on March 4, 1879, age either 51 or 57, widowed, German, a tailor, able to read and write, and Catholic. For “form of insanity” it gives “melanch.” exciting from “dom. bereave – loss of wife, etc.” which I take to mean domestic bereavement. It also states that he is refusing food. I can’t quite make out what it says for “Insane Ideas, Acts, &c.” but I think part of it says “moans.” I can see that he had a “sachel & clothing” when he was admitted, and that his care is being paid for by the county.
Again, so far the only thing that doesn’t fit with my Anton is the age. His country of birth has fluctuated between Germany and Holland since he arrived in the U.S.
The last document with any real information is the County Book, but it pretty much reiterates the information contained on the admission paper … except that it also gives his date of death as July 24, 1879 (just 11 days after the one-year anniversary of Mary’s death). The cause? Acute melancholia and diarrhea. I don’t know what’s sadder – that he only survived 4 months after being institutionalized or that it seems like his entire family turned their backs on him. It’s all just sad. Even if this doesn’t turn out to be my relative, it still breaks my heart.
There is more information that is consistent with Anton Neerdink being my 3rd great grandfather than contradictory information. Add to the equation that I am unable to find my Anton in any census or city directory after 1879, and the evidence weighs heavy on the side that says they are the same person.
What do you think? I would love to hear the opinions of someone who isn’t influenced by wanting so desperately for this to be their relative!
Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com
Copyright 2016 - Jenny-ology.com
Disclosure: Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means I may be compensated if you purchase a product using one of those links. There is no additional cost to you. Occasionally I receive free products to review, which will be indicated in my review posts. All opinions are my own, regardless of compensation. See my full disclosures at the link above.