Sunday, August 18, 2013


There are a few items that I would be devastated to lose in a fire.  This is one of them:

Back in 1997, my grandfather received a letter from a researcher in the Netherlands tracing our family tree.  He had determined that one of his ancestor's brothers had emigrated to the United States and he decided to track all his descendants down.  This was the results of his work. 

I can honestly say that without this book, I probably would have never gotten anywhere researching in the Netherlands despite their fantastic online records.  You see, my maiden name was spelled Van Gee.  I knew it was Dutch.  What I didn't know was it was spelled completely wrong.  My third great-grandfather who emigrated to the United States in 1890, Jacobus Johannis' last name was spelled Vinjé.
The Vinjé family arrived 29 Sep 1890 on the S.S. Spaarndam

On the census records, it is spelled Van Gee, and Vangee and Vingee.  Even on his headstone, it's spelled Vinja! I doubt that I could've figured it out myself.  It doesn't sound Dutch to me and maybe it didn't to the other people of Wayne County, New York, where there are lots of Dutch names, and that's how it evolved to Van Gee.  Thanks to the author of this book, my third cousin, twice removed, Jo Vinjé, I can now look up lots of records in the Netherlands without frustration.  He compiled this book, which my father was kind to secure a copy of for me.  My father traveled to the Netherlands several years ago and got to meet Jo in person.

It was with extreme sadness that I discovered a few days ago, that he had passed away.  He had been on my mind lately, I was wondering if he had ever decided if Vinjé was a French of Norwegian name.  I even emailed him at the address in the book and didn't get a response.  This prompted me to do some online searching and found a death notice online for him.  He passed away on 10 Apr 2013.


  1. Sorry about your loss. I too have lost several genealogy friends since I started doing genealogy 23 years ago. For me, this is a sad part of the hobby. Having started at the age of 14, most of the people I share information with are a lot older than I.

    About your final question: The Family Names Database at the Meertens Institute suggests that the origin lies in the word Vignier or Vinier: wine seller in French. The name looks French to me too. Why do you think there might be a Norwegian connection?

  2. It wasn't me who thought there was a Norwegian connection, it was Jo. He'd been on a trip to Norway and was surprised at the number of Vinje's he'd found there. At the beginning of the book, he admits that it was unlikely it would turn out to be anything but French.