Crans Family


Jeanette Crans (McKindley)
Her full name was Jeanette Adolphine Margaret Johanna Gertrude Crans.

Born September 10, 1895 in St. Joseph, Michigan. Her parents were Willem Karl Crans and Francoise Tjaden.

Jeanette was known for her violin music, and attended the Columbia School of Music. She remembers speaking Dutch in her home as a child.

She worked as a proofreader starting at age 13, to help support the family and send her brother Peter to the University of Michigan. She had to choose between high school and the violin, because her parents did not place a high priority on educating a woman. She chose the violin, and had pupils for extra income. She also worked at a flower shop.

Jeanette was 25 when she married William Myrl McKindley. The newspaper story about her wedding was published in the Benton Harbor newspaper. Sept. 2, 1921 was the date of the marriage.

Due to her great interest in genealogy, Jeanette often researched her family history while on vacations. She made personal contact with some of the Tjaden and other relatives while on a trip to Holland as an adult, and wrote letters to them for years afterwards. She collected many heirlooms and antiques throughout her life.

Jeanette died May 20, 1988 in St. Joseph, Michigan. She is buried at the Crystal Springs Cemetery, with a Martin Luther coat of arms on her gravestone.

Wilhelmina Crans (Curtis) (Ewell)
Born March 4, 1898 in St. Joseph, Michigan. "Auntie Wim." Sister of Jeanette Crans McKindley.

Wilhelmina had a reputation for being creative and imaginative. She was very sociable. She was on the debate team and participated in school drama. When she and her sister Jeannette were old enough to date, Jeanette says she would bring home a boyfriend, only to "lose" him to Wilhelmina.

Wilhelmina was 17 in the fall of 1915 when she married Stanley Rice Curtis. Stanley was raised by his mother's twin sister, Lucy Kerry, because Stanley's own mother had died in childbirth.

The couple had two children. They had a son, William Kerry Curtis, who was born June 25, 1916, and a daughter, Frances Anna Curtis, who was born June 29, 1918. (Frances had two daughters, Robin and Diane. William Kerry Curtis had two sons, Phillip K. Curtis, born Nov. 6, 1945, and Bruce Curtis, born November 11, 1949.)

The marriage to Stanley Curtis ended in divorce. She married her second husband, Raymond Ewell, in New York City. That, too, ended in divorce. She married Eric Morrell and lived happily with him in New York, in Connecticut, and then in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Wilhelmina died on January 16, 1975.

Peter Karel Crans ("Uncle Pete")
Born August 20, 1900, the youngest child of Willem and Francoise Crans.

He attended the University of Michigan but was too "eccentric" to complete his studies, despite years of trying. He had a talent for music and for mathematics. As an adult, he collected so many things that his house was packed from top to bottom, and the men in his church had to come over and clean out his house to avoid having it condemned by the fire marshal. He never married and had no children. He was an active member of the Methodist Church in his community.

He died August 1, 1984. His final resting place is City Cemetery Mausoleum, St. Joseph, Michigan.

Willem ("William") Karel Crans Born July 3, 1847 in The Hague, Netherlands. His parents were Peter Crans of Holland and Wilhelmenia Mene' of France. He wanted to go to Leiden to study architecture, but his parents sent him instead to a military medical school in Breda, Holland. He could speak and write 9 languages fluently.

Willem had a sister, Charlotte, who stayed in Holland and never married. She was an artist. She painted a picture on a porcelain cup, and she also made a drawing of the head of a girl, which has been passed down in the family.

Willem's family selected a bride for him, but he did not cooperate. Instead, he fell in love with Theresa Thyssen, who performed on the piano, and whose father was a conductor. When she was 8 years old, Theresa had performed for the emperor Franz Joseph. However, she was considered unsuitable by Willem's family because she made public appearances, something a properly bred woman would never do.

Willem married his first wife, Theresa, when he was about 25 or younger. His family disowned him on account of the marriage, so he went to New York and they raised a son together. According to some notes left by Bill Curtis, Willem and his wife passed through Ellis Island around 1871. Their son died of tuberculosis when he was about 20 years old. Theresa died in New York in the great storm of 1881.

Willem set up a greenhouse venture in New Jersey, which included a floral shop. His business stationery at the time gave this address:
W. K. Crans, Florist
157 Main Ave.
Foot of Pennington Ave.
Passaic, NJ

Sometime in the early 1890s, Willem married a woman by the name of Ann. This marriage was an immediate failure when it turned out Ann was mentally ill. Willem meanwhile hired George Tjaden to assist at the greenhouse. George was a brilliant chemist but his alcoholism interfered with his work. A native of Holland, George had been married and had four children, the youngest being Francoise. George sent for Francoise to come to the U.S. in August 1892.

Willem became interested in Francoise, but the problem was Ann. Near the end of his life, Willem confided to his son Pete that Ann drank quite a bit and interfered with the greenhouse business. She had been violent, and had tried to injure her rival, Francoise. On one occasion, for example, she rang the door at Goerge Tjaden's house, meaning to throw acid on Francoise. Instead, George answered the door with his baby in his arms. Ann tried to splash acid on them. It became obvious that Willem and Francoise could not get married under those circumstances.

Politics was a big interest for Willem while he operated his greenhouse in New Jersey. During the year 1892 he campaigned vigorously for Grover Cleveland for president, because he agreed with Cleveland's stand on free trade. He was so enthusiastic he applied for US Citizenship so he could vote. He entered a parade for Cleveland with a float decorated in a patriotic theme.

Some time in the early 1890s, Willem returned to Holland hoping his older brother, Pieter, would find Willem a job. He also hoped to marry Francoise in Holland and start a new life. there. His mother let him in the back door, but he was not greeted warmly by his family. He was told, "Go back to the U.S., you've made your choice," referring to Willem's U.S. citizenship.

A disappointed Willem took a boat back to New York, intending to travel to California to work on an agricultural enterprise with Francoise' brother, John. While on the boat, Willem received word from John that the enterprise was not doing well enough to afford him. This left Willem unemployed. Luckily, Willem met a man from Holland on the boat who suggested Willem go with him to Benton Harbor, Michigan to work in a furniture factory.

Willem did find work at Moon furniture factory/mortuary. His earnings allowed him to send for Francoise. I suspect Francoise went to Michigan in September 1893 because a book about hte descendants of Martin Luther states, erroneously, that she married Willem on September 17, 1893, and of course she did not marry him at that time. Anyhow, the two of them bought a house and had three children: Jeanette, Wilhelmina, and Peter.

Willem worked out of his home as a furniture maker and was known in the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph community for his political activism as a socialist.

Everyone in his community probably thought he was legally married to Francoise as the two of them raised their family in Benton Harbor. However, due to his failure to get a divorce from his second wife, Anna, there was no way Willem could marry Francois. While their children were still teenagers, Willem visited an out-of-town attorney in the Kalamazoo area for a divorce from his second wife, Anna. The divorce was finalized October 4, 1913, on the grounds of "desertion."

Then Willem exchanged vows with Francoise on January 10, 1914, at a secret wedding in South Bend, Indiana. Herbert D. Warner, city judge, officiated. For some reason, the marriage certificate states erroneously that the groom lived in Kalamzoo, Michigan, and that the bride was from Passaic, New Jersey!

The children of Willem and Francois didn't find out about this divorce and wedding until after their mother died, and Pete was caring for his elderly father. At that point, Willem confided to Pete about the secret wedding, considered a hush-hush secret.

Willem died in 1932, and is buried in Crystal Springs Cemetery, Benton Harbor.

Francoise Fredrica Tjaden (Crans)
Born January 14, 1863 in Wijhe, Netherlands. Her parents were Peter George Tjaden of Holland and Jeanette A. Brandt of Holland. She came to the United States in 1892, where she met Willem Karl Crans. She had three children, Jeanette, Wilhelmena, and Peter. She died October 15, 1927 and is buried at the Crystal Springs cemetery in Benton Harbor. For more information, see Tjaden Family.

Pieter H. Crans, M.D.
Pieter H. Crans, M.D. was born November 25, 1804 in Dordrecht , Holland . His parents were Jan Crans and Johanna Schoenmakers.

Family stories indicate he was a young lieutenant under Napoleon at Waterloo and before. However, 1815 is the date of Waterloo; Pieter would have been only 11 years old. Later he was a doctor at the Hague , according to family information.

Pieter married Wilhelmenia Mene' (or Menje) of France . His marriage took place July 31, 1835 at The Hague, Holland, according to family info, but the "Bureau Voor Genealogie Centraal" places the marriage date at June 17, 1835.

Pieter had a son, Willem K. Crans, who married Theresa Thyssen and moved to New York . Willem later married Francoise F. Tjaden. Pieter regarded his son Willem as the "black sheep" of the family. Pieter had eight children, (not necessarily in this order), as follows:

  • (name unknown) born in Berkel on April 18, 1836; died Sept. 11, 1836.
  • Jan Gijsbert Crans, born in Berkel in 1837, died in Voorburg on March 16, 1857.
  • (Name unknown) born 1840, died in Moordrecht June 9, 1840.
  • Johanna Wilhelmina Catharina Henrietta Crans, born in Voorburg on November 26, 1845.
  • Willem Karel Crans, born in Voorburg on July 3, 1847.
  • Dirk Gerard Crans, born in Voorburg on July 20, 1848.
  • Charlotta Petronella Crans, born in Voorburg on May 11, 1852.
  • Pieter Crans, perhaps born in 1854. Pieter married Bertha Huygens and had four children: (a) Pieter, (b) Hendrick, (c) Marius Hendrik, and (d) Ida Wilhelmina, who had no children.
  • (According to Willem's photo album, Willem had a sister named Anna Crans Laydema and his eldest sister was Mrs. Alida Crans Hoevers.)

Pieter died August 22, 1858 in Voorburg, Holland .

Alida Wilhelmina Charlotta Mijne (Crans)
Born January 20, 1813 in Amsterdam the Hague. She was the daughter of Gijebert Myne and Alida Sauer.

She married Pieter Crans on July 31, 1835. Her son was Willem Karl Crans.

Her picture hangs on the stairway at our house in Milan, and it is in a heavy black frame. She is shown seated on an elaborate chair, wearing a formal satin dress. Her face is peeking out of some kind of fur-edged hood so that her hair is not visible in the picture. Mom and Uncle Bill Curtis remarked that Alida is the one who let her son Willem sneak in the back door of the house in Holland on one of the occasions when he tried to resolve his differences with his family.

Jan Crans
Baptized December 14, 1765 in Dordrecht . His parents were Direk Crans and Aantje van Meerkerk. Jan married in August 1794 to Johanna Schoenmakers. He worked as an "Apotheker" so he must have been a pharmacist. He had at least three children, if not more. Jan died November 4, 1815. According to "Bureau Voor Genealogie Centraal" the children of Jan Crans were:

  • Dirk Crans, born July 20, 1795. Married Nov. 19, 1817 to Hendrina Anthonia Jansse (she was born April 29, 1796, daughter of Johannes Jansse and Johanna de Witt)
  • Jan Crans, born April 8, 1797; died June 10, 1800.
  • Everhardus Kelderman Crans, born Jan. 31, 1799, died Rotterdam Oct. 8, 1867. Married Wilhelmina Weymans (she was born in 1802, died in Rotterdam Oct. 9, 1839)
  • Johannes Crans, born Dec. 1800.
  • Anna Maria, born October 14,1902, died Oct. 25, 1803
  • Pieter Crans, M.D., born Nov. 25, 1804, died in Voorburg August 22, 1858. Married June 17, 1835 to Alida Wilhelmina Charlotta Mijne' (she was born in Amsterdam Jan. 20, 1813, daughter of Gijsbert Mijne' and Alida Sauer).
  • Anna Maria, born October 20, 1806, died Nov. 11, 1807
  • Gerard, born Sept. 28, 1808
  • Govert, born Oct. 3, 1810, died June 3, 1872
  • Jacob, born Feb. 1, 1815

Johanna Schoenmakers
Johanna was born in 1771 in Dordrecht. Her father's name was Johannes Schoenmakers. Her mother's name was Maria Kelderman.

She married Jan Crans in August 1794 and had a son, Pieter H. Crans, M.D.

Johanna died March 22, 1817

Direk Crans
Born in Derdrecht in 1719. He married Aantje Van Meerkerk and had a son, Jan Crans.

Direk Crans died April 22, 1785. He is buried in Groote Kerk, Dordrecht, where is also the Koperan Choir Gate-- which was made by Adrian Crans in 1742.