Family Newsletter 2017

Newsletter No. 41; March 2017

Dear Relatives:

The year 2017 will be the year of truth in regard to the final preparation of our new Cnossen-Knossen Family Book. Much development has already occurred last year. The main part of the book is finished and the remaining chapters of the book are almost ready. One of the chapters is on the Cnossen mounds (hamlets) written by the former curator of the Fries Museum: Dr. Evert Kramer. We also identified a true professional Dutch linguist to check the draft chapters of the book: Fanneke Cnossen from Amsterdam (FCN 6:43). Once Fanneke is finished, the Dutch text then goes to a Dutch-to-English translator, who on behalf of our US Ambassador Jim Cnossen (AAB 5.101), develops an English version for our USA-Canadian relatives. The printing of the new book is planned for the first quarter of 2018. The Newsletter of that year will be published in early January and will contain details on how to pre-register for the book. This registration is a critical step for us to estimate the demand for the book and the quantity that will have to be published for the first edition.

Meanwhile we have also set the dates for the official presentation of the new book. In the Netherlands, we plan to do so during the Cnossen-Knossen Family Reunion which is planned for Saturday, May 26th, 2018 in the Broere Church in the city of Bolsward. We have already reserved the church and will make this reunion to be a very meaningful and festive occasion. Mark your calendar and plan ahead. Several USA relatives have already stated that they are planning to attend this reunion. The English version will be presented on August 11, 2018 in Holland, Michigan. Jim Cnossen and his committee are already developing plans for that event. He writes:

“Planning is underway for the USA-Canadian Cnossen-Knossen Family Reunion. The reunion will be in Holland, Michigan, with the main event on the afternoon of Saturday, August 11th, 2018. The main event will include a catered buffet, presentations of Cnossen Family history, prizes, sale of Cnossen memorabilia, and the purchase of the English version of the new book. In addition, three other (optional) events are being considered before and after the main reunion event for those who may be interested. These include: Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan (evening of Friday the 10th); Trolley Tour of the Dutch historical areas in the city of Holland (morning of Saturday the 11th); and Morning Worship Service (Sunday the 12th) at the historical Pillar Church established by Rev. Dr. A. C. Van Raalte in 1856. Mark your calendars now! More information including lodging details will follow. Several Cnossen relatives from the Netherlands are planning to attend this reunion.” A number of Cnossen Family Foundation Board members from the Netherlands will attend and, of course, do so at their own expense. We have also heard from several family members outside the Board that they intend to attend the USA-Canadian reunion. These two events will be a unique opportunity for our “Cnossen-Knossens to Utens” to meet and get to know one another. You are more than welcome to attend. If you want to know more about it? Please contact us through one of the Board members (; or In this edition of the Annual Cnossen Family Newsletter, you will find in addition to standard features on the family data, a story of our Board Vice-President about his motorcycle trip to Denmark, special events from the Second World War in the hamlet Knossens, and also a portrait of a particular family member: lifeguard Johan Haring Gerrits Cnossen (FCN 6.275). Your Board wishes you a pleasant reading.


DNA unknown, or not?

In our Newsletter, you have often read something about the connection of our family with Scandinavia. Again, in this Newsletter there is a story about the connection that our family name has with names in Scandinavian languages and in this case the Danish in particular. Does our family have only a linguistic connection to the ‘High North’? Are the names Cnossen, Knossen, Knösen, and Knøsen all variations of the same? In Denmark and Sweden, particularly in the coastal areas, these names are often given to the hills. Unpack a map of southern Sweden only once and you’ll instantly come across the name Knösen. Is this a mound or height in the coastal region? Did the old Frisians also use the same word for their mound Knossen (height) at Bolsward or are the men from the ‘High North’ responsible? What and who came first: the mound named Knossen (in the context of height) or someone named Knossen and the mound was named after that person?  These are all questions that we may never be able to answer with certainty. But we are now getting better able to get some answers to the question of where we come from. And more specifically, where did we come from in a geographical sense. With the ongoing development and knowledge of DNA technology, it is becoming possible to get some insights here. DNA is a powerful tool in the medical field, but it is now becoming a tool for genealogical research. Certain strands within a person’s DNA are unique to that person; some strands are common with the person’s ancestors; and still other strands are common with the people originating from specific geographic areas of our globe. Each of us are a result of our ancestors and hence we share those common DNA strands, which in turn is found in our own DNA. This means that contained within our own individual DNA are characteristics of our ancestors and other characteristics which will help identify our global roots. One of our family members has already participated in such DNA testing to see where his DNA comes from. Is there a Cnossen/Knossen DNA connection to Scandinavia? Well, for this person the connection was there for sure! The investigation revealed that his DNA originates 62% in Western Europe (the Netherlands and the adjacent neighboring countries), 34% Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) 2% United Kingdom, and 2% Finland. Of course, this is only the result of one Cnossen person. Yet this confirms the picture and the theory that our family has a connection to Scandinavia. Other Cnossen family members are now taking part in such DNA research. These results will hopefully confirm the initial findings of the Cnossen roots. We will keep you informed of these results!


Events around the hamlet Knossens in WW2

On November 20, 2015, a document was published both in Bolsward and in Broerenkerk, written by William Haanstra and entitled “A Snow Goose over Bolsward”. The first copy was received by the then 94-year-old Hendrik Witteveen, a former resident of a farm on the tribal ancestral lands around the Knossens mounds. The booklet describes the life of Hendrik Witteveen (born in 1921) and the title refers to a very dramatic event that occurred on December 22, 1943. Below is a map of the area showing the locations mentioned in this article, all are south-east of Bolsward.


On that date, an American B-24 Liberator Bomber was shot down over Bolsward by German Messerschmitt fighters. The bomber plane crashed in the meadows between Starlings Stein and Sneker Vaart. The land where the plane crashed was partly owned by broker Van der Weij and the Foundation Orphanage, and was leased by Cees Witteveen (the father of Henry) and Bauke van der Velde. The land had a stone barn and was situated at the Cnossen Avenue. Van der Weij was hired by the Bolswarder farmer Albert Brouwer to provide stabling for six cows. At the time of the crash, Hendrik Bonte and his brother’s son Albert Brouwer, Tjeerd, were spreading manure on that piece of land. The nearby farm to the west of the Knossen mound was occupied by No. Elzinga and brother Hendrik Witteveen. Ype, was manager of the adjacent Bolta State. The big four-engine B-24 Liberator plane, named ‘Snow Goose’ was new. The plane made its maiden bombing mission to Bremen, Germany on December 16, 1943 with a crew of 10. One week later, the same B-24 plane lifted off again from the British Airfield, Tibenham, for a mission to bomb the railway yard of Osnabrück in northwest Germany. When the plane arrived at the targeted site, the bomb-doors would not open. So, the plane had to return with the full load of four heavy bombs on board. Due to the heavy load, its speed and altitude were insufficient to allow a safe return to the airfield base in England. The bomber became prey to the German fighters. The plane was hit several times over Friesland and in one last hit over Dedgum, a major fire erupted in one of the engines.

Flying low over Tjerkwerd and Iemswoude, the crew tried to find a place for an emergency landing. At a very low altitude, the damaged plane just passed the Sneker Vaart and then crashed directly into the heavy clay soil in Knossens, where it broke into pieces. Henry, Coloureds, and Tjeerd were eyewitness to this tragedy. A massive fire broke out in the wreckage and the eyewitnesses sought coverage from the exploding munitions and fuel tank eruptions at the barn of farmer Brouwer on Cnossen Avenue. The fire spread toward Bolta State. As the worst of the fire subsided, Hendrik Bonte tried to size up the wreck to see if there were any survivors. But there were none. The chief of the National Guard Field in Bolsward, Arjen van der Hauw, then arrived with a member of the German Feldgendarmerie. They saw that there still were bombs lying in the wreckage and made a safety inspection. That was important as they found four still intact bombs that could explode anytime. With people, just 200 meters away, the situation could be very dangerous. The crash caused much damage to the farms in the area. The damage report by Van der Hauw states: “A lot of damage was done to the houses and farms of Knossens, then inhabited by Y. Witteveen (Bolta State) and the farms on Laard and Zaard and the Knossen farm on the Sneker Vaart, inhabited by A. Elzinga. The farms of Witteveen and Elzinga were destroyed with the frames being pushed out of the walls. The mortal remains of the bomber crew was everywhere, most was not identifiable. Some of the debris was found even on the roof of farm Knossens some 500 meters from the crash site. Nothing was left of the aircraft. The crash created a crater in the ground that was 8 meters deep, 30 meters wide and 30 meters long. Some damage even occurred to the closest buildings in the city of Bolsward.” (Quote from a report by Van der Hauw).


The Bomb Crater

On Friday, December 24th, 1943, the remains of the crew were gathered at the General Cemetery in Bolsward which was followed by a special ceremony with burial at the American War Cemetery in Margraten. After that, some remains that could be identified were buried in their own homeland.  At the place where the Snow Goose came down, an appropriate memorial stone was placed with the names of the 10 crew members who had died. The memorial is still accessible via the Avenue Cnossen. On September 18, 2014 relatives of the plane’s 2nd pilot, George Clark, visited the memorial site, where they were hospitably received at the farm of Tonnie Witteveen, Great Knossens.


The Memorial 

After this traumatic event, the war tragedies were not yet over for Hendrik Witteveen. This time it was the German Army searching for suitable Dutch men to work in Germany. In the autumn of 1944, raids occurred near the Knossens. Precautions had been taken and places were set up as shelters for hiding: in hay attics, basements, and even in a turf hut across the Sneek canal. On October 31, 1944 Hendrik Witteveen was working in the sod, as a raid occurred in Starling Stein for men who were considered suitable for employment in Germany. He sat in the shelter with his brother Bonte along with Theo and John Bekema. In the dike between the Sneker Vaart and the land of peasant Buwalda, near Great Knossens, a big hole was dug, where an underground hut was built. The men remained for some time at night hiding there. The hut was built by the son of peasant Buwalda, Sjoerd, and a Jewish man in hiding, Justin Gerstner.  Early one morning the young men got up to leave their hiding place and go to Starlings Stein via Bloedfeart where they had hidden an escape boat. But something went wrong. Gunshots rang out and a hail of bullets hit close to them. The shots came from the yard of Buwalda. Thankfully, visibility was poor that day with darkness and fog, so the German shooters missed their targets. The young men dived into a frog ditch and remained laying there for hours. Finally, around 3pm, they emerged cautiously when it was quiet and safe. The first thing they heard, however, was the voice of farmer No. Elzinga, on Grand Knossens, who shouted at them: “They are gone from here!”.

Later the body of the young Jewish man, Justin Gerstner, who was also hiding was found in a nearby ditch. This had happened during the raid of a hideout in the farmhouse of Buwalda. When that hideout became too unsafe, he tried to get into the shelter at the Sneker Vaart. On the way, he was killed by the German patrol who just left his body lay. He was later buried at the Jewish cemetery in Sneek. The sod was then abandoned as a hiding place, so the brothers Witteveen went to the Starlings Stein shelter. Here they hid under the hay, where they were almost discovered. It went well, because the Germans were distracted with a bottle of gin which was more important to them than the raid. The hamlet Iemswâlde was otherwise full of hiding. Around Christmas of 1944, there were at least 18 men hiding on the farm of Buwalda. This included men from the Bolsward area and at least two Jewish men, Koosje and Benny Vet. Also, there even was an enlisted German soldier who had deserted and sought refuge from the farmers Buwalda. He


Gravestone of Justin Gerstner

got to eat and drink and was housed in the shelter at the farm with other people in hiding until the liberation. (See the article by Hylke Speerstra: “The darkest Christmas” Leeuwarder Courant, December 24, 1994). (Source: “A Snow Goose over Bolsward,” author William Haanstra, ISBN 978-90-819 276-3-5)

 The Frisian Viking

The ongoing search for the origin of our family name (see Newsletter no. 38 and no. 39) received an unexpected surprise in May 2016. For the magazine, Supervisor, the father and son team of Jelle and Paul Cnossen (AAB 5.229 and AAB 5.239) made a trip to Denmark. Together with photographer Jacco the Pits a reportage trip was made by BMW motorcycle to Denmark, under the motto: “The Frisian Viking” (Promoter No. 8 dd. October 2016). The results from this trip yielded unexpected, concrete evidence that the origin of our Cnossen name is a derivative of the former Danish Knøsen, pronounced “Kneussen”. The main historical source was found in Jelling (Jutland), where there is a large Viking Museum. Also, the world-famous Jelling stones founded around the year 950, are there. Along with the church and the surrounding mounds, they are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


When asking permission from the museum curator to take photos, we introduced ourselves as Cnossen. His immediate and spontaneous reaction was: “How did you come to have an old Danish name?” Not only did we take many photos, but we also got a thorough explanation of the origin of the name Knøsen. Just as in Friesland, the hills in the landscape where people lived were called mounds (“Knøsen”) and the residents were given the designation as a nickname. As seen often in history, this nickname later becomes the family name. When we indicated that our family roots referenced to the Knossens mounds in Bolsward, we had a quick linkage. According to our Danish friend, around the year 1000 very good trade relations existed between Denmark, Sweden, and Friesland. In addition to the business aspects, a mixing of the populations took place. Back then, Bolsward was the location of Middelzee Zuiderzee and a very important trade center. Knowing this, we went in search of the phrase Knøsen in the Danish countryside and we found several, all of which had the same characteristics: outstanding locations in the beautiful Danish landscape with a special story. Next to research Jelling, we drove to Silkeborg where we visited the Knøsen hill on the Knøsensvej (“vej” means path, similar to the Frisian word “wei” which mean road). From there we went by ferry to the island of Samso (between Jutland and Funen, which has a Dutch mayor!). The island had something very special: a 5,000-year-old large stone monument on the hill by the sea Knøsen. At the end of the day, we took the ferry to the other side of the island to Zealand, where we visited the hill Knøsen at Skamstrup. On this hill, which overlooks the whole area, is an old air watchtower, which has served until the end of the Cold War. During the four days, we traveled more than 2,000 kilometers by car, motorcycle, and boat. We returned back to the Netherlands with a lot of great experiences and very rich information about our heritage! A view of the travel report in the Supervisor, complete with photos, and a reference to the original article can be found on our family website Cnossen-Knossen.


Van Raalte Institute in Holland, Michigan

Our family book (Part I) has recently become part of the archives of the A. C. Van Raalte Institute in Holland Michigan. The institute was very pleased and honored to receive our book. They immediately asked to receive a copy of our new book (Part II) when it becomes available in 2018. The Institute is an internationally acclaimed institution for historical research and artifacts with a focus on the Dutch American history. Their research focuses on the Dutch immigration history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Specifically, the history is about the immigration and the contributions of the Dutch immigrants and their descendants in North America. The institute is named after the Rev. Dr. Albertus C. Van Raalte, who was a Dutch Reformed pastor who emigrated from the Netherlands, along with a group of like-minded people. They were the founders of the Dutch colony in Michigan, called Holland, in 1847.

Family Data


Hanna Kike Pel                                                Emmeloord                                                FCO 7.106a

Douwina Cnossen                                    Heeg                                                            FCN 6.301

Dorian Bensliman                                    Sneek                                                            FCN 6.301a

Simeon Christopher Cnossen                        Grimsby (ON, Canada)                                    AAB 5.303.1.1

Henry Paul Cnossen                                    Grandville (MI, USA)                                    AAB 5.104.1

Nathan James Cnossen                                    Detroit (MI, USA)                                    AAB

Caroline Sue Rairigh                                    Toledo (OH, USA)                                    AAB

Knox Joshua Rhodes                                    Hudsonvile (MI, USA)                                    AAB 5.111.3

Kendra Anne Riley                                    Atlanta (GA, USA)                                    AAB 5.106.2

Oliver Thomas Shipp                                    Hudsonville (MI, USA)                                    AAB 5.110.4

Mira Lynn Sniadecki                                    Toledo (OH, USA)                                    AAB



Sipke Cnossen                                                Ureterp                                    86 jaar                        BDF 5.100

Lipkje Cnossen-Visser                                    Hurdegaryp                        84 jaar                        FCN 2.26

Elizabeth Cnossen-de Jong                        Wolvega                        89 jaar                        FBG 2.45

Ytje Cnossen                                                Arnhem                                    82 jaar                        FCN 6.236

Douwe Douwes Cnossen                        Canada                                    89 jaar                        FCN 2.17

Willy Cnossen-Beukers                                    Woerden                        81 jaar                        FCN 6.31

Lowie Alferink                                                Sneek                                    45 jaar                        FBG 5.36

Pieter Jan van der Gaast                        Rotterdam                        83 jaar                        FCN 2.201

Sjirk de Boer                                                Sneek                                    68 jaar                        FCN 1.40

Ane Cnossen                                                Bergen (N.H.)                        67 jaar                        FCA 3.307

Hiltje Gerritje Geerts Cnossen                        Noardburgum                        94 jaar                        FCN 3.67

Deborah Gray Cnossen                                    Uxbridge (MA., USA)             87 jaar                        BBB 10.50

Nathan James Cnossen                                    Detroit (MI., USA)            0 jaar                        AAB

Justin Dale Arp                                                Marietta (GA., US)            32 jaar                        AAB 5.95.1

Hotske Lenos Cnossen                                     Caledonia (ON,Canada)            92 jaar                        BDF 5.97



Kaylin Cnossen en Tiffany Perez Detroit (MI., USA) AAB 5.112.3


Special Birthday:

Marie Tinga Cnossen (verjaardag) Enumclaw (WA., USA) 99 jaar FCA 3.156


Significant Cnossen

Under the heading of “Significant Cnossen”, this time is the story of Johan Haring Gerrits Cnossen (FCN 6.275) as contributed by Tjalke Cnossen (FCN 2.86).

It was at the swimming pool of Sneek, where half the town went on hot days to cool off and rinse their sweaty limbs. On the edge of this pool, was the lifeguard Johan. A man of great stature, the wavy hair on his head and his attitude and appearance was that of a military general. He had taught the art of swimming to generations of Sneekers and others from the surrounding villages. He really loved it when people that he taught to swim as a child now were coming to him with their own children for swim lessons. With much pleasure, he continued to do his work. Johan never thought that swimming would become his profession. During his early years on the summer evenings, he would often swim in the Jeltesloot or ‘the Kouffurd. Along with others, they swam out halfway to Heeg and back. And there was no one who could swim as hard and fast as he did. But that was long ago.As the youngest son of Gerrit and Tjitske Cnossen, he was born and raised on their first farm on the Jelte Bridge, seen on the left on the road from the Hommerts. Like his peers, he had to go to primary school. That was during the war years. A lot of the good bikes had been taken away and were eastward. So the only bike they had was a very old bike with worn out tires. So, they had to use ‘kiss tires’ (i.e., wrapped, solid tires) on the bike to get around. If a bike tire became worn out, they would paste another tire over it. That gave a lot of chatter on the cobbled streets, but anything was better than no bike at all. This one bike was for common use in the family, and that meant that Johan, as the youngest, always got his turn last. Usually he had to walk twice a day on his round trip walk to school; two kilometers there and back again. The result was that every 4 weeks he needed to have a new pair of klompen (wooden shoes). After the Netherlands was liberated, things became normal again. Everywhere was plenty of work, but his father told him that he should complete his schooling before working. So, he went to Sneek to learn more at the agricultural college. That was a vocational school and it looked then as though he would spend the rest of his life among the cows. Now he had always found the cows to be beautiful animals, but to crawl under there twice a day and come back underneath with a bucket full of milk; it was not his thing.Many of his friends had emigrated and he had also plans in that direction, but they remained only a plan.  When he graduated from the agricultural school, a letter came from the Ministry of Defense. The letter kindly but urgently requested him to spend a year-and-a-half working with them. It was an offer he should not refuse. They issued him a motorcycle and then assigned him to patrol in the different parts of the country. When he had completed his duty, he returned home. One day he was reading the newspaper and saw that an insurance company was looking for employees. He applied and was hired. His responsibility was to visit customers once a month to receive their insurance premium. In the first years after the war, payment was always in cash. Some evenings he would return home with more than 1,000 guilder in his purse which was a very large amount of money in the postwar years.         Sometimes when he returned home in the evening, he would remember his encounter with Peter Koopmans – who was a small farmer with 12 cows. It had been January, and all the cows had ‘maternity leave’ and that meant that for the last two months before the calf was born the cows would not be milked. So, Koopmans had no income from milk sales. Koopmans saw Johan coming to collect and said: “Here you are again, Johan, for money that I do not have, but I also have not been sick” In other words, ‘Go away’. That was difficult for both men. Not long after this, the giro was introduced and the door-to-door premium collection was no longer necessary. He was then re-assigned and got the supervision of the affairs in the southwest corner of Friesland. The automation was already started. He soon became redundant and was dismissed. At that time, the Royal Dutch PTT was hiring postmen and it so happened that Johan was able to give the post a few years in Emmeloord and surroundings. Quite enough, because of weather and age he did not want to continue to do that type of work for the rest of his life. And then in Sneek candidates were invited for the position of lifeguard! Because he always experienced great pleasure in the sport of swimming, he had applied and was accepted. In 1957 he was married and in 1963 moved with his family to Sneek to the house where he still lives. And he remained as lifeguard there until his retirement.  And his work years are all over now. He enjoys already years of his retirement. Fortunately, he is blessed with good health. Especially the years after his retirement, he traveled throughout Europe; from Piaam to St Petersburg, from Moddergat to the Mediterranean Sea. However, the concern for his brother, who lived alone on the family farm for several years, had been great. For years, Johan visited him almost every day. And when his brother said he wanted to move into a nursing home, no one was as happy as Johan. And it was high time since the old farmhouse had become a ruin in recent years and it was actually no longer safe to be living there. The old farmhouse is now demolished and his three brothers are all deceased. His own children are grown and have found their own way. They now have children and there are even five grandchildren.   Foundation “Family Cnossen-Knossen” message Your continued donations are essential. As a Board, we have kept our expenses to the very minimum with volunteer labor and personally paying for many expenses. However, the creation of a new family book will result in some additional one-time expenses. And we would appreciate your contributions to help offset these expenses. We ask that you kindly consider making a donation of € 15.00 (or $20 US) this year (a higher amount, of course, is always welcome). Like last year in the Netherlands, we do not send giro anymore. In the Netherlands, the account of the foundation “Family Cnossen-Knossen” is NL74 INGB 0005560474; Hemdijk 99, 8601 XK Sneek. In the US and Canada, please make your check payable to the “Cnossen Family Foundation” and mail it to Jim Cnossen, 4125 Lakeridge Drive, Holland, MI 49424-2262. Thank you for your consideration.