The Freedom of my Namesakes

….Blinks in America….

My ancestor came to America in 1847, it was the dead of winter and he was 17 years old. The long journey across the Atlantic ocean began without a proper destination. His promised land had yet to be discovered.

Jan Blink left the family home at the word of a Minister named Albertus Van Ralte who had the vision to create a new church and city in America. This Dutch Minster spread stories about the land of Wisconsin and it’s similarity to Holland, however as the boats set sail, they didn’t have a destination except America, the land of the free. My ancestor set out to find the freedom his parents never had.

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Albertus Van Ralte was a firebrand, who left the Dutch Reform Church with a purpose of founding a new world of religious freedom. It was 1846 and the religious settlers left Rotterdam for New Amsterdam. Buying the needed oxen, wagons and provisions within the New York area, these Dutch settlers still wore wooden shoes, traditional hats and it seemed to everyone who knew of such things…they were dead-men for leaving in the middle of winter.

Around the time frame that first wave headed off towards the great lakes during a blizzard, Jan Blink and his sister Gretije, said goodbye to the world they knew and sailed to a new destiny. She was 15 or 17 depending on which ship manifest you looked at…and I have viewed both. Later census paperwork would reflect their youth, as she was married off to an older man, and Jan, an older widow.

They paid for their ride with their biology.

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Around the time the Blink siblings reached the port of Baltimore, the first wave of Pioneers found themselves near the coast of a Lake in Michigan unable to move further west by winter. So they decided to form a town near an old Missionary Colony surrounded by Ottawa Indians. The Dutch immigrants would later purchase the land as the Ottawa tribe moved North to avoid the crowding countryside.

What do you do when one crosses almost half a continent in the dead of winter and you want to lay claim to a piece of land? You build a log cabin styled Church!

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Jan and his sister would arrive in New Holland (the city) in the spring and help build the town from scratch. My ancestor worked hard and had many children. Many years later a fire would claim relatives and most of the town, so Jan Blink took his brood down south to new possibility and freedom.

There is a cemetery in Saugatuck that bears the last name Blink on many gravestones, Jan Blink included. The First Blink in America. The name Blink has a certain distinctly odd meaning….to “twinkle” like a star. In Dutch, the Word meaning is more like a star than “the eye” which bears its imprint on the modern meaning of today.

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The next batch of ancestors grew up in America, as farmers, apple growers and newspaper printers. I know this because my Grandfather got his genealogy done — 76 pages of madness. It took me months to sort the family history out, to follow clues and dates and its where I learned to study history.

Genealogy is easy when you got the tools and I did the same thing on my mother’s side… the Clarks. The family has a story about being related to the famous William and George Rodgers Clark. I traced the blood relatives to Indiana and Virginia, but it ends with a possible con-man, pretending to be related to a famous family. Some history is just plain wrong.

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In the Netherlands, I talked to a wonderful man with my same exact name (Robert Blink). He is a fantastic photographer and most likely we share the same ancestors. Even living an hour from our ancestral stomping grounds, he is uncertain about the roots of the name.

I have a theory based on the history of our home town called Usquert. It was an Anglo Saxon fort at one ancient point and the name Blink has both ancient English and Nederland roots, so it is likely the Anglo Saxon ancestry is the basis for the meaning. Perhaps we Blinks are an old Magical family, who charted the stars for the seafaring souls!

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My namesake Robert Blink (Grandfather) is an inspiration to me and uncovering our shared history was an effort of pleasure. More family stories unfolded like the time my Grandfather was an Soda Jerk at a pharmacy owned the Stephens family in Michigan. He personally knew the two brothers who would move to Alaska to make names for themselves as politicians and capitalists. Or the time he dropped a M.A.S.H unit on a beach, under fire, during the Korean war.

My Grandfather’s Father might have faked his own death by drowning and possibly left for Florida, it is believed by many in the family. So his son, my Grandfather’s father was raised by pioneer women who bore a different family name.

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The Blink name ended up in California, as my Grandfather looking for a future, like those first Blinks, that left the Motherland looking for freedom and hope in Michigan. As I am in Missouri looking for hope and a better life for my son. He keeps the family name alive, and yet changes it at the same time.

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Fathers teach Fathers who teach Fathers. So that a Father without a Father was a tough Father for a Grandfather, and a Father who was loved in many ways, his Father was not. Namesakes that repair.

Mothers also teach mothers of course and sometimes pass her Father’s name on to a child, but the blood, DNA and step connections also bare striking value in the life of a human child making their way through a confusing universe with all that family bonding at heart.

Our Human stories move on and our hope for the future is often laid out in DNA strains and social connectivity. The legacy of a name lives on, as our freedom is forged in the blood within our very veins. The freedom of our namesakes.