A long way from home

I've started a unit Writing Family History online at University of Tasmania and the following is one of the assignments.  The task was to to find some common thread in the family history.

My grandfather’s grandfather, Reinier Scherius, followed his two older brothers to the East Indies, which was at the time a Dutch Colony. By the age of 27 he was civil commander in Gerontolo, on the island of Celebes. This was a long way from home, Amsterdam, where he was born. 

Jan Hendrik Peelen, my great-grandfather, was born in Cairo in 1859, the son of a Dutch engineer, who was sent to Egypt to build a steel mill for the Khedive. Another family member a long way from home. Jan Hendrik also went on to become a civil engineer and lived with his family in the Rhineland area of Germany, where his son, my grandfather, Reinier Peelen grew up.

Reinier would also end up in Indonesia, in Java, where he managed coffee and tea plantations. My mother and her siblings were all born in the Dutch East Indies, as Indonesia was known then.

The Indonesia connection continues on my father’s side of the family. His mother was sent away by her family to Amsterdam to train as a pharmacy assistant and she fell in love with the instructor and married him. They settled in the Dutch East Indies and their 4 children were born on Java.

These ancestors are linked by two cultures - the Dutch and the exotic, Indonesian, culture. I too follow in this family way. I was born in Calcutta, grew up in Holland and Singapore and moved to New Zealand and finally ended up in Australia. Not quite an outsider and not an insider either.


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