June 02, 2002
My name is Ronald Derk Bouwman, my father and his parents and brother came to the US from Holland in 1908.  I visited the old family farm in Holland three years ago, and I found that the Bouwman name is quite common in the Netherlands.

I had not heard that definition of Bouwman before, but it fits. While we were in Holland, we saw lots of signs with the word, "Bouw."  They meant, "construction."  Many of the Bouwman names originated in the 1790s and early 1800s by order of Napolean.

The lion's share of the Bouwmans in the US (less than 500 listed in all phone directories) are in Michigan, others are scattered all over the country.  The Dutch probably went to Michigan for the cooler climate to which they were accustomed.  My family ancestors settled in Nebraska and South Dakota.  

My family originated in Usquert, Groningen Province, in Northeast Holland.  You may be interested in pictures of the town at the town's website, www.usquert.net.

Ron Bouwman

December 3, 2005

I have seen the same coat-of-arms before. The stand-alone word "bouw," in Dutch means "construction." I first discovered that when I came upon a closed road in Holland. But, you are correct that most understand it as meaning "one who tills the land."

My Bouwman ancestors adopted the name in 1811 and 1812 under an edict by Lewis Bonaparte, Napolean's brother. I saw familiar names in your family history, such as "Derk," among several others. My middle name is Derk, my father's was also, a great uncle's first name was Derk, my great grandfather's middle name was Derk, my 2X great grandfather's first name was Dierk, etc. It was all traceble to my 5X great grandmother, whose maiden name was Dierks.

Do you speak or write any Dutch? I have tried to learn a little. In a restaurant, a friend in the Netherlands told me to order in English, because if I tried it in Dutch, it would be hard to say what might be on my plate.

Thanks, Ron Bouwman