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  • The Disappearance Of Iwntge Henken

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on May 29th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Iwntge* Henken was a three-and-a-half year old boy who crossed the Atlantic in 1920. He departed Antwerp on the Northern Pacific on October 18, landing in Hoboken on October 28. He was never heard from again.

    He had been scheduled to board the Pocahontas a few weeks before, along with his mother Adrianna, but this was cancelled for unknown reasons. They were traveling as the dependents of John Henken, an American soldier who had been born in Holland but moved to New York as a child. It is likely he served in the Netherlands during and after WWI because of his fluency in Dutch. He was fluent enough to have courted Adrianna successfully, it seems, and he brought her back to the states a year after the war was over. Adrianna was pregnant with a child who would be born in America and come to be named Johanna. One might take a moment to reflect on how miserable it must be to be pregnant on a troop ship crossing the North Atlantic in autumn. Adrianna was remarkably determined to come to America, however, come hell or high water. This is where the complications set in.

    Adrianna Anthonisse may have had some sort of ceremony performed, but she could not have actually been married to John Henken, because she was still married to Willem Heijboer in Holland, who would have been the father of the three-and-a-half year old child. It is not known how long John Henken cared for the two, soon three dependents, but it can’t have been long, as the children show up on an orphanage roll soon after with the notation that their father had abandoned them. It may be that he abandoned them the moment his feet touched American soil again, for all we can tell, and it may even be that Adrianna knew this and agreed to it beforehand, so determined was she to come to America. It may be more accurate to say it is John Henken who was never heard from again, as all our attempts to trace him after come up empty.** Johanna was my wife’s mother. She had been told as a child that her father had died, but suspected as an adult that he had in fact abandoned the family instead. There was no longer anyone to tell her, as Adrianna died in 1929.

    Iwntge was never “heard from” again in the sense that he vanished from all records after embarking from Holland/Belgium.We do know what happened to him, however. He went back to being a girl named Helena, who after a very difficult childhood married a man who loved her dearly and she him all their days, in Florida. She would stay in touch with her half-sister Johanna in Massachusetts throughout and see her every few years. “Iwntge Henken” was a disguise to throw anyone off who was looking for Helena Anthonisse, or Helena Heijboer. Willem Heijboer was indeed looking for her and eventually located her and established contact by correspondence when she was an adult. Very sad for him, really, to have his wife leave with his daughter with no word or explanation. He may not have even known Henken’s name, complicating his search for Helena.

    * The name is likely a mis-writing by the American military official of some other Dutch name, done by sound rather than from been seen written. The last two letters are much more likely to be -je than -ge, for example. I am only guessing after that, but Antje is a girl’s name, and “Wintje” is a Dutch surname, so perhaps one of those is it.

    **We now know from the DNA tracing that he was the brother of Jacob Henken, and one of Jacob’s descendants does remember there was a brother that was occasionally referred to, but never met.

     

    One Response to “The Disappearance Of Iwntge Henken”

    1. Isolden Says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing that! Truth is indeed stranger than fiction!