Descendants of Abel van den Ameele

History of the Flemish-, Dutch- and American Van den Ameele’s


Going through almost five centuries of our Van den Ameele family history I have chosen the text:
- History of the Flemish-, Dutch- and American Van den Ameele’s -.

We might roughly distinguish three different periods in our family history:

- The Flemish period 1525 – 1700 -
- The Dutch period 1695 – today -
- The American period 1844 – today -

I wrote something about these three periods although not all of the info is in a chronological order. I started with info about the general lineage of the Van den Ameele’s and I ended up with some other things worth knowing.

I started with Christiaan van den Ameele who in 1695 emigrated with his family from Flanders to The Netherlands. The family of Christiaan is a key figure in the history of our the family.
For the Dutch period I mentioned West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen because most of the family members lived in this region. For the American period I extensively highlighted Wayne County NY because in the beginning almost all of the emigrants moved to that area.
Because I traced the descendants of Christiaan, born in 1640, it seemed to be self-evident to provide info on the ancestors of the couple Christiaan and his wife Maaiken Halfmaerte and the places where they lived, in around Poperinge (Flanders).

My interest in genealogy was aroused about thirty-five years ago by two events:
- One reason was that in those days we received a book about the Breimer family from Friesland. Breimer is the surname of my wife.
- An other reason was that my youngest brother hitchhiked through America after finishing High school. In Salt Lake City he received some documents bearing the name of Van den Ameele. These Van den Ameele’s, my ancestors, were all re-baptized in the Temple of the Mormon church in Salt Lake City UT. This was on the initiative of and based upon the religion of an American lady. After years of tracing I discovered this lady and she is a distant relative of mine. Here name: Dorothy Miller Zollweg (O’Meal).

It was very fascinating for me to visit many (distant) relatives in The Netherlands, The United States of America and other countries and to become acquainted with them. The first ones I met in America were Roger and Carol Dickinson- Ameele and somewhat later Edwin (Spike) and Irene Ameele and Bruce and Norma Ameele and many followed. During my trips through the USA I met about 150 relatives. I heartily thank all the individuals who provided me with information. I am grateful for the help because it is not always easy and sometimes even impossible to obtain information from across the Ocean.


In the year 1640 in Reningelst (Flanders), Christiaan van den Ameele was born as a son of Christiaan van den Ameele and Jacquimine De Honghere.
Christiaan died in Sint Anna ter Muiden (Netherlands) in the year 1730 aged 90 years. A couple of years after Christiaan’s birth, in Vlamertinge (Flanders), Maaiken Halfmaerte was born as a daughter of Livien Halfmaerte and Jacquimine De Puijdt.
Maaiken was buried in Sint Anna ter Muiden on April 10, 1703 aged about 60 years. The couple married in Reningelst (Flanders) on July 27, 1669.

Records (Poortersboeken) of the city of Ieper (Flanders) show, in the French language:

Chrétien van den Ameele fils de Chrétien ex Reningelst bourgois d’Ypre épousa à Reningelst le 27.07.1669 avec Mayken Halfmaerte fille de Livin ex Vlaemertinghe bourgois d’ypre.
(Christiaan van den Ameele, son of Christiaan ex Reningelst, citizen of Ieper married on July 27, 1669 with Mayken Halfmaerte daughter of Livien ex Vlamertinge, citizen of Ieper).

The couple had nine children, 3 sons and 6 daughters. All the children were baptized in the Roman Catholic Sint John’s Church in Poperinge (Flanders).
The 3 sons were named Christiaan, born in 1673, Jan, born in 1677 and Romanus, born in 1681. Christiaan, Jan and Romanus are direct offspring of Abel van den Ameele, born in 1525 and living in Poperinge. I borrowed Abel’s name for this book, my oldest known Van den Ameele.

The Van den Ameele family had close ties with the church of St. John in Poperinge, the Roman Catholic church.
Two of their daughters died at a young age. In 1695 Christaan and Maaiken and their 7 children emigrated from Poperinge (Flanders) to Sint Anna ter Muiden in The Netherlands. The moving of Christiaan and his family to Sint Anna ter Muiden may have been for religious reasons, because there they immediately professed the Protestant religion and the first generations were closely involved in Church life. The first generations also were involved in the city council e.g. Romanus van den Ameele, born in 1681, as a mayor. During many generations the family remained Protestant and were members of the Nederlands Hervormde kerk (Dutch Reformed Church).

Late in the twentieth century we see a greater variety on the religious level, as well with the American as with the Dutch family members. Some years after arriving in Sint Anna ter Muiden several members of the family moved to neighbouring villages and they later dispersed over The Netherlands. Much later some persons moved to different European countries: Belgium, France, Luxemburg, Denmark, Germany etc.. Several Van den Ameeles also lived in countries on the African and Asian continent of which I mention the former Dutch Indies, now Indonesia.
In the second half of the 19th century many Van den Ameeles emigrated from West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen to the USA, most of them to Wayne County in northern New York State, but also to Wisconsin, New Jersey and Oregon.
In 1844 the first ones risked the difficult journey and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the promised land with unlimited opportunities. In the early 1900’s a few more emigrated to New York and New Jersey. The last ones in 1925.
In the meantime the descendants of the emigrants dispersed over many different States in America.

No descendants of Christiaan van den Ameele jr. (*1673) moved to the USA. Most of the descendants of Jan van den Ameele (*1677) live in America: the Ameeles, O`Meals, Vander Malles and VanderMallies and most of them live in New York State and Oregon State. The descendants of Romanus van den Ameele (*1681) in America, the Van Den Ameeles, mainly live in New Jersey, Connecticut and also some in New York State. At the end of the last century a descendant of Romanus emigrated to Canada.

In The Netherlands the surname always remained Van den Ameele. In the USA we have several changes of the name. We know different branches of Ameele, with different pronunciations, based on the emphasis and without the prefixes -van den-. We also have Kehler-Ameele, O`Meal, (descendants of Johannes van den Ameele, born *1842 in Nieuwvliet) VanderMallie, VanderMalle, Vander Malle (descendants of Jannis *1869 and Pieter van den Ameele *1876, both from Sint Anna ter Muiden) and Van Den Ameele (offspring of Hendrik van den Ameele, born in 1880).
There are different theories for these changes. Dropping the prefixes -van den- would make it more Americanized.
In those days people were not always correct in writing names or they did not know enough about the art of writing. The names of O`Meal and VanderMallie might be the result of pronunciation and writing phonetically. I heard rumours that in the VanderMallie / VanderMalle line the name was changed because of a possible family dispute.
By my research I brought people together, living in the same town and not realizing that they were e.g. second or third cousins, Ameele’s and VanderMallies. Also very surprising was that an O’Meal lady, 63 years after her marriage found out that she was related to the director of the church choir who sang and the pianist who played during her wedding service. They were Ameele’s.
I did not find the origin of the Van den Ameele surname. Beginning the thirteenth century we already find the name, spelled in several variants. I just mention the French word Duhamel, translated and phonetically spelled in Flemish Van den Ameele.

Van den Ameeles, over three centuries in West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen

West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, also known as -The land of Cadzand-, is a region where many immigrants arrived in the past. Also the Van den Ameele’s. Many persons came because of religious reasons: Huguenots from France, Salzburgers from Austria and Mennonites, but also Roman Catholics, from Flanders.
Most of those who came to this area were Protestants from Flanders. Also soldiers stayed here after their military service and found jobs in civilian professions; soldiers from Germany, Scotland and Switzerland. Bargemen and merchants from Holland and farmers from other parts of the province of Zeeland also came.
Many persons from many different regions and of many different religions took up residence in West Zeeuws- Vlaanderen. Beside the religious reasons for the Protestant Flemish people, many persons also came because of economic reasons.
Flanders was more densely populated than West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and the land was also less fertile, which means that the population over here was more prosperous.
I already wrote that the reasons for the couple Christiaan van den Ameele and Maaiken Halfmaerte for moving to Sint Anna ter Muiden in 1695, could have resulted most probably from religious reasons.

The Van den Ameeles that moved to the United States of America, emigrated in the so called period of the second emigration movement. This period started about 1840 and the emigration decreased after World War I.
About 15,000 persons left West-Zeeuws-Vlaanderen during the period of almost one century, the highest number of all regions in The Netherlands. The most important reasons for this emigration were based upon religious and economic situations. The seperatists of the Nederduits Gereformeerde kerk had the feeling of being obstructed in professing their religion. The majority, however, left because of economic reasons. West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen was an agricultural area. In the summer of 1845 there was a lot of rain that resulted in a potato blight. During the years 1845 and 1846 the crops of the corn fell short, which raised the prices. There was a food shortage because in that time the labourers mainly ate potatoes and because of the agricultural crisis, wages were low. Although the Van den Ameeles were closely involved in churchlife, their emigration to America was founded on economic reasons. They were a group of honest, hardworking labourers, who knew their jobs very well. They hoped to find more prosperity in the far America. Friends and relatives who already lived in America also encouraged them to cross the ocean.
For most of the Van den Ameele’s involved, the emigration to America was not disappointing but has been rather successful. Almost all of their descendants achieved good positions in present-day American society.
Our many ancestors that moved to America, sailed by boat from Rotterdam, or from Antwerp in Belgium. They were from: Cadzand, Nieuwvliet, Retranchement, Sint Anna ter Muiden, Sluis, Zuidzande and Middelburg.
The first ancestors to emigrate in 1844 from Cadzand were Johannes van den Ameele, born in 1795, and his family. The last ones (in 1925) were Abraham van den Ameele, born in 1898, and his family. The family of Janna van den Ameele, born in 1864 and Johannes Luteyn, who also emigrated in 1904 from Cadzand, returned to The Netherlands in 1912 because of Janna’s homesickness.
Since 1695, the time when Christiaan van den Ameele arrived in Sint Anna ter Muiden, many Van den Ameele’s had always lived in this picturesque village and many of them were buried in the ancient churchyard around the Church. A huge square tower, gothic style, built in the 14th century. In the year 2010, no family members are living in Sint Anna ter Muiden anymore. The last one, named Pieternella-Adriana van den Ameele, died in 1993.
Hundreds of relatives had their residence in West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen during the last three centuries. This small special country, with wide skies, dozens of creeks, salty aromas and miles of dikes with pollard-willows.
In 2010, only 12 Van den Ameeles are still living in West (Western) Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and 7 in Oost (Eastern) Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. In Aardenburg (1), Breskens (2), Cadzand (1), Hoofdplaat (1), Oostburg (7) and in Terneuzen (7).

Our ancestors and Wayne County NY

The emigration of Dutchmen to this area started in the early seventeenth century. Until 1840 immigration of the Europeans was very limited. The great move started around 1845. The first Dutch Van den Ameeles emigrated from the West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen area in the province of Zeeland, The Netherlands, to the United States of America in 1844. They embarked on the journey to the promised land with unlimited posibilities. Many emigrants from West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen settled in Wayne County in New York State. Some went on to Wisconsin, Michigan and Oregon. Also from other parts in the USA people came to Wayne County, for instance from the south.
Almost all the people that settled in Wayne County came from The Netherlands and only few came from other European countries. Except for the smaller towns in this region, emigrants also moved to the city of Rochester. In Wayne County, 80% of the population came from West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. By this time many surnames in this area still appear in West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen as well. Many people arrived by boat through Ellis Island and that’s why several of them also settled in New Jersey.
Regarding the marriages, we see that especially the first geneations of the immigrants married persons with the same background. Many Ameele’s married people from Zeeland.
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean was quite an undertaking and often a great endeavour, especially in the earlier years. The accommodation was bad and there were hardly any supplies on the ships.
When the emigrants left Holland they had to bring their own food for the journey on the ship, a journey of about four to six weeks. They had to say goodbye to their Dutch relatives and friends. The main reason for our ancestors to emigrate to America was the bad economic situation, especially in agriculture. There was a surplus of workmen implying low wages. They wanted a better future for their offspring. The Dutch fellow citizens who already lived in America encouraged the others to come over because of better circumstances and better opportunities for the future than in their home country.
The farmers and labourers arrived with little money. They started working for farmers and partly for their own on leased land. They worked very hard and knew their jobs very well. They were used to hard work. It was not long before they owned the land themselves. They set a foot in the door and took risks. They were rather fortunate economically because they happened to come at the right time. The land was cheap, 25 cents an acre. The fields, so called muck, were very fertile. But of course they faced problems too. Sometimes they were not able to sell the grain that they grew, kept the straw and burned it up in winter to keep the houses warm. Besides growing grain, people grew fruit. In later times many people worked for the Kodak Company and in other professions.

In Wayne County mostly Protestants arrived, only a few Roman Catholics. In 1927 in the town of Williamson there lived 204 Dutch Protestant families and only three Roman Catholic families. Intermarriage among them was no problem. Since 1816 East Williamson, once Pickleville, had a Presbyterian church and in 1851 the first Reformed Church was organized. The community had 104 members, mainly with a West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen background. Before that time they worshipped in a school. Abram Ameele (*1879), Josiah Ameele (*1878) and Susie Ameele-Johnson have been members of the church for at least fifty consecutive years. Later Reformed churches were established in Ontario (1884), Marion, Palmyra, Newark and Pultneyville. Peter Ameele was one of the first police officers in Ontario. Under the leadership of Abram Ameele and William Kusse a building at the Furnaceville Road was thoroughly fitted for church services. Abram Ameele was one of the elders. In this vicinity a certain group of Dutchmen preferred preaching in their native tongue. However it was not always easy to organize a Reformed Church.

From the book -Brighton Reformed Church, First 100 years- I learned that several of our ancestors were closely involved in that church community. There have been discussions for longer time in the consistory concerning dropping of the native language (Dutch). It was not until 1927 that it was decided that the Dutch service should be discontinued.

In the late twentieth century there is a greater variety on a religious level, both for the American as well on the Dutch relatives. Noweadays they are members of several different denominations. Especially in the past, but nowadays the church still plays an important role in the lives of the descendants of the emigrants.

Many descendants of the emigrants are all still aware of their Dutch roots which finds expression in several ways. In their language several words of the West Zeeuws-Vlaams dialect are still spoken such as sùssizzen, dûtse slao, slao deumekaore and preiprol.


In the beginning of the twentieth century a few Van den Ameele’s also emigrated to New Jersey. They were Hendrik van den Ameele *1880 and his family. People entered the USA through Ellis Island and from there they went to New Jersey because the trip to NJ was not that long. The family names of the descendants of the persons who settled in New Jersey remained Van Den Ameele. Today Hendrik’s offspring lives in the border area of the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and north-eastern New York.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century also several Dutch Reformed Churches were organized in for example Paterson, Lodi and Passaic in the State of New Jersey. Even in the eighteenth century we already had Dutch Reformed Churches; Bergen (now Jersey City), Hackensack, Schraalenburgh, Acquackanonk (now Passaic), Horseneck (now Fairfield), Pompton Plains, Montville. In Paterson most of the population was employed in the industry. Also many Ameele’s live in Oregon state.


This Van den Ameele family chronicle would not be complete without referring to Flanders.
The roots of this family history are founded in the three parts of Flanders, which makes Flanders as it is today. Since the end of the 9th century until the end of the 18th century, Flanders was an earldom which was divided in Kroon-Vlaanderen (Crown-Flanders) and Rijks-Vlaanderen (Empire-territory-Flanders). In this chronicle, the most important is the Kroon-Vlaanderen, which was situated between the North Sea and the Scheldt river. This area covered Vlaams-, Waals- en Zeeuws- Vlaanderen. (Flemish-, Walloon- and Zeeland Flanders). Rijssel (Lille), Dowaai and Ochies belonged to the region of Walloon-Flanders. Het Vrije van Brugge (Bruges), Gent, Oudenaarde, Kortrijk, Ieper, Belle (Bailleul), Kassel (Mont Kassel), Bourbourg, Bergen (Bergues Saint Winoks) and Veurne, were part of Flemish-Flanders. Based on the 1713 "Treaty of Utrecht", Walloon-Flanders became French. In 1830 when the country of Belgium was founded and gained independence from The Netherlands, Zeeland-Flandres became a part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Since those days, Flanders is a region now which is scattered across three different countries: Belgium, France and The Netherlands.
During many centuries, the Van den Ameele family history took place in this torn and tumultuous land, full of numerous political and religious problems. It is in this historical Flanders that many people bearing the Van den Ameele surname were born, living, working and buried.
The Van den Ameeles, Ameeles, O`Meals, VanderMallies and VanderMalles, now living in The Netherlands and the United States of America, all are descendants of the Van den Ameeles who were concentrated in and around the city of Poperinge before the year 1700.
I already mentioned that the Van den Ameeles had close ties with the St. John’s Church. The visitor’s guide of the Church shows: About 660 AD the region of Poperinge was given to St. Bertinus’ Abbey at St. Omer and named Pupurninga villa.
Poperinge remained in its possession until the French Revolution. As a free municipality it was given the first statute by Diederik van de Elzas in 1147. In 1187 Filip van de Elzas granted her a weekly market which is still being held. During the Middle Ages Poperinge became rich through the textile industry and trade all over Europe, and the number of inhabitants increased. The only church became too small and in 1290 the bishop of Terwaan granted the abbot of St. Bertinus’ permission to build two new churches, one to the west and the St. John’s to the east. On May 28, 1290, the bishop consecrated the church ground. The construction, basilica style, took about twenty years. In the Burgundian period the austere Gothic vaults became more flamboyant. After the miracle of 1479 transepts were added to swallow the stream of pilgrims. There were many ups and downs: the furniture and paintings sustained heavy damage in the rising of the Protestants in 1566, but during the revival of Catholicism the present baroque domed tower was built. After the flourishing years under the Austrians and the gloomy days of the French Revolution, the 19th century dawned with neoclassical and neo-gothic styles. The beautiful and colourful ornaments were plastered over. From 1860 until 1880 the church was thoroughly restored. In 1938 St. John’s was declared a national monument.
Not only Poperinge but also Reningelst is an important village in the Van den Ameele family history. Christiaan van den Ameele, from whom the title of our family book is borrowed, married in Reningelst on July 27, 1669 to Maaiken Halfmaerte. Around Reningelst we still find a pure agrarian and rural area, where much hop is growing. It is a very old village that is already mentioned at the end of the 8th century. From the 12th century until the middle of the 16th century people were occupied with agriculture and clothing-industry. At the end of the 16th century they faced a major crisis and many men were ruined.
Also at the end of the 16th century, in this region the Reformation took place; in Reningelst, Nieuwkerke, Boeschepe, Poperinge, Ieper, Belle and in several other places.
It was in this region where many generations of Christiaan jr., Jan and Romanus van den Ameele’s ancestors lived and where they bought and sold many properties and also from this place Christiaan van den Ameele and Maaiken Halfmaerte and their seven children moved to Sint Anna ter Muiden, Zeeland-Flanders in The Netherlands in 1695.
And again, many descendants of Jan and Romanus van den Ameele, moved on from The Netherlands to the United States of America, about two centuries after 1695, the date of arrival in The Netherlands from Flanders.


Between several American and Dutch relatives close contacts are maintained and already some Dutchmen visited second/third cousins in different States of the USA and Americans visited their overseas cousins in The Netherlands. These contacts between the families are valuable and interesting, whatever their names became during the course of history, for the affinity remains !

In 2005 a big family reunion was held in Sint Anna ter Muiden with many persons present. Also several American visitors joined the reunion: Ameeles, Van den Ameeles, O’Meals and VanderMalles. Many of them visited the area of their roots in the Old Continent for the first time. Also many Dutch cousins met each other for the first time that day.

During this reunion a book was presented about 500 years of history of the lineage of the Van den Ameele family, entitled

zijn voorouders en nageslacht / his descendants and ancestors

An old Ameele gentleman whose ancestors moved to the USA in the nineteenth century wrote to me after reading in the family book: “During my whole life I had questions about my real origin and by reading the book finally my questions became gratefully revealed”.

The family book was sold out very soon after publishing, but copies of the book are to be consulted at the libraries of Oostburg and Middelburg, the archive of the city of Sluis, the 'Zeeuws Archief' (treasure house of Zeeland’s history in Middelburg), 'Genealogisch Centrum' in Middelburg, 'Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie' in the city of Den Haag (all in The Netherlands), the archive of the city of Poperinge (Belgium), in the 'Office of the County Historian' in Lyons NY (United States of America) and in the archive in Palmyra NY USA. And of course many private persons have a copy of the family history book.


I hope you will read the result of this new and extensive study with pleasure and interest and by doing so the history of our relatives will be unveiled and you discover their names, who they were, where they lived and worked and also much information on present generations.
Generally speaking the cities and villages mentioned and in this book without additions as e.g. Flanders, The Netherlands, NY, and OR are situated in The Netherlands. The persons are all listed per generation and embrace seventeen generations.
In spite of all my carefulness, names, dates and places may be wrong or written inaccurately.
Preventing this is impossible and I do apologize to whom this may concern.
Corrections, suggestions and all kinds of additional information are always most welcome!

Terneuzen (The Netherlands), July 2011.

Jilles P. van den Ameele