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The Boekhoff Name
The name 'Boekhoff' is made up of two words: 'boeken', which means 'beech tree', and 'hoff', which means 'farm'.
Tracing the Boekhoff Lineage
This Web site originally reported that the entire Boekhoff lineage was alleged to trace back to Johan Bockhoff (with a 'c' instead of an 'e') born in 1605 in Holtland (Kreis Leer), Ostfriesland, Germany. Stefan Boekhoff, who is from the Ostfriesland area, conducted some research in early 2006 that brings this allegation into question. Stefan says, 'My grandpa told me that our ancestors are from today's Netherlands area, and before that, from Spain. This information has not been checked or proven.'

In an effort to clarify the matter, Stefan did a surname distribution search and mapped the results in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United States. The 'Bockhoff' surname was found 61 times in an area of Germany 200 km south of Leer, and the 'Boeckhoff' surname was found 6 times in an area 300 km southeast of Leer. Neither of these surnames was found in the area of Ostfriesland where the 'Boekhoff' surname was found 791 times. Ancestry literature suggests that surnames with 500 or more occurrences have multiple sources of ancestry. Therefore, it is likely that Johan Bockhoff was the father of part of the Boekhoff lineage.

Recently-added family member Theodor Boockhoff (note that this is another new spelling of the surname), born in 1671, had children who changed the spelling of their name to 'Boeckhoff'. Thus, this Web site now has at least two different sources for the 'Boekhoff' lineage.
Many of our elder family members have recollections of our ancestors being Huguenots, members of the Reformed or Calvinist communion, who fled from France in the late 1600's and early 1700's to escape religious persecution by Louis XIV, the 'Sun King'. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes (1685), life for many Protestants became intolerable in France. The state refused to recognize Protestant marriages, which branded the children illegitimate and affected property rights and inheritances. Hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled France, leaving for Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, England, and the English colonies in America.

Religious persecution continued into the 1900's with systematic religious persecution by the Nazi regime in Germany. Margaret Klosterboer recalls, 'I remember the holocaust very well. Our family having many relatives living in Germany and Holland suffered greatly. Many Boekhoffs were killed. One was taken captive by the Russians. On the way to Russia he was thrown off the train thinking he would die before he got to Russia. He survived. Bertha visited with him when she and her husband were in Germany.' Those who survived their flight from persecution assumed new names to obscure their identity. 'The Boekhoffs located in an area of an orchard (hoff in German) and a book printing company (boek in German), therefore, Boekhoff', stated Margaret.

Marianne Boekhoff says, 'What I do remember clearly, is that it is true that the Boekhoffs that ended up in Zaandam (Holland) came originally from Leer, Germany. And, that they were Huguenots. What we were told as kids, is that the Boekhoffs in Germany had fled from Russia. Later, the Boekhoff that came to Zaandam had fled from Germany. They had to go, because they were Huguenots. The family that ended up in Zaandam must have been financially well off, because they owned quite a bit of land in town. But they were unaware of the rules and the council 'took' it from them. The great great (or 1 more generation before that) grandpa of my father was that first Boekhoff in Zaandam. When my father's great grandpa was 3 years old, his father (that first Boekhoff in Zaandam) drowned in a swamp in Zaandam, and the mother of that 3 year old boy became a barber to earn an income. She was the first female barber in Zaandam.'
Boekhoffs in America
From 1850 to 1900, war and widespread hunger are said to have caused a mass immigration from the Ostfriesland area of Germany to the United States. In many cases, over half of the population of German villages departed. The German emigrants database of people who left Germany since 1820 shows that over 90% of emigrants from Bremerhaven were bound for the United States. The transatlantic crossing between Bremerhaven and New York became the most traveled ocean highway in the world. At one time, Bremerhaven was the largest European port of emigration.

Most of the immigrants settled in Iowa and South Dakota. The first known ancestor of the Iowa branch of American Boekhoffs, Jan Jans Boekhoff, was born around 1787 in Bunde, Ostfriesland, Germany. The first known ancestor of the South Dakota branch of American Boekhoffs, Hinderk Boekhoff, was also born in the late 1700's.
Naming Our Children - Early Traditions
The old German tradition for choosing a name for one's children is: the first born son received his grandfather's name from the father's side, the second son received grandfather's name from mother's side. The first daughter received her grandmother's name from the father's side, and the second daughter received the grandmother's name from the mother's side. The next children received their parents' names, and after that, the children received names from parent's siblings or other close relatives.

Names were registered and recorded by priests, ensuring that the lineage was properly documented and would not be lost. Surnames were not used during the early history, since everybody knew everybody else. It was during the French occupation and rule (see the brief political history of Ostfriesland) that Napoleon imposed the fixed surname structure.
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