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Janssen/Phelan Family History

Our Dutch Heritage
Covering the families Janssen, Geenen, and others

Flag of the Netherlands

Origin of the Janssens
Janssen coat of armsI am one eighth Dutch, through my great-grandfather Jacob Janssen. The name Janssen originated in the Holstein region of Germany. It comes from a patronymic naming system in which sons were named after their fathers. It means, quite literally, “son of Jan”. The name has different variations in different parts of Europe: Jansen and Janssen in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany; Jansson in Scandinavia; Jantzen in Germany; and Johnson in England.

In researching our ancestors, I have found that the spellings of Jansen and Janssen are interchangeable. When I was a child I remember hearing that we were related to the “two s” Janssens but not the “one s” Jansens. That’s incorrect. If they live in northeastern Wisconsin, we’re related to almost all of them, no matter how they spell it. Centuries ago in Europe, people didn’t write their names everyday like we do now. How many “s”’s they used wasn’t a real priority to people back then, especially since many of them were illiterate. Eventually, after they came to America, the Janssens had to make a choice, and some chose “one s” and others chose “two s”. Sometimes siblings in the same family chose different spellings. A handful of our cousins went so far as to Anglicize their names by changing it to Johnson. In a few old documents you will even see our name misspelled Yonson, which gives you an idea of how it was pronounced in the Netherlands. While we are related to most of the Janssens and Jansens in Wisconsin, we are not related to the Jensens, which is a different name entirely, as “Jan” and “Jens” are two different first names in Holland. The few Jensens on our family tree are only there by marriage.

Provinces of the NetherlandsOur Jans(s)ens came from the town of Oosterhout (also spelled Oosterholt) in Holland. Nowadays, of course, Holland is officially called the Netherlands. Oosterhout is located in the province of Gelderland, which is in the middle eastern portion of the Netherlands, bordering on Germany. The village of Oosterhout no longer exists as a municipality. It has been absorbed into a larger town known as Valburg. Valburg is a suburb of Nijmegen, the largest city in Gelderland, which has a population of about 150,000.

Besides the Janssens, many of our other Dutch ancestors also come from this same area of Gelderland along the border with Germany, including the towns of Ooij, Zevenaar, Duiven, Didam, Millingen, Huissen, Bergh, and Groesbeek. Some of these towns are so close to the German border that it is not unusual to see a person born in Ooij, for example, and baptized within 24 hours in Zyfflich, Germany, because that’s where the nearest church was located. We also have Dutch relatives that were born, lived, or died on the German side of the line in border towns like Zyfflich, Kranenberg, Frasselt, and Emmerich in the Kleve district of the province of Nordrhein-Westfalen. Although politically part of Germany, some of these towns remained primarily Dutch-speaking communities far into the 19th century.

From Oosterhout to Our House
The earliest Janssens that I have found on our family tree are Jacob Janssen and Petronella Thomassen. Jacob was born about 1760, but I don’t know where. I have been unable thus far to locate a birth record for him. He died in Oosterhout 12 Mar 1800. His father’s name may have been Hendrik Janssen, but that’s uncertain. Jacob’s wife, Petronella Thomassen, was born in Huissen 15 Jun 1761. She was the daughter of Jan Thomassen and Theodora van Wees, who in turn was the daughter of Peter van Wees and Joanna Bouwman, who married in Huissen 7 Feb 1734.

Jacob Janssen and Petronella Thomassen had a son, Jacob Janssen, my great-great-great-grandfather, born 5 Jul 1800 in Oosterhout. He married Anna Christina Maassen in 1829. She was the daughter of Evert Maassen and Grada Jansen. I have conflicting reports of where Anna Christina was born. Some sources say Oosterhout, Netherlands, and some sources say Frasselt, Germany. The two towns are less than 15 miles from each other. Possibly she was born in one and christened in the other. I have traced the Maassens back as far as my great (x8) grandfather Maas Hendriksen, born about 1655.

In the Netherlands, Jacob and Anna were tobacco farmers. They had thirteen children. Two sons, Jacobus and Gradus, died young. The other 11 children all made the journey to America. A document, dated 1853, listing the baptismal dates of the couple’s children, only lists 11 names: Jacob, Edward, Christina, Petronella, John, Henry, George, William, Mary, Albert, and Gerrit.

The family immigrated to America in 1853 and settled in the Town of Kaukauna, Outagamie County, WI. They obtained 40 acres near Little Chute. This was a piece of wild land, which needed to be cleared of trees before it would be suitable for farming. Jacob built a log house in the woods, a “little shanty”, using logs felled and hewed by his sons. Jacob rented the land for six years before purchasing it. He came to America with nothing, but at the time of his death he had about 100 acres of good farming land. He and his wife both died on the farm, Jacob in 1871 and Anna Christina in 1898. The family homestead was passed down to the youngest son, Gerrit Janssen, who continued to farm the land. The original log home was torn down in 1892, and Gerrit built a “modern” home in its place. Looking at early plat maps, one can see the location of the family land, under Gerrit Janssen’s name. The present-day location is in Little Chute, on Highway N, about a mile and a half north of the intersection with highway 41. This land is now a typical residential area, with no visible sign of any farm having been there.

The early census records show that, at the time Jacob and Anna Christina came to America, there were other Jans(s)ens here who were born in Europe and settled in Outagamie and Brown counties. Some of the families from the Netherlands may have been cousins of Jacob Janssen, but there were also a few Jans(s)en families who were not Dutch; they came here from Germany, Denmark, and Norway. For that reason, I can’t say that we’re related to EVERY Jans(s)en in northeastern Wisconsin. Based on the prolific baby counts exhibited in the early census records, however, it does seem like the 14 children of the Janssen family started breeding like rabbits the minute that log cabin was finished, and their branches of the family tree cast a pretty wide shadow over the Fox River Valley.

Great-Great-Great-Aunts and Uncles
The oldest son of the family was Jacob Jansen (our great-great-great-uncle; it’s hard to keep all the Jacob Janssens straight), born 28 Dec 1830 in Oosterhout. From all the records I’ve seen, he seems to have chosen the “one s” spelling of the name. He married Johanna Marie Hooyman in Little Chute in 1866. He got his own farm in Buchanan Township, Outagamie County, WI. For a while at least, his younger brothers John and Henry were also farming right down the road from him. John and Johanna had at least 9 children: Christina Marie, Maria Joanna, Gerarda Maria, Anna, Wilhelmina Maria, Petronella Maria, Jacob, Peter, and Aloysius. Christina Marie Jansen married John Henry Bach. Son Jacob (Jake) Jansen married Anna Mary Micke. Maria Joanna Jansen and Wilhelmina Maria Jansen married a pair of Vandenberg brothers. Anna Jansen also married a Vandenberg, though not a brother of the other two. As a result, we’re related to a lot of the Vandenbergs in northeast Wisconsin, also spelled VandenBerg and VanDenBerg. Through this branch of the family we are also related to the families Gloudemans and Rooyakkers.

Everard, or Edward, Jansen was born 11 Oct 1832 in Oosterhout. He also seems to have chosen the “one s” spelling. He married Anna Dunn, who was born in Vermont to Irish parents. Edward lived on the family farm until he was 25, then spent about 15 years working for wages. About ten of those years were spent working for Henry Hewett, from whom Edward bought his own tract of land in the Town of Buchanan, which he lived on for over forty years. He was a general farmer, and marketed dairy products, hogs, cattle, and some grain and hay. He and Anna had five children: Edward, Catherine Mathilda, Emma Cecilia, William, and John E. Jansen. Edward married Petronella (Nellie) Verstegen. She was the daughter of Arnold Verstegen. Arnold Verstegen was a real character and an early settler of the area. He shows up often in history books on the region, in part because he wrote a series of letters back to Holland which detailed what life was like in the early days of settlement in northeast Wisconsin. Although he is not directly related to us, five of his 24 children married into our family. Catherine Mathilda Jansen married Thomas Clune, son of Irish settlers. Emma Cecilia Jansen married John Doyle, probably also the son of Irish immigrants. William Jansen had a wife named Anna, and together they had nine children. John E. Jansen married Minnie Reyneu. They had two daughters.

Christina Jansen was born in Mar 1834 in Oosterhout. She married Stephan Sanders, who was also born in the Netherlands. They had four children: Margaret, Johanna, Jacob, and John Peter Jansen . Margaret married Peter Evers. Johanna married Nicholas Schaefer. John Peter Jansen married Hendrika Geenen. I’ll be telling you a lot more about the Geenens later in this story.

Petronella Jansen, called Nellie or Nella, was born 27 Dec 1835 in Oosterhout. She married Theodore Lamers. They had 20 children. I’m not even going to name them off for you, but suffice it to say that through this branch of the family we are probably related to most all of the Lamers in Brown and Outagamie Counties. I don’t know who owns the school bus company with the Lamers name on the side, but we’re probably related to them too. Dorus and Nellie’s daughters married into the families Van Gompel, Jung, Van Dommelen, Ebben, Vanden Heuvel, Croell, Van Dinter, and Nelessen, so we have plenty of cousins in those families as well.

John Jansen (“one s”), born May 1837 in Oosterhout, married Marie Margaretha St. Louis. She was the daughter of Ephraim St. Louis and Marie DesAnges Manseau. Ephraim St. Louis is another one of those larger than life characters who is related to us only through his daughter’s marriage. His family originally settled in Quebec in the late 1600s. He worked as a shoemaker in Quebec, then as a trader with the Indians. He came to Green Bay, WI in 1836, then moved his family up the Fox River by canoe in a harrowing four-day journey, eventually settling in what became Kaukauna, where he became a farmer. He is often referred to as the “first settler” of that city. His daughter married our great-great-great-uncle John, and they had about 15 children. Some of the cousins from this branch of the family bear the surnames Goodwill, Kortz, Wheelan, and Laing. John Jansen and his brother George moved up to northern Wisconsin about 1878 where they became two of the first settlers in the Town of Norwood in Langlade County. John opened the first store in the county, and also ran the post office as the first postmaster. In addition, an altar was set up in the Jansen home, at which was held the first Christian mass ever said in Langlade County. The town of Phlox, WI, in Langlade County, originally called Milltown, was named by John Jansen for the wild phlox flower which grew there. When the first Langlade County Board meeting was held in 1881, John was named Chairman of the Board. After John Jansen died in Phlox on 19 Nov 1896, the largest funeral ever held in Langlade County took place, with over 500 mourners in attendance. John and Marie Margaretha Jansen had about 18 children, only 8 of whom outlived their father. Their son Isadore Jansen operated the Wildwood Grocery in Pelican Lake, Oneida County, WI for many years. His brother Mose Jansen was also a grocer. At the age of 14 he opened a general merchandise store in Phlox, which he also operated as an Indian trading post for 18 years. Mose was the prinicipal supplier of food and other wares for the logging camps in the area. In 1917 Mose moved to Antigo, WI where he started an insurance agency, a bank, a jewelry store, and a movie theater.

Henry Jansen was born in Oosterhout 3 Oct 1840. Henry worked on the family farm until he turned 18, then worked for wages until about the age of 27. He then bought a plot of wooded land in Buchanan Township, Outagamie County, WI, which he converted into cultivated farmland. His first wife Petronella (Nellie) Willems died 18 months after marriage. They had one child who died soon after she did. With his second wife, Mary Ruvenrink, he had three children: Maria Wilhelmina, Jacob, and Henry. Jacob Jansen died in childhood. Maria Wilhelmina Jansen, aka Mary, married George Kamps and had 11 children. One of our cousins through this branch of the family is Bob Kamps, a pioneer in the sport of rock climbing. Through the Kamps we are also related to the families Vanden Boom, Hietpas, De Valk, and Zeegers. Henry J. Jansen married Harriet Vanden Heuvel and had 11 children. Through this branch we are related to some members of the families Vanden Boom, Wydeven, Geurden, Knaack, and Behling.

George Jansen, born Nov 1842 in Oosterhout, married Sophia Schmidt. He was also a farmer in the Town of Buchanan, Outagamie County. George moved up to the Town of Norwood in Langlade County, WI with his brother John, but eventually returned to Buchanan. George and Sophia had 10 children. Through this branch we are related to the families Gerrits, Doyle, and Vander Velden.

Mary Jansen, aka Maria, born 9 Feb 1847 in Oosterhout, married John Weyenberg, also a native of the Netherlands. John worked as a chef in one of the leading hotels in Menominee, MI for several years, before purchasing a farm near Little Chute, WI. Through John and Mary we are related to a whole lot of Weyenbergs, mostly in Outagamie County. They had five children. Daughter Christina (Steena) Weyenberg married Nicholas Hietpas. Through this branch we are related to many of the Hietpases in the area. We are not related to Father Hietpas who used to be the pastor at St. Mary’s Church in De Pere, WI, but we are related to some of his cousins.

Albert Jansen was born 8 Nov 1848 in Oosterhout. He was also a farmer in Buchanan Township. He married Henrica (Harriet) VandeHey. They had 13 children. One daughter, Minna Jansen, was listed on the 1920 census record as “feeble-minded”. Through some of Albert and Harriet’s other children, we are related to the families Hermsen, Sanders, and Van Dyke.

The youngest son of Jacob Janssen and Anna Christina Maassen was Gerrit Janssen, born 4 Dec 1850 in Oosterhout. At last, a “two s” Janssen! As I mentioned earlier, he took over the family farm after the death of his parents. He married Annie (or Hannah) Hermsen. They had 12 children, through whom we have many “two s” Janssen cousins. Through this branch of the family we are also related to more Hietpas cousins, plus the families Verkuilen, Van Hoof, Ebben, and DeGroot.

There is one more child of Jacob Janssen and Anna Christina Maassen that I skipped over. My great-great-grandfather William Janssen was born 8 Oct 1844 in Oosterhout. He was the eighth of the eleven children. William also chose the “two s” spelling of the name. William Janssen married Wilhelmina Geenen. Let’s step away from the Janssens for a moment and take a look at the Geenen clan.

Geenens Galore
Like the Janssens, the Geenens also come from the Netherlands, and also from the province of Gelderland, along the German border. The name Geenen means “son of Geen”. In the Netherlands it was sometimes spelled Geene, or van Geenen. Geen is a Dutch first name equivalent to the English name Eugene. “Geen” is also the Dutch word for no, not, or none.

While I only have the Janssens traced back to about the mid-18th century, I have a wealth of information on the ancestors of the Geenens. Much of this can be attributed to the help of Arnold Bettray, a fellow genealogist and ninth cousin of mine through the Geenens, who has helped me immensely on this portion of the family tree, providing me with copies of hundreds of ancestral records found in old church record books. The oldest Dutch ancestor I have in my tree is Wernerus Wanners, my great (x11) grandfather, who was born in Zyfflich, Germany about 1580. I have traced the Geenen name back to Roeloff Geenen, my great (x9) grandfather, who was born about 1625.

Jumping forward a few generations, John Geenen, my great (x4) grandfather, was born 31 Mar 1786 in Zevenaar, Gelderland. He married Joanna Sanders, who was born in Oosterhout. John and Joanna died in the Netherlands, but four of their nine children made it to America, emigrating about 1856. These were Evert, Henry, Henrietta, and John Geenen. While the Janssens homesteaded in Little Chute, the Geenens settled in Freedom, WI, also in Outagamie County. For every Jansen listed in the Little Chute phonebook, there must be an equal and opposite Geenen in the Freedom directory, and they’re all related to us.

Evert, or Edward, Geenen, married Johanna Berendson. They had four children. Both their daughters married a pair of Murphy brothers. They Murphys are a large family in Freedom that includes many cousins of ours.

Henrietta Geenen married Evert Cornelius Sanders. Evert was a farmer and a politician who held a number of offices in local government, including land assessor, town clerk, clerk of the school board, county commissioner, and justice of the peace. Henrietta was incapable of having children, so we have no Sanders cousins from this line.

Though Henrietta was not a mother, she took an active interest in the upbringing of her brother John’s children. John Geenen married Cornelia Theodora Willemson. Following their marriage, the two moved to a farm in Buchanan Township, Outagamie County. They had six children: Henrietta, Jeanetta, William, Everdina, Minnie, and Anna. Jeanetta (Nettie) Geenen died young, but the other five grew up to become prominent citizens of Outagamie County. Henrietta Geenen married farmer William Brill, and they had eight children, from whom we must have some Brill cousins. The Brill family eventually moved to Appleton, WI. William Geenen was an extremely successful businessman and farmer. He was secretary of the Farmers’ Home Mutual Insurance Company for more than 25 years and vice-president and stockholder of the Little Chute State Bank. He also worked as a florist, and founded the Seamless Steel Tubing Company. He married Susannah Schumacher, and they had 10 children.

The remaining three daughters of John Geenen and Cornelia Theodora Willemson are definitely worth mentioning. Minnie, Anna, and Dina Geenen (short for Everdina) were the founders of D., M., and A. Geenen Dry Goods Company. A 1911 source described the business as “one of the most successful businesses operated and owned by women in the United States.” The company was established in 1896 by the sisters and two gentleman buiness partners, whom they soon bought out. The three sisters were determined to start a business in which they could all work together. Opening a department store seemed to them the best way they could accomplish that goal. Dina, the oldest sister (about 30 when they started the business), had experience in bookkeeping. Minnie (28) was a dressmaker. Anna, the youngest (26), had worked as a clerk in the Arnold Peerenboom Department Store. They opened their store in a one-room shop on College Ave. in Appleton. At first they sold “a little bit of everything”. Fabrics were a big seller because ready-made clothes hadn’t caught on yet. The store was so successful that it soon expanded into the surrounding buildings. Geenen’s was a fixture in Appleton for decades. Eventually the sisters retired or passed away, and their nephew, Paul Geenen, became president and manager of the company. Minnie was the last sister to survive, retiring about 1942 and living until 1960. The company went out of business in 1966.

My great-great-great grandfather Henry Geenen, and his wife Johanna Loef, had at least 13 children: Catherine, Johanna, John, Henriette, Delia, Berdina, Theodore, Henry, Helen, Dora, Edward, Christina, and my great-great-grandmother Wilhelmina Geenen. Through Wilhelmina’s siblings we are related to a “Who’s Who” of Freedom, WI, including the families Van Dyke, Garvey, McCormick, Dejong, Valentine, and Zimmerman.

Here are a few Geenen cousins worth noting. David G. Geenen (my third cousin, twice removed), served as the City Attorney of Appleton, WI from 1966 to 1988. Ida Geenen (my second cousin, thrice removed) entered the Dominican Order and became Sister Mary De Siena. She taught at grade schools in Madison, Merill, Green Bay, Kaukauna, and Little Chute. Joseph E. Geenen (my second cousin, twice removed) is one of the world’s foremost gastroenterologists, and a clinical professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

The Janssens Arrive in De Pere
On 4 Nov 1871, my great-great-grandfather William Janssen married Wilhelmina Geenen. Like his brothers, William had worked the family farm until he reached adulthood. During the winter months he worked in lumber camps in northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan. In 1871 he opened a hotel in Little Chute, which probably didn’t last long, since they moved to De Pere in 1873, where they lived on the west side of the river. William and Minnie had 11 children. The first child, Annie, was born in Freedom, WI. The remaining ten children—Jacob, Henry, John, Agatha, Edward, Mary (Mamie), William, Wilhelmina, Louis, and Francis—were born in DePere, WI. William conducted business in De Pere for 35 years. He operated a saloon and also acted as a purchasing agent for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway. During his time in De Pere he served in some public offices, as alderman, supervisor, and city treasurer. In 1910 he and Minnie and their younger children moved to the town of Mosling in Oconto County, WI, where William farmed and ran a general store. William retired in 1914, and the family moved back to De Pere, where he died unexpectedly on 19 Aug 1916, of arterio sclerosis. Following his death, Minnie and her three youngest children moved into the household of her daughter Mary and son-in-law Richard Hughes, where she appears on the 1920 census. The 1930 census shows Minnie living in the household of her daughter Annie and son-in-law William Rupiper.

William and Mary Janssen’s three oldest children married three siblings of the Rupiper family, the children of Julius Rupiper and Henrietta Alby. Annie Janssen married William Rupiper; Jacob Janssen married Mary Rupiper; and Henry J. Janssen married Ida Johanna Maria Rupiper. To find out more about the Rupiper family, read my essay on Our German Heritage. The fourth child of William and Mary, John Janssen, married Henrietta DeBruin. Agatha Christina Janssen married Albert F. Beauregard, who was born in Wisconsin to French Canadian parents. They had four children. Edward Janssen married Catherine Carroll. They had nine children. Edward worked for his father’s mercantile businees, and then went on to occupy the posts of city clerk of De Pere and secretary of the De Pere Water Commission. Mary or Mamie Janssen married Richard Hughes. Richard was a machinist at a foundry. They had at least one son. Richard was an usher at my grandparent’s wedding. William Edward Janssen moved to Underhill, WI. He married Mabel Serier and had three children. Wilhelmina (Minnie) Janssen married Walter Ruby and moved to Chicago. Louis A. Janssen was a football star at St. Norbert College in De Pere, during the 1913-14 season. A poll taken in the 1950s designated Louis as the school’s all-time greatest quarterback. Louis also attended Superior and Whitewater State Colleges, and became a high school teacher in Virginia, St. Louis County, MN, near Duluth (Incidentally, several of my Polish relatives also lived in Virginia, MN. See my essay on Our Polish Heritage.) Louis married Marguerite Dillon. They had at least one daughter. Louis died in 1960. Francis S. Janssen married Myrtle Marion Landry and they had at least two kids. They lived in De Pere, where he worked for a paper mill.

“Oatmeal Jake”
Jacob Janssen,
briefly mentioned above, was my great-grandfather. He was born 29 May 1875 in De Pere. On 24 Oct 1899 he married Mary M. Rupiper, who’s nickname was “Mate”. You can read more about her and the Rupiper family in my German Heritage essay. Shortly after their marriage, the census record shows Jacob working as a teamster. He then worked as a machinist for a paper mill, the American Writing Paper Company. He also worked for the McEachron Lumber Company. In 1914, Jacob became the superintendant of the Brown County Workhouse. He had found his true calling. The county board of supervisors re-elected him term after term, and he held the post for 26 years until his death in 1940. At the time of his death, he was thought to be the oldest county employee in active service. The county workhouse and farm was located in Ashwaubenon, WI. My brother Jay tells me it was on the site now occupied by Western Racquet Club, between Ashland Ave. and Oneida St. During his tenure as superintendant, Jacob earned the nickname “Oatmeal Jake”. His position with the workhouse entitled him to the powers of a deputy sheriff. Part of his job was to crack down on the panhandlers, vagabonds, tramps, and hobos who drifted into town on the railroad lines. His motto was “Get out of the county, or into the workhouse.” If you ended up in the workhouse, Jake would surely put you to some hard labor, and your only wage would be a hot bowl of his namesake. The entire family—Jacob, Mary, and their two children, lived at the workhouse. In fact, the 1930 census lists the members of the Janssen household as Head [of household], Wife, Son, Daughter, and “Inmate”—29-year-old George LaRue.

4 generations
Four generations, circa 1903. Carl W. Janssen (1900-1978), his father Jacob Janssen (1875-1940), his mother Hermina “Minnie’ Geenen Janssen (1853-1933), her mother Johanna Loef Geenen (1831-1915)

Quick coat of armsJacob and Mary Janssen had two children, Carl and Marion. The younger child, Marion Janssen, was born 21 May 1905 in De Pere. My siblings and I, when we were younger, knew her as “Auntie Mick”. As a young woman she worked as a stenographer. She married Thomas Edward Quick. He was born in Poplarville, Mississippi, near New Orleans. He was a sugar chemist. He graduated from the Audubon Sugar School at Louisiana State University. Thomas moved to Green Bay to work for the Menomonee Sugar Factory, which processed sugar beets. Thomas died in 1981, and Marion in 1995. They had three children. Robert Quick was born with cerebral palsy and died at the age of one. Thomas Edward Quick Jr. died 4 Dec 2005 at the age of 63. He and his former wife Sherri had two children, Greg and Michelle Quick, now in their 30s and living in Wisconsin. Ann Quick is alive and well and has been living in Carmel, IN since 1986. She and her husband Donald Welch have four grown children—Lisa, Heidi, Molly, and Collin—who are spread out across the county. The three girls are married with kids of their own.

Marion’s older brother, Carl W. Janssen, was my grandfather. He was born 29 Aug 1900 in De Pere. Carl attended St. Boniface School and St. Norbert High School in West De Pere. During his teen years he grew up at the Brown County Workhouse in Ashwaubenon, where his father was the superintendant. Following high school he served in the military during World War I. He then attended the Marquette University School of Pharmacy in Milwaukee. The 1920 census shows Carl’s occupation as “carpenter”, indicating he worked his way through school.

On 14 April 1925, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in De Pere, Carl W. Janssen married Loretto Marie Dart. Among their grandchildren, Carl and Loretto were known as “Pops” and “Tetta”. To read more about Loretto and the Dart family, see my essay on Our Belgian Heritage. Marion Janssen was the maid of honor at the ceremony, and Loretto’s cousin Edward Allen, a close friend of the groom, was best man. Following the ceremony, Carl and Loretto departed for a three-week honeymoon to Kenosha, Milwaukee, Chicago, and “eastern cities”, before returning to take up residence with Loretto’s family.

Carl W. Janssen Carl and Jay Janssen
Carl W. Janssen (1900-1978)
Carl and Jay Janssen, circa 1929

By 1928 Carl was the owner and operator of his own drugstore. His first business was located at the corner of Irwin and Mason Streets in Green Bay. In the early 1930s he bought the H. I. Wheeler drug store in De Pere, and operated the store until he was appointed postmaster on 23 Jun 1944. He held the office of postmaster until retiring in 1970. Carl had held the post longer than anyone in the history of the east De Pere post office. During his tenure, annual postal receipts rose from $22,000 to over $200,000. When asked about his plans after retirement, Carl said that he and Loretto planned to “take it easy for a while.”

Carl was also active in community organizations. He was commander of the Heesaker-Brown post of the American Legion and served as their chaplain for many years (from 1936 to at least 1970). He met every train returning bodies of World War II veterans. He was a member of the De Pere Rotary Club for 37 years, and at one time served as its president. He also served as the club’s song leader for many years (from 1936 to at least 1970). His wife Loretto accompanied him on piano. He enjoyed barbershop quartet singing. He was a charter member of SPEBSQSA, the barbershopper organization, and a member of the first quartet formed under that organization, “The Note-Able 4”. He was a member of the Wisconsin Association of Postmasters, past president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, and past exalted ruler of the Green Bay Elks Club No. 259. He also served as chairman of the March of Dimes and Red Cross drives for several years, and worked with Boy Scouts. He was also a member of the Holy Name Society of St. Francis Xavier Church in De Pere, WI. Carl W. Janssen died at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay, WI, on 24 Jan 1978. The cause of death was prostate cancer.

Loretto Dart and Carl Janssen Mary Claire and Jay Janssen
Loretto Marie Dart and Carl W. Janssen
Mary Claire and Jay James Janssen

Francken coat of armsCarl and Loretto had two children, Jay and Mary Claire. Mary Claire Janssen was born 10 Mar 1929 in De Pere, WI. She graduated from De Pere High School, and St. Scholastica College in Duluth, MN. On 23 Oct 1948, she married Thomas J. Francken, son of Herbert and Edna Francken. The Francken name originated in the Netherlands, meaning “son of Frank, or Francis”. Tom was the son of Herbert E. Francken and Edna Thomas. Herb’s father, Peter Hubertus Francken, was born in Meerlo, Limburg, Netherlands 12 May 1861 and immigrated to America in the early 1880s. The Francken name can be traced back as far as Peter Reiner Francken who was born about 1768. The oldest ancestor I have for the Franckens is Henricus Geurtz, who was born about 1590. Most of the Francken ancestors came from the province of Limburg in the Netherlands, with a few also originating in the province of North Brabant. Edna Thomas was the daughter of Joseph L. Thomas and Anne J. Lefebvre. Joseph Thomas’s father was born in England but moved with his family to Belgium when he was four years old. It’s unclear whether the Thomas family was originally English or Belgian, as the surname exists in both countries. Joseph’s mother was definitely Belgian, of the Binon family in the province of Namur, many of whom changed the spelling of their name to Beno when they immigrated to Green Bay, WI.

Tom and Mary Claire lived just off of Merill St. in De Pere, across from the old high school. When I was a kid I remember that Tom worked as a cigar salesman, and thanks to him I had a small collection of buttons advertising White Owl Cigars. After he retired, he operated the draw bridge over the Fox River in De Pere. Mary Claire was an avid knitter and seamstress, and played bridge in the St. Francis Bridge Marathon for 17 years. She died of cancer on 24 Dec 1987. Tom died on 10 Feb 1999. The Franckens had three children. Peter Francken and wife Patti live in Green Bay. They have two sons, Jeremy and Kyle. Kay Francken lives in Austin, MN with husband Rodney Middlebrook. They have three children: Jeb, Lia, and Hannah. Rod Francken and wife Donna live in Marinette, WI.

Jay Janssen Janssen wedding
Jay J. Janssen (1928-1999), high school photo
Janssen wedding, 26 Dec 1953, Stevens Point, WI (left to right): Francis Phelan, Sophia Pasternacki Phelan, Ann Phelan Janssen, Jay Janssen, Mary Rupiper Janssen (Jay’s grandmother), Loretto Dart Janssen, Carl W. Janssen

Recent Generations
My father, Jay James Janssen, was born 17 Feb 1928 in De Pere. Technically, he was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay. As a teenager, he became a pilot. He served with the Army Air Corps (the precursor to the U.S. Air Force) from 1945 to 1947, including the end of World War II. He was stationed in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Although he had been a pilot of small private planes, he was not a pilot for the Air Corps. At some point during his youth, he worked for a railroad. His social security number was issued by the railroad board, and I remember he had a road atlas where he highlighted every railroad line in America that he had ridden. I assume this railroad job occurred between his military service and his time in pharmacy school. I never saw my father fly a plane or ride on a train, but he remained a plane and train buff, and a skilled model builder of both, his entire life. Jay attended St. Norbert College in De Pere, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy in Madison in 1951. After college Jay returned to De Pere and worked at various pharmacies in the Green Bay area, including Allouez Drug. He briefly worked at Oconto Drug, and lived in Oconto, WI, where he met my mother. On 26 Dec 1953, at St. Stephen’s Church in Stevens Point, WI, Jay Janssen married Ann Phelan, a Stevens Point native and daughter of Francis Phelan and Sophia Pasternacki (To read more about Ann Phelan, and her family history, see my pages on Our Irish Heritage and Our Polish Heritage). The church was decorated with Christmas poinsettias. Ann’s sister Ruth Phelan was the maid of honor, and Jay’s high school buddy Jim Cuene was the best man. Following the wedding there was a reception at the Phelan house, at which Tom Francken served as bartender. Jay and Ann moved back to De Pere. Around 1960 Jay opened Jay’s Pharmacy in downtown De Pere, at the southeast corner of George St. and Broadway. He owned and operated the drug store for 15 years. Personally, I don’t know how good a drugstore it was, but it had a great soda fountain and a big wall of candy. I was about six when Jay’s Pharmacy closed, around 1975. My father then went to work for several years as pharmacist at Treml’s supermarket in Seymour, Outagamie County, WI. After that he did some part-time work for other pharmacies in Green Bay, like Union Pharmacy, and also worked as a property assessor before his retirement. Following his retirement, he became a daily fixture at the bar of the Union Hotel in De Pere, an establishment owned by his high school classmate Jim Boyd. Jay Janssen died 21 Feb 1999.

Jay and Ann Janssen had seven children: Jay Jr., Ellen, Steve, Jill, Beth, Jenny, and Karl. Of these children, six are surviving. Steve Janssen was born Stephen Charles Janssen on 19 Jun 1958. He attended Notre Dame Grade School and De Pere High School. Steve dropped out of high school, and later earned his diploma through the GED program. In his youth Steve had difficulty figuring out what to do with his life. He briefly attended Northeast Wisconsin Technical Institute, and worked a few odd jobs. In the 1980s, he moved down to Abilene, TX, to join one of his friends who had gone down there to work at the Fairway Oaks Golf and Raquet Club. Steve took a job at the club, and eventually worked his way up to managing one of the restaurants there. Life turned around for Steve in Abilene. He married Angie Lowe, and they had a daughter, Tuesday Lane Janssen. Steve always enjoyed playing golf, and at Fairway Oaks he played in some pro-am tournaments. He even seemed to take on some of the characteristics of a makeshift Texan. After several years living in Abilene, however, Steve divorced Angie and moved back to De Pere, WI. He suffered from alcoholism and depression for many years. About the early 1990s he met Beverly Landry, and they eventually moved in together. She has two children from a previous marriage, Devin and Danielle Landry, who became honorary Janssens. Once again it seemed like his life had turned around. He lived with Bev for several years, helped raise her kids, and worked part-time at house painting. In his free time, he enjoyed fishing, and was a Packer fan. Unfortunately, Steve’s chronic problems with alcohol and depression eventually caught up with him. He and Bev split up. He spent some time in rehab. For quite a while he was clean and sober, and held down a full-time job, but he couldn’t manage to stick with it. On 20 Mar 2004, Steve Janssen took his own life.

The remaining six children of Jay and Ann Janssen are still living, mostly still in Wisconsin. Jay Janssen Jr. married Carol Wood, and lives in Oshkosh, WI. They have two daughters, Erica and Natalie. Ellen Janssen lives in De Pere. She has three children—Claire, John, and James—from her previous marriage to Mark Ebben. Jill Janssen lives in Wrightstown, WI with her husband Mike Slechta, with whom she has two sons, Abraham and Charlie. She also has two children—Sam and Emma—from her previous marriage to Mark Bellin. Beth Janssen lives in Allouez, WI with Jen Denis and Jen’s son Josh, another honorary Janssen. Jenny Janssen is married to Brian Bargender and lives in De Pere. She has a daughter Kendall, from her previous marriage to Jeff Child. Karl Janssen lives in Olathe, KS, a suburb of Kansas City. He married Dorris Dai, and has two boys, Wesley and Marcus. Most of the “children” mentioned in this last paragraph are now grown men and women, some college graduates, some married, and some with children of their own. Family history continues to be made, and before I die of old age this Janssen saga will surely gain a few more paragraphs, at least.

I have not included any footnotes within these historical essays. For information on my sources look up the names of individuals in my genealogical database (links below). All source information is listed there.

Contents * Index * Surnames * Contact
Karl Janssen • www.karljanssen.com • kjanssen@ku.edu
Last updated 3 Oct 2012