William James Valk was born a twin on 6 August 1886 in Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois, the third of eight children born to Tjamme "James" Wiegers Valk and Berber "Barbara" DeJong. Only two of William’s siblings lived past childhood. His siblings were: Chaterina T. Valk (1883 – 1883); Chaterina "Tryntje" Valk (1884 – 1891); Jennie D. James Valk (1886 – 1887) - William's twin; Jennie James Valk (1888 – 1977); Geertje "Gertrude" James Valk (1890 – 1956); Chaterina "Catherine" Valk (1895 – 1895); and Tammie "Thomas" J. Valk (1896 – 1897).
You can see that his parents tried unsuccessfully (3 times) to have a daughter named Catherine, named after Tjamme’s mother. They also tried twice before getting a daughter named Jennie. You can see, too, how the Dutch “Tjamme” can be translated as either “James” or “Thomas”. Notice how many of the children had “James” for a middle name—including the girls. This is a typical Dutch naming pattern. The child’s middle name was the father’s first name, plus an “s”. This meant (as in the case of Jennie James Valk) “Jennie, James’ daughter.” William James Valk meant “William, James’ son.” Ultimately, only William and his sisters Jennie and Gertrude lived to adulthood.
In 1887, William’s parents and siblings had moved from Rock Island and were living in Holland, Ottawa County, Michigan. By 1888, however, the family was living in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan. In 1890, the family was living on Quimby Street, three houses west of North Union Street. By the time the last Chaterina was born, however, the family lived at 523 North Ionia Street.
On 1 July 1909 in Grand Rapids, William married Agnes "Aggie" Tuinstra. He stated for the record that he was occupied as a packer, and was residing in Walker Township, Kent County, Michigan. William and Agnes had eight children, seven of whom survived infancy: Jim, George, Bill, Chet, Oscar, Ted, Barbara and John (stillborn). See the bottom of this page for more information on these children.
After World War I, the influenza epidemic struck worldwide. Agnes became ill, and the influenza eventually went to her brain. She was hospitalized for the rest of her short life. Jim and Bill were placed with relatives; the rest were sent to Blodgett Home in Grand Rapids. Oscar eventually was placed in a foster home.
When the 1920 Federal Census was taken, William was living in his own home at 1006 White Avenue in Grand Rapids, occupied as a machine hand in a furniture shop. Agnes was in Kalamazoo State Hospital in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, and the children were out of the home. In 1921, at the time of Agnes’ death, William was living with his parents at 1315 West Leonard Street, Grand Rapids.
The year 1923 brought changes into William’s life; his mother Barbara died in January, and he married a widow, Ida Eva (Lambrecht) Schadler on the 13th of June. According to his marriage record, William was working as a machine hand. Ida had a young son from her previous marriage who joined the other children brought back to their home on White Avenue. Together, William and Ida had eight more children, five of whom survived infancy: Jennette, Bob, Kenneth, twin infant sons, and Ray. Two children are still living as of 2005. See the bottom of this page for more information.
Ida suffered from multiple sclerosis. She died 5 November 1945 at the age of 52, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Walker Township, Kent County, Michigan.
William died five years later from lung cancer and pneumonia on 12 June 1950 in Grand Rapids. At the time he had been an assembler for Allen Cal. Company. He was buried 14 June 1950 next to Ida. (obituary)
George William Valk was born 27 July 1911 in Grand Rapids. He died 30 September 1973, and was buried three days later in Greenwood Cemetery, Walker Twp., Kent Co., Michigan. He never married or had children. (obituary)
William "Bill" Valk - my maternal grandfather
John Chester "Chet" Valk was born 7 February 1914 in Grand Rapids. When he was born, his name was entered as William Thomas Valk on his birth certificate. It may have been a transpositional error – in other words, he may have originally been named Thomas William Valk. However, the family later decided on John Chester or “Chet” for short. It was never changed on his birth certificate, until he joined the Army during World War II, and the name William Thomas Valk was discovered. Chet was a paratrooper for the 101st Airborne, U.S. Army, and was killed in action on 31 December 1944 over Foy, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge. He was buried at Rosedale Memorial Park, which lies on the Ottawa – Kent county line, Michigan. He married Elfriede (Lomker) Valk (1920 - 1983), first wife of his brother Bill, and helped to raise his nephew, James Frederick Valk (1939 - 1958). (obituary)
Oscar William Valk was born 2 February 1916 in Grand Rapids. On 10 August 1938, he married Edith Seif (1917 - 1985) in Moline, Allegan County, Michigan. They had eight children, including Oscar Valk, Jr. (1943 - 1944). Oscar died 16 August 1984 in Byron Center, Kent County, and was buried four days later in Floral Memorial Gardens. (obituary)
Theodore William "Ted" Valk was born 12 August 1917 in Grand Rapids. He served as a corporal during World War II. He married and had three children. After the war, he and his family lived first in California, then in Boise, Ada County, Idaho. He died of complications of Parkinson's Disease on 8 September 2002 in Boise, and was buried six days later in Dry Creek Cemetery, Boise. (obituary)
Barbara Dorothy Valk was born a twin on 30 July 1918 in Grand Rapids. She was named for her grandmothers. She served as a missionary in Africa for 38 years with Baptist Mid-Missions. She died 13 January 2001 in Grand Rapids. She never married or had children. (obituary)
John Valk, twin to Barbara, was stillborn, and is believed to be buried at Greenwood Cemetery.
Jennette Mildred Valk was born 26 March 1926 in Grand Rapids. On 28 June 1947, she married Robert James Drew (1924 - 1991) in Grand Rapids, and they had three children. She died 3 August 1993 and was buried three days later in Rosedale Memorial Park. (obituary)
Robert John "Bob" Valk was born 10 April 1927 in Grand Rapids. On 13 September 1952, he married Dolores Elaine Deutscher (1932 - 2004 [obituary]) in Niles, Berrien County, Michigan. Bob died 15 May 2003 in Kent County, Michigan, and was buried four days later in Kent Memorial Gardens, Byron Township, Kent County. He and Dolores had six children. (obituary)
Raymond Edwin "Ray" Valk was born 13 June 1932 in Grand Rapids and died 31 Aug 1990 in Mobile, Alabama. He was buried four days later in Crestlawn Memorial Park, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. He was married and had two step-children. (obituary)
More about my great-grandfather, William James Valk, can be found in the upcoming AnceStories of his parents, Tjamme Wiegers Valk and Berber DeJong, his first wife Agnes Tuinstra, and their son William "Bill" Valk.
I would like to acknowledge the research help of Susan McGaughey Barillas for this biography, as well as the wonderful information that my late grandfather, Bill Valk, shared with me shortly before his death. Thanks also to cousins Joy and Karen and Aunt Marie. This page is dedicated to Uncle Bob who recently passed away, and who so kindly shared some Valk information with me.
Photos courtesy of Jim and Richard Valk. Photo of William and Agnes taken c. 1909 - 1919. Photo of William James Valk taken c. 1945.
created: 7 Oct 2003
updated: 18 Feb 2005
© Miriam Midkiff, 2003 - 2005