Article taken from De Colve VI – 2001: Family Tombs at Hillegersberg

familie kolff

About some family tombs at Hillegersberg (Rotterdam), by Dirk Kolff (CBCA XVIIIn), archivist

When the state gouvernment did not allow further burials within the walls of churches a number of Rotterdam families bought graves at the Hillegersberg castle ruins, either at the sides or on the ‘berg’ (hilltop) where one finds the ruins. The place is quite special. On the hilltop one also finds the beautiful Hillegondakerk, which is perhaps already a 1000 years old and at which still, every Sunday, religious services are held.

Also some of our family members bought single (for six placings) or double (for twelve placings) crypts. On the big stone covers usually only the name of the owner is engraved, not those of the buried. I don’t know how many members of our family are buried here. This would require further research in the, well maintained, registration of the Deaconry (kerkvoogdij) of the Hervormde Gemeente (Dutch Reformed Community) Hillegersberg.

However, on a number of crypts I want to write here.

In the stone with the number 2 Noord Oost is encripted “J. Kolff 1841”. The thirteen buried here are all members of the family, all had used the name Kolff. Among them is Gualtherus Johannes Kolff (1846-1918), the grand pioneer in the Netherlands on braille and the man of the Netherlands Library for the Blind, on which recently a study appeared (by P.W. Klein). His sister HenriĆ«tte (1835-1927) is also buried here. She worked together with her brother and who did so much great work for the Blindenfonds that she and her brother founded. Their parents are buried here as well, just like two of their sisters, a brother, and no less than six children, the first one of 1841 – and still without a given name, the others varying in age from ten days to three years.

Crypt 6 Zuid Oost states as owner C.L. (Cornelis Laurentius) Hollertt, the same initials as our present chairman and this is not a coincidence. The couple C.L. Hollertt-van Hoogdalem were buried here in 1848 and 1850 as the first two. Their daughter Hermina Emerentia has married Cornelis Geertuyus Kolff in 1813. The major part of the present Kolffs derive from the six sons of this couple Kolff-Hollertt. Two of their daughters’ names, Sara and Hermina, we find in the register that belongs to this crypt. Sara had married in 1850 to the tobacco trader Ledeboer. When Sara died in 1853 he remarried her sister Hermina. From this marriage a son was born in August 1959, Bernard. In October of that year Hermina died. Only eight years old in 1868 Bernard Ledeboer followed his mother and aunt into this grave. Further we find the names of three more adult members of the Hollertt family and, between 1850 and 1868, the amazing number of 13 grandchildren of the couple Kolff-Hollertt, this includes little Bernard. They all died when their grandparents were still alive, just as two more children Hollertt that had died young. In the genealogical publications we all have at home we often find: “From this marriage, except for two (or five) children that died young..” The names of those children are then never recorded, considered not of importance for the genealogy. But here we see their names and ages, sometimes as exact as to the months and the days, and to here, at Hillegersberg, their small coffins were carried again and again.

The crypt 111 Zuid Oost is, just like the two mentioned before, a double one and thus covered with a large stone. Here is stated ‘Familiegraf Kolff’. Buried here is Abraham (‘Bram’) Kolff (1873-1941), to whom the Kolff Family Association thanks the Kolff Family Fund. He was named after his grandfather, Abraham van Stolk, an important person in the cultural history of Rotterdam. His parents, the couple Kolff-van Stolk, are also buried in this grave, just as his sister, his brother Jan, and sister-in-law. One brother-in-law, J.A. van Oosterzee, has been buried in another, single crypt, numbered 3 Noord Oost. The remains from this crypt, property of the Van Oosterzee family, have later been transferred to to the above mentioned crypt 111 Zuid Oost. On this occasion the part with the enscriptions of the covering stone of 3 Noord Oost have been cut out and placed on the stone of the ‘Familiegraf Kolff’. As an exception to the rule the names of the buried, so including the Van Oosterzee family, all appear on this part of the stone.

The eldest son of the couple Kolff-Hollertt, D.H.A. Kolff (my great-great-grandfather) bought the single crypt 48 Zuid West when his wife, J.E. Kolff-Rouffaer died in 1878. In 1909 he was buried here himself. My earliest memory of Hillegersberg is that of a visit to this crypt – I think this was June 1945, when I went there with my father (Benjamin Kolff, 1902-1982). My fathers’ mother, who died quite young in 1915, is also buried there. While I froliced over the graves my father was getting water to place flowers in a small tin can on the crypt.
Let us always honour these graves keep them, as a family, in good condition. At Hillegersberg still burials take place. Maybe the present Rotterdammers in our family will pick up this tradition once again.

Dirk Kolff, archivist
(translated by Marius Kolff, CBCD XVIIw4)