Wood shoe "spoons" used for making wooden shoes.
Close-up photo of Albert Kraker's wooden shoe spoons.

Albert Kraker’s Spoons

Albert Kraker’s “spoons” (tools for making wooden shoes). In the winter of 1875/76, Albert worked on wooden shoes for four months and made over $400. At that time, he was paying $2 a week for room and board—and also paid that amount for his brother Lambert. In a letter dated February 25, 1880 to his sister, Albert asks her to send some more wooden shoe spoons: “Will you tell Father he should send me some tools for wooden shoe making along with Albert Genzink from Achterhorn. Two small spoons and one middle spoon from Hannebrook. Last winter, I broke some, and at present have none in reserve. When the days get longer, I can make $1.50 daily with wooden shoe making. Let Father supply me with those tools because if I break some, I will have a great loss.”

Greetings from Our President

Welcome to the Bentheimers International Society website!

We are a group of people in North America and Europe who are interested in Grafschaft Bentheim, Germany. Most of us have ancestors who came from the Grafschaft (“County” in English, or Graafschap” in Low German), and some of us emigrated from there ourselves. Also, there are many people living in Grafschaft Bentheim who are now interested in North America and enjoy learning about what happened to their long–distance relatives.

In 1968, genealogy was just beginning to become popular. For 13 weeks I hitchhiked throughout Europe. It was the “thing” college kids did at that time. I stopped in the city of Bad Bentheim because I was told our ancestors might have come from this area. While searching city hall and church records, I met a pastor who knew of the name “Bouws.” He stated that a Bouws family lived near the city of Emlichheim.

For whatever reason, I chose not to go there but continued on my travels instead. After I returned home, I reported my experiences to my father and uncles. They became interested, and my father Clarence Bouws and uncles Gordon and Russ Bouws made some trips to the Graafschap. They were helped with figuring out the Bouws genealogy by Swenna Harger—this was years before the Bentheimers International Society was started. Having a society like BIS would have made our research much easier.


In fact, so many “Bentheimers” in North America have needed genealogical assistance, that this was the nucleus for organizing the Society in 2002. You can read about how we began here.

I became a member in the early 2000s and have read and enjoyed the many articles in the quarterly newsletters. With the Society’s encouragement and research assistance, I published a booklet in 2004 on our family history using the genealogical program “Family Tree Maker.”

As I became more involved, I’ve grown to appreciate how valuable an organization like this is for people searching for their identity. I appreciate the work of Wilhelm and Gerrit Beuker in Germany and the board members in the U.S. who work to put on trips to Germany, sponsor a picnic every summer, develop a website, and publish a valuable newsletter.

This website enhances communication with people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We have resources to help you with your genealogical research and a growing collection of interesting articles to read (in German and English). We’re also developing a forum where you can ask questions.

So, take some time to look over our website. If you are tracing an ancestor who was born in Grafschaft Bentheim and emigrated, a great place to begin is our list of emigrants from Grafschaft Bentheim. Some emigrants have biographies written on them as well—if a name is underlined, click on it to read about their lives. More biographies are being added as time goes on!

Once again, welcome to our website! We hope you will find it informative, interesting, and useful. If you do, please join our society or make a donation. You can contact us by using the email form or mailing address found on our Contact page. We’ll enjoy hearing from you!

John D. Bouws, President
Bentheimers International Society