Dutch ancestry

Some Australian Aborigines may have Dutch or German sailors amongst their ancestors There is a lot of circumstantial evidence to give some substance.

Explorers such as Augustus Gregory, A.C. Gregory, George Fletcher Moore and social researcher Daisy Bates noticed European characteristics, with blonde hair and blue eyes amongst aborigines who had not previously had contact with Europeans. Bishop Salvado, the missionary who established New Norcia, in 1847, north of Perth also remarked on apparent European characteristics amongst Aborigines. These may have originated from the 68 survivors of the Vergulde Draeck, if not those directly, their part aboriginal descendants for it was customary to travel inland by following a river. In this case the Moore River.

The Champion Bay tribe would have travelled inland using the Irwin River as a highway and source of food and water, for some 350 km Also, near the source of the Murchison river there is a rock painting of a European ship near Cue – an equal distance inland.

Further tantalizing evidence is the occurrence of a rare genetic disease: Ellis-van Creveld syndrome among Australian Aborigines. The most obvious symptom of which is polydactyl – having more than five fingers and toes. Documentary evidence has been found on both the west coast and the south-west corner of WA.

This genetic disorder is also found amongst the Amish in Pennsylvania who descend from Dutch/German migrants in the 17th century.

Three Dutch shipwrecks on the WA coast are well known, the Batavia, Vergulde Draeck and the Zuytdorp. A further three VOC ships were lost but their wrecks have never been found, they are Ridderschap van Holland (1694), Fortuyn (1696) and Aagtekerk (1726) Recent information suggests that the last two may have been located. If the Ridderschap landed on the south coast of WA It could, conceivably, be the source of E-vC.

Similarly with the Zuytdorp, south of Shark bay. It now known that the 40 percent of the crew on the Zuytdorp were

German (soldiers), 30% Dutch and a further 30 % came from other parts of Europe.  It appears that the European genes were more dominant resulting in throwbacks to European characteristics after many generations.

There is ample evidence of proliferation of pre-colonial European input and VOCHS have set it as their goal to find out what happened to them and what help the survivors received.”

The wreck of the Zuytdorp was found by the Nanda people north of Kalbarri in 1927 but had already played a role within

their family histories, suggesting integration. And why not for they were people, the same as the survivors, albeit with a

darker skin colour.  At first they thought the white men were the returned spirit of their ancestors. They had forgotten

what they knew when they were alive. Of course that suited the sailors quite well. Some Aboriginal oral history also supports the suggestion that they have Dutch amongst their ancestors.

To help solve the mystery the VOCHS began to collect DNA samples from Aboriginal volunteers. So far early results show western and southern European genes in the Y (male) chromosome of 42 of the 45 aborigines tested. This is 94% - a high prevalence.

It is now known that the 40 percent of the crew on the Zuytdorp were German (soldiers), 30% Dutch and a further 30 % came from other parts of Europe.

The following stage, mitochondrial DNA, will narrow it down further. Mitochondrial DNA is passed down the female line unchanged and the next step (autosomal) may confirm the period between 1620 - 1720.

The testing is taking place at the Department of Genetic Research of Leiden and Rotterdam Universties in The Netherlands where there is also a large DNA database. It may be possible to identify descendants still living in Holland.

Evidence of Dutch-Aboriginal Ancestry

More Clues?

As we all know, the West Australian coast became the final resting place for some VOC ships that were on their way to the Spice Islands.  Three other ships that barely got a mention, one of which was the Ridderschap van Holland.It disappeared without a trace on their way from Cape Town to Batavia.

It was Willem de Vlamingh in Nyptangh, together with Geelvinck and Weseltje who was charged by the VOC Board to locate this capital ship.  Although de Vlamingh made an important contribution to the knowledge of the Southland by naming Rottnest Island and sailing up the Swan River, so aptly named by him after the black swans, he did not find the Ridderschap.

An interesting observation was made in the late 19th century when it was found that there were natives with six fingers and six toes. There was connotation involving the Dutch but no further enquiry took place.  It invited some follow up and the following was discovered.

“A remarkable lusus naturae was • observed amongst the women of the Frazer Range, one of whom had six perfect fingers on each hand and the same number of toes on each foot. Not only were these limbs perfectly formed, but the corresponding metacarpal and metatarsal bones were also perfect. Two of her brothers and a sister had, I was told, exactly the same deformity.”

• “Here I also saw a women with six perfect fingers on each hand and the same number of toes on her feet. Not only are the fingers perfectly formed but there the corresponding number of metacarpal bones in the hand. I learnt that she had several brothers and other relations with the same remarkable development, but none of them were at the camp during my visit.”  An entry in a manuscript by Ethel Hassel of Jerramungup

The evidence may still be circumstantial, but it is growing  stronger all the time. It is an important part of the history of both Dutch and Aborigines. In any case, two Dutchmen,  Wouter Loos and Jan Pelgrom first settled in Western Australia n 1629 – albeit not quite voluntarily but a preferrealternative to the gallows.

So far he local research has been financed by subscriptions of the loyal and supportive members of the Society, Australiawide whereas the DNA is funded by Leiden University @ $1,000 per donor. Sponsors are needed to investigate other locations in order to obtain the evidence of the link with the Ellis-van Creveld Syndrome . Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated. Afterall, Australian history should be based on truth!.

Thomas Vanderveldt 

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