Geographic Origins of The Couperuses

Friesland → Achtkarspelen → Augustinusga → Rodeschuur

In September 2007, a correspondent (and distant relative) was kind enough to send me some pictures that were taken around an area that can well claim to be one of the primary centers for the origins of the Couperus family.

The name of the municipality of "Achtkarspelen" can loosely be translated loosely as "Eight Parishes" - the word karspel being an Old Dutch word no longer in general use. One of the original eight parishes is Augustinusga, (Stiensgea in Frisian) Below is the Dutch Reformed Church there.

The oldest building in Augustinusga is undoubtedly the church, originaly built in the 14th century, presumably by Cistercian monks. The church was devoted to the patriarch St. Augustine, and the village was named after him. ("Ga" or "gea" means: village-area).

This church is unusual in that it stands on a "terp" - one of the few remainining man-made hillocks of this type in Friesland. These mounds were built by early inhabitants in the bronze age to stay clear of high-water conditions. In subsequent centuries, as a fuller system of dykes and windmills got control of the water level, most of these raised areas were removed and recycled for their value as good dirt to mix in with local sandy soils, thus making the ground suitable for agriculture.

In terms of the origins of the Couperus family, this would be the place where Johannes Couperus (1694-1781) was the "predikant" or preacher. Johannes was the son of Dirk Janssen Couperus who was a preacher in Idaard and Warga in the mid 17'th century, and he in turn was the son of Jan Janssen Cuiper/Couper who came over from Scotland in the 16th century.

Here is a very old house in Agustinusga that we know was owned by Gaele Couperus (1804-1892) who married Aafke Luimstra (1808-1902) on September 25th 1830. Based his tax bills, it seems this was one of the richest families in the community. His father and grandfather were both surgeons (chirugijn) in Agustinusga, and his great-grandfather was the preacher Johannes who served in the church referenced above.

On the outskirts of Augustinusga lie the three hamlets of Rohel, Blauwverlaat, and Roodeschuur.

Being in Friesland, the sign showing the place name is provided in two languages - "Rodeschuur" in Dutch and "Reaskuorre" in Friesian. In both cases it can literally be translated in English as "Red Barn" or "Red Shed".

Rodeschuur is a very small place - even today. The focal point of the community is a small Cafe and Farm next to a sluice gate on the local canal.

Small as it is today (barely a hamlet), it must have been even smaller back in the 18th and early 19th centuries, thus it is very likely that different Couperuses over time have lived in or very near to this house. We know for example that Janke Couperus and her two children emigrated from Rodeschuur in 1916 (See the page about the Ellis Island Archives) and the man we think was her husband (Rink or Runk) emigrated nine months earlier from Augustinusga.

Certainly, the wider area of the eight parishes making up Achtkarspelen have seen the birth of multiple generations of Couperuses, and even more were born and raised in the immediately surrounding communities. If any place can be said to be the geographic origin of the Couperus family - this little piece of Friesland is it.