The Family Maasdam or Maesdam comes originally from the village of Maasdam, situated in The Hoekse Waard polder, in the South-West of The Netherlands.
The village of Maasdam in the 17th century.
The oldest traces of the family lead to the village and our ancestors adopted the name Maasdam in the middle of the 17th century. Other family members called themselves Vermaes, Vermaas and Van der Maese. In the north of Holland a family by the name Van Maasdam was traced, but no relation with the village or the Maasdam family was found. The name Van Maasdam was used by some members in the early 17th century, but that branch died in the 19th century. Maasdam means the dam in the river Maas (like Rotterdam is the dam in the Rotte and Amsterdam the dam in the river Amstel). The town is situated in the Hoekse Waard (island and polder), Province of South-Holland and was first mentioned around 1300-1365, when the Grote Waard (the Big Polder) was connected with other polders by dykes and a dam. To evacuate water from the polder, there was a sluice in the dam. This is the spot where Maasdam arose, when fishermen and sluice keepers settled on the spot.
The Hoekse Waard is an island formed by polders (see an explanation about polders in the frame below) that were successively built during the middle ages in the delta of the river Meuse (=Maas) and the Rhine. The old river bed of the Meuse was cut by the (Maas)dam and the stream was forced in northern and southern directions. On the borders of the former river we still find villages as Westmaas. A great part of the area was flooded in the AD 1421 desastrous "Elisabeth-flood", but was later re-poldered. The first polders started at Puttershoek. "Hoek" or "Hoecke" means "corner", "angle" or just "spot". This "hook" gave the name to the whole "Waard" which is an old word for "island" and "polder" . The most important city in the area since the Middle Ages is Dordrecht. It is situated 20 miles south of Rotterdam, that became an important harbour only much later. The little hamlet of Maasdam was administratevely depending on the city of Dordrecht. Taxes were paid there (on land and barrels of beer) and farmers and tradesmen had to bring their goods to the market of Dordrecht. The cities were, and still are, governed by the Mayor and his deputies; the villages had a "schout", very similar to the American sheriff, and polders had their own form of government, called the "Heemraad" with the "dijkgraaf" at the top. The administration of the "Heemraad" (Polder Council) was responsible for the dykes ("dijkgraaf" means the one who governs over the dykes, "dyke grave" in English ! ), the canals, the mills that pump the water from the polder to the river and the sea and all other functions related to the hydraulic and agricultural household in the area. The "Heemraad" is in some way comparable to a county. However, the "Heemraad" does not depend of the province, but directly from the Ministry of Waterworks and Roads. Many members of the Maasdam family became "dijkgraaf" or deputy member of the "Heemraad" in one of the polders of The Hoekse Waard. Others were "schout" or Mayor. Untill our days the family Maasdam lives in and around the little town of Maasdam and the other villages in the Hoekse Waard in a nutshell of 10 to 25 miles. The different branches of the family are called after the villages where they moved to: The branch (=tak in Dutch) of Maasdam, the "tak" of Strijen, Numansdorp and Zuid-Beijerland.
A polder is a part of land below the sea level, land flooded during high tide (as is the case here) or land below the level of adjacent rivers. A polder is surrounded by man-made barriers (the "dykes"). The construction of polders started in the early Middle Ages and continues until our era. This is why some have said that "God created the earth, but the Dutch have created Holland". The names Van Dyck, Van Dycke, van Dijk etc. refer to those living on or near the dyke. You find the word "dijk" also in many names of villages and towns, street names etc. The story of Hans Brinkers, who puts his finger in the dyke to prevent his polder from flooding is based on pure fantasy.
Coat of Arms
The Family Coat of Arms appear for the first time on the tomb of Arien Leendertszn, burried in 1644 in the Netherlands Reformed Church of Maasdam. It was discovered in 1971 during the restauration of the church. The tomb had Arms divided in 2 parts: on the left side two fishes in opposite direction, maybe the arms of his parents; to the right are the Arms as we still know it.
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