|A "merklap" is a piece of embroidery
that was part of the education of girls in the age of about 6 to 16
years ever since -or even before- 1500 up to the 20th century. By
making one a girl learned counting, reading and using letters,
combining colors and recording some family-history. Furthermore, by
doing needlework they would practice desirable virtues such as
neatness, patience, thriftiness and diligence
Most of the time girls in Friesland decorated the cloth with large initials and sometimes even their full name as well as the year it was finished. The Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden has a collection of more than 600 "merklappen" most of them originating from the 18th century. Unfortunately and except for a few, the names of those who made them are unknown. Just in the odd case the person who donated a cloth to the museum was able to supply some information such as the meaning of the initials.
In the year 2000 a genealogist by the name of Martha Kist asked the museum to lend a "merklap" for a genealogy exhibition at Tresoar. She got the cloth marked A.I. and 1746, maker unknown. However, there was some information available: the name of the family who owned it back in 1975 and the name of the town where it came from. This challenged Martha to try and find out who made the cloth. To make a long story short: she did find out that the "merklap" was made by a girl named Antje Jilderts van Egten from Ferwerd on occasion of the marriage of her sister Klaaske round about 1746. The churchrecords of that period were burned so there is no record of that marriage.
Antje Jilderts van Egten was 11 years young in 1746 when her 21-year old sister married Jacob Jans (Verhoek). She embroidered the initials I, than a heart and the initials K.I. meaning: Jacob loves Klaaske Jilderts (in those days the letter J was spelled as an I). Klaaske would be head of the housekeeping, symbolised by the linen-cupboard. There are more household goods to be seen indicating the set-up of the new household: needlework equipment and a stove. Other figures refer to the actual marriage such as the church of Ferwerd. Father Jildert Clasen van Egten was schoolteacher and also the organist of the church. On the roof of the church sits a free bird (Antje) while in the left-down corner there is a bird in a cage, symbol for a married woman (Klaaske). To the left a pierced heart with a crown and wings which is a symbol for the marriage too just like the wedding-gloves underneath. The ship to the right is probably the matrimony-ship.
As to a marriage of Antje Jilderts van Egten herself: there is no record of that in Friesland and this "merklap" was inherited through the family of her sister Klaaske.
- Quarterly magazine of the Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG), the Hague, year 11, number 3.
- Website of the Frisian Museum, Leeuwarden.