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Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Janzen, Jacobus. biography in progress


Captain Jacobus Janzen was in command in the period 1873 to 1877.

Sorting out his history is a real challenge as he does not appear in the HR files of the company.

What do we know thus far:

A challenge is to start with the last name: It has been spelled as Jansen, Janssen and Janzen.  As there is no personal listing about him in the archives, we come across various spellings but we think Janzen is correct and was alsways like this:

Jacobus Janzen was born on 02 September 1836 in Rotterdam (d). He was the son of Pieter Janzen who was also a sea captain. There were in total 4 sons.
Jacobus (1), Pieter Jr., Jacob and Jacobus (2).  Jacobus 1 age 16 died on board his father’s [Pieter Sr.] ship in August 1836 and Jacobus (2) born on Sept. 2, 1836 inherits the name and he eventually becomes a steamboat captain with HAL.
His older brother (Pieter) had become captain of a ship and when he was transferred to another ship Jacobus (born Apr. 22, 1828) takes over the command of a ship called the Factorij or Factory. Contemporary newspapers report the arrival of the barkship “Factory” arrived 8 July in New York with 90 passengers from Rotterdam. (d)
He marries in 1860 with Johanna G.C van Beekem and they have one daughter called Catharina Jacoba.  (a) and appears in 1860 as captain on a sailing ship, the frigate Vriendschap (Friendship). He remains on the sailing ships until 1872 when he crosses over to steam and to us (c) He came from a sailing family and his father was also captain sailing for shippers based in Rotterdam

He  joined as Chief Mate or First Officer, (or as we call it nowadays, Chief Officer or Staff Captain) under the command of Captain Hus for the maiden voyage of the ss Rotterdam (I). At that time the Holland America did not exist yet, it was still CV. Plate, Reuchlin.

I assume that he joined the ship in Scotland to sail it over as Captain Hus had been there already for awhile to supervise the newbuilding. The ss Rotterdam (I) arrived in Rotterdam in September and docked at the Willemskade where it was visited by many people. This was in September 1872 and thus he must have joined the company shortly before.

On 15 October 1872 he sailed with the ship on the maiden voyage to New York. There is a letter in the company archives written by him which indicates that there were only a few first class passengers and only a few emigrants on board on this first voyage. Nobody was very much in the mood to face the North Atlantic when the autumn storms were starting while sailing on such a new fangled thing as a steamship.

He then made 8 voyages (nbr. 9 to 17) on the ss Rotterdam and during that time the company went public; became NASM (although everybody called it Holland America Line) and two more ships were added to the fleet. Captain Hus transferred to the first newbuilt and Chief Mate Janzen was promoted on 19 February 1874 to command the ss Rotterdam (I) He did not have much excitement during those trips and the only highlight was that on 23 July 1875 he could sail the ship directly into Rotterdam as the approach to the port had now been dredged to a sufficient depth.

Then when in 1875 Captain Hus took a shore side job, Captain Janzen was transferred on 24 July 185 to the W.A Scholten, where he remained for the next 15 voyages.

Wages were  60 Dutch florins a month for a chief mate and 200 a month for the captain, plus a bonus of 2% of the voyage profit. When he transferred from the smaller Rotterdam to the larger W.A Scholten his wages increased to 250 florins a month.  (a & b)

In 1880 Captain Janzen left the company and transferred to the Rotterdamsche Lloyd, a company which sailed from Rotterdam to the Dutch Colonies in the Far East. He made a number of voyages on the ships Drenthe and Overijssel.

Pieter Janzen nephew of Captain Janzen,



At the moment it seems that a nephew Pieter who also sailed for the company but did not stay until he made captain. From the family (d) I have a photo and they assume that this is Pieter Janzen.  It has been with almost certainty established that this photo was taken when he had left the company and became commissioner with the 4th. pilot District in Holland (basically the area West and South of Rotterdam) He passed away on 1 Aug. 1886  being 37 years old.(a)









(a) Authors archives.

(b) HAL Archives as held by the City Archives as held in Rotterdam.

(c) Information from Family.

(d) via Laurens van der Laan.




  1. Laurens van der Laan

    September 28, 2017 at 4:21 am

    The good captain’s name was Jacobus Janzen, who started his – steamship – HAL career as a First Officer under Captain Jacob Hus on the new ss. Rotterdam (1) in 1872. When Captain Hus was assigned to the ship W. A. Scholten under construction, Jacobus Janzen succeeded him in Feb. 1874.
    When Captain Hus retired to become an Shipping Expert ashore, Captain Janzen took command of the W. A. Scholten in Jul. 1875 till Jan. 1878, when he left HAL for a career with his former employer the Rotterdam Lloyd, now as a captain to the East Indies via the new Suez Canal.

  2. I am searching for information on the ship that carried my great-great grandfather to New York in 1851. I have found the manifest for a ship named “Factory” with his name on it that sailed in July of that year from Rotterdam, and J. Janzen is listed as captain. Do you know of this vessel? Thanks! Bryan

    • Thank you for reading my blog.

      I have not heard of a sailing ship called Factory. If it would have been a Dutch ship, then the spelling should have been Factorij. (Which does means factory or processing plant in dutch) Maybe they decided to spell the name the English way. There are a lot of Dutch captains called Janzen, Jantzen, Jansen or Janssen. It is the second most common name in the Netherlands after De Vries. So we are talking two different Janzen Captains here. There is the chance that the Janzen of the Factory / Factorij is a relative or even the father as that was an J Janzen. (J standing for Jacobus)

  3. To be more precise, Janzen was listed as the master on the manifest, which also bears his name and separate signature. But if this is the same person, he would have been about 15 at the time if your birth records are correct

  4. Laurens van der Laan

    May 6, 2018 at 2:32 am

    Via the ‘Delpher’ Historic Dutch Newspapers I read in the Friday 18 July 1851 Sheboygan, Wisconsin Nieuwsbode – “The only Dutch (or Holland) paper in the United States”:
    [transl:} The barkship “Factory” arrived 8 July in New York with 90 passengers from Rotterdam.
    Captain Albert mentions above that there were 4 sons: Jacobus (1), Pieter Jr., Jacob and Jacobus (2).
    Jacobus 1 age 16 died on board his father’s [Pieter Sr.] ship in August 1836 and the boy born on Sept. 2, 1836 inherits the name and he eventually becomes a steamboat captain with HAL.
    His older brother Jacob – born Apr. 22, 1828 – was the captain of the bark Factorij/ Factory.

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