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Finding Carl: a genealogist’s tale

14 January 2012

In 2010, at a PTA assembly, I got to talking to one of the moms in my son’s class.  Our chat veered into genealogy and she shared how she would love to know more about her grandfather, an American soldier who married a Filipina, who she only knew my her nickname, “Barang”.  Her father was in his sixties when she was born, so she grew up with very little knowledge of her ancestry.  Her story fascinated me, so I began my search for Carl Van Hoven.

With only one name and a bunch of second-hand stories to go on, I cranked up the tools at my disposal and searched.  I was amazed at the volume of materials I found, from on-line searches alone.  It was definitely not one of my usual hauls!  From military records, passenger lists, census records, passport applications, newspaper clippings and other documents from various resources, like, and, I was able to piece together his accomplished life.

His family

Carl Henry Kruse Van Hoven was born on 06 January 1875 in Pine, Minnesota, United States to Edward Van Hoven and Louisa Kruse.

His father, Edward Van Hoven was born in January 1834 in the Netherlands.  In formal records, his name also appears as Evenhardt, Everhadus and Everhardus – a Dutch name which he very likely Americanized when he migrated to the United States in 1864.  He was a probate judge – a respected position which oversees the proper disposition of the assets of deceased individuals.  He died on 22 May 1926 in Dickens, Clay, Iowa at age 92.

His mother, Louisa H. Kruse was born in November 1850 in Germany.  She was naturalized as an American citizen in 1870.  She died on 19 February 1924 in Dickens, Clay, Iowa at age 73.

Carl had the following brothers and sisters:

  1. Henrietta.  She was born in 1872 in Pine, Minnesota.
  2. George.  He was born in June 1882 in Pine, Minnesota.  He was a barber.
  3. Edward.  He was born in March 1887 in Minnesota.  He was christened Evenhardt or Everstrand, but like his father, he used the Americanized name in many records.  He died on 08 December 1907 in Cook, Illinois, after an accident where his body was crushed.
  4. Emma.  She was born in July 1888 in Minnesota.  He married Charles Ensley Looney Stockton, a farmer from Missouri.
  5. Heinrich Christian Daniel.  He was born in 11 October 1892 in Minnesota.  He married Lola Inez Moore of Wisconsin.  Before he was drafted to fight in World War I, he worked as a lumberman in Freeman, Clay, Iowa.  In the 1920 US Census, his occupation was general store proprietor.

His military career

Carl Van Hoven was 23 years old and residing in St. Paul, Minnesota when he enlisted as a volunteer for the American campaign against Spain in 09 May 1898.  On 16 May 1898, the 13th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry departed Camp Ramsey, St. Paul, Minnesota and set out for San Francisco, California. On 26 June 1898, the regiment steamed for Manila. The troops stopped at Pearl Harbor on 05 July 1898 and remained there until 08 July, when their trip to the Philippines resumed. On 13 July 1898, the regiment reached Manila Harbor. They remained on board the ship until August 7, when a landing was made at Parañaque. A private for the 13th Unit under Company D, Carl was assigned as a stenographer at headquarters upon his deployment.  The regiment set their tents in a peanut field at Camp Dewey, near Manila. He was injured in action and hospitalized in May 1899 in Manila.  He was honorably discharged from the military on 09 August 1899, opting to stay in Manila, instead of returning with this infantry.  He stayed in Manila, until the late 1910s.

His personal life

Carl Van Hoven in 1918

On 04 October, 1917, Carl Van Hoven passed the Philippine Bar Exams. In his US passport application in 1918, he listed his occupation as “Attorney”.  In 1920, Carl’s name appears in the University of the Philippines Commencement Programme. His address was “Kneedler Building, Manila”.

Carl appears in the 1930 US Census as a resident of California, together with a Spanish-born wife named Emilia. At age 54, he worked in an insurance company.

Carl seemed to have returned to Manila in the 1930s. When war broke out in the early 1940s, he was residing in Manila. Being an American civilian, he was rounded up together with his compatriots and imprisoned by the Japanese. The University of Santo Tomas, which had been converted into a POW camp, was his home during the war. He was released in December 1943.

Carl lived in Manila for the rest of his days. At the 51st reunion of the 13th Minnesota Regimental Association in August 1949, his address was listed as “750 Sta. Mesa, Manila, PI”. He died on 18 January 1955 in Quezon City, Philippines at age 80. He was, at this time, married to Alvara Sanchez, aka Barang.

Finding Carl, literally

All this, I researched two years ago.

This week, while on a photography expedition in Manila North Cemetery, one of the oldest in the country, I told my two companions I wanted to see the Jewish Cemetery (a co-curator on Geni, Kenneth Kwame Welsh, had tuned me into how there is a very “old” Jewish minority in the country that I knew very little about).  One would have to walk a few hundred meters from the main road to find the Jewish mini-cemetery, which had its own iron fence and was not open to the curious public (that was us!).  When I turned around to walk back to the car, lo and behold, fronting the iron gate, I came face-to-face with the sad, untended grave of Carl Van Hoven and his Filipina wife, Alvara!

The grave was amid a sea of trash and had a gaping hole at the back, clearly the work of grave-robbers.

I immediately called my friend, his granddaughter, who was understandably dumbfounded.  She was so excited with the news that she dropped everything she had lined up that Wednesday to drive to Manila North Cemetery to be reunited with the grandparents she never knew.  She quickly went to work on cleaning the grave and repairing the damage to the structure.


Carl was born on January 6 and he died on January 18.  I visited Cementerio del Norte on January 11.  One week after my visit would have been his 56th death anniversary.  I don’t think it was just a coincidence that I found him without even trying.  I would like to think his essence wanted to be reunited with his family somehow.  And I helped!  It is experiences like these that make me feel privileged to be a genealogist.

Descendants and friends visited Lolo Carl on his 56th death anniversary in 2012.

Discoveries continue

Carl and Alvara Van Hoven had two children together.  And from their descendants, I gleamed even more details on this clan.

According to one of their great-grandchildren, John (via their daughter Aurora), their side of the family call Alvara, “Lelang” — an old Tagalog colloquialism equivalent to “Lola” or “Grandma”.  It also seems the family is fond of nicknames — a very Filipino trait.  The younger Carl was called Bemboy; while Aurora was nicknamed Busia.

Another descendant, Carl (their grandson via Carl/Bemboy) remembers his father talking about how Lolo Carl disappeared for several years during his childhood, only to reappear mysteriously before the war. This is consistent with documentary proof, putting Lolo Carl as a resident of San Francisco in the 1930 US Census.  Bemboy also became a lawyer and was a pioneer employee of the Manila Electric Company.

The youngest of their grandchildren, Marissa, never got to meet Carl and Barang. A story that resonated with her from overheard discussions in her youth was that Barang was known as “Reyna ng Sakla” in her neighborhood — a title that alludes to what was likely a strong, colorful personality.  Sakla is a Filipino numbers game (now classified as illegal), typically played in small town fiestas and wakes.

(The following images were posted with permission from the owner, John Laconico.)

From left, Aurora, Alvara and Carl in 1925.

From left, Busia, Carl (with a spiffy buntal hat) and Bemboy pose in a photo taken approximately in the late 30s.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael A. Van Hoven permalink
    16 January 2012 16:48

    Dear Researcher of Carl H. Van Hoven,

    I am a descendant of Carl H. Van Hoven through his son Carl S.Van Hoven.
    I am moved by your article especially knowing the existence of the graves of my ancestors in North Cemetery. Please feel free to contact me at I would appreciate it if you could facilitate efforts for me to get in touch with your friend, the grand daughter of Lola Barang. Thank you.

    Michael A. Van Hoven
    Fort Shafter, Hawaii

    • Mona permalink*
      16 January 2012 21:38

      Hi Michael. I sent your note to my friend via email, complete with your contacts. If you don’t mind, I will leave it up to her to contact you. :)

    • Mona permalink*
      16 January 2012 22:26

      Hi Michael. FYI, I took the GPS coordinates of approximately 200 grave markers — the one shared by Lolo Carl and Lola Barang was among them. Their grave can be found here:

  2. 19 November 2012 07:33

    I am also a descendat of Carl and Alvara through their daughter Busia(Aurora). My cousin posted a couple of their old pictures on Facebook. If you are interested, send a contact email to and I will forward the pictures to you.

    • Mona permalink*
      20 November 2012 06:10

      This is great, John! I am sending an email out to you directly to introduce you to your cousins! :)

  3. 6 March 2014 23:38

    What a wonderful story, though I am not related to Carl, I have a similar story about looking for my grandfather Charles Francis Kocher. My grandfather is interred at the Philippine American Cemetery in Iloilo Iloilo, and only found him recently through the help of the internet and a blogger’s website and a lovely lady who took photos of his crypt. My daughter is going to Manila on business and plans to do some research on family ancestors and would like to know where she can go in Manila to research for birth, death, etc. documents. Can you help me?

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