Betje Mini tree diagram


(Adjuba van Betje van Beeldsnijder)

Life History


Birth of daughter Betje in Suriname


died in Suriname


We have only clues to the existence of Adjuba. The first came after a Google search which turned up a reference in the Old Church in Amsterdam:

The tomb of Adjuba's grandson, Jacob

A visitor to the Oude Kerke in Amsterdam wrote the following:

"So why was I interested in Jacob Matroos Beeldsnijder's (American: Bellsnyder) gravestone? I don't know. Maybe it's because he was born a slave and I didn't think there were former slaves buried in Dutch church grounds. I think that it's great that his remains lie in this great church as, well, proof of not only the Dutch involvement in the trans-atlantic slave trade but also proof that African peoples did live in Amsterdam during the Golden Age ...

I've googled him since and learnt so much. He (and his twin Ernst) were born slaves in Suriname to a mulatto woman whose Afro-Surinamese mother's name was Adjuba. Adjuba, Edjoba. Hmmm. Sounds like an Nzema name to me, which is highly possible because I know that a lot of Black Surinamese were taken from the coast of what is now modern day Ghana".

Martha Tjoe Nij, a Surinamese genealogist, says the following about Betje:

"Betje van Beeldsnijder born 1742 - deceased 1830 - belonging to Wolfert Jacob Beeldsnijder Matroos is a mullatin. She is a daughter of the Free Adjuba van Betje van Beeldsnijder that died in 1808." [No reference to source.]

Mulattin (mulatto) is now seen as an offensive term but in Dutch slaving terms it donates the first generation offspring of a black-white coupling. If Betje is 'mulattin' then Adjuba is not. So Adjuba was probably a first or second generation slave, kidnapped and transported from the West coast of Africa - possibly from the Côte d'Ivoire or Ghana where Dutch slavers were active.

We can only guess at Adjuba's birth date, but as her daughter, Betje, was born in 1842, Adjuba must have been born before 1730.

Adjuba's name: 'Adjuba van Betje van Beeldsnijder' suggests that she had been owned and was freed by her daughter. Could it be that Betje had been freed by Beeldsnijder Matroos (as mother of his children) and been given her mother as a slave? In Suriname, regulations specified that mothers and children were kept together when one or the other was sold.

Adjuba's death is 66 years after the birth of her daughter which suggests she must have lived for around 80 years and probably was not a field slave.

Adjuba will have seen the birth of 3 grand children and at least 4 great grandchildren. (Ironically, now related to the family that kidnapped her.)

An intriguing reference in 'Paths to Freedom: Manumission in the Atlantic World' edited by Rosemary Brana-Shute & Randy J Sparks

103. Will of David Pinto, Paramaribo (June 14, 1765), microfilm 67a, frame 353, AJA.
Pinto also ordered his heirs or estate executors to buy "a Black newly off the boat" for the free black woman Adjuba, "in compensation for the good services he had from her"

David Pinto was a member of a prominent, extremely wealthy Jewish family. Isaac de Pinto, his ancester , was director and shareholder of both the Dutch East and West Indies Companies, Isaac de Pinto once made "a colossal loan to England of 6.6 million pounds (representing around 22% of the total English public debt}" [source]

Wolphert Matroos, also a member of wealthy family and a prominent member of Paramaribo society would have been acquainted with, if not a friend of David Pinto. Is it possible that our Betje was the daughter of Adjuba and Pinto?

Another reference to Adjuba and Pinto in 'Negerjood in moederland' by Ellen Ombre [Google translation]

"In the afternoon she was sent out to look for work. She became a maid to the freeman Fritz Otnip. He lived next door to his old, invalid mother Adjuba. Adjuba was a slave of David Pinto, the progenitor of Fritz. She had been born in Joden Savanne, but grew up in the city and could have ransom herself together with her son. She became a milliner and became the owner of two houses on Zwartenhovenbrugstraat, not far from where the Dahre Jesarim, the siva of the Negro Jews, had stood. "

Fritz fell in love with the young girl …

It has also been suggested thatAdjuba may originally have been a slave of Andreas Rijnsdorp.

The recorded name of Adjuba's grand-daughter, Elizabeth Bijval might suggest that Adjuba had connection to the Bijgeval (Bij-Geval) Plantation. It is easy to believe that Bijgeval could be read as Bijval.

There is a reference to the Bijgeval Plantaion which gives its owner in 1819 as 'S. Abendanon'. There is a connection here, as F. R. Buschman, son of M. E. Bijval/Buschman {born in 1815}, married Simcha Marie Abendanon, a Sephardic Jewess, daughter of: Isaac Mozes Abendanon. Could Simcha be S. Abendanon, the owner of the plantation? The Abendanon family were early and prominent members of Paramaribo society.

Another Adjuba in 'Jews in Another Environment: Surinam in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century , Robert Cohen, 1991.

Not 'our' Adjuba, but the snippet does give an idea of the environment in which 'our' Adjuba might have found herself. Quite coincidentally, our Adjuba's daughter, Betje, later on owned houses in Domineestraat and Joden Breestraat

"Not all Jewish mulattos and blacks live at the Joden Savanna and not all were poor. Adjuba, a black slave woman of David Nassy purchased her freedom in 1772 for fl. 2500,-. David Nassy included her son Pieter in the price, stipulating that the amount would also cover any other children she might have while still enslaved. A seamstress and laundress by profession, Adjuba owned a lot in the Ledesmastraat in Paramaribo, with a new house and a 'good house standing behind [it]' which could be rented out. In 1780 the house was assessed fL 200,-. She also owned two girls and a young woman.

Like Adjuba, most free mulattos and blacks lived in the new fourth quarter of the city. Rosa Judea, who in 1762 was still at Joden Savanna can be found in 1772 in the Domineestraat in a house valued at fl. 600,-. Another decade later her son David Junior owned two houses in the Joden Breestraat together assessed at fl. 400,=."

Life in the Shadows - Slavery and Slave Culture in Surinam, SK says:

"The masters seemed to employ Ashanti day names eagerly, which in the Surinam versions were for .. girls: Kwassiba, Adjuba, Amba, Animba, Acuba, Jaba, Afiba, Abeniba".

So it might just be that Adjuba was born on a Monday. And her name might indicate that she was born in Suriname, rather than a 'first generation' slave.

SK goes on to say:

"It should not be thought that the slaves meekly accepted the names bestowed on them by their owners. The whites used them, but frequently their peers did not. Therefore, slaves often had several names (just as the Bush Negroes still have): their 'official' name, given to them by their master; their day name; a 'Negro' name used by their fellows and sometimes a nickname as well. It is obvious that the whites were aware of this practice, because in the archives they frequently listed 'aliases'".

Ghana_Ivory_Coast.jpg From Ghana – Caribbean Relations - From Slavery Times To Present

Slaves from the Gold Coast, known collectively as "Kormantin Negroes" were sourced by the Dutch West Indian Company from its Forts at Elmina, Accra, Axim, Apam, Moure, Senya Bereku etc.

The bulk were taken to Suriname but a few also reached Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, St. Martin and St Eustatius. Some Dutch West Indian Company officials in the Gold Coast (like Nicholas Bakergem and De Petersen) actually owned Slave Ships as well as Sugar Plantations in Suriname. Their families in Netherlands and Elmina inherited their Caribbean businesses.

Some 22% of the half a million slaves exported to the New World by the Dutch went to Suriname and 30% of that number came from the Elmina area. Between the 1780s and 1863, the Dutch-Elmina-Carribean business of the Bakergem family continued to flourish.

From The Boni Maroon Wars in Suriname:

Surinam Slaves 2

"The population of Surinam was primarily divided into free and unfree (slaves).

The free included people of all races. Besides the Dutch, there were English, French and German migrants who had come to the colony to work and were attracted by the climate of religious tolerance. At the top of the social ladder stood the senior officials, merchants and planters.

The slave-masters on the plantations formed a European middle class, while the soldiers were the least regarded of all Europeans. Those of mixed descent, with some European ancestry, felt a cut above the Africans. They gradually formed into a middle class.

Among the unfree, those of mixed race were given the best jobs, such as domestic chores. Yet Africans made up by far the majority of the population: in 1791, 53,000 Africans were enslaved in Surinam. By contrast, there were around 5,000 Europeans living in the colony."


A Slave called Adjuba

In Life in the shadows by 'SK' there is the story of a mulatto slave woman named Adjuba. (Almost certainly not 'our' Adjuba.)

Adjuba complained to the authorities about her treatment at the hands of her owner, Izaac de Meza. Her complaint was not taken seriously and she was returned to her master, who had to pay for the costs of the proceedings.

Although he was told told to keep her in Pamaribo and not to punish her for complaints she lodged against him, he dragged her home, beat her severely and put her in irons. The 'Court of Police' eventually heard the horrific details from a slave on the plantation and sent a man to investigate.

Despite attempts to hide her, Burgerluitenant Vinke "found poor Adjuba in a shed. Her legs were distended and fastened in a block and her mouth was so swollen that she could hardly drink." With some difficulty, and with some help from Izak's brother, he "managed to persuade Izak to let Adjuba go. She arrived in Paramaribo with no lasting damage and was able to tell the tale of her suffering to the Court."

Unfortunately that was not the end of the story.

After a stay of about ten days in the house of a certain De Mesquita in Paramaribo, her master came to fetch her. He put her in a corjaer and as soon as they were out of sight, he tied her hands behind her back and let her lie without food on the bottom of the boat for the entire journey of two days. When they arrived on the plantation, Adjuba had fallen to her knees and swore that she would never complain again, but De Meza merely replied that the next time she went to see the Raad-Fiscaal, she could show him more solid proof of abuse: the scars of a Spaanse Bok on her behind (until now she had only been whipped).

The next day, he burned her on both arms, cut off her hair, took away her clothes and gave her a maka paantje, with the promise that from now on she would never wear anything else. When she aroused his anger over a triviality, he kicked and beat her, sent away her relatives to the Joden Savanne and threatened her with a Spaanse Bok. Because she feared that she would not survive without her family to care for her, Adjuba decided to run away to the Joden Savanne, hoping to be able to persuade a white to put in a good word with her master. She was caught and brought to the house of De Meza.

He locked her in irons under his hammock and left her there for two weeks without any food or drink –an ordeal she only survived because her relatives occasionally managed to slip some victuals to her. Afterwards, De Meza dragged her back to the plantation and tied her to his bed during the night. The next day, he submitted her to the promised Spaanse Bok. From then on, she had to work around the house and was thrashed so often by De Meza and his wife that she begged to be allowed to work in the field (a great humiliation for a mulatto woman). She was denied that privilege. Finally, De Meza nailed her in a block and said she would stay there for the rest of her life as an example to the other slaves. Luckily, she was rescued in time."

Nothing more is said of what became of her.