52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #8 – Albert (Ale) Westra

Relationship: Grandfather

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The Ambachschool at Leeuwarden Source: http://www.inoudeansichten.nl, L714 – Ambachtsschool rond 1925.


An amsbachtschool is a type of trade school in the Netherlands. Established around 1865 these schools provided education those who had completed primary school but had no means to attend more expensive higher education schools. They were used to train workers in a specific trade or craft. The amsbachtschool offered courses that allowed graduates to become blacksmiths, carpenters, joiners, painters, fitters, electricians, and instrument makers. There were also courses in metal (copper, lead and zinc) processing, electrical engineering, automobile service, and both motorcycle and bicycle repair.

My maternal grandfather, was born Ale Westra (later changed to Albert Westra) on 13 Mar 1908 in Dronjirp, Friesland, Netherlands.[1] He grew up there and in 1922 enrolled in the Ambachtschool located in nearby Leeuwarden. The old postcard above shows the handsome red brick building that many young men attended to learn their trades.


Ale Westra’s report booklet cover


Ale’s grades at the Leeuwarden Ambachtschool

According to his rapportboekje (report booklet), he studied an number of different subjects. Formal classroom work included algebra, geometry, and Dutch. He was graded on his knowledge of tool repair, nature signs, and form signs. I would assume the last two (nature and form signs) related to his ability to interpret the nature of the wood he was working with at the time. Ale had practical work and was graded on woodturning (creating wooden items on a lathe using various chisels), lathe work, and finishing. Even his behavior in each of the areas was rated.

Overall, his grades were average. The scale rating was:

  1. Very bad (zeer slecht)
  2. Bad (slecht)
  3. Very inadequate (zeer onvoldoende)
  4. Inadequate (onvoldoende)
  5. Nearly sufficient (bijna voldoende)
  6. Sufficient (voldoende)
  7. More than sufficient (ruin voldoende)
  8. Good (goed)
  9. Very good (deer goed)
  10. Excellent (uitmuntend)
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Young men at the Leeuwarden Ambachtschool in their woodworking class. Source: Leeuwarden Menno van Coehoornstraat-Ambachtsschool timmerklas 1915-1920.jpg at commons.wikimedia.org.

Ale was given mostly 6, 7, and 8s with a some 5s thrown in here and there. He was promoted in 1923 and 1924. On his final test (kindproefwerk) for graduation, he earned a 7 for his practical work (praktijk), a 6 for his signatures (handteek, though not his name signature, I’m sure it had to do with his technique/style), a 6 for trade knowledge (vakteek) and a 7 for theory. His graduation occurred in 1925.

Ale wouldn’t use his carpentry skills immediately. He had other things like immigration, marriage, and farm work to keep him occupied before he put his carpentry training to good use. (See my earlier post on my grandfather Albert Westra at http://wp.me/p4WHi0-J). He would eventually come back to his roots and start a business to build houses bringing some of his son-in-laws into the carpentry fold.

Carpentry runs deep in my family. Stay turned for my great-grandfather Ora Simpson Strait’s turn with the profession.

[1] Netherlands, Kingdom of, Municipality of Menaldumadeel, Extract of the Registrar of Births, birth certificate 36 (1908), Ale Westra.


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