Esther Hart: A family history connected to their land

Esther Hart— born Esther Katinka Hartkamp — never intended to enter the Eurovision Song Contest. But in 2003, she found herself being asked by not one, but two countries, to compete! The Dutch singer had been recording an album in the UK at the time, and the songwriter who created one of the songs she was singing submitted it to the BBC for consideration without letting her know; at the same time, she agreed to record a demo for the Dutch producer of “One More Night,” as they hadn’t decided yet what voice they wanted to sing it. When both songs made it to the pre-Eurovision contests, she was forced to choose, since she wouldn’t be allowed to represent two countries at once. She chose to stick with her homeland, and “One More Night” placed 13th in the contest.

Esther took a MyHeritage DNA test, and by examining her results and exploring her family tree, we were able to follow Esther’s paternal family all the way back for seven generations — and gain a better understanding of where Esther’s love and loyalty to her home country came from.

An agricultural family with deep roots in the Netherlands

Esther’s ancestors were mostly farmers living in Overijssel, an agricultural area in the north-west region of the Netherlands. Both men and women participated in the difficult but rewarding work of planting. Perhaps it is the strong work ethic inherited from her ancestors that led Esther to represent the Netherlands in Eurovision 2003.

Willem Hertkamp, 5th great-grandfather

Esther’s original family name was Hertkamp, named for the land they cared for, which was located in Rumele, in the Raalte region. The name means “a land with many deer”: hert means “deer” and kamp means “camp” or “area.” The first Hertkamp to appear in written records was Esther’s 5th great-grandfather, Willem.

Jannes Hertkamp, 4th great-grandfather

Baptism record of Jannes Hertkamp, 29 March 1767 [Credit: MyHeritage]
Baptism record of Jannes Hertkamp, 29 March 1767 [Credit: MyHeritage]
Willem married Janna Antonis, and in 1767 they had a son, Jannes.

It was Jannes who changed the name to Hartkamp. Like his father Willem, Jannes worked all his life as a farmer, raising crops for his family and providing produce for his fellow Dutch citizens to eat and enjoy.

Willem Hartkamp, 3rd great-grandfather

Jannes’ son inherited his grandfather’s name, Willem. He also shared his grandfather’s and his father’s commitment to the land, working as a farmer and a day laborer. Willem’s first wife, Wilhelmina Kuiper, was the daughter of Jan Kuiper and Anna Maria Meenhorst. Like him, she grew up as a farmer, the child of farming parents.

A family tradition of long marriages

Esther’s ancestors shared an enduring love for the land, but they also seem to have shared a long, enduring love for each other: several of them had unusually long and happy marriages.

Jannes and Geziena Hertkamp, 4th great-grandparents

In 1797, at the relatively advanced age of 30, Jannes — Esther’s aforementioned 4th great-grandfather — married Geziena Horsman. Geziena was the daughter of nearby farmers Gerrit Jan Horsman and Matjen Vrijhof. Jannes and Geziena lived together for 42 years until Jannes died in 1839.

Jannes and Geziena had one son, Willem. Unfortunately, Willem’s first marriage ended early when his wife, Wilhemina, died young. At the age of 44, Willem married again, this time to Maria Kuiper. In 1842, Willem and Maria had a boy — Bernardus.

Bernardus and Johanna Hartkamp, great-great-grandparents

Bernardus Hartkamp was the son of Willem Hartkamp and Maria Kuiper. At his birth in 1842, his mother was 23 years old and his father 44 years old. Bernardus could not read nor write, but made good use of his hands as a carpenter. In 1869 Bernard married Johanna Sluiter, daughter of Albert Sluiter (farmer) and Rensje Ester. Bernardus and Johanna remained married until Johanna died in 1923 at age 77, after an impressive 44 years of marriage. Bernardus lived another 10 years.

Announcement of the death of Johanna Hartkamp, 1923
Announcement of the death of Johanna Hartkamp, 1923

Albert and Marrigje Hartkamp, great-grandparents

Albert Hartkamp was the son of Bernardus and Johanna. He broke with family tradition, becoming a stoker on a railway instead of a farmer—but he did hold to the tradition of long and happy marriages. Albert married Marrigje Schutte in 1895.

Bernardus and Hermina Hartkamp, grandparents

Esther’s grandparents, Bernardus and Hermina, set yet another personal example of a long and loving marriage. Bernardus and Hermina lived in the same neighborhood on the Schellerweg, and got engaged in 1927.

Engagement announcement of Bernardus Hartkamp and Mien (Hermina), Esther’s grandparents [Credit: MyHeritage]
Engagement announcement of Bernardus Hartkamp and Mien (Hermina), Esther’s grandparents [Credit: MyHeritage]
Their marriage outstripped that of all their ancestors, lasting almost 50 years. Bernardus died in 1976, and Hermina survived him, passing away in 1992.

The double gravestone of Bernardus and Hermina Hartkamp
The double gravestone of Bernardus and Hermina Hartkamp

Esther Hart’s MyHeritage DNA results

Esther’s DNA results show just how firmly rooted she is in her region. Her origins are 100% from North and West Europe. The Netherlands lies on the borders of Scandinavia, which might explain why she is 73.9% Scandinavian and 26.1% North and West European.

Esther Hart’s MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Estimate
Esther Hart’s MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Estimate

Although Esther doesn’t have any close relatives on the site, she has over 2,500 relatives worldwide that she can now reach out to through the MyHeritage platform.

Considering MyHeritage’s research into Esther’s family history and her DNA test, it’s no surprise that she has such a strong commitment to her country. MyHeritage revealed that this tradition has been passed down through her family over an astonishing 200 years. What an appropriate choice she was to represent the Netherlands at the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest.