Lenny Kuhr discovers a family history as rich as her music

Lenny Kuhr is one of the most famous singers in the Netherlands. Entire generations can sing along with her major hits such as “Kom, Liefste Geef Me Je Hand” (“Come Dearest Give Me Your Hand” and “Visite”. She rose to fame when she won the Eurovision Song Contest of 1969… along with three other contestants! Lenny tied for first place with the UK, France and Spain, all of whom received 18 points in the contest. This was the first time a tie had ever occurred in the Eurovision, and since there were no rules in place to determine what to do in such an eventuality, all four countries shared the victory that year. The contest organizers have since added tie-breaking rules. Lenny’s winning song was “The Troubadour,” with a cheerful sing-along chorus in all languages.

After her Eurovision win, Lenny’s singing career blossomed. Her 1980 hit, ‘Visite,’ is still quite popular in the Netherlands. This year, just prior to Eurovision 2019, Lenny is releasing her newest album entitled, ‘The song continues.’

As Presenting Partner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, MyHeritage works with song festival participants from the past and present, to take them on a journey through their family history. Eurovision is about bringing nations together, and MyHeritage helps provide insight into our common roots as part of the One Big Family.

We invited Lenny Kuhr to discover more about her family history, by researching her past and taking a MyHeritage DNA test. We found a past as rich and varied as Lenny’s music, with influences from Poland to Amsterdam and the Marines based in northern Holland.

The musical neighborhood of Amsterdam

Lenny had an inkling into her musical heritage: she knew that her father’s side has roots in the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam, which was home to many Dutch musicians. But just how deep are her roots in the country she represented?

Owners of the oldest pub in Amsterdam

The earliest ancestor we were able to trace, Johan Daniel Filarski, was born in Dantzig, Poland, around the year 1766. He was the son of Johan Gottlieb Filarski and Johanna Eleonora Ratelhof. He came to Amsterdam at the end of the 18th century, where he bought and ran the famous Karpershoek Cafe—the oldest bar in Amsterdam, built in 1557 and still operating today. In May 1792, he married a local girl named Alida Hent in Amsterdam. She was the daughter of Abraham Hent and Geesina Janssen. At the time of marriage, Alida was pregnant with their son, Jan Jacob. Both Johan and Alida could not write, and signed their marriage certificate with an x-mark:

The marriage certificate of Johan Daniel Filarski and Alida Hent, signed by each with an X
The marriage certificate of Johan Daniel Filarski and Alida Hent, signed by each with an X
Cafe Karpershoek – today
Cafe Karpershoek – today

Back from the dead

Their son Jan Jacobs Filarski (1792-1850) had an exciting career as a soldier of the French army of Napoleon, and was presumed dead. He apparently came back to Amsterdam on one leg, and found work as a carpenter, because his father’s death certificate notes that as his occupation. Jan married Caroline Scheber, the daughter of pub owner Lodewijk Scheber and his wife Janna Stremmelaar.

The signatures of Filarski, Jan Jacob and Scheber, Caroline on their marriage certificate, dated September 23, 1819, Amsterdam
The signatures of Filarski, Jan Jacob and Scheber, Caroline on their marriage certificate, dated September 23, 1819, Amsterdam

Caroline’s surname was originally written as Schäber. Her father Lodewijk was born around 1759 in Rischenau, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. After the death of her mother Janna Stremmelaar (b. 1759, Hasfelt, Germany or Hasselt, Belgium), Lodewijk remarried Teuntje Beugeman from Amsterdam in 1796.

Too small for the Marines?

Jan Daniël Filarski, Lenny’s maternal great-grandfather, was named after his paternal grandfather, and he was also a craftsman — a shoemaker. Eventually, however, he followed the footsteps of his father and joined the army. He applied to enlist in the Marines. At first he was found too small, but was admitted in 1840. The enlistment document describes his posture: “length 1 ellen, 6 palmen, 4 duimen [..] face oval, forehead high, eyes brown, nose thick, mouth normal, chin round, hair, eyebrows brown”.

Jan Daniël Filarski’s enlistment document
Jan Daniël Filarski’s enlistment document

Jan spent his whole career in the marine corps. He married Maria Kuijt and started a family near the marine base in Den Helder, North Holland. He rose to the rank of Sergeant Major and served 39 years of duty. On 30 September 1879, at the age of 60, he retired. He died 7 years later on April 1, 1886.

In a newspaper of 1873 Jan’s children congratulated their father with his 25 years of service.

Newspaper clipping in which Jan’s children congratulate their father for his service
Newspaper clipping in which Jan’s children congratulate their father for his service
Obituary of Jan Daniel Filarski April 1th 1886
Obituary of Jan Daniel Filarski April 1th 1886

Frederik Willem Filarski was born on June 1 1856 in Den Helder, one of the seven children of Jan Daniel and Maria Kuit. He is listed as having earned a living as a “conserver,” perhaps of a food or fish-related food product, as Den Helder is near the northern coast of the Netherlands. In 1882 he married Johanna Maria van der Wolt, daughter of Andries Cornelis van der Wolt and Christina Elisabeth Linneman. In 1897, the family moved to Amsterdam where Frederik worked as a ship carpenter. Frederik died on Dec 16, 1917 in Amsterdam due to chronic endocarditis, inflammation of the inner layer of the heart.

Household Filarski, Frederik Willem and Van der Wolt, Johanna Maria in Amsterdam
Household Filarski, Frederik Willem and Van der Wolt, Johanna Maria in Amsterdam

Craftsmen, bakers and artists

Willem Frederik Filarski, Lenny’s grandfather, was born in Den Helder, North Holland on 27 July 1887. The birth of Willem was recorded by his father, Frederik Filarski, his maternal grandfather, Andries van der Wolt, and an uncle Jan Filarski. Andries was a shoemaker, and Jan was a carpenter. Like his father, Willem moved to Amsterdam, where he married a local girl named Jacoba Maliepaard (b.1893), the daughter of Joseph Daniel Maliepaard and Alida Gerardina Enck. Willem was a baker, but at the time of marriage, he worked on the railway.

Death certificate for Filarski, Willem Frederik 1929, Amsterdam
Death certificate for Filarski, Willem Frederik 1929, Amsterdam

Lenny is also related to the painter Dirk Herman Willem Filarski. Johan Daniel Filarski and Alida Hent are their common ancestors. Dirk grew up in the Martelaarsgracht, which is where the Filarskis settled down when they arrived in Amsterdam.

Lenny’s MyHeritage DNA Results

Lenny’s DNA results show that, true to the deep European roots we found in her historical records, she is of European origin: 95.2% North and West European, and 4.8% English.

Lenny Kuhr’s MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Estimate
Lenny Kuhr’s MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Estimate

Although we didn’t find any close family members, Lenny has over 1,900 relatives from 29 different countries worldwide that she can now reach out to directly from the MyHeritage platform.

From famous pub owners to soldiers to craftsmen, Lenny’s family may have engaged in many trades, but they shared a common love for the Netherlands, and no doubt would have been proud to have their descendant win the Eurovision for her country.