The church of Neer where many of our ancestors where baptized.

To get a better view on what we already collected about our Ronken Family, I wrote this story. The general idea is that the surname Ronken should come from Saint Hyronimus, which I doubt. I found several derivations of the name Ronken in the "Dictonairy of Family Names in Belgium and North France", published by the bank "Het Gemeente Krediet" in Belgium:

Ronca/Roncard/Roncart/Ronquart/Ronkart/Ronkard/Ronchail Ronchain/Ronchin/Roncin/Ronsin


The France/Belgium Connections.

It all started with a mail from François Carron in Belgium. He wrote in French: "Vieux mot celte qui signifie cochon. Par extension, la profession de la personne et le lieu où l'on exerce la profession. (Ronkenstein). Ce mot ce prononce de manière gutturale. En revenant de l'Allemagne ou du Limbourg hollandais et belge vers la France surtout vers la Belgique, la form celtique et la période rubanée (-4000) se prononce plus sur le bout des lèvres et se dit: Ronchain (le e devient un a). Ce nom, aujourd'hui encore, est un nom de famille en Belgique et dans le Nord-Picard de la France."

Translated into English this means about the following: Ronken is an old Celtic word that means pig or swine. (many of our wifes will, without any doubt, confirm this). About "Ronkenstein" (a very small hamlet in Holland with, at this moment, no link to the family) he says: "It is the profession and the place he comes from".

He will think of, for instance, pig breeder but we think "stein" is from a mills stone and means miller. At Ronkenstein there is, and was for may centuries, a water mill for grind cereals. The word "Ronken" is pronounced with a guttural sound. You look in Germany, Dutch Limbourg and Belgium, direction France. The Celtics in the period about 4000 years before Christ pronounced the word Ronken more in front of the mouth like Ronchain. (the e changes in an a) The surname Ronchain, even in these days, is found in Belgium and North France.

In Belgium I found in the town of Mons one Ronchain and in the places Huy, Seraing and Namur in total four with the surname Ronchaine. They all did not response to my letters. In the North of France, close to the bigger town Lille, I found a little town with the name Roncq (In Dutch this sounds the same as Ronke.)

In the French telephone book I also found one Ronchain and about twenty with the name Ronchin. (Ronchin is also a small place near Lille). Speaking about Ronc. I had an e-mail contact with Enez Lichtfield in the USA. She searches for the ancestors of Marie Susanne Lisabeth Ronc, daughter of Diogini Ronc (in Italy) and Maria Serifina Creux. This last name is without any doubt a French one.

In Holland, not far from my place, we had Jacobus Ronc, mayor of the place Tegelen, who died in 1762. He was married with Beatrix Donhaye (also a French name) and their daughter was Anna Catharina Ronque. I'm searching this line too.

And than we got our namesakes from the USA, all with only a "k" so far. I have not heard yet of any with "ck". It's clear they almost all came sailing from Norway. But how did they get to Norway in the first place?

The Scandinavian Connections.


Let's start with the Finns. Martti Ronkainen, a Finnish schoolteacher in Joensuu, mailed the following to me: " The file of my ancestors begins in 1686 with Olof Rongain (a lease holder) followed by Eric Rongain, Christer Rongain (1760-1832), Antti Ronkainen (1793-1852), Antti Ronkainen (1837-1880), Pekka Ronkainen (1871-1937), Antti Ronkainen (1901-1914) and last but not least Martti Ronkainen himself (1941-????). Up till about 1670 the population of Eastern Finland was purely Orthodox (members of the Russian Orthodox Church). As a result of a war at that time most of these people moved across the border to Russia. The area was immediately occupied by people from an Eastern province called Savo. They all where Lutherans by religion, the same as my (Martti's) family is. So it is possibly that my family moved from the Savo province (Joroinen or Juva parish) to the North Carelia province in Finland. First to Kontiolahti then to Ilomantsi parish in the late 1600th. My ancestors have been farmers by profession. At this moment there still live about 3200 Ronkainen's in Finland, not one Ronchain and no Ron(c)ken's".

Another Finnish contact is Olli Sylvänne, an engineer from Espo. He wrote that there are two places the Ronken's could come from. Savo (Eastern Finland) and Carelia (South East and now partly Russian). His branch comes possibly from Juva in Savo North of Mikkili. He now searches the period 1540-1640 there. At the end of the 16th century there have been four farms with Ronkainen's in Juva. One of these farmers was named Matts Rongain, who lost his farm due to unpaid taxes in 1616. He might be the first known ancestor of Olli, and possibly the same person who had a farm in Kaavi in North Carelia on the country seat Ronkala in the 1630's. This area belonged since 1617, after the Peace of Stolbova, to Sweden. It is about sure that Matts founded his farm after this date and that he was a Finn. The Ronkainens's from Norway could have come from anywhere in Finland as Ronkainens spread all over Finland in the 17th century. The names Ronkainen as well as Ronkanen are still very common in Finland. Olli says the name comes from the Karolinger given names Rodion and Ronkka, based on the Russian Orthodox names Rodion, Ronka, Rodja and Herodion. He thinks the name is and was for the full 100% Finnish.

My third Finnish contact is Siiri Ronkainen, a lady from Kajaani. She wrote to me that there lived Ronkainen's and Rongain's since 1633 in the area of Kajaani and Sotkamo. The oldest Ronkainen she found is Påhl (Pauli) born about 1633. She also sent me a copy of a Finnish Family name book about the name Ronkainen, which I cannot read. She gives as derivatives: Ronkanen, Ronkonen, Rotka, Rontka, Ronkka, Ronka, Rontkesson (Son of Ronkes), Ranko, Ronga, Rongaijn, Rongainen, Rong and Ronkalan. The Finnish name researchers all say that the name Ronkainen is of Greek-Orthodox origin.

Norway and Sweden.

After Finland I looked in Norway. I got in contact with Steinar Kristoffersen who told me that the name Ronken in Norway "is not done" anymore. He's pretty sure nowadays nobody in Norway uses this name as it means "masturbation". In the old days the name was written as: Ronken, Ranchen and Ronchen and in Sweden as: Ronken and Ronkan. Some places in the South of Norway were named Ronken. The places where the Finns settled down, were often named after their surnames. In the late 1570th the emigration of the Finnish people started in Sweden, and a few years later they settled in Norway.

Many Finns named Ronkainen were living in Norway and Sweden in the 16th century and up to the 19th century. There could be a link between the Dutch and the Swedish Ronken's.

During the Thirty-Years-War (1618-1648) the Swedish joined this war in 1631 and participated with a horse-cavalry consisting Finns. It's possible that several of these men had the surname Ronken/Ronkainen. When the Cavalry crossed the river Lech (North Germany) some of these men were captured and later set free by another cavalry of Finns. All the Finns that joined the war were living in Sweden. Maybe not all these men returned to Sweden after the war. I also know that some Finns participated in the battle of Leipzig (Germany) in 1813.

My second source in Norway is Ola Klefsaas, a very serious man who gave good documentated information. He wrote:"In the seventeenth century lots of people migrated from Finland via Sweden to Norway. In the beginning they settled in the vast forest areas in the South East of Norway, later moving further West, and even as far as the Oslo area. One of these Finnish families seem to have been the Ronkainens. It took most of the families generations to move from Finland to Norway, as they settled for shorter periods on their way, burning down forest areas and growing rye in the ashes. In the 1686 census Hendrich Anderssen Ranchen, 30 years old and born in Gunnarskog, Sweden, is mentioned living in the Grue parish, near the Swedish border. His parents were Finns, and he was a wandering shoemaker. His wife was Marte Pedersdatter, 20 years old, born in the same place, and immigrated to Norway "the other year". (Anderssen means son of Anders, "Petersdatter" daughter of Peder or Peter). They had two children, Marte 3, and Birte 1,5 years old.

The same source deals with Anders Ronken, born in Eastern Valley, Sweden, from Finnish parents, and Marte Andersdatter, 28 years old, born in Norway. Even her parents were Finns. Anders and Marte had four children, Karen 6, Marte 5, Anniken 3, and Lisbet 1 year old. Kristian Oestberg (writer of the book "The Finns Forest in Norway") calls him: Anders Ronkainen, and says that in court books the name has been written as Ronken, Runchen, Runk and Runkan. Those who could write were Norwegians or mostly Danes at that time, and the Finnish names must have sounded very strange (and even heathen) in their ears. Ronketorpet or Ronkanstorpet was registered as a cotter's place. In the forests North West of Hurdal he mentions a cotter's place called Ronken, probably named after one Ronkainen.

After reading all this I wrote a letter to Thor Trapness of the Hurdal Historical Society. He was so kind to write me the following: In the side valley of Hurdal called Brattlia, there is a small farm called Ronken (sometimes spelled as Runken). In our local history, Hurdal Bygdebok, vol.2 p. 459, I can see that the farm was taken up by Paal Runchen before 1650. Kristian Oestberg says in his book "Finnskogene" (The Finns Forest), that the farm has its name after a Finnish man Ronkanen, and that is most probably, because in the 1600th, a lot of Finnish immigrants came to Hurdal and the South-Eastern part of Norway. These Finns mostly came from Värmland in Sweden, but some of them were born in Finland. In the Brattlia and Skrukkelia valley some Finns settled and took up again farms that had been idle since the black death, 1350. They burned the trees in the forest and seeded their rye in the burnings. On the farm Ronken there have been living different farmers during the last 300 years, many of them from Finnish origin. But moving to the Ronken farm, they mostly took the farm name as their surname. In the last century many people emigrated from Hurdal to America, and among them several named Ronken too. Since the 1960th no one has lived on the Ronken farm anymore. Today it's part of the neighbor farm Kabberud. But you can still find remains of the old buildings on the spot.

"There came a man, Anders Ronkainen, about 1650, a Finn from Värmland. He lived in Torrberget in Trysi, east Norway, close to the Swedish border. The ending "ainen" is very common in Finnish names."

The Ronken family members in Hurdal were farmers, and not workers in a glass factory (as Robert Ronken thinks). I cannot see their names between the workers in the Hurdal Glass-factory. 1755-1895. The Ronkainen, Ronchen, Runken, Runchen surname was in use in Hurdal 100 years before the glass factory even was founded.

The USA.

So I looked for Ronken's in the USA and came in contact with Bob Ronken, who was so kind to send me "US Ronkens - Roots and Branches" composed by Ronnie Lynton. Bob told me on the phone one day that he was looking for connections in the glass industry because the Ronken's who went to the States were glass workers, as he thought. The only thing I found is that in 1660 Jean Condé founded a large glass factory in Jumet in the neighbourhood of Charleroi, in the French speaking part of Belgium. (Wallonië). David Ronken from Burnsville MN e-mailed me a lot of additional information on the USA Ronken file.


I am looking now in Germany. We already knew a lot of Ronken's in the Western part of that country. They are mostly related to the Dutch branch. A fact is that the Dutch Ronken's all are Catholics. But in the North of Germany, around Bremen, I found some Ronken's with the Lutheran religion. (same as in Norway) I have found some namesakes from the 17th century but there also are still some Ronken's living in that area. I'm trying to get in touch with them. It's not a big jump from Bremen/Bremerhaven, crossing the East Sea, to Scandinavia. There could be the link to the Finnish/Swedish/Norwegians?

Some Thoughts.

My theory at this moment is that we all came from North France (Picardië) in the neighborhood of Lille. It can be from the place Roncq or Ronchin. Some of us, the Catholics, could have moved via Belgium to the South of the Netherlands, where we still are here in Limburg and some of us (the Protestants) went to Germany and further to Scandinavia and at last to the USA where they still live their happy lives.

The few Ronken's living in Belgium are related to the Dutch. The same for the Australian branch. They all are descendants of my fathers youngest brother. I found them on Internet.

Just last week I found a Ronkes in Holland. He told me his family comes from the small island Urk in the former South Sea (now IJsselmeer).His ancestor went to Indonesia in the 17th century and after world war II, in which his father was killed (cut off his head) by the Japanese, he and his brother came back to Holland. So far there is no connection with our family.

From Huub Ronckers in Haelen I received a very comprihensive document about the Rockers as composed by L.J.V Ronckers from Haarlem. I could not find a link to the Ron(c)ken's.

That's it so far. Who can add some facts or thoughts to mine? hier