Could there be a stupider name for this post? No! But I’m sorry, that’s all I could come up with!
Today is the launch day for the annual celebration organized by the Netherland-American Foundation called “5 Dutch Days”. Perplexingly, as you will see here on their calendar of events, the festival is not restricted to five days, although they do have five separate events, including a Dutch production of Antigone (opening tonight at BAM), and some films, exhibitions, etc in October.
It seemed to me an auspicious day in which to celebrate my own ancestral connections to both the Netherlands and New Netherland. The principle connections are these:
*** As we blogged about here, before the Pilgrims came to Plymouth they tried a colony in Leiden, in the Netherlands. After several years, many found themselves hampered by the language barrier. They couldn’t find work, and some of the parents worried about the children becoming culturally Dutch rather than English. So most of the colony returned to England, and/or pressed on to what would become Plymouth (although some remained in Holland). At any rate, most of these ancestors lived for a time in Leiden. Check it out! There’s a Leiden American Pilgrim Museum! I totally want to go there!
*** To my delight, on my dad’s side, I’ve found various ancestors who spent a generation or two, or a few years at least, in New Netherland before they or their children moved South. For those who are new around here (and haven’t read their Washington Irving), New Netherland was the Dutch colony that existed in Northeastern America from roughly 1614 through 1674 (the British took it away from them following a brief war). The territory it comprised was roughly this:
Cultural echoes from that time continue to reverberate throughout New York City, western Long Island and the Hudson River valley (largely in the form of place names, but in other ways as well). We already blogged here about one Dutch ancestor, Penelope Van Princis who lived for a time in New Netherland. I’ve also found a few English ancestors who lived on Long Island during Dutch times (two married couples in two different ancestral lines, and their children: the Howells and the Birds).
I am also delighted to learn that I am descended from the Dr. John Stewart I mentioned here, who settled briefly in Long Island during Dutch times and married Elizabeth Albertus, grand-daughter of the first Italian American, Pietro Cesar Giuilo Alberti and his Dutch wife Judith Jans Meynie. And I have a handful of other Dutch ancestors as well. At any rate, this is news I could have used (or would have enjoyed) when I worked for New-York Historical Society, when we dealt with Dutch New York quite a lot.
*** Also, on my dad’s side…some strange outliers who came to America from the Netherlands, but whose surnames aren’t Dutch. There is a French couple (Jean Pierre LeGrand and Jane Magdalen Michaux) — that seems fairly easy to deduce. On the face of it, I would guess they were Huguenots, as the Netherlands were a refuge for that persecuted group. This couple came to America in the early 18th century; it has been estimated that in 1700, Amsterdam was as much as 25% French Huguenot. But there is also an English couple, William Young and Rebecca Bourne who married in the Netherlands in 1705 and had their first several children there. Rebecca was born there. This is nearly a century after the Pilgrims had their expatriate colony in Leiden. There must be a story there. It shall be looked into.