Friday, November 8, 2013

Pilgrims, Indians, and the Dutch

by Diane Burton

We all know about the Pilgrims who sailed from England and landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. In grade school, we made Pilgrim hats and Indian headdresses and performed skits about the First Thanksgiving when the Indians saved the early settlers from starving.

But there was more colonization during the early 1600’s that we (at least in Michigan) didn’t learn about in school. The influx of Dutch into New York and along the East Coast—then known as New Netherlands.

A story that has been passed down through my dad’s family shows a connection to those early settlers—a royal connection. According to the family story, Dad’s mother was a direct descendent of a woman named Anneke Jans who was the daughter of the King of Holland and that, for reasons unknown (or she disobeyed him), he disinherited her through seven generations. Since my grandmother’s generation was the seventh, her cousins decided they would all inherit money. To that end they hired a genealogist to research the connection. What Dad remembers is the genealogist continually coming to his mom and her cousins for more money for the research. The cousins paid him because, by golly, they had to prove they were due an inheritance.

Well, sorry to tell you, I’m not royalty and Anneke probably wasn’t either. Her story is one of the legends that persisted through time. Now there really was a woman named Anneke Jans. She and her husband Roeloff Jansen immigrated to America in 1630 and settled in New Amsterdam (New York). He died and she married Everardus Bogardus, a minister. It is through her children with Bogardus that my family is descended. To me, being able to claim that my family has been in America for over 500 years is better than being royal. Okay, maybe not. 

I often wondered if the story about Anneke being the daughter of a king was one she perpetuated. I mean, who would know? In those days, they didn’t exactly have the means to check her credentials. No Google. No Bing. No Wikipedia. It took months to travel from The Netherlands (then part of Norway) to New York. People could change their names, their life histories, start over. Maybe I malign her, but it makes sense to me.

In the late 1970s, Hubs and I decided to research our family history and we're still doing it. What fun we've had discovering where our families originated. We reached dead ends very quickly on some lines and were able to make connections much further back on others. Along the way, we learned more about the history of the United States and Canada. And I learned more about my Dutch connection. Too bad the royalty thing didn’t pan out.

I blog here on the 8th and 30th of each month and Mondays on my own blogsite  The early immigrants to our country are the basis for  my Outer Rim series, where people could start a new life with new names and new life histories out on the frontier of space.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Great story, Diane. My husband is Dutch. You two may be cousins! Seriously, though, his family has done extensive genealogy research. What a great gift for my kids and grandkids.

Diane Burton said...

I agree about the genealogy. Terrific gift. I live in the "right" part of the state now since the Dutch settled in West Michigan.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm also a genealogy nut. My dad's mother's family goes way back to the early 1600's. For about 2 days I thought I had found a Mayflower connection, but some previous researcher had been rearranging the facts. LOL Oh well. There's still a lot of colorful characters on our family tree. Enjoy your research!

Diane Burton said...

Thanks, Jannine. It is fun!

Alicia Dean said...

Very interesting story! I think there's a book in there somewhere... I have a cousin who has traced our family on my mother's side. He's offered to share what he's found. I need to take him up on it. I would love to also know about my dad's side. What is the best way to go about the genealogy thing?