Return to the Introduction                       Proceed to Chapter V-2


 

 

ONE:  VAN METRES / VAN METERS
 

Internet sources are indicated by tildes (e.g. ~internet).  A complete list can be found on the Sources page.
 

            V-1    Netherlands and Names
 

    ● The Fox

On one thing, at least, all sources agree: sometime in the year 1662 the Dutch ship d'Vos (the Fox) embarked from Amsterdam and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to New Amsterdam.  Among its 56 known passengers, according to translations of the Fox's manifest, were a man named Jan Joosten, his wife, and five children aged fifteen, twelve, nine, six, and "two-and-a-half."

A tremendous number of people can trace their ancestry back to one or more of these seven individuals, but few seem to see eye to eye on much else concerning them—not only differing about the dates of their departure and arrival, but even as to who the five children were, whether Jan Joosten was their father, in what order they were born, and what became of them.

In the next few chapters we will examine various arguments regarding the whereabouts, whenabouts, and especially the who(m)abouts of these seven Fox passengers.  But it might be noted right here that missing from the ship's manifest—along with the names of Jan Joosten's wife and the five children—is a surname eventually used by at least one of the children and, in a variety of forms and spellings, by his numerous descendants: VAN METEREN.

Also, for anyone unhappy with the choice of "Fox" for the ship's name: bear in mind that Jan Joosten & Co. might just as easily have come over on another Dutch vessel of the period—such as de Bonte Koe (Spotted Cow) or d'Vergulde Bever (Gilded Beaver).
 

    ● Where They Came From

The Low Countries earned their name by being largely at or below sea level, around the mouths of the lower Rhine (Rijn), Meuse (Maas), and Scheldt (Schelde) rivers.  Constantly battling the threat of flood, the Netherlanders could not rely on natural sand dunes for protection and so learned to build dikes: artificial embankments called terpen or werden.  The use of dikes allowed permanent settlement of fertile fenlands; and with the introduction of windmill pumps to enable ongoing drainage, additional low-lying tracts could be reclaimed for cultivation as polders.  From a 1669 description:

The soil is moorish, boggy, and fenny, such as our Ancestors have usually called Polder: i.e. a marish fenn, a meadow by the shore side, a field drain'd or gain'd from a river or the sea, and inclosed with banks.*

In 1648 the Calvinist northern provinces of the Netherlands, after fighting eighty years (on and off) for autonomy and religious freedom from Spain, finally won recognition as an independent republic—setting them apart from the southern provinces, which remained Catholic and subject to the Habsburg Empire.  In time the southern Flemings and Walloons would come to be known as Belgians.  The northerners were called "Hollanders" after their chief province, or "Dutch"—an English appellation previously used for all speakers of German (Deutsch).

With independence, the Dutch Republic capped a Golden Age that lasted most of the 17th Century.  Domination of world shipping and trade led to the rise of a wealthy merchant class, whose patronage sponsored great advances in science, literature, and especially painting: this was the era of Rembrandt, Hals, Vermeer, and other Dutch Masters of the Baroque.
 

    ● Gelderland's Good Land

The east-central Dutch province, extending from Germany to Utrecht, was (and still is) Guelders or Gelderland.  Here, just across the German border, the Rhine divides into the Waal—its principal branch—to the south, and the Neder Rijn to the north.  Between these two rivers is a region called the Betuwe, literally the "Good Land" (as opposed to the Veluwe badlands north of the Neder Rijn).

For many years these rivers and their offshoots kept the Betuwe fairly isolated and inaccessible.  Frequently changing their courses and flooding the countryside despite miles of dikes, the rivers provided a formidable defense against the Spanish during the war.  They also made (and still make) the Betuwe extremely fruitful, renowned then and now for its orchards: blossom tours take place every spring, and Betuwe Kersen [cherry jam] and Appelstroop [apple butter] can be purchased over the Internet.
 

    ● The Tielerwaard

Tiel (earlier Thiel), a Carolingian "Villa Regis" or royal town on the north bank of the Waal, was chartered in the year 1200 as a medieval port and marketplace.  West of Tiel along the river is the Tielerwaard—as it is currently spelled; the Fox's 1662 passenger list stated that Jan Joosten came from the "Thielerwaert" or "Tielderweert," and other variant spellings are listed below.  (A waard is a holm—a river island or adjacent bottomland; hence often equivalent to a polder.)

Among the "many little picturesque villages" in or near the Tielerwaard are several that will be mentioned in the next few chapters—Beesd, Buurmalsen, Deil, Haaften, Herwijnen, Opijnen, and Waardenburg—while in the neighboring Bommelerwaard on the Waal's south bank is Zaltbommel, an important border town during the Eighty Years's War.  All of these are within fifteen miles of Tiel and each other; but for centuries traffic between them was largely limited to the rivers and canals.

Settlement of fenland such as the Tielerwaard took place along wieks (drainage channels) with farmsteads laid out on strips of land called hoefen ("horseshoes").  Before building could be done, many underpinning piles had to be driven deep into the marshy ground; if farmers were prosperous enough, they would build on elevated mounds called huis-terpen.  Townfolk built their gable-fronted houses on narrow plots, closely packed even on the outskirts of town.   

Also in the Tielerwaard, about four miles north of Zaltbommel and six miles west of Tiel, is the village of Meteren (pronounced MAYteren).
 

    ● The Game of the Name

Before we can sort out the who(m)abouts of our seven Fox passengers, we must grapple with the challenges posed by 17th Century Dutch nomenclature.

Many people who create Internet genealogies (which for condensation's sake I will be calling webgens) seem to apply present-day standards to their ancestors's names: everyone has a first and many also a middle given name, plus the family surname that has been borne by all the kin in the clan, near or distant, and taken by those marrying into it (with or without hyphenation).

But that is now and this was then.  Take the example of Cornelis Maessen: as reported by ~braniff/origin, when Cornelis came to New Netherland in 1631 his name appeared as follows:
     "Cornelis Maesen Van Buijrmaelsen" in the Dutch West India Company's resolution permitting his departure
     "Corns Masen Van Buijrmalsen" in the record stating he had sailed
     "Cornelis Maessen Van Buren" on his ship's manifest
     "Cornelis Maesen Van Buyrmarsen" in his contract of employment
     "Cornelis Maessen Van Buermalsen" in his employer's letter stating Cornelis had arrived
       Other spellings on record include Burjmalsen, Burren, and Bruyen

(Variant spellings were the rule in the days when those few who could write pretty much spelled as they liked—largely phonetically, and often affected by the different sounds of regional dialects.)

What all of the above indicate is that Cornelis Maessen (i.e. Cornelius the son of Thomas) came from the village of Buurmalsen (less than five miles away from Meteren) in the Gelderland county of Buren (just north of the Tielerwaard, across the little river Linge).  In time his descendants stuck to the surname Van Buren—including Cornelis's great-great-great-grandson, President Martin Van Buren; and Augustus H. van Buren, the author of A History of Ulster County Under the Dominion of the Dutch:

It is not until the grandchildren of Cornelis Maessen that Van Buren was adopted and used as the family name.  This is true of all the "Vans."  It does not follow that the particular "Van" whose name you bear was a Dutchman.  Holland, as has been said, was very cosmopolitan, and the Van Buren, or Van Etten, or Van Slyke or any other of the many "Vans" may simply mean the place from which he sailed or in which he lived.  The high-sounding "Van" from whom you trace your descent of which you are so proud may have been some very common John of almost any nationality.  My paternal ancestor Cornelis Maessen, came to this country under a contract with Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, to work for him for three years, "no exception as to any kind of work being made" at his manor of Rensselaerswyck. His coat of arms must have been an axe, a shovel, a pick, a hoe and a flint lock.**
 

    ● Patronymics

One of the earliest and most universal types of surname is the patronymic: a person's father's name, with the equivalent of "son" or "daughter" attached.  Dutch patronymics added the suffix -s, -se, -sen, or -en; or the abbreviated -sz or -dr for "szoon" or "dochter."  In the case of Cornelis Maessen, his father's name was Maes (modern Maas: Dutch for Thomas); Cornelis's son in turn was named Marten Cornelissen or Cornelisen.  Upon marriage, women did not take their husband's patronymic but retained their own.

There were also occupational surnames reflecting a person's trade: Smit for smith, Kuyper for cooper, Metsalaer or Metzlaer for mason, etc.  (In Chapter V-4 we will encounter several versions of Molenaar or miller.)  Descriptive surnames might emerge from a person's appearance or characteristics—such as Krom ("bent, crooked, crippled") which will play a major role in the story of Maycken Hendricks and her children.

Location or geographic surnames, prefixed by "Van" or "Van de(r)" and usually signifying a person's place of origin or nationality, took longer to be adopted.  Not till after the English took over New Netherland did "Van" surnames start coming into general use there, with patronymics gradually abandoned.
 

    ● Baptismals

Though surnames might be in a fluid changeful state, Dutch families in the 17th Century were more consistent when it came to naming children.  According to custom, the first two sons would be named for their grandfathers—usually the paternal first, unless the maternal was more eminent or deceased—and the first two daughters for their grandmothers, usually the maternal first (though this differed from region to region).  Later children would often be named after their aunts and uncles, alternating between parental families.  The first son born to a remarried widow would be named after the mother's first husband; likewise, the first daughter born to a remarried widower would be named after the father's first wife.  And if a child died young, the next-born of that gender would almost always be given the same name.  (A hard-hit family might have to do this more than once.)

The Dutch Reformed Church placed great emphasis on baptisms, scrupulously cataloguing them—as opposed to children's actual birthdates, which were seldom recorded.  This has proved invaluable to genealogists, since a baptized child's sponsors or witnesses (godparents) were frequently its aunt, uncle, or grandparents.  For instance on April 5, 1672, Jannetie—the daughter of Joost Adriaensen and Lysbedt (Lysbet) Willemsen—was baptized in Kingston, New York.  Her sponsors were Jan Joosten, his wife Maeycken (Maycken), and Gysberdt (Gysbert) Crom.  As will be seen in Chapter V-4, Lysbet and Gysbert were Maycken's children by her first husband Willem Krom (Crom); while Jannetie appears to have been named for her stepgrandfather Jan Joosten.

The suffixes -ie, -je, -ke, and -the were used as "endearing diminutives."  Another of Maycken's children (to again get ahead of ourselves) was Geertje Crom—"Geertje" being a short form of Gertuida or Gertruida.  The name Maycken itself (as will be further documented in Chapter V-3) is one of many short forms of Maria; while "Jan Joosten" is a double diminutive—Jan being a short form of Johannus or Joannus, and Joost of Justus.

As with patronymics, these naming customs were slowly discarded in New Netherland after it became New York.  Old Testament names became very popular starting in the 1680s, with many Abrahams and Sarahs, Isaacs and Rebeccas, Jacobs and Rachels appearing on baptismal logs.
 

                   

            Notes

* Somner, William, Rom. Ports & Forts Kent: quoted in The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971 ed., p. 1,065).
** ~ulster03: van Buren, Augustus H.  A History of Ulster County Under the Dominion of the Dutch (Kingston NY, 1923), Chapter XIII: "Aftermath."


                   

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Last updated September 12, 2012


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