March 24th, 2011

New Netherland

I've been posting my usual elliptical and incoherent commentary as I trip merrily through genealogies, farming for family. This is an attempt at a sum-up, for my future self (who will have forgotten a lot of what is in my head right at the moment) and anyone else who might be interested.

A little background, first. I have a lot of Dutch relatives. My father's father came over from Friesland; he grew up in the small village of Achlum. My father's mother was born a year after her parents came over from South Holland. My grandmother's father's brother came over (and brought a wife, later) as well, and their widowed mother. My grandmother's mother's brother came over a little earlier.

My mother's father never lived in the US. He was a Mennonite in Canada whose ancestors came over in 1874 from Russia. Prior to that, the lineage wandered around Europe, places like Prussia and Danzig and so forth. Originally, Menno Simons came from the little village of Pingjum in Friesland (I have relatives from that village on my dad's father's side as well), and his followers were in Friesland for a few generations before leaving.

My mother's mother's ancestry was a bit of a mystery, but I found a marriage record in Manitoba in 1930 that gave me her parents names, and that led me to the Plantzs, in the Palatinate migration (arriving in Mowhawk Valley in the 1740s or so). A Veeder married a Plantz in Fonda, and earlier than that, a Veeder had married a Fonda in Fonda (altho I think it was still called Caughnawaga at that point), and before that everyone was in Schenectady and before that in Albany (Beverwyck) or possibly the Netherlands or whatever. I was attempting to trace some of the migrations when I asked myself, self, where does the name Fonda come from? I looked it up in genlias and got nowhere. I googled around to see if anyone had done the famous Fonda genealogy and found

Wow. According to that guy (and that is a guy who produces sources for what he says), all the Fondas descend from one man in New Netherland, a man whose family came over from Friesland. Several things happened in the course of collecting my family members from his Massive Documentation of All Fondas (work in progress).

(1) A new "earliest" arrival: no later than 1628.
(2) A Norwegian ancestor (Anneke Jans) who came over from Norway in 1630 with her first husband, then married a second (Dutch) husband in New Netherland (Bogardus, another ancestor). Anneke Jans Bogardus' descendants kept a lawsuit running for a long time over the land holdings of Trinity Church in Manhattan.

My understanding (very foggy, based on something I saw over a decade ago on a documentary) is that the land was originally a very long lease, not a sale. It's a story that has always cracked me up; it's even funnier to have a familial connection to it.
(3) Another slaver: probably _lots_ of additional slavers, actually. This is so depressing, but I think the process of doing genealogy can be a good thing if you don't just burnish or ignore the awful parts. If it's interesting to be connected to someone because they were rich or famous or did great things, it's important to equally acknowledge the awful as well. Specifically, Bogardus (see #2) was a clerk in Guinea, West Africa prior to coming to New Netherland, which means he worked at a slave depot.

(4) 9 Feb 1690 in Schenectady. This isn't the only time some of my ancestry was killed and/or kidnapped by Native Americans, but so far it's the biggest. My initial response was excitement, because any time something happens that is important enough to be written up as "history" and it include ancestors, well, I get excited. Even tho history, like adventure, is made up of a whole lot of people having a truly miserable time, children dying, etc.

It's hard to know what to make of this event. The settlement at Schenectady, while by no means innocent of all wrong-doing, does not appear to have done anything particular to have attracted this event. In 1690, the Dutch no longer controlled New Netherland; their final claim to the colony had been given up in 1674 to the English. Schenectady's crime was basically being an easy mark while under the jurisdiction of people who were engaged in a much larger war: a target of opportunity, a way to hurt their Lords and Masters.

Recent (last 30 years), careful scholarship on Schenectady suggests that part of _why_ Schenectady was such an easy mark was because they were not attending to their own defense. None of the geopolitical developments that would shortly descend upon their town, killing or capturing dozens, were unexpected or fast-moving. But Schenectady was too distracted with arguments over control of common land to attend to matters that would shortly prove a lot more important than they must have seemed at the time (after all, the residents of the town must have reasoned that _they_ treated the Indians pretty well, considering -- why would they attack Schenectady?).

OTOH, as easy as it is to say that they should have been doing less arguing about who controlled common land and profited from it and paying more attention to the defense of their settlement, it's not completely obvious to me that they could have done much anyway. I guess that's what history is all about, and it's best to avoid it where possible.

a question for myself

Self: Where does the surname "Schenck" come from?

When I asked where Plantz came from, I learned about the Palatines.

When I asked where Fonda came from, I learned a lot about New Netherland (even more than asking where Veeder came from got me).

Who knows where this question might lead?