New York City resident at your disposal

Started by Erica Howton on Sunday, June 5, 2011
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6/5/2011 at 2:00 PM

So my own New Amsterdam ancestry is quite back in the past and pretty much just now discovering - the Skillman line. That means I have had no particular need to mine NYC data sources.

But I thought this summer I would make myself available to go try and get some original source documents on behalf of geni trees & profiles. There are some wonderful archives, museums, historical societies, etc. -- and -- I just bought an iPAD with an HD camera built in (so excited about my new toy).

Can we put together a list / plan for me to road trip for you? I am interested in the oldest records, say first explorers to no later than American Revolution.

6/5/2011 at 8:36 PM

Great Erica!
In fact, a few years ago, I stumbled myself upon digitized documents at Columbia University. They are a goldmine, with early settlement maps AND names of the settlers!
Here's already a link for you (obviously, this should also be mentioned as a source on the project page :

6/5/2011 at 8:50 PM

In fact, perhaps there should be an associated project about English rule of Manhattan between 1674 and 1789? This could map the politics and major actors of that time, and perhaps something specific about the nature of the ongoing settlement during those years prior to Independence?
If that makes sense, probably it's best to split this into two projects indeed, just so to make it more focused. On the current New Amsterdam project, I would primarely focus on the Dutch, but I would also map the settlers from other nations who were welcomed by the Dutch on 'their' possession.

6/9/2011 at 5:21 PM

George, those are fantastic ideas!

1) Early English New York project

2) Mapping the settlers project; i know there is a New Amsterdam - Settlers project up and running.

I'm interested in when the Blacks/Africans first arrived.

6/9/2011 at 9:12 PM

Come to think of it, Ken, it would have been nice if the New Amsterdam project might have had the date behind it, like '(1609-1674)' - but too late now. Thus, we could have called subsequent development 'New York (1674-1776)' - just assuming that the 'incorporation' of the state of NY in 1776 would be the right cut-off date. We could then connect the two projects. Anyone interested in picking this up as a project? I'm sure we can find many collaborators; I see quite a few topical projects that cover some aspects of that period, and the collaborators in those projects might be interested in a 'framework' project.

6/10/2011 at 3:59 AM

I love the way these ideas are developing. There's also "gangs of New York" to associate; I wonder when those began.

I'm thinking of a little photojournalism - overlays of then and now. For instance my building was a livery stable in 1810. Maybe I can locate street plans, sewage, electric lines, building schematics, architects drawings.

Another sub-project could be the genealogy of a street. Broadway, which I believe turns into The Old Boston Post Road, would be a natural for this.

I need to find out where the Pug Uglies lived, died, conducted business, fought.

6/10/2011 at 4:03 AM


Surely Africans came along with the very first explorers of what became New Netherlands?

Do you know any historians of the city of NY to interview?

I will put a visit to the museum of the City of New York on the resource list. Bet there are some curator brains to pick.

6/10/2011 at 6:39 AM

Excellent idea !

6/10/2011 at 9:31 AM

Erica, the first gangs are mentioned in 1826 in New York City. 1790 for Philadelphia, btw.

Go to my NYC Gangs History page:

There is an African Cemetary archealogical dig that has been going on for some time, in Lower Manhattan. African Burial Ground project:

6/10/2011 at 10:11 AM

"Enslaved Africans began arriving on the shores of the colony of New Amsterdam as early as 1626, and the area known today as New York City was one of the largest slave trading centers -- second only to Charleston, South Carolina -- throughout the colonial period." (Did you know...)

6/10/2011 at 10:51 AM

No, I definitely did not, Kwame. Aren't we learning every day here? :-)
OK, I will delve into that this weekend. I bet it will be extremely hard to find concrete genealogical information from that time - for the reasons we know :-( Still, we'll try, won't we?

6/10/2011 at 12:03 PM

1619, latter end of Aug. - In Colonial America the first 20-something Blacks landed at Jamestown, Va, from a Dutch ship. They were accorded the status of indentured servants.

1624 - First black child born in English America christened William in the Church of England at Jamestown.

6/10/2011 at 12:07 PM

A good book about that time is, "Before The Mayflower."

6/11/2011 at 4:04 AM

Thanks for the cue to New Amsterdam in that link, Kwame. I think we need to search for ordnances or something issued at Fort Amsterdam. It all depends what the 'legal' status was of the African immigrants, I would assume.

6/11/2011 at 7:25 AM

I'm going to check this out, maybe go for a sail. Anyone want to upload docs and images?

6/12/2011 at 1:47 AM

George, I love that site! Slavery in New York.

6/12/2011 at 4:16 AM

Kwame, did you see this??? ...
Names of Africans in New Amsterdam!!!

6/12/2011 at 6:32 AM


I'm wondering if there's anything (original archive docs etc) at the Shomberg Center?

Have iPad, will travel, but offer expires soon (looks like I'm moving) ...

6/12/2011 at 6:33 AM

This document is fascinating. I'm going to try downloading / uploading to the project.

In 1644, eleven Africans petitioned the New Amsterdam Council and Willem Kieft, the colony's Director General, for their freedom. Their names were Paulo Angolo, Big Manuel, Little Manuel, Manuel de Gerrit de Reus, Simon Congo, Anthony Portuguese, Gracia, Piter Santomee, Jan Francisco, Little Antony and Jan Fort Orange. They had come from the mixed African-European (creole) world of coastal Africa and the Caribbean. Kieft freed the men and their wives, giving them plots of land to farm but they had to pay a tax every year and they had to work for the colony when asked. Worst of all, their children remained slaves.

6/12/2011 at 6:45 AM

It IS fascinating. Plus, what's interesting is that yo recognize the Angola origin of these particular Africans (which is consistent with what I read about how the arrived): Angolo, Santomee....
Interesting also is the Manuel de Gerrit de Reus name. I would suspect this indicates the master he was working for. The question then is... did he keep this name, or did he adopt another one?
I find the last name funny. Jan Fort Orange. The thing is, these guys BUILT the fort - couldn't they be more original with his name? :-)

6/12/2011 at 6:55 AM

So we need to look into the Dutch EAST Indies. What were the Dutch colonies contemporaneous / slightly before New Netherlands? Surinam, Java, Angola ... where else? To me of course residents of these countries would be part of the Dutch shipping crews, in their armies, and volunteer (or other) immigrants.

We're talking 1644 and before? What is the dating of the first actual families in New Netherlands (not just soldiers manning a fort, or sailors in port ...)

6/12/2011 at 6:55 AM

n.b. I added the document image (with attribution of course) to this project, seemed to suit best:

6/12/2011 at 9:10 AM

You guys are too funny! A slave or servant doesn't have any say in what the master says. If the master told him to eat oranges for the next two weeks. Its oranges!

Erica, it says I didn't have permission to view that document.

Berg and another gentleman are working on Dutch East Indies projects. Maybe we can enlist them?

6/12/2011 at 9:10 AM

I meant Fred.

6/12/2011 at 10:26 AM

Actually, just so that you don't have to look it up. The VOC (for the East Indies) chartered Henry Hudson to seek another route to the East Indies. That's how he ended up in the Delaware Bay in 1609 - stuck, but they found something interesting. So, the VOC continued for a while sending ships. However, the WIC (for the West Indies) took over after a while. It's with the WIC that settlement really started.
Interestingly, real settlement is estimated around 1623, but I'm now finding sources and names that came with the exploration ships - and stayed to settle.
So, the VOC was no longer involved in further development of New Amsterdam, it was the WIC. Angola was Portuguese. The VOC really focused on current Indonesia. The WIC also looked at the Caribbean (Dutch Antilles) and Surinam.
Kwame, lady jMu is currently working on a list of all the ships (and dates) of both the VOC and the WIC. There are passenger lists for many of them.
I found the name of the first ship that brought Angolans to New Amsterdam (didn't take a note though, grrrr, but will log it). I think the year was 1616. Amazing how early that is - only 7 years after discovering the Delaware Bay (i'm always amazed by the speed of things in those days - without internet, mobile phones or ipads :-) )

6/12/2011 at 10:36 AM

Yes, isolation in "olden days" is actually a modern day myth.

Archeology is finding the extent of world trade.

So here's some of my questions.

1. Were the Africans Portuguese sailors via Angola?

2. Were they culled from the plantations of the Dutch Antilles and Surinam?

3. Were the Dutch more the merchant / sponsors with in fact multi national crews and settlers?

4. Did the Dutch do any colonist recruiting? The English had a whole propaganda industry going to rid itself of its impovershed and its religious dissenters. I remember in the "Who Do You Think You Are" episode about the George Washington associate, he was a German / possibly Walloon? recruited in similar fashion. i.e., The streets of the New World are paved with gold ..."

5. What was the Dutch involvement with the slave trade? My impression is they were business / trading / shipping partners to slave traders, and not so much direct owners.

6/12/2011 at 11:23 AM

Wow, what a list of tough questions, Erica!
1+2. The Portuguese were sending Angolan Africans to South America (Brazil, I suspect. But, one ship was pirated by the Dutch (still need to understand the whole story), so that's how Angolan Africans ended up in New Amsterdam. As far as I can see, nothing to do with Dutch Antilles and Surinam; it was piracy on the high seas.
3. Yes, the Dutch were really merchants (aren't they still today ;-) ). They only cared about the fur trade, at first. The early settlers all wanted to get back to the home country. Holland had a hard time retaining its people there. Which seems to be the reason why they adopted a 'patroon system', giving people land, in order to keep them there. Which leads me to 4...
4. So, yes, indeed, the Dutch did what they could to recruit people. I don't know yet why that was. The merchants just wanted to get rich - so what was the political motivation (I'm learning :-) ). Frankly, I assume it was all part of the English/Dutch tensions at that time. There were three wars between England and Holland in that period. I feel that occupation of the New World must have simple been one 'small' part in the European power games.
5. As far as I can see, I don't feel the same attitude from the 'Dutch' as the 'English' had. I think the Dutch were opportunistic from a 'business' point of view, but they gave rights to the Africans early on (the Africans owned land, they just had to pay a tax). Slavery has never been part of the Dutch 'psyche' - unlike the English 'psyche'. The sources I'm seeing are saying that the Dutch facilitated the first free African communities. Let's keep in mind that slavery as a political and economic system only materialized really in the 18th century.
I I may add (to this long response, I know) that I think that we might never even think about this if we wouldn't be searching for the genealogy angle. I wish so much that we can identify those African immigrants AND their descendants!

6/12/2011 at 11:29 AM

For the Dutch it was a privilege for those who had the right religion. The board of the Amsterdam WIC were only contra-remonstrants. They allowed only the contra remonstrants to emigrate to New-Amsterdam. I red it in a dutch paper. Did n't know that :-)

6/12/2011 at 11:35 AM

Wow, that's a very interesting angle, Jennie! I hadn't seen that before. It's consistant with all emigration to the new world, but I had no clue the WIC was, itself, contra-remonstrant.

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