Identifying religions in New Amsterdam

Started by George J. Homs on Wednesday, August 3, 2011


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8/3/2011 at 10:34 PM

Hello all! I've had a few conversations with a few of you the past week or so, about starting an effort to better understand and map the religious context in New Netherland. We know that the Dutch Reformed Church was the 'official' and dominant church, that relations between religions weren't always easy, but that tolerance was institutinalized early on. I have notes on the early presence of Lutherans, Jews, Quakers, Catholics...
I would like to start new pages that are named in consistent manner, like "New Amsterdam - Religions: xxx". The xxx would stand for the religion.
For each of these pages, I think we need a brief historical context, and an inventory of ministers/rabbis/elders... plus an inventory or some info on the location of the congregations/churches.
All ideas are welcome. And, perhaps there are volunteers to pick up 'ownership' for a religion?

8/3/2011 at 10:37 PM

One complication in identifying the religions... It's easy to identify jews, catholics, quakers... but how do we work with the calvinists, huguenots, lutherans, puritans etc? I mean, I believe huguenots simply adhered to the Reformed Church. I think some protestant branches have more to do with the origins of the people (Walloon, French, Dutch...) than with serious religious divergence. But, I may be wrong. Do we split them is we see that they had a separate congregation? Or, do we put them together under one 'protestant' heading?

8/3/2011 at 10:50 PM

Definitely separate them, it's a big clue as to origins.

Colonists followed their ministers around. If we're trying to determine if passing through Holland from Norway we may never know from the name in Dutch and in English. But where they lived in New Amsterdam and what church they were a member of (or not) is a huge hint.

8/3/2011 at 10:53 PM

And yes, there were some enormous theological differences. You can't put early English Congregationalists in the same room with Quakers, for example.

8/3/2011 at 11:06 PM

I definitely didn't want to minimize the differences, of course! It's just that I feel that, say, Dutch Calvinists and Huguenots (the dominant groups) joined the same church, but that may have been simply a practical solution (obviously more reading is required :-) ). Personally, I also tend to think we need to split it out, because it would make it easier to tell more about i.e. the Huguenots and tie it to other projects about them.

8/3/2011 at 11:07 PM

In the same vein... would we want to assign our 1,600+ currently identified immigrants to the religious groups as well? Again, this might be interesting because it gives us indeed more hints about how the families developed.

8/3/2011 at 11:32 PM

If we know their church membership and more or less where they lived I guarantee we'll be able to predict marriage and further migration events.

8/3/2011 at 11:37 PM

I think our challenge is that we probably want to closely tie together European origins with religious beliefs - and obviously these were very closely tied in the 17th century. Here's a first attempt at structure (and we have facts and traces for these - others may be added, of course)...
- Calvinists
* Dutch Reformed
* Flemish Calvinists
* Walloon Calvinists
* French Huguenots
- Lutherans
* Scandinavian Lutherans
* German Lutherans
- Quakers
- Jews
- Muslim

8/3/2011 at 11:40 PM

This structure sounds logical to me, but I think they all deserve a separate page. Perhaps the project titles might be a bit complicated - but it's necessary for classification purposes. For instance, to group the Huguenots, the title might be: "New Amsterdam - Religions: Calvinists (French Huguenots)".

8/4/2011 at 12:07 AM

Then you want to tie the names of churches and congregations.

You forgot Friends Meeting Houses; Roman Catholic; Eastern Orthodox.

8/4/2011 at 12:26 AM

The Catholic angle is though contacts with French 'upstate'. There were jesuit missionaries amongst the natives, but any concrete catholic establishment seems te be beyond the New Netherland timeframe. There were Friends in New Amsterdam (fleeing new England), but they' weren't too welcome. Still, I have traces but not sure if they developed a real community. No idea about ay Eastern Orthodox, on the other hand.

Private User
8/4/2011 at 9:30 PM

Oh my!

8/4/2011 at 11:48 PM

Greeks and Turks were in New Netherlands. What about French catholic trappers, sailors, traders? German catholics? Italian, Spanish and Portugese? I'm not buying it. I know how relentless Jesuits were. :).

8/4/2011 at 11:52 PM
8/5/2011 at 12:09 AM

Erica, you're asking for it, now you HAVE to collaborate :-P
Not sure about the Turks. There was a Turck family, I'm not sure whether they were really from Turkey. And, never came across Greeks, but let's find out :-). I doubt about the Italians, Spanish, Portuguese. The Portuguese settlers I know were jews. If there were any catholic Italians and Spanish, they had to hide very well! Thanks for the link - I won't get bored :-)

8/5/2011 at 12:12 AM

If I may add, some of the oldest religious references in the US relate to New Amsterdam, so I think this effort is really worthwhile! Plus, it will also tell us a lot about the movements of families in Europe for religious motives (some crossed the ocean, others didn't - so there are many ancestral connections to be explored by the Geni users :-)

8/5/2011 at 12:22 AM

Catholic footsteps in old new York

8/5/2011 at 12:57 AM

Yes, yes, I'll keep reading :-)

Private User
8/5/2011 at 7:01 AM

Hi George,
Anthony "The Turk" Van Salee was the son of a Dutch pirate and his muslim mistress (some say concubine). He was raised as a muslim. So there is one more religion (though I think he had to go it alone).

8/5/2011 at 7:55 AM

Of course I had van Salee :-P He was probably the only muslim around. In fact, I believe he was not of 'pure' Dutch descent, but himself a 'mulatte' (if that's the right word). He's described in the literature as someone whose complexion was different from the others (could be sunburn, of course :-) )

8/5/2011 at 8:38 AM

Antony Jansen van Salee

The original NYC fun couple.

Why would he be the only Muslim around? Didn't they wander in through the Dutch East India Trading Company? Speaking of, I wonder when the first Asians arrived in New Netherlands, any ideas?

8/5/2011 at 11:03 AM

Extremely far stretch, Erica ;-) We're talking about the 17th century :-)

8/5/2011 at 11:49 AM

I want more pirates! Ok I'll look for 17th century Catholics in New Amsterdam instead.

Private User
8/5/2011 at 12:21 PM

Erica, have you found any Walloons in New Amsterdam? I love that word- "Walloon-" they were from what is now Belgium.

8/5/2011 at 12:30 PM

George Homs should answer that one, Tammy.

I just found Jesuits taking confession from French sailor "papists," 1655, New Amsterdam:

These were missionaries to the Indians, not always surviving.

8/5/2011 at 12:32 PM Rescued by the Dutch Calvinists at Fort Orange; letters describing New Amsterdam, 1643.

8/5/2011 at 2:06 PM

Lady Deborah Moody and Thomas Spicer were supporters of anabaptism. Womens rights, freedom for slaves and freedom of religion were the theme of the day, a New World, a new beginning. Puritans in Boston were persecuting Quakers and we were giving safe havens in RI before 1643 and in Gravesend after 1645. Ann Spicer lost her land in NY because she was accused of harboring Quakers and it is on record. We go by truth and the truth that was exposed from once hidden material in the Vatican. We feel no need for an actual church building, similar to Cathar Goodmen, as you can come back to Christ any time in life after falling and be baptized (born again Christian) and your relationship with Christ is personal (private), this is why it will be hard to find anything on the real New Reformed Church as the branches today differ so much.

8/5/2011 at 2:11 PM

Tolerance of all religion and freedom of choice. In law, we were the 1st to abolish slavery, the 1st to define rape, 1st to expel a Politician from a country (From Canada to USA), and the first Female Governor in all of History (Deborah Moody). This was the spirit of NY. and still is in Canada. A personal relation with Jesus and God and Community, no religion there!

8/5/2011 at 2:21 PM

Hi Corey,

I was reading about Lady Deborah Moody and Gravesend, Brooklyn the other day. This site, actually

Would it make a nice little sub project?

8/5/2011 at 2:41 PM

I am surprised it is not a project actually, It was at a time when men would not accept a female for Governor and she was one that changed the most hardened men's minds and opinions. She was the founder of that community being the one that petitioned the Dutch Leaders to inhabit the land when she was in Boston. It was Thomas Spicer that had the land in Rhode Island to vacate Boston and it was these people that recruited people from Boston to work the land, that did not like what was happening in Boston and the direction it was heading.

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