Tjerck Claessen de Witt

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Tjerck Claessen de Witt

Also Known As: "Tjerk de With"
Birthdate: (71)
Birthplace: Grootholdt (Possibly Esens), Zunderland (Possibly Emderlant), Ostfriesland (within present Niedersachsen), Heiliges Römisches Reich (within present Germany)
Death: February 17, 1700 (67-75)
Kingston, Ulster County, Province of New York
Place of Burial: Kingston, Ulster, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Nicholas de Witt and Tjaatje Cornelisdr van Leuven
Husband of Barbara Andriessen de With
Father of Capt. Andries de Witt; Tjatte (Charity) Matthyssen; Jan de Witt; Jannetje Swits; Geertruy de Witt and 12 others
Brother of Emmerentje Claessen de Witt; Andries DeWitt; Boudewyn DeWitt; Pieter Nicholaesen DeWitt; Geertje Claessen DeWitt and 5 others

Occupation: Farmer
Managed by: Charles Miller
Last Updated:

About Tjerck Claessen de Witt

See here for photos of the marriage record:

Tjerck Claessen DE WITT

  • b. abt 1619/1620, Saterland, Hesephalia, Netherlands,
  • m. 24-Apr-1656, in Ref. Collegiate Dut. Ch., New Amsterda, Barbara ANDRIESZEN, b. abt 1630, Amsterdam, Noord Holland, Netherlands, (daughter of Andries LUYCAZSEN and Jannetje SEBYNS) d. 6-Jul-1714, Kingston, Ulster Co., NY.
  • Tjerck died 17-Feb-1700, Kingston, Ulster Co., NY.

Tjerck Claessen DeWitt was born at "Groatholdt" in Zunderland, Westphalia, about 1620. He had two sisters, Taatje and Emmeretie and a brother, Jan Claessen DeWitt.

  • 1. Andries DEWITT b: 1657 in New Amsterdam, NY
  • 2. Taatje DEWITT
  • 3. Jannetje DEWITT
  • 4. Klaes DEWITT
  • 5. Jan DEWITT
  • 6. Gertruy DEWITT
  • 7. Jacob DEWITT
  • 8. Rachel DEWITT
  • 9. Peek DEWITT
  • 10. Tjerck DEWITT
  • 11. Marritje DEWITT
  • 12. Aagje DEWITT b: in Albany, N.Y.
  • 13. Has Children Lucas DEWITT b: 1674 in Kingston, Ulster Co, N.Y.

baptisms DRC New Amsterdam

~• Appears:
1665 Mar 01; Marten Hofman, Emerensje Hofman; Annetie; Jerck Claeszen de Wit, Annetje Croesvelt

Pronounciation of the name is as if written Cherrick; The form "Claeszen" used in the Dutch Record was the formal spelling. That as well as Classen, signifies that Tierck was the son of Claes or Nicholas.

"Groatholdt" signifies Great Wood; Zunderland is probably Saterland, a district of Westphalia on the southern border of East Friesland.

Tierck is a Frisian form of Theodoric. In the New York Dutch record of the baptism of at least two of his children, the form Tierck is used. In Dutch, the letters i and j, at least when preceding a vowel, are interchangeable.

Tierck Classen himself wrote id Tierck as appears from signatures in Albany County Clerk's Office; the parties themselves signed the early records of conveyance and other instruments. A signature of Tierck Claessen, in a firm hand, in which some of the characters resemble German script, appears in Book of Deeds No. 2, Page 263, Albany County Clerk's Office.

The first mention in this country, of Tjerck Claessen DeWitt, the ancestor of the DeWitt family, is found in the "Trouw Boeck" or Register of Marriages of the Reformed (Collegiate) Dutch Church, of New York City, where it is recorded that on the 24th day of April, 1656, "Tjerck Claessen DeWitt van Grootholdt' en Zunderlandt," married "Barbara Andriessen van Amsterdam." Zunderlandt has not been definately located, but is probably Saterland, a district of Westphalia, on the southern border of East Friesland.

It seems, from the records, that he was connected with the distinguished DeWitt family of Dordrecht, Holland, but the line of connections doesn't appear yet. He had a wax seal engraved with the coat of arms borne by Jan (John or Johan) DeWitt, the Grand Pensionary of Holland. Undoubtedly, he brought this seal over with him, and it may have belonged to some forefather.

For a short time after his marriage he lived in New York (his first child, Andries, was born there), but in the spring of 1657 he moved to Albany, where he had purchased a house and lot. In accordance with Dutch custom, the first son was named Andries, baptized in New York 1657, for Barbara's father; the second son was Klaes, baptized 1664, for Tjerck's father; a younger son Lucas, for her brother.

In September, 1660, he exchanged his Albany property with Madame de Hutter, for land in Wiltwyck (now Kingston), "possession to be given May 1, 1661." He probably took possession at that time, as in September, 1661, he appears as plaintiff in an action at law before the Schepens Court of Wiltwyck, and on October 11th the same court ordered the Sheriff (Roeleff Swartwout) to pay him three and a half schepels of wheat in eight days and seven more in one month.

From this time until his death, he resided in Kingston and Hurley, and some of the land which he purchased is still in the hands of his descendants.

That he was a man of considerable means is shown by the fact that in 1661 he was taxed 125 guilders (about $50) to pay for building a church in Esopus.

In 1662 he owned No. 28 of the "new lots."

June 7, 1663, when Kingston and Hurley were almost entirely destroyed by the Indians, his eldest daughter, Taatje, was taken prisoner, but was soon rescued. She afterward married Captain Matthys Matthyssen.

During the winter of 1664 there was much sickness in Esopus [Kingston]. Fever took hold of the people and prostrated half the place. But this did not prevent men from gathering their money. Roeloff Swartwout sold a horse to Tjerck Claessen DeWitt, which was taken to the latter's barn, but the ex-sheriff, becoming dissatisfied, took it away secretly. He was sued for the property."

In 1667, when the British sent Capt. Broadhead and 13 soldiers to take possession of Kingston, he was one of those who opposed British occupation and among the complaints made afterward by the burghers was the following: "Capt. Braodhead has beaten Tjerck Claezen DeWitt without reason and brought him to prison. Ye reason why Capy. Broadhead abused Tjerick DeWitt was because he would keep Christmas day on ye day according to the Dutch and not on ye day according to ye English observation."

He refused to take the Oath of Allegiance required of heads of families by the English in 1668. He appears to have been well to do; he brought servants to Kingston. The records of Ulster Co., NY, show that he owned negro slaves and possessed two sloops which sailed the Hudson and along the Atlantic coast, carrying on trade at various places, and that he left about $8,000 in personal property.

On 8 Apr 1669 he was given permission to build a house, barn and stables on land between Kingston and Hurley.

Because he refused to pay an Indian wages due, the court banished him and fined him 600 guilders; but the banishment was rescinded, the fine remitted and he was ordered to pay a reasonable sum to the complaining Indian - about 80 cents.

June 25, 1672, Governor Lovelace deeded him "a parcel of bush-land, together with a house, lot, orchard, and calves' pasture, lying near Kingston, in Esopus."

October 8, 1677, Governor Andros deeded him a piece of woodland, containing about fifty acres, at Kingston in Esopus, "to y' west of y' towne."

February 11, 1679, he was one of the signers of a renewal of the Nichols treaty with the Esopus Indians.

In 1684 he signed "the humble petition of the inhabitants of Esopus in the County of Ulster," praying that there might be "liberty by charter to this county to choose our owne officers to every towne court by the major vote of the freeholders." This petition was addressed to Col. Thomas Dongan, Governor-General.

It greatly offended the authorities, and the signers were arrested and fined. Thus early in the history of the country arose the questions of local self-government and the right of suffrage. They were easily answered then.

February 13, 1685, 189 acres of land were conveyed to DeWitt by the Trustees of Kingston.

June 6, 1685, he claimed 290 acres of land lying upon the north side of Rondout Kill, and known by the name of "Momboccus" (in the town of Rochester) in Ulster County. This was laid out for him by Phillip Welles, a surveyor, and was granted to him by patent, May 14, 1694.

March 4, 1689, he was chosen one of the magistrates of Ulster County, having previously held other offices.

Tjerck Claessen DeWitt died at Kingston, February 17, 1700. By his will, which bears date the 4th day of March, 1698, and which is written in the Dutch language, he leaves his property to his wife for life; at her death one-half to go to his oldest son, Andries, and one-half to his youngest son, Tjerck, in trust, "provided that the same shall be appraised by impartial persons on oath," and divided into 12 equal shares, one share to be given to each of his children, their heirs or assigns. In addition to the equal share he gave to Andries some lands at Koksinck and Kleine Esopus, to Jan and Jacob each five hundred bushels of wheat, and to Lucas the one-half of a sloop which he had built the year previous. The legacy to his daughter Rachel is subject to the condition "that my said daughter's share shall be decreased 100 pounds for the benefit of my heirs, which is what my daughter's husband, Cornelious Bogardus, owes me for the one-eighth of a brigantine, desiring, however, that the child of the said Bogardus, named Barbara, shall receive, out of the foresaid 100 pounds, 50 pieces of eight." The legacy to his daughter Jannetje, the wife of Cornelius Swits, is "with these conditions, that if my aforesaid daughter shall die without leaving any children, then all the said part shall be the property of my heirs, to be equally divided between them."

A copy of his will appears in Volume 8 (1912), pg 18 of "Olde Ulster" (10 volumes) in library of Holland Society, 90 Wall Street, New York, NY.

per DeWitt-Peltz, A Supplement to Peltz-DeWitt (1948), p. 346: Mr. A.J.F.van Laer, a native of Holland, for many years State Archivist, recently retired, supplies the following valued information-

"When I revised Jonathan Pearson's translations of the two volumes of Notarial Papers in the Albany County Clerk's Office (published in 1918 by the State Library under the title 'Early Records of the City and County of Albany, Vol. 3 - History Bulletin 10'), I made an effort to locate the birthplace of Tjerck Claessen De Witt, which in the marriage records of the Dutch Reformed Church of New York is given under date April 24, 1656, as 'Grootholt in Zunderlandt', and which according to Schoonmaker's History of Kingston, p. 477, is 'supposed to be Saterland, a district of Westphalia, on the southern border of East Friesland.'

"I conclude this is a mistake and the Zunderlandt has nothing to do with Saterland, but is a misreading of Emberland. In the first place, Tjerck Classen had a sister Emmerentje De Witt, who in the record of her intended marriage in 1664, at New Amsterdam to Marten Hofman is given as 'from Esens in Embderlt', and secondly, in a power of attorney, dated June 9, 1661, given to his brother-in-law Jan Albertsen, Tjerck Claessen speaks of land inherited by him at 'Oosterbemus in Oost Vriesland.'

The latter is a small place on the coast of East Friesland, opposite the island of Baltrum, which on the map of 'Emden & Olderborch, Comit,' in Mercator's Atlas of 1619, is given as 'Oosterbeus'. This place is situated near Esens, only a few miles N.E. of Emden, and accounts for all the places mentioned in the various documents and also accounts for the fact that the first known ancestor of the DeWitt family had the Frisian name 'Tjerck,' which is equivalent to the Dutch name Dirck, or Diederick.

"It would be interesting to see whether the original marriage record of 1656 in the Dutch Church at New York actually has the name 'Zunderlandt,' or whether this mistake was made by the clerk who transcribed the record for the printer.

"Emden, the seaport in East Friesland which was heavily bombed in the last war, was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a place of refuge for Dutch Protestants, who fled there from Spanish inquisition. The place was under the protection of the States General of the Netherlands, who maintained a Dutch garrison there. The place looks like a Dutch city and has a large Dutch Reformed Church, where some of my own ancestors, the immediate descendants of Hohan van Laer, who in 1533 fled from Oldenzaal, in the province of Overyssel, Netherlands, are buried. I visited their tombs in 1910, but fear that they were destroyed in the last war.

"The Frisians early in the Middle Ages settled all along the Dutch coast. They were predominant in the northern part of the present province of Noord, Holland, which for a long time retained semi-independence and became known as West Friesland, in contradistinction to the province of Friesland on the east side of the Zuider Zee, of which Leewarden is the capital, and the territory in Germany, which is known as East Friesland. In the 17th century West Friesland was combined with the northern part of the province of Holland, but still retained administrative independence and became officially know as 'Holland and West Friesland'.

When the Netherlands became a kingdom, in 1813, the name West Friesland was dropped and the territory of 'Holland and West Friesland' was named 'Noord Hooland', the remainder of the ancient county or province of Holland, in which the cities The Hague, Rotterdam, Leiden and Delft are located, being named 'Zuid Holland'.

"West Friesland, therefore, was never a separate province of the present Kingdom of the Netherlands."


He probably emigrated from near Esens in Ostfriesland (northern coast of Germany) in the early or mid-1650s. (See related page of discussion on his origins.) He married Barbara Andriessen in Manhattan on April 24, 1656. Apparently, though, they never baptized any children there. (Some say Tjerck and Barbara baptized their first son, Andries, in New York, and lived there until spring 1657, but no record exists of Andries’ baptism in Manhattan. When Andries posts wedding banns in Kingston, on March 4, 1682, he’s listed as born in New York.)

We know that as early as February 1656 Tjerck was in court in Albany (Fort Orange) for fighting and for keeping company with Lutherans; we also know he lived there after he was married. (On June 25, 1657, he declares in court there that he’s made a payment in relation to the sale of a stallion.)

It seems likely that Tjerck and Barbara baptized their first children in Albany. Marriage and baptism records from Albany before 1683 have been lost.

On November 20, 1658, Tjerck arranged to lease his house in Beverwyck (Albany) to Arent Isacksz from May 1, 1659, to May 1, 1660. In September 1660 he traded his Albany property with a Madame de Hutter (or Madame Johanna De Laldt and her husband, Hon. Jeronimus Ebbink?), in exchange for land in Wiltwyck (Kingston), “possession to be given May 1, 1661” (or for two pieces of land in the Esopus?).

In 1661 Tjerck was taxed for the erection of a church in Hurley, not far from Kingston. By September 1661 Tjerck had already appeared in court in Wiltwyck (this time as a plaintiff; he won his case).

On February 12, 1662, Tjerck and Barbara baptized a daughter, Jannetjen, in the Kingston Dutch Reform Church (they already had Andries and another daughter, Taatje, born in 1659). By 1662 they owned No. 28 of the “New Lots” at Kingston.

On May 28, 1663, Tjerck also bought a lot in Beverwyck from Harman Tomassen, though he doesn’t seem to have moved there (it sounds like it was very near the property he’d traded away in 1660). On June 7, 1663, Kingston and Hurley were almost entirely destroyed by the Indians; Tjerck fought valiantly in their defense, and his daughter Taatje was kidnapped, along with three other children. She was soon rescued.

Between then and 1668, Tjerck and Barbara baptized three more children in Kingston, where they apparently continued to live in town.

In September 1664 the British took control of New Amsterdam and renamed it after the Duke of York; Colonel Richard Nicolls took over as Governor. In 1667 Tjerck opposed the British occupation of Kingston and “refused to keep Christmas on the day according to the English observation, but according to the Dutch.” (The Dutch used the old Julian calendar, which was about two weeks off from the modern Gregorian calendar used by the British.) For his recalcitrance he was beaten.

In 1668 (?) Tjerck refused to sign the oath of allegiance administered by the British, though a “John” DeWitt (perhaps his brother Jan?) and Andries DeWitt (probably Tjerck’s 10-year-old son) did sign it.

On January 24, 1669-70 (or on April 8, 1669?), the new British Governor, Colonel Francis Lovelace, issued a permit to Tjerck to let him “erect a house and barne with convenient outhouses for his cattle upon his own land at Esopus, lying betwixt Hurley and Kingston,” noting that Tjerck previously had permission from Governor Nicolls to do this and on that promise had provided all the materials to get started. This land was on the Kingston-Hurley road; the house still stands today, with a beautiful view of the valley of the Esopus Creek.

On June 25, 1672, Governor Lovelace officially deeded Tjerck the “parcel of bush land, together with a house, lot, orchard and calves’ pasture, lying near Kingston in Esopus.” The deed was a confirmation of Tjerck’s title to the land, now that he had built on it.

New Amsterdam was recaptured by the Dutch on August 7, 1673, but in February 1674 the Dutch agreed to give the colony back, and on October 11, 1674, Captain Antony Colve officially handed over control to the new English Governor, Major Edmond Andros.

On October 8, 1677, Governor Andros deeded Tjerck a piece of woodland, containing about 50 acres, at Kingston in Esopus, “to the west of the towne.” He had other property too.

Tjerck and Barbara had six other children whose baptisms were not recorded in Manhattan or Kingston. It seems likely they were baptized in Hurley, in the church he had helped pay to build—not too far from the house and farm he built around 1670. Their last daughter, Aefje, was baptized in Kingston on January 14, 1684.

<h5 align="left">Sources</h5>

<p align="left">I’m just beginning to list sources here. Apologies for not

being more complete. I will continue to add to this list as I have time. There

are many sources of information on Tjerck Claessen DeWitt, some better than


<p align="left"><i>Printed sources:</i></p>

<p align="left">Record of baptisms and marriages from Kingston, New York.</p>

<p align="left"><i>Online sources:</i></p>

<p align="left"><a href="" target="_blank">Tjerck

Claessen DeWitt in Court</a></p>

<p align="left">Record of early marriages in the Dutch Reform Church in

Manhattan, available in printed form or <a href="" target="_blank">online</a></p>

<p align="left">Record of early baptisms in the Dutch Reform Church in

Manhattan, available <a href="">online</a></p>

<p align="left"><i>Reproduced herein:</i></p>

<p align="left">Wills of<a href="">

Tjerck Claessen DeWitt</a> and his <a href="">brother

Jan</a>, who died unmarried in Kingston, 1699 (1906 Anjou edition)</p>

<p align="left">Very cursory look at <a href="">public

records from Albany, NY,</a> regarding Tjerck Claessen DeWitt and possible


<p align="left"><a href="">The

Peltz Record</a> (1948)</p>

<p align="left"><a href="">The

History of Ulster County, New York</a></p>

<p align="left"><a href="">The

Oberholtzer Genealogy</a></p>

C.Tjerck Claeszen DeWitt (Claes) (1620-2/17/1700) came from Holland in 1650, probably first of his family to come to New Amsterdam, and soon settled in Kingston, NY. Earliest information in “Trouw Boeck” or the register of marriages of the DRC in city of New Amsterdam where recorded his m. 4/24/1656, Barbara Andrieszen, from Amsterdam, d. 7/6/1714. Res. in New Amsterdam til b. of eldest son, Andries, 1657, when he moved to Miltwyck, remaining there til his d. The place was well fortified, and he helped defend the village at the time of the Indian attack in 1663. His daughter was taken captive (Jannetje) & recovered. He was one of the magistrates. In 1669 obtained liberty to erect house and barn on his land outside of Wiltwyck. He was a navigator & owned a sloop of 50 ft. keel. Both a trader and farmer with some rank among the original settlers. In 1689 he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown, as did many others, because the British authorities had not fulfilled their treaty stipulations on the country being surrendered to them, and he did not acknowledge that power during his lifetime.

In 1639 Tjerck and brother Jan emigrated to America .... < an excellent reference guide


Tjerck came from a farm near Esens, in Ostfriesland, which today is part of Germany. (Other) mistaken information came from an erroneous transcription of the original handwritten record from 1656. The transcription, which everyone cites, is also handwritten, but it is not the original. The original is lost today. The erroneous transcription still exists and is being lovingly cared for by able archivists. For pictures of the erroneous transcription, and more detailed discussion of the errors and misperceptions that have arisen from this church record, see here.] Presumed buried in Kingston, New York

"Tjerck is first recorded in Beverwyck (near Albany) in 1655... by the 1650's the population of that area was larger than that of Manhattan."

From find-a-grave:

Tjerck married Barbara Andriessen on April 24, 1656 in the Reformed Collegiate Dutch Church in New Amsterdam.

Tjerck died on February 17, 1700 at Kingston, Ulster County, New York.

  • Note Their suggestion:

Although Tjerck Claessen DeWitt (1630-1700) is almost certainly buried in the Old Dutch Reformed Church churchyard, the headstone shown on Find A Grave is that of his grandson. The oldest existing headstone for the cemetery is that of Tjerck's oldest son, Andries, who died tragically in a building accident in 1710. This stone has been removed to the safety of the church museum, and may be viewed there.

In September, 1660, he exchanged his Albany property with Madame de Hutter for land in Wiltwyck (now Kingston), "possession to be given May 1, 1661." He probably took possession at that time, as in September, 1661, he appears as plaintiff in an action at law before the Schepens Court of Wiltwyck, and on October 11th the same court ordered the Sheriff (Roeleff Swartwout) to pay him three and a half schepels of wheat in eight days and seven more in one month. From this time until death, he resided in Kingston and Hurley, and some of the land which he purchased is still in the hands of his descendants.

Commissary of village of Wildwyck (Kingston area) New Netherland

source: an account drawn form various sources:

"In this attack on the two villages fifteen men, four women and two children were killed. Most of the women and children killed were burned to death. Of the prisoners taken by the Indians at this outbreak there were thirteen women, thirty children, and one man. At Kingston twelve houses were burned, while the New Village was entirely destroyed.

Soldiers including PEER Jan Hendricks were now sent up from New York, and the Indians were hunted from mountain to mountain. The rescued children included Tjerck Claessen en de Witt’s oldest daughter. (Mathijs Jansen Van KEULEN’s future daughter-in-law) Peer Jan Hendrick married Mathijs’ daughter Annetje.

Peer was a Sargent in the Dutch West India Company’s troops sent to Esopus Jun 1663 under Capt. Martin Krieger in Colonel Cragier’s regiment. He took part in the rescue of the women and children captured in the Esopus raid on Wiltwyck (Kingston), June, 1663. Two months after the raid, the Indians were engaged at the Esopus and the captives freed, including Tjaatje and Jannetje DeWitt, and Jannaken Van Vliet. Tjaatje Dewitt would be Peer’s future sister-in-law by later marrying Matthys Matthyssen, Annetje’s brother and progenitor of the Van Keuren family."

view all 21

Tjerck Claessen de Witt's Timeline

Grootholdt (Possibly Esens), Zunderland (Possibly Emderlant), Ostfriesland (within present Niedersachsen), Heiliges Römisches Reich (within present Germany)
January 1, 1657
Age 28
New Amsterdam (Present New York City), New Netherlands (Present New York)
Age 29
New Amsterdam, New Netherlands, Colonial America
Age 30
Albany, NY
Age 31
Age 33
Wiltwijck (Present Kingston), (Present Ulster County), New Netherlands (Present New York)
October 15, 1668
Age 39
Kingston, Ulster County, Province of New York, (Present USA)
Age 40
Age 41
Kingston, Ulster County, Province of New York, (Present USA)