Monday, June 15, 2015

New Amsterdam family, part 1

Guillian Vigne and Adriane Cuvelier > Christina Vigne > Magdalena Dircks > Christina Rosenkrans > Johannes Cortright > Elisha Cortright > Isaac Cortright > Mabel Cortright > Jameson Ransom > Charles Ransom > Lillian Ransom > Charles Walters

Lately I’ve been looking into my ancestors who lived in New Amsterdam, an early Dutch settlement on the island of Manhattan. When the English took control in 1664, its name was changed to New York. I found my New Amsterdam line contained some interesting people. Their names appeared in all types of documents including land transactions, law suits and even cases of violence.

This is generation 1 of 3 that I will be posting here. Look for the others soon.

In 1618, Guillian Vigne and wife Adriane Cuvelier can be found in Leiden, Holland (at that time known as Leyden). In September of that year, they brought their daughter Rachel to the Walloon Church for her baptism and the following month they were officially accepted into the church. Walloons were French-speaking Protestants and the family may have come to Leiden to escape persecution from the Catholic Church.

Before coming to Leiden, Guillian and Adriane had two older daughters. Four additional children would be baptized in Leiden in the next 5 years, although only one of the children born in Leiden would reach adulthood. In 1623/4, Guillian, with his wife and three surviving daughters, left Holland and became some of the first settlers in New Amsterdam. Here, Adriane gave birth to a son, Jan, believed to be the first European male to be born in New Amsterdam.

Guillian died sometime before 1632, leaving Adriane with four children. Daughters Maria and Christina were married or soon to be married at the time of their father’s death, but children Rachel and Jan were still minors. When Adriane was planning to married Jan Jansen Damen, the estate of her first husband needed to be settled on their children. It was settled that Maria and Christina would receive 200 guilders from their father’s estate, and Rachel and Jan would receive 300 guilders at either the time of their marriage or when they became of age. It was also put upon Jan Damen as his responsibility to provide for the minor children, seeing that they were provided for and educated “as parents ought to do.”

Jan Damen appears to have been an interesting man. The inventory of his estate was extremely large, by far greater than other inventories included in the records. He owned various land in present day New York City and was the first European who owned the land where the World Trade Center is located. He was selected to serve as church warden. A fellow warden was Peter Stuyvesant, the director of the New Netherland colony. A few years later, it was Damen who acted on behalf of Stuyvesant when the director wanted to purchase a large farm.

Some of Jan Damen’s other actions and connections, however, show a different side of Jan. In July 1638, shortly after his marriage to Adriane, Jan decided that he no longer wanted his new extended family living with him. He ordered his step-daughters Maria Vigne, wife of Abraham Van Planck, and Christina Vigne, wife of Dirck Volckertsen, and their families out of his home. When Christina refused to leave, things turned violent. According to witnesses, Jan forced Christina outside and struck her. He also thrust a knife at Christina and cut her skirt. Dirck, coming to her defense, threw a pewter can at Jan, but missed. Jan then turned on Dirck with the knife, "cutting and thrusting at him."  Dirck used a post to defend himself. Jan then turned again on Christina, hitting her with his fists and tearing her cap from her head. He told Dirck "If you have courage, draw your knife." The witnesses testified that Dirck, "being sober" did not attack, only defended himself, implying that Jan was drunk. The matter was brought before the courts, however the records don’t include a ruling.

Jan Damen was involved in another altercation involving a blade a few years later. Philip Gerrady was seeing Jan to his home sometime after midnight. When they arrived, they were met by one of Jan's servants who threatened to shoot Philip. Jan told him to go to bed, but the servant responded, "I will not." A fight ensued between the knife-wielding servant and Jan who had a scabbard. During the fight, Jan was pushed down and Philip stepped in to protect him. In the darkness, Jan cut Philip on the back, possibly mistaking him for his servant. Philip survived his injury and said he didn’t believe Jan meant him any ill will.

A year and a half before his death, Jan seemed to think the end was drawing near and gave his last testament. In this statement, his personal effects and large sum of money was to go to his nephew with additional money to be sent for the poor in Utrecht, Holland. The remainder of his estate was to be divided between his brothers and sisters. His widow, Adriane, was to have his farm (with the caveat that if she were to sell or lease the property, Cicile, the West Indian maid servant was to be given her freedom). There was no mention of any of the Vigne children receiving anything from his estate.

Three days after his death, however, men came to Adriane for the settling of Jan’s estate and it was decided that Adriane could “dispose of the entire estate to the best advantage of her and her children and heirs.” There is no mention of any of Damen’s blood relatives being upset with the distribution of the estate, but considering the size of the estate, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of his relations were unhappy at the thought of his step-children benefiting from his death.

Sources: New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch/New Netherland Documents,; The Records of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674, volume 1-5,; “The Vignes,”; New Netherlands Connection, Vol 3, No.1,

I’ve come across a number of websites, books and blogs that include more information about my New Amsterdam relatives. While I have looked at some for reference, the information I’ve included here is primarily from the New Amsterdam records I was able to locate online and hope to add more later on.

No comments:

Post a Comment