52 Ancestors: Cornelius Hendrickse Van Ness and Maijgen Hendricks van der Burchgraeff

This is the second year of a blog challenge called 52 Ancestors, 52 Weeks. Bloggers are asked to write about one ancestor a week for a year. This is the first time I have heard of it, and I am a week behind. I want to take part in this challenge not only to share my family history with others, but also to get clarity for myself on who my ancestors were. Many of my ancestors were brave adventurous people who took great risks. Others were common people just living their lives. Some were kings and queens. Most have a story worth telling.

This is the story of Cornelius Hendrickse Van Ness born in 1600 in Holland and his wife Maijgen Hendrickse van den Burchgraeff born in 1602 also in Holland. They are my ninth great grandparents, and they had no real need for a fresh start, yet they chose to leave their comfortable lives in Holland and travel to the wilds of the New World.

Cornelius was a wealthy, well-educated land owner in the area of Vianen, Holland. His wife Maijgen Hendrickse van den Burchgraeff was from a wealthy family, and she became wealthy in her own right after the death of both her parents. They had income producing land that continued to supply them with an income even after they left Holland. I can only speculate as to the reason these two people emigrated to what would become the area around Albany, New York.

The Dutch East Indies Company was unhappy with the slow population growth in the New Netherlands. The Dutch people were cautious by nature and traveling to the unknowns of the new continent was generally not appealing to them. They were not excited by the prospect of dealing with the native tribes, building housing from scratch, or risking everything on what they saw as a very dangerous proposition with no real personal benefits.

Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a diamond merchant from Holland and a director of the Dutch East Indies Company, came up with the solution. He devised patroonships, a way for immigrants to become property owners. Now, the Dutch people saw a reason to take the risk: personal gain.

Even in the 1600s, land was not easy to get in Holland. All of it belonged to someone, and inheritance was the most likely way for someone who owned no land to acquire some. However, in New Netherland under the patroonship system, anyone no matter how poor could eventually become a landowner. Cornelius and Maijgen must have decided that immigrating to New Netherland was a way to secure land, and thus a future, for their seven children.

In May of 1641, Cornelius, Maijgen, and their seven children boarded the den Eyckenboom with about 30 other people and sailed from Holland. It is likely that his ship was a fluyt. Originally designed to carry cargo only, it had no armaments, but could go very fast and sail in shallow waters. The den Eyckenboom  was scheduled to pick up cargo after dropping off its passengers, and it was not forced to remain in port in New Amsterdam, but sailed up the river to Rennselaerwick.

They arrived at their destination in August. I have seen no record of where they lived that first year. August in Albany is the end of summer. It is harvest season. There would have been little time to build a house before winter. Perhaps, they lived in a hastily built pithouse with a thatched roof. Certainly, it was not the type of home they were used to in Holland, but they came with money and began life as patroons. They would receive workers, both freemen and indentured, to work their land and after time, these men would be able to own their own property. They were also eligible to receive African slaves at no cost, but again I have seen no documents that show who or when their workers arrived.

In 1646, their oldest daughter Grietje was 19. She married Pieter Clausen van Norden a former indentured servant of a neighboring patroon. He had arrived in 1636 at the age of 11 and in 1643 had completed his indenture. He was paid 375 guilders for the seven years of labor. The two of them would go on to found the Wyckoff family. Another story for another blog.

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