Early trade in Beverwyck/Albany

While I can’t really go back much further up the family tree with our Brooks of Albany, New York, I have been able to learn interesting things about John Brooks’ probable mother’s line, the Wendells.

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It is believed, at this time, that John Brooks, Senior, who died during the War of 1812 was the son of Frances Wendell and Peter Brooks who married in Albany, New York, probably in November 1771. (They applied for their license November 7 of that year, according to Dutch Church records1)

Frances was the great great granddaughter of the emigrant ancestor Evert Jansen Wendell. It is thanks to Evert and his progeny that people interested in such things, can learn much not otherwise known about early trading in Albany as regards the local Indigenous people.

Evert was born about 1615 in Emden, Germany, a town located at the mouth of the River Ems in Hanover. He came to New Amsterdam about 1641/2 in the service of the Dutch West Indies Company, and made a living as an import merchant, fur trader, tailor and cooper. He stayed in New Amsterdam until about 1651, at which time he moved his family of wife, Susanna du Trieux, and 3-4 children to Beverwyck/Albany.

Evert was active in Albany’s community as an elder in the Dutch Church, an orphan-master, and a magistrate. He and his first wife, Susanna, eventually had 8 children together*. Our Brooks descend from their son Jeronimous.


Evert and his sons were heavily involved in the fur trade, which would not be unusual, as it was a major industry in this time period.  The family also made its fortune trading, and when the pelts started becoming rare, due to the indiscriminate slaughter of the animals who were wearing them, they moved on to other types of trade. Much of which was tracked by Jeronimous’ son Evert, who kept an account book that has survived to this day, and is used to help those who study these things, learn more about the anthropological details of early trading in the Albany area. This account book has been translated from Dutch and studied in great detail.

To Do Justice to Him & Myself: Evert Wendell’s Account Book of the Fur Trade with Indians in Albany, New York, 1695-1726, by Evert Wendell

Map of the fur trade.

According to the introduction to this volume the Wendells also made money (and acquired land) by acting as interpreters, and were called in by both Indians and Europeans to assist in negotiations of all kinds. Including making trips to Canada to act as interpreters on military expeditions against the French.

This account book contains information on commercial trade on the Hudson with the Indigenous populous. Giving researchers details that were completely unknown previous to its publication. Things like the use of native agents, how credit was used, the type and quantities of goods traded, the origins of the native customers, and the level of native women’s trade participation, among many other bits of interest. Details specific to the Indigenous people themselves like types of tattoos they had and their naming practices are of particular interest also.

This account book’s greatest value is in the fact that it is the earliest known surviving fur trade record of colonial Albany, New York. I highly recommend this gem of a book, although the introduction is the most interesting part. The tables that finish the book off are mostly of interest to real researchers who love the nitty-gritty of this kind of stuff. I am afraid that’s too much detail for me.

The Wendell’s were a prominent family for quite a while in Albany and their success was largely due to the fact that they learned from their progenitor, Evert, that the best way to stay well-heeled, was to diversify. Which is why when the fur trade started to decline as a feasible way to make lots of money they stayed well to do. The sons and grandsons traded in many items (not just fur), lawyered, made shoes, interpreted, and tailored. One of the grandsons also began selling the first products from a chocolate mill! Mmmm…chocolate.

I find it fascinating that there are ancestors on both sides of our family that have so much history with Albany/Beverwyck and New York/New Amsterdam. And the more I read about these cities’ very early beginnings, the more fascinating I find them.

*Interesting side note regarding Evert and Susanna Wendell’s children — Elsje and Johannes: Elsie married Abraham Staats; Johannes married Elizabeth Staats. Both of these Staats were the children of Abraham Staats and Catrina Jochemse Wessels. Catrina is the daughter of the same Joachim Wessels, who married our ancestress Geertruy Hieronimous, of the ‘Warmongering Wessels of Albany’[see post], and is in fact their daughter. This gives a connection between both my mother’s and father’s side of the family in America, although only a cousin connection, as neither side descends directly from Elsje or Johannes Wendell.


  1. Holland Society of New York (1926/7); Records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Albany, New York, 1683–1809

Speaking of Brazil…

In going over my family tree recently, I noticed that I had stopped doing any further research regarding the Roosa/Rosa line in New York after succeeding in cementing down, to my satisfaction, the names of the parents of Garret Rosa.

So last weekend I decided to continue in that vain and today I am going to talk about Garret’s mother Lena van Loon’s ancestors.

Lena van Loon was born in either Feb of 1764 or 1767. The reason for the not quite definite date is that her parents, Jurris/Jorge van Loon who married his cousin Helena van Loon, had two daughters with similar names. Helena (baptized 2 Feb 1764), and Lea (born 1767). I am inclined to lean towards the daughter Helena for two reasons: Lena is more appropriate as a diminutive of Helena; and the birth date is closer to the age of her husband Abraham Rosa, (who was born in 1759).

But regardless of which daughter it is – here is the tree I have been able to construct for Lena:


van LOON, Lena - Helena? - 2
The line down is: Lena van Loon, son Garret Rosa, son Abram Rosa, daughter Clarissa/Carrie Rosa, daughter Gertrude Cain, son Clarence John, son Vic.

Lena van Loon, like her husband Abraham Rosa, descends from very Dutch ancestors, with possibly a little German thrown in. (She is also a descendant of the van Loon and Hallenbeck lines twice.) And in pursuing this research I came across something very unexpected and very interesting. Lena’s gg (and ggg) grandfather Willem Hoffmire was born in Brazil.

My first response was “What!?” Of course my second response was to query and search like a crazy person, as I was intensely curious about how this came to be. So in the last week I have been learning about how in the 1600s the Dutch established a colony in Brazil through the Dutch West India Company, and for about 25 year were in conflict with Spain and Portugal while trying to keep control of their interests there. About 1661 they completely abandoned their efforts and ceded over control to the Portuguese.

Profit and greed was the motive for establishing a colony in Brazil, nothing new about that. The goal of establishing a colony in South America was to provide raw materials and import/export items for Holland’s own manufacturing industries. Tobacco, cotton, dye wood, gold, ivory and sugar would bring untold profits to the investors. Let’s not forget the slave trade.

When Johann Moritz arrived as the newly hired governor, he fell in love with the country and people. Admittedly, he actually did a pretty good job of overseeing the colony and trying to keep relations with the Portuguese on good terms. He was not a religious bigot and worked well with the locals as he had great respect for them, even trying to learn their languages.

He invited artisans and scientists, and touted free-trade as an advantage, all in an effort to promote colonization and lure immigrants from Holland.


Time-expired men, (soldiers) were encouraged to stay and settle in the area. Maybe Willem Hoffmire’s father, (whose name we do not know), was one of those soldiers. The soldiers hired by the Dutch West India Company came from many nations: France, Scotland, England, Scandinavia, Germany; and as the Hoffmire name sounds more German than Dutch…who knows. There were two types of people living in Dutch Brazil by this time, those who worked for the DWIC and those who didn’t. Willem’s father’s role is unknown. He could have been a merchant, soldier, artisan or a small land holder from Holland trying his hand at a farm in Brazil.

However, by the time Willem (born abt 1636) was a ‘young lad’ his mother Geertruy Hieronymus was a widow. Whether she was a widow in Brazil is not known. Sometime before 1652, either the whole family, or just herself and her children, made their way to New Amsterdam (present day New York), where she married a local baker by the name of Jochim Wessils (before 1652). Gert and Jochim are a whole other story!

Colonial landscape in the 1650s, Dutch Brazil.


Depiction of slave market of Recife with Dutch and Portuguese merchants.


If one is interested in learning more about Dutch Brazil, there is a pretty interesting book The Dutch in Brazil, by C.R. Boxer, that is an easy read and gives a good account of this time in Dutch history. Many folks don’t realize how incredibly powerful the Dutch nation was at one time. So powerful and rich they had more ships on the oceans than England, Spain, and France put together.

I guess now I will check out the summer olympics with a little more interest!


Another tavern in the family tree…

This tavern might not be as infamous as the Fay’s tavern, but it was certainly older. Welcome to Nieu Amsterdam!


NEW AMSTERDAM, c1656 Painting; NEW AMSTERDAM, c1656 Art Print for sale

My ancestor on my father’s side, Andries Rees is believed to have arrived in New Amsterdam around the 1650s with his wife Celjite Jans and their son Willem. Andries was actually born in Lipstadt, Germany. His move to New Amsterdam was because his employer, the West India Company, required his, and his fellow soldiers, presence in the new settlement. By 1660 Andries and his wife Celjite were busy running a tavern, the location of which is circled in the map below in red. (Present day this is an office building, the funky wall going across the peninsula is now Wall Street.)

Redraft of the Castello Plan of New Amsterdam in 1660, redrawn in 1916 by John Wolcott Adams and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes.
A Dutch tavern scene. in the 1660s

While the Rees’s tavern itself isn’t famous for who was there, it is a historical landmark because of when it was around as can be seen in the historical marker below.

Andries Rees’s Tavern Marker
Andries Rees’’s Tavern Marker; a transcription from website, of sign, is below. From the Historical Marker Database: http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=24113

   William Street and Wall Street
Dutch Name:   Smit Straet

Here, in 1660, Andries Rees ran a tavern serving his fellow colonists. Taverns were lively centers of social life in the Netherlands, and Dutch settlers carried the tradition across the Atlantic. Entrepreneurs like Rees sold rum and wine imported from the Caribbean and Europe, as well as locally-brewed beer. Drunkenness and tavern violence were problems in Nieuw Amsterdam. In 1663, Rees was taken to court for not reporting a brawl in which his customer Denys Isaacksen stabbed Pieter Jansen, a mason. He was also charged with breaking the law by selling beer during Sunday church hours. But the city court dismissed charges against him, and Rees apparently stayed in business.
Taverns or “taprooms” also played other roles for townspeople. Men and women came to play ninepins and backgammon, and to share gossip and news. Taverns were settings for business deals and public meetings. The beer that taverns sold earned money for local farmers, millers, and brewers. As with their windmills, canals, and houses, the Dutch imported their taverns to ease life in the New World.

It would have been great to have known about this while my sister an I were in New York visiting a while ago, we were in the area and could have checked it out.

According to histories regarding New Amsterdam, the fashion of the day in the seventeenth century was drinking and gambling. This included young as well as the old. These vices were, no doubt, popular in New Amsterdam because of the lack of other entertainments for the locals, as there were no books, theaters, museums or other distractions for one’s evening entertainment. When the official work or school day was done you either spent your time at home, in the sober environment of your parents, or spouse, or joined in the revelry at the local corner tavern. At the tavern there was drinking, dicing, card playing and many other questionable games to amuse. And apparently in New Amsterdam the licencoiousness was even more prevalent. In fact not only did the men indulge, but women and even the clergy were known to spend many an evening in drunken revelry.

One interesting result of this habit, in New Amsterdam, was that drunkenness was used as an excuse in court cases such as assault. The law also allowed men 24 hours to get sober, if after that time they wanted to denounce any transactions they entered into while they were drunk they were allowed to do so, with no repercussions.

In the seventeenth century ice was in use in taverns to keep their wines cooled. Customers drank from steins and horns, if it was wine, or pewter mugs and steins with lids if it was beer, poorer taverns served beer in wooden bowls. The common fare found in your local New Amsterdam tavern was wine, beer, ale, cider, rum, or gin, which was considered a poor class drink.

Major no-nos in New Amsterdam on a Sunday were, no drinking no gaming no gambling – in other words no fun. Celjite was in court being accused of having ninepins at her house on a Sunday. The can and glass, parts of the game, had been found on a table. Andries said he was not at home, but on watch, and he did not see any drinking at his house during the Sunday preaching. Celjite

“denies that there was any nine pins or drinking at her house, saying that some came to her house, who said that Church was out, and that one had a pin and the other a bowl in the hand, but they did not play. The Schout states that defendant’s wife said she did not know but Church was out, and offered to compound with the Schout.”

The court ended up fining her six guilders.

On June 19 of 1657, having fulfilled his duties as a soldier well Andries was promoted to the rank of Cadet. He and Celitje bought a house on Smits* Street (now William Street) in 1672. The family eventually ended up in Beverwick, now known as Albany. Their son Willem, my ancestor, had descendants that eventually married into the Jeremiah Smith line, Gertrude Cain’s great grandfather on her mother’s side.