On the Trail of Our Ancestors

Reformed Dutch Church Records
by Donna Speer Ristenbatt

URL of this website: http://www.ristenbatt.com/genealogy

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Index

Bullet Why So Valuable
Bullet What Churches Existed Where
Bullet New York Reformed Dutch Churches
Bullet New Jersey Reformed Dutch Churches
Bullet Where to Access
Bullet Which Church
Bullet Church Splits
Bullet A Final Word
Orange Beads

One of the most valuable tools for a researcher looking for Dutch ancestors in America are the Reformed Dutch Church Records. In its infancy, this Church was referred to as the Reformed Dutch Church, but in recent times, this Church has sometimes come to be known as the Dutch Reformed Church.

Why So Valuable

The Dutch people had a certain naming practice when naming their children. The first children were named after their grandparents, usually the first son being named after the paternal grandfather, the second after the maternal grandfather, the first daughter being named after the maternal grandmother and the second after the paternal grandmother. Sometimes the first son was named after the maternal grandfather, but regardless, the first children were named after their grandparents, thus giving invaluable clues to the given names of the next generation. After this, children were usually named after their aunts and uncles. There were exceptions to this naming pattern. For example, if the wife were a widow when married, the first child might be named after her deceased husband. The same held true if the husband were a widower and then the first daughter might be named after his deceased wife. Then the usual naming pattern got moved down by one. They often took turns in naming the children also, usually the husband's side first and then the wife's side. All of these naming practices depended, of course, upon the appropriate gender of the child.

Also of great value were the names of the witnesses, sponsors or Godparents, as they are sometimes called. These witnesses were members of the family, usually brothers and sisters of the parents, or else the grandparents themselves, if the child were being named after them. With this naming practice, it can be seen that the names of the witnesses play a vital role. If a man had five sons and all of the first grandsons were being named after him, it can be seen that the witnesses can place a child in the correct family by looking at how they are related. (In this case, the researcher is usually looking for members of the wife's family in the next generation down. For example, if a man had 5 grandsons named Hendrick, one would first look at which wife is listed with Hendrick. If no wife's name were given, which can happen, then the witnesses can give a clue as to which Hendrick is having a child baptized.) These naming practices continued until about 1800, but with more conservative families, a little bit longer. Also, the Dutch records are wonderful in that they give (usually) the wife's maiden name in the baptismal and marriage records. Summarizing then, we have the following advantages given in Reformed Dutch Church records. The wife's maiden name is given. (usually) The naming practice gives us a clue as to the next generation back. Finally, the witnesses give clues as to which family we are searching.

What Churches Existed Where

When the Dutch came to America, the first Church organized in New Netherlands was the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam (New York City). Keep in mind that the English took over New Amsterdam in 1664 and then the Dutch took it back again for one year(1673), thus calling it New Orange. It then reverted back to English control the following year, and was named New York. All of the aforementioned records are fortunately kept in one record book. The Church was formed in 1628, but baptismal and marriage records start in 1639. As the Dutch spread out in their settlements, new churches sprang up on Long Island, Staten Island, and along areas of the Hudson River Valley. Another church that formed was the Brooklyn Reformed Dutch Church and also the Flatbush Reformed Dutch Church on Long Island. (Flatlands) As the Dutch moved into New Jersey, the first church formed there was the Bergen Reformed Dutch Church. (now Jersey City) Churches sprang up in upper New York State, such as the Albany Reformed Dutch Church.

Anytime a church record is consulted, a certain pattern is followed, whether the record is in Dutch, or has been translated into English. In English, the pattern is the date of baptism (sometimes the date of birth also), the name of the child, the names of the parents and the names of the witnesses. If the record is kept in Dutch, the same pattern is followed, only the following words are used. Kinder = Child. Ouders = parents. Geboren = Born. Gedopt = Baptized. Getuygen = Witnesses. One may ask, what church do I look for and where do I find its records? These two questions are addressed in the following two sections. Before looking at these two sections, however, here are examples of how records are kept.

English Translation Example: (Schraalenburgh Reformed Dutch Church)
Child &
Date
Parents Witnesses
1738
David
Feb. 5
Thomas Ekkesen(Eckerson)
Maria Demarest
David Demarest
Maeike, his wife

Dutch Example: (New Amsterdam Reformed Dutch Church)

Ouders Kinders Getuygen
1699
Oct. 22
Lucas Kierstede
Rachel Kip
Lucas Abraham Kip,
Rachel Kierstede,
h.v. Will. Teller
h.v. = wife in Dutch

New York Reformed Dutch Churches

The following is a list of a number of early Reformed Dutch Churches in New York. The date in parenthesis is when formed, and then dates are given for when baptismal and marriage records were kept. Remember, the date in parenthesis is when the church was formed. There are gaps in some of the records, and some variations of dates.

Church Baptisms Marriages
New Amsterdam/New York (1628) 1639-1801 1639-1801
Brooklyn (1660) 1660-1710 1660-1696
Flatbush (1654)(Midwout) 1677-1872 (gaps) 1677-1866 (gaps)
Flatlands (Nieuw Amersfoort) 1747-1914 1825-1914
Gravesend 1714-1890 1832-1890
New Utrecht 1718-1880 1835-1880
Albany (1642) 1683-1809 1683-1803
Schenectady (1670) 1694-1938 1699-1938
Kingston (1659) 1660-1809 1660-1809
Tappan (1694) 1694-1822 1694-1822
Clarkstown (1750) 1749-1795
Port Richmond (Staten Island) (1690) 1690-
Tarrytown (Sleepy Hollow) (1697) 1697-1791 1698-1790
Kakiat (W. Hempstead) (1774)
(Brick Church)
1774-1860 1793-1864
Greenwich 1806-1858
Monsey
(True Reformed Church
of West New Hempstead)
1826-1883
NY Lutheran (contains Dutch members) 1704-1723 1704-1772

New Jersey Reformed Dutch Churches

Following are a list of some New Jersey Reformed Dutch Churches. Once again there are some gaps in the records. The year in parenthesis is when the church was formed.

Church Baptisms Marriages
Bergen (1660)
(now Jersey City)
1666-1788 1666-1788
Hackensack (1686) 1686-1886 1695-1884
Schraalenburgh (1724)
(Now either Dumont or Bergenfield)
1724-1926 1724-1921
Acquackanonk (1693)
(Now Passaic)
1727-1816
Some births from 1692
1725-1816
Ponds (in Oakland) (1710) Records destroyed
Paramus (ca. 1725) 1740-1850 1799-1856
Saddle River (1812) 1811-1925 1813-1924
Totowa (1755) 1755-1808
Second River (1700)
(Now Belleville)
1724-1794 1730-1796
Six Mile Run (1710) 1743-1849
Pompton Plains (1736) 1734-1871 1736-1809
Wyckoff (1806) 1806-1925
Ramapo Reformed (ca. 1785)
(Island Church)
1824-1900 1838-1900
True Ramapo Reformed (ca. 1822) 1824-1906
Zion Lutheran(Saddle River) (1820)
(Contains Dutch Members)
1818-1907 1821-1906
Ramapo Lutheran (aft. 1740) 1750-1817

Where to Access

A number of Reformed Dutch Church records are on microfilm and obtainable at your local LDS Family History Center. Also, a number of these Reformed Dutch Church records have been published. Check the following places for these published records.

  1. The Holland Society of New York City.
  2. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society in New York City.
  3. Various NJ and NY Genealogical and Historical Societies have records for sale that have been published by someone else. Here is one example:
    Bergen Historic Society
    P.O. Box 244
    Englewood, NJ 07631
  4. The Genealogical and Historical Societies in both NY and NJ have published many tombstone listings for various Reformed Dutch Church Graveyards.
  5. The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) has published many cemetery records and some church records.
Also, check out the following repositories:
  1. The Archives of the Reformed Dutch Church of America is housed in New Brunswick, NJ at the Gardner Sage Library. The address is:
    Archives for the Reformed Church in America
    21 Seminary Place
    New Brunswick, NJ 08901
    (732) 246-1779
  2. The Genealogical Society of NJ has their archives in New Brunswick, NJ at the Special Collections Sections of the Alexander Library. It is just blocks away from the Gardner Sage Library.
  3. The New Jersey State Library in Trenton, New Jersey has both NJ and NY Reformed Dutch Church records.
  4. The DAR in Washington, DC, has the Holland Society and New York Genealogical and Biographical Yearbooks.
  5. The Holland Society of New York may be of some assistance.
    122 East 58th Street
    New York City, NY 10022

Which Church

The researcher may next ask, "Which church records do I consult?" First, one needs to have some idea of where the Dutch ancestor settled. It makes sense, then, to consult church records of a church in that vicinity. However, if the child in question was baptized around the year 1650, one obviously would not consult the Paramus Reformed Dutch Church records, because the records of this church did not begin until 1740 for baptisms. Something else needs to be considered here. Many have the idea that the Dutch people stayed put in one place. Nothing could be further from the truth. An example of this is a Brouwer ancestor of mine who had his children baptized in the Schraalenburgh Reformed Dutch Church. There was a large gap in years between the last two children at Schraalenburgh. Finally I came across a deed where this ancestor was living in New York City, selling land in Bergen County. I then consulted the records of the New York Reformed Dutch Church in New York City, and there were the rest of the children!

Another thing that has to be kept in mind is the fact that a Dominie (Dutch Minister) could be serving several churches. When the Ramapo Reformed Dutch Church was first established, the Rev. Van der Linde was serving the Churches of Paramus and Ponds as well, and then served the Ramapo Reformed Church also. Therefore, even though the baptism might take place in Ramapo, it might show up in the Paramus Reformed Dutch Church records. The Dutch person himself could go to one church for one child's baptism and another Church for another child's baptism. So several churches in that area may have to be consulted - such as Hackensack and Schraalenburgh, to give another example. Also, some churches were connected at first, such as Hackensack and Acquackanonk in 1694. (until 1724)

Finally, as areas grew in population, churches "gave birth" to new churches. For example, the Acquackanonk Reformed Dutch Church which started in 1693 (For the record, Acquackanonk is currently Passaic, N.J.) gave birth to Fairfield Reformed Dutch Church in 1720, Pompton Plains Reformed Dutch Church about 1736, Totowa Reformed Dutch Church in 1755 and Montville Reformed Dutch Church in 1756. Another example is that of the Paramus Reformed Dutch Church which gave birth to the Saddle River Reformed Dutch Church in 1812. (It will be noted that in some of these instances, there are a few baptisms recorded which precede the official "birthdate" of the church in question.)

Church Splits

As in any generation, dissensions existed in these early churches. The most serious disagreement was about whether a Dominie (Dutch minister) should be ordained in Amsterdam or in America. The "Coetus" party desired separation from the classis of Amsterdam, and wanted the minister to be ordained in this Country. The opposing party, called the "Conferentie" wanted only ministers from Amsterdam. Incidentally, the men of the Conferentie tended to be the most learned men, whereas those of the Coetus tended to be practical, zealous and industrious. About 1755, both Hackensack and Schraalenburgh had two congregations because of this disagreement. Since a person would attend the church where the Dominie of his/her choice was preaching during this time period, baptismal records may not reflect the actual locality of the parents. So, if one sees a child baptized at Hackensack, the parents may actually have resided closer to Schraalenburgh, and vice versa.

Another example of this is the Ramapo Reformed Dutch Church(in Mahwah, Bergen Co., N.J.) and the True Reformed Dutch Church of Ramapough. The latter formed about 1822, and while not all of the reasons are understood, it is felt that some of this leaning towards Dutch conservatism had an influence in the formation of this church. Thus, those who wanted the Dutch doctrine and rituals tended to form what are called "True Reformed Dutch" churches. So, while a researcher may at first find a family in one church, if the family sided with the more conservative, it might then attend the newly formed, or True Reformed Dutch" church.

A Final Word

It is hoped that the researcher will make good use of the records of the Reformed Dutch Churches, as these records may give the only birth or marriage source long before vital records were recorded. Many of the above listed churches also have included in their pages, cemetery or death/burial records as well.

NOTE: If you have arrived at this page via another home page, be sure to check out the rest of the articles contained in the Dutch Research Corner.

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