Tales of New Netherland: Number One

by Holland Society Member Alfred F. Wolkomir, M.D.

My wife and I went on our first trip since Covid began. Our trips over the past 30 years have always been genealogy oriented. This one was to the United Kingdom. I try to use my time to advance my family history studies, and it is an awful lot of fun. I was a Friend of the Society for many years and am happy to now be a Member. Thank you.     

To give you some context, I am generally descended from the first families in “every” New Netherland settlement. So now, and hopefully in the future, we will discuss everywhere. I am essentially Bergen County Dutch. My great grandfather would have been almost a pure member of the Society with only New Netherlands in his genealogy, except perhaps Lucas van Hooghkerk of Albany who married Judith Marselis, and their daughter, Maritje, who married John Heaton, the limner. The common thread is that they were all Lutheran. Lucas may have been born in Albany or the Netherlands. The Reverend Muhlenberg stayed with John Heaton and Maritje on his transits through the Hackensack River Valley. My mom genetically was “Bergen County Dutch.” At the time of her DNA sampling, she had 700,000 cousins. So, because of all this, please excuse me if I seem over New Netherlandic at times.     

Father’s Day this year was to go to the Paterson Falls. I had never been there before. My uncle, on the Vreeland side, was one of the first settlers. My ancestor, John Berry, owned much of the surrounding land, much of East Jersey, and elsewhere (book to follow).     

  The Paterson Falls, Paterson, New Jersey | Copyright Alfred F. Wolkomir, M.D. 2023

For my birthday, we went to the Bartow-Pell Mansion. My ancestors owned many of the islands in that vicinity including Hunter’s Island by Orchard Beach. One historian noted that the land remained in the Pell Family. This is my Pugsley line, but I don’t know which daughter of John Pell may have been my ancestress. The story here is of course John Pell’s marriage to the Indian Princess. She was likely the descendant of Wampage who may have killed Anne Hutchison and may have had a son through her daughter Susanna. Visiting the sites sometimes gives one a better feel for the problem.     

In March, our first stop in the United Kingdom was Norwich. We stayed at the Maids Head Hotel which is across the street from the Cathedral and right on the periphery of the old city. I spent two days in the archives gathering the materials that I had reserved. There were three family lines represented there. First, there was the Des Marest family, then Stryker, and finally, Mayplett.     

The Des Marest family were likely there until about 1604. If you have seen the supposed Des Marest family tree and discussions in the 1938 and 1964 books, you will recognize Herbecq. Elizabeth Herbecq is actually Elizabeth Herbert. The family group was in Saint Savior Parish. Her dad died in the plague year of 1603. I obtained their family documents and some of those of the Durie family.   

Before I went to Norwich, I spoke to Bill (William Norman) Stryker. If you are a Stryker and have not purchased his books, you should. One book is the Stryker genealogy, and the other is on the family in the old country. The third is about Jacob Stryker who was a painter. They are well worth reading. If you are descended from Drenthe immigrants, you must read, Village Community and Conflict in Late Medieval Drenthe, by Peter Hoppenbrouwers. It will give you a good understanding of the time period. It will also give you the existing primary sources for the region.     

In Norwich, I met the historian of the Norwich School, which is in the close of Norwich Cathedral, and he helped me understand the history of both the Dutch and Walloon churches and of Norwich Cathedral’s grounds. I thank Mr. Ady J. Marsham for his kindness. Herman Stryker, more commonly known as Modet, was in Norwich in 1578 when Queen Elizabeth I visited. Herman’s teachings varied from Calvin and Luther in that he did not teach a rigid church structure. His teachings for that reason did not formally persist. However, Bill Stryker, in his book, The Stryker Family in the Netherlands, made the point that Herman was very important to the Reformation in the Low Countries.     

The Des Marest family are Walloons. I took some good photos, and with the help of the historian of the Norwich School, we figured out where the original Walloon church stood on the cathedral grounds. The one remaining church wall, or at least a composite of it, apparently is part of the school’s library. The central cathedral keep, from Norman times, still exists. In the courtyard below is likely where Queen Elizabeth I met Herman Stryker, but another source says the central square. The primary folio on this is in London, but that is for another trip.     

Library wall of the Norwich School, Norwich Cathedral grounds, Norwich, England (The wall is a likely composite of the remaining pieces of the old Walloon Church.) | Copyright Alfred F. Wolkomir, M.D. 2023

The third family, Mayplett and its spelling variations, is an enigma to me. From the various discussions that I had with the archivists on my trip, they all said that the name Mayplett and its variations is certainly not English in origin. Mary Mayplett was the wife of Samuell (two l’s) Gorton. One source has it that their daughter, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, was suckling when they were expelled from Plymouth Colony and were left to die in the wilderness. Maher married Daniel Coles. They were some of the original inhabitants of Oyster Bay.     

Our next stop was about an hour south. As Norwich is the best-preserved medieval city in the U.K., Saffron Walden is the best-preserved small town. It is a beautiful marketplace, still intact, where Bloody Mary burned at least one Protestant. This is my Oakley line, Boston about 1630, Westchester about 1642. They were rescued by a passing schooner the day Anne Hutchinson was killed. We gathered mostly photos, but I also found an important confirmatory Des Marest puzzle piece in the church.     

The rule of genealogy is you don’t usually find what you came for, you find something unrelated and better. Years ago, I acquired an original land deed from 1709. Jan Des Marest (David Des Marest’s son) signed it, “This is my signature, and this is my seal.” The device in the church in Saffron Walden helped clarify the central device in the family signet ring seal. It appears to be the Monogram of the Blessed Virgin. My readings have shown that in the early modern period, this is sometimes substituted for the cross. However, the Des Marest seal and where it traces to is a whole book unto itself.     

Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Saffron Walden, Essex, England | Copyright Alfred F. Wolkomir, M.D. 2023

Fairstead, Essex was next. The Steele Family of Hartford came from here. It is a beautiful farm community. The immigrants were John (who waged war on the Pequots) and his brother George, my ancestor. George lived literally right on top of Fort Good Hope on the Connecticut River at Hartford if you check out the map of Hartford. I am interested in seeing Len Tantillo’s painting of the fort in the future.  George Steele’s daughter, Margery, was the first wife of Jarvis Mudge. The second was Rebecca Greensmith who was hanged on Gallow’s Hill, Hartford, in 1669. She confessed to being a witch. Pressing, I guess, will do that. Moses Mudge, son of Jarvis, was an original settler at Mosquito Cove.     

Then we went on to London. Sightseeing, and shopping, but the archives at Kew were first. At Kew, there were documents about Nicasius De Sille, 1543-1600, that were new to me. I have been working on this family for over 30 years. This is the grandfather of the New Netherland immigrant Nicasius De Sille, 1610-about 1674, who came in 1653. The grandfather was in William of Orange’s Council, and they were cousins a few times removed. In the archives, I found that Queen Elizabeth I had Nicasius on the list of Netherlanders to trust. The English funneled money to the troops through him. The De Sille family will be an endless multivolume study that may take more time than my lifetime. I will do the best I can.     

In another library in Kew, the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland had an old book with primary documents from Calais that I had reserved. It helped to clarify questions about the Sohier family that I had after reading the 2010 NYGBS article. There were actually two groups of Sohiers, which were very closely related, that lived in the same relative vicinity in the Low Countries.      

Lastly were documents related to the Bourdet family. They were a long line of French Protestant naval captains and likely “Sea Beggars.” The concept according to one doctoral thesis that I read, and discussed with the author, is that “Sea Beggars”, in a wider sense, were Protestant seafarers that preyed upon Spanish shipping. This group intermarried regardless of their individual nationalities; the central ingredient was Protestantism. (Yet another book in the making!)     

On to the British Library in London. Workers on strike. So much for Daniel Whitehead.     

The last day, Good Friday, we went to church at St. Mary’s in Northolt. We took the train to the countryside outside of London where Reverend John Mayplett is buried under the altar. The church was originally Saxon, and then it was rebuilt by the Normans. John died in 1592. He was a naturalist, magician, and author. He was Mary Mayplett’s grandfather. This was my first Anglican Church service; not bad! I thank the parish administrator, Ms. Frances Johns, and Reverend Julia Jagannath for their courtesy.     

Saint Mary’s Church and Memorial Hall, Northolt, England | Copyright Alfred F. Wolkomir, M.D. 2023

Time to come home.  

Copyright Alfred F. Wolkomir, M.D. 2023

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