Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Family of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong

Jan, the son of Dirck Brouwer and Hannah Daas, was baptized on June 9, 1695. Sponsors were Jan Brouwer (his paternal grandfather) and Jannetie Teunisse (his paternal aunt, the wife of Teunis Jansen). The baptism was recorded in the Flatbush Town Records, Misc. Vol. 1, 1652-1708, and has been published in Voorhees, Records of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Flatbush, Kings County, New York, Vol. 1, 1677-1720 (New York: Holland Society, 1998), page 448.

That this Jan is the Jan Brouwer who married Aegje Sprong is supported by the fact that they named a son, Dirck, for Jan's father. No marriage record has been found for Jan and Aegje. She was the daughter of Gerrit Sprong and Annetje Teunise Covert, and was baptized on June 8, 1701 at the Brooklyn Reformed Dutch Church. Sponsors were Jan Hanze Bergen and Jannetje his wife (Jannetje being a sister of the child's mother). The Dutch name, Aegje, is equivalent to the English, Agnes.

Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong were married by 1726. Their son Jan was baptized on 20 March 1726 at the Reformed Dutch Church at Jamaica, Long Island. The sponsors were Jan Sprongh and Ante Sprongh (the child's maternal uncle, and probably his maternal grandmother recorded with her husband's surname).

By 1729, Jan and Aegje had relocated to New Jersey, and son Dirck was baptized on June 27, 1729 at the Reformed Church at Raritan (Somerville) in Somerset County. The names of any sponsors or witnesses were not recorded. Baptism records for other children have not been found.

Jan's will was written on October 29, 1732. He is titled, "John Bruer of Somerset Co., farmer." His wife is not named, and it may be presumed that she was deceased by this time. He names his children, John, eldest; Dirck, second; Antye; and "last and youngest son." The executors for the will were Johanes Colyer of Long Island and Tunis Post and Hendrick Bris both of Somerset County. Witnesses were Willem Post, Samuel Bruer and Cornelius Willemse.

Early accounts of Brouwer families have made errors in the placement of Jan Brouwer. William A. D. Eardeley in his Brower-Langdon manuscript, claimed that Jan was the son of Jacob Brouwer and Annatje Bogardus and mentioned another source that gave him a birth date of September 5, 1692. Hoffman, in "Brouwer Beginnings," TAG 23 (1947): 205 believed that this Jan Brouwer was probably the Johannes Brouwer who was baptized on September 18, 1687, a son of Willem Brouwer and Elizabeth Simpson and therefore a grandson of Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon . This assumption, by Hoffman, was largely based upon the above mentioned will. Two of the executors, Johannes Colyer and Hendrick Bris, are members of Kings County families that had close associations with the family of Adam Brouwer. One of the witnesses, Samuel Bruer, was likely the son of Willem Brouwer and his second (third?) wife, Martha Bolten. However, another of the witnesses, Cornelius Willemse, was Jan's uncle by marriage, and the fact that Jan did name a son, Dirck (a name that is not found among the descendants of Adam Brouwer at this time) points to Jan being correctly identified as a son of Dirck Brouwer and Hannah Daws. This view is further supported by information that was not available to Hoffman or other early Brouwer researchers. That information being family notes relayed to William B. Bogardus by a correspondent, which state that the three children of Jan, namely John, Derick and Antye, were raised by their aunt, Cornelia Brouwer, the widow of Hendrick Brouwer, in Hempstead, Long Island. Hendrick and Cornelia were childless, and Hendrick was an uncle to Jan (John Bruer) the testator in the above mentioned will. Both of the accounts, Eardeley's manuscript and Hoffman's "Brouwer Beginnings," are incorrect.

The fact that a member of the Adam Brouwer family (Samuel Bruer) was witness to the will of a member of the Jan Brouwer family (John Bruer) simply underscores the fact that numerous families from Kings County, Long Island, and made moves to the area of the Raritan in New Jersey during the early 1700s. It should not surprise anyone that members of the two Brouwer families of Kings County made moves, and although not related, they certainly knew of, and likely interacted with one another. There is a tendency for researchers today to assume that anyone with the same surname found in the same document, such as a will or deed, are automatically related. This is not necessarily the case, and the will of "John Bruer," is an example of that.

It has been established from the baptism records and Jan's will, that he and Aegje Sprong had four children. Sons, Jan/John and Dirck/Richard both married, had children and lived at Hempstead, Long Island. They are the ancestors of the majority, if not all, of the Browers found in the "Five Towns" area of Hempstead along the south shore of Long Island through the 1700s and into the 19th and 20th centuries. As the daughter, Antje, was known to a Brouwer descendant, I would suspect that she too reached adulthood. However, to date, I have not been able to identify a husband or family for her. This leaves the fourth child, the "last and youngest son," named in John Bruer's will.Whether or not this son lived actually into adulthood is not known. As he is not mentioned by name in the will, it is conceivable that he was just recently born and not yet baptized, that his mother died in childbirth, and that Jan then felt the need to quickly write his will (he was deceased within the month himself). The above mentioned William A. D. Eardeley, in his Brower-Langdon manuscript, suggests that the unnamed son could be a James Brower who was found at Hempstead, Long Island from 1785 through 1820. James Brower was married to Sarah Smith and had ten children, the first baptized in 1785 at St. George's Episcopal Church in Hempstead. James Brower appears on the U. S. Federal census records in 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 at Hempstead. If born in 1732, James is age 53 in 1785 when his first child is baptized, age 72 in 1802 when his last child is born, and age 88 in 1820. Eardeley is probably missing a generation here, and although James Brower has not been placed in any other Brower family of Hempstead, it is very unlikely that he is the unnamed son of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong.

Family Group Sheet: Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong

Jan Brouwer is no. 27 in Descendants of Jan Brouwer of Flatlands, L. I.

Source citations are found at the Brouwer Genealogy Database website.

A direct descendant of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong has participated in the Brewer DNA Project. Results of his Y-DNA test confirm that the participant, and therefore all of his direct male Brower/Brouwer ancestors, are descended from Jan Brouwer of Flatlands, L. I.

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