Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

Council Minutes, 1655-1656

Council Minutes, 1655-1656, transcribed and edited by Charles T. Gehring, was published in 1995 by Syracuse University Press as Volume VI of the New Netherland Document Series. A PDF version can be found online at the New Netherland Institute's website.


A physical copy can be purchased from the NNI through their online bookstore, for $55 (as of the date of this post).

This volume includes a short biography (page vi) of Charles T.Gehring, which should be of interest to anyone who spends much time engaged in researching the families and history of New Netherland. The introduction to the records (page xiii) is also a must read. It will provide some insight into the location and formation of local (regional) jurisdictions within New Netherland. Knowledge of  how New Netherland was governed is valuable background for genealogists and family historians attempting to interpret events that effected the lives of their ancestors. 

The surname Brower is found in the index. There are records naming an Eduard Bronje, an Edward Brower, an Eduward Borus, and an Edward Brouse. They all refer to the same Edward. Whether or not Edward's correct surname was Brower, or something closer to Bronje, Borus or Brouse, is not apparent from these records alone.

At pages 40 and 41 is the "Discharge of William Bouwne and Eduard Bronje as guardians of John Ruckman." The date is 5 May 1655. Both William Bouwne and Eduard Bronje are described as inhabitants of Gravesend.

At pages 63 and 64 is a "Letter containing the nomination of officers from Gravesande for the council's approval." The letter is dated 19 July 1655. It announces the choice of "William Bowne, William Wilkins & Edward Brower for our Magistrates and John Morris for schout," for the inhabitants of Gravesend, and asks for confirmation. It was subscribed by Deborah Moody and John Tillton, "cleck in behalfe of the Rest" (which I would assume means the other inhabitants of Gravesend. The reply from the "lord director general" and councilors of New Netherland writes the names of the four men as, Willem Bount, Willem Wilkens, Eduward Borus, and Jan Mourits.

At pages 278 and 279, under date 24 March 1656, John Tillton, clerk at Gravesend, again submits on behalf of the inhabitants there, their choices for Magistrates as "William Boune, William Willkins, and Edward Brouse." Also for John Cooke as shout.

As it turns out, the man found in the above records, is actually named, Edward Brown. And it was not all that difficult to discover this. The History of Long Island..., Volume II (New York: Gould, Banks & Co., 1843) by Benjamin Franklin Thompson, at page 177 has a list of inhabitants at Gravesend in 1656. The only Edward among the group is Edward Brown (the name is listed here twice). This volume can be found online at Internet Archive. The variations in his name, found above, are simply examples of the fact that spelling was not standardized in the 1600s, that the Dutch clerks and scribes spelled phonetically and had particular difficulty with non-Dutch names, and also of the difficulty in reading, transcribing and translating these old documents that were created some 350 or so years ago. [William Bouwne/Bowne/Bount/Boune, was William Bowne who came to Gravesend from Salem, Massachusetts where he was a freeman in 1637.]

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