Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Family of Elizabeth Brouwer and Claas de Graaf of Schenectady

Elizabeth Brouwer is most likely a daughter of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinckvelt of Beverwijck (now Albany, New York). There are very few records that survive regarding Elizabeth. There is no surviving record of her baptism and her father did not leave a will. Her placement as a daughter of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinckvelt is based solely on circumstantial evidence that revolves around baptismal sponsorships.

Elizabeth Brouwer was married to Claas de Graaf. There is no surviving record of their marriage or banns. The earliest baptism record for any of their children, is that of son Isaac who was baptized 4 August 1691 at Albany. One of the sponsors was Lysbeth Rinkhout (the above Lysbeth Drinckvelt recorded with the surname of her second husband). It appears that the couple had six children prior to Isaac for whom no record of baptism survives. See the family group sheet for Elisabeth Brouwer and Claas de Graaf, for source citations.

Much of what has been accepted as the current make-up of the family of Elizabeth Brouwer and Claas de Graaf comes from Jonathan Pearson, Contributions for the Genealogies of the First Settlers of the Patent and City of Schenectady, from 1662 to 1800 (published in 1873, hereafter as First Settlers of Schenectady). The family is found on page 54. Unfortunately, Pearson did not provide sources for his conclusions. His account does have contradictions, and we are left today with some questions, with regards to Claas de Graaf, the identity of his father, his birth date, and two of his claimed children.

Jonathan Pearson refers to Claas de Graaf, with a patronymic, calling him Claas Andriesse de Graaf. This implies that Claas was the son of a man named Andries de Graaf. Pearson does not cite a record in which Claas is found with this name, and in the few records that I have found in which Claas is mentioned, is name is given only as "Claas de Graaf," or "Claas Graven" (or some variation thereof). I have yet to see the patronymic, Andriesse, in a record. We are left with the question as to where Pearson found, or came up with, the patronymic, Andriesse.

Pearson also gives a year of birth for Claas as 1628, and a year of death as 1697. For the year of birth, he apparently cites "Deeds, 2:88; Albany Co. Recs., 234" (this found in his account of Claas in History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times (Albany: J.W. McMurray, 1883): 107). Perhaps this record provided Pearson with the patronymic? In 1697, Elisabeth Brouwer was recorded on the census at Schenectady as a head of household with "no man, one woman, and seven children." As Elizabeth is recorded as the head, it is near certain that Claas was in fact deceased in or before 1697.

When Willem Brouwer came to New Netherland, he boarded a ship at Amsterdam with a wife and three children. If we accept the three children who boarded as Arnoldus, Eva and Hendrick, all of who have baptism records in the Netherlands, it is then apparent that Elizabeth was born in New Netherland after her parents arrival and probably between the years of 1655 and 1665. It appears that she had children born between the years 1680 and 1696 (a sixteen year span) and this range of childbearing years would be consistent with a woman's birth year range of 1655 to 1665. With Claas being said to have been born in 1628, this places him anywhere from 27 to 37 years Elizabeth's senior! All the more reason to question Pearson's claim as 1628 for a birth year for Claas.

Pearson leaves us with two more problems. In First Settlers of Schenectady he assigns two younger children to this family. They are Rebecca, born 28 February 1701, and Claes, born 4 August 1709. Both of these dates of birth are significantly past the year (1697) in which their father is stated to have died. No source is mentioned for either birth date, and I have found no record of baptism for either of the two claimed children. If these two individuals, Rebecca and Claes, did exist, then they cannot be children of Elizabeth Brouwer and Claas de Graaf.

The family of Elizabeth Brouwer and Claas de Graaf has questions that are still open one hundred and thirty-seven years after Jonathan Pearson's first published account of the family. I would be very much interested to hear from anyone who can provide documented evidence that supports Pearson's claims for Claas as having the patronymic, Andriesse, and/or the birth year of 1628. I would also be interested in seeing additional evidence supporting the existence of the children, Rebecca and Claes.
Please use the comment field below, or e-mail me.


  1. The tax list of Schenectady 1 Dec. 1708 shows

    "De widw v Claes Graven (taxed) 20"

    From NYGBS record v. 130/2008 by Ruth Piwonka

  2. (Rebecca (Groot) was Claas’ daughter in-law, his son Abraham's wife.) The other Rebecca b. 1701 is in fact Abraham and Rebecca’s daughter.
    Claes the child b. 1709 is the son of Jesse de graaf and Aeltje Akkermans son.
    The two Jonathan Pearson presumed “children of” are actually “grandchildren of”.

    Tanya Lowry
    Descendant of the DeGraaf’s in mention
    Canada family spells it DeGraff.

    1. Thanks Tanya. To be clear, Claes de Graaf, was baptized in 1706 and not born in 1709 as per Pearson. Claes was a son of Jesse de Graaf and Aaltje Akkermans, and was a grandson and namesake of the elder Claes de Graaf (husband of Elizabeth Brouwer.
      Rebecca de Graaf, is not a de Graaf at all. She was Rebecca Groot, the wife of Abraham de Graaf, and a daughter-in-law of the elder Claes de Graaf and Elizabeth Brouwer.
      Thank you.


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