Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Family of William Brouwer and Rebecca Vedder

William Brouwer (Brower) lived at Schenectady and was later one of the first settlers at Stone Arabia on the north side of the Mohawk River. He is stated by Jonathan Pearson in Contributions for the Genealogies of the First Settlers of the Patent and City of Schenectady, from 1662-1800 (1873), page 28, to be a son of Willem Brouwer of Albany. Although Pearson does not provide any proof for this statement, it has been largely followed by others, including descendants, since Pearson's work was published. There are, however, good reasons to believe that William Brouwer of Schenectady and Stone Arabia, is not a son of Willem Brouwer of Albany (whose wife was Lysbeth Drinckvelt) as claimed by Pearson.

We do not have a record of baptism for William Brouwer. If he is a son of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinckvelt, then he would have had to have been born in 1668 or 1669 at the latest, as Willem Brouwer (the supposed father) was buried on 3 August 1668 at Albany. The elder Willem Brouwer did not leave a will, nor have any subsequent estate or land records been found that would link the younger William Brouwer to the elder as a son or descendant. William Brower (as he is styled in his will) cannot be a son of Hendrick Brouwer (1652-1706/7), himself a son of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinckvelt. Hendrick did have a son named Willem, however, he was baptized 30 January 1704, and the William Brower that we are concerned with was married by 1712.

"William Brower of Stone Raby," left a will dated 10 February 1757. It was proved before the Albany Surrogate's Court on 15 February 1765. A transcript of the will is now available online. This places William's death between February 1757 and February 1765 (probably closer to the later when the will was probated), which would imply that if he was in fact born in 1668 or 1669, William lived to somewhere between 88 and 96 years of age. This age is certainly possible, but would be quite unusual for the period of the early 1700s in the Mohawk Valley area where William lived.
William was married to Rebecca Vedder. There is no surviving record of their marriage, however, their first known child was baptized at Schenectady on 21 June 1712. Rebecca herself was baptized on 25 October 1691 at Albany. She was a daughter of Arent Vedder and Sara Groot. A marriage date of 1711 is reasonable, as Rebecca would have then been aged 20. If William was born in 1668 or 1669, then he would have been 22 or 23 years older then his wife. Although possible, this age difference would be unusual. It may be that William was born closer to 1690.

William Brower and Rebecca Vedder had nine children. The first eight were baptized at the Schenectady Reformed Church (the ninth child, Angentia is proved by William's will, and was probably born at Stone Arabia before a church was established there). Any one who has spent time studying colonial Dutch families is familiar with the traditional naming pattern whereby a couple will name the first son for the paternal grandfather, the second son for the maternal grandfather, the first daughter for the maternal grandmother, and the second daughter for the paternal grandmother. In the family of William Brower and Rebecca Vedder, the first four children, which happen to be two boys and two girls, are named (in order of birth) Johannes, Sara, Arent and Catharientje. (See the Family Group sheet). As mentioned above, Rebecca was a daughter of Arent Vedder and Sara Groot, and as we can see, the second son is named Arent, while the first daughter is named Sara. If we accept "what is good for the goose is good for the gander," then it would follow that the first son, Johannes and the second daughter, Catharientje, were named for William's parents. Could it be that William Brower is actually a son of a couple, Johannes and Catharientje Brouwer?

Another observation is based around the custom that sponsors for children are often found within the families of the parents. And we can see that in the cases of the children of William Brower and Rebecca Vedder, many of the sponsors are members of Rebecca's family. These include her parents and some of her siblings. None of the sponsors, however, are from the (previously accepted) family of William Brower. Having mentioned this, a caveat must be stated. William and Rebecca's children were baptized between 1712 and 1734. We know that the elder Willem Brouwer was deceased in 1668. Lysbeth Drinckvelt last appears in a record (as a baptismal sponsor) in 1702. Hendrick Brouwer, who lived in Schenectady, died in 1706 or 1707. Maria Brouwer, a supposed sister, was last known to be living in 1706. The reason why none of the just mentioned did not appear as sponsors may be simply that they were deceased when William's children were born. Elizabeth Brouwer, also a supposed sister, was said to have died in 1728, and as she lived in Schenectady, it would be expected that she would appear as a sponsor of at least one of William's children, yet she does not. We can also add the observation that Hendrick, Elizabeth and Maria, the three supposed siblings of William, all had children baptized at either Schenectady or Albany. If William were a sibling, and born in 1668 or 1669, then he certainly would have been available to appear as a sponsor for one, or more, of the children of his supposed siblings. Yet, he does not appear. While none of this is conclusive, it does lead to the belief that William, although living at Schenectady during the same period as Hendrick, Elizabeth and Maria, may not have in any way been a relation to them.

As mentioned above, William Brower was one of the early settlers at Stone Arabia, on the north side of the Mohawk River, in present day Montgomery County, New York. In a deed dated 1 September 1734, "William Brouwer of Schonaghton (Schenectady)" purchased from "Barhanardus Van Diere" of Bergen County, New Jersey, and a long list of men whose origins were immigrants from the German Palatinate (see a transcript of the deed now online), lot numbers 11, 82 and 84 at "Stone Rabpie" (Stone Arabia) in the County of Albany. Stone Arabia was largely settled by German Palatine immigrants. Could William Brower himself have been an immigrant from the German Palatine, with no other family connection in the American colonies?

Although possibly remote, there is another possible couple who could be parents of William Brower. Pieter Brouwer, baptized 23 September 1646, at the New Amsterdam Reformed Dutch Church, is a son of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus and his wife, Magdalena Verdon. Despite having grown up at Gowanus on Long Island, Pieter Brouwer was no stranger to the Albany and Schenectady areas. His wife, Petronella Uldrickse Kleyn, lived at Albany. The couples two eldest sons, Uldrick and Abraham were both born at Schenectady. Baptism records for the two do not exist, however, the marriage records for both of them state their place of birth as Schenectady. Uldrick is estimated to have been born about 1673 and Abraham about 1675. The couples third child, Magdalena, was likely born by 1680. Again, there is no record of baptism for her, but she was married with banns dated 23 Oct 1697 to William Stegge. The banns state that she was born in Brooklyn. Baptism records for Pieter's children Vrouwtje (1682 at New Utrecht) and Jan (1685 at New York) do exist. There is then a seven year gap between Jan and the next recorded baptism, that for daughter Cornelia on 13 March 1692 at Brooklyn. (See a Family Group sheet for Pieter Brouwer). During that seven year period, Pieter is recorded on the Oath of Allegiance in September 1687 at Brooklyn, and in 1690 he was among those called for militia service at Albany. Pieter did have a brother named William, and the name is not uncommon among the descendants of Adam Brouwer. Could William Brower of Schenectady and Stone Arabia be an undocumented son of Pieter Brouwer and Petronella Kleyn? (Note that the fact that William did not name any of his children, Pieter or Petronella, is a strike against this idea).

For the time being I consider Willem Brouwer/William Brower to be a "claimed" son of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinckvelt, but in my best judgement, based upon what is known, I'd have to say that it is more likely then not that William is not a son of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinckvelt. The possibility that he is a son of Pieter Brouwer and Petronella Kleyn does exist, but as of now, there is no proof. It is also possible, and this may be the most likely scenario, that William Brower of Schenectady and Stone Arabia, is completely unrelated to any of the other Brouwer families found in colonial New York. It appears likely that all known records for those mentioned above have been discovered, and from them we cannot come to any definite conclusion. There is, however, one last attempt at an answer that can be made. Comparative DNA testing of a direct male descendant of William Brower and Rebecca Vedder, with that of a direct male descendant of Hendrick Brouwer (a known son of Willem Brouwer and Lysbeth Drinckvelt), will tell us whether or not William and Hendrick are related. We already have DNA test results from a number of descendants of Pieter Brouwer (see Adam Brouwer Group DNA test results). Results from testing a direct male descendant of William will tell us immediately whether or not William is descended from Pieter.  Any interested direct male descendants of either William or Hendrick can contact me via e-mail, or simply join the Brewer DNA Project.

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