Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Published Brouwer Accounts: John Reynolds Totten

John Reynolds Totten (1856-1936) was editor of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (NYGBR) from 1921 until his death. He was the first Fellow of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. He served the NYGBS in many rolls from the time he first joined (1894) until his death. A tribute to John Reynolds Totten by Howard S. F. Randolph, as well as a photo, can be found in NYGBR 67:2 (1936): 101-102.

Totten also conducted genealogical research and published many articles. His most extensive project was a genealogy of the Thatcher family (his maternal ancestry). He also contributed research on the Christophers and Preston families of New England (his wives ancestors). Although he apparently had no New Netherland ancestry of his own, he did have an interest in the early Dutch families of New Netherland and New York, and beginning in the early 1920s contributed a number of articles and genealogies regarding related families. Of interest to Brouwer researchers are "Anneke Jans and Her Two Husbands" (NYGBR 56 [1925]: 202-243); "Verdon Family Notes" (NYGBR 64 [1933]: 105-132; "Van der Beek Family Notes" (NYGBR 64 [1933]: 229-243, 367-387; "Praa-Bennet Family Notes" (NYGBR 65 [1934]: 305-319, 66 [1935]: 58-67) and of course "Brouwer (Brower-Brewer) Family Notes" (NYGBR 67 [1936]: 103-110, 217-229) published posthumously.

John Reynolds Totten has to be admired for bringing a far more rigorous standard of proof and an insistence on source citation for all claims to the NYGBR then had existed prior to his time as editor. In April 1933 (Vol. 64, pp.133-138) a "List of Abbreviations to be used in Articles - On Old New York Families - Submitted for Publication in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record," was adopted (the list was created by Totten's long time colleague Howard S. F. Randolph). These abbreviations would be used in articles appearing in the NYGBR for many years to come.

Totten's attention to detail resulted in some very long articles as evidenced by the range of page numbers given above. He could be rather winded in his explanations and when presenting his reasoning and arguments. Extensive footnotes were often used for digressions on related families. Economy of words was apparently not an issue in his time, and a typical annual volume (four issues) of the NYGBR (which they preferred to refer to as the RECORD) ran upwards of 400 pages or more. Compare that with annual volumes in the 1980s which ran about 250 pages, or today's issues which run about 310 pages per annual volume.

As mentioned above, "Brouwer (Brower-Brewer) Family Notes" was published posthumously. It follows the memorial to John Reynolds Totten which was published in the April 1936 issue of the NYGBR. Totten states that his purpose for the article was to provide an accurate accounting of the Brouwers descended from Anneke Jans Bogardus through her grand-daughter Annatje Bogardus and her husband Jacob Brouwer (a son of Adam Brouwer). Claims of descent from Anneke Jans through this couple is without a doubt the source of a large number of the incorrect Brouwer lineages that Brouwer researchers will come across even today. Totten's approach was to understand all of the Brouwers that appeared in colonial New Netherland, before trying to filter out those who were the actual children of Jacob Brouwer and Annatje Bogardus. This is an approach that can be used regardless of time or place and one that I endorse today. I've stated to many others who I've corresponded with (for example), "if you want to correctly know your specific Brewer family who settled in the Ohio River Valley in the early 1800s, then you have to first know all the Brewer families who settled there at that time." Totten's approach is a technique that requires a good deal of time and effort. But it works.

What is most notable about the "Brouwer Family Notes" article is that it marks the first time that a published account of New Netherland Brouwer families was accompanied by evidence in the form of source citations. And, in typical Totten fashion, his reasons and conclusions are thoroughly explained. You will not find this in Pearson or Bergen's 19th century work. Although there are some errors (corrected later by William J. Hoffman, who will be featured in a future post), spending the time to carefully read Totten's "Brouwer Family Notes," is time well spent.

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