Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Published Brouwer Accounts: William J. Hoffman

With respect to published research on the Brouwer families of New Netherland, particularly the family and descendants of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus, the work of William J. Hoffman conducted in the 1930s and 1940s represents the standard to which others are compared.

William John Hoffman was born on April 21, 1882 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. After graduating from the Technical University at Delft in 1909 he came to the U. S. He was a mechanical engineer by profession and served on the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record's publishing committee from 1933 to 1941. He is most noted for his series of articles "An Amory of American Families of Dutch Descent" which appeared in the NYGBR from January 1933 to 1941. They have since been collected in a single volume edited by Francis J. Sypher and published in 2010 and bearing the same title as the series of articles. It is available from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. William J. Hoffman died on August 11, 1955 at Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts. A memorial article was published in the NYGBR, volume 87, no. 2 (Apr. 1956), page 78.

William J. Hoffman contributed three published articles on Adam Brouwer and some of his descendants. The first, "Brouwer Corrections," appears in NYGBR vol. 69 (1938) pages 172-179. This article corrects errors and omissions by John R. Totten in his 1933 article in the NYGBR on the Verdon family ("Verdon Family Notes," NYGBR vol. 64: 105-132). Addressed is the family of Jacobus Brouwer and Jannetje Van der Beek, where Jacobus was incorrectly identified by Totten as a son of Adolph Brouwer and Jannetje Verdon. Hoffman uses the technique of studying baptismal sponsors to place Jacobus as a son of Abraham Brouwer and Elizabeth Ackerman. Hoffman next presents evidence for further corrections and additions to the family of Adolph Brouwer and Jannetje Verdon and identifies their son, Jacobus, as the Jacob Brouwer who married Elsye Hitchcock in 1747. Hoffman also makes the argument for the placement of Nicholas Brouwer of Dutchess County, New York (he married first Mary Dutcher and second Sarah Drake) as a child of Adolph Brouwer and Jannetje Verdon, who are also shown to have had a son, Isaac (married Jacomyntje Quackenbos), and a daughter, Rachel Brouwer (married William Lawrence). Much of Hoffman's reasoning is based upon the belief that baptismal sponsors at the baptisms of Dutch children in the late 1600s and early 1700s were recruited from the immediate families of the parents of the child being baptized.

In 1941, Hoffman published "Brouwer Notes No. II" in NYGBR vol. 72 no. 4, pages 332-337. This article covers the ancestry of Johannes Brouwer who married Catharine Duryea. Hoffman demonstrates that previous claims placing Johannes as a son of Johannes Brouwer and Susanna Deroilet (Droilhet) were incorrect. Here, using wills, as well as the observation of baptismal sponsors, and the naming of children based on the tradition of naming first and second born sons and daughters for the children's grandparents, to conclude that Johannes is actually a son of Jacob Brouwer and his wife Jannetje Hartje.

"Brouwer Beginnings," is Hoffman's most comprehensive work on the descendants of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus. Hoffman refers to Adam Brouwer as "Adam Brouwer Berchoven, from Cologne, Germany," and covers the first three generations of his descendants with some diversions on specific lines for additional generations (most notably on John Henri Isaac Browere, baptized as John Henry Brower, son of Jacob Brower and Catherine Jeander, who was an American sculptor). This series of four lengthy articles appeared in 1947 and 1948 in The American Genealogist in volume 23, no. 4 (1947), pages 193-206; volume 24, no. 1 (1948), pages 23-32; vol. 24, no. 2, pages 96-102 and vol. 24, no. 3, pages 161-170. As mentioned above, it is to date, the most authoritative account of the family of Adam Brouwer that has been published in a major genealogical journal, or otherwise. I have placed online PDFs of the four articles that comprise the series.

Brouwer Beginnings v.23 no.4 (1947)

Brouwer Beginnings v.24 no.1 (1948)

Brouwer Beginnings v.24 no.2 (1948)

Brouwer Beginnings v.24 no.3 (1948)

William Hoffman followed up "Brouwer Beginnings" with "Brouwer Corrections and Additions" published in The American Genealogist in volume 30 (1954), pages 176-177. His corrections here pertain to the families of Aeltje Brouwer and Josias Drats (descendants called Drake); Abraham Brouwer and his second wife, Elizabeth (Gerritsen) Britten/Brittain; additions to the family of Sara Brouwer (daughter of Adam) and her second husband, Thomas Knight; and adds baptism records for three children of Adolphus Brouwer and Lysbeth Lassing.

In addition, William J. Hoffman deposited his "Brouwer Beginnings Manuscript Notes" with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (their collection has since been transferred to the New York Public Library). A few years ago I was in possession of a photocopy of this manuscript (courtesy of William B. Bogardus). I did not copy or scan digital images of the pages myself (it was lengthy), and am no longer in possession of the copy, having donated it to the Western New York Genealogical Society (now found on their stacks in the Grosvenor Room at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library). Hoffman did not provide sources in this manuscript. In addition to the family of Adam Brouwer he also had notes on the families of Jan Brouwer of Flatlands and Willem Brouwer of Beverwijck. I went through the entire manuscript and you will find citations to it on the Brouwer Genealogy Database website.

With all of this it has to be mentioned that there are some errors in Hoffman's published accounts. The appearance of errors can only be expected to be found in the coverage of such a large collection of families named Brouwer. I dare say that errors can be found in many, probably the vast majority of published genealogies, including those found in the major genealogical journals. It's a reminder that each time each and everyone of us set out to uncover our own family ancestries, we should use the compiled published accounts as a guide, and we should take the time and make the effort to confirm all claims using the record sources, and we should question and reason out assumptions for ourselves. This applies to all published accounts, no matter how "authoritative" the article is said to be, and no matter how well regarded the author's reputation is.

With the Brouwer Genealogy Database website, and with future postings to this blog site, I hope to add to, and when appropriate, correct and/or question previously published accounts of the Brouwer families of New Netherland. In time I'd like to follow the families of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus, Jan Brouwer of Flatlands and Willem Brouwer of Beverwijck for five generations. In doing so, however, I have no illusions that my work will be a "final" genealogy (no such thing exists). Instead it will be something for others to build on (and no doubt, correct). The hope is that as time progresses, each contributing genealogist (whether professional or amateur) can build upon and improve what came before him or her.


  1. Thank you Chris. This is a wonderful contribution to our family history!

  2. Which of those 3 would Charles DeWitt Brower be from? My great-great grandpa. I always love to learn more about family history. Thank you btw. In previous years I was only able to get as far as Charles grandpa or great grandpa.


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