Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Family of Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon

Of the three original Brouwer families found in New Netherland, the family of Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon is arguably the most familiar to those researching their Brower or Brewer ancestry. Thanks to no less then fourteen children reaching adulthood and leaving families of their own, Adam and Magdalena must certainly have descendants who number in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands.

A study of the first three generations of Adam Brouwer's descendants, "Brouwer Beginnings," by William Hoffman, appeared in print in 1947 and 1948 (The American Genealogist, volumes 23 and 24). In 1933 (New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, volume 64), John Reynolds Totten published "Verdon Family Notes," a study that covers the extended family of Magdalena Verdon. Errors in Totten's account were corrected by Hoffman in 1938 (NYGBR vol. 69). Recent information on the mother and grandmother of Magdalena Verdon (Marie Badie and Aeltje Braconie respectively) was published in 2011 in the NYGBR vol. 142 by Harry Macy, Jr., "Some New Light on Aeltje Braconie and Maria Badie." To date the parents and ancestry of Adam Brouwer remain unknown and my own account which looks at some of the false claims regarding Adam's parents (as well as supposed name of Berckhoven)  was published in New Netherland Connections, volume 13 (2008), "New Insight into the Origins of Adam Brouwer." A PDF copy has been placed online. A Family Group sheet of the family of Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon can be found online as well.

The marriage of Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon, March 21, 1645, is recorded in the records of the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam (now New York): "Adam Brouwer, j.m. Van Ceulen, en Magdalena Verdon, j.d. Van N. Nerlt." In the vernacular of the day this tells us that Adam was born in "Ceulen" which would be Cologne, Germany, and Magdalena was born in New Netherland. Magdalena was the daughter of Marie Badie and her first husband, Jacob Verdon. The marriage record implies that she was one of the first children of European ancestry to be born in New Netherland. The baptism records for the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam do not begin until 1639 and so no record of Magdalena's baptism exists. If married between the ages of 16 and 18, she would have been born  between 1627 and 1629. The 2011 article by Harry Macy, Jr. mentioned above, argues that she may have been as young as age 13 when married. That she was married at such a young age is possible when considering the time and place where she was married. There were simply few available women (or girls) of marriageable age in New Amsterdam in 1645, and so there would have been pressure for underage girls to marry. Unfortunately, Magdalena's age at marriage, will likely never be known with certainty.

We know that Adam served as a soldier for the West India Company (WIC) in Brazil prior to coming to New Amsterdam. It is very likely that he came to New Amsterdam on July 14, 1644 aboard De Blauwen Haen (The Blue Cock). The ship had sailed from the Island of Curaçao with soldiers who had evacuated Fort St. Louis in Maranhao, Brazil after the Fort was surrendered to the Portuguese on February 28, 1644 (see Ted Snedicker, "The Men Who Fought in the Indian War: Part I, the Background," New Netherland Connections Vol. 4 (1999) at page 82, and footnote 31; and "...Part II, The Roster," at page 112).  The first record of Adam Brouwer in New Amsterdam is dated February 21, 1645. Here he gives Guert Servaesz of Amsterdam, power of attorney to collect past wages due from the WIC for Adam's service at Fort St. Louis de Marinhan (in Brazil). Apparently Adam did not receive his past wages as on September 21, 1646 he again gave power of attorney, this time to Govert Loockermans, to collect them from the WIC. Back on February 21, 1645, the same date that he initially gave power of attorney, Adam Brouwer purchased from Hendrick Jansen from Jeveren, locksmith, a house and garden lot on Manhattan Island. The house had previously been occupied by Jeurian Roodolf (a former soldier for the WIC himself). Adam was given three months to make payment and he signed the agreement with his mark, AB. He was clearly preparing to start a family, and one month later Adam and Magdalena were married. It's likely that Adam joined the WIC as a soldier when in his late teens or early twenties. He is said to have shipped as a soldier to Brazil in 1641 aboard the Swol. If we estimate that he was married when age 25 (a common age for marriage for a male at that time) we arrive at his estimated birth date as "about 1620." This would also imply that he serving as a soldier at age 20 or 21, which is also a reasonable assumption.

Starting with the knowledge that Adam was born in Cologne and with the estimation that he was born about 1620, a few years ago I began a search for his baptism record in the records of the Cologne churches. It has to be pointed out that at the time Adam was born, Cologne was a Catholic city. The records of the various churches of Cologne (Cöln) have been filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and the microfilms are available through the Family History Library. A list is available online (Cologne Church Records). When viewing this list you will notice that during the time period in which Adam would have been born, Cologne had one Dutch Reformed Church (Nederlands Hervormde Kerk), one German Reformed Church (Hochdeutsche Reformierte Kirch), one French (or Walloon) Reformed Church (Franzosisch Reformierte Kirch) and twenty Catholic Churches. I have checked the records of the three Reformed Churches (Dutch, German and French), all had very small congregations, and no record of baptism for Adam Brouwer was found. I did check a couple of the Catholic Church records. From the number of baptisms per year found in the records, it is clear that the Catholic churches each had much larger congregations then any of the Reformed Churches (each one possibly being as much as ten times the size of any one of the Reformed Churches). If a baptism record for Adam Brouwer is to be found in Cologne, it is likely to be found in one of these Catholic Churches. Searching each film (which are not indexed) one by one, page by page, is extremely time consuming, expensive, and not at all practical. Hopefully the day will arrive soon when the Family History Library has indexed these films and makes them available online. (For an excellent background on the churches in Cologne see Cor Snabel, Introduction to the Records of the Reformed Churches in Cologne, Germany. He has also transcribed the records of the Dutch and Walloon Churches in Cologne and has made them available online: Baptisms, Dutch Reformed Church Cologne; Baptisms, Walloon Church Cologne; Marriages, Dutch Reformed Church Cologne; Marriages, Walloon Reformed Church Cologne).

In February 1647, Adam Brouwer was granted the house and garden lot he had bought of Hendrick Jansz. The property was adjacent to that of Willem Bredenbent, who was also from Cologne, and was the second husband of Aeltje Braconie, the grandmother of Magdalena Verdon. It was not long before Adam relocated to Gowanus on the western end of Long Island along New York's Upper Bay. He was probably there by 1652 when he filed a suit against Machiel Janssen (Bergen) over the delivery of some grain. At Gowanus, Adam Brouwer, apparently in partnership with Isaac de Foreest, built what has been stated to be the first grist mill on Long Island. In February 1661, Adam bought out Isaac de Foreest of his half interest in the mill. Adam signed the deed with his mark, AB. The mill remained in possession of Adam Brouwer's descendants through three more generations; through the Revolutionary War when it was destroyed by the retreating Americans, until his great-grandson Adolphus Brouwer sold the mill property (he had rebuilt the mills) in 1798 to John C. Freeke of New York City.

Gowanus was where the majority of Adam and Magdalena's fourteen certain children were born. The eldest, Pieter, was likely born in New Amsterdam where he was baptized on 23 September 1646. Of the other children, baptism records are found for Matthys, Willem, Marretje and Nicholas at New Amsterdam/New York, and for Helena and Adam at Brooklyn. The remaining children Jacob, Fytje, Aeltje, Anna, Abraham, Sara and Rachel are all mentioned in Adam Brouwer's will of 1692, although no baptism records for them have been discovered. A fifteenth child, Daniel, baptized on 7 May 1678 at New York, has been claimed as a son of Adam and Magdalena, but because of an erroneously recorded baptism record, his identity as a son cannot be stated as certain (more on this in a future post). Daniel was not mentioned in Adam Brouwer's will, and if in fact was a son, then it appears that he did not reach adulthood. The other fourteen children did reach adulthood, all had families, and left Adam and Magdalena with at least 97 grandchildren and over 350 great-grandchildren.

Adam Brouwer wrote his will on 22 January 1691/92 and was proved 21 March 1692. The original will is on file in Albany in the office of the Clerk of the Court of Appeals. It may well have been in the possession of descendants of Adam's youngest son, Nicholas, and brought to Albany in the late 1700s when children of Nicholas Brouwer (1714-1777) a great-grandson of Adam, brought suit challenging the distribution of their father, Nicholas', estate. Images of Adam Brouwer's will are available online (Adam Brouwer's will). In his will, Adam mentions his wife, Magdalena, and instructs his children not to "trouble or move" her. His fourteen children are all named with sons Pieter and Jacob, and daughter Aeltje, singled out for their "disobedience." In addition, four granddaughters named Magdalena, grandson Adolphus (son of son William) and granddaughter Vrouwtje (daughter of son Pieter) are each given "pieces of eight." Rather than appoint any of his sons as executors, Adam appointed sons-in-law Barent van Tilburg and William Nazareth to the responsibility. (Transcript of will). Administration of his estate was granted to his widow, Magdalena "Brewer," on 15 April 1693. Adam died  between the dates of his will and it's proving, the exact date is not known. There is no record of his burial in the records of the Reformed Dutch Churches and it is most likely that he was buried, as most people were at that time, on his own property in an unmarked grave. If the assumption that he was born about 1620 is correct, Adam Brouwer lived into his early 70s, better then the average life expectancy for the time. Magdalena survived her husband and was living as late as 12 August 1698 when she conveyed her interest in the mill property at Gowanus to her sons Abraham and Nicholas. On 18 June 1699 she witnessed the baptism of her granddaughter Lysbeth Brouwer (daughter of son Nicholas) at the Brooklyn Reformed Dutch Church. This is the last record found for Magdalena, the date of her death is not known. If born in the late 1620s, she would have been in her early 70s in 1699.

At the time of his death most of Adam's children appear to have been living at Gowanus. The one exception may have been daughter Helena, wife of William Nazareth, a mariner (three of this couple's daughters are found on Curaçao in 1715). They may have lived on Manhattan Island as children were baptized in the New York Reformed Dutch Church in 1691 and 1694. Over the course of the next ten to fifteen years, as the families of the second generation expanded, it appears that all except sons Abraham and Nicholas had moved elsewhere. In 1712, Nicholas and his wife sold to his brother Abraham and his wife, their half of the mill property at Gowanus. Nicholas moved to Fordham Manor in present day Bronx County, leaving Abraham as the last child of Adam and Magdalena at Gowanus.

Adam Brouwer's Y-DNA signature has been developed thanks to the participation of male descendants in the Brewer DNA Project. To date, twenty-one descendants have participated and Adam's haplogroup is E1b1b1a2 (since 2007 referred to as E-V13). This haplogroup is relatively rare among Europeans, with the highest concentrations (in Europe) found in the Balkans and Mediterranean Spain. It is conceivable that a distant ancestor of Adam's came to the area of Cologne, or northern Germany in general, from the Balkans some centuries before Adam's birth. Cologne was founded by the Romans in 50 AD, and men from the Balkans contributed to the ranks of the Roman Legions. In depth explanations and interpretations of the results of Y-DNA testing on descendants of Adam Brouwer, and more regarding haplogroup E-V13 and Adam's distant origins can be found on Richard Brewer's website, "Genetic Descendants of Adam Brouwer Berckhoven." Among those who have been tested are descendants of Adam Brouwer's sons Pieter, Jacob, Abraham and Nicholas. In addition there are six participants whose direct ancestry back to Adam has not been completely discovered. Because of their close matches with known descendants we do know that these participants must be descended from Adam Brouwer. Of the six who have incomplete lineages, two are most likely descended from Adam's son Nicholas, while the other four (I suspect) are probably descended from one of Adam's other sons, either William or Adam (reasons for this will be expanded upon in future posts).

[Source citations for statements made above, as well as additional details in Adam Brouwer's life, can be found at his profile on the Brouwer Genealogy Database website, best accessed through the Adam Brouwer link on the Progenitors page.]


  1. Great work as always! Thank you Chris.

  2. Thank you for sorting out the many theories with some actual facts that can be found and sourced.

  3. I'm so glad I found this! Adam would be my 8th great grandfather (my maiden name is Brower), and I am so fascinated by the stories of my ancestors.

  4. Decended from Fytie who married Matthys Cornielson and his will in Freehold lists 400 acres each to his sons Cornelius and Abraham Van Horne--beginning of Van Horne line

  5. Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon were my eighth great grandparents. I am very interested in knowing if Magdalena was a Huguenot. If you have any information regarding this could you please let me know? In the meantime thank you for putting together such clearly well researched and well organized website. Scott Koniecko

    1. I don't believe that Magdalena Verdon or her parent's family were Huguenots. The Huguenots were from the southern and western parts of France. Harry Macy, Jr. in "Some New Light on Aeltje Braconie and Maria Badie," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record Vol. 142, pp. 21-36 (2011)suggests that Magdalena's mother, Maria Badie, and her mother, Aeltje Braconie were from Liege which now is in Belgium. I think the best guess is that Magdalena and her immediate ancestors were Walloons, who were a group native to Belgium who spoke French and Walloon (which is related to French).


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