Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Family of Jan Brouwer and Helena Van Cleef

Jan Brouwer, probably born about 1698 (or a bit earlier) at Flatlands in Kings County, Long Island is a presumed son of Pieter Brouwer and Annatje Jans. Basis for this placement lies with the fact that Jan named a son Pieter, and that Jan and his wife Helena Van Cleef stood as sponsors at the baptism of Jan Brouwer, son of Hans Brouwer and Nelke Goulder.

Helena Van Cleef, the wife of Jan Brouwer, is likely a daughter of Isbrandt Van Cleef and Jannetje Arise (Aerts) Van der Bilt (Vanderbilt) of Gravesend, Long Island and later Freehold, Monmouth Co., New Jersey. Her identity is provided by the baptism records of her children. No baptism record for Helena has been found. While the inventory of the estate of "Isbrand Van Clave" of Freehold is dated January 13, 1729 in Monmouth County, no will or other estate settlement papers that mention a daughter Helena have been located. A marriage record for Jan and Helena has not been found.

Jan was at Middletown, Monmouth Co., New Jersey by September 1719, when his earmark for his livestock, "a fork or swallo tayl cut out of the topp of the left ear and half peny on the under file of the same ear and his brand mark is these letters J B on the right thigh," was recorded in the town records. Earmarks can be a valuable tool in genealogical research, especially in places where vital records are thin. They are generally passed along to heirs, and the later recording of an earmark with the same description, by a man with the same surname or by a man who married a daughter with the same surname as the original owner, is certainly a descendant of the earlier holder of the earmark.

Jan Brouwer and Helena Van Cleef had at least eleven or twelve children, and possibly more (as will be seen). Eleven recorded baptisms have been found. Five of the first six are in the records of the Reformed Dutch Congregations of Freehold and Middletown in Monmouth County.
The first, a child of "Jan Brouwer and ___ Van Kleave" was on June 21, 1724. Neither the child's name nor gender were recorded. No sponsors or witnesses were recorded.
The second, a child of "Jan Brower and Helena Van Cleve," no name or gender given for the child, was on April 11, 1726. Sponsors were "Isabrant Van Cleve and Janneke his wife," the mother's presumed parents.
The third child, Pieter, son of "Jan Brower and Hilletiz," was baptized in August 1727. No sposnors were recorded and this child, Pieter, did not reach adulthood.
Between the baptism of Pieter and the next child, there is a very obvious eight year gap in which no baptism records are found for Jan and Helena. There are only two possible explanations for a 18th century couple as who had as many children as Jan and Helena did (eleven known children) to experience such a long period without a verifiable child. Either Jan was away and the couple had no contact for eight years (extremely unlikely) or there were other children born in this period for whom baptism records were lost (much more likely).
The fourth baptism is of son "Henrikus" of "Jan Brouwer and Hillitje Van Kleef." This was on December 25, 1735 (eight years and four months after the baptism of Pieter). No sponsors were recorded.
The fifth baptism is of "Peeteres" of "Yan Brouwer and Leena," dated December 26, 1737, at the Reformed Church at Harlingen (Montgomery Township) in Somerset County, New Jersey. No sponsors were recorded.
The sixth baptism, Benjamin, child of "Jan Brouwer and Hilletje Van Kleef" is found at Freehold-Middletown on February 19, 1738. Sponsors were Benjamin Van Kleef and Rachel Couwenhove.
The seventh baptism, Marytje, child of "Jan Brouwer and Lena," is on October 3, 1738 at the Readington Reformed Dutch Church in Hunterdon County. No sponsors recorded.
The eighth baptism, Catrina, child of "Jan Brouwer and wife, Mardelena," is at the First Reformed Church at Raritan (Somerville), Somerset Co., New Jersey, June 28, 1741. No sponsors are recorded.
The ninth baptism is of "Leena" child of "Yan Brouwer and Leenaa," at the Harlingen Reformed Church on January 14, 1743. No sponsors.
The tenth baptism, dated December 10, 1746, is at Readington, for Elsje, child of "Jan Brouwer and Lena." No sponsors.
The eleventh, also at Readington, December 26, 1749, is for Johannis, child of "Jan Brouwer and Lena." No sponsors.

To the above we can add a son named Aris (Arie, Aaron) Brower. No baptism record is identified, but he may be one of the first two children, baptized in 1724 and 1726, whose given names were not recorded. Aris was married to Neeltje (Eleanor) Cooper and named his first daughter, Helena (1756) and first son, John (1762). If married by 1756 (baptism of first known child) then Aris would have been aged 30 or 32 if born in 1724 or 1726. He may have also been born in the eight year gap between 1727 and 1735. His given name, Aris, would have been from the family of his maternal grandmother, Jannetje Van der Bilt, a daughter of Aris (or Aert) Janse Van der Bilt and Hillitje Remse.

From the above list of baptisms a researcher might be alerted to the fact that the mother (Helena Van Cleef) is found with a variety of given names that at first look are seemingly in conflict. One might even be tempted to conclude that two different families are being described. But consider this. Helena had children born between the years of 1724 and 1749, a twenty five year span. If her first child was born while she was in her late teens, and her last while in her mid-forties, then we can conclude that Helena was born sometime between 1703 and 1708. We are handicapped by not having a surviving baptism record, but it is near certain that she was born in Kings Co., Long Island, during a period when Dutch culture was still dominant, and at the time she was born she was likely named, Hillitje, for her maternal grandmother, Hillitje Remse. The name Hillitje is more commonly a diminutive for Hillegond, which was an uncommon name even in the Dutch communities of the late 1600s. Today it might be described as archaic. It was certainly unheard of in English communities. In two of the first four baptisms (all at Freehold-Middletown) Helena is recorded as Hillitje. In another her given name is left out and in the other she is called Helena. In all of the baptisms found in the churches, a bit later in time and a bit further west in Somerset and Hunterdon Counties, she is called Lena (Leena) and in one case, "Mardelena" certainly a mistaken transcription for Magdalena. It is likely that as the descendants of the early Dutch settlers became more "English" in their habits and had more English neighbors with whom they associated, a name like Hillitje, might be reinvented as a similar sounding, Helena. In turn, Lena (Leena) is a diminutive, not only for Helena, but also for Magdalena ("Mardelena"), and so we can explain the unusual discrepancy in the recorded names given to the mother of the children of Jan Brouwer.

The last record for both Jan Brouwer and Helena Van Cleef thus far identified is the 1749 baptism of son Johannis Brouwer. No probate or estate settlement records have been found (in New Jersey or New York) for either Jan or Helena. We do not know when or where they died. As of 1749 it appears (from the baptism records of children) that they were living in the area of Raritan, New Jersey. It is possible that from here, they made a move further westward into Pennsylvania. However, families for four of their children have been identified and all are found in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Of the children known to have left descendants, son Aris (Arie, Aaron) was married twice and died in 1800 as a resident of Shrewsbury, Monmouth Co. Of his seven known children, one son (John) and three daughters (Helena, Antje, Marya) left descendants in Monmouth Co. Son Hendrick was married to Abigeltie Hunt (also seen as Abigail Hurd) and died in 1802. He lived at Middletown in Monmouth Co. and had at least nine children, five of whom are known to have left descendants, including sons John, Sylvanus and Hendrick. Son Pieter (bapt. 1737) appears to have married Antje Van Dyck and had sons Joannes (Johannes) and Petrus (Pieter) baptized at Freehold-Middletown in 1756 and 1757, but no further records identified after that (this is not meant to imply that they do not exist, just that they have not yet been discovered). Son Benjamin married Maria Lane at Shrewsbury in 1767. They had at least five children who left descendants, including sons Cornelius, Jan and Benjamin, and are found in Monmouth County.

None of the four daughters, Marytje, Catrina, Leena and Elsje, nor youngest son, Johannis, have yet to be identified in adulthood. This statement is not intended to imply that none of them left descendants. Rather, it should be taken as an incentive for more research to be attempted regarding the descendants of Jan Brouwer and Helena Van Cleef.

Sources and citations for statements above, as well as more info on descendants, can be found at the Brouwer Genealogy Database website.

Family Group Sheet

Jan Brouwer is no. 22 in Descendants of Jan Brouwer of Flatlands, L. I. 

Also see Richard Brewer's Jan Brouwer Descendants, Pieter's Line

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