Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sara Brouwer and Her Four Husbands

Sara Brouwer, a daughter of Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon, was probably born about 1668 at Gowanus, Long Island. No record of baptism has been found. She is named in her father's will dated January 22, 1691/92. Sara was married four times, but children are only known from her (third) marriage to Thomas Knight.

Sara Brouwer is covered by William J. Hoffman in "Brouwer Beginnings" at TAG 24 (1948):96. The account is very brief and incomplete. Hoffman's profile of Sara includes three marriages and one child. In actuality, Sara was married four times, and had three known children. Hoffman does not venture a guess as to Sara's date of birth and lists her as the tenth child of fifteen for Adam Brouwer and Magdalena Verdon, implying that she was older than her siblings Anna and Abraham. Sara was more likely younger than the two. In "Brouwer Corrections and Additions," TAG 30 (1953):177, Hoffman updates the list of children and adds the fourth husband.

Sara's first marriage was on 13 July 1684 and is recorded in both the records of the New York Reformed Dutch Church and in the records of the church at Flatbush. The are dated 28 June 1684. They read, "Theunis Janszen, j.m. Van Vlissingen, en Sara Brouwers, j.d. Van de Guijanes, d'Eerste woonende alheir en tweede op de Guijanes." Theunis Janszen was born at Vlissingen, which is Flushing, but whether the Flushing in Queens Co., Long Island, or the Flushing in the Netherlands is meant, is not clear. At the time Theunis was a resident of New York (New York record), while Sara was born and residing at Gowanus. Neither were previously married and the marriage took place at Brooklyn (Flatbush record). There is very little else found regarding Theunis Janszen. He witnessed the baptism of Christina, daughter of Helena Brouwer and her first husband, David Hendricksen, on 13 July 1684 at New York, and witnessed the baptism of Jan, son of Pieter Brouwer and Petronella Kleyn on 21 March 1685, also at New York. An assessment at Brooklyn in September 1676 lists a Theunis Jansen with 3 polls, 3 horses, a horse of 2 years, 2 oxen, 4 cows, 4 cows of 3 years, 4 cows of 1 year, 2 hogs, and 23 morgens of land and valley. A September 1683 assessment, also at Brooklyn, lists Teunis Jansen with 2 horses, 5 cows, 6 cows of 2 years, 3 cows of 1 year, 4 sheep, 1 poll, 20 morgens of land (a morgen is approximately two acres)*. Sara's husband, Theunis Janszen, should not be confused with Theunis Janszen (Amack) who married Jannetje Brouwer, a daughter of Jan Brouwer and Jannetje Jans. This Theuins Janszen was assessed in September 1683 at New Amersfoort (Flatlands). No children have been found or identified for Sara Brouwer and Theunis Janszen. The date of his death is not known and a record of the settlement of his estate has not been found. He was, however, deceased by 23 September 1692, when Sara remarried.

The Flatbush Reformed Dutch Church records list the banns of "Thomas Smit, j.m., met Sara Brouwer wedue van Tuenes Jansen, beijde woonende tot Bruekelen," with the betrothal date of 23 September 1692. This record tells us that Thomas Smit (Smith?) had not been previously married, that Sara was the widow of Theunis Janszen, and that both were living at Brooklyn. No other record for Thomas Smit has been identified. This fact has prompted some researchers to consider whether or not the original marriage record was in error and that Thomas Knight (Sara's third husband) was intended. I first found this consideration while reading through correspondence given to me by William B. Bogardus in 2008. One of Bill's correspondents raised the question but when he later had the original Flatbush records inspected, concluded that the original recording did state Thomas' surname as SMIT. The transcription and translation as published by David William Voorhees in Records of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Flatbush, Vol. 1, 1670-1720 (New York: Holland Society, 1998), pp. 276 and 277, also give his surname as SMIT. As there is no evidence that would indicate that Thomas Knight had previously been known as Thomas Smit, we can only conclude that Thomas Smit and Thomas Knight are two different men. Thomas Smit was likely deceased by 1698 and there are no known children for Sara Brouwer and Thomas Smit.

Sara was married to Thomas Knight by 12 August 1698. That is the date of a deed in which the sons, and husbands of the daughters of Adam Brouwer sell their interests in the Gowanus Mill property to their brothers Nicholas and Abraham Brouwer. This deed was not recorded and I do not know where the original, if it still survives, would be found today. Teunis G. Bergen first mentioned it in a segment of his "Early Settlers of Kings County," as published in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record vol. 9 (1878):128. The deed, as reported by Bergen, lists the husbands of the Brouwer daughters as "Barent Van Tillburgh, Matthys Cornelisse, Jesaies Dreax, William Nazareth, William Hilton, Thomas Knight and Pieter Hendrix." No marriage record for Sara Brouwer and Thomas Knight has been found, and it is five years between the 1698 deed and the first recorded baptism of a child.
Rachel, daughter of Thomas Nigt and Sara, was baptized on 27 April 1703 at Brooklyn. Witnesses were Tomas Davids and Sara Dreafs. The later would be the 19 year old daughter of Aeltje Brouwer and Josias Janszen Drats, and the former may be a son of Helena Brouwer and her first husband David Hendricksen. If so, he was probably about 20 or 21 years old. Rachel was married to Johannes Linde by 1735. On 29 January 1735, their son, Johannes, was baptized at the New York Reformed Dutch Church, sponsors Jacob Brouwer, Jr., and Sara Brouwer, wife of Samuel Broek (Rachel's mother, and the child's grandmother). Other children have not been located and the couple may have been married much earlier as Rachel would have been aged 32 in 1735.
Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Nyts and Sara Brouwers, was baptized at the New York church on 23 May 1705, sponsors Jacob Swaan and Christina Elson. Jacob Swaan's relationship to Sara or Thomas is not apparent. Christina was the daughter of Helena Brouwer and David Hendricksen, and wife (at the time) of John Ellesson (Elson, Ellison?). Christina was the child, Elizabeth's first cousin. Elizabeth married, probably about 1725, Nicholas Bennet. Their son, Nicholas, was baptized on 5 July 1726 at New York, sponsors Samuel Broeks and Sara Broeks (Elizabeth's mother and her fourth husband). Nothing further has yet been found regarding the family of Nicholas Bennet and Elizabeth Knight, and if there is any relationship between Nicholas and the large Bennet family of Kings County (relations of the Brouwers) it is not apparent. It is conceivable that Nicholas is from a branch of a New England Bennett family. Hoffman spells his name with two Ts (BENNETT) while the baptism record spells it with one (BENNET).
The third child of Sara Brouwer and Thomas Knight is a son, Samuel Knight. No record of baptism has been found, but on 19 July 1723, he married Alida Berry at the New York Reformed Dutch Church. The records states, "Samuel Nyts, j.m. V. Breukelen, met Alida Berry, j.d. V. Akkinsak, beide woonende alheir" (Samuel Knights, young man born in Brooklyn with Alida Berry, young woman born at Hackensack, both living in New York). Samuel and Alida had five children baptized at the Old Dutch Church at Kingston (Ulster Co.) between 1724 and 1735.
A published account of descendants of Thomas Knight and Sara Brouwer can be found in Settlers of the Beekman Patent by Frank J. Doherty, in volume 7 beginning at page 634. There are some problems with this account in that it adds a number of assumed or supposed children and grandchildren, one of which will be addressed below. According to Doherty, Samuel Knight (or Knights) settled at Beekman in Dutchess County by 1739, and is found there through 1759. After that date there is no trace of him.
On 7 May 1695, Thomas Knight bought of Jurian Hendrickse Bries, a house and lot in the village of Brooklyn, and kept a tavern. In 1708, Sara Knight (Sara Brouwer) and Martha Brouwer (Martha Boulten, wife of William Brouwer) were indicted by the grand jury for false swearing with regard to a riot which occurred at the tavern kept by Thomas Knight. The charges were dismissed when no one appeared to testify against them. Thomas Knight's land is mentioned in a deed of 7 May 1708 in which William Brower and his wife Martha, sold their house and garden lot in Brooklyn to Cornelius Sleght. Thomas Knight's lot bounded the lot William and Martha sold. The two mentions in 1708 are the last records found thus far for Thomas Knight. No settlement of his estate has been located and it is not known when he died. The deed books of Kings County should be checked further.

Sara's fourth husband was Samuel Broek (Brook, Brooks). No record of marriage is found but they were married by January 1723/4 when Sara Broek signed her mark in behalf of her son Samuel Night. Samuel and Sara Broek were sponsors at the 1726 baptism of Nicholas Bennet. Sara was likely past reproductive age at the time she married Samuel Broek (Brook), no children are known for the couple, and what further became of them has not been discovered. Sara is last mentioned as "Sara Brouwer, huis vrouw van Samuel Broek," on 29 January 1735 at the baptism of her grandson, Johannes Linde at New York.


Hendrick, or Henry, Van den Burg (Vanderburg and other spellings) was a son of Dirck Van den Burg and Rymerth Janse was probably born about 1693 (he was under age in 1709 but married by 1713). His wife was one, Maria Magdalena Knight, and their first known child, Anna Maria, was baptized at the New York Reformed Dutch Church on 12 April 1713. The couple had six other children baptized at Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County, and at the New York Lutheran Church between 1716 and 1734. Henry's will dated 12 Jan 1738 (proved 18 Oct 1750) adds five more children for a total of twelve. Hendrick Van den Burg and Maria Magdalena Knight are of some significance and interest because of the fact that they are ancestors of U.S. Presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. and George W. Bush. I have been contacted by a number of people, and I found the same in the correspondence of William B. Bogardus, with the thought that Maria Magdalena Knight was a daughter of Sara Brouwer and Thomas Knight. If correct, this would imply that Adam Brouwer was also an ancestor of the three U.S. Presidents. The Settlers of the Beekman Patent volume mentioned above, includes "Magdalena" Knight, among the supposed children of Sara Brouwer and Thomas Knight. The "coincidental" evidence cited (by correspondents of both myself and Bill Bogardus) is, first, the probability that Maria Magdalena Knight was born (if married by 1713) in the early 1690s, a time when Sara could have been married to Thomas Knight (of course the first conclusive record of Thomas Knight's marriage to Sara Brouwer is not found until 1698). The second "coincidental" piece of evidence is the belief that she was named Magdalena for her (supposed) grandmother, Magdalena Verdon. The following should be made clear. Henry Van den Burg's wife was not given the name Magdalena. She was given (as evidenced by the baptism record of her first daughter) the name Maria Magdalena. There is a difference. She was clearly not named for Magdalena Verdon, but rather was named, as so many girls were, for Mary Magdalene, the famous disciple of Jesus. Evidence against the placement of Maria Magdalena Knight as a daughter of Sara Brouwer can be found with the fact that she never appears as a baptism sponsor among any of the many baptisms found in the extended Brouwer family during the years 1700 to 1740. She does, however, appear as a sponsor in baptisms that are related to her husband's extended family. There is no single record that would tie Maria Magdalena Knight to any member of the Thomas Knight family. Knight is a very common surname of English origin. There are many unrelated families named Knight found in colonial America, and linking them based upon nothing the common surname is a mistake usually made by those new to genealogical research, and not by those who publish extensive genealogies like Settlers of the Beekman Patent, and the inclusion there of Maria Magdalena in the Thomas Knight family is unfortunate. For the record, Maria Magdalena Knight is not a daughter of Thomas Knight and Sara Brouwer and Adam Brouwer, is not an ancestor of Presidents Ford and the two Bushes.

*Note: Subsequent research has concluded that the Teunis Jansen recorded on the 1676 and 1683 Rate Lists at Breuckelen is Teunis Jansen Covert, and not Teunis Jansen the first husband of Sara Brouwer (added September 7, 2013).

Sara Brouwer and her Four Husbands

See the Brouwer Genealogy Database for additional info and complete source citations.

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