Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York

Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York consists of four volumes edited by Berthold Fernow and published between 1877 and 1887. They are a continuation of the series Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, as Fernow took over the work begun by E. B. O'Callaghan who died in 1880. Fernow's four volumes are numbers 12, 13, 14 and 15, and, for whatever reason, he also labeled them as "New Series" volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4. There is also a slight alteration in the series title where you will notice that Relative to (vols. 1-11) is substituted with Relating to.

Digital versions of all four can be found online at the Internet Archives website. See the "Links to Published Sources Available Online" page for direct links.

This post will be brief as I am not going to expand upon each mention of persons named Brouwer, Brower or Brewer found within the four volumes. The reason for this is that much of what is published in these four volumes by Fernow has been published again, later, in volumes that supersede Fernow's work. Berthold Fernow's work was not well regarded by Arnold J. F. van Laer, and later translators and transcribers of the early New York colonial records. Fernow was born in Prussia in 1837. He came to the U. S. and served on the Union side during the Civil War. Neither English nor Dutch were his first language. His work on translating the Dutch documents is often criticized, with one specific criticism being his anglicization of Dutch names. Most of what is found in Fernow's first three volumes (12-14) can be located in O'Callaghan's Calendar (parts one and two). Fernow reorganized the documents by geographical location and published them as follows:

Volume 12 is Documents Relating to the History of the Dutch and Swedish Settlements on the Delaware River (1877). This volume does not contain it's own index. Instead it is indexed in the subsequent volume 13. A better choice for these records is New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch, Vols. 18 & 19, Delaware Papers (Dutch Period) 1648-1664 and Vols. 20 & 21, Delaware Papers (English Period) 1664-1682, translated and edited by Charles T. Gehring, and published in 1981 and 1977 respectively, and available in PDF format online at the New Netherland Institute website (use the links just provided).

Volume 13 is Documents Relating to the History and Settlements of the Towns Along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers (with the exception of Albany) from 1630 to 1684 (1881). The index in this volume covers both volume 12 and 13. There are numerous other sources of published records from these areas, and we will consider some of them in future posts.

Volume 14 is Documents Relating to the History of the Early Colonial Settlements Principally on Long Island (1883). This volume is indexed. Here too, many records found here are also found elsewhere in various volumes published at later dates.

Fernow then followed with:

Volume 15, also referred to as "State Archives, Vol. I," and is titled New York in the Revolution (1887). The information in this volume is not found in O'Callaghan's Calendar. It probably should have been published as a stand alone work, rather than as part of the original series begun by O'Callaghan in the 1850s. It consists largely of the Proceedings of the Provincial Congress in New York, and of lists and rolls of the various military units from New York. It is certainly valuable for these lists. The volume includes an index.

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