Discover your inside story. Save 20% on Ancestry DNA April 21-26

April 19, 2014

52 Ancestors: Ots-Toch, the Mohawk Wife of Cornelis Van Slyke

I'm writing about my Mohawk ancestor Ots-Toch as part of Amy Crow's Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks . Ots-Toch was my 9th great-grandmother and I've written about her in my book on the Van Slyke family of New Netherland (New York). After researching her extensively, I was able to obtain my Metis status in Ontario. Luckily she is written about in contemporary records and this proving my Native American heritage was possible. 

Last year I submitted DNA kits to different companies for both myself, my brother and my son. Our Native American ancestry was confirmed through DNA which was like icing on the cake. 

Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 3 of my book The Van Slyke Family in America: A Genealogy of Cornelise Antonissen Van Slyke, 1604-1676 and his Mohawk Wife Ots-Toch, including the story of Jacques Hertel, 1603-1651, Father of Ots-Toch and Interpreter to Samuel de Champlain REVISED EDITION published May 2010.

Download an Order Form to pay by check or pay using Paypal

Caveat: Please take the use of the word "princess" with a grain of salt. It was common for 19th century writings to romanticize Native American women in particular, assigning daughter of a chief status to them. Ots-Toch was in fact fathered by Jacques Hertel, a French interpretor to Samuel de Champlain. It is not known who her Mohawk mother was. 

Little is known of the wife of Cornelis Van Slyke. Even her name, Ots-Toch, is clouded in controversy, with some writing it as Alstock. One word in the Mohawk language which may provide a clue to her name is "Otsihsto" meaning "the stars". "Otsihsto" is pronounced so that the sound is similar to "Asistock". It must be remembered that her name was recorded phonetically from verbal accounts and it is quite possible that Otsihsto is the correct interpretation of Ots-Toch's name.  Her date of birth is unknown, although it is estimated as circa 1622. There is argument over her heritage and her parents.

There are  two prevalent theories of Ots-Toch's heritage, one that she was a full-blooded Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, the daughter of a Mohawk chief or Sachem. [1] The second theory is that Ots-Toch was the daughter of a French trapper, Jacques Hertel and a full-blooded Mohawk Princess.  [2]  The use of the word "Princess" would imply that Ots-Toch's mother was the daughter of the Sachem or chief of her tribe.

According to Nelson Greene and other sources, Ots-Toch was "wild and savage like her mother". [3] Ouida Blanthorn, in her genealogy of Cornelis Van Slyck and his descendants written 1973, states that Ots-Toch was a "half-French, half-Indian maiden of compelling grace and beauty, whose mother was a Mohawk princess [sic] and whose father, Jacques Hartell [sic] was a French trader."

[1] National Association of the Van Valkenburg Family

[2]  A History of the Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times. Jonathan      Pearson. Ed. J. W. MacMurray, 1883 ;  The Mohawk Valley: Its Legends and Its History. W. Max Reid 1901

[3] Vol. II:p.334
There were many original records pertaining to Ots-Toch. As an example here is one given in my book as found in land records of 1713 for Harmen Van Slyke, grandson of Ots-Toch.

        Harmen was a Captain in a Schenectady Company in 1714 and an Indian trader in 1724. He received a grant of 300 morgens of land at Canajoharie NY from the Mohawks because

        "his grandmother was a right Mohawk woman" and "his father born with us at Canajoharie". His father was Jacques Cornelise, son of Ots-Toch, the half French, half Mohawk woman who married his father Cornelis Antonissen.

        The deed conveyed 12 Jan. 1713 and consisting of 2000 acres, stated:

               "in consideration of ye love, good will and affection which

               we do bear toward our loving cozen and friend Capt. Harmon

               Van Slyke of Schenectady, aforesaid, whose grandmother was a

               right Mohawk squaw and his father born with us in the above

               said Kanajoree [Canajoharie] being his the said

               Harmen Van Slyke's by right of inheritance from his father"


Unknown said...

Ots-Toch is my great grandmother several times over on both my mother and fathers side. I would love more information on her as she was a hero in the Revolutionary war, caring for the starving Mohaks incarcerated in Pleasant Valley concentration camp.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

I'm afraid that is impossible. The Mohawk wife of Cornelis Van Slyke was married to him ca 1640-1644.

Dankaerts speaks of her in his contemporary journal of the 1660s when he visited Schenecteday and spoke with her son Jacques (my ancestor)and her daughter Hilletie (Van Olinda)

Ots-Toch was long dead by the time of the Revolutionary War.

Anonymous said...

Which DNA kit did you do for your research?

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

I used 2 companies. One showed the native DNA, one did not but another algorithm did show the native DNA.

For more info and details see my previous blog posts about this and

Kelly Boser said...

She would also be my 9th great grandmother I have been looking for this information a long time, I am waiting on my results of a DNA test through Ancestry. I have always felt the presence of an Native American Princess when channeling my spirit guides. I am so stinking excited

Anonymous said...

Hi Lorine ! This is kind of un-related to your topic right now, but I need help to discover my Native American heritage ! My interest is not for any legal or monetary purpose . I would just like to know where I came from . I know the heritage has to be on the mother's side , but my heritage is on my father's . His mother was on a reservation until she was 16 years old , but I can't find any record of it ! All I know is that I was told that my Grandmother was part of the Mohawk Tribe /Iroquois Nation. According to what I found on , her mother was born in Brookfield, MA ! I live in Winchendon, MA. Please if you could possibly point me in the right direction , I would greatly appreciate it ! Thank you for your time !

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Anonymous - You discover any heritage (Native American or not )by following standard genealogical research procedures. Start with yourself and work backwards, one step at a time.

Gather birth/marriage and death records.

Gather census records.

Please see Help for Beginners for more help.

Best of luck!


Ποιος είναι σαν το Θεό; said...

I discovered Ots Toch to be my 10th Great Grandmother. My question is, Ots toch's history is often debatable among genealogists, some say her Father was Jacque, others say not. Some say she was full blooded mohawk, others say she was mixed. How were you able to convince the Metis Nation of Ontario?


Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

I submitted my documentation to the Metis Nation - fully sourced of course - and my application was accepted. Many of us descended from Ots-Toch have been accepted.

Ποιος είναι σαν το Θεό; said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ποιος είναι σαν το Θεό; said...

I noticed you're not a part of the Metis nation of Ontario. OMAA lost their status years back for giving out status cards to non-metis people. I'm not saying you're not Metis, but I am saying OMAA is no longer a Metis organization. I would try getting your status with the official MNO.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Yes, my cousin got his status through MNO and I'm working on finding time to resubmit my application. He's a cousin through Ots-Toch.

Ποιος είναι σαν το Θεό; said...

I apologise for flooding your comment section, I will delete my comments after this. I have one more question. Did your cousin use the information you supplied to get his MNO status? Was Ots Toch/Van Slyck the only ancestral line used in order to obtain Status, or was there more?

All information help.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Hi - no need to apologize and please DON'T delete your comments!

My cousin used my book for details and sources and then I sent him more as he needed it. Ots toch was the only line he used as that is the only one he has.

Ποιος είναι σαν το Θεό; said...

Okay, Okay, what about Métis community? One of the requirements to be seen as Métis is being able to trace your lineage back to a specific community. Being that Jacque Van Slyck was a first generation Métis, would that requirement be void? being that there was no "communities" formed yet? I hope I'm making sense.

My cousin only sees himself as a non-status Algonquin because that's all he knows. He is only knowledgeable on our Grandfather's side of the tree, but I am venturing down our Grandmother's and I'm finding first generation Métis (1600's) The problem is, He only sees Métis as people descendant directly from the Red River, to that I say, Did Jewish people exist before the state of Israel? Of course they did. The same goes with Métis, they existed before the Red River, they were just scattered in the East before they moved West!

Anyways, I'm rambling on, back to my question. Is the Community thing void being that Van Slyck first generation?

Thank you.

Ποιος είναι σαν το Θεό; said...

The MNO stated that in order for your ancestor to be relevant to them your ancestor has to be tied to a distinctive historic Ontario Métis community.

Ots Toch, Van Slyck - they're not tied to a community in this province, therefore not relevant in achieving citizenship into the MNO.

I am confused, Lorine.

Ποιος είναι σαν το Θεό; said...

Are you still there, Lorine?

Have you spoken to your cousin?