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August 25, 2017

Meme: Our Immigrant Ancestors - Hendrick Meesen Vrooman

There is a lot of discussion about immigration in America right now. Tempers have flared, and different groups hold various strong opinions.

I've been following this for several months and it occurs to me that those of us in Canada, America, and Australia have immigrant ancestors. Have you researched yours? Do you know who they were, why they came to your country and when? Do you know how they fared once settled in their new land? Were they welcomed? Were they shunned? Was their discrimination based on their religion or ethnic origin? These are all questions that are important, and interesting to discover. With that in mind, I'm the dedicating Saturdays (as many as needed) as the day to join me in discussing your immigrant ancestors.

You will be able to read any you are interested in by using the keyword Immigrant Ancestors. I'm going to share on OliveTreeGenealogy blog what I know of my immigrant ancestors to North America (whether that is USA or Canada)

One of my Dutch immigrant ancestors was Hendrick Meesen Vrooman born ca 1617 in Holland. Hendrick Bartholomeus (Meesen) and 5 children sailed to New Netherland (New York) on D'Eendracht (The Concord) in 1664.

I've written a book about Hendrick and his brothers which is available on Amazon as "The Vrooman Family: Ancestors & Descendants of the Brothers Hendrick Meesen Vrooman, Pieter Meesen Vrooman and Jacob Meesen Vrooman of New Netherland (New York)" (Volume 8 of my New Netherland Settlers series)

You might also like to join our Vrooman Facebook Group to share stories, and ask for help with a challenging Vrooman ancestor.

Hendrick was 47 years old and with him were his five children including his daughter, my 8th great grandmother Eva Hendrickse Vroomn. Eva was 14 years old. Hendrick was a widower, his youngest child was only 5 years old. Their ship, De Eendracht, arrived in the harbour 19 July 1664.

Six months after his arrival, Hendrik wrote a letter to his family in Leiden: his brother Jacob, his sister Maartje and his mother Ariaantje. In it he described the new land he has come to, and asked for items from home such as silk thread.

 The amazement about the new environment is thus still fresh at the time of writing and some passages of  Hendriks letter state:

It has been a good summer there. Very fine corn has grown there and the cultivation was good and the land still pleases me. At snechtendeel [Schenectady and the surrounding area] the land is more beautiful than I have ever seen in Holland.
 The year in which Hendrick arrived in New Netherland (1664) is the year in which New Netherland was taken by the English. Hendrik writes of this in his letter:

Furthermore I let you know that there have arrived three English ships at the Manhattans with soldiers and they have claimed the land and they say that it belongs to their king. And Stuyvesant has given it to them without one shot, with an agreement.

In 1690 Hendrick, his son Bartholmew aged 30, his son Adam with his wife Engeltie and their six children (Barent 11, Wouter 9, Peter 5, Christina 4, Hendrick 3 and a male infant) were living in Schenectady. Then came the Indian and French attack on Schenectady on the cold snowy evening of Saturday February 9, 1690.

On 9 February 1690, in the total of 60 people killed at the Schenectady Massacre, were Hendrick, his son Bartholomew aka Bartol, and two black slaves who were killed and burned by Indians. His two remaining sons, Adam and Jan, were left to inherit his estate. Hendrick's grandsons Barent and Wouter were taken captive to Canada but later recovered. Hendrick's son Adam escaped with his three children Peter, Christina and Hendrick.

The report of the investigating party sent out from Albany states:

"Hend. Meese Vrooman and Bartholomeus Vrooman kild & burnt....Item 2 Negroes of Hend Meese ye same death....Engel the wife of Adam Vrooman shot & burnt, her childe the brains dashed out against ye wall...."

Hendrik's life story illustrates the guts and perseverence of the Dutch colonists in New-Netherland: they left their safe home behind and built themselves a new life in a wonderful, but harsh country. 350 years later, Hendrik's letter does not only offer us a unique view of the fortunes of a Dutchman in New-Netherland, but also of the unpolished history of development of a nation. This makes his letter a great ego document to celebrate the Hudson year. (


The letter is kept in HCA 30-226-1. A first diplomatic transcription was made by Netty van Megen for the Wikiscripta Neerlandica project. The comment on this monthly letter is provided by Judith Nobels. The quotations of the letter have been translated freely. See

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