Family Relationships Come Alive

By the New York City Municipal Archives staff

One of the most interesting things about this project is learning more about New Amsterdam residents of the 1600s, and making connections about their lives. For example, the City Archives of Amsterdam found a mention of Govert Loockermans in an employment contract from 1655. The contract refers to Govert’s stepdaughter Elsie and her husband Pieter Corneliss van de Veen, who also lived in New Amsterdam. The document records Pieter’s hiring of a man to work for his father-in-law Govert and perform trade duties.

In the records of the NYCMA, we found a reference to the family from 1663. By this time, Pieter had passed away. Elsie’s mother Merritje (Govert’s wife) appeared in court because Govert had been appointed by the court to take inventory of Pieter’s estate, a common practice in New Amsterdam after a person had died. But Merritje requested that the court appoint someone else to look after the estate, to ensure no one has any reason to think it was not handled properly, given Govert’s relationship to Pieter.

NYCMA later found Merritje again in court minutes of 1674, following Govert’s death. By this time, Elsie had married Jacob Leisler (who would later go on to lead a rebellion against the English in 1689 and become governor of the city). Merritje requested a delay in settling Govert’s estate until Jacob, who had apparently taken on an important role in the family, returned to the city.

When placed side by side, the archival records from Amsterdam and New York City illuminate the personal relationships of the Loockermans clan of 350 years ago. It is interesting to see the family dynamics of New Amsterdam residents come alive as a result of the collaboration between our two archival institutions.