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Archiver > Dutch-Colonies > 1998-01 > 0885241193

From: "Harman Clark" <>
Subject: SCHENCK from NYGBR
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 15:19:53 -0500

The following article from NYGBR 68:114 (Apr. 1937) was sent to an
inquirer. We are posting it to those who may be interested. [I believe the
author was George McCracken]
The second half of the 19th century witnessed, both in America and in
Europe, a constantly growing interest in the pursuit of genealogical and
heraldic research. Societies to bring together those interested in these
subjected were formed in practically every country. Numerous magazines
devoted to genealogy and kindred subjects started their publications
everywhere and in addition individual family histories, town and county
histories and records, genealogical collections, handbooks on heraldry,
etc., appeared in constantly growing numbers.
The quantity was rather amazing, the quality of the published material
auras altogether, in too many instances, far from satisfactory and left
much to be desired. Generally speaking the great majority of the
publications contained statements made on the sole authority of the
authors, unsupported by any references to, or quotations from, the original
records, a requirement now of every well substantiated article on genealogy
and heraldry. Too much cre-dence was given to family tradition, to old
genealogies dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries which were being
copied without being checked and verified by consulting the available
authentic records.
In England the numerous mistakes made by the not always trustworthy
heralds in the records of their visitations, were being repeated. In the
Nether-lands the pernicious
influence was still felt of the work of such 17th century falsifiers as the
brothers de Launay and l'abbe Butkens, the latter seemingly having condoned
in matters genealogical what he undoubtedly would have condemned in matters
spiritual. An almost universal mistake made was the assumption that
similarity of surname indicated relationship, one of the great fallacies
which has been, and for that matter still is, the cause of more
mistakes in genealogical publications than any other single item.
Even today when a much more scientific attitude in regard to genealogical
research has developed and when a wealth of valuable authentic material is
being published everywhere, we have not completely outgrown the influence
of the 19th century
publications. The average amateur genealogist who has started his research
work without sufficient background and knowledge of the fundamentals, still
puts too much faith in these older and the less reliable modern
publications and is loath to accept the
verdict of well-informed scientific searchers that many of these
"authorities" are not to be trusted or at least should be verified. It
needs courage to discard a genealogy which sets
forth an illustrious pedigree but which modern scientific research has
proved to be erroneous awl it is a difficult and thankless, even an almost
hopeless task, to convince the average amateur genealogist that it would he
better to give up a long cherished belief in a descent from distinguished,
preferably noble, forbears when it has been proven that the pedigree cannot
stand curse investigation. Too many of these false claims arc
being repeated even today. As far as the ancestry of American families of
Dutch descent is concerned, many of the statements made in the older
publications will have in be discarded. From these it would seem that
many scions of old noble families and
descendants of famous persons settled on these shores from the Netherlands,
a contention which the records have proved to be
contrary to tile facts.*

<Body Text>The supposed descent of Anneke Jans from William the
Silent crops up periodically and only recently the "noble"
ancestry of one of the Schenck families in America is again
being put forth in a just published standard work (Bailey:
Pre-Revolutionary Houses and Families).
This particular story concerning the Schenck family
finds its origin in the statements made by one Col. Jhr; W.F.G.I
. van der Dussen who was a rather well-known genealogist in the
Netherlands in the last half of the 19th century. He was true to
the type of that time, published much material unsupported by
proof (the statements made by him in regard to the older
generations of his own family have all been discarded) and no
scientific Dutch genealogist of today accepts Col. van der
Dussen's dictums or for that matter of most of his
contemporaries without verification at the hand of the original
In 1872 Col. van der l)ussen prepared for the Schenck
family, that is those descending from Roelof and Jan Martensz
Schenck, a magnificent manuscript genealogy which on Nov. 25,
1934 was in the possession of Mr. De Lafayette Schenck and his
sister Miss Emily Schenck then living at Cream Ridge, N. J.
Beautifully illustrated with numerous coats-of-arms this
manuscript genealogy is not the result of a painstaking thorough
research of the European Schenck family history but is copied,
illustrated, embellished and translated from an at present very
rare volume entitled: "Die Geschichte der Familie Schenck von
Nideggen" published in 1860 and compiled by Heinrich Ferber,
secretary and archivist of Count Hoensbroeck.
In the printed genealogy we find mentioned one Martin
Schenck, born Aug. 7, 1584. He was a son of Jonker Pieter
Schenck van Nydeggen Lord of Afferden a brother of the famous
general Martin Schenck, belonging to the distinguished
descendants of an illegitimate son of the old noble family of
Schenck van Blyenbeeck. The printed genealogy gives no further
data relative to this Martin Schenck. In the manuscript
genealogy however to this identical entry has been added his
place of birth "Doesburg", a town in the province of Gelderland,
Netherlands. But the handwriting of this addition is another
than the one of the manuscript proper, and it may have been
added at a later date. Col. van der Dussen however added the
following remarks under the entry relative to the above Martin
"This Martin Schenck is the Ancestor of the Family
in America, being it completely proved to me, by the Arguments
that I might receive of one of the members of this Family, the
1st Lieutenant of Artillery Alexander Du Bois Schenck van
Nydeck of San Francisco, California.

<Body Text> Issue:


One would hardly seem too inquisitive to ask
what these "Arguments" of Ist Lieutenant Schenck consisted of,
for where the entire case rests on this evidence, it must seem
strange that just at this point we are left completely in the
dark and at the very instance where the proofs are most
decidedly wanted these are entirely omitted. The request for
further proof seems to us the more imperative due to the fact
that where Martin Schenck was born in 1584, his supposed son
Roelof in America mar. for the 2nd time in 1675 and had a
daughter Neeltje baptized in 1683, that is practically 100 years
after the birth of her supposed grandfather. It is possible -
but rather unusual.

The fact that two brothers, Roelof Martensz.
Schenck and Jan Martensz Schenck and a sister Annetje Martens
Schenck came to America in about 1650, does not constitute proof
that they had the above named Martin Schenck for a father. This
is especially true when one considers that the surname Schenck
is far from uncommon both in the Netherlands and in Germany, for
it is an occupational surname derived from the verb schen(c)ken,
that is pouring. The name Schenck (Schenk) was commonly
applied,to one who poured drinks, that is a tavernkeeper, a
Mundschenck in German. Even during the Middle ages, the Lords
of Culemborg, high cup bearers to the Bishops of Utrecht, appear
sometimes with the surname Schenck in the old records as an
indication of their high dignity.

There was another settler of the surname Schenck
in America, one school-master Johannes Schenck and it is
especially his supposed ancestry which I want to review here.

In practically all genealogies, copied from the
Memoir of Johanncs Schenck, by P. L. Schenck, M.D., published in
1876, he is said to have been born in the "sub-district of
Kessel", Netherlands on Sept. 19, 1656. His parents, it is
claimed, were Martin Schenck, the bailiff of Kessel, and
Margaretha de Boeckhorst.

The bailiff Martin belonged to the same Schenck
van Nydeggen family as mentioned above. He is also mentioned in
Col. van der Dussenns manuscript with the following data:
MARTIN SCHENCK, b. July 10, 1633, d. Jan. 5, 1704;
mar. MARIA MARGARETHA DE BOECKHORST, who d. Apr. 12, 1688.
1. THEODORE ARNOLD, b. Aug. 27, 1662, d. coelebs
Sept. 8, 1708.
2. PHILIP FRANS, b. Oct. 19, 1663.
3. JOHANNES, b. . Sept. 19, 1656; mar. MARIA
MAGDAL.ENA DE HAES, who was horn Middleburg, Oct. 7, 1660.
"They left. Of these there is further nothing to find ".Dau. of
Hendrik and Maria Bomme.
4. ANNA MARIA, b. Oct. 21 (11), 1666, d. Dec. 14,
b. May 25, 1644, d. July 16, 1720; 6 children.
5. JACOB b. Jan. 15, 1668.

The full name of the bailiff was Dr. Jur. Marten
Schenck van Nydeggen tot Sevenum. He was bailiff of Kessel in
the province of l.imburg, Netherlands, there he occupied the
family seat castle Sevenum.

The omission of the dale of his marriage seems
rather strange for he was an important official living at a time
when the records are fairly complete.

It is also to he noted that Johannes Schenck,
his supposed son, is placed No. 3 although the date of his
birth in the year 1656 would make him the oldest son.

The logical course to take was to consult the
standard work of Ferber with the astonishing result that Ferber
apparently knew the date of marriage namely in 1651 and besides
gave the name of all of Martin's 14 children but of course no
Johannes born in 1656. Further comment seems almost superfluous.
A further proof of Col. van der Dussen's "unreliability" is
found in the fact that he names as the parents of Maria
Magdalena de Haes, Hendrik de Haes and Maria Bomme. To a Dutch
genealogist this suggests immediately a connection with the
Middelburg noble family de Haze Bomme. But upon consulting the
genealogy of this well-known family it was ascertained that this
combined surname found its conception in the marriage of
Leendert Bomme and Susanna de Haze. A marriage of Hendrick de
Haes and Maria Bomme is unknown. I think we better come down to
realities and forget Col. van der Dussen and his manuscript.

Under date of January 11l, 1937, I received, in
answer to my request for information, a letter from Mr. J. J. M.
H. Verzijl, formerly of Venlo, province d Limburg, Netherlands
and at present of Maastricht, the capital of the same province.
He is a recognized authority on the history and genealogy of
Limburg and especially of Venlo and vicinity where Sevenum, the
old seat of the Schenck van Nydeggen family, is located. In this
letter he qualifies the Schenck van Nydeggen genealogy which
shows the American connection as "de vervalschte genealogie der
Amerikaansche Schencken ", the falsified genealogy of the
American Schencks. He states that he made in 1927 a thorough
search of the Sevenum church registers in which the baptisms of
the 14 children of Martinus Schenck have been entered between
1662 and 1678. Martinus's marriage took place in 1661. Among
these children is no Johannes. Mr. Verzijl has in his possession
a manuscript genealogy of the Schenck van Nydeg gen family
collected by him and based exclusively on researches in original
authentic records. His statements in the matter carry therefore
a great deal of weight and may be accepted implicitly.

It may he stated here that to an unbiased
genealogist, familiar with Dutch conditions, it would seem
practically impossible that the son of a mighty, Catholic,
nobleman, as was Martin Schenck should be found in America as a
simple Reformed schoolmaster. There was no law of primogeniture
in the Netherlands and younger sons had much the same standmg
and the same opportunities as their elders. Such sudden changes
in the social status as we more frequently meet with in England,
were extremely rare indeed in the Netherlands.

It seems to have contused the searchers that
Johannes Schenck appears in the records of New Netherland with
the prefix Mr. and it was considered to indicate a man of
importance. In those early days New Netherland was Dutch and it
is obvious that it is not the English Mr. (Mister) which is
meant here, also not the Dutch Mijnheer as it sometimes has been
quoted, for this is never abbreviated as such. In this instance
it means meester, which is in the present case the abbreviation
of Schoolmeester (schoolmaster). This common mistake of
interpretation is found in the writings of several authorities
apparently unfamiliar with Dutch customs. Mr. was also used for
heelmeer, healing master or surgeon and for Meester in de
rechten, master at law, which is at present practically the only
use it has.

But what seems aImost unbelievable is that in
order to ascertain the ancestry of Johannes Schenck a search at
Middelburg, Netherlands was apparently never made. Both
Johannes Schenck and his wife Magdalena de Eaes joined the Dutch
Reformed church of New Amsterdam on a certificate from
Middelburg on Dec. 5, 1684 and Feb. 25, 1685 respectively. (Rec.
LIX:70). Was it not logical to go to Middelburg for information
on the basis of this defi nite lead? But no, vague speculations
on the subject of a noble descent were preferred in favor of
followmg the only available clue which might possibly bring the
right solution.

As both Johannes and his wife joined the Dutch
Reformed church at New Amsterdam on a certificate from
Middelburg, it follows that they must have been church members

I therefore wrote under date of Jan . 28, 1934 to the
archives of Middelburg to ascertain if the church registers
contained the entries relative to Johannes Schenck and his wife.
The archivist of Middelburg informed me that the baptismal
registers of Middelburg do not list the baptisms of these
persons on the dates given in the genealogy or even during the
years from 1650 to 1665, that is with the surnames. It is
however possible that the data are hidden under entries with
patronymics only, but as we have not one authentic record giving
the father's name of either Johannes or Magdalena these entries
cannot be ascertained at present. The same holds good for the
marriage of this couple, which entry has not been found either,
that is not with the name Schenck or a marriage where the groom
is named Jan Martensz., assuming that Jan or Johannes really had
a father Marten for which however there is no evidence

Finally a member of the family decided in the
end of 1934 to have a short search made at Middelburg which I
had done. The result has been that it has been definitely proved
that Johannes Schenck was a native of Middelburg and hence not
of the Sub District of Kessel. I have however not been permitted
to publish the data found as a result of this last search.

I had already noted in previous years that in
the vicinity of Middelburg, in the city of Zierikzee, lived a
family named Schenck. Willem Schenck was; in 1581 and in 1591 an
ouderling, elder of the church in the classis Schouwen in which
Zierikzee is located. (Acta der Synoden). On Feb. 8, 1604
married at Zierikzee the Rev. Henricus van Heynsbergen and
Willemina Willemse Schenck, j.d. van Zierikzee (Alg. Ned.
Familiebl.. 1892:206).

It is possible that this is in final analysis the
same Schenck family.

From the above it must be evident to every
unbiased investigator and student of scientific genealogy, that
the connection of the Schenck families which settled in America
with the distinguished noble family of Schenck van Nydeggen in
the Netherlands is not tenable and should be discarded and hence
to the arms of the Schenck van Nydeggen family the American
family can and should make no claim.

It is another instance, so prevalent in the
genealogies of American familial of Dutch descent, that on the
statements made in the past by not too trust worthy genealogists
the family has accepted, undoubtedly in good faith an ancestry
which cannot stand the test of the modern, more scientific
methods of investigation which have become possible by the fact
that the archives have become more accessible and that so much
more source material has become available in print.

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