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Archiver > WYCKOFF > 1996-07 > 0838095261

From: Howard Hickman <>
Subject: Biography of Pieter Wyckoff and his wife
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 21:14:21 -0700 (PDT)

I'm forwarding this info, in case some list members don't have it yet.

Howard Hickman

Pieter Clasen, founder of the Wyckoff Family in America, came to Fort
Orange, Province of New Netherland, 7 April 1637, on the ship
Rensselaerswick. In the log of that ship is the following:
"This ship sailed from Amsterdam, Holland, 25 Sept, 1636,
anchored off the seaport, The Texel, 8 Oct. 1636, reached New Amsterdam, New
Netherland, 4 March 1637, and Tuesday 7 April, 1637, about three o' clock in
the morning we came to anchor before foort aeranien, the end of our journey
The Rensselaerswick was outfitted by Killian Van Rensselaer, a diamond
merchant of Amsterdam, who had a speculative contract with the West India
Company for the grant of a large body of land near the headwaters of the
Hudson River, under which he was required to transport men and animals to
the new country. There is no complete list of the passengers on this ship,
but among those named are Pieter Cornelissen from Monnickendam, North
Holland; Pieter Claesen Van Norden, and Simon Walischez. These three did not
remain in New Amsterdam, but went on to Fort Orange. Here Pieter Cornelissen
became prominent in the affairs of the colony. He may have been an uncle of
Pieter Claesen, although the two are not mentioned together in the records
of the Van Rensselaer estate.

These records show that Pieter Claesen was one of the
thirty-eight laborers sent on the Rensselaerswick to be assigned to various
farmers on the Rensselaer estate, and that under the date 3 April 1637, he
was assigned to Simon Walischez. According to a scorched fragment of the
records of the estate, saved from a fire in the State Library at Albany in
1911, he was to receive 50 guilders per year for the first three years and
75 guilders for the last three years. About the time when the contract
matured, Simon Walischez' lease was canceled on the ground that he was an
unsatisfactory tenant and the final settlement was made by the Van
Rensselaer Estate. (See Hoppin, Washington Ancestry and Forty Other
Families, Vol III, page 103.)
According to the report, Pieter Claesen was 18 years old when he made his
settlement with the van Rensselaer estate. Soon after this he rented a farm
for himself and married Grietje van Ness, the daughter of a prominent
citizen of the colony. Their two eldest children were born in
Rensselaerswick, but the church in which were kept the records of their
birth and the marriage of their parents was burned and the records
destroyed. With his wife and two children he went to New Amsterdam in 1649.
Here he remained until 1655, when he signed a contract "to superintend the
Bowery and cattle of Peter Stuyvesant in New Amersfoort" and moved into the
house on Canarsie Lane in Flatlands, Brooklyn, now known as the Wyckoff

Pieter Claesen propered and became one of the most influential citizens of
the little frontier settlement. He had bought land in that section in 1652
and continued to buy land from time to time, but he never owned the house in
which he lived. He became a local judge, something like our own justice of
the peace, and was influential in establishing the Flatlands Dutch Refeormed
Church at the juncture of Flatbush Avenue and King's Highway. His remains
are said to have been buried in land now covered by the altar of this
church. The Wyckoff Association in America, on May 22, 1938, planted a tree
in the churchyard of this edifice in memory of Pieter Claesen and his
descendants. On 26 May 1940, the same Association unveiled a bronze tablet
inside the church, suitably inscribed in honor of Pieter Claesen.

When the British took over the Dutch colony, they had difficulty with the
Dutch names and demanded that the Dutch families take surnames by which
could be identified. It was then that the name Wyckoff first came into use.
In a roll of those who took the oath of allegiance in King's County in 1687,
the names of Pieter Claesen and his six sons appear with the surname
Wyckoff. The origin of the name is as follows: Pieter Claesen had been a
local judge and the name came from this fact, the "Wyk" meaning a parish and
"hof" meaning a court. A member of the Wyckoff family, wandering through a
Dutch town during WW II, was surprised to see the name Wyckoff on a place of
business, which suggests that the name may have been taken because of some
old world association. Dr. Max Wickhoff of Vienna, Austria, in a letter dated 20
December 1929, writes that his family came from Friesland in the seventeenth
century and that he believes that the Austrian Wickhoffs and the American
Wyckoffs derive from the same Friesian gentry, living in the Austrian
Netherlands, which then comprised a large part of Holland, Belgium, and East
Friesland. He also refers to the house in the province of Drente which is
called Hof in der Wijk, or Wijkof. "Hof" would here mean house or farmstead
and "Wijk" would designate the locality. (See Hoppin, Washington Ancesrty
and Forty Other Families, Vol III, page 122.) There can be no certainty as
to which explaination is correct.

There are many spellings of the name, but the original spelling is Wijckoff,
and the nearest approach to that is Wyckoff. The others are corruptions that
have arisen from carelessness or illegible writing.

Pieter Claesen and his wife, Grietje Van Ness, had eleven
children, six boys and five girls, all of whom married and had families. The
Wyckoff family had a high standing in the Dutch colony, as is shown by the
families into which they married. All were families of importance.

Grietje Van Ness, the mother of this great family, should also have
consideration. She contributed much to the family she helped to found. Even
among the dutch of that time there were
distinctions of station, and she ranked high. Many of the plain people
carried no family name. With them there was the coupling of the name of
father and child, like Pieter Claesen, meaning Pieter, son of Claes. Others
of apparently higher social or property advantages carried a family name
from one generation to another. Grietje Van Ness was of this latter class.
She was the daughter of Cornelis Hendrick Van Ness and Maycke Hendrick
Adriense van der Burchgraeff and Annetje Janse of Laeckervelt, Holland.
These surnames indicate that these families were of high rank and some
wealth. The will of Annetje Jans, widow of Hendrick Adriens, dwelling at
Laeckervelt, divides her estate between her son and her daughter Maycke, and
provides that Maycke shall have the use of this estate during her lifetime,
and that it shall then be divides among the six children od said Maycke,
whom she names as follows:

Gerritie Cornelius, wife of Roeloff Cornelissen
Hendricke Cornelis, wife of Jan Jensen van Oothout
Grietje Cornelius, wife of Pieter Claesen of Amersfoort, Long Island.
Maycke died before her husband, but he carried out her wishes. Thus Grietje
Van Ness, when she married Pieter Claesen, brought to him waelth as well as

Cornelius van Ness, son of Hendrick van Ness, doubtless was a native of the
village of Nes on the Island od Ameland in the province of Friesland, North
Holland. He later lived in Vianen, near Ulrecht in South Holland, which was
the home of Killian van Rensselaer, patron of the colony of Rensselaerswick
on the upper Hudson River. To this colony came Cornelius van Ness and his
wife Maycke Hendricke van der Burchgraeff in August 1641. He was a man of
education and ability and was influential in the affairs of the colony. He
owned a farm near Greenbush, but he was no farmer. His main income was
derived from his brewery and from his
mercantile and political activities. He and his son-in-law Pieter Claesen
engaged in a prolonged controversy with van
Slichtenhorst, the autocratic director of the colony, which ended only when
Pieter Claesen left the colony in June 1649 and van Slichtenhorst was
arrested, on 18 April 1652, by order of Pieter Stuyvesant, Director General
of the Colony. (See Hoppin,
Washington Ancestry, Vol III, and AJF van Laer.)
Considering the prominence of Cornelius van Ness, one can but wonder what
old world connection between the two families there may have been which led
to the marriage of Grietje van Ness and Pieter Claesen, who so recently had
been a laborer on the farm of Simon Walischez. Her superior education and
rank must have been of immense importance to her young husband when he took
up his new duties in Amersfoort.

Grietje outlived her husband, who died in 1694. She died between 1699 and
1703, and was buried beside her husband in Flatlands, Long Island.

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