Witt-Claes Janßen (a.k.a. DeWitt)

Birth Date - d. 10 November 1659

Tiade [Tiarcks] Bremers

born in Ostbense, Ostfriesland, probably ca. 1600-1605
died 21 March 1647

Tjerck Claessen DeWitt

[birth date circa 1618?] - February 17, 1700/1
Groothol[um] in [Em]derlant
(mistranscribed historically as “Grootholt in Zúnderlant”)
[The names Grootholt and Zunderlant are both wrong: See Notes below. Tjerck came from a farm near Esens, in Ostfriesland, which today is part of Germany. The mistaken information came from an erroneous transcription of the original handwritten record from 1656. The transcription, which everyone cites, is also handwritten, but it is not the original. The original is lost today. The erroneous transcription still exists and is being lovingly cared for by able archivists. For pictures of the erroneous transcription, and more detailed discussion of the errors and misperceptions that have arisen from this church record, see here.]
Presumed buried in Kingston, New York

For more explanation of the year of his death, see Wikipedia article on double dating. As Tony Schoonover noted, the Kingston church record shows Tjerck Claessen De Witt as a witness for his grandson Jan’s baptism on December 8, 1700, a nice trick for a guy who purportedly passed on February 17, 1700! February 17, 1700, in the British Empire (which at that time still used the Old Style, Julian calendar) would be February 28, 1701, in the New Style, Gregorian calendar.

Three signatures of Tiarck Claßen de Witt, in his own hand, from 1666 Ulster County records

Barbara Andrieszen [family name unknown]

April 24, 1656, New Amsterdam (Manhattan, New York)
1630 [?] - September 6, 1714
Amsterdam [?]

Andries DeWitt

named for his mother’s father
b. 1657 - d. 1710
New Amsterdam (Manhattan, New York) [?]
m. Jennetje Egbertsen 1682, date not given, but recorded in Wildwyck church: Andries de With, j.m., born in Nieu Jorck, and resid. in Kingston, in the Esopus, and Jannetie Egbertsdr, j.d., born in Nieu Jorck, and resid. in Kingston, in the Esopus. First publication of Banns, 4 March.
22 Jan 1683: Andries de With and Jannetie Egbertz baptize Tirck; witnesses Tirck Claasz de Wit, Mathys Matysz
28 September 1684: Andries de Wit and Jannetie Egbertz baptize Jacob; witnesses: Claas de Wit, Maritie Egbertz
26 December 1687: Nelis Lambers and Martje Ekberts baptize Heberth “at Marmer” (Marbletown); witnesses Andries de Witt, Jannetje Heberts

Taatje DeWitt

named for her father’s mother
b. 1659 - d. before 1724
Albany, New York
m. Matthys Mattysen Van Keuren (no record found in Kingston)
16 April 1678: Tajie de Witt and Mattys Mattys baptize daughter Sara; witnesses: Wm. d Maier, Mr. Chambrs
11 May 1679: Tiatie De Wit and Matys Matysse baptize daughter Lea “at Horley” (Hurley); witnesses: Joris Davidts, Barber Andriesse
24 April 1681: Tyatye de Witt and Mattys Mattysen baptize Mattys; witnesses Tomas Cambers, Lowrensya Chambers
24 December 1682: Mattys Matysz and Tjaatie Wit baptize Tirck; witnesses Jan Tyse, Magdaleen Blan Jean, Cornelis Switz
1 November 1684: Matys Matyze and Tjadje de Wit baptize Thomas; witnesses Jan Hendricz, Anna Matysz
11 October 1685: Matys Matyz and Taadje de Wit baptize Barbara; witnesses Cornelis Hogeboom and Anjie Slegt
23 May 1686: Jan Evertz and Sytie Jacobz baptize Evert; witnesses Jan Focke and Taidje de Wit
22 August 1686: Andries de With and Jannetie Egbertz baptize Barbara; witnesses Cornelis Lambertz, Taidtie de Wit
4 December 1687: Matthys Mattyssen and Thiatje de Witthe baptize Klaes; witnesses Jan Focke, Ghiertruy de Witthe

Jannetje DeWitt

named for her mother’s mother?
baptized 12 February 1662, Kingston, N.Y. (Wildwyck) - d.1744
witnesses/sponsors: Jan Jansen, Jannetje Sebyns, Elsje Jans
parents: Tierck Claesse de With, Barber Andriesse
m. Cornelius Swits
14 January 1684: with Lucas Andriesz, Cornelis Switz, witnesses baptism of Aefje de Wit, daughter of TCDW and Barbara Andries

Claes DeWitt

named for his father’s father
baptized 17 February 1664, Kingston, N.Y. (Wildwyck) - d.before 1698
witnesses/sponsors: Luycas Andriessen, residing at the Manathans; Jan Claessen; Geertruy Andriessen, from Fort Orange; Tryntje Tyssen
parents: Tierck Claessen de With, Barber Andriessen
28 September 1684: Andries de Wit and Jannetie Egbertz baptize Jacob; witnesses: Claas de Wit, Maritie Egbertz
no further record

Jan DeWitt

named for his father’s father’s father; also for his uncle
baptized 14 February 1666, Kingston, N.Y. (Wildwyck) - d. before April 12, 1715
witnesses: Marten Hoffman, Jan Andriesse, Amerens Claessen
parents: Tierck Claesse de With, Barber Andriesse
m. Wyntje Kiersted

Geertruy DeWitt

named for her mother’s sister (also other ancestors?)
baptized 15 October 1668, Kingston, N.Y. (Wildwyck) - Death Date
witnesses: Jan Anderiesen, Luyckas Anderies, Martie Anderiesen
parents: Tierck Claesen de Wit, Barber Anderiesen
baptized by Domine Gideon Schaets, of Albany, recorded by William de la Montagne Voorleser (Reader) of the Church and Secretary of the Village
(previous baptisms, recorded in a different handwriting, were by Domine Hermannus Blom, of Kingston)
4 December 1687: Matthys Mattyssen and Thiatje de Witthe baptize Klaes; witnesses Jan Focke, Ghiertruy de Witthe
m. Hendrick Hendricksen Schoonmaker (Hendrixen Schoumaecker), 24 March 1688 (he is born in Kings Touwn, as is she); he seems to have a brother, Jockom, married 28 April 1689, in Marbletown. Her sister Marritje marries Hendrick Hendricksen, j.m. born in Mombaccus, 3 November 1700: different guy, we assume?

Jacob DeWitt

named for ??? (mother’s side?)
Birth Date - 1739
m. Grietje Vernooy

Rachel DeWitt

named for ??? (mother’s side?)
Birth Date - Death Date
m. Cornelius Bogardus

Lucas DeWitt

named for his mother’s father’s father? also for his mother’s brother
Birth Date - 1703
m. Annatje Delva 22 December 1695: Leucas de Wit, j.m., and Antje Delval, j.d., both parties born and resid. in Kingstouwn.

Peeck DeWitt

named for relatives on father’s side?
Birth Date - Death Date
m. Maritje Janse Vandenburg [1]
m. Maria (Teunis) DeMott [2]

Tjerck DeWitt

named for father’s mother’s father
Birth Date - Death Date
Spouse Name

Marritje DeWitt

named for ???
Birth Date - Death Date
m. Hendrick Hendricksen Kortreght [1], 3 November 1700, Kingston; he is “j.m., born under the jurisdiction of Kingstouwn, and resid. in Mombackes”; she is “j.d., born and resid. under the jurisdiction of Kingstouwn.”
m. Jan Macklin [2]

Aagie DeWitt

named for ???
baptized as Aefje, 14 January 1684, Kingston, N.Y. (Wildwyck) - Death Date
witnesses: Lucas Andriesz (uncle), Cornelis Switz (brother-in-law?), Jannetie de Wit (sister)
parents: Tirck Claasz, Barbara Andries
m. Jan Pawling

Pieternella de With [?]

seems not related
b. before 1665?
18 February 1683: Hendric ten Eyck and Pieternella de With baptize Maria; witnesses Wessel Ten Broek, Maria ten Eyck
30 December 1683: with Jacob Rutzen, Maartie Hanse, and Hr ten Eyck, witnesses baptism of Menasses and Ephraim, sons of Willem Jansz Schut and Grietie Jacobs


There is much to write about Tjerck Claessen DeWitt, progenitor of most DeWitts in North America. I haven’t had time to put together as much as I’d like, but for now, here’s a very quick rundown:

Tjerck emigrated from near Esens in Ostfriesland (today the northern coast of Germany) in the early or mid-1650s. (See related page of discussion on his origins.) Three siblings joined him over the next few years. Others remained in Ostfriesland, on his family’s farm.

Tjerck posted banns in Manhattan on April 24, 1656, to marry Barbara Andriessen. For many years, this record and the others in the Trouw Boeck were considered marriage records, but the shrewd insight of Harry Macy in 2012 revealed what must have been well understood 350 years before: The book is a register of plighted troths, not of marriages; it records couples’ intentions to marry, but the marriages themselves, assuming no objections were raised, came later, frequently in other places. (See The New York Researcher, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring 2012, p. 17, for further detail and discussion.)

Apparently Tjerck and Barbara never baptized any children in Manhattan. Some say Tjerck and Barbara baptized their first son, Andries, in New York, and lived there until spring 1657, but no record exists of Andries’ baptism in Manhattan. When Andries posts wedding banns in Kingston, on March 4, 1682, he’s listed as born in New York.

We know that as early as February 1656 Tjerck was in court in Albany (Fort Orange) for fighting and for keeping company with Lutherans; we also know he lived there after he was married. (On June 25, 1657, he declares in court there that he’s made a payment in relation to the sale of a stallion.) It seems likely that Tjerck and Barbara baptized their first children in Albany. Marriage and baptism records from Albany before 1683 have been lost.

On November 20, 1658, Tjerck arranged to lease his house in Beverwyck (Albany) to Arent Isacksz from May 1, 1659, to May 1, 1660. In September 1660 he traded his Albany property with a Madame de Hutter (or Madame Johanna De Laldt and her husband, Hon. Jeronimus Ebbink?), in exchange for land in Wiltwyck (Kingston), “possession to be given May 1, 1661” (or for two pieces of land in the Esopus?).

In 1661 Tjerck was taxed for the erection of a church in Hurley, not far from Kingston. By September 1661 Tjerck had already appeared in court in Wiltwyck (this time as a plaintiff; he won his case). On February 12, 1662, Tjerck and Barbara baptized a daughter, Jannetjen, in the Kingston Dutch Reform Church (they already had Andries and another daughter, Taatje, born in 1659). By 1662 they owned No. 28 of the “New Lots” at Kingston. On May 28, 1663, Tjerck also bought a lot in Beverwyck from Harman Tomassen, though he doesn’t seem to have moved there (it sounds like it was very near the property he’d traded away in 1660). On June 7, 1663, Kingston and Hurley were almost entirely destroyed by the Indians; Tjerck fought valiantly in their defense, and his daughter Taatje was kidnapped, along with three other children. She was soon rescued.

Between 1663 and 1668, Tjerck and Barbara baptized three more children in Kingston, where they apparently continued to live in town. In September 1664 the British took control of New Amsterdam and renamed it after the Duke of York; Colonel Richard Nicolls took over as Governor. In 1667 (more likely 1666?) Tjerck opposed the British occupation of Kingston and “refused to keep Christmas on the day according to the English observation, but according to the Dutch.” (The Dutch used the old Julian calendar, which was about two weeks off from the modern Gregorian calendar used by the British.) For his recalcitrance he was beaten. Captain Daniel Broadhead, who personally beat Tjerck and then threw him in prison for not keeping Christmas with the English, was known in the colony for treating the Dutch poorly; his superior, Colonel Nicolls, had already warned Broadhead about mistreating the people he governed. In 1667, Colonel Nicolls sent a commission to Kingston to investigate an uprising among unhappy residents, and the incident between Tjerck and Captain Broadhead was cited as one of many specific grievances. Broadhead was summarily dismissed; less than three months later, he died. Of note: Two generations later, Tjerck’s grandson Johannes married Captain Broadhead’s granddaughter Mary.

In 1668 (?) Tjerck refused to sign the oath of allegiance administered by the British, though a “John” DeWitt (perhaps his brother Jan?) and Andries DeWitt (probably Tjerck’s 10-year-old son) did sign it.

On January 24, 1669-70 (or on April 8, 1669?), the new British Governor, Colonel Francis Lovelace, issued a permit to Tjerck to let him “erect a house and barne with convenient outhouses for his cattle upon his own land at Esopus, lying betwixt Hurley and Kingston,” noting that Tjerck previously had permission from Governor Nicolls to do this and on that promise had provided all the materials to get started. This land was on the Kingston-Hurley road; the house still stands today, with a beautiful view of the valley of the Esopus Creek.

On June 25, 1672, Governor Lovelace officially deeded Tjerck the “parcel of bush land, together with a house, lot, orchard and calves’ pasture, lying near Kingston in Esopus.” The deed was a confirmation of Tjerck’s title to the land, now that he had built on it. New Amsterdam was recaptured by the Dutch on August 7, 1673, but in February 1674 the Dutch agreed to give the colony back, and on October 11, 1674, Captain Antony Colve officially handed over control to the new English Governor, Major Edmond Andros. On October 8, 1677, Governor Andros deeded Tjerck a piece of woodland, containing about fifty acres, at Kingston in Esopus, “to the west of the towne.” He had other property too, including some purchased directly from native tribes, at Cocksink.

In 1674, Tjerck was taken to court for calling his carpenter’s wife a witch. The trial ended inconclusively, with no final determination of the accuracy of his assertion. The carpenter had dragged his heels on building a house for Tjerck, which may have contributed to Tjerck’s opinion of the carpenter’s wife.

Tjerck and Barbara had six other children whose baptisms were not recorded in Manhattan or Kingston. It seems likely they were baptized in Hurley, in the church he had helped pay to build—not too far from the house and farm he built around 1670. Their last daughter, Aefje, was baptized in Kingston on January 14, 1684.

This account has been pieced together from several sources, which are not listed here yet, though I hope to post an exhaustive list soon. All that will have to wait until there's more time to write it (do watch this space). For a closer look at where Tjerck came from, have a look at my 1998 trip to Ostfriesland, Germany, in search of his Old World roots. (This set of pages includes a page with links to lots of other sites for research into Tjerck, Ostfriesland and other Dutch ancestors.)

For a closer discussion of some of Tjerck’s family relations, have a look at my excerpts from the record of baptisms in early Manhattan (the page will take a few moments to load; it's big) and at my very cursory excerpt of public records from Albany, NY, regarding Tjerck Claessen DeWitt and possible relatives.

Please also see A.J.F. van Laer’s sage footnote from a collection of old Rensselaerwyck documents, which details some thoughts surrounding the question of where Tjerck may have come from.

Meantime, a few notes from more recent relatives:

E-mail excerpt, June 28, 1999, from Mary Sarah Bradley to Doug Bradley:

I've really got to stop opening big envelopes with lots of letters inside. I went into a plastic box in my closet, which at one time was the only repository of family information that I had. I was looking for the story about Marcus' demise and came across an envelope marked, "Oradell". It was late at night, but I still could not resist looking inside and reading some of the letters from Aunt Dot, Aunt Mae, my mother, Aunt Mary, etc. In a letter that Aunt Mary wrote from Kingston on August 29, 1967 she said,

"Tjerck Claessen was a contemporary of John and Cornelius DeWitt of Dordrecht. He was born in Friesland and came to Dordrecht later so does not appear in the Dordrecht archives. I've found a distant cousin of ours here in Kingston who has been working on this problem on her own. . . . I've asked her to do the research to really prove exactly the relationship of Tjerck Claessen to the Dordrecht. He was a cousin but I think we should get his lineage as far as it is possible to do so. . . . I've compiled records of eleven generations in this country . . . and I have a folder on file for each of the families on the fan-chart . . ."

She did not tell me the last name of the distant cousin, only that she was a writer and had an apartment in NYC.


The house that Tjerck built:

Click on the picture to see a larger version.

The corner nearest the camera is the oldest part of the house, dating from the late 1600s. The original house was one story high and went only as far as the first bench next to what's now the front door. You can see where the front wall caved in at some point and was rebuilt using a different color of stone. If you walk around the house, you can see seams in the stonework where it was extended at various points in its history.


I’m just beginning to list sources here. Apologies for not being more complete. I will continue to add to this list as I have time. There are many sources of information on Tjerck Claessen DeWitt, some better than others.

Printed sources:

Record of baptisms and marriages from Kingston, New York. Detailed information about baptisms has been filled in through the end of 1687, marriages through 1701. More information is available. Records begin 1660. Other baptisms may have taken place in Hurley and other locations nearby. Transcribed and edited by Roswell Randall Hoes, Chaplain U.S.N., corresponding secretary of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, etc. New York 1891; available today from Higginson Book Co., Salem, Mass., 508-745-7170.

Die Weinkaufsprotokolle des Amtes Esens, Heyko Heyken, 1998, Upstalsboom-Gesellschaft, Aurich, Ostfriesland, Germany

Online sources:

Tjerck Claessen DeWitt in Court

Record of early marriages in the Dutch Reform Church in Manhattan, available in printed form or online

Record of early baptisms in the Dutch Reform Church in Manhattan, available online

English translations of Dutch colonial records, also known as “The Kingston Papers,” available online. These are the Dingman Versteeg translations. The originals are available on microfilm from the Ulster County archivist, who can be found through the same link. A cross-reference indexing the archive pages to the microfilm frames to the pages in the printed translation can be obtained from Donald Lockhart, dlockhart at rcn dot com, who includes an entertaining introduction about the misadventures of the original manuscript records in the 1800s, before they were at last safely ensconced with the Ulster County archives.

Also see The History of Kingston, New York, by Marius Schoonmaker (1888), a volume thick with detail and transcribed original records.


Reproduced herein:

Wills of Tjerck Claessen DeWitt and his brother Jan, who died unmarried in Kingston, 1699 (1906 Anjou edition)

Very cursory look at public records from Albany, NY, regarding Tjerck Claessen DeWitt and possible relatives.

The Peltz Record (1948)

The History of Ulster County, New York

The Oberholtzer Genealogy

Research assistance:

Kind thanks to Kay Blaas, Wiard Hinrichs, Dave Ehst, and innumerable other sources who helped trace the details of this man’s remarkable life. Special thanks to Tony Schoonover for noticing the discrepancy between the date of Tjerck’s death and the last baptism he attended.

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013

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