It has long been suspected by those of us somewhat familiar with Dutch surname origins, that Borculo, the village in Gelderland from where our many and varied surnames derived, was not going to be the permanent and easily traceable family name our ancestors brought with them upon their arrival in America. Many Dutch-American families whose forefathers came to New Amsterdam during the 17th century have surnames created by need, convenience, circumstance or edict rather than tradition. Despite most Dutchmen having surnames before coming to America, the Dutch protocol of the times required young men to introduce themselves as "(Given Name), the son of (Father's given name)", by using a patronym, such as Willem Jans(or Jansen).
New immigrants from Holland, often part of the Dutch West India Company's 17th century colonization program, would introduce themselves as "Derrick, Hendrick's son", which otherwise became "Derrick Hendrickson", an assumed surname if you didn't understand that Derrick's father's surname was not likely going to be Hendrickson too. Patronymic tendencies, fortunately, did not last long during the earliest days of colonization. Immigrants to America could own land, which was rarely the case across most of Europe in that period. As a result, their names could not be expected to appear in land records there, only tax or rent rolls. Even today, your European ancestors will likely have to be traced through those early tax lists because royalty and landed families held much of the property since the days of fiefdoms and feudal systems during the Middle Ages.
Patronyms in fledgling America began evolving into more permanent surnames by the mid-1600's. In a youthful and expanding New Amsterdam, it took a gubernatorial edict by Peter Stuyvesant to reduce confusion and controversy occurring in the offices of recording clerks. These controversies arose due to the predominance of too few popular Dutch Christian names of the day, such as Jan(John) and Willem(William). Those same "given names" today would cause similar problems because they remain all too popular. By the 1650's, it is possible one-fourth of immigrant men from Holland were named either Jan or Willem, and another fourth were named Harmen or Hendrick. This meant a lot of registrations as Jan Jansen, Willem Willemsen, Harmen Harmensen, or Hendrick Hendricksen, because many would also have been named after their father. Our immigrant ancestors fit into this dilemma of having all too common Christian names, and, a very common patronym(Jan=Jansen).
Willem arrived first, about 1656, during the time when patronyms were still protocol and thus appears in early records as "Willem Jansen". Had this practice endured for another decade, all Willem's descendants would be among the multitudes of Johnsons today. Willem, fortunately, returned to Holland in 1661 to encourage some, if not all of his siblings or family members to take advantage of the program to colonize New Amsterdam. By the time Willem made it back to his home town of Geesteren, near Borculo, the threat from the infamous Black Plague had already begun to influence people's decisions about emigrating as many Dutch ports were harboring the infected black rats responsible for spreading the disease. So, there was ample incentive for most of our ancestral family to emigrate. However, only Harmen, married with two small children, chose to accompany his brother back to the New World, and none too soon. Chroniclers estimate the deaths in Amsterdam alone totalled 10,000 in 1663, and more than doubled to 24,000 in 1664.
As hazardous as a 60-90 day voyage across 3,000 miles of open ocean was in those days, it appears that of those who embarked, all arrived safely in New Amsterdam by June,1662. Willem, and brother, Harmen, with wife, Willempje and their two children, Jannetje and Reynier, had left Holland March 24th aboard the ship "De Trouw(faith)". By this time, however, the problems in the recorders offices had reached a crisis requiring a solution, thereafter provided by Stuyvesant's provision that everyone, especially new arrivals, "attach a 'surname' after their patronym". The brothers thus became Willem and Harmen Jans "van Borculo", or "Van Borkeloo", or "burgiloe", or one of the many other facsimiles. Most of these clerical references to our immigrant ancestors appear phonetically similar while some are mystifyingly bizarre. The gubernatorial edict must have specified or intimated utilizing a "home town" or "place of navity", because the brothers used Borculo instead of the surname their ancestors had been carrying for six centuries or more, . .Lubberdinck. Obviously, the patronymic protocol of the day, especially among Dutch, Danish and Scandinavian groups, superceded any contemporary habit of using surnames.
In 1664, the British seized New Amsterdam from the Dutch, and renamed it New York. The British had already been using surnames for centuries and so the practice continued. Although many Dutch began drifting into New Jersey, they did not often revert to using patronyms, thus maintaining a continuum of fairly reliable and trackable records. Even after the Dutch retook New York from the British in 1673, the patronymic practice was not revived there. However, spelling variations, or alliterations, caused by English clerks trying to interpret ethnic accents, or "Anglicizing", thereafter provided a whole new set of problems for the researchers of these lines. The variations of Borculo found in research may, in fact, represent the "greatest number of legitimate variations discovered or formed from any single original surname". To date, there have been over 300 variations found in early researching(pre-1840), with a mathematical capability of thousands of phonetic variations possible. Only 25 different spellings remain extant across America today, as determined by utilizing just the white pages and the Social Security Death Index as primary sources.
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