Published June 16, 2019

Participation in a DNA surname project through FamilyTreeDNA has shown that my Brewster line descends from Elder William Brewster, passenger on the Mayflower and religious leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. The tricky part comes in documenting the tree from 1620 down to the present day. The older parts of the tree…

Read More Going off grid in The Oblong

Published January 4, 2019

Today, the city of Beacon, NY is experiencing a resurgence as the “Brooklyn of the north”, home to art studios, hipster coffee shops, and affordable housing. At the turn of the twentieth century, when my grandparents lived there, it was know as NY State’s hat making capital, second only in US hat…

Read More Mad hatters

Published December 2, 2018

On my paternal tree, Andrew Colvin of Saugerties NY was listed in the 1850 census as a stone cutter. His grandfather John Colvin was born in Kirkudbright, Scotland in 1752. John immigrated to the United States in 1772, first going to Dutchess County, New York, then settling in Albany. A soldier…

Read More Bluestone sidewalks of New York City

Published December 17, 2017

Ice hockey is believed to have common roots with the sport of golf: they may both descend from an old Dutch game called “kolf” or “colf”. The summer version of kolf was played outdoors on the grass or streets, with players competing to hit a distant target (a stick or…

Read More Ice hockey in the new world

Published March 16, 2016

Among the many Palatine Germans in my family tree was a man named Jury William Dederich (1711-1786). He lived in Ulster County, NY, in a Palatine settlement called West Camp, located in the Hudson River Valley. Through ancestry.com, I recently found a copy of his will written in 1786. In…

Read More Hobnobbing with the Rockefellers

Published December 20, 2015

My Brewster tree goes back to the earliest New Netherlands settlers of the Hudson River Valley. One branch comes down from Pieter Janse Loockermans, an immigrant from Turnhout, a city in the Flemish section of Belgium. Pieter came to New Netherlands in about 1640 and settled in Beverwyck in present-day…

Read More First appearance of Santa Claus in the US – 1675

Published September 29, 2015

Great Britain in the early 18th century was becoming a naval superpower, with colonies that spanned the globe. They wanted to take advantage of the natural resources provided by these colonies, in order to supply their ever growing need for shipping capacity. The Palatine Germans of the Hudson River Valley…

Read More Immigrants, monopolies, and labor disputes – 18th century style

Published February 10, 2015

Known for beautiful scenery and stately mansions, the Hudson River was once home to some pretty radical thoughts and actions. Among my paternal ancestors in this area was a family of 18th century Dutch settlers called Dederick. Jury William Dederick lived in Saugerties, NY, and was active in local politics…

Read More Hudson River Valley – radical hotbed?

Published January 2, 2015

In today’s atmosphere of polarization in U.S. politics, it’s hard to imagine Democrats and Republicans on the same side of an issue as controversial as war. While reading period newspaper articles on members of my family tree, I recently came across an article about a NY state resident from the…

Read More NY at the start of the Civil War – Strange bedfellows

Published November 29, 2014

I just learned that there was a custom in the US of dressing up in costumes on Thanksgiving. This practice seems to have been popular in some areas of the country from the 19th century until the early 1950s. This solves a mystery about a photo of my grandparents, labeled…

Read More That explains it! Thanksgiving masquerade