We all know that church records are a valuable source of information about our ancestors. They are likely the only records in existence for births, baptisms, marriages and deaths, in the 17th, 18th and part of the 19th century. I have quite a few of those records, from both the U.S. and over in Scotland.
However, I’ve recently discovered a new branch of the family, the Cooper’s, who were members of the Dutch Reformed Church in New York. Apparently, for several generations. With that came the discovery of a database on Ancestry.com for the U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records, 1639-2000.
I’ve been able to find baptisms for whole families and marriages. These records go back as far as 1691, so far, for my family. And the best thing……….THEY ARE ALL WRITTEN IN LEGIBLE HANDWRITING. At least that has been my experience so far.
Here are a couple of examples. I haven’t changed the color of the pages. I would normally make them black & white, but wanted you to see them just as they look on the database.
(PLEASE CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT)
About U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-2000This database will be comprised of records from the Reformed Church in America. This database will be updated with content from other states, and currently includes records from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Founded in New York City in 1885, the Holland Society is home to collections relevant to the settlement and history of Dutch colonies in America, with an emphasis on New Amsterdam and Hudson River settlements. This Holland Society collection includes records of the Dutch Reformed Church dating back to 1642. Within the collections are records of baptisms, marriages, and burials, primarily from New York, with some from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
For more information see the Holland Society.
Historical Background Henry Hudson’s exploration of the Hudson River Valley in 1609 paved the way for a wave of Dutch immigration that began in 1624 with the settlement of New Amsterdam, in what is now Manhattan. From there the Dutch settlements expanded into upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. While the area was in Dutch control, the Dutch Reformed Church was the state church, although the Dutch were tolerant of other religions. The Dutch lost control of New York in the late 17th century, but many Dutch settlers remained in the area formerly known as New Netherlands and continued to leave their mark on the region.
Many early Dutch used the naming convention known as patronymics. Patronymics make an identifier out of the father’s name with an attached suffix, such as -s, -z, -sen, -zen, -sse, or -sz. Peter who was the son of Jan might be known as Peter Jansen, and his son Jacob might be Jacob Peters. Other names may have reflected the place that person was from, such as Vander Poel, which means “from the pool.” Occupations were sometimes used as well. Be aware that sometimes parts of a family kept to one naming convention, while another branch would use a different one.
Since suffixes could vary, you may want to search this collection by using the root of the surname with the * wildcard for an ending. For example, a search for Cornelis* would pick up both Cornelis and Cornelisse. Similarly, the * can be used for names where a prefix may or may not be present. *Groot would find both De Groot and Groot, among other variations. Note: Either the first or last letter of the name must be a non-wildcard character.
Here is a link with more of an explanation about these records from familysearch.org. This article contains many helpful links.
I checked on familysearch.org to see if I could locate these records, since they are free and not everyone has a subscription to Ancestry.com.
The answer was YES, they are available, but only with an index, NO image.
Here is Abraham Cooper’s christening record from familysearch.org.
Would this still be helpful information. Absolutely!
My plan is to use both of these websites to gather as much information as I can on this family. We know that sometimes different sites have varying indexes and I don’t want to miss any records.
I Googled “Dutch Reformed Church Records” and came up with more lists of records: https://www.google.com/search?q=images+with+the+word+church+records&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=dutch+reformed+church+records
I hope this has been helpful to you. Until I discovered this family I had no idea we had any Dutch Reformed Church members in my lineage.
Here is my post about finding this branch in my tree, thanks to a generous member of a Facebook group I belong to.
SURNAME SATURDAY - COOPER - Have I really gone back 3 more generations?
Here is a post I wrote about how Facebook can help us with our research.
FACEBOOK - How it can be very useful in your research
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