Thursday, February 17, 2011

A little family history

I got a query this morning from my 13-year-old grandson Zackary Forest in Red Bank, New Jersey:

I have a question for you, grandpa. In history class we were talking about an explorer named Henry Hudson. I told my dad about it and he said that one of my ancestors was the navigator, his last name was Hendrickson. I told my history teacher about it and he didn't quite believe me. I searched it on the Internet and found nothing, I looked through some books and again, nothing, so now it comes down to you. Was my dad just playing a joke on me or was one of my ancestors the person that led Henry Hudson into the Hudson River for the 1st time?

My response:

Your dad is right -- one of your ancestors is Hendrick Hendrickson (then spelled Hendricksen), who was Henry Hudson’s navigator on the 1609 voyage of the Half Moon that sailed up the river that is now named after Henry Hudson. It was a Dutch ship -- its actual name was Halve Maan. Hudson and his navigator were trying to find “the Northwest Passage” -- a hoped-for shortcut to the Pacific.

Hendrick Hendricksen (perhaps the navigator, perhaps his son) was one of the early settlers of Manhattan. On a Dutch map made in 1660 -- attached is a copy -- you’ll see where he and his family -- your ancestors -- lived. map. It was right at the southeast corner of Wall Street -- that’s where the town wall was located in those days -- and Broadway, then named Breed Straat. In the 1660 map the house is on plot 7 in block B. Above is a copy of the map as drawn by Peter Spier for his book “Nieuw Amsterdam.” He copied it from the original, which I think is in the care of the New York Historical Society. You’ll find a picture of it on the web right here:

And here’s one of the illustrations from the Peter Spier book. It will give you an idea of what New Amsterdam looked like in the mid-1600s.

There is a really amazing high-resolution panoramic view of New Amsterdam in those days here:

One last thing. It seems the Hendricksons mainly settled in New Jersey. One of the family homes is now a museum -- the Holmes-Hendrickson House. Photo below. It’s near Red Bank, in Holmdel, at 62 Longstreet Road -- a brick farmhouse that was built in 1754, 22 years before the Declaration of Independence was written. The house is now in the care of the Monmouth County Historical Association. According to Association’s web site, you can visit May through September on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1 to 4 pm. Maybe we can all go for a visit there when I come to visit in May?

Your great-grandmother, Marguerite, was a Hendrickson. That was her last name until she married and she still used it as a middle name throughout her life. It was from her, when I was about your age, that I learned the things that are in this letter. My middle name, by the way, is Hendrickson.

Papa Jim

* * *

And now this addendum from the family historian, Caitlan:

Hi Zackary,

I've been interested in history and genealogy for a long time and have done some research. One of the problems here is that the manifest of the Half Moon (the list of who was on the ship) was sent back to Holland after its voyage and it was lost, so it's very hard to prove who was on the boat. Except for the obvious Mr Hudson, of course.

But Hendrik Hendricksen can be found on old maps of New Amsterdam, or at least his house can. The map Papa Jim sent you is based on a map called the Castello Plan, drawn in 1660 by a man named Jacques Cortelyou (see It is accompanied by an index called the Nicasius de Sille list (don't ask me why) and this shows that Hendrik Hendricksen purchased Block B plot #6 in 1660. (The numbering used here is different from the Spiers map, so the plot Papa Jim mentioned is probably the right one.) You can find the Nicasius de Sille list here:

Russell Shorto wrote a very interesting book about New Amsterdam called Island at the Center of the World. You might try reading that some time. It has lots of juicy stories about the people who discovered and lived in New Amsterdam, including Henry Hudson himself, who apparently was NOT a nice man. (If I remember correctly, his crew got so fed up with him they stuck him in a dinghy when they were on a voyage somewhere in Canada's Hudson Bay and he was never heard from again!)

There is also a project going on that might be worth checking out called the New Netherlands Project; that might be fun. (

One more thing: there is an audio walking tour of lower Manhattan that you might want to look into, called the New Amsterdam Trail. It takes you by all the interesting 17th century sites and tells you all about them. Maybe that's another thing you can do with Papa Jim when he comes to visit in May? (Also, if you could remind him to pick me up a few bags of chocolate chips, I would be eternally grateful.)


* * *