Friday, May 25, 2012

The Origin of the Van Guilders

Recently the Associated Press published an article by Travis Loller saying that DNA study seeks the origin of Appalachia's Melungeons. In a excerpt Mr. Loller wrote:
In recent years, it has become a catchall term for people of mixed-race ancestry and has been applied to about 200 communities in the eastern U.S. — from New York to Louisiana.
Among them were the Montauks, the Mantinecocks, Van Guilders, the Clappers, the Shinnecocks and others in New York. Pennsylvania had the Pools; North Carolina the Lumbees, Waccamaws and Haliwas and South Carolina the Redbones, Buckheads, Yellowhammers, Creels and others. In Louisiana, which somewhat resembled a Latin American nation with its racial mixing, there were Creoles of the Cane River region and the Redbones of western Louisiana, among others.
As a result of researching the Van Guilders for over fifteen years, I know that the Van Gilders/Van Guilders from western Massachusetts, upstate New York and Vermont are not Melungeon.   The founder of the family was Jan Van Gelder, a Mohican-Wappinger man who married the German Palatine woman Anna Maria Koerner in Kingston, New York, in 1719.  They lived in what is now present day Berkshire County on the west bank of the Green River, southwest of Great Barrington.  Additionally, a Y-DNA test comparison between Jacob Van Gilder who died 14 July 1846 in Marion County, WV, and a documented descendant of John Van Gilder from upstate New York shows the Y-DNA to be identical and that Jacob was a descendant of the Mohican-Wappinger man John Van Gilder I.

A representation of John Van Gilder's signature embroidered in buttons
on reproduction 18th century matchcoat by blog author.
On August 2, 1762, New York Attorney General John Tabor Kempe (1759-1777) reported to Governor Monckton that
Awansous a Wappingoe Indian Grandfather to the Complainant on the mother’s side, was possessed of a certain Tract of Land lying on the East side of Hudson’s River, beginning at the mouth of the Fish kills called in the Indian language Nataowawmungh thence running down Hudsons River southerly to Anthony’s Nose called in the same language Wacoghquanuk, and Eastward into the woods as far as the Oblong croping the Peeks kill.
 Awansous died leaving behind him two Sons Tawanaut otherwise called John Van Gilder and Sancoolakheekhing, to whom the Body of the Nation solemnly confirmed their Fathers Land according to the Custom of their Nation at a publick Toast & sacrifice [sealing their Grant]. Sancoolakheekhing Died without any Children and on his Death the Nation confirmed the whole of the Lands to John Van Gilder who was Uncle to the Complainant, being his Mothers Brother & he [John Van Gilder] in the year of the Defeat at Ticonderoga hath since given the whole of these Lands to... Danl. Nimham
 However, John Van Gilder was regarded as a member of the Mohican Nation that lived north of the Wappingers.   In a letter written to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Johnson on December 16, 1756, the chief of the Mohicans stated that he belonged to the Mohican Nation.  The Mohicans are a matrilineal people and it seems logical that Van Gilder's mother came from the Catskill band of  Mohicans.  In October 1768 Richard Moore was interviewed in regard to a property dispute between the patroons Van Rensselaer and Livingston.  Moore testified:

He is Sixty one Years of age  he has known Joseph Van Gelder he is Christian and baptized by a high Dutch Minister  Joseph Van Gelder’s Father’s Children was baptized and he himself  That he was Married by a Minister.  Joseph Van Gelder lives at Egremont on this side Howsitenack River to the Eastward of Tackannick Mountains  he his [sic] known him from a Child  he always bears a good Character  he would Venture to take his Oath at any time for the truth  The General Reputation is that he is a Christian.  He believes His father belonged to the Catt’s Kills  [band of  Mohicans]

In regard to John's wife, in the marriage bann it was stated that Anna Maria, later known as Mary Karner, was born in Germany.  Her parents were Jan Nicholas and Anna Magdalena Koerner.  They and their family were among the thousands refugees of the wars in the German Palatinate and were among the families sent to New York State to become indentured servants to the patroon Robert Livingston.  Mary's brothers Andrew and Lodowick escaped that fate and lived in the Town of Egremont near her and her husband.  The Mohicans leased land to Andrew and John deeded some of his land to Lodowick.

John and Mary had several children.  The ones documented by land records and John's will are:
Nicholas Van Gelder, born 1720.  Married(2) Elizabeth and(3) Mary Welch
 Joseph Van Gelder, born July 14, 1722, baptized November 21, 1722 in Dutch Reformed Church, Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, N.Y., baptismal sponsors Joseph and Anna Reichard.  Married Mary Holly Winchell, also known as Molly (daughter of David Winchell), May 23, 1748 ).
John Van Gelder Jr., also known as Johannes Van Gelder, Hannes Van Geldern, baptized May 23, 1725 in Linlithgow Reformed Church, Columbia Co., N.Y., baptismal sponsors Johannes Spoor and Maria Singer.  John married  (1) Catrite Karner, married October 27, 1747,  (2) Geetruyd.
Matthew Van Gelder Sr., baptized September 1, 1728 in Kingston, Ulster Co., N.Y., baptismal sponsors Matheus Slegt, Catalyntjen Kip.
Catharine Van Gelder, also known as Catalyntje Van Gelder, Cartrite, Garthiat, who married Hezekiah Winchell Sr., (son of Samuel Winchell Sr. and Hannah Parsons (my ancestors).

Jacob Van Gelder Sr., died before June 12, 1787.  He married Mercy (von Sahler, p. 292)
Andrew Van Gelder.
Henry Van Gelder, died before May 1758
Magdalena Van Gelder, also known as Martaliner.  She married Pelatiah Winchell, son of David Winchell Jr. and Mary and a cousin to Hezekiah Winchell.  Pelatiah was found to be living in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, N.Y. in 1775.

At least twenty men in the combined Van Gilder and Winchell families served on the Patriot side of the American Revolution.  Three are documented to have been with the Green Mountain Boys when Ethan Allen captured Fort Ticonderoga.  Twelve served in the Continental Army.  One stayed the winter at Valley Forge.  Two died in service.

The Van Gilders and Indian Winchells suffered the fate of many of the Mohican families after the war.  They steadily lost their land in Berkshire County.  My ancestor Eliakim Winchell was the only grandchild to retain his land.  However it was sold to pay debts after his death.  Many of his relatives moved to Vermont.  Some of their descendants moved to places in Washington County in New York State.  The fates of fourteen grandchildren of John and Mary Van Gilder remain undocumented and unknown.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Timely Memory

This evening when I saw a large military plane fly overhead to the nearby airport, I remembered something.  My father was in the U.S. Army between 1946 and 1948.  His best friend was a Lakota man.  They both were stationed in Japan.  Dad's friend told everyone his last name was Shot with Two Errors.  I think he was pulling everyone's leg because I didn't find a record with anyone with that name on  He must have made the army his career, because one day about 1966 or 1967 a military airplane buzzed us in Philmont.  I remember Dad saying it must be him, since he told him he would do that.   It must have been this time that he stopped by the house.  I only remember that he was a slender, good-looking man.  I still don't know his first name and I wish I did.  However, I thank both of them for their service.

Here is a photo of my father taken on board ship.  The man with a cap on to the right looks as though he could be Native American. I don't know if that's Dad's friend or not.  From the extremely little I remember it could be possible.

On July 12, 1973 a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed approximately 16-18 million military personnel records.  There were no duplicate records, so this was a great loss.  I was very fortunate to be able to obtain records on my father's service.  It must be the Wins were in a better location.  Trying to understand them is difficult because the meaning of the cryptic terms used has changed.

The NPRC has been working to preserve and reconstruct the records since the fire.  The organization now lists a much smaller military population affected than when I sent for my father's records less than ten years ago.