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There is a marriage intention record at Amsterdam for "Jan Janss" and "Aeltje Douwens" dated 4 August 1635. He was 25 or 6; she was 21. Jan is described as a journeyman seaman living on the Angeliersgracht, Joordan, Amsterdam.1 Aeltje lived in the same place, daughter of "Douwe Reyerss." Her father and "Aecht Jans" accompanied her. Jan's cousin "Griete Lamberts" accompanied him. A marginal note says that the couple were married at Huysen/Huisen, probably the town of that name just outside Amsterdam. Jan had "no parents," which may mean that he had no parents in the vicinity to accompany him. Further evidence is needed to confirm that this is the same couple that created the American Ditmars family. The occasional suggestion that Aeltje was related to the painter Gerard Douw and the New Netherlands immigrant Volckert Douw does not have merit.
     The first known reference to the Ditmars family in New Amsterdam is a court document dated 25 January 1639.1 Testimony was given that the wife of Jan van Ditmarsen was sold a pair of "pattens" or clogs and a pair of child's shoes aboard the boat de Leifde, which supposedly sailed from Amsterdam the previous September. Since the shoes were sold to his wife it is unlikely Jan was with her, but a child may have been.
     "Ditmarsen," also spelled "Ditmarschen" in early New Netherlands records, surely refers to the German (formerly Danish) region Dithmarschen. It encompasses a large portion of the western province of Schleswig-Holstein. Jan may have been born there but it is very likely that he moved to Amsterdam, where his mother and wife's family lived at least in the 1640s. Other residents of New Amsterdam and Beverwyck (later Albany) in the mid-17th century were called "van Ditmarsen" but there is no known familial connection to Jan. There is a surname "Dittmers," variously spelled, that appears to originate with a German first-name. Families with this name can be found among 19th-century immigrants to the United States.
     Jan and Aeltje occasionally appear in New Amsterdam court records. Aeltje sued Pieter Andriesz for slander but retracted the accusation, praying for his forgiveness as an honest and honorable man.1 Jan Damen claimed that Jan "Platneus" was incompetent to give testimony at court claiming he was a "perjurer" and had committed adultery with "Indian women."1 The translation of platneus is "flat nose." A reference to "Jan Jansen Platneus" as the father of Douwe, baptized in New Amsterdam in 1642, firmly indicates that he was Jan van Ditmarsen. Jan and another man testified that Laurens Jansz Duyts came to "their" house, pointed to a piece of leather and claimed it was his. Roelant Hackwaert had brought the leather to Jan to mend his shoes. Hackwaert admitted to stealing the leather saying "Do not sole my shoe with that leather. Were it under it, I should cut it off."1 This indicates that Jan was at least a shoemaker. In this document Jan is said to have been 36. Jan may have learned leatherworking as an apprentice seaman. He apparently signed his name to this document.
     A court document of 1646 records that Aeltje accused Adam Roelantsen, the local crime-prone schoolmaster, of slander when she discovered that he said to her sister in Amsterdam "Go to New Netherlands and save your sister, the whore, who in the Bermudas was threatened by the Director of New Netherlands to be put in irons."1 The sister may have been "Jannetje Douwesen" of Amsterdam to whom Jan gave his power of attorney to make claims on his mother's estate and take legal action if his stepfather did not comply.1 His mother, "Annetje Sipke," and step-father, "Paulus Jansen," are therein named. Also in this document Jan is called a freeman of New Amsterdam and again signed his name. In Aeltje's connection to the Director of New Netherlands in Bermuda there may be reason to believe that Jan was a seaman in the Director's (or Dutch West India Co.'s) employ at the time (the Jan who married in Huysen was a seaman). Jan and Aeltje may have been living on the island or the ship de Liefte sailed from Amsterdam to New Amsterdam by way of Bermuda on that particular trip. If Aeltje was on the ship when it left Amsterdam in September of 1638, five months was a remarkably lengthy time to go directly to New Amsterdam.
     There is no apparent record of Jan and Aeltje living in or near Fort Amsterdam. It is likely that after Aeltje's arrival in 1639 the family lived on a farm in what is now Long Island City, Queens, approximately in the Dutch Kills neighborhood. This area may have been populated by tenant farmers who eventually were granted title to the land. A patent to Tymen Jansz on 13 July 1643 mentions Jan Platneus as an abutting occupant.1 A similar reference appears on 19 October 1645 in a grant to Pieter Andriesz van Schoorstenveger, which indicates that Jan's property had frontage on the East River.1 Pieter took Aeltje to court for slander in 1640 and such cases often involved neighbors. Jan was given a plantation south of Pieter on 23 March 1647.1 All this suggests that Jan and Aeltje were given permission to live on a farm in this area, perhaps in 1639, and were given title to it in 1647. Jan may have been a shoemaker as a secondary occupation to farming. The last documentary evidence of Jan is on 10 May 1648, when he sponsored the baptism of a son of Teunis Cray.1.
     Aeltje married Louis Jorisz on 9 January 1650.1 In the recording of this marriage or its transcription Aeltje is erronously named "Neeltje," perhaps leading later historians to refer to her as such. Louis is called a young man "Vanderveer" (of the ferry) in "Zeelt" (Zeelandt). Louis represented Aeltje in the sale of the Dutch Kills farm on 11 July 1651.1 Within four years Louis died and Aeltje married Louis Jansz Isendyck on 20 May 1654.1 They settled in "Midwout" or "Vlackebos," later called Flatbush. Louis appears on the 1675 tax list1 for that town and they both are on the list of founding members of the Midwout Reformed Dutch Church in 1677.1 It was surely this "Louis Jansen" who was a sponsor in 1681 of the baptism of Louis, perhaps his namesake, child of his step-son Reynier Jansz van Ditmarsen.1
     Only one child of Jan and Aeltje is documented. He was Douwe, named for his maternal grandfather, and his baptism is recorded in a New Amsterdam Reformed Church record. Jan, Reynier and Tryntje are known to have been siblings from deed records.1 Jan was named for his paternal grandfather. Reynier may have been named for Reyer, the father of the Aeltje who married in Huysen. Tryntje (Catryntje) may have been the name of Aeltje's mother.

children of Jan Jansz van Ditmarsen and Aeltje Douwesz:

i. child, perhaps Annetje (named for Jan's mother), b. bef. February 1639
ii. Douwe Jansz, bap. 9 June 1642, sponsored "Hendrick Jansen Smit & Susannah Roelof," prob. died young
iii. 2. Jan Jansz, b. ca. 1643
iv. 3. Reynier Jansz
v. 4. Catryntje Jansz

vital records sources:


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