In a year when immigration is at the center of the national conversation, I thought it would be fun to focus on the stories of the immigrants in my family tree.
I grew up knowing three of them – my maternal great-grandmother Maria (Mary) Daniel Sabol and my paternal grandparents Alexey (Alex) Kowal and Katarzyna (Katherine) Bosakowska Kowal. But I had no idea, before I started my research, that they were preceded by so many others who made similar journeys over nearly three centuries, from 1624 to 1913.
They came from France, England, Holland, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine. Some of these ancestors have made it into the history books. Others are more obscure. With a little digging, some fascinating stories start to emerge.
So here’s a brief timeline of the immigrants in my family tree. Over the coming year, I’ll write more detailed posts about them. There is one major gap, unfortunately. I have not been able to trace roots of my mother’s family, the Agin family, back to its European roots. Many others have tried but we have all hit the genealogical brick wall.
We do know that James Agin, my fourth-great grandfather, was born in New Jersey in 1759. He had a mother who lived there too. We know from DNA evidence that the Agin male line can be traced back to Ireland. And we know from a printed family history that James’s wife Ann was Welsh (not clear if that was by birth or by descent).
|1624||My tenth great grandfather Jean Montfort (1583-?), along with his wife Jacqueline Moreau (1578-?) and son Pierre Montfort (1616-1661), came over on the very first ship bringing settlers to the New Netherland colony – two years before the founding of New Amsterdam. They were Walloons, French-speaking Protestants from what is now Belgium and northern France, who left their hometown in search of religious freedom. Of that first cohort of colonists, brought over to work for the Dutch West India Company, only four families put down permanent roots. The Montforts were one of them, settling in the Wallabout Bay section of Brooklyn and changing their name to the more Dutch sounding Monfoort.|
|1635||Fifteen years after the Pilgrims, English aristocrat Sir Edward Howell (1584-1655), another tenth great-grandfather, sold off the family estate at Westbury Manor in Buckinghamshire, England to start a new life in the New England colony with his daughter Dorothy Howell (1620-1670). They were part of the “Great Migration” of English Puritans in the years before the English Civil War. Edward lived for a short time in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he owned 500 acres. But in 1640, he led a group of settlers to Long Island where they founded the town of Southampton. Edward played a leading role in the town’s affairs over many years. He also built the mill that gave the neighboring town of Water Mill its name.|
|1637||Pieter Claesen Wyckoff (1624-1694), my ninth great-grandfather, was an illiterate teenager who left his rural home in Norden, East Frisia (now in northwestern Germany) to seek opportunity in the New Netherland colony. After working as an indentured servant for six years at the Rensselaerwyck plantation near present day Albany, Pieter married into a prominent local family. Looking to get ahead, he moved south to New Amsterdam where he got a job managing the farm of Governor Peter Stuyvesant. Over time, Pieter prospered – acquiring land in the Nieuw Amersfort (Flatlands) section of Brooklyn and serving as a justice of the peace. Pieter ‘s farmhouse, built in 1652, stands to this day. It is the oldest house in New York and a National Historic Landmark.|
|1641||My tenth great-grandfather Cornelis Hendrick Van Ness (c. 1600-1684), wife Maycke Hendrieux Van Der Burchgraeff (c. 1605-1664) and daughter Grietje Cornelis Van Ness (1627-1689) also traveled to Rensselaerwyck in search of a new life. Cornelis became a prominent citizen there and his daughter Grietje would eventually marry the up-and-coming Pieter Claesen Wyckoff (see above).|
|1640||Penelope Van Princis (1622-1732), my ninth great-grandmother, had an amazing personal story. Born in Amsterdam, she married an Englishman named John Kent in 1640. Shortly thereafter, the couple left for New Amsterdam. Their ship ran aground near Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and the passengers were required to complete the journey overland. But John was too ill to travel so the couple stayed behind, with the promise of eventual rescue. Before help could come, they were attacked by Indians and left for dead. Fortunately, Penelope was rescued by an Indian who nursed her back to health and sold her back to the colony to New Amsterdam. There, she married Richard Stout, a recent arrival from England. After helping to found the English settlement in Gravesend, Brooklyn, the Stouts moved to Middletown, New Jersey – not far from the village of the Indian who saved her life. She lived to be 110 years old and is known as “the Mother of Middletown.”|
|1643||Penelope’s husband Richard Stout (1615-1705), my ninth great-grandfather, was born in Burton Joyce in Nottinghamshire, England. He left home after his father forbade him to marry the woman he loved. So he joined the English Navy and ended up in New Amsterdam, where he met Penelope van Princis (see above). Richard is the progenitor of the Stout family, who were prominent in the early history of New Jersey. Their son Jonathan Stout (1658-1723) was one of the founders of Hopewell, New Jersey – where many of my Agin ancestors lived and where my sister Cathy currently resides.|
|1651||My ninth great-grandfather Aucke Janse Van Nuys (1621-1698) and his wife Magdalena Pieterse (1618-1662) were born in Holland. In 1651 they emigrated with some of their children to New Amsterdam. Aucke was a carpenter, and his name appears in numerous early records in New Amsterdam, Brooklyn, and Flatbush. Later in life, he served as magistrate and representative to a Convention of Delegates convened by the Dutch governor in 1674, during a brief period when the Dutch recaptured New Amsterdam from the British. The couple are the common ancestors of the Van Nuys family in America.|
|1660||My ninth great-grandfather Steven Coerte Van Voorhees (1600-1684) was a farmer in the town of Hees in Drenthe province, the Netherlands. In 1660, he left with his wife (her name is unknown) and children, including his son Jan Stevense Van Voorhees, my eighth great-grandfather, for New Amsterdam. He purchased a farm in Nieuw Amersfort (now Flatlands, Brooklyn). Steven was progenitor of the Voorhees family in America. Generations later, there would be another Voorhees family connection – my third great-grandmother Charlotte Matilda Voorhees (1821-1909). She was probably their descendant.|
|1664||James Bollen (1629-1682), my eighth great-grandfather, came over with the English fleet in 1664 and he may have been in command of one of the vessels. He received the Dutch surrender of the fort at New Amsterdam, and was appointed Commissary of the Ammunition at New York. In 1665, Governor Philip Carteret appointed him Secretary of the Province of New Jersey, based in Eliazbethtown (now Elizabeth). He also received a significant land grant on Staten Island.|
|1683||Johannes Laurenson (c. 1600-1670), my ninth great-grandfather, was born in Denmark and fled with his family to Scotland and later to Ireland before emigrating to New York colony, accompanied by his wife Mary (maiden name unknown) and namesake son (1649-1693), later known as John Larason. The family bought a large tract of land in Newtown, now Middle Village, Queens. Their descendants became a prominent family in central New Jersey.|
|1678 or 1682||My ninth great-grandparents Roger Parke (1648-1738) and Ann Pattison (1658-1731) were born in Hexham, Northumberland, England. The couple, who were Quakers, emigrated to New Jersey colony. They were among the first white settlers in the area around Hopewell, New Jersey.|
|1880s||My second great-grandmother Mary Miller (c. 1850-1921) and her young daughter Tillie (1872-?) left Germany after the death of Mary’s first husband and settled in New Jersey. Mary would marry twice again – first to George Hendricks (or Hendrock), an abusive husband whom she divorced, and then to “famous woman hater” William Vannote in a ceremony that was a tabloid sensation. Tillie married my great-grandfather Jacob Sylvester Agin and apparently remarried after Jacob’s death.|
|1891||My great-grandfather Andrej (Andrew) Sabol (1872-1938) joined the migration of Slovaks from the small villages surrounding Obišovce, Austro-Hungary (in present day Slovakia) to the town of Raritan, New Jersey. He was 19 years old.|
|1895||My great-grandmother Maria (Mary) Daniel (1880-1968) followed in Andrew’s tracks, sailing on the last westbound crossing of the S.S. Elbe before it sank tragically in the North Sea. She was only 15 years old at the time of the journey and married my great-grandfather a year later.|
|1912||My grandmother Katarzyna (Katherine) Bosakowska (1889-1966) left her hometown of Zalozce, Austria (later part of Poland and now part of Ukraine) for New York City. She was one of about 20 Bosakowski cousins who made the journey in a chain migration.|
|1913||My grandfather Alexey (Alex) Kowal (1892-1979), the last immigrant in my family tree, left his hometown of Kharucha Vel’ka, Ukraine for Thetford Mines, Canada. After laboring for the winter in a Canada Pacific Railway lumber camp, he made his way with three friends across the border to Staten Island, where he would eventually settle and raise a family.|