200,000 descendents of Nieuw Amsterdam’s miller

25 Jul

This past week I finished reading the novel City of Dreams, by Beverly Swerling, which traces several generations of surgeons and apothecaries from the Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam through the English takeover (making it New York) to the American Revolution. (Vivid and fascinating. It was frequently my bedtime reading, and to my surprise, few or no nightmares resulted: the era’s surgery, medicine, and public punishments were all gruesome, and all vividly and copiously described.)

After six months of that, I’m highly alert to anything Nieuw Amsterdam…such as a June 22 article on The New York Times website: “The Van Dusens of Nieuw Amsterdam.” The Van Dusens in question are the numerous descendents—now spread across the country—of “one of Manhattan’s first few hundred settlers, the operator of a windmill where the Dutch ground grain….

It all began with Abraham, whose forebears were from the town of Duersen in northern Brabant. Known in official documents as “Abraham the miller,” or “Abraham Pieterszen,” as in son of Peter”….Two of Abraham’s progeny — Martin Van Buren, a great-great-great-grandson; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (add four more greats) — served as presidents of the United States. A third, Eliza Kortright (Generation 7), married one, James Monroe.

Another is the current mayor of Astoria, Oregon. (Lots of multimedia with the article—including recipes from a 19th-century cookbook, Civil War diaries, and a bucolic 1814 view from 110th Street.)

I wanted to blog about the article, but I had to come up with my own excuse, because there’s no mention in it of dreams. So naturally I Googled: “‘Van Dusen’ and dream.” I was handed plenty of news hooks. From just the first page of search results:

  • “Lake Arrowhead [California] wrestler Marcie van Dusen had a dream of being in the Olympics long before making the women’s wrestling team in Beijing, China. The dream also occurred before women’s wrestling competition was an Olympic sport. “
  • An article about the Journal of Dreams kept by the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg in the 1740s, and specifically about commentary by a psychologist named Wilson Van Dusen (he’s written several books based on Swedenborg’s work).
  • A couple of references to Wilson Van Dusen’s commentaries in a much longer article on Swedenborg’s dreams, on a web page titled Information Swedenborg.
  • An interview by Mel Van Dusen, on community television in California, with Stanley Krippner about extraordinary dreams. Krippner, director of the dream studies program at Saybrook University, is extraordinary in his own right. Among many other things, he’s a past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD, whose annual conference earlier this month in Kerkrade, Netherlands, is what inspired all my Dutch New York interest). He’s also a recipient of IASD’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

One Response to “200,000 descendents of Nieuw Amsterdam’s miller”


  1. Blessing-type synchronicities « - August 2, 2011

    […] night / early Monday. That post (dated 7/25) was inspired by a New York Times article about the 200,000 descendents of Nieuw Amsterdam’s miller—a family named Van […]

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