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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: Continue reading