Monday, October 31, 2011

the first Muslim in America?

My possible* ancestor Anthony Jansen Van Salee was the first known Muslim to live in what is now New York City. Others have suggested that he could have been the first Muslim in the entire New World.

Anthony was born in about 1607 at an unknown location.  Anthony's parentage has not been definitively proven.  It is generally accepted though that his father was an infamous Dutch pirate named Jan Janszoon van Haarlem.  The identity of his mother has never been established, but she is usually believed to be of North African descent, the most prevalent theories being that she was from Morocco or Spain. 

The places where Anthony supposedly lived in his youth.
1. Sale, Morocco, 2. Fez, Morocco
3. Algiers, Algeria, 4. Cartagena, Spain
What we do know is that because he used the name Jansen, Anthony acknowledged being the son of someone named Jan.  Also, as an adult he used the toponymic last name "Van Salee", indicating that he was from SalĂ©, Morocco.  In later adulthood, he also indicated that he was from Fez, Morocco.  When he married in 1629, he was listed as being from Cartagena, Spain.  Many people have accepted this to mean that he was born in Cartagena, and raised in Salee.  Perhaps he was born in neither place, but had spent time living in both.

Contemporary records also indicate that Anthony was of a mixed-ethnic background.  The most common term used to describe him was "Turk."  Other terms were: "Mulatto", "Swarthy" (dark-skinned), "semi-Dutchman", and "Tawny".  There is also a story that when his wife gave birth to one of their children, she asked the midwife whether the baby looked like Anthony or another man (she was apparently having an affair).  The midwife supposedly told her that since the baby was a bit brown in color, that it was likely Anthony's child. 

Still, other researchers have proposed that Anthony was actually white and that contemporary records indicating otherwise was simply slander or an indication that he had lived in Morocco and was not literally mixed-race.  They also propose that mixed-race theory is not possible because of the timeline.  Jan apparently worked for the Dutch until becoming a Moroccan pirate in the late 1610's, apparently indicating that Anthony could not have been the son of a Moroccan mother.  Of course, that does not prove that Jan did not have children by a non-white mother beforehand.  Also, as is stated above, we do not know for sure that Jan was even his father.

As far as I know, Anthony was never identified directly as being a Muslim, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence which points to it being likely.  1) Anthony was raised in Morocco, where Islam was practiced, and it is unlikely he would have practiced Christianity.  2) There is apparently proof that Jan Janszoon Van Haarlem (who was probably Anthony's father) had converted to Islam, after being captured by Muslim pirates.  3) He was frequently described as "Turk" in contemporary records, which some researchers indicate is a designation of religious affiliation and not necessarily of ethnic origin.  4) An old Qu'ran (Koran) had been passed down in the family for many generations, the story being that it was from a Dutch pioneer of New York who was Muslim. After researchers had discovered Anthony's probable Muslim origins, they identified the Qu'ran as belonging to him.  5) Anthony was frequently involved in disputes with the church in New Amsterdam and was often fined by them.

Anthony was probably raised in Salee, Morocco and also lived at times in Algeria and perhaps in Spain. In the late 1620's, he moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where he joined the Dutch West India Company and sailed to America in 1630.  Anthony was married to a woman named Grietje Reyniers in or after December 1629, either in Amsterdam or on board the ship en route to New York.  Grietje (or Margaret in English) was an acknowledged prostitute.  Grietje has herself become a legend of American colonial history and has been dubbed "the first lady of the night" of Manhattan and "Manhattan's first and most famous prostitute." 

In 1630, Anthony and Grietje settled in New Amsterdam (now Manhattan in New York City).  During the next nine years, Anthony and his wife had many legal disputes with the church and the town authorities and they were finally banished from New Amsterdam in 1639.  In that year, they settled on 200 acres in what is now Brooklyn (in the Gravesend neighborhood).  Because of this, he is acknowledged by some as the first European settler of Brooklyn.  The farm he settled in Gravesend was called "Turk's Plantation."  Because his farm apparently butted up against what is now called Coney Island, it was for many years called "Turk's Island."  Anthony died in 1676.

* It has not been proven that Anthony Van Salee is actually my ancestor.  My proven ancestor Jacques Barkelow was married to a woman named Jannetje.  It has been suggested (because of Dutch naming customs) that because their second known son was named Barent, Jannetje was the daughter of a man named Barent.  If that is true, one of the strongest candidates for her father is Barent Johnson, the great-grandson of Anthony Van Salee.

My possible descent from Anthony:
Anthony Jansen Van Salee md. Grietje Reyniers
- Cornelia Van Salee md. Willem Janse Van Borkulo
-- Jannetje Van Borculo md. Jan Barentsen Van Driest
--- Barent Johnson md. Maria Stillwell
---- Jannetje * md. Jacques Barkelow (*it is not proven who Jannetje's parents were)
----- William Barkelow md. unknown
------ James Barkelow md. Elizabeth
------- Flora A. Bartlow md. James Murray
-------- Mary E. Murray md. George F. Merriman
--------- Vera V. Merriman md. Benjamin H. Plymale
---------- Ben T. Plymale md. Patricia J. Bixby
----------- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------------ Ryan Wadleigh

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

shotgun weddings?

From what I can yet discover, all of my known ancestors were born from parents who were married, but that does not mean that all of their children were conceived after marriage. 

This blog post is the results of my investigations into possible cases of premarital sex resulting in pregnancies and weddings.  I went through my family tree and compared the documented dates of marriage with the documented dates of birth of their first children.  The below examples include just some of the instances when children were born before marriage, or when they were born up to 7 months after the marriage.  All of these oldest children listed below were born alive and survived to adulthood (so it is not likely they were premature births).

It is of course possible for a surviving child to be born after only 7 months gestation, although that would have been less likely in the 1800's or earlier.  The most likely scenario is that these were all examples of conception before marriage. 
Minnie Thurston Hopkins, mid-1880s

My great-great-grandmother's sister Minnie Thurston was married to Edgar Hopkins on August 18, 1881 in Chariton County, Missouri.  Their first child, Harry, was born two months later on October 17, 1881. 

Minnie was from Minnesota, but had moved by herself to Wisconsin in her youth to work as a servant.  It was in that situation that she became pregnant by a traveling salesman from a nearby town.  They decided to get married and eloped to Missouri, where Minnie had some relatives.

My great-great-grandmother's sister, Mary Kling, gave birth to an illegitimate son on February 27, 1881 in Mankato, Minnesota.  The father of the child is unknown.  The baby was named Fred Kling, and was raised by Mary's parents, Christian and Dora Kling. 

My great-great-great-grandparents William Brown and Amanda Stephens were married on December 15, 1859 in Montgomery County, Tennessee.  Their first child, Jesse, was born 7 months later, on July 26, 1860.  Then, in the 1860 census, William, Amanda and Jesse were living in the household of William's parents, suggesting that perhaps they were not prepared to be married. 

My great-great-great-great-grandparents Jeremiah Tilton and Abigail Freese were married on December 30, 1840 in Deerfield, New Hampshire.  Their first child, Austin, was born 7 months later on July 28, 1841.  Jeremiah later became a Baptist minister.

My great-great-great-great-grandparents Isaiah Custer and Elizabeth Salehamer were married on June 5, 1825 in what is now Berkeley County, West Virginia.  Their first child, Charles, was born 7 months later, on January 10, 1826. 

My great-great-great-great-grandparents James Stephens and Nancy Head were married on March 26, 1823 in Sumner County, Tennessee.  Their first child, Elizabeth, was born 2 months later, on May 26, 1823. 

My great-great-great-great-grandparents Antoni Kling and Maren Damm were married on July 13, 1822 in Rise, Denmark. Their first child, Hans, was born 3 months later, on October 13, 1822.

My great-great-great-great-grandparents Thaddeus Bixby and Hannah Worrick were married on December 6, 1802 in Guilford, Vermont.  Their first child, Oliver, was born 4 months later, on April 21, 1803. 

There is a story about how their daughter Annis Bixby, came to be married in 1830.  One day, she was outside hanging clothing on a line when a laborer was out working the field.  His gaze found the beautiful red-headed woman, and he decided on the spot that he would come back and win her.  He did.  Perhaps Thaddeus and Hannah met in a similar way?

My great-great-great-great-great-grandparents John Hill and Dorothy Allen were married on December 26, 1796 in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  Their first child, Margaret, was born 4 months later, on April 26, 1797. 

My great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Carl Lilienthal and Engel Kahl were married on November 9, 1792 in Lutjenburg, Germany.  Their first child, Hans, was already 2 years old when they married.

My great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Manassah Bixby and Elizabeth Dunsmore were married on November 12, 1765 in Lancaster, Massachusetts.  Their first child, Manassah Jr, was already 10 months old and Elizabeth was pregnant with their second child, Joseph, who was born 2 months later, in January 1766.

My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Peter Helm and Christina Schieffer were married on November 17, 1757 in Claverack, New York.  Their first child, Elizabeth, was born 4 monts later, in March 1758. 

My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents Moses Thurston and Hannah Johnson were married on May 29, 1744 in Andover, Massachusetts.  Their first child, Hannah, was born 4 months later, on September 10, 1744. 

My ancestors Steven Flanders and Abigail Carter were married on December 28, 1670 in Salisbury, Massachusetts.  Their first child, Thomas, was born 2 months later, on February 17, 1670/1. 

Things to consider:
1) It is possible for infants to be born alive after a gestation of 7 months or less.
2) It is possible that the documented dates of marriages or births are incorrect.
3) Even if all of the documented dates are correct, it is does not necessarily mean the couples in question were not married at an earlier date.  There could have been different civil and religious ceremonies, or they could have lost the documentation of the original marriage and been required to officially remarry.