The Blauvelt Name

The name “Blauvelt”by Louis L. Blauvelt, from the Forward of the first official Blauvelt Family Genealogy (1957).

In practically every genealogical work I have ever consulted, the author has made some attempt to establish the ‘origin’ of the family, and the family name.

It is a natural question.  I have been asked a hundred times-“What is the origin, the meaning of the name Blauvelt?  I can only reply that, as to the origin, I do not know, though I have a theory.  However we do know that the meaning of the name is blue field.

Likewise I have repeatedly been asked about the beginning of the Blauvelt family.  Many genealogists, by devious ways, have endeavored to show their descent, at least from William the Conqueror, or better still, from Charlemagne.  Indeed, I have seen instances where an unbroken line right back to Adam has been “built up.”

As for me, while I may do a bit of theorizing, I make no claim except that we American Blauvelts are descendant from a humble Dutch boy, of the peasantry, who came to America in 1638 to work as a field hand, cultivating tobacco, on the estate of Kiliaen VanRensselaer, on the Hudson River.

This Dutch boy didn’t even have a family name, or at least, if he did have one, and I think he did, he did not use it.  He was only known by his patronymic as Gerrit Hendricksen, (Gerrit son of Hendrick).  Where he came from, who his parents were, when he was born, is all in the realms of uncertainty.

In three letters written by VanRensselaer in December 1637, he refers to this boy.  In two of the three letters he says that Gerrit was from Nykerk.  In one of them he says that he was fifteen years of age, and in another he tells us that he was a shoemaker.1

On the other hand, at the time of his marriage, in 1646, Gerrit himself said that he was from Deventer.

Deventer and Nykerk are about twenty miles apart, the former in the Province of Overyssel, the latter in Gelderlandt, in the Netherlands.  Even in those days Deventer was a thriving little city on the Yssel River, while even to-day Nykerk appears to be rather unimportant.  It is quite likely that the boy was born on a farm somewhere between the two places, and gave Deventer as the place of his nativity because it was the larger.

Neither the records of the church at Deventer, nor those of the church at Nykerk show the baptism of a child Gerrit, son of Hendrick, who would have been fifteen years of age in 1637, but the records of both churches do show the baptisms of three Gerrits whose fathers were named Hendrick, who would be somewhere near the age of fifteen in that year.  Of these, the one who seems more nearly to fit, for various reasons, was the child of Hendrick Gerryts and his wife Geertje, or Grietje, (we think the latter), baptised at Deventer on April 9th., 1620.

Now let us consider the family name.  In the Netherlands, in those days, a family name was regarded as a sort of luxury to be enjoyed only by the aristocracy.  Mr. Louis P. deBoer once wrote that for one of the peasantry to use a family name, even though he had one, would have been regarded as an affectation and a bit presumptuous, so those of the lower strata were content to be known only by their patronymic, their father’s name, as Gerrit Hendricksen, Gerrit son of Hendrick.  This might, and usually did, change with each generation, thus the supposed father of our Gerrit Hendricksen was Hendrick Gerryts.  A striking illustration of this is the progenitor of the Haring family in America.  He quite definitely descended from Jan Haring of Hoorn Castle, whose deeds of valor are recorded in Motley’s ‘Rise of the Dutch Republic.’ This first American Haring was only known as Jan Pieterse when he came to this country, and at first his sons appear as Pieter and Cozine Jansen.

Our Gerrit never used the name of Blauvelt himself, though we do find him referred to in early
records on Manhattan as de Blau boer, (Blue Farmer) and this may be significant.

Here is what does seem to me to be most significant.  All of Gerrit’s children who attained maturity, with the exception of one daughter, by the second marriage, named Elisabedt, eventually settled on the Tappan Patent.  At first they appear in the Tappan records as Johannes Gerritse, Abraham Gerretse, Hendrick Gerretse, etc.  Then, almost simultaneously, they begin to appear in the records as Johannes Gerretse Blauvelt, Maria Gerretse Blauvelt, wife of Cozine Haring, etc.  Even Elisabedt, who had remained in what then had become New York City, where she had married Daniel Berkelo, began to appear, about the same time in the records of the New York Dutch Church, as Elizabeth Blauvelt.

Now, notice that they all took the Blauvelt name!  Not, as in some other families where some descendants in time settled down to a form of their patronymic, such as Cornelison, or Gerritson, while others adopted, or became know by a “place name” such as Van Deventer, (from Deventer), or VanHorn, VanHouten, etc.

Why Blauvelt?  Where did they get the name in the first place, and why not VanDeventer, or Van-Nykerk, from whence their father came?

The name of Blauwveld had been “coined” in the Netherlands about 150 years before Gerrit came to America, and I believe that it was his rightful family name, even though, for the reasons I have given, he did not use it.  Do not let the difference in spelling trouble you.  Right here in America I have found the name of those whom we know were descendant from Gerrit, spelled fifteen different ways and the best-or-worst of these was Blaaeuwveldt.  Even to-day, some of the Nova Scotia branch of the family, who we know descend from a Theunis Blauvelt who was born at Tappan, spell the name with the “d.”

Does it not seem unlikely that a practically identical name would be “coined” over here in America some 150 odd years after it had come into use in the Netherlands?

The answer, to my mind, is that it was not “coined” here.  It was Gerrit’s own family name, though he had never used it, and his children knew it was their name.  There was no guess work, no happenstance about it.

Well, then, what is the supposed origin of the Blauvelt name?

Way back in the 1500s the city of Enkhuysen, on the Zuyder Zee, was a quite important sea port.  About 1487 a child was born, presumably in Enkhuysen, and he was promptly baptised Pieter.  In time, when he had attained manhood, he seems to have become a ship owner in Enkhuysen.  What other cognomen he might have used at first we do not know.  It most likely was a patronymic, for, according to Mr. deBoer, family names were in the formative stage in the Netherlands at that time.  At any rate we begin to find Pieter referred to as Blauhulch, Blauscuit, Blauschep and Blauseynt.  Finally, in 1534, when Pieter had attained some affluence and become a schout (a public official) and later sherriff of Enkhuysen, it settled down to Blauwveld.

Pieter acquired a coat-of -arms.  It was a blue shield across the middle of which was a horizontal gold bar (fasse), above this were two gold disks (besants), and below it, a third one.2  The background of a coat-of-arms is termed the ‘field,’ and here we have a shield with a blue field, and the meaning of Pieter’s newly acquired name of Blauwveld is blue field.

I am no Dutchman, but Mr. deBoer, who is, has told me that hulch, schuit and schep are terms applied to certain types of ships.  In that period ships carried a shield on their counters, probably to designate owners, a sort of hand-me-down from Viking days.  Does it seem to be a long stretch of imagination to assume that Pieter’s coat-of -arms was based on a blue shield used in this way on his ships, and that he became known as the man Peter who owned the blue ships. (Blauschep), and still later as Pieter of the ships with the blue shield, or blue field?  This being rather a cumbersome title it was gradually condensed to Pieter van Blauwveld.

In a way this seems to be born out by the fact that later, when some of Pieter’s descendants had married into the Riccen family, we find his arms quartered with that of the Riccen family, and superimposed thereon was a smaller shield bearing the likeness of a ship, (inescutcheon).

So much for Pieter and the name.  Indeed, we know but little more about him, other than that his wife was name Geertruid, that he had a son Simion Pietersen Blaeuvelt and a daughter Maria, who married Franck van Beest van Hemskirk in 1527.  Incidentally, a Jacob van Hemskirk sailed from Enkliuysen on an Arctic expedition in 1596.  We wonder if he was a son, or relation of Franck.  If so, note again the maritime connection.

Simion Pietersen van Blaeuvelt had a son Frederick Simomsen Blaeuvelt.  Perhaps it was he who married into the Hiccen family.  Frederick had a daughter Diew Frederickse who married Cornelius Hermansloon, and there our knowledge of the descendants of Pieter seem to end.  In fact, in 1928, Mr. deBoer wrote me from Holland that “the Blauvelt name seems to be extremely rare here, if indeed it exists at all to-day”.

Now does it seem such a far cry from the logical, to imagine that, considering the law of primogeniture, a younger son of Pieter, or of one of his descendants of whom we have not learned, fell back into the peasant class and drifted over into the Province of Overyssel, dropped the use of the family name because of his lowly station, and, known only by his patronymic, became the ancestor, or even the father of our Gerrit Hendricksen?  Let me call your attention to the fact that even among the descendants of Pieter of whom we do know, the patronymic practice was continued as shown by the middle names.

Before we go into the matter of the Blauvelt descendants of our Gerrit we feel that we must say a
few brief words about the “pirate”.

Ah! Ha!  Murder will out!  They say there is a skeleton in every closet, and we have all heard the
wisecrack that if we go too far in tracing our ancestry we are likely to discover a horse-thief.

Yes, there was a pirate, but, unfortunately we cannot claim him as our own, just as we cannot claim Pieter of Enkhuysen, or his coat-of -arms.  This may be a disappointment to the small boy Blauvelt descendant.  Yes, and it may be an inspiration to someone with the time and ability to do more extensive research in the archives of the Netherlands.  This pirate most certainly had the Blauvelt name and again we have the maritime connection.

To begin with, this pirate’s full name was Capetyn Willem Albertse Blaeuvelt.  From what we already know of patronymic practice that tells us that his father’s name was Albert.  We also find it stated that he was from Monnikendam, a small town less than ten miles from Amsterdam, and about twenty miles from Enkhuysen.  In 1644 Willem had a wife named Dorothy, and a son Anthony, then living in London.  We are also told that he was of fair complexion, with gentle eyes and high stature.

The Capetyn is supposed to have received a commission at the Hague to operate the privateer, “The Grace”, a frigate of six guns and a complement of fifty men, out of the port of New Amsterdam, against the Spanish in the West Indies, the Netherlands than being at war with Spain.

From 1643 to 1656 we find many references to the Capetyn in the documentary history of the Colony,3 outstanding among which is when, in 1649, after peace was declared, he sailed into what is now New York harbor with the Spanish ship “Tabasco”.  This created quite a furor, even to the extent of the matter being aired before the High and Mighty Lords of the States General in the Nethertands.4

If the Capetyn’s deeds, at this stage of the game, were piratical, then others in high places were tarred with the same stick, for even Governor Kieft was at one time a co-partner in the “Grace”, and in the final settlement of the ‘Tabasco” affair, Cornelius Tienhoven, the Lords and the Director, (Pietrus Stuyvesant) and others, seem to have shared in the proceeds, when, in 1651, this, and other Spanish ships that had been brought in,” were declared good prizes.”

From then until 1656 we find many references to the Capetyn, some good, some not so good, ranging from his standing sponsor at the baptism of a child in the New Amsterdam Dutch Church, to standing into a rough and tumble fight with some of his crew, in which he drew his cutlass on them.  It would seem too that he did not always pay his bills and finally he sailed away for parts unknown while there was an attachment against his ship. 5

After 1656 the Capetyn does not seem to appear in the records of the colony, but we are told that, in 1663, he was operating piratically off the Spanish Main, and to this day, so we are told, there is a town, a river and a bay in Nicaragua that bears the name of Bluefield because of his activities in that locality. 6

I have just skimmed lightly over the worthy Capetyn’s record.  Indeed, since he is not a descendant, nor a known relation of our Gerrit, and we are taking Gerrit as our starting point, he really has no place in this work.  However, I have given him space in this foreword, lest I be taken to task for ignoring a colorful and intriguing character, and too, because it most definitely shows that the Blauvelt name did exist in the Netherlands less than fifty years before it was adopted by the children of our Gerrit Hendricksen de blau boer here in America; and while Gerrit himself was a resident of “Little Old New York” the Capetyn of the Blauvelt name was using the little city as his port of embarkation.

1 – VanRensselaer-Bower Manuscripts.  Translated by A.J.F. Van Lear, Archivist N.Y. State Library.

2 – Rietstap’s Armorial General, p. 878.

3 – Calendar of Historic Manuscripts in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, N.Y., edited    by E.J O’Callaghan.  Section, Dutch Papers, pp. 4-30-31-33-36-38-46-47-50-51-55.

4 – Letters from the Delegates from New Netherlands to the States General.  Original in the Royal Archives at the Hague, file West Indies, pp. 397-8, also Folio 552.

5 – Court Records of Rennselaerwick, 1648-’52, Edited by A.J.F. Van Lear, p. 178.
Records of New Amsterdam, Edited by Berthold Fernow, Vol. 1, pp. 55-57-96-99-101-106-138-161-197-248. Vol.  II, p. 56.

6 – “The Pirate’s Who’s Who”, by Philip Gosse, 1924, p. 50.
‘The Buccaneers of America’, A.E. Esquemeline, edited by W.S. Stallymass, 1923, p. 230.
“The Buccaneers in the West Indies in the XVH Century”, C.H. Haring, 1910, p. 273.
‘Dubloons, The Story of Buried Treasure”, Charles B. Driscoll, 1930, p. 123.
‘Privateering and Piracy in the Colonial Period’, J.F. Jameson, 1923, pp. 7-19.
‘Documents Relative to Colonial History of the State of New York’, Vol.  I, pp. 397 to 399, and p. 507.

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