From Our eLibrary: New York, New Amsterdam Minutes Of The Orphanmasters 1655-1663


The eLibrary contains the two volumes entitled Minutes of the Orphanmasters of New Amsterdam 1655 to 1663,translated and edited by former New York State archivist Berthold Fernow and published in 1902. In the Netherlands every city had a weeskamer or orphan chamber, a court consisting of "orphanmasters" who, under Roman-Dutch Law, appointed curators (guardians) charged with protecting the estates of widows and orphaned or half-orphaned children.

When New Amsterdam became a city in 1653 it acquired this traditional Dutch institution. Orphans had previously been the responsibility of the church deacons, but by 1655 civil orphanmasters were appointed, and it is their valuable records that fill the first volume of this set. Soon after the English seized New Amsterdam in 1664 and renamed it New York, they abolished the orphan chamber. Unknown to Fernow, there were some additional minutes from the chamber's last years. These were published by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore in 1976 as The Minutes of the Orphanmasters of New Amsterdam, 1663-1668.

Volume 2 of this set contains Fernow's translations of two other sources: 1) "Minutes of the Executive Boards of the Burgomasters of New Amsterdam 1661-1663," consisting of land transactions, and 2) "Records of Walewyn van der Veen, Notary Public 1662-1664." In the Netherlands, Notaries prepared and certified a wide variety of legal documents that can be rich sources for genealogists. The 1661-1662 records of van der Veen's predecessor in New Amsterdam, Salomon Lachaire, also survive, and were published by the Genealogical Publishing Company in 1978.

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