New Amsterdam, Minutes of the Orphanmasters Court, 1655 - 1664

In 1909, the Society of Colonial Dames of the State of New York compiled and authored two-volumes worth of information on the orphans and widows of New Amsterdam between 1655 and 1663.

Collection Category: Court|Collection Type: OCR|Location: New Amsterdam

The Society of Colonial Dames of the State of New York - known today as The National Society of Colonial Dames  - transcribed information from documents on orphans and widows during New York’s Dutch colonial period and made them available in English. These two volumes discuss the “property and effects” of orphans and widows who lost their head of household and how the state “properly employed and administered” their property.

This volume is text searchable – searches entered from this page will query this volume. The images can also be browsed by clicking the links below, which will take you to the beginning of the section you are interested in reading.

Included are: 

Both volumes were organized by Berthold Fernow, who was an archivist in New York. The first volume solely contains cases from Orphanmaster Court. Each case is organized chronologically. Every case begins with the date and name of the Orphanmaster. It then goes to state the name of the deceased head of household, which is then followed by the mention of the widow, their children and a potential foster parent. Finally, it states debts, the name of a notary public and property that was seized, such as cattle, clothing, utensils and many other valuable materials.

Volume 2 briefly addresses the “rules and laws, governing the actions of the Burgomasters of New Amsterdam.” It also contains exhaustive accounts from cases between 1662 and 1664 that were handled by a notary public named Walewyn Van Der Veen. Here, each record consists of the name of the deceased person, their property and any of their debts that needed to be settled.

This collection can help researchers that need help searching for a Dutch ancestor. This can also serve those who need to find a Dutch ancestor in order to register to become one of the over 15,000 members of The National Society of Colonial Dames.

Researchers interested in the Dutch legacy that remained in New York long after British rule will find these two volumes useful. It is important to preserve these documents because it gives us insight on how institutions transitioned from Dutch to British rule. It also gives us a glimpse of the women and children that are usually not at the root of documents pertaining to property. These volumes can help historians researching the state and the role they played in the lives of orphans and widows and how it changed over time as they assimilated under the auspices of the British Empire.


Suggested citation for this collection:

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, “New Amsterdam, Minutes of the Orphanmasters Court, 1655 - 1664” digital images, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, (, 2019.