#52 Ancestors Week 20 - "Another Language"

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I only recently discovered there were anything other than English speaking ancestors in my tree for hundreds of years. Through DNA testing I learned of my 5th great grandmother,  Gertraudt Van Cortlandt. It is possible that her ancestors were amongst the Dutch colonists who settled New Amsterdam. There's also a 4th great grandmother, Elizabeth Williams, whose people were from Holland. The surname Williams was originally Guilliamse. It's a whole new and interesting world of language, history and documentation. For the weekly prompts, I try and do a deep dive into one family and get them sorted. For "Another Language", I wanted to take the opportunity to learn about Dutch surnames.

My Dutch ancestors are the first I've come across in my tree where the names have changed and become Anglicized over the years. I never would have guessed that Elizabeth Williams had a Dutch heritage. On Family Search her antecedents names are all over the place.  I'm still trying to put it together. I knew that she was from Dutchess County, New York. There are accounts of her being a Quaker. She married a 4th generation American with English heritage and loyalties. They emigrated to Ontario where her husband Major John Button raised a militia  to fight the Americans in the War of 1812. I assumed that she was English as well.

Napoleon Bonaparte made it compulsory for the Dutch to have a surname.  When the French army was occupying the Netherlands in 1811, he signed a decree that established a registry of births, deaths and marriages. Prior to that there was mainly a patronymic naming system. The father's first name became the son's last name. The suffix -s, -se or -sen was added to indicate "son of." Daughters were often given the suffix -sdr or -sd. Some time in the 17th century, more people started passing on their own surname, giving their children the same last name, rather than their own first name with a suffix. Of course, it is way more complicated than that, but this cursory knowledge helped me figure out how my 4th great grandmother became Williams. Williams is the Anglicized version Guillam. Guilliamse would be son of Guilliam. Through time Guilliamse became Williams. 

The New Netherlands Institute is a great resource for Dutch-American research. I have it bookmarked to refer to often. It took me a while to summarize a post this week because I learned so much and don't want to bore people to TMI. Long story short, I think that my two Dutch tree branches were in the same place at the same time in history. It's possible that they knew each other. That's a post for another day.











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