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View Diary: Origins of English: Some Rare Words (185 comments)

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  •  That's actually more interesting (6+ / 0-)

    The fact that, while "kreek" is the standard Dutch for "creek," the fact the term "kill" became common in the area that was originally "New Netherlands" means that a large percentage of the original Dutch settlers probably came from areas like Zeeland and Brabant.  That's kinda cool that a single word can give away the geneological history of a region that precisely.  

    •  Interesting but... (3+ / 0-)
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      se portland, amsterdam, Ojibwa

      in The Island at the Center of the World they mention that most of the settlers of the Dutch colony were not Dutch, or at least a significant number were not. In many colonies, the settlers were drawn from people who were economically distressed or had some other reason to leave everything behind and go overseas. The Dutch were experiencing, at the time, an extremely prosperous period. The settlers of New Paltz were French Huguenots, as were many of the settlers elsewhere in New Netherlands. My father's family, as it happens, was Dutch and French.

      The beginning of the book was interesting. Apparently, there was this guy who had just finished his Ph.D. in Dutch Studies with a particular interest in 17th Dutch. Of course, he did not find a job easily. Then in New York they found a large cache of documents from New Netherlands which no one could read. The book is based on a lot of the new information which came to light.

      •  I would like to read that book (2+ / 0-)
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        Ojibwa, FourthOfJulyAsburyPark

        The Netherlands as we know it today didn't exist at that time. What was known as the low lands were 17 provinces that included Belgium, Luxemburg and The Netherlands. The low lands were part of the spanish empire. During the 80 year war, 7 provinces revolted against Spain mostly for reasons of taxes and religion. These provinces united into the Republic of 7 provinces in 1588. Freedom of religion became part of the constitution.

        Many huguenots fled to the Republic, especially to Amsterdam, to escape the religious persecution in France. In those years up to 6 percent of the Amsterdam population was French. Many native Amsterdammers have French ancestors.

        Another interesting thing is that the Flushing Remonstrance, petitioned Stuyvesant for the right of freedom of concience based on that constitutional right, and is considered the precursor of the freedom of religion in the United States constitution.

        •  If my memory serves, the author is a writer, (2+ / 0-)
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          amsterdam, Ojibwa

          not an academic, and it's a very enjoyable read. And yes, the French side of my family were Huguenots and came here from Amsterdam. I've been told that there are still distant relatives with my surname there. I'm not especially into genealogy, however. My family probably wouldn't pay attention to it at all except I'm frequently asked to account for my funny sounding name. I understand that my great grandfather identified as Dutch more than French and my mother says that my father's family didn't like her because "she wasn't Dutch", though that's as much of a class, religious and, ironically, nativist issue.

          A few years ago I was on a connecting flight from Marseille to Paris run by KLM. A couple of young Frenchmen were chatting up a very pretty flight attendant. They asked her name and were surprised to hear a name that sounded French. As you might expect, she said that one side of her family was descended from Huguenots.

          It's funny though, the other day I was at the French National Archives in Paris and saw the Edict of Nantes and in the Musee de Carnavalet there's painting of the Duc de Guise and others of the Catholic League demonstrating in the streets. There's something a bit strange thinking that it was all real.

          •  I am not that much into (2+ / 0-)
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            FourthOfJulyAsburyPark, Ojibwa

            genealogy either, but when I checked some resources on the internet, I found that only one grandparent's lineage traced back to 17th century Netherlands. The others came from Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and China. Amsterdam and Antwerp were like today's New York.

            The first bank that could be seen as a precursor to the central bank, was founded in Amsterdam in 1609. The first stock exchange also in Amsterdam in 1611. They were conceived to accomodate the international trade that was taking place.

            Before Amsterdam became one of the world trading capitals, it had a small population. Chances are that the "dutch" side of your family, wasn't really that dutch.

            Groups assimilated, people got married. The French huguenots left an imprint on the city, because of their numbers. One interesting folk tale, is how one section of the city got its name. It is called the Jordaan. This extention of the city was built in 1612 to accomodate the sudden population growth of the city. Low income people from all over Europe and other parts of the Low Lands flooded that section of the town. The culture and dialect of that section, is thought of as typical Amsterdam in the other parts of the country. The most popular folk tale is that the name is a bastardization of le jardin, which is French for the garden. All the streets and canals are named after flowers and trees.

             The other folk tale about the name is that the canal that seperated the very poor Jordaan from the wealthy section of the city, was nicknamed the Jordan river.


            That is a picture of the Prinsengracht, the canal that seperates the city center from the Jordaan. The Jordaan is on the right side of the canal. You know you are in the Jordaan, because the streets are built at an angle.

            The other group that had a major impact on the city, was the jewish community.
            The first group were Sephardic jews from Spain and Portugal, who had fled the Spanish inquisition. You will still find many portuguese names. Spinoza was from Sephardic jewish heritage. Later Ashkenazim arrived from eastern europe fleeing pogroms.
            The first synagoge was established early in the 17th century. Amsterdam had one of the largest jewish communities in Western Europe. The city is still referred to by its nickname Mokum, which is yiddish for city.

            Funny thing is that the Amsterdam dialect, which is actually the Jordaan dialect is very rich of Jiddisch words.

            •  That all very fascinating. I'm under the (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              amsterdam, Ojibwa

              impression that a lot of people underestimate the degree to which populations moved and people intermarried even before a couple of centuries ago. A British boyfriend once asked me why Americans seemed to know so much more about their family histories than the English he knew did. I had to think about it a bit, then I realized that part of the reason was that many Americans have a reference point, which is when their families came to the U.S. Very few people seem to have accounts of their families before that point. So it winds up giving a relatively simplified view. When I first signed up for Skype, I looked up to see if there was anyone else using it with my surname, which is uncommon. I found someone in Italy and his first name was Italian. There wasn't anyone else. I have a friend whose family came here from France, but they have a Dutch, or possibly Flemish, name. Then I've known people with names like Ouellon, which give an indication that they've come from someplace else.

              Then of course there's the simple matter that the number of ancestors a person has grows exponentially with every generation, so most people only know of a couple lines. I'd be curious to do one of those DNA ancestry things because I honestly don't know what would come up. I don't have a strong ethnic identity in any direction, so it would just be curiosity.

              •  fascinating isn't it? (2+ / 0-)
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                FourthOfJulyAsburyPark, Ojibwa

                My grandfather on my father's side is chinese, and on his mother's side french, belgian and german. I knew about that. But I thought my mother's side was pulled out of dutch clay.

                I was surprised to say the least. I never knew the name Minek, which was given to at least one of the sons in her family, was an abbreviation of Dominicus, the name of the patriarch from Italy.
                I was lucky that some of my ancestors were also the ancestors of people who spend a lot of time researching and documenting online.

                You can check your name in the Database of Surnames in the Netherlands

                The first page is in English. Some of the analysis and other documentation is in dutch. I can help you with a translation if you like. You can send me message if you don't want to plaster it on this site.

                •  Thanks for the link. (2+ / 0-)
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                  amsterdam, Ojibwa

                  It seems that there is no longer anyone in the country with my surname. There was a single person in North Holland in 1947. Apparently, the family has either dwindled or left. My father would not be thrilled to hear that, but he passed away himself a few years ago. There's not much family left on this side of the Atlantic either. I guess if there was I wouldn't be spending the holidays abroad rather than at home.

                  I was just reminded of a woman with whom I went to graduate school who was from Taiwan. She told me that she had some Dutch ancestors and her sister had blue eyes. She, on the other hand, appeared entirely Chinese.

                  •  The name may have changed (2+ / 0-)
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                    FourthOfJulyAsburyPark, Ojibwa

                    If the name is uncommon you can try googling it with the word geneology. Maybe it is part of someone's familly tree.

                    The Dutch colonized Taiwan from 1624 to 1662, that may explain the Dutch ancestors.
                    I showed a Taiwanese friend of mine, how my name is written in chinese, she told me I share my name with the Chinese admiral that defeated the Dutch and kicked them out of Taiwan. Kind of ironic isn't it.

                    I am sorry you don't have too many relatives left. In some way we are all related. I believe the estimate for how many people left Africa and ended up populating the other continents, is 6000.

                    Funny idea how your relatives and mine occupied and shared that small insignificant part of the world.

                    •  I once tried looking on genealogy sites around (2+ / 0-)
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                      amsterdam, Ojibwa

                      1999 or 2000 and found next to nothing, except a couple people I already knew personally like my grandfather. The name appears so French that I once had a Frenchman insist that I look it up. He was certain that there had to be someone with my name in France, but there wasn't. Well, this time I did get something. Apparently a woman with my surname got married on the island of Texel in 1837. The name is uncommon enough that almost anyone with the same name is almost certainly at least distantly related. I did find this pagewhere someone posted information about emigrants from Texel. There is someone with the right surname, but the wrong first name and wrong profession. On the other hand, my father came from a family of morticians and there was a tendency to obfuscate regarding their trade.

                      It also seems that someone bought a house in New Amsterdam in 1657.

                      Well, on the plus side, I can't say that I was so overwhelmed that it took me ages to sort through it. It was interesting to find anything at all this time. The twentieth century census entries are almost all people I can identify like my grandfather and his brother.

                      I'm not sure any part of the world is or more or less insignificant than any other. The title of the book I mentioned comes from a letter that an early explorer sent back to Holland encouraging settlement because he felt that the way the island was situated it would one day be the center of the world. That's surprisingly prescient when you consider that it probably appeared like a small and insignificant place at the time.

                      •  I did some checking for you (2+ / 0-)
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                        Ojibwa, FourthOfJulyAsburyPark

                        The name is almost certainly changed. Originally it would have been written with ou. Names that are written with an e or a u, were also originally written with ou. Most likely they came from Valenciennes, but in dutch registers it is often spelled Valencijn.

                        It is really interesting. I was told my great-grandmother was descendant from huguenots, but that is what we assume here when we have French ancestors.

                        I've been amusing myself with a listing of marriage and birth
                        registrations in the city of Leiden in the 17th century, of people who were born in Valenciennes. If you look at the alias' you can see how fluid names were used.

                        If your ancestors lived in Amsterdam it is very likely that they attended De Waalse Kerk the french language protestant church.

                        I will definitely look for the book.

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