52 Ancestors: #5 Pieter Claessen WYCKOFF – Plowing Through

For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the un-climbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that is sleeping in the un-plowed ground.

~ Lyndon B. Johnson

The optional theme for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Challenge, “Plowing Through”, brings to mind the many generations of farmers that grace my family tree. Pieter Claessen Wyckoff, my 9th great-grandfather, fits this bill rather nicely.

Ansicht auf Marienhafe um 1400, oil painting by Gerhard H. Janssen.  Wykoff, M. William. What's in a Name?: History and Meaning of Wyckoff. Rochester, N.Y.: CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2014. 23. Print.
Ansicht auf Marienhafe um 1400, oil painting by Gerhard H. Janssen.
Wykoff, M. William. What’s in a Name?: History and Meaning of Wyckoff. Rochester, N.Y.: CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2014. 23. Print.

Pieter Claessen was born circa 1623 in Norden, Ostfriesland (East Frisia) near Marienhafe. Pieter’s birth would have taken place during The Thirty Years War time, a time of great unrest and changing of borders in Europe. Marienhafe was located not far from the bay of the Ems River near the southeastern shores of the North Sea. East Frisia has long been associated with the sea-faring trade and with farming (think Holstein cows). This area now lies in the Lower Saxony region of Germany.

Map of Ostfriesland, 1600. Public Domain, because of age.
Map of Ostfriesland, 1600. Public Domain, because of age.

Meanwhile, back in the New World, Kiliaen van Rensselaer, diamond merchant and director of the Dutch West India Company, had his eye on the area around Fort Orange (now present day Albany, New York) and after a deal was struck with a handful of Mohican Indians, Kiliaen commenced to setting up a patroonship (of which he had control) on that newly acquired land. After hostilities with the natives and many set-backs and delays concerning the company, the patroonship of Rensselaerswijck was ready to be farmed and settled. When Kiliaen had not obtained the required fifty people to settle the colony by 1633, it seemed as if Rensselaerswijck might cease to be. In 1636, with three farms within Rensselaerswijck producing and Kiliaen needing supplies and the balance of the required number of people to settle, he and two other merchants, purchased, financed, and equipped a ship – De Rensselaerswijck.

This is where our very own Pieter Claessen enters the picture. Pieter is among the passengers and supplies that set sail from Texel on 8 October 1636 bound for the New World and, in particular, Rensselaerswijck, along with Simon Walischez – who would be overseeing Pieter as a laborer in the patroonship. The journey did not go as well as planned and after stormy weather and five weeks of floating, the ship finally arrived at Plymouth where it was forced to remain until January 9th. By March 4th, the ship had reached Manhattan, where it lingered for three more weeks until the ice in the river had broken up enough for passage up the Hudson. The ship finally arrived at Rensselaerswijck on 9 April 1637.

New Amsterdam -Nicolaes Visscher (I) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
New Amsterdam -Nicolaes Visscher (I) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After Pieter worked off his contract, approximately six years, he rented a farm for himself and his new bride, Grietje Cornelis van Ness, in that area where their first two children were born. It appears that Pieter and Grietje relocated south to New Amsterdam during the years 1649 through 1655 after which time they signed a contract with Peter Stuyvesant (yes, THAT Peter Stuyvesant!) fellow Frisian and last  Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland, infamous for his wooden leg and handing New Netherland over to the British in 1664.

Rensselaerswyck Original Map - By Unknown (but most likely not Gillis van Schendel, as is typically assumed) [Public domain] Copyright has Expired, via Wikimedia Commons.
Rensselaerswyck Original Map – By Unknown (but most likely not Gillis van Schendel, as is typically assumed) [Public domain] Copyright has Expired, via Wikimedia Commons.
The Fall of New Amsterdam - Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Fall of New Amsterdam – Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pieter’s contract with Stuyvesant was for superintending the bowery (farm) belonging to Stuyvesant in New Amersfoort, an area located currently in Flatlands, Brooklyn. The home that they moved into is currently known as the Wyckoff Homestead and is a National Historic Landmark. This is where Pieter and Grietje raised their family of eleven children (6 boys and 5 girls) and where they lived out the remainder of their lives. Pieter never owned the house that the family lived in, but he did purchase and own other land in the area.

Historic American Buildings Survey, E.P. MacFarland, Photographer May 8, 1934, VIEW FROM NORTHWEST. - Peter Wyckoff House, 5902 Canarsie Lane, Brooklyn, Kings County, NY [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Historic American Buildings Survey, E.P. MacFarland, Photographer May 8, 1934, VIEW FROM NORTHWEST. – Peter Wyckoff House, 5902 Canarsie Lane, Brooklyn, Kings County, NY [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

At the time of the British take-over and the renaming of New Netherland to New York. It was required that families take surnames that they could be identified with. It was at this time that Pieter Claessen and family assumed the surname of Wyckoff. The why of how this particular surname was chosen, contrary to popular belief, can be explained no better than by M. William Wyckoff in his book “What’s in a Name? History and Meaning of Wyckoff”.

 “If one looks for the history of the compound wyck  + hof, only in Dutch, it will not even be found. It will be found in Swedish and Frisian. Unfortunately, the false etymology for Wyckoff is the one that is most frequently encountered in the literature of 20th-century America and now on internet. It has been accepted by many, but it is false. The surname actually came from Friesland and was not created in America. Whether the immediate proximal meaning was a household, or settlement on a bay or waterway, or a place of refuge, it was surely not located in the Netherlands, but in Friesland where it was usually written Wyk- (not Wijc-, Wijk, or Wyck-). As all types of evidence indicate, the name Wykhof, no matter how it is spelled or how it is interpreted, is Frisian rather than Dutch. The fabricated meaning of Wijk + hof being a Dutch word interpreted as a “town clerk” was neither an established meaning in any speech community nor a correct and true meaning.”

The above passage excerpted, with permission, from:

Wykoff, M. William. What’s in a Name?: History and Meaning of Wyckoff. Rochester, N.Y.: CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2014. 44-45. Print.

It is quite clear that Pieter Claessen Wyckoff’s origins are Frisian and, at this point in time, his parentage is not known. It is quite probable that Pieter was an orphan given the history of war and disease at the time of his birth. It is also quite likely that he may have been an illegitimate child. What we do have a lot of documentation of are his descendants here in The United States. His and Grietje’s marriage record is believed to have been lost in a fire, but they were probably married in Beverwyck before 1646. Their first born son, Nicholas, was born circa 1646 in Beverwyck. This is the line that I am descended from. Pieter died on or before 30 June 1694. Grietje died between 1699 and 1703. Both are buried in Flatlands, Long Island.

There are thousands of Pieter and Grietje Wyckoff descendants spread across The United States today. I suggest that you might check out the blog of one the descendants, Denise Dahn, at:


Here you will find her striking watercolor renditions of the history of the Wyckoff story. For those of you who would like to know more about the very well-researched and documented history of the Wyckoff surname, I highly recommend M. William Wyckoff’s book, “What’s in a Name? History and Meaning of Wyckoff” that can be found at Amazon. This little book is a treasure!


Lineage Notecard

Name: Peiter Claessen Wyckoff


Spouse: Grietje Cornelis van Ness


Relationship to Hollie: 9th great-grandfather

  1. Pieter Claessen Wyckoff
  2. Nicholas Wyckoff
  3. Pieter Wyckoff
  4. Jacobus Wyckoff
  5. Joachim Wycoff
  6. Cornelius Wycoff
  7. Levi Wycoff
  8. Jane Wyckoff
  9. Florence D. Paisley
  10. Elsie Marcella Hackathorn
  11. Darlene Lois Moore
  12. Hollie Ann Schrader


Wykoff, M. William. What’s in a Name?: History and Meaning of Wyckoff. Rochester, N.Y.: CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2014. 23;44-45. Print.

Venema, Janny. Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652-1664. Hilversum, the Netherlands: Verloren, 2003. Print.

Venema, Janny. Kiliaen Van Rensselaer (1586-1643): Designing a New World. Hilversum, the Netherlands: Uitgeverij Verloren, 2010. Print.

Shorto, Russell. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America. New York: Doubleday, 2004. Electronic, Kindle.

The Wyckoff Family in America: A Genealogy in Two Volumes. Third ed. Vol. One. Baltimore, MD.: Gateway, 1980. Print.








24 Replies to “52 Ancestors: #5 Pieter Claessen WYCKOFF – Plowing Through”

  1. Hi Hollie,
    I’m hoping that you can send me the name and date of birth of all of your grandmother Hackathorn’s brothers and sisters. (Of which my grandmother, Mary Hackathorn/Champion was one)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Done! I branch off at Cornelius 7. John McCullough 8. Loretta Catherine 9. Blaine Culp 10. Martha L Culp 11. Me (Michael Stills). Thank you for doing this and using great source information. You have helped promote the current knowlege of Pieter. Lots of old and outdate stuff still circulating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Michael! So far the thing that I have the most anxiety about is the length of the post. I write a lot and then I cut a lot, hoping that people will read all the way through instead of growing bored and clicking away. If nothing else, this is a great learning experience! ( Now to make sure that I have your info in my tree! ) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this essay with us! As a distant cousin of yours I appreciate it very much. (I am a second cousin, once-removed to Michael-above)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading it, Tim. There is a lot of historical information out there about the Wyckoffs and the start of the line in America, but a lot of people don’t want plod through the sometimes boring texts. With my blog, I’m trying to summarize what I know about my ancestors (and hopefully learn more in the process) and then to put it out there so that people can get the jist of that person – and then point them to more information if they’re so inclined. Thank you for appreciating it, cousin.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Hollie,
    I enjoyed reading your very informative post. I found it relevant to my husband’s family tree. He is a descendant of a Simon Wyckoff, born in 1683 in New York. Up until now, I have not done any digging on Simon. However, your post has me intrigued and I will definitely check out the links you have provided.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Patricia,
      I replied to your post on my phone yesterday and it looks like it didn’t come through. Just wanted to let you know that I checked for your Simon in my book that lays out Nicholas’ line and did not find him there. There was to be a planned Volume 2 come out with descendants of the siblings of Nicholas, but I don’t know if it ever did. Good luck on your search for your husband’s Wyckoffs. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The Wyckoff Family in America: A Genealogy in Two Volumes (3rd ed.) was published in 1980-83, but all that information and more should be available on the CD for sale online at http://www.wyckoffmuseum.org. Scroll down on the About menu to Genealogy.
    If the information you are seeking cannot be found on the convenient index on the CD, you have the option to contact Lynn, our volunteer member genealogist who is much more reliable than ancestry.com and all the other genealogy sites. Lynn Wycoff has a link at the same site.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You write in your article that Pieter was an orphan. He is my 8th great grand uncle. He is NOT an orphan. His father was Claes Cornelissen VanSchowen and mother is Margaret van dear Goes. He had tons of siblings.
    You can see that info. Lots of search sites.
    My has been doing genealogical research for 120 yrs now. A fun little committee that does just that! They publish books for the Peterson, Florea, and Storer families every twenty five yrs. next week I go to out reunion in Ohio.


    1. So, if you are his great granddaughter correct and he is a great grand uncle to me. Well I suppose that makes us cousins. Figuring that has been a challenge at first, but I only know when to figure when and where you share the SAME grandparent or great grandparent. We must share a similar someone. What do you think?


      1. Yes, Amy, I imagine that we are some sort of cousins. I descend through the Nicholas line, Pieter’s first-born son. Those persons that I descend from are listed at the bottom of my blog post if you’d like to have a look. Nice to meet you cousin.


    2. Hi, Amy! Thanks for having a look at my blog. In my blog post, I stated that it was “probable” that Pieter was an orphan given the presence of war and of disease in that place at that time in history. There are no actual facts to back that up. Pieter’s actual parentage is not known at this point in time. The information that has been widely circulated since the ’30s that Claes Cornelissen van Schowen and Margaret van Der Goes were the parents of Pieter (that was put forth by self-proclaimed genealogist Gustave Anjou) was found to be fraudulent. The Wyckoff Association discontinued the sale of the book “Old World Progenitors”, in which this information was published when this deception came to light. You can also read at the Wyckoff House Museum’s website about Pieter’s history and it also states that his parentage is not known. Perhaps at some point in the future through more DNA testing, we might come to a better understanding of who his parents might actually have been. I have done autosomal DNA testing and have many Wyckoffs among my matches, so it feels like a start…


  8. Thank you for offering this information to the public and to the Wyckoff ancestors. I am the great-great granddaughter of Simon Wyckoff III.

    All the best to you,

    Phyllis Bower McCall

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for your blog. I do not mind reading long blogs…I assume others do not as well. I was always told that the Wyckoff name came from Broker House (Wij Koff), but I think the name of the farm stead is more plausible. I did know he was Frisian, but I did not know it was a separate dialect from Dutch. I wonder how different it was? Must have made a hard life even harder……
    Pls keep up the good work.
    John Wyckoff

    Liked by 1 person

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