Monday, March 6, 2017

Language Barriers: The Case of Arent Jansen van Naerden or Heerde

Up until September of 2000, I and all other Prall researchers assumed that the marriage record of our immigrant ancestor Arent Jansen Prall was rock solid accurate. That changed with the Prall Family Reunion held at New Paltz, NY. New Paltz was founded by Arent's wife's uncle, Louis DuBois.

Prior to the reunion, I met with Larry van der Laan. Larry was working on a research project centering on the families that survived the 1655 Staten Island Massacre. [An Indian shot for stealing a peach from an orchard ignited the conflict known as the Peach War.] It was Larry's contention that the family of Arent Jansen Prall was among the survivors.

Jan Arentse van Heerde , his wife Baetje Jans and their seven children had been part of Cornelis Melyn's settlement, arriving sometime between 1650 and 1653. Jan and the wife of Captain Adrian Post would later be sent back to Zutphen, The Netherlands to report on the massacre. It was also part of Larry's theory that Jan and Baetje's son Arent's marriage record was in error.

The 1670 Kingston Dutch Church record gave the names of the couple as Arent Jansen van [from]Naarden and Maritje Pieterse van [from] Leiden. [Marie was the daughter of 1661 Staten Island patentee Pierre Billiou.] The error, according to van der Laan, was one of language. The dialect spoken by Arent was foreign to the clerk recording the information. Arent said he was "van Heerden" [from Heerden] and the clerk misunderstood his accent, thinking Arent said "van Naarden." So Arent became a native of Naarden.

Larry's theory was backed by earlier researchers. A handful of genealogists who had compiled information on the Prall family felt that Arent had at least three siblings, Wolfert, Magdalena and Marritje, perhaps others. All of the alleged siblings that appeared in records were "van Heerde." Several of the siblings appeared as witnesses to baptisms of nieces or nephews. Wolfert named his nephew Pieter [Arent's eldest] in his will. Even variations of the Prall surname appeared among the siblings. All of this lent credence to Larry's research.

Although many Pralls have not accepted Arent Jansen van Heerde over van Naarden, those of us who have keep the theory afloat.

This is a prime case of language barriers affecting research.  

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