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Mohawk Dutch

Being a Midwesterner and a descendant of the Palatine immigration, I thought I knew my history on this subject. Then I came across a term new to me, the "Mohawk Dutch."


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Naturally, the Mohawk Dutch hailed from the Netherlands. They settled in the Mohawk Valley of New York state, thus the name Mohawk Dutch. The Dutch arrived in the early 1600s. From 1609 until the end of the century, the Dutch were primarily the only non-native Americans living in the Mohawk Valley and on westward.

The German Palatines arrived about 1710 and were also referred to as Dutch. The German language had become prevalent, but the original name was preserved for the Mohawk Dutch.

If you're looking for ancestors during this period, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, most of the early Dutch were men who married Native Americans. Land ownership was not legal until the West India Company was formed in 1621. Even then, those early Dutch often had no fixed address. They were primarily fishermen.

While you won't find a census taker making the rounds during those days—even if they could have tracked down these nomadic fishermen, some of the early names have survived. Among these early settlers were families with the names Flanders, Wiles, Chawgo, Clock, Cool, Swartwout, Wendell, Sanders, and Snell.

When families did begin to form and settle down, there was another issue. A marriage was considered a civil contract among the Mohawk Dutch. A marriage was recognized by the community when a man and wife began living together. Local ministers were rare and a religious ceremony often did not take place for months, when a visiting minister happened by.

The result creates a question as to when a couple was officially married. The answer would vary according to which you choose to use as the marriage date: the civil contract or the religious ceremony. It would not be unlike getting married by the Justice of the Peace and then having a wedding, with all the trimmings, at a later date.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when researching the Mohawk Dutch. Later, when they migrated farther West, they carried the Mohawk Dutch name with them. You'll find local histories across the country listing immigrants' ancestry as Mohawk Dutch. A good source for more information about Mohawk Dutch, is the Three Rivers web site.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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