New Netherland and Beyond
Church Records and History
About Early Church Records
by Dingman Versteeg
"Unfortunately, the earliest New Netherland baptismal records are missing or incomplete. The New Amsterdam records
do not begin until 1639, or about 26 years after there were whites, sojourning on, or in the neighborhood of Manhattan.
The Lutheran records, which cover the territory between New Brunswick, N. J., and Albany, N. Y., commence in 1703,
though there was a Lutheran church organization at New Amsterdam before 1660.
The Albany baptismal records prior to 1683 have disappeared, though there was a church there in 1642.
The early Schenectady baptismal records were destroyed in the French and Indian raid in 1690, and the existing ones
do not begin until 1694.
The records of Bergen only begin with the arrival of Rynier Van Giesen, as Voorlezer, on January 1, 1666,
although there was an organized church there some years previous. The baptismal records of the South River (Delaware)
which would have included Delaware, Southern New Jersey and portions of Pennsylvania, long before Penn's arrival, seem to
be missing, though the fact that they had ministers and voorlesers makes it certain that they kept baptismal records.
There exist fragmentary records of portions of these sections kept by Paulus Van Vleck between 1710 and 1738, while the
Bucks Co., Pa., baptismal records do not begin until 1737, more than a century after Captain David Pietersz De Vries
founded his ill-fated colony of Swanendael, near the site of the present city of Lewes, Delaware.
The baptismal records of the Five Dutch Towns of Long Island from 1654-1676, covering the ministry of the Rev. Johannes
Theodorus Polhemus have also been lost. The probable importance of these records can be estimated by an examination of the
Brooklyn church records during the four years from 1660 to 1664. that the Rev. Henricus Selyns officiated there. After
Mr. Selyns' departure for Holland, Brooklyn again joined the ecclesiastical union of the other villages, but its church
records of these four years fortunately have been saved, and with them three scores of valuable baptismal entries, a sample
of what we would have possessed had all these early Long Island Church records been preserved."
An excerpt from "New Netherland Genealogy" by Dingman Versteeg,
an article appearing in the New Netherland Register, Vol. 1. June/July, 1911