New Netherland Institute

Getting Access: Dutch-American History

Dutch AmericanWelcome to Getting Access, a series devoted to helping you obtain the digital records you need. Do you study the history of colonial America or New York State?

Do you have an interest in learning about Dutch contributions to American history?

If so, did you know that you can gain access to back issues of de Halve Maen for $10/year? Or that the New Netherland Institute provides free, online access to numerous research materials?

In this post you will learn about digital options for primary- and secondary-source records that pertain to Dutch-American history.


de Halve Maen

Since 1922, The Holland Society of New York has printed a quarterly journal called de Halve Maen.

The publication draws readers' attentions to new research concerning the Dutch settlement of North America and Dutch contributions to American history.

Essays range in topics from agriculture to material culture. They also include articles about Dutch genealogy.

Cost of Access: $10/year for Individuals/$45/year for Institutions


What’s Included with Access?

Your membership includes access to all issues printed between 1923 and 2002.

You will have the ability to keyword search back issues.

You will also have access to: • The Holland Society’s membership records • Digital copies of Van Laer’s New York Historical Manuscripts (Volumes 1-4) • Stokes Iconography of Manhattan Island (Volumes 2-4) • "Liber A" of the Collegiate Church Archives, a folio-manuscript book written by Domine Henricus Selijns, minister of the Reformed Dutch Church in New York (1682-1701).

The records contained in "Liber A" provide a documentary history of the Dutch Reformed Church of New York City during Selijns’ ministry. The volume offered by the Holland Society offers the text in both Dutch and English.



New Netherland Institute Online Publications

The New Netherland Institute offers digitized translations and transcriptions of primary-source documents that relate to the history of New Netherland.

The records come from the collections of the New York State Library and New York State Archives. The Institute has also posted documents owned by the New York Public Library and the Scheepvaart Museum in Amsterdam.

Cost of Access: Free

New Netherland Institute

Which Records Are Online?
  • Register of the Provincial Secretary, 1638-1660
  • Minutes of the Council of New Netherland, 1652-1654
  • Correspondence of Petrus Stuyvesant, Director-General of New Netherland, 1647-1658
  • Curaçao Papers, 1640-1665
  • Correspondence of Jeremias van Rensselaer
  • Correspondence of Maria van Rensselaer
  • Court Minutes of Rensselaerswijck
  • Memorandum Book of Antony de Hooges
  • New Netherland Papers of Hans Bontemantel
  • Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts
  • Petrus Stuyvesant’s 1665 Certification of Land Grants to Manumitted Slaves
  • Guide to 17th-century Dutch Coins, Weights, and Measures



The de Halve Maen and New Netherland Institute databases stand as invaluable resources for any historian or genealogist who wishes to research Dutch-American history.

You will find that the records of the New Netherland Institute focus on the history of New Netherland while those of the Holland Society cover New Netherland and its legacy.

Finally, you should know that New York History has finally added its back issues to J-Stor.


time-to-shareWhat Do You Think?

What is your favorite web-based archive or database? What information does it contain?


The Dutch Revolt and New Netherland

I wrote a guest post for the Junto Blog that provides a recap of the 36th Annual New Netherland Seminar.

New NetherlandThe Dutch Revolt and New Netherland

As my book project explores the cultural legacy of New Netherlanders who lived in Albany, NY, I attended the 36th Annual New Netherland Seminar on Saturday, October 5 at the New-York Historical Society. I admit that I attended the conference as an interloper; I study the revolutionary and early republic periods.

Sponsored by the New Netherland Institute (NNI), the New Netherland Seminar is the only conference dedicated to the study of the former Dutch colony.[1] The seminar convenes in a different location each year, but always within the bounds of New Netherland. The NNI organizes each seminar around a theme. This year, it selected “The Dutch Revolt and New Netherland” in an effort to explore the contributions Flemish and Walloon migrants made to New Netherland.[2] To this end, the NNI invited Guido Marnef, Kees Zandvliet, Maarten Prak, Wim Vanraes, and David Baeckelandt to discuss the Revolt and how and why the event led Flemish and Walloon migrants to participate in the Dutch colonization of North America.

The Dutch Revolt began in 1568 when the Low Countries revolted against the Habsburg Empire that ruled them. The struggle lasted 80 years and centered on political and religious issues. The Revolt ended in 1648, when the Protestant-dominated northern Netherlands (present-day Netherlands) achieved independence; the Southern or Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium) remained part of the Habsburg Empire.

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Some Thoughts on Theory: New Netherland Emerging Scholars Roundtable Takeaway

I do not consider myself to be a "theory-driven" historian. Theory influences the way I read and think about primary and secondary sources, but I don’t write about how specific theories apply to my argument. Or so I thought.

Jansson-Visscher_mapNew Netherland Emerging Scholars Roundtable

On Friday October 5, I attended the inaugural New Netherland Emerging Scholars Roundtable. Sponsored by the Dutch Consulate, the Nederlandse Taalunie, and the New Netherland Institute, the Roundtable convened for a full day of discussion about the scholarship on New Netherland by “emerging” scholars.

Eight emerging scholars and eight established scholars participated. The work of the emerging scholars explored the history of New Netherland from the vantage points of architecture, art, objects, ideas, culture, and trade. As the last presenter, I collected nearly 7 pages of notes about the history of New Netherland before the Roundtable turned its attention to my project.

I participated in the Roundtable with the hope that the other scholars would assist me with sources and ideas for how I could study the influence of Native Americans and non-Dutch Europeans on the development of the New World Dutch identity that developed in Beverwyck/Albany between 1614 and 1664. Although I began with this request, conversation quickly turned to my use of "identity" as a theoretical concept.


Roundtable Discussion

Initially, the Roundtable seemed to support my ideas about identity. Participants asked questions about how the concept worked in the 17th century, whether I had looked at religion as a major influence in identity creation, or if I had studied the contribution of African slaves to the New World Dutch Identity of Beverwyck. As I considered these questions, Walter Prevenier raised his hand: “I don’t get identity.”

I explained that I understood identity to be the way a person understood their relationship with their ethnicity, religion, community, region, and nation. I also explained that the word “identity” was fraught with ambiguity, which is why I avoid using the word in my written work as much as possible. Instead, I use “self-understandings” or refer to specific subjects of my study.

Prevenier pressed further: “How can you tell how the Dutch colonists identified unless they tell you in the written record ‘I identify as Dutch’?”

Great point.

Without intending to, I had latched on to "identity" as a theory and centered the argument of my dissertation on it. Subconsciously I knew I stood on shaky ground, but the urge to make a grand argument that would contribute to the historiography overwhelmed my objections.



Historical arguments do not have to be steeped in theory to be interesting or compelling.

Prevenier’s point seemed obvious. In fact, as soon as he articulated it, I understood his confusion and realized that it mirrored my own, hence why I used the terms “identity” and “self-understandings” sparingly in my written work.

Prevnier’s remarks helped me to admit that I was trying to force a modern-day concept (albeit a popular one) on my historic subjects who would not have understood “identity” the way I do.

Once I stated this realization out loud, I felt free to leave the theory of “identity” behind me.


Book Proposal Tweaks 

The Roundtable scholars supported my decision to abandon "identity." No one advocated a complete overhaul of my project. Instead we discussed different ways I could reframe the argument I want to make, which is something along the lines of "early Americans used cultural adaptation as a mechanism for surviving life in a sparsely-settled frontier, war, intercultural diplomacy, politics, and economic and demographic change."

I am still working on my new 1-2 sentence explanation of my project, but once I have it, I will tweak my book proposal to reflect it.

I am grateful for the New Netherland Emerging Scholars Roundtable participants for their conversation and ideas. They provided me with invaluable insight that will improve my book.


What Do You Think?

What do you think about using theory to make a historical argument? Do you think theory is necessary to answer our questions about the past? Do you think historians overuse theory?


New Netherland Seminar: Emerging Scholars Roundtable

In July, the New Netherland Institute invited me to participate in its new Emerging Scholars Roundtable. The roundtable will foster interaction between graduate students, junior scholars, and established scholars. I jumped at the opportunity to participate because my dissertation-to-book revision project extends my period of study backward to 1615. As a scholar of Revolutionary and Early National America, I need all the advice I can get about New Netherland.

Emerging Scholars Roundtable

The Roundtable will take place on October 4, the day before the Annual New Netherland Seminar (October 5). Ruth Piwonka, Jaap Jacobs, Firth Fabend, David W. Voorhees, Janny Venema, Charles Gehring, and Walter Prevenier will serve as the panel of established scholars.

The emerging scholars submitted 5-7-page project descriptions to the roundtable participants. The descriptions outline each emerging scholar’s area of research and the conceptual and/or research problems they face.


GezichtOpNieuwAmsterdamMy Proposal

What did I put in my proposal?

I asked the established scholars for assistance with the first chapter of my book.

In my first chapter, I will discuss the characteristics of the New World Dutch identity created by the people of Beverwyck (Albany, pre-1664). Roughly 51% of the colonists in New Netherland were born in the Netherlands, the remaining 49% came from all over Europe. Many scholars use “Dutch” to describe the 7,000-8,000 colonists who settled in New Netherland. I have never been comfortable with that.

New Netherlanders were Dutch in the sense that they lived under Dutch authority, but culturally they comprised something different. Wherever they settled, New Netherlanders created community identities that allowed them to avoid cultural disputes. In the case of those who settled in Beverwyck, the colonists developed highly adaptable self-understandings that allowed its diverse population to live and trade with each other and the Native American peoples who lived around them.

The secondary-source literature states that Dutch culture inalterably changed the cultures of Native Americans and non-Dutch colonists. Dutch culture profoundly influenced the self-understandings of the people of Beverwyck. However, the culture of Native Americans and non-Dutch colonists also inalterably changed the culture of the Dutch colonists. The secondary-source literature does not discuss these cultural contributions.


Netherlands-CrestMy Book

In my book, I would like to mention how Native Americans and non-Dutch colonists affected the creation of New World Dutch cultures. Admittedly, this topic deserves more than a mention and could fill many dissertations and books.

I hope to gain ideas from the scholars on the roundtable about the cultural contributions Native Americans and non-Dutch colonists made to New World Dutch cultures.

Understanding these contributions is crucial because New Netherlanders handed down a flexible culture that informed how the people of Albany adapted old self-understandings to create new self-understandings as New Yorkers, Britons, and citizens of the United States.