Above is a painting of an old map of Bergen, Norway. Hieronimus Scholaeus’ prospect of Bergen was painted about 1580 and published in Cologne in 1588 in a large atlas with pictures of “cities from the whole world” The Civitates orbis terrarum (Bergen, Norway), by Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg. 1590 – the edition which is presented above was published in Amsterdam in 1657. Although the picture of the city is the same as on prospect from 1580, the original Hanseatic cargo ships are replaced with more up to date Dutch fløytskip, a flat-bottomed, three-masted trading vessel with an ample hull. The low houses portrayed here with the red roofs would mostly have had turf roofs. (1)
I was quite intrigued with the above map. If you click on it and view the larger image, you can see the key on the bottom left more clearly and see each one as it corresponds to the place on the map.
Commentary by Braun: “Most of the finest buildings in the city, be they houses of worship or domiciles, belong to the Hanseatic merchants, the Osterlingen, as they are called there. The rest are shoddily made, with walls of timber pieced together and roofed over with green moss. Nevertheless, the German merchants have a splendid outpost in Bergen because it is excellently suited for trade and commerce. For it encompasses a whole side of the harbour […]. They have separate trading posts corresponding to the diversity of their cities and countries of origin. Hence the merchants from Lübeck, Danzig, Cologne, Brunswick and Hamburg each have a site of their own by the shore, on which they unload the ships from their cities and load them again and send them back to Germany.” (2)
Bergen – the first royal residence city – has for centuries been Norway’s, and for long periods, Scandinavia’s biggest city. The historical monuments round the Vågen bay tell us that the city has been of national, historical significance. In the well-known view of Bergen from the 1580s by Hieronimus Scholeus we can recognize Håkonhallen’s characteristic stepped gables and feudal lord Erik Rosenkrantz’ proud building from the 1560s; what we today call the Rosenkrantz Tower. That is not so strange, because both buildings have been restored with that engraving as a model. Erik Rosenkrantz built together Magnus Lagabøtes castle gatehouse from the 13th century and captain Jørgen Hanssøns defense works into a powerful defense tower – a “donjon” – and equipped it with a Renaissance façade looking out over the city. Behind today’s construction at Bergenshus we can make out the contours of the medieval royal estate at Holmen, which at that time was linked to the mainland by a low, marshy neck of land. (1)
My quite recent interest in the town of Bergen, Norway is engendered by the recent discovery that I am descended from Anneken (Annetje) Hendricks (Henriksen) Vanderbilt. I have several Dutch ancestors that were in New York very early in its settlement. It would have been assumed by later researchers that Anneken was Dutch except for the fact that in her marriage banns it states she is from Bergen, Norway. In her marriage banns in the Reformed Dutch Church, New Amsterdam (now New York), it states “Jan Arentszen Van der Bilt, j.m. en Anneken Hendricks, Van Bergen en Noorwegen.” She married Jan Arentszen Van der Bilt on 6 February 1650 in what is now Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. She was born about 1630-1632 and would have lived in Bergan in a time when it looked very much like the image above. Mine første bekreftede norske forfedre! 🇳🇴 ❤️
This led me to do a bit of research into Norwegian families in early New York. I had previously not even considered the fact that Norwegians may have migrated to America so early.
I found that Norwegians have been in New York since the 1600’s. Dutch ships trading and colonizing in what would become present day New York, had Norwegian sailors as part of their crews. Norwegians were considered some of the best sailors. (3)
General information about Norwegian immigration to America. There was a Norwegian presence in New Amsterdam (New York after 1664) in the early part of the 17th century. Hans Hansen Bergen, a native of Bergen, Norway, was one of the earliest settlers of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam having immigrated in 1633. (See more about him below). Another of the first Norwegian settlers was Albert Andriessen Bradt who arrived in New Amsterdam in 1637. Approximately 60 persons had settled in the Manhattan area before the British take-over in 1664. Pieter Van Brugh, Mayor of Albany, New York was the grandson of Norwegian immigrants. His mother’s parents were Roelof Janse (1602–1637), born in Marstrandsön, a small island situated in Båhuslen province in Norway (ceded to Sweden in 1658) and Anneke Jans (1605–1663), born on Flekkerøy, an island situated outside the town of Kristiansand, Vest-Agder County, Norway. How many Norwegians settled in New Netherlands (the area up the Hudson River to Fort Oranje—now Albany) is not known. The Netherlands (and especially Amsterdam and Hoorn) had strong commercial ties with the coastal lumber trade of Norway during the 17th century and many Norwegians emigrated to Amsterdam. Some of them settled in Dutch colonies, although never in large numbers. (4, 7, & 8)
One of the earliest Norwegian sailors to settle in Dutch New Amsterdam (New York) was Hans Hansen Bergen of Bergen, Norway. Hans Hansen Bergen emigrated to New Netherland in 1633 in a company with the Director-General of New Netherland, Wouter Van Twiller, and Bergen was initially known in early New Amsterdam records by various names, but chiefly Hans Hansen Noorman and Hans Hansen Boer. He was also sometimes referred to in early records as Hans Noorman, Hans Hanszen, Hans Hanszen Noorman, Hans Hanszen de Noorman, Hans Hanszen Van Bergen in Norweegan or simply Hans Hansen. A shipwright by trade, he became a large property owner in Brooklyn. He served as overseer of an early tobacco plantation on Manhattan Island, before eventually removing to Brooklyn’s Wallabout Bay, where he was one of the earliest settlers and founded a prominent Brooklyn clan. He married Sarah Rapelje – the first female of European descent born in New Amsterdam. Both family names live on as street names in Brooklyn. (4, 5, 7, & 8) His wife Sarah Rapelje was a sister of my ancestor Jannetje Rapalje who married Rem Jansen (AKA Remsen) Vanderbeek – The Blacksmith.
Sarah and Jennetje were the daughters of Joris Jansen Rapalje and Catalyntje Jeronimus Trico. Some famous descendants of this couple are:
Arthur Ryerson – RMS Titanic Victim; Actress Paget Brewster; Actor Humphrey Bogart; Retired Politician Howard Dean; and Actor James Spader.
American socialite, and amateur soprano Florence Foster Jenkins is a descendant of theirs through their daughter Sarah Rapelje and Hans Hansen. Some may remember the 2016 biographical film Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.
There was also Claes Carstensen (possibly originally Klaus Kristenson). Claes Carstensen’s name appears variously as Claes Noorman, Claes Carstensen Noorman and Claes Van Sant, the latter being the Norwegian name Sande in Jarlsberg, where Claes Carstensen was born in 1607. He came to America about 1640 and settled a few years later on fifty-eight acres of land on the site of the present Williamsburg. The ministerial records of the old Dutch Reformed Church in New York state that Claes Carstensen was married April 15, 1646, to Helletje Hendricks. (3, 5, 6, & 10)
Some have asserted that Claes Carstensen’s wife Helletje Hendricks may have been a sister to my ancestor Anneken Hendricks. Her husband was from Norway, but she was most likely Dutch. She is listed as Helletje Noomian in some records, but some argue it was because her husband was Norwegian. There is no note to be found in her marriage record indicating she was Norwegian, so she most likely was Dutch and not a sister of my Anneken Hendricks. Claes Carstensen died November 6, 1679. (5 & 10)
Albert Andriessen (Albert Andriessen Bradt), was twenty-nine when he made an agreement with Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, and it is assumed based on this information that he was born about 1607. Pursuant to the stipulation in the agreement, he sailed, accompanied by his wife, Annetje Barents of “Rolmers,” and as it would seem by two children, October 8, 1636, on the Rensselaerswyck,” which arrived at New Amsterdam March 4, 1637. In the following centuries Norwegian sailors and captains continued to be hired to sail to the area, and some of them stayed. (3, 5, 6, & 7).
By the year 1700 there were a number of families of Norwegian and Danish descent living in New York. In 1704 a stone church was erected by them on the corner of Broadway and Rector Streets. The property was later sold to Trinity Church, the present churchyard occupying the site of the original church. Prof. Rev. Rasmus Anderson, speaking of these people, says, that they were probably mostly Norwegians and not Danes, for those of their descendants with whom he has spoken have all claimed Norwegian descent. The pastor who ministered to the spiritual wants of this first Scandinavian Lutheran congregation in America was a Dane by the name of Rasmus Jensen Aarhus. He died on the southwest coast of Hudson Bay, February 20, 1720. (10)
So, who was Anneken Hendricks (Henriksen)? In addition to the sailors there were some Norwegian adventurers that accompanied Dutch colonists to New Amsterdam. As noted above in the case of Albert Andreesen, there were those that sailed with their wife and children. Her parentage is unknown, but I must assume she sailed with a family member or parent to New Amsterdam. Her surname gives some clues and most likely the name was actually the Norwegian surname Henriksen. Her surname indicates that she was descended from a man named Henrik. See note below, it appears she was a daughter or granddaughter of a man named Henrik. The surname Henriksen is a Norwegian surname (also found in Denmark).
Update: The above newspaper article in Norwegian was sent to me by a Norwegian DNA cousin (with a different connection to me) and it shows that Anniken’s Norwegian name was Anneken Henriksen. This section translated into English reads:
Norwegian. Anneken Hendricks, Anne Henriksen, was married to Dutchman from the city of Bilt. The family name was Van der Bilt. The family name was Van der Bilt, for the fathers [fore-fathers/ancestor] of the wealthy Vanderbilt family.
Here is another one above that she sent me. In English this section translated reads:
By marriage dated 6 February 1650 in new Amsterdam (New York), Anneken Hendricks from Bergen became a Hollander, whereby Norwegian blood came into a family that later and still is one of the most prominent American family names today. What family is it?
The question being asked at the end is in relation to what Norwegian family does Anneken Henriksen come from? A question that has yet to have an answer and may remain a forever mystery.
Side note: Hendricks and Hendrickszen/Hendricksen, are surnames found in Dutch church, land, and legal records in Colonial America. There are numerous brides and grooms with the name Henricks and some with Hendricksen in Dutch Reformed Church records in New York and some in New Jersey, but only Anneken Hendricks’ (Henriksen) marriage record has the note of her being Norwegian and from Bergen, Norway. Most have Dutch roots, and the families came from the Netherlands, with a few being English that intermarried with the Dutch. (11 & 12) But Henriksen is a uniquely Scandinavian surname. Henricks and Hendricksen are Dutch and German surnames.
Many have incorrectly listed her as the daughter of Dutch immigrant Jiles (Giles) Douwesz Fonda and his wife Hester Douwdre Jansen. There is quite a bit known about Jiles Douwesz Fonda, He was a brewer and a blacksmith’s assistant in Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands. After 1645 he was involved in the whaling industry in the Netherlands. He married Hester Douwdre Jansen on 10 February 1641 in Diemen, North Holland, Netherlands. He arrived in Fort Orange, New Netherland (now Albany, New York) in 1651. Jiles died in the year 1659 in Beverwyck, New Netherland Colony (New York). There is no record of him ever being in Norway, and his marriage takes place in the Netherlands at least ten years after Anneken Hendricks was born. I have seen no documentation as to why they are linking her to this couple, except that a few list the maiden name of Hester as Henricks. Anneken Hendricks (Henriksen) married in February 1650 in what is now Brooklyn, New York. She was living in New Amsterdam and married there prior to Jilies Douwesz Fonda even immigrating to America. Also, the Dutch very much listed additional information in their records if a person was not Dutch or from the Netherlands. The fact that they listed her as from Bergan, Norway is telling, it tells us that she was Norwegian and not Dutch. There is no evidence or historical records linking her to this couple. I believe that one person decided to incorrectly link her to them, and then multitudes of people have repeatedly shared the incorrect data.
Anniken is a Nordic girl’s name found in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Her name is listed as Anniken in her marriage banns, in the baptism records of her children in the Dutch Reformed Church it is listed as the Dutch variant of the name as Annetje. One of the earliest recorded forms of the name Anneken, is found in a Swedish document from 1387, and listed as Anneken. This developed into the names: Anneke, Annecke and Anneka, and all four were used throughout the 15th century in Scandinavia, Germany and Holland. (9)
As noted in a prior paragraph, it is not known how many Norwegians settled in New Netherlands (the area up the Hudson River to Fort Oranje—now Albany). We know that Norwegians settled in Dutch Colonies, although never in large numbers. She would have been part of that unknown number of Norwegians that settled in New Netherlands (New York).
Part of Anneken (Annetje) Henriksen’s story has been lost to time. But what we know for sure is that she was from Bergen, Norway and came to be in the Dutch New Amsterdam (New Netherlands) Colony in America, in what is today, New York, and she married a man of Dutch stock named Jan Aertsen VanDerBilt (Vanderbilt).
- Nynorsk – Grind – Norwegian for «Gate» A gate to the landscape. Bergen – The Urban Community.
- SANDERUS Antique Maps & Books. Bergen (Norway), by Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg. 1590.
- REHOOK WAR STORIES – Full Article: Norwegians
- FamilySearch. New York: Norwegian Settlements
- Evjen, John O. (1916). Scandinavian Immigrants in New York, 1630–1674. K. C. Holter Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Including appendices on Scandinavians in Mexico and South America, 1532-1640, Scandinavians in Canada, 1619-1620, Some Scandinavians in New York in the eighteenth century, German immigrants in New York, 1630-1674 (Volume 2) online.
- The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volumes 11-13. Google Books.
- John O. Evjen. “Roelof (Roeloffse) Jansen Archived June 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine,” Scandinavian Immigrants In New York 1630 – 1674.
- Norwegian Americans – Wikipedia.
- British Baby Names – Annika – Name of the Week (Anneken)
- Flom, Ph. D., George T. (Professor of Scandinavian Languages and Literatures and Acting Professor of English Philology, State University of Iowa) (1909). A History of Norwegian Immigration to the United States: From Earliest Beginning down to the Year 1848. Privately Printed (Self-published), Iowa City, IA. pgs. 35-36. Online.
- Bergen, Teunis G. (1881). Register in Alphabetical Order, of the Early Settlers of Kings County, Long Island, N.Y., from its First Settlement by Europeans to 1700. S.W. Green’s Son, Printer, Electrotyper and Binder, New York. Online.
- Marriage Records of New Amsterdam & New York 1639-1801. Assembled by Robert C. Billard. Online. ancestraltrackers.org
For a detailed history of Begen, Norway visit: I Love Bergen – The History of Bergan by Emma Vestrheim.
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