The Pregnancy of Huybertie Marselis
Nan Mullenneaux

On September 30, 1675, the Albany Court received a petition from Huybertie Marselis, daughter of Albany tavern owner Marselis Janse, asking that Jan Hendricksen Bruyn appoint sureties "for the protection of what may happen to her in childbirth." Bruyn, a New York City resident and Albany property owner, was not present. The court ordered him to post bonds for the unborn child before he "left the country." The petition was an indirect accusation that Bruyn was the father of her child. Neither parent's exact age is known but evidence suggests that she was quite young - most likely 15 or 16.

Over the next several weeks Bruyn sued several Albany residents for slander. However, the content of the slander is unrecorded and the cases were dismissed.

On December 20, Huybertie's father brought his daughter's confession to the court. In "the extreme pains of childbirth" Huybertie had sworn to six married women that Bruyn was the father of her child and that she had never "known" anyone but him. Marselis requested child support or "maintenance."

In February 1676, the court ordered Bruyn to pay Huybertie eight beavers for her confinement and one-and-a-half beavers per month to support her and the child. The court noted this amount had been deemed "fair by honest and impartial women."

Finally, in April, Bruyn denied the paternity charge and demanded that Huybertie appear in court. Three days later he accused her face-to-face of "villainous lies". Bruyn intimated that their relationship had been consensual; denied he "had gone to her in her sleep"; stated that she had cried; and denied that he had any knowledge of her pregnancy or had offered her "a remedy." Bruyn did admit, however, that he had "had carnal conversation" with Huybertie."

The court initially ordered Bruyn to marry Huybertie in accordance with English law that read "If anyone commits fornication with an unmarried woman, they shall both be punished by being joined in marriage." Bruyn adamently refused to marry Huybertie, despite her pleas to "restore her honor for the sake of the child." Evidence suggests that Bruyn was already married at the time. Faced with Bruyn's refusal to wed Huybertie, the court fined him - stating that he had "seduced a young girl in one's own house." Their decision was based on Huybertie's childbirth confession witnessed by the "six honorable women." Further, the court found no evidence that Huybertie had overstepped the bounds of propriety. Bruyn was ordered to pay Huybertie a large lump sum of one thousand guilders in beavers as well as all legal and court fees.

In subsequent court entries, Bruyn appears as an active and increasingly affluent trader and landholder. He was not considered an Albany burgher as he "does not keep fire and light here the entire year." In 1680, Huybertie Marselis married English soldier Joseph Yates. They raised a large Albany family. Huybertie and her husband both died in 1730. No record of the child, fathered by Bruyn in 1675, has been found!


the people of colonial Albany Mention of his wife is found five years before this case and one year after it. (Although, as she is referred to only as the wife of Jan Bruyn, these could be first and second wives, with a gap of time between.)

For more on this, see CMA, 2:31, 56, 87-90.

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first posted: 8/8/01