Hendrick Van Rensselaer
Stefan Bielinski

Hendrick Van Rensselaer was born in Greenbush in 1667. He was the second son of Jeremias Van Rensselaer - head of his family's extensive holdings in America. His mother was Maria Van Cortlandt - daughter of one of the most prominent Manhattan merchants. Enduring the loss of his father in 1674 and his mother fifteen years later, Hendrick was raised under a family umbrella controlled mostly by the Van Cortlandts.

Two months after the death of his mother in 1689, Hendrick married Catharina Van Brugh - whose father also was a prosperous New York businessman. Following the birth of their first child that same year, the couple relocated to Albany where their last ten children were baptized in the Albany Dutch church. Almost immediately, Hendrick became a church mainstay - sponsoring more than two dozen baptisms, serving as an elder, and auditing the church's books.

Over the next decade, these Van Rensselaers were mainline Albany residents in every sense of the word. Standing in the shadow of his older brother, Kiliaen - who became lord of Rensselaerswyck, Hendrick was known as an Albany merchant, storekeeper, and part owner of a ship that traded in the West Indies. In 1695, twenty-eight-year-old Hendrick was elected to the Albany city council as an alderman for the first ward. Four the next five years, he sat on the council and city court. In 1698, he purchased land at Schaghticoke from the Indians on Albany's behalf. In 1707, he sold that patent to the city.

In 1704, his life changed when Rensselaerswyck was partitioned with the southern and eastern portions known as the "Lower Manor" going to Hendrick. Before long, Hendrick Van Rensselaer and his family left Albany - setting down roots across the river in a new home called "Crailo."

In 1705, Hendrick Van Rensselaer was elected to represent Rensselaerswyck in the New York General Assembly. Re-elected four times, he served until 1715. During that time (from 1706 thru 1734), he was listed on the roster of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs.

As time passed, he retreated to his country home - leaving the active development of the "Lower Manor" to his sons, Johannes and Hendrick. Hendrick Van Rensselaer died at his Greenbush home in July 1740 at age seventy-four. He was buried from the Albany Dutch church.


the people of colonial AlbanyThe life of Hendrick Van Rensselaer is CAP biography number 5053. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. Although based on substantial existing genealogical resources for this most prominent New Netherland family, the online genealogical pages of Walter Gilbert have been valuable in articulating our work on the Albany Van Rensselaers. Chief among the printed works on the family is Florence Van Rensselaer, The Van Rensselaers in Holland and in America (New York, 1956).

Store: This information comes from a profile of Van Rensselaer's business in Sung Bok Kim, Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society, 1664-1775 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1978), 145-46.

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