Jan Thomase Witbeck


New Netherland pioneer Jan Thomase Witbeck is the patriarch of the Witbeck family of Albany and greater Albany County.

According to traditional sources, Jan Thomase Witbeck was born in "Witbeck," Holstein in what later became Germany. Suggested birth dates seem to range from 1604 to 1630.

He is said to have been in New Netherland by 1644. In 1646, he was identified as the servant and also the former servant of Rensselaerswyck officials. In 1649 and/or 1653, he was among those colonists who signed an oath of allegiance to the Patroon.

Perhaps by mid-century, he had married Geertruy Andr. Dochter, the mother of at least seven children and the matriarch of the Albany Witbeck family.

Jan Thomase is said to have been present at the initial distribution of Beverwyck houselots in 1652-53.

Also in 1653, the court minutes include a letter from his father "Thomas Jensen" of "Witbeck" (presumably his home town).

In 1655, he is said to have had a house nicknamed "The Cuckoo's Nest." We surmise that his property was within the court's jurisdiction.

More than one traditional favorite has referred to him as a "most considerable [land] trader in Beverwyck." Also, his name seems to have been prominent on the petition submitted by the community's major fur traders in 1660.

Perhaps he leased a farm (or part of one) on Paps c/k anee Island in 1658. About that time, he is said to have held land at Esopus as well.

In 1674, his name appeared on a list of those who were to carry the body of the deceased director of the colony.

In 1679, his name appears to have been absent from a census of Albany householders.

In 1683, his name was included on a list of those who contributed to the Albany Dutch church. His pledge/contribution appears to have read "0."

Jan Thomase Witbeck is said to have died in Albany in 1684. Admittedly, much of our so-called understanding of the life of this community pioneer has been taken from traditional sources.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Jan Thomase Witbeck is CAP biography number 1820. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. Traditional wisdom is conveniently summarized in an online compilation.

first posted: 3/20/12