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Exploring the History of Dutch Immigrants in Jersey City

The Jersey City Free Public Library was awarded a grant by the New Jersey State Library to contribute materials relating to the history of Dutch immigrants in what is now Jersey City and throughout the state. The period of Dutch rule over "New Netherlands" only lasted until 1664 when the English occupation began. After a brief return of control to the Dutch in 1673 the English regained power in 1674 and retained it until the American Revolution. The farming communities in present day Hudson County remained much the same until well into the 19th century, when Jersey City began to grow as an industrial center. This collection documents that period; we link to some highlights below. For the complete collection and more powerful searching options, we invite you to visit the New Jersey Digital Highway.

The New Jersey Digital Highway (NJDH) is a new way to explore our state's history and culture. NJDH is a collaboration of the state's libraries, museums, archives and historical societies to provide a "one stop shop" for New Jersey's cultural treasures-photographs, books, documents, three-dimensional objects, video and audio.

Highlights from the Collection: 

Postcards of Historic Sites
Deeds, 1688 – 1832
Records of Slavery
Wills and Estate Documents
The Dutch Reformed Church in New Jersey
Dutch Recipes

More about the collection:

The collection scanned for the original project includes over 3,700 pages of books and pamphlets, 22 photos, 4 maps, and 40 document and manuscript items ranging from 1 to nearly 300 pages. More items will be added over time. All of the items in the documents category are over 140 years old, relatively fragile, and are sometimes difficult to read, but all are intact without missing any substantial amounts of text.

The books and pamphlets include genealogical records, general histories, and items relating to the Dutch Reformed Church, now known as the Reformed Church in America. The genealogical items include specific Dutch family genealogies, as well as listings of birth, marriage and death records from the colonial era. The church records document the growth of the Reformed Church and its role in the Dutch communities and the growth of Hudson County and the state of New Jersey, particularly the Bergen Reformed Church, which was established in 1660 and is the oldest continuing congregation in the state.

Many of the images date from the 1910 celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Village of Bergen, including postcards depicting colonial locations and photos of a series of historical tableaux depicting Dutch colonial life presented by the children of PS 11. There are also photos of Dutch descendants in Jersey City, and historic Dutch houses. The maps include three of property held by Van Vorst family members in 1873, as well as a 1727 map of what is now Hudson County.

Finally, and most interesting and unique, are several dozen original documents ranging from 1688 to 1860. These handwritten papers include wills, deeds, bonds, and other legal documents, plus sermons and church records, all pertaining to Dutch residents of what is now Jersey City, the earliest written in Dutch. There are also two volumes of the handwritten minutes of the First Reformed Church of Jersey City, from 1835 to 1856.