Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Zabriskie Mystery, Part 3

Zabriskie means "beyond the Birch."
The Polish Princess and the Frenchman

            I heard stories as a child, that we were Polish on my father’s mother’s side and that we were descended from the last King’s granddaughter, who fled to the new world in the wake of his execution. She fell in love with a Frenchman in Hackensack, NJ and their descendants slowly made their way to Western New York. While the story itself turned out not to be true, there was much more than a kernel of truth in it that I discovered in my genealogical research… connections I might not have made without having the story to push off from.
            In the previous two parts, Albrecht Zabriskie, Elusive Immigrant and Francois Le Sueur and the French Connection I wrote biographies for the men who immigrated to America in the 1600s and married here, setting the foundation for the story that would unfold. There is something about taking a puzzle that doesn’t quite fit right, that doesn’t make sense, and finally finding the key piece that changes everything that makes the journey worthwhile.

Albrecht Zabriskie was our ancestor from Poland, who befriended and lived among the Native tribes in New Jersey and was the interpreter for their trade with the Dutch. He and his wife Machtelt, married in the New World, had five children. Their oldest child, Jacob Albertsen Zabriskie, was baptised April 12, 1677.
At an early point in his childhood, Jacob was raised by the native Indians to learn their language and customs. This way, he would be able to act as interpreter for them in his father’s stead when Albrecht’s health declined. It is recorded in other documents that the Indian sachem had taken a shine to the young boy, through his friendship with Albrecht, and kidnapped him, though it was later a consensual exchange. In Rev. David Cole’s History of Rockland County he writes: “The oldest son, Jacob, was, with the consent of his parents, taken, when a small lad, by the Indians, to their settlement at Paramus, called in their dialect Palamah, signifying ‘wild turkey’ and grew up among the red men.”
In 1679 there is record of a very large acreage of land being given to Albrecht in exchange for an unnamed debt the Indians owed him, which very well may have been the kidnapping of his young son. Whether or not Jacob was willingly given or snatched will never be known, but the fact that he was raised among the Indians is a certainty, and history says he lived with them for 12 years.
When Jacob returned to his family, he was given his own bit of land. On September 20, 1706, Jacob married Ann Terhune, born in 1648 on Long Island to Albert Alberts Terhune and Hendricke Voorhis.  Jacob and Ann resided at Upper Paramus on part of Albrecht’s vast estate, on the land where the young boy had been raised by the Indians. Jacob Albertsen Zabriskie died in 1858, still living in Upper Paramus. Jacob and Ann had ten children. I am descended from their second child, their daughter Sophia, also called Fytje, born January 1707 in Hackensack, NJ.

We are also descended from, Francois Le Sueur’s fourth child, his son Nicholas, born in Esopus, NY. The child was baptized on June 10, 1668, an event witnessed by Jacob Barentszen Kool and Marritje Simons. Nicholas was only three years old when his father died, after which he was raised by his Dutch mother and her family, sharing their Dutch customs with him. He took the name Lozier, the Dutch pronunciation of the surname Le Sueur.
On May 10, 1691 Nicholas married Tryntje Slot in Bergen County, NJ. She was a daughter of Pieter Jansen Slot, former mayor of New Amsterdam, and Marritje Jacobse. After the wedding, Nicholas and Tryntje moved from Harlem to Hackensack, NJ where Nicholas had purchased a farm from agents of King George of England. This farm stayed in the Lozier family until 1930 and is shown on the Erskine maps used by General George Washington as Lurziers house and Lurziers hill.
Nicholas was admitted to the Dutch Reformed Church on April 4, 1702 and became a church deacon in 1713 and an elder in 1723. Nicholas and Tryntje had eight children. After her death he married Antje Direcksee Banta and had five more. He left a will in 1745 and is listed as a farmer and a shoemaker as well as a founder of the First Reformed Church in Hackensack. At some point he also owned a farm in Teaneck, NJ. His estate was probated on April 8, 1761 in Hackensack, NJ.
I am descended from Nicholas and Tryntje’s second child, Petrus, born June 7, 1697 in Hackensack, NJ. In records after his birth, he goes by the name of Peter.

Fytje Zabriskie was the granddaughter of a man who fled to a new world to escape military service and befriended and worked with the Natives. She was the daughter of a man who was raised by them. Peter Lozier was the grandson of a man whose brother-in-law had been killed by natives and who himself fought the Esopus Indians in defense of the colonial village built on their land.
They met somewhere in Hackensack and married on March 2, 1723 in NJ when she was 15 and he was 25. I like to believe that they were in love, but at the least I like to believe that they were happy, that the core of the story was birthed out of the relationship they had together. There must have been something special about them, that they launched a folk tale that survived down the generations of Loziers, Whitchers, Wickers and Rustons, to fall finally on my young ears.

The Zabriskie Mystery, Part 3 of 3

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Zabriskie Mystery, Part 2

Harlem, circa 1765, with Dutch Reform Church.
Francois Le Sueur and the French Connection

By uncovering our relation to the Polish immigrant Albrecht Zabriskie, and realizing the truth behind the story I had been told about the Polish princess who married the Frenchman, I discovered our unknown roots in France. We had another immigrant ancestor who was an early colonist in America, Francois LeSueur. The surname means “to toil” and in the sixteenth century, the LeSueurs were well established clothmakers in Rouen, France.
Francois was a civil engineer and surveyor, born in 1625 in a small town 3 miles south of Dieppe, Normandie, France. He was born in a town called Challe Mesnil that doesn’t exist on a modern map. There is a small farming village eight miles south of Dieppe called Colmesnil-Manneville that may be some evolution of where Francois was born. His parents are listed as Jean LeSueur and Marye Gruter, though that remains unverified.
On April 10, 1657, Francois and his younger sister Jeanne arrived in New Amsterdam and settled in Flatbush, Long Island. He was 31 years old. When they came to the New World as Huguenots, they were better accepted by the Dutch colonists than the English. The Huguenots were French Protestants whose belief in salvation through individual faith and an individual’s right to personally interpret scriptures threatened the hierarchy of the Catholic church. For centuries they had been persecuted and burned for their faith. In the 1600s over 200,000 French Huguenots fled the country, though emigration was illegal.
Francois was among twenty men, heads of families and freeholders, who, so that they might continue the language and customs of their homeland, applied to the Council of New Netherlands and the Directors General to be allowed to purchase land adjoining the Harlem River. On August 14, 1658, they broke new ground and named the settlement New Harlem, per request of the Dutch Governor, Peter Stuyvesant. I also want to add that much of the land for New Harlem was cleared, laid and built by African slaves who were employed as labor force for the Dutch company.
In 1659 Francois married Jannetje Hildebrand Pietersen in the Dutch Reformed Church. She was born in 1639 to Hildebrand Pietersen and Femmetje Albertse. In 1661 the civil engineer helped finish the engineering of New Haarlem. Francois, his wife and his sister moved to Esopus, NY early in 1663 because of high taxes in New Haarlem. From the book Harlem: its origins and early annals, authored by James Riker, 1881: “The three years allowed them (the people of Harlem settling on Montagne’s Flat) in which to pay for their lands had nearly expired, and with not a few it became a difficult problem how they should provide the 8 gl. per morgen which the government must have… It was plainly owing to the difficulty of raising this morgen-money, or morgen-gelt, as called…that a number of persons quit the town during this year (1662), to try their fortunes elsewhere; as well landholders as well others designing to become such. Of these were Coerten, De Pre, Du Four, Gervoe, and Le Sueur.”
From Harlem: its origins and early annals, by James Riker, “Francois Le Sueur, who left the town early in 1663, was the anc[estor] of the families of Leseur and Lozier, now mostly seated in N.Y. City and Bergen Co., N.J. Francois first lived in Flatbush after coming to Manhattan, and in 1659 m[arried] Jannetie, d[aughte]r of Hildebrand Pietersen, of Amsterdam; in which year Jannetie’s brother, Pieter Hillebrands, was captured by Indians at Esopus, but this did not deter her from removing there with her hus[band] Before going from H[arlem] he sold some of his effects, and his w[ife] bought “a little bed,” etc. at Sneden’s sale. Le Sueur’s s[iste]r Jeanne went with them to Esopus, and there m[arried] Cornelius Viervant, with whom she returned to H[arlem].”
Francois was a soldier in Captain Pawling’s Company during the Esopus Indian War. The Esopus were a tribe of Lenape Indians. The land they lived on, and shared with the colonists, was named after their tribe.
While in Esopus, Francois shows on record as being involved in a physical altercation with another colonist. On November 8, 1667 in Schout Beekman, Plaintiff vs. Francoys Le Shier, Defendant, “Plaintiff says that defendant has behaved very badly against Michiel Verbruggen, and had badly pushed and beaten him, and has hurt his ribs, on which account he has lodged a complaint, and demands a fine, in consequence of 100 gldrs. Defendant admits to having beaten Michiel Verbrugge with a stick so that he fell to the ground. The hon. Court orders defendant, for his insolence committed against Michiel Verbrugge, to pay a fine of 50 gldrs.”
 In a second case soon after, we see the end of the case in Michiel Verbrugh, Plaintiff vs. Francoys Le Schier, Defendant, “Plaintiff demands payment for doctor’s fee, pain, and lost time for seven days, on account of the maltreatment committed against him without reasons. Also demands wages for having taken care of the cows, alone, for seven days at six gldrs. per day. Defendant (Francois) also demands proof of his having killed Hend. Aertsen’s calf, of which plaintiff accuses him. Plaintiff says that he did not say that he killed said calf, but that he hung up the pieces of a skin. Defendant agrees to prove his assertion. Plaintiff is ordered to bring in a specified account of the doctor’s bill at the next session.”
Francois and his family moved back to New Haarlem in 1670 because his health was failing. He died the next year. From Harlem: its origins and early annals, by James Riker,“Le Sueur was living in 1699, but on Nov. 30, 1671, his wid[ow] bound out her son Hillebrand, eight years old. He was engaged by the deacons in 1673 to ring the bell at 3 gl. a year. Afterward the wid[ow] m[arried] Antoine Tilba, and by him had ch[ildre]n also…” Thusly, it is assumed that Francois died in 1671. Jannetje died in 1678.
I am descended from their fifth and last child, Nicholas (Claes) Lozier, born June 1668. The name Le Sueur changed with its descendants. Soma variations are Lozier, Leseur, Lesier and Lazier.

One last note: There is a persisting rumor readily found on the internet, that Francois LeSueur and his sister Jeanne had another brother, the painter Eustache Le Sueur. Eustace was one of the artists who founded the French Academy of Painting. It is possible that there is some familial connection, as the Le Sueur clothmakers sold fabric in Paris, Dieppe, and Rouen over the centuries, but Eustache was born and lived his life in Paris, while Francois and Jeanne were born outside of Dieppe and seemed to spend their lives there until they left for the new world.

The Zabriskie Mystery, Part 2 of 3

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Zabriskie Mystery, Part 1

Postcard of Zabriskie Pond, NJ circa 1909.
Albrecht Zabriskie, Elusive Immigrant

My father’s mother died when he was a small boy. He showed me a photo of her at a birthday party, wearing her favorite red dress just before she went into the hospital. She knew she wasn’t coming home. My grandmother Ruth died of cancer at the age of 42.
Her family name was Ruston, and rich with folk tales of family history. I grew up hearing the story of the refugee granddaughter of a beheaded King of Poland who fled to Hackensack, NJ and fell in love with a Frenchman. When we started doing our genealogy, I thought the story would be easy to prove but documented history told another tale and we had trouble proving the story to have any foundation. I almost gave up.
I learned that the last King of Poland, Jon Sobieski II, was overthrown and the government transformed. But he had been an elected monarch and there was no royal bloodline, though his ancestors had long been famous generals. His children are all documented and accounted for, and none of them, or their families, moved to New Jersey. What names we did have from family record were scattered and I couldn’t connect them after checking documents on
We had the name Albrecht Zabriskie, but couldn’t link anyone to him. I did some research of the history of Hackensack, NJ on a whim and was lucky to discover that not only was Albrecht Zabriskie a well-documented man, but that almost all Zabriskies of NJ trace back to the issue of he and his wife Machtelt. Albrecht was one of the founders of Hackensack, and after reading through the historical documents of both he and his children and their issue, I was able to discover the unknown link. It turned out to be simple. We were trying to make a connection through the wrong child.
            Even after discovering our root in America through that line, it was frustrating to learn that Albrecht’s own past was unclear, though there was much documentation to rumors or suppositions, and even some wishful thinking, as to his origins. The story as we can best interpret based on his own actions is that Albrecht had no love of war, unlike his Palatine general ancestors. There is an assumption that he was a cousin to Jon Sobieski II, or a nephew, or…something. Some researchers say that Albrecht’s father sent him to school in Amsterdam, hoping he would become a Protestant preacher but there is no support for that claim.
We know that Albrecht arrived in America from Amsterdam on the ship D’Vos, “Fox,” on August 31, 1662, under the sail of Captain Jacobsen Huys. It is widely believed by most historians that he was being pressed into military service and fled to the New World. Once here, he disappeared into Indian territory for thirteen years.
When Albrecht surfaced in 1675, “Albert Zaborowsky” was reported to be trading with the Tappan Indians, and friendly with their sachem Mamshier. He was also in trade with the Metetoch and Chechepowas. They called him Totlock. Due to his strong command of the Leni Lenape language, it is assumed he lived among them during his disappearance.
In December 1676, Albrecht Zabriskie married Machtelt “Matilda” Van der Linde at the Dutch Reform Church in Bergen County, NJ. He was 38 and she nineteen, daughter of Joost Vander Linde and Fytje Van Gelder. In the marriage registry, Albrecht lists his birthplace as “Enghestburgh,” yet no place is known to researchers. Possible locations are Engelsburg in Austrian Silesia, Angersburg or Insterburg in East Prussia.
Albrecht acted as a translator on behalf of the Native peoples for many land purchases during his lifetime, becoming himself a vast landowner. The year he was married he purchased 1,067 acres from the Tappan Indians, a tract known as Paramus, or “the Point.” In 1682 he purchased another 420 acres adjoining his original property, extending it to the Hackensack River in the east. In 1679, for unexplained reasons, the Indians became indebted to Albrecht, and the sachems conveyed to him 2,000 acres in Rockland County, NY, which was not exchanged until 1702, when Albrecht agreed to take lands in NJ instead of the Rockland property. He was deeded another 2,100 acres north of his original purchase, touching west on the Saddle River. Together, the Paramus and New Paramus tracts total 3,587 acres. Albrecht Zabriskie was a very wealthy man.
There is a story that Indians kidnapped his eldest son Jacob, from whom I am descended, and it is documented that Albrecht was given a consideration of white and black wampum, peltries, clothing, rum and implements of husbandry for the exchange. Perhaps this could be the cause of the Indians debt to Albrecht? Whether Jacob was snatched or given to the Indians to raise, he did live with them during his childhood, to the end of learning their language and cultures so that someone could act on their behalf when Albrecht’s health failed.
In Rev. David Cole’s History of Rockland County, he writes: “The oldest son, Jacob, was, with the consent of his parents, taken, when a small lad, by the Indians, to their settlement at Paramus, called in their dialect Palamah, signifying ‘wild turkey’ and grew up among the red men.” Later the Indians left these lands in Albrecht’s possession.
My Zabriskie ancestor was respected for his integrity and his fair dealings with the Indians, who held him in high esteem. He was active in the civil affairs of Hackensack and was the first Justice of the Peace for Upper Bergen County in 1682. Albrecht helped organize the first Church on the Green in 1686. The church burned at some point and was rebuilt, but the stone with his name carved into it still remains as part of the church foundation. Albrecht died September 11, 1711. His wife Machtelt outlived him by 14 years. They had five children and 27 grandchildren.
As to Albrecht’s lineage, it’s possible that his surname originated in Zborowska or Zabrze, which was a Silesian town on the Prosna River, west bank. Albrecht was a Lutheran, at odds with the strength of the Catholic church and it’s possible that his family was displaced during the religious wars. Zabriskie means “beyond the Birch tree.”
Albrecht’s name shows on many deeds in many various shapes and forms. Some of them show as follows: Albrecht Zaborowskij, Albert Saboriski, Albrecht Sobieska, Olbracht Zaborowski, Albert Zabriskie, Albert Saboroscoe, Albert Saberasky, Albert Sabboresco, Albert Saberiscoe, Albert Zaborowsky, Albert Zaberoski, Albert Cawbrisco, Totlock (among the Hackensack, Lenni Lenape and Tappan Indian tribes).

The Zabriskie Mystery, Part 1 of 3

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Walking a Ritual with Beads

In areas where winter means snow and ice and cold, everything seems to quiet down in the natural world around us. It’s a meditation in itself to slow our own daily lives and match pace with the place we live, making it the perfect time of year to focus on connecting to a sleeping, resting world.
It’s easy in the height of verdant summer to feel the heat and passion of life. Often, winter can feel like a long walk over the bones of the dead in a cemetery, so quiet and still. It’s unnerving to some. Truth is, just as the stars live in the sky whether we can see them or not, we walk every day over the bones of our dead. The ancestors are always with us.
I carry that knowledge with me through the holidays, when living family gathers in a whirlwind of joy and love and remembrance. After the chaos it can be difficult to slip back into the quiet of day-to-day. When missing my family is still a bright pang, I turn to my ancestors, the family who walks with me, with each of us, wherever we go. I turn towards strengthening that connection, thinking that maybe in the stillness of a snowy afternoon they can hear my call more clearly.
As a child I loved the rosary. I did not actually use it as it was meant to be used for I did not understand its true intention. Instead I used them to repeat my prayers at night, speaking to the streetlamp outside my bedroom window in the dark, whispering furtively for answers, for guidance. I loved the feel of the beads beneath my fingertips. Each one was a separate prayer, or the same prayer repeated. It was a tangible journey, one foot in front of the other, each step imprinting the message in my heart.
Working with ancestors often feels like speaking to the air, to ether. In the beginning of my work I needed that connector, that thing that joined my prayer with action. I longed for the feel of beads beneath my fingertips, something physical to help separate me from my body and push me into higher consciousness.
I’ve written before about the wooden mala beads I made, one bead for each known ancestor going back seven generations. But what I wanted was a ritual I could work with my hands, something more sacred. Something that reminded me of incense and chanting and temple halls, something to help me find the sacred in a tree grove and the night sky.
Years ago, in an evening of women coming together and doing a piece of spiritual work, we each made a set of beads that spoke to us. We each created a personal set that met our requirements for a personal ritual. All were beautiful. All were sacred. All were different.
I grew up immersed in a natural world with four seasons and my magick moves the same way, like the breath of the trees. So my personal magick often incorporates those seasons. My rituals weave through them to help me reach a heightened consciousness. I used semi-precious gemstone beads to create a ritual my fingers could walk.
Seven fossil beads begin the chain, the layers of ancestors, seven through which to know myself.
Nine beads mark each season, nine to mark what is sacred, three times three, my father, my mother and me.
Moonstone, smooth as silk stands for spring, for heavenly bodies and hope, for the promise of flowers and warmer winds.
One of bone to remember the flesh.
Red Tiger Eye, flashing and radiant as the summer sun, the shimmer of hazy heat and the courage found in youthful hearts.
One of bone to remember the tissue.
Lapis Lazuli for autumn, for the density and depth of water and twilight, of mystery and mist and the power of the veil and what lies beyond.
One of bone to remember the heart.
Moss Agate for winter, for earth and ice and crystal together, caressing and holding and resting and charging.
One of bone to remember the soul.
Then Quartz at the peak, for sight, vision and meditation, for communication. For being and reaching. For here. For now. This is where I speak, where I pray, where I petition, where I sit in silent clarity open to answers and impressions and visitations.
And then back down the path, down the ritual, back down to the beads of fossil of ancestral generations holding me and guiding me and bringing me home.
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