In 1962 I was thirteen years old and in the 8th Grade. I have often called this the worst year of my life but, to be fair, it was the year I discovered my Family Tree. In Social Studies we were given an assignment to find out about our family history, do some research on it and write about it. I think we also had to give an oral presentation on it. My grandmother Kells lived with us at the time and my Father's parents lived nearby so I was able to talk to them about their families. All of the families and their stories interested me but the one that intrigued me the most was about Anneke Jans.
Here is the story I was told: Anneke Jans was the daughter of William of Nassau, Prince of Orange and Mary Stuart, daughter of Charles I of England. She was born and raised in the Hague, The Netherlands. But she fell in love with a commoner so was banished to the New World, going to live in New Amsterdam (now New York City). The land she lived on then is now occupied by Trinity Church and most of Wall Street. My Great Grandfather, Benjamin Melvin Hudson, received a "Syllabus" showing how he was descended from her. It said that the court was looking into finding the heirs and splitting the property and money. Nothing came of this, it was basically a con. I don't know if Ben invested in it at all. But I was enamoured of the idea of the romance. I even started to write a novel based on the story (I soon stopped, though, because it was way beyond my abilities at that time to do so.)
Fast forward to 1978. I felt I had grown quite apart from my family and wanted something we could talk about and share. I remembered the Family History from 8th Grade and decided to take it up newly. Despite what all the books say to do (start with yourself and work back generation by generation) I started in the 1600's with Anneke Jans. I found that the story above was not at all historic truth. The real Anneke Jans was born in Norway and there is no indication at all that she was the daughter of William of Orange. She married Roeloff Jans and came to America with him in 1630. They had 6 children. He died not long after coming to America and she married Domine Everardus Bogardus and had children with him. Her land was in the area that is Greenwich Village, SOHO and Tribeca today, his land is where Trinity Church now stands. After he died Anneke moved to Albany (then Beverwyck). She has numerous descendants today. There is a webpage on her and the family hosted by Rootsweb. Here is the link: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ghosthunter/Anneke/page0.htm.
I found a book called ; "Three Hundred Years in America 1642-1942--The Story of Eleven Generations of the Brewer Family" by Bertha C. Spencer in which she goes into this story at length. She says "A half a million credulous people throughout the country contributed over a million dollars to confidence men, crooked lawyers and others, as "expense money" to prosecute their claims and recover the fortune. As a result, many of these sharpers were convicted and served prison terms for getting money under false pretenses." That in itself makes an interesting story!
After learning all this I continued my research and soon found out it was even worse! We weren't descended from her at all!. The Syllabus showed Anneke Jans' granddaughter, Catherine Kierstand marrying Johannes Kip and having a son Jacob. Jacob married Catherine de Hart and their son, Johannes, married Margaret Van Cotton whose daughter, Eve was our ancestress. But I could find no Margaret Van Cotton. I ofund a Margaret Van Etten who married Johannes Kip and had a daughter, Eva. That Johannes was the son of Jacob Kip and Rachel Swartwout. I did quite a bit of research on this and finally found a record that the Johannes Kip who was the son of Jacob Kip and Catharine De Hart died unmarried in 1776. Thus, our Johannes was the son of Jacob and Rachel and NOT a descendant of Anneke Jans. So, disappointing, but I learned a good lesson about family legends and the importance of honest research.
In fairness to Anneke I should note that Bertha Spencer says, "She is reputed to have been a small, well-formed woman with delicate features, transparent complexion, and bright, beautiful eyes. She had a well balanced mind, a sunny disposition and a kind heart. Added to this pleasing personality she was wealthy, according to the standards of the day."