You can read about my Ditmars frustration (or not) here.
So, I pored over archived Genforum mail lists, various Ditmars message boards, GenWeb postings and even contacted a few people who seemed to care about evaluating sources. One person from the Dutch Colonies Rootsweb mail list recently recommended Dorland Enigma Solved by Barbara Barth as a good source. (Clearly, I shouldn’t delay a trip to the Library of Congress any longer.) I also spotted a Ditmars researcher, Doug Sinclair, via a Google search last year and, after really struggling to sort it out on my own, I finally contacted him.
Doug provided some great information and I now have confidence I can pursue my Ditmars line without chasing bad leads. I need to do primary research, but I’m feeling good about why and how Doug came to his conclusions.
Ellen Terhune Ditmars Hinds
But I’ll start with what I knew on my own---My great-great-grandmother, Ellen Ditmars, born in New Jersey in 1818 was listed in a family genealogy booklet. I had already found Ellen, married to Solomon Hinds, in the 1850 census in New York when I did my Hinds research. In 1840, neither Solomon nor Ellen were a head-of-household, so I didn’t find them in that census, but while searching for Solomon, I came across a George Ditmars. I speculated Ellen's family lived in the same area as the Hinds family, so I saved the record in case I needed it. When I got started on the Ditmars, I looked for George Ditmars after 1840 and unexpectedly I found him with his wife Charity in Ionia, Michigan in the 1850 census. I didn’t know quite what to do with that piece of information, so I saved that too.
Next in my trusted line-up was Google search, but it didn’t give me very much on Ellen. I did find references to the Ditmars name all the way back to New Amsterdam. (Coincidentally, around this time I made a trip to New York and saw Ditmars Boulevard among many other uses of the name in Brooklyn, so they obviously were a prominent family.) On to Google Books where I turned up a book, The Van Voorhees Family in America, and it listed Ellen and where she was baptized in New Jersey. It was only a preview of a few pages, but it was enough to know I needed that book--yet another reason to head to the LOC. I found an older book at archive.org that was helpful: Genealogy of the Van Vorhees family in America, Elias W. Voorhis. It listed Charity married to George Ditmars and Ellen was listed as the youngest child. While I was intrigued by the move to Michigan, right now my focus was backward rather than sideways. And now I had George to work with.
The next generation back is when I really needed assistance. Doug was invaluable, not just in the explanation of Dutch naming traditions, but also in that he actually walked me back through my lineage so I could more easily understand how that tradition could be used to locate and evaluate possible ancestors. What had seemed almost completely overwhelming to me began to make sense and I could see the line unfolding back to New Amsterdam. Granted there is still speculation, and there are areas where I’ll want to do more research, but at least now I can do it with the confidence I’m following the right path.
I thought about paraphrasing Doug, but ultimately, if someone else is researching this line, almost all his comments would be useful. Here’s what Doug wrote:
“…we can begin to use the Dutch naming tradition to identify parents. This isn't a rule for all families of Dutch descent, but it was very prevalent, and the Ditmars family used it extensively. [I]t was the practice of naming the first child after the father's mother or father, depending on the gender of the child. The next child was named for the mother's appropriate parent and so on. Using this method and the census information, George was born in 1773/1774 in NJ to John and Mary. Process of elimination makes this the Joris Ditmars bap. 20 June 1773 (probably, since the record isn't clear), son of Johannes and Maria, at the Harlingen, NJ, Dutch Reformed Church. I believe those records have been transcribed and were published in the Somerset Genealogical Society Quarterly, where I saw them. The only other Johannes Ditmars of this generation in NJ was the son of Rem Ditmars, son of Johannes and Jannetje (Remsen). His will, written in 1803, names only sons John and William. Both Johanneses were named for their grandfather in the Dutch tradition. Brothers Rem and Douwe (who m. Aeltje) were the progenitors of the Ditmars in NJ.
Johannes and Maria had children baptized at Harlingen, recording what was surely a complete list between 1762 and 1775. Douwe was the first born, followed by Maria, Aeltje, Douwe again (the first having died), Neeltje, Joris and Abraham. The naming tradition shows that Douwe and Aeltje were Johannes' parents, Joris and Neeltje were Maria's, although her surname isn't known as far as I've seen. Douwe and Aeltje had a son named Johannes, bap. 29 July 1739 at the Dutch Reformed Church at Raritan, NJ. As mentioned earlier, the only other male Ditmars in NJ who could have had children of this generation was Rem, and his son Johannes married a woman named Fytje/Fytie/Sophia, not Maria, and his didn't have a son Joris/George in his will.Douwe had children baptized at Raritan and Rem had children baptized probably at Millstone, NJ (that would have to be double-checked). The naming tradition indicates their parents were Johannes and Jannetje. Douwe and Rem are sometimes left off the list of children of Johannes and Jannetje (Remsen) Ditmars, probably since all their other children have baptism records. The baptism records at Flatbush, NY, where this family lived, are missing for the years Douwe and Rem were likely born. This couple's first two sons would have been named for his father (Douwe) and her father (Rem). The first son of record was Jan, probably named for Jannetje's brother. The next and last son, Abraham, probably named for Johannes brother. The naming tradition usually meant naming other children after close relatives once the baby's grandparents' names were used. The first daughter of record was Marritje, which was Jannetje's mother's name. The second and last was Annetje - not the name of a Van Ditmarsen wife who could have had Johannes. Therefore the first daughter would have been Catryntje, although there is no evidence of her. She may not have survived to adulthood. Jan was baptized in 1718 when Johannes was about 28 and Jannetje was about 26-28. This was late for a couple's first child to be born at that time. My list of children leads with Douwe, b. abt 1712, Rem, b. abt 1714, Catryntje, b. abt 1716. These approximate birth dates are reasonable for what we know of Douwe and Rem in NJ. Given all the evidence, there really isn't any other reasonable alternative relationship possibilities among these generations.”
So from George & Charity to Johannes & Maria to Douwe & Aeltje to Johannes & Jannetje, I feel the links are pretty good. Stepping back another generation, the documentation seems stronger as I reach my 7x great-grandparents Dowe Jansz Van Ditmarsen and Catryntje Lott. Along this journey I have been seeing places like Jamaica and Flatbush, New Amsterdam and New Netherlands. Another generation back and I’m at Jan Jansz Van Ditmarsen and Ariantje Lollensz when we have the first Ditmarsen born in the New World in about 1640. And finally, the first Ditmarsen immigrant, Jan Jansz Van Ditmarsen, born about 1607, possibly in the German region of Dithmarschen, and who with his wife Aeltje, appears in a New Amsterdam court document as early as January 1639.
You know, I’ve been so fixated on solving the puzzle, I almost forgot to stop and ponder the idea that I descend from some of the original settlers of Manhattan. Just think, they probably knew Peter Stuyvesant.
Thanks for all the help, Doug. And now I have to pay it forward big time.