Saturday, May 18, 2019

Pieter and Maria: Part I

(click image to enlarge)

Manifest, S. S. E. C. Scranton, 7 December 1857, 6th page (unnumbered; contains passengers numbered 271-324), lines 29-32 (passengers 299-302), Peter Ton household; "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 8 March 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication M237, roll 181.

On December 7, 1857, my maternal 3rd-great-grandparents, Pieter and Maria Modena (Van Klinken) Ton disembarked from the E.C. Scranton in New York City at the Emigrant Landing Depot at Castle Garden, America's first official immigrant center, 35 years before Ellis Island opened. They had left the port of Rotterdam on October 31, 37 days earlier.

With them were Maria's six-year-old daughter, likely from a previous relationship, Cornelia Van Klinken; Maria's almost-26-year-old single sister, Adriana Van Klinken; Pieter's married sister Suzanna Ton, her husband Izak Pape, and their two-year-old daughter Neeltje Pape; and about a dozen other Dutch immigrants heading to Ohio, along with many other European passengers headed to various U.S. destinations.

The Tons, Van Klinkens, and Papes were Seceders: a religious group who had split from the official state church of the Netherlands, the Dutch Reformed Church, both in the Netherlands and the United States. The Seceders would form what became the Christian Reformed Church. They were not unlike the Separatists, whom we know as the Pilgrims, who separated from the official state church of England, the Anglican Church, in the early 1600s.

They were also poor laborers from the municipality of Nieuwerkerk (New Church) in the Province of Zeeland (Sea Land); my only non-Frisian immigrant Dutch ancestors. Frisians are an ethnic minority in the northern provinces of the Netherlands and western areas of Germany, who are ethnically and linguistically closer to the English than the Germanic peoples of Western Europe. The Ton, Van Klinken, and Pape families were ethnically Dutch.

Pieter and Maria had been married only a year, and had had one son, Adriaan Ton, named for Pieter's father. Adriaan had been conceived before they were married; not unusual in a time and place where the marriage fee to the church was prohibitive for the lower classes. Many couples co-habitated and had several children before they could afford a church wedding. Maria's daughter Cornelia was five years old when her mother married, and there's little evidence that Pieter was actually her biological father. Baby Adriaan died at four months old; three months before his parents and extended family arrived in New York City.

For a drawing of a similar ship to the one the Ton and Van Klinken families traveled on, see

(Part II)

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