Witt-Claes Janßen (a.k.a. DeWitt)

Birth Date - d. 10 November 1659

Tiade [Tiarcks] Bremers

born in Ostbense, Ostfriesland, probably ca. 1600-1605
died 21 March 1647

Falde (Pelde) Claeßen

born 1630 in Großholum or Kleinholum (Ostbense), Ostfriesland
[presumed: gap in church record]
Some records transcribe this name as Pelde, but close examination suggests that it was always written Falde; “Pelde” appears to be universally a misreading of older handwriting. When printed sources call her “Pelde,” this page generally preserves the misspelling, to make source searches easier.

named possibly for father’s first wife
1659 Weinkaufsprotokolle refers to “Pelde” as “die älteste Tochter” of “Claeß Johansen,” likely meaning eldest daughter of second marriage
died 4 May 1663, aged 33 years
(in the church Totenregister von Esens, she is called “Peter Johansen Frau Falde”;
in the Weinkauf note of the same date, she is called “Pelde Claßen.”
A Weinkauf entry dated 18 July 1663 calls her “Pelde Classen.”)

Peter Janssen

son of Jan Lübbers
married 16 August 1655
(Kirchenbuch Copulationsregister von Esens;
here she is called “Falde Claassen, Claas Johansen Tochter”)

born in Esens area [presumed] - died 21 May 1683 in Ostbense (Kirche Totenregister von Esens)

his second wife is Tomke Janssen, married 25 May 1664 in Esens. She dies 28 March 1725 in Altharlingersiel, so we may assume that when they marry, she is around 20 years old. They have eight children together.

Jan Peters

named for his father’s father
born 1656

Class Peters

named for his mother’s father
born 1658

Berend Peters I

named for [someone on his father’s side]
born 1659

Berend Peters II

named for [someone on his father’s side]
born 1660

Tjarck Peters

named for his mother’s mother’s father (or various other relatives with same name)
born 1662


See more extensive discussion on pages pertaining to Witt-Claess Janssen, her father, and her mother and maternal forebears. In addition to an unknown number of half-siblings from her father’s first marriage, Falde very likely had an elder brother, Tjerck Claessen, who emigrated to North America from near Esens in Ostfriesland (today the northern coast of Germany) in the early or mid-1650s. Three of their siblings joined him over the next few years. Others remained in Ostfriesland, on the farm the family had owned for several generations.

Since Tjerck was gone from Ostfriesland in 1659, when their father died, the property passed to Falde, after (apparently) some back-and-forth regarding inheritance. To inherit the property, an heir had to be present, and had to pay the property transfer tax (the “Weinkauf”).

The Weinkauf record for this property suggests that the transfer from Witt-Claes’s estate to Falde was not concluded until 1661. There may have been problems with financial obligations, or there may have been dissent over which child should inherit the farm.

Four of the seven children of Witt-Claes and Tiade Bremers had emigrated to North America. Three sisters remained in Ostfriesland. In a power of attorney written in North America in 1661, Falde’s elder brother Tjerck Claessen suggests that he expects to receive rent from the farm left behind by their father. In subsequent court documents, various North American members of the family take a continuing interest in the property, going so far as to travel from North America to Ostfriesland, as late as 1704.

When Falde Claessen died, at 33, in 1663, the family farm passed to her first son, Jan Peters, who was seven years old. It appears that his father, Peter Janssen, may have tried to take over ownership of the farm; the Kanzleiverwalter and Oberrentmeister insisted that the boy, as direct descendant of the farm’s owners for many generations, must be the registered owner of the property.

Peter Janssen dies in 1683, and again ownership of the family farm comes into question. His second wife, Tomke Janssen—who survives him—may have been angling to have one of her children take over control of the farm. Falde’s brother Jan (who traveled to North America in 1662, at age 18, but may have eventually settled in Amsterdam, or split his time between Europe and North America) filed papers in Esens explaining why Peter and Tomke’s children should not inherit the property.

In 1694, Tiarck Peters, the youngest son of Falde Claessen and Peter Janssen, and a direct descendant of the historical owners of the farm, also files papers regarding possession of the farm, this time with reference to various creditors on the property, which apparently had been used as security for loans dating as far back as 1613 (though it may not have been used as security until 1647). The property appears to have been seized by creditors as early as 1654, and Jan Claessen again appears to have fought for family ownership in 1692.

In the 1699 Dike Register, the property is listed under the name of Clauß Peters de Witte, apparently referring to Falde’s son was born in 1658, suggesting that family ownership of the farm has been preserved.

This page is not complete yet; it’s simply here to hold some bookmarks for the time being.



I’m just beginning to list sources here. Apologies for not being more complete. I will continue to add to this list as I have time. There are many sources of information on the family named Claessen DeWitt, some better than others.

Printed sources:

Heyko Heyken, Die Weinkaufsprotokolle des Amtes Esens, Upstalsboom-Gesellschaft, Aurich [Germany], 1998.

Ship Passenger Lists from Amsterdam to New York and New Jersey.

Online sources:

For some further notes and records about the family, see Ruth Menssen’s excellent and comprehensive site at http://www.ortsfamilienbuecher.de

Ship passenger lists

Reproduced herein:

Last Modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2015

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