Posted By P & L Blog


Imagine spending 35 years on one translation project.  Charles T. Gehring has.  As the director of the New Netherland project at the New York State Library,  he has spent half his life translating records from the era when New York was a Dutch colony.

The Dutch influence in the state is often overlooked in history classes but reminders of the early settlers include towns named Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Guilderland.  Long before Paul Revere's ride in 1775, Symon Schermerhorn rode to Fort Orange (now called Albany) in 1690 to warn settlers that the French and Indians were on their way after attacking Schenectady.  The Dutch lost control of the colony to the British in 1664 but the importance of their language was far from over.

English wasn't used in Dutch Reform churches until 1764, and families of Dutch descent continued to speak the language for many years.  Martin Van Buren spoke English as a second language; Teddy Roosevelt grew up listening to his grandparents speak Dutch.  Vital records in New York continued to be written in English and Dutch until the 1920s.  The Dutch influence in New York lives on today: everytime you hear someone speak with a Brooklyn accent, you have the Dutch to thank.

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