Fifteen hundred years ago, the people living in northern Europe were just emerging from barbarism. For another thousand years Western Europe lay almost dormant in the gloom of the Middle Ages. Most common people lived in a state of poverty and oppression. The gradual spread of Christianity, the Crusades, the Italian Renaissance, the invention of printing, the Reformation, all contributed somewhat to the amelioration of the lot of the majority of the population. The discovery of America, a new world of limitless resources ready to furnish land and homes for millions of people, inspired new hope for many who had never known economic opportunity, civil liberty or religious tolerance. Thus, the immigrant ancestors of most Americans of European descent were fugitives from war, famine or religious, ethnic or political persecution. The 16th Century was a century of fruitless effort on the part of England and France to establish colonies in the new world. But early in the 17th Century little settlements of a permanent character were made by the English and Dutch along the eastern seaboard at Jamestown, New Amsterdam, Fort Orange, Plymouth and Boston. Early among those who left Europe for the New World was an Albert Albertsen who came to New Amsterdam probably in 1638. There are no records of his family known to exist in Europe. Nor is there any record of Albert Albertsenís activities for his first dozen or more years in America. Handicapped by the absence of such data we are forced to begin with family legend in order to construct the story of his youth, migration and settlement in America. Family legend (with apologies to those who have written otherwise) about Albert can be summarized as follows: Albert Albertsen was born in 1615 or 1619 in Huinen, Province of Gelderland, Holland. Though he came from Holland he was believed to be of French Huguenot descent. His ancestors had lived in France for many generations and in Holland for three generations. He, his father and all his remembered ancestors were ribbon weavers by occupation. His French ancestors may have been of noble rank or family origin. He arrived in New Amsterdam in December 1637 on the Dutch ship Calmar Sleutel. Although he had intended to establish a ribbon weaving business upon arrival, he actually spent considerable time employed in the service of the colonyís governor general. The first specific record of any other occupation occurred in 1657 when he began farming on a rented property near New Utrecht, Long Island. For whatever reasons he seemed to be stubborn, quarrelsome and litigious in his recorded behavior in the 1650 and 60ss. Sometime prior to 1648 he married Geertje Dircks (Denyce?) and, together, they founded the Terhune family. My readings of the documented historical facts and circumstances pertaining to Nederland, New Sweden and New Nederland at the time of Albertís migration indicate that this legend includes errors and improbabilities, some obvious and others more subtle. Obviously, Albert was not from Holland. Gelderland was not, and is not, a part of Holland; Gelderland and Holland are two of the eleven sister provinces of the Netherlands. (Pedantic point? Perhaps. But it behooves us to treat the limited information available about Albert with as much rigor as possible.) It appears doubtful that Albertís ancestors in France could have been both ribbon weavers and members of the nobility. (ďGood pricesĒ already have been paid in vain trying to prove a noble connection.) If, indeed, his name for the ship he came on was Calmar Sleutel, then it was not a Dutch ship, it did not come to America until 1638, and it did not bring him to New Amsterdam. Not only did Albert never engage in the craft of ribbon weaving in New Netherland; itís almost a certainty that he had no such notion when he decided to emigrate. Moreover, the several years he spent in service to the governor likely were not voluntary in nature. The record of his quarrels, civil disobedience and litigation reflect a disgruntled existence. If this revised paradigm of Albert is valid, then what motivated him to leave behind a comfortable home and respected, lucrative craft in peaceful Nederland to labor in privation and frustration for so many years in the primitive colony? This book seeks to square family legend with historical facts and circumstances. The intention is to form a clearer and more plausible portrait of our immigrant ancestor and his motives. His decision to emigrate was the seminal event in our familyís history. Without that seemingly inexplicable decision there would be no Terhune family. Finally, this book does not presume to offer the conclusive interpretation of Albert Albertsen and the Terhune family genesis. More research is needed; dialogue, including criticism and corrections, is invited and welcome. To begin this story, it is felt that a description of the development in France and Nederland of civilization, government and religion, from the earliest times, would be of interest because of the influence these had on Albert Albertsenís family and his migration to the New World. In pursuance of such an understanding the following two background chapters include quotes from the pages of leading historians of those far off times.
The above is the introduction to the book "A Terhune Family History and Genealogy" written and copyrighted by Charles Terhune Duncan. It is printed here with his permission.
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