When I turned Catalina Trico into Mevrouw Jackie Lambert, I didn't expect to hear from Susan or Bryan. What were the odds two descendants of a woman who ran a Manhattan tavern four hundred years ago would read my novel of New Amsterdam and get in touch?
Pretty good, it turns out. Catalina, who had eleven children herself, claimed a 150-odd offspring before she died. Today the clan she and husband Joris Rapalje spawned is estimated at a million members. Susan and Bryan are two people who proudly claim descent from this woman who bore the first white child in the Hudson Valley, Catalina's daughter Sarah.
Susan, along with Vicky, Michelle, Philip and David, also boasts an illustrious connection to two other characters in my story. Griet Reyniers arrived in 1633 as the mistress of the incoming Director, Wouter van Twiller, thereby becoming New York's first high-class hooker. When Van Twiller threw her over, she declared she'd had enough of nobility and from then on would be "the whore of the rabble." She later married Anthony Jansen van Salee. Known as the Turk, Anthony was a cantankerous troublemaker whose Dutch father had turned into a notorious pirate of the Barbary Coast and taken a shine to the Moroccan woman who would bear his son.
As descendants of New York's first whore and first Muslim, Susan, Vicky, Michelle, Philip and David find themselves in prominent company. Griet and Anthony had four daughters. Six generations down, the line of their daughter Annica married into the Trico-Rapalje clan. The resulting son was Commodore Cornelis Vanderbilt, the richest man of his era. Along the way came Spraggs, Southards, and Remsens. Today Griet and Anthony's grandson several generations removed, Anderson Cooper, reports the news.
Their daughter Eva's progeny took a political bent. Eva's granddaughter married the Reverend Theodorus Frelinghuysen. The resulting family has filled the halls of Congress. Major General Frederick Frelinghuysen kicked things off as a delegate to the Continental Congress and later U.S. senator from New Jersey. His grandson Frederick Theodore inherited the Senate seat after the Civil War. Three generations later, Peter jumped to the House of Representatives, where his son Rodney sits today as Congressman Frelinghuysen of New Jersey.
Carol wrote me about her ancestor the Reverend Everardus Bogardus, who had a serious run-in with Griet and Anthony after they accused his wife of lifting her skirt in public like a common whore!
John asked about his ancestors in the Vigne clan, which claims the first white male born in the Hudson Valley. A descendant of Peter Tonneman, the last schout of New Amsterdam, turned up from Patria, as the Dutch call their homeland. Lona was enthralled by her ancestor Claes Swits, whose murder led to an Indian war.
No word yet from relations of other characters - the Directors, merchants Govert Lookermans and Augustin Hermans, and early settlers like the Damens, Van den Bogaerts, Beeches and many more. Quite a few are hiding skeletons in the closet that would make a modern New Yorker proud.
Hearing from Susan, Bryan and others my cast of characters spawned has been great fun. Inspired by their interest, I've started compiling vignettes of New Amsterdammers. They are only snapshots but together they give a flavor of the place.
I'm hoping more of you will drop me a line at Bill at BillsBrownstone.com. Griet has earned a place near and dear. Perhaps more are as proud as her five relations who have written so far, maybe even a celebrity newsman and a New Jersey congressman.
The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan Reviews
"[A] romp through the history of New Netherland that would surely have Petrus Stuyvesant complaining about the riot transpiring between its pages ... Readers are guaranteed a genuine adventure that will evoke the full range of human emotions. Once begun, they can expect to experience that rare difficulty in putting down a book before they have finished."
-- de Halve Maen, Journal of the Holland Society of New York, Summer 2009
"Bill Greer has deftly blended fact and fiction in his humorous tale The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan. ... The characters are rowdy, raunchy, loveable, and sometimes despicable, but thoroughly believable. ... This is a thoroughly delightful story that brings the Dutch colonies to life."
-- Historical Novels Review Online, August 2009