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Was Garrett Travis Dutch?

by Anne Cronin

      I have spent a lot of time looking at the myriad pieces of this endlessly fascinating puzzle which I am titling the NY Travises. I have looked a great deal at Garrett, the tinkering Dutchman, and I wonder if there is an anglicizing of him that distorts our historical perspective. While no doubt Garrett was strongly connected to the English of New Haven Colony, I think there is evidence he was a Dutchman displaced from the mainstream of both Dutch and English societies. If this is so, than his birth surname would not have been Travis, but instead a Dutch patryonimic.

     When the English took control of New Netherlands, they required all of the Dutch families to adopt English naming practices for their surnames. The records show that the Dutch colonists accepted this change in their cultural practices and most anglicized their existing surnames. The names were frequently mispelled and mispronounced and eventually evolved into new sounding names as well.

     To do business with the English, one had to have an English sounding surname. Many of the Dutch anglicized their Dutch surnames and many adopted English surnames outright that were unrelated to their Dutch names. Thus the ancestry of the early Dutch settlers requires real sleuthing.

     Travis could have been a particular English name adopted by Gerrit as there was a Travis in Salem MA and Gerrit knew the English of Massachusetts Bay Colony and New Haven Colony in his migration thru both colonies and on to Rye. But I believe most likely his name was not originally Travis and for whatever reasons, evolved to such.

     My guess is Garrett is really Gerrit and Catherine is Katrina, both common Dutch names. Garrett is really unheard of in 17th century England naming practices. As such where did our tinkering Dutchman reside before migrating to Rye?

     New Haven Colony encompassed a large frontier. Southhampton on Long Island was a port of entry, and we know that Richard Ogden, whose granddaughter would marry a grandson of Garrett Travis (Mary and Robert), landed there in 1640, and lived on Long Island, building the first Church in New Amsterdam, an Englishman working for the Dutch elite.

     I believe there was a great mixing of the Dutch and English in the vicinity of Long Island. As such friendships were forged, and the seeds of groups that could establish new villages in New Haven Colony were created. The Dutch were highly pragmatic and would have been untroubled by this, and the English saw it as an opportunity to take control.

     We know Richard Ogden resided in the village of Rye, although in his latter years, he moved to Fairfield, Conn. and died there. I am guessing that he knew Garret and that the two families children would have a natural kinship.

      Not only that, but the English would have wanted a Dutchman in their midst in Rye who was loyal to the English in order to trade with the much closer Dutch villages and towns. Rye was a border village, yet controlled by New Haven.

     Why is all of this significant? I think these suspicions help to guide our research into arenas not explored before. Being that most of us are at a dead end and few pieces are in place from 1700 to 1800 in tracing the Travis tree, it might help us to look in some new places.

      On Long Island, there are many examples of Anglo-Dutch cooperation in the mid-1600s. Flushing was a place of the blending of the two cultures. Perhaps the most telling fact is that these gritty colonialists never would have quibbled over the issue of names; they were too busy carving a life out of the pure wilderness. They forged friendships and partnerships to insure their survival. The Anglo-Dutch culture that emerged by the end of the 1660's was a model of tolerance and unique adaptation.

      I know that my grandfather said his grandparents, Leonard and Deborah Travis, both Dutch names, spoke a Germanic/Dutch language to each other, although  they in no way appeared to be any type of immigrant. This old language was like a family language that tied them together. Not only that, but the naming patterns of many of the early Travis families are very Dutch. Migrating from the Hudson River valley, the heartland of the Anglo-Dutch, this family brought that culture with them. Moving west, though, forced new traditions and beliefs.

     The colonists were clearly inter-marrying and yet managed to preserve dual languages and religious diversity for over two centuries. Their enormous contribution to the great American experiment remains unrecognized in the history books, but is there for some scholar to rediscover our roots.

      I would like to hear what you think of my theory.   

Anne Cronin

acronin@gte.net

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