B. 1628 in the Netherlands
M. 1661 in New Netherlands
Wife: Engeltie Louwerens
D. after 1698
Emigrated: about 1653
Jan Cornelissen Van Cleef was born in 1628 somewhere in the Netherlands; he was possibly born in Utrecht. His name suggests the family might be of German descent — "Van Cleef" means "of Cleve" a region of Germany that borders the Netherlands — but this is not proven. Jan migrated to America in about 1653. On April 7, 1655, he purchased "a certain plantation named Lindenborch with the house, fences, timber and all that is therein faastened by earth and nail, situate on the island Manhatans, on the East River between the plantations of Tomas Samelson and Pieter Stoutenburg, and that both great and small according to the groundbrief thereof."
By 1656, Jan moved to Gravesend (now a part of Brooklyn), and then to New Utrecht about 1659. In October 1660, Jan was involved in a court case where two separate individuals accused him of not paying agreed upon amounts for items he bought from them. Jan was ordered to be detained until he paid the amounts.
The following year, Jan was injured seriously in a fight involving a man named Jan Thomaszen. The man was drunk "while enjoying a half a barrel of beer" and got into an argument with a third man. When Thomaszen came to blows with the man, Jan stepped in and started pulling on Thomaszen's hair. Then Thomaszen took his knife and "made four cuts" in Jan's jerkin (jacket). The cuts "seriously" wounded him. Thomazen's son joined in, pulling Jan by the shoulders off his father. Jan managed to grab the son by the hair, too, and another man helped him throw the son to the ground. The court ruled on September 21, 1661 that Thomaszen be banned from attending services at the Brooklyn church.
The same year as the stabbing incident, Jan married a 15 year-old girl named Engeltie Louwerens, who was said to be half-Norwegian and half-German. Between 1663 and 1688, they had 11 children.
Jan went to New Amsterdam on November 6, 1663 to warn of a gathering of 300 English in Jamaica. This was at a time when there was a lot of tension with the English moving to take over the Dutch colony, and Jan was given instructions from the government to take back to the people in his town of New Utrecht. On February 14, 1664, Jan testified with others in New Amsterdam against the English Captain Scott who was menacing the Dutch settlements. He participated in meetings of the General Assembly that year. In 1678, he was constable of New Utrecht, and in 1686 was named in the governor’s patent for the town.
The last record of Jan was in a census of New Utrecht in 1698. It is unknown when he or his wife Engeltie died.
Famous descendants of Jan Van Cleef include the Wright Brothers and Humphrey Bogart.
1. Neeltje Van Cleef – B. 1663, New Utrecht, New Netherlands; D. 1 Jan 1747, Middletown, New Jersey; M. Kryn Janszen Van Mater, 9 Sep 1683, New York
2. Cornelius Van Cleef – B. 1665, New Utrecht, New York; M. Femmetje Van de Venter (1658-?)
3. Laurens Van Cleef – B. 1670, New Utrecht, New York
4. Rebecca Van Cleef – B. New Utrecht, New York, M. Andrew Emans, 4 Nov 1693, Gravesend, New York
5. Anna Van Cleef – B. New Utrecht, New York; M. (1) Volkert de Witt; (2) Philip Volkertszen
6. Isbrandt Van Cleef – B. about 1677, New Utrecht, New York; D. about 1728, Freehold, New Jersey; M. Jannetje Vanderbilt (~1680-?)
7. Engletje Van Cleef – B.1679, New Utrecht, New York; M. John Emans
8. Catherine Van Cleef – B. 1681, New Utrecht, New York
9. Benjamin Van Cleef – B. about 1683, New Utrecht, New York; D. 1747, New Jersey; M. Hendrickje Van Sutphen (~1681-?)
10. Joseph Van Cleef – B. 1683, New Utrecht, New York; M. Catherine Rapalje
11. Cryten Van Cleef – B. 1688, New Utrecht, New York
History of Jan Van Cleef of New Utrecht, Murray Edward Poole, 1909
The Van Cleef Family, 1976
The Records of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674 Anno Domini, Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan, 1897
Our home: a monthly magazine of original articles, Abraham Van Doren Honeyman, 1873
Genealogies of the state of New York, Tunis Garret Bergen, 1915
New York historical manuscripts: Dutch, Holland Society of New York, 1974
Scandinavian immigrants in New York, 1630-1674, John Oluf Evjen, 1916
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]