Saturday, August 4, 2012


TERWILLIGER is a surname on my mother's side, and a truly-made-in-America surname as well.  Terwilliger isn't the earliest surname in my family liines, but it is definitely the most interesting to me.  The following is a very brief summary.

The first immigrants in this line were a brother and sister, both apparently widowed, who came from Vianen [Utrecht] in the Netherlands, to New Amsterdam, in 1663, on "De Arent" - the Eagle.  Their names were
  • Evert Dircksen from Vianen, and 2 children 13 and 6 yrs old
  • Annetje Dircx, widow from Vianen and child 4 yrs old 
You can find these and more related details on Olive Tree Genealogy,  under Ship Passenger Lists from Holland to New York 17th Century.  This is a fabulous site, which is always being updated and further researched, including the sources used to detail the passengers and ships to the USA.  

The British took over New Amsterdam several times - there were three Anglo-Dutch Wars - but finally New Amsterdam was ceded to them in November 1674, and the British re-named it New York.  By the way, the current seal of New York now shows the date of 1625 as the founding of New York - this being the date of original Fort Amsterdam of the New Netherland Territory.  

As the British were already using family surnames, they quickly required them for the inhabitants of New York, and the name Terwilliger came in common use in the family by 1690.  Spelling was totally variable, as anyone understands who has done genealogical research, so the surname was spelled in a variety of ways:  Der Villig, Van de Villig, Tervilig, De Willig, Der Willigen, Terwilligen, Terviliger, etc.  Eventually in this line, it settled into Terwilliger.  Evert Dircksen's son - Jan (or, Janse) Evertson - is apparently our particular line of Terwilligers.  They were wonderfully prolific - for example, Jan had 12 children (11 of them, boys), so there are many Terwilliger family lines in the USA.  

There is a Terwilliger Family Association - and much history written about the early settlement of New Amsterdam.  Plus records from the Old Dutch Church of Kingston, Ulster, NY, where they appear to have settled before 1688, Schnectady Reformed Dutch Church, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Athens NY, and others.  And I had the pleasure of information and details from Myron Terwilliger through emails early in my searches on the Terwilligers.  There are many many details still to research on my line of early settlers.  I've barely scratched the surface.  

Many Terwilliger males have a nickname of "Twig" - and that's where my tree blog name came from!  I always wanted to name a boy Terwilliger, and call him "Twig"... there are traditions on my mother's side of families using surnames as first names (Grover comes to mind in the Buell line).  However, it didn't happen, and isn't likely to now.  Sigh.  

Do you have favourite surnames or given names in your family lines -?


Dean said...

My Terwilliger ancestor is Sarah, born about 1801, possibly in Vermont. She married Joel Day in Ontario, 1824. I haven't looked at this line in years. I guess it's time to start. Thanks for the links. Dean

Celia Lewis said...

Hope you find some details, Dean - this name has been researched quite a bit, but the Canadian link may be a bit challenging. Thanks for stopping by.

Peter said...

I follow the Terwilliger developments with interest. Hope that one day someone will be able to tell you more about the Vianen-connection. But the use of patronymics doesn't make searching any easier...

Anonymous said...

My 2nd great grandfather, Isaac Wood, married Margaret Ann (Marrietta?) Terwilliger July 24,1845. She traced back to Evert Terwilliger (1686-1767) and Sara Freer (1898-1758). I cannot find any more info on Isaac, but a relative has Isaac & Margaret's family Bible documenting their names & their children's names & birth dates. It's been a very interesting search!

Celia Lewis said...

If you're a Terwilliger, we're all related, but I come down through Evert (1686)'s younger brother, Johannes. Lovely to have a Bible with more of the details. Our illustrious ancestors arrived a year before the British took over New Amsterdam. What an interesting time to be living in. Thanks for stopping by.

Brian Terwilleger said...

When did the spelling change mine is spelled Terwilleger any ideas

Brian Terwilleger said...

Didn't we come to the us in 1664 on the eagle?

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks for commenting, Brian. The spelling of Terwilliger or Terwilleger can have many variant spellings - I think I've seen 17 of them so far! But remember that spelling was not particularly constant until well into the late 1700s or so.

Yes, our common ancestors arrived on (The Eagle) "De Arent" in 1663 - unfortunately just before the British took over the New Amsterdam Colony from The Netherlands.

If you google Terwilliger Family Association, you will find several links, where there is further information on all of us Terwilligers/Terwilegers etc. Thanks for stopping by.

JV Hayward said...

Thank you for this interesting article. I am Canadian and I traced back to be descended from Evart Terwilliger/ Sara Freer, they had a son Joseph(b. 1743)who was born in the U.S. and died in Prince Edward County(Ontario not island). They probably came around the time of the American War of Independance(partly based on his year of birth), as my particular Bowerman ancestors did. My great great great grandparents were Israel Bowerman and Annetje Terwilliger. Thomas Bowerman arrived, from England in 1632. I like the Terwilliger connection.

Celia Lewis said...

Very cool to find yet another Terwilliger connection from Canada, JV Hayward. I'm not sure if you looked at Sara's parents Hugo Freer and Maia Leroy - That surname likely comes from Siméon [le] Roy in Québec, which was New France at that time. He married Claude Deschalets in 1668, when she came over from Normandy France with her twin sister and other sister, all orphans. They were part of the number of Filles du Roi [King's Daughters], specifically sent to marry the large number of unmarried French men and bring the New France population up significantly.
It's certainly possible that Maia, Sara's mother, could be a descendant of either Siméon and Claude, or from one of the other Roy surnames in New France.
Thanks for your details, and for commenting - I am so appreciative!!

Diane Tichenor said...

Dear cousin Celia - my interest in genealogy blossomed when my mother inherited a cross stitch that included:

Sarah Lackey Terwilleger. s. Sampler
The Sixteenth Year of her age august 1839

Nathaniel Terwilleger Alce Terwilleger

Oft as the bell with Solemn toll Then when the Solemn bell I hear
Speaks the departure of a soul If saved from sin I need not fear
Let each one ask himself am I Nor would the though[t] distressing be
Prepared should I be called to die Perhaps it next may toll for me
When I am dead and in my grave When this you see remember me
And all my bones are rotten Lest I should be forgotten

John E Terwilleger Catharine C. Terwilleger Moses K. Terwilleger

In the center of the sampler is a house, which is definitely the home of her grandfather, father of Alce Elliott Terwilleger. Nathaniel Terwilleger (Jr.) had died in 1835. Alce and her children lived just up the hill, so Sarah obviously spent a lot of time with her grandparents. By 1839 Sarah's sister Catherine had also died as had her brother Moses. It appears the only reason she included just the three oldest children on the sampler is that she ran out of room. Perhaps completing this sampler helped her get over the grief of losing so many loved ones at such a young age.

My line back from Sarah Lackey Terwilleger Crist: Nathaniel Terwilleger Jr., Nathaniel Sr. (Rev War Vet New York - then to Ohio), Matheus, Jan Evertsen. The branch that left New York and went to Hamilton Co, Ohio before 1795 settled on Terwilleger as the spelling of their name. My mother had never heard of her Terwilleger great grandmother.

So glad to have discovered your blog! Diane McGowan Tichenor

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks so much for your detailed post here, Diane. Yes, we're all cousins with the Terwilliger surname [no matter how spelled!]. That sampler is absolute treasure!!
Jan Evertson [Terwilliger] and his wife Sytie had 12 children - 11 boys. No wonder there are so many Terwilligers now, all over the US and some emigrated from the US to other countries. All the best in your genealogy work - or is it play!?


Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis