Dirck and Elizabeth Keyser

Dirck Keyser was born in Amsterdam about 1635. He was the son of Dirck Gerritz Keyser and Cornelia van den Wyngaert. The father Dirck Gerritz was a morocco leather manufacturer, possibly a tanner or glover. Cornelia was the daughter of Tobias Govertz van den Wyngaert, a noted Flemish Mennonite who lived from 1587 to 1667. 1 Dirck had a sister and four brothers. All of them lived and died in Amsterdam: Anneken, Gerrit, Tobias, and another brother who was buried in 1655.2 It is possible that they were all Mennonites, given the strong tradition from their mother’s family.

Dirck, the oldest son, was a manufacturer of silk on the Printzen Graght.3 He first married in 1668, Elizabeth ter Himpel, daughter of Pieter ter Himpel Sr and Elizabeth van Singhel. The wedding intention said that they were married “in the church at Buicksloot, declared…the 22d day of November, 1668.”4 Pieter ter Himpel, was a woolen draper of Amsterdam; he died December 10, 1680. The mother Elizabeth van Singhel died in 1656; she had brothers Pieter Jr. and Aernaut.5

Dirck and Elizabeth had a daughter Elizabeth and two sons, Peter and Dirck. Elizabeth (the mother) died in May 1681, and the daughter Elizabeth died just a month later. Dirck married Johanna Harperts Snoeck in November 1682, again at Buiksloot, in the northern part of Amsterdam. The record said, “Dirk Keyser and Joanna Snoeck, upon their desire after three Sundays having been published at Amsterdam in all the churches, on the undersigned date in the church at Buiksloot, lawfully and in presence of the Lord’s congregation are married, declare I, the undersigned Secretary at Buiksloot, the 22d November, 1683.” It was signed by B. Vredenhuis, Secretary.6

Dirck and Johanna had a daughter Johanna together before the older Johanna died in 1686. As her funeral invitation said, “Johanna Harperts Snoeck, on Thursday, the 29th of August, 1686, was buried from his residence on the Printzen Graght in the Wester Kerk, in the thirty-eight year of her age.”7 Dirck left Amsterdam and traveled to New York in 1688, with his children Peter, Dirck Jr, and Johanna. From there they traveled overland to Philadelphia. Johanna died on the trip and was buried somewhere between New York and Philadelphia.8

Dirck settled in Germantown and bought land there. He had bought twenty-five acres from Cornelius Seivers (Soierts) in March 1688, before immigrating. He later bought another twenty-five acres in September 1689, from Dirck Sipman, through Sipman’s attorney Herman up de Graff.9 In 1693 Dirck was taxed in Germantown for 60 acres.10 He built a house on the main street in Germantown, at present-day 6205 Germantown Avenue. It is now gone but drawings show a two-story stone house, with a third gabled story and an addition behind.11 The initials D.K. were cut in a stone in front.12

As Charles Keyser said, “It seems to have been composed of two rooms front with a kitchen containing a bake-oven and smoke-house on the read end… on the first floor, with some sleeping-rooms above in the second story. The pent roof extending over the door and windows is still there… This house was a large one in its day, and appeared to be large enough for Dirck Keyser and his son Pieter, a boy of 12 years of age, and no doubt a housekeeper… A curious arrangement is that there are three cellars under the house without any communication with each other. With only one is there any direct communication to the upper floor, and this is by a set of solid stone steps going down from the entry … Alongside of this cellar the old well is found and is in most excellent order. It serves not only to give good water but to keep this part so cold that everything is preserved in summer without ice.”13

Dirck was a leader of the Germantown Mennonite congregation. A Dutch Reformed minister named Rudolph Varick travelled from Long Island to Germantown in 1690 and reported that “I then came to a Dutch village, near Philadelphia where, among others, I heard Jacob Telner, a Dutch Quaker, preach…The Lutherans, Mennonites and Papists, all of whom are much opposed to the Quakers, meet lovingly every Sunday, when a Mennonite, Dirck Keyser from Amsterdam, reads a sermon from a book by Joost Harmensen”.14 The Mennonite met in the house of Tunis Kunders until they built a log meeting house in 1708.15 The early congregation included the Keysers, William Rittenhouse and his wife, John Gorgas, the Kuster family, and the van Bebbers.16 Rittenhouse became the first official minister. 17 After Rittenhouse died suddenly in 1708, Dirck may have taken over the duties temporarily. In May 1710 he performed the marriage for Jacob Kolb and Sarah Van Sintern in the log meeting house.18

Dirck was active in the Germantown community. He served as a fence-viewer, was a witness in court, and subscribed to the school in Germantown.19 In 1691 he was an inspector of the roads, along with Peter Schumacher.20 He signed the petition against the tax bill in 1692. In 1691 he was naturalized as a citizen in 1691, along with his son Dirck Jr.21 A story has been passed down about Dirck and his neighbors. “He had been a silk merchant, and after he arrived here he wore a silk coat, which caused his neighbors some disgust. Some of the brethren calling to talk over his worldliness, found him in his garden. As he advanced to meet them he wiped his hands on his coat. They concluded on seeing this, that he did not value it unduly and so said nothing of the object of their visit.”22

In 1704 he was a witness, along with his son Dirck Jr, in a case of slander. The case was Abraham op den Graeff against David Sherkes for slander. (This was not the first time Abraham had been in trouble of this sort.) Sherkes said that no honest man would be in Abraham’s company. Dirck Keyser senior had put up bond for Sherkes. The witnesses were Dirck Keyser senior, Dirck Keyser junior, Arnold Van Vosen and Herman Dors. The jury found for the defendant (Sherkes). Abraham wanted to appeal, but when told that he must pay the charges of the court and give bond to prosecute, he did not.23 The same year, Dirck acted as fence viewer, and presented as insufficient the fences of Johannes Umstat and others. His son Peter was a viewer for his section, but was “removed”. Perhaps he resigned; some Mennonites refused to take an office that might pit them against their neighbors.24

Dirck married again, for the third time, to a woman named Elizabeth. There is no record of this marriage, but two pieces of evidence support it, both from probate records. When Dirck’s estate was probated on August 1, 1716, the bond was posted by Elizabeth Keyser of Germantown, widow, Peter Keyser of Germantown, cordwainer, and Ludowick Christian Sprogell of Philadelphia, dyer.25 Also, when the son Peter made his own will in 1724 he asked his wife Margaret to take care of his “old mother-in-law Elizabeth”. Peter’s mother Elizabeth was dead, as was Margaret’s mother Anneke. The only possibility is that he meant his stepmother, a previously unknown third marriage for his father Dirck. It is interesting that Dirck and his son Dirck Jr seem to have died in the same month, perhaps of some contagious disease.26 The inventory of the estate of Dirck Sr. was taken August 17, 1716 by Dirck Jansen and Anthony Klincken. It included his wearing apparel, beds and bedding, kitchen wares, spinning wheels, other furniture, low Dutch books, tobacco pipes, two cows and a heifer, two ewes and four lambs, fifty acres of land with a house and barn, for a total of £81.19.6. His wive Elizabeth survived him, and was still alive in 1724.

Dirck had five known children with his first two wives, only two of whom lived to marry: Dirck Jr and Peter Dirck. Peter Dirck had eleven children, but Dirck Jr was childless.

Children of Dirck and Elizabeth:

Dirck Jr, d. August 171627, naturalized in 1691, married a woman named Deborah. She is said to have been Deborah Op den Graeff, the widow of Herman Isaacs, but it is difficult to find proof of this.28 Dirck died without issue. His will, written in “Manahattwana”, Philadelphia County, named his wife Deborah and brother Peter.   Written in April 16, 1714, it was proved on  August 6, 1716.29 Manahattwana cannot be identified as a place; it may have been the name of his plantation or a small local settlement.  He was a cordwainer. His inventory included household goods, farm implements, tannery tools, twenty green hides, and “one mare in the woods if found”.30 It came to £57.

Elizabeth, b. 1673, d. June 1681, a month after the death of her mother Elizabeth and her aunt Anneken.

Peter Dirck, b. November 1676 in Amsterdam, d. September 1724 in Germantown, m. in 1700 Margaret Souplis, daughter of Andreas and Anneke. He was a shoemaker. Children: Dirck, Andries, Peter Dirck, Jacob, Abraham, Elizabeth, Anneke, Catelintje, Johannes, Margaret. Peter wrote his will a month before he died, left his “dear and loving wife” Margaret, all the estate, except one-third only if she remarried. Most of the children were under age. Margaret did remarry, to Michael Eccard. She died after February 1744, when she was named in a deed release.

Children of Dirck and Johanna:

Johanna, b. September 1683, d. September 1688 in New Jersey (between New York and Philadelphia)

Cornelia, b. April 1685, d. October 1686 in Amsterdam


  1. These European Keysers are all from Charles S. Keyser, The Keyser Family, 1889, compiled for the Bicentennial Reunion of the Keyser family in 1888. Although he amassed a lot of information, his account contained some errors, for example an incorrect date of death for Dirck the immigrant. The dates he gave are included here, but there is no independent verification of them, except where specifically noted. There was a Dirck Keiser in Kingston, NY around 1680, with wife Agniete Coens and several children, but he was apparently unrelated. He appears in many records of New Amsterdam. According to one account he was from Goteborg, Sweden, although the name is surely Dutch. Some of his descendents were apparently part of the family code-named as the “Jukeses” by sociologist Richard Dugdale. Although Dugdale claimed that they were dysfunctional “paupers, criminals, harlots, epileptics and mental defectives”, his work has been discredited. (NY Times, Feb. 8, 2003).
  2. Anneken died in June 1681, the same month as her sister-in-law Elizabeth and niece Elizabeth. Gerrit married Josinyntye van Gestel, daughter of Jan van Gestel. Tobias died in 1655. The funeral invitations are from the Keyser Family and from Samuel Hotchkin, Ancient and Modern Germantown, 1889. Hotchkin claimed that these invitations “printed in the Dutch language, in bold type, upon heavy paper, … are still resting under the heavy lids of the old family Bible.”
  3. Keyser Family.
  4. Quoted in Hotchkin, 1889. Some church records from Buiksloot are available on FamilySearch, but I cannot find this record there.
  5. Hotchkin. Assuming there was only one Aernaut te Himpel in Amsterdam at the time, about the right age, Aernaut was an artist, known for small landscapes (See a work of his at: http://www.old-master-drawing.com/home/product/view/13/13.html).
  6. Daniel Cassell quoted this in his History of the Mennonites, p. 342, citing the original record in the Keyser family Bible. The whereabouts of the Bible seem to be unknown. It was owned by Gideon Keyser of Germantown, and made available to Charles Keyser, Samuel Hotchkin, and Daniel Cassell, all of whom worked in the 1880s. The original record is online on FamilySearch.org as: Netherlands Noord-Holland Province, Church Records, 1523-1948 | Alle Gezindten | Buiksloot | Trouwen 1663-1684, 1690-1828, Image 165.
  7. Keyser Family.
  8. Hotchkin, p. 271.
  9. Recitals of later Philadelphia County Deeds, including Book H7, p. 24, quoted in Johnson & Bergey, Genealogical Landmarks of the Perkiomen Country. James Duffin, Acta Germanopolis, 2008, gives the tracts as 50 acres each. Sipman, a merchant of Krefeld, had bought a large tract of land in Pennsylania, with the requirement that he settle families on it.
  10. 1693 tax list of Philadelphia County, available online.
  11. Drawings were made, possibly in the 1930s, by the Department of the Interior, available at: https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.pa0755.sheet/?sp=6
  12. Charles Jenkins, Guide to Historic Germantown, 1902. Charles Keyser suggested that the initials served as “a doorplate to designate the owner and resident.”
  13. Keyser Family, pp. 77-78.
  14. William Hull, William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania,  1935, p. 185.
  15. Hotchkin, 1889; also “Germantown Mennonite Church”, in GAMEO (Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online).
  16. Iris Jones, Krefeld Immigrants and their Descendants, vol. 7, p. 69.
  17. “Germantown Mennonite Church”, in GAMEO.
  18. Keyser Family, citing the family Bible of Jacob Kolp.
  19. Hull.
  20. Acta Germanopolis.
  21. The Keyser Family, p. 31. Thomas Lloyd as Deputy-Governor naturalized 64 of the German and Dutch settlers “for the better securing of their estates, real and personal”. The list included Pastorius, Peter and Dirck Keyser, Andreas Souplis, Gerhart and Wigard Levering. Also in Samuel Pennypacker, Settlement of Germantown, 1899.
  22. The Keyser Family, p. 32.
  23. Acta Germanopolis.
  24. Acta Germanopolis.
  25. Probate records of Philadelphia County, available on Ancestry under Pennsylvania Wills and Probate Records 1683-1993. Administrative Files 17-114, 1714-1718, Images 365-369. How did Charles Keyser miss this? He may have mistaken it for the probate of Dirck Jr, who died almost the same time (surely not a coincidence). However Dirck Jr did not live in Germantown, and he left a will and a wife Deborah and referred in his will to his brother Peter.
  26. The Keyser Family gives the date of death of Dirck Sr. as November 30, 1714. There is no evidence cited for this, and it is extremely improbable, given the dates in the administration papers. An inventory was customarily taken soon after death, sometimes just a few days later. It would not be taken a year and a half later, nor would the administrative bond be issued that late.
  27. Not in 1715, as the Keyser Family stated. His will was proved on August 6, 1716.
  28. Herman died in 1708 in Kent County, Delaware. His will named his wife Deborah and children. I have not yet seen Kent County Wills Book B1 for his will.
  29. Philadelphia County wills, Book D, p. 54. Note that in the will abstracts on USGenWeb, it is indexed and written as Teyser.
  30. Philadelphia County estate files, quoted in Johnson & Bergey, Genealogical Landmarks of the Perkiomen Region.

6 thoughts on “Dirck and Elizabeth Keyser”

  1. Thank you for this post. I have recently been researching information about Dirck Keyser and his sons. I came across the Inventory and Administrative Bond for the estate of Dirck Keyser [Sr] and came to the same conclusion you mention above; i.e., a third marriage for Dirck Keyser Sr. You don’t happen to know anything about the Dirck Keyser who lived in Ulster, New York do you? As I’m sure you know, the New York Dirck has caused no end of confusion among those assembling family trees only from information from other family trees. It was quite a head scratcher for a while until I came to conclusion that these are two different people. Again thanks for this post.

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      I think the Dirck Keyser of Ulster is not closely related to the Keysers of Pennsylvania.
      But if we could see another few generations back in Amsterdam, we might find that they are distant cousins.
      Just a thought.

    2. My name is Jenny Keyser. My email is jennylkeyser@gmail.com. This is my family. I am a decendant of Dirck Keyser of Amsterdam. I would love to see what information you have and talk about it. I may have original documents still from when Dirck Keyser founded Germantown. I’ll ask my mom. But if you get this drop me a line.

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