Part #2 of 12
Their Island, Homes, Cemetery and Early Genealogy in Queens County, NY by permission of its author, an 11th generation Abraham Rijcken vanLent descendant, Edgar Alan Nutt.
Modern descendants of Abraham Rycken, the progenitor of the family that by the end of the eighteenth century had spread from New Netherland to New Jersey down to Kentucky and out to Indiana, spell the name as either Riker or Ryker, but prior to the nineteenth century there had been close to twenty different spellings with no consistency even by individual family members themselves. In addition, two of Abrahamís sons and their descendants abandoned the name completely in favor of Lent or vanLent.
Whether or not the early generations were aware of the name of Abrahamís father or of any particular significance of the Rycken surname is not now known, but by the middle of the nineteenth century there was strong disagreement as to Abrahamís father, so much so that one interested party had her opinion in the matter carved into a cemetery memorial stone.
Further disagreement has existed as to whether the surname, in the case of Abraham and before, was in fact a surname or whether it was a patronym in conformance with the Dutch naming convention under which a son bore his fatherís given name with an appropriate suffix identifying it as such. These matters need to be addressed although it must be admitted that proof positive in their regards is not presently available.
Abrahamís apparent surname appears variously in documents, including as Rycken, deRycke, Ryken, Reycke, and Rijcken; and in his own March 9, 1688, (Old Style) will his name occurs as both Abraham Rick and Abram Rick. One might suppose that he should have known his own name, which of course he did, but in place of executing the document with his signature he placed his mark, indicating that he was illiterate and therefor that spelling, and doubtless the others as well, were simply phonetic with no real knowledge of the correct spelling, whatever that may have been. . . .
Indeed, it appears likely, as will be discussed below and as entered on the title page, that the spelling in the Netherlands when Abraham emigrated was Rijcken. . . by the middle 1700s the Riker spelling began to be used among the Queens County members of the family while the Ryker spelling started to be in use by the Tarrytown area branch of the family, and these two versions of the name have continued among the descendants of the two branches such that neither spelling is more authentic or correct than the other.
The identity of Abrahamís father has been a matter of some dispute since the middle of the nineteenth century. Abraham doubtless passed the information to his progeny but somehow that certain knowledge was lost in the interval.
Benjamin F. Thompson [History of Long Island, E. French, N. Y.] wrote in 1839 that Gysbert Rycken was Abrahamís father. He cited no proof, and although the name was not given by Abraham to his first son, as would have been expected by the Dutch naming convention, and although in fact no known descendant whosoever of Abraham has been given that name, the claim has been repeated many times including on the memorial stone referred to above and which itself may have been the source for subsequent reports claiming authority [such as Francis B. Leeís Genealogical and Memorial History of New Jersey, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, N. Y., 1910].
Opposing that claim is the version held by James Riker identifying Capt. Jacob Simonsze deRycke as the father. However this theory may finally be put to rest by any of the several Dutch genealogies . . .
It was theorized by Harold H. Lent, Jr., [ in his article The Lent Surname: A Mystery Solved, NY Genealogical & Biographical Society Record, Vol. 125, Issue 3, p. 148] that James Rikerís basis was his desire to tie the family to the prominent Dutch lineage of Capt. deRycke and thereby not to disappoint his own prominent relative to whom his The Annals of Newtown was dedicated. James Riker would no doubtless have held some other view and written otherwise had he known that deRycke had had as offspring only the three daughters and the two sons Simon and Willem, neither of whom had a son Abraham.
The contribution of James Riker, Jr., in his 1852 earlier referenced The Annals of Newtown, was of great importance to the then early American interest in genealogy, to the genealogy of many families of New Amsterdam and early New York City, and certainly to the history of Newtown itself. In particular his gathering and presentation of vital data and related information belonging to his own family was of incalculable value to his relatives in his own day and in all subsequent generations. In spite of this, his reputation has been challenged by some modern genealogists for his having included what they identify as errors in his writing. . . .
There is no question but that Abraham went by one variation or another of the name that is now either Riker or Ryker and that his sons used the same name, again in one or another of its variations, or Abrahamszen in one of its forms, or Lent.
Lent is another matter, and Abrahamszen obviously is a patronymic form, but the significance of Rycken, or more properly Rijcken. remains an open question despite the insistence of various writers that it also is a patronym and nothing else. It cannot be denied that Rycken can be, and possibly is in most of the immigrant families, a patronym. . . But that is quite different from maintaining that Rycken always is patronymic.
The evidence for Rycken to be other than patronymic is in the occurrence of the vanRycken and deRycke surnames, as such and as in their several spelling variations. Ample instances of the vanRycken (of Rycken) name in Holland suggest the existence of a Rycken place or location although none has been found; but until proven otherwise the possibility has to remain that Rycken may indeed refer to a place, whether in the Netherlands or even in Germany as vonRycken. . . .
Ryck and Hendrick, the eldest and the youngest respectively of Abrahamís sons. started using Lent as their surname some years after their father's 1688/89 death: Ryck in connection with a grandsonís baptism in 1709 and Hendrick ten years earlier for the baptism of a daughter. These and the other sons inconsistently used Abrahantszen in one or another of its variations, or Rycken, or Rycke, or in one recorded instance de Rycke, but only Ryck and Hendrick eventually used Lent.
James Riker reported a theory that the Lent name derived from a Brunswick noble family, or in another theory current in the family in around 1800 that the family had lived in a place by that name and in accord with the latter that Hendrick Harmenson, Abrahamís supposed father-in-law, had come from that place.
In support of this possibility he further reported that in a 1654 official letter to Gov. Stuyvesant his superiors had referred to a soldier by the name of HendrIck Harmenson vanLent. William J. Hoffman states that Abraham Rijcken mar. Grietie Hendricks (dau. of Hendrick Harmenson) although he does not refer to the latter as being the vanLent soldier. . . . even if Ryckís and Hendrickís maternal grandfather was designated as vanLent, no explanation has been proposed to explain the reason for their adopting that which was his surname.
Although the two sons moved away from Newtown, there does not appear to have been a general family rupture. Ryckís grandson was the donor of the grave yard adjoining the Lent-Rapalye farm house in Newtown, and his provision that established it for the use of the family and friends did not exclude the Rikers and indeed it is overwhelmingly filled with Rikers, not Lents.
There is evidence of strong feelings by Ryck against his brother Abraham in that Abraham received as his inheritance from his father the homestead farm plus Rikerís Island while Ryck only received thirty shillings. No doubt Ryck thought that as the eldest son he should have been his fatherís main heir, and this is reflected in his 1720 will in which he spoke of himself as wrongfully deprived of those properties and in which he left them to his own oldest son if the latter could recover them,
If this were the reason for in effect renouncing the family by taking another surname. it does not explain why Hendrick also took the Lent name. If an explanation is needed as to why the elder Abraham left his real estate to Abraham the younger rather than to Ryck, the reason appears to be that Ryck moved away while the younger Abraham remained behind in Newtown and worked his fathers holdings.
A contrary explanation was recorded by the unidentified British author of a travelogue who attributed it to a sister of New Yorkís Recorder, i.e., Richard Riker. That sister, Jane Macneven, apparently claimed, in a reversal of the primogeniture principle, that the property uniformly was left to the youngest son.
However in this instance Hendrick, not Abraham, was the youngest, and it is a matter of fact that in succeeding generations the youngest sons were definitely not regularly the heirs to the property.
The fact remains that Ryck the eldest and Hendrick the youngest did take Lent
as their surname, and in recent years the basis has been found. Harold H. Lent, Jr
reported the discovery of a will in
Made jointly by Steven Rijcken van Lent and Elisabet his wife on April 23, 1661, in their 's-Hertogenbosch home, they left half their estate to the unnamed children of his deceased brother, Jan Rijcken van Lent, and the other half to Abraham Rijcken van Lent, also his, the testatorís brother, now living in New Netherland. . . .
The identification of Abraham is positive. Rijcken was an authentic spelling at that time in Holland. and he is further identified as vanLent. The latter obviously is the basis for the name having been taken by Abrahamís sons Ryck and Hendrick. . . . .
. . .The vanLent designation indicates that the family at some point came from Lent, whether that the brothers [Abraham and Steven] themselves had come from Lent such that it was a descriptive differentiating them from others with the same given names. or whether some male forebear had come from Lent and the term was no longer an accurate description and had become a surname.
Lent is now a virtual suburb of Nijmegen in the province of Gelderland, separated from it by the Waal River, while in the seventeenth century and earlier it was a town in its own right from which a person might be described as from or of..
No archive, whether of Nijmegen or of Arnhem, the provincial capital, either of which might contain the records of Lent is at present accessible other than in those cities themselves, such that further research must wait until either the archive itself is visited or its data becomes accessible otherwise.
The question therefore remains open.
Rikers Island's role in NY correction history warrants our providing material on its "pre-Correction" background that is so bound up with Rikers family history. Bishop Nutt's book serves as an excellent vehicle for doing that. His approach is not exclusively or narrowly genealogical. More than simply tracing lineage, he places his family history in wider chronological and geographic contexts through which his exhaustive research tracked it, thus reflecting much other history -- of the island, county, city and country.
Strictly genealogical citations, notes, and codes in the printed book have been reduced or dropped in these excerpts. This presentation includes a book print copy information page.
NYCHS retains and reserves all rights to images of photos it took during the June 5, 2005 homestead tour and the September 1998 Samuel Perry Center dedication and their captions as well as captions of inserted images not taken from the printed book.