Thursday, November 17, 2011

Montanye - My Huguenot Ancestry

When you start the genealogical journey back in time, you come across some interesting and seemingly far off places.  Our immigrant ancestors came from somewhere and sometime we are lucky to discover some of those interesting places.  My 10th great grandfather, Dr. Johannes De La Montagne came reportedly  from Saintonge, France on the west coast of France.  I say reportedly because I’ve never heard of any proof or any trace of him during his childhood.  The facts that we know about De La Montagne are in themselves fascinating.

In 1623, Dr. Johannes De La Montagne shoes up with Jesse de Forest during a journey to the Amazon River near the coast of Guiana.  Jesse De Forest was leading a Huguenot expedition in Guiana to find a location for a colony.  Johannes actually ended up being the keeper of the journals during the expedition probably because he was literate.  He returned to Leyden, Holland with the news that Jesse De Forest had died in 1624 in Guiana.  Johannes also courted and married Jesse De Forest’s daughter, Rachel.  They left in 1628 for Tobago but Rachel returned by 1631 possibly because of poor health caused by the climate.  Johannes returned in 1633 to Holland and in 1636 left for America.

When Johannes and Rachel left for America in 1636 they sailed with several of Rachel’s brothers and uncle as well as their 3 children.  Rachel gave birth to a daughter, Maria, on board the ship near the island of Madeira (part of group of islands off of Portugal).  After their arrival in New Amsterdam, now New York, Rachel’s brother Henry, started a tobacco plantation called Vrendahl.   Henry died soon after and Johannes and Rachel took over the plantation.  The plantation was located in the upper half of what is now known as Central Park in Manhattan.  They were driven off of the plantation by some local Indians and the plantation was abandoned.

Johannes became of the official surgeon of New Amsterdam and spent several years working for both Willem Kieft and Peter Stuyvesant – both had the role of the Dutch Director-General in the colony of New Netherland.  Johannes later became the Vice Director of the colony and had special responsibility for Fort Orange (Albany) and the Dutch settlement of Beverwyck.  When the colony was taken over by the British in 1664, Johannes De La Montagne had to resign his position and sign a loyalty oath.  According to records, Johannes returned to Holland with Peter Stuyvesant to defend the turnover of the colony.  He returned to the America and probably died around 1670 in Claverack, NY which is about an hour south of Albany.

My line descends through Johannes and Rachel’s son Jean.  The family had a prominent position within the early history of New York both within the government and founding.  I’ve been told that there is a monument to the Huguenots in Central Park – probably not too far from where Johannes and his wife Rachel De Forest lived.  As a group who were searching for religious freedom they left a significant imprint on one of the most important cities in the world, New York City. 

 One of the interesting problems with the Montagne family is the numerous spellings.  Within my line alone, I find the following spellings:  De La Montagne, Delamontanie, & Montanye.  The family comes from Harlem, New York City, Pluckemin, NJ, and finally ends up in Charleston, Montgomery Co., NY which is where my great great great grandmother’s family lived and near where she married her schoolteacher when she 15 years old.  Phebe Montanye Gallup was born a little over 200 years after her ancestor immigrated.  My grandmother and great uncle both remember Grandma Gallup, as she was called quite well.  I think it is pretty remarkable that we live in 2011 and she was born in 1844 – and she is still well remembered.  

If you are interested in the family of the Montanye's look up Lois Stewart's genealogy on the Montanye's called "The Ancestors and Descendants of James Montaney (1799-1857) of Oppenheim, Fulton County, New York; A Genealogical History...of the Montanye Family"