Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Family Comes to St Croix in 1773

One of the goals I had in pursuing my St Croix family was to determine when they arrived on the island.  Census documents only take us back to 1841 and other sources are needed to go further.  One key source I found early on was the St Croix Slave and Head Tax registers on  These aren’t indexed, but are browsable.  Of course, there are thousands so it is slow going.  The original documents are located in the Rigsarkivet in Copenhagen, the national archive of Denmark.  Around 1994 the documents were photographed (probably to microfilm) and later digitized.  The digitization is 2-bit black and white (not 16-bit greyscale) so they are often very hard to read.  Many are of usable quality though and they offer a wealth of information to the genealogist.

I found several images that recorded the Dutch family of Claudius and Guertruy van Beverhoudt. They listed their children in what appears to be descending age order.  From that, I was able to associate a Johannes van Beverhoudt to my known 4th great-grandfather, the common-law husband of Amey McNobney.  Claudius is listed in my Ahnentafel report based on the findings from the Head tax listings.

Since then, I have found further evidence that not only increases my confidence in the kinship, it also helps me better understand his life. It appears that they arrived in St Croix around 1773 from St Thomas.  So, new to St Croix, but not new to the Danish islands.

STT-Reformed Book-Img 017
1754 Dutch Reformed Church Register showing Guertruy Magens (highlighted)
The first mention I have of these two is in the St Thomas Dutch Reformed church membership register from 1754.  The entry notes the admission of Guertruy Magens, wife of Gloudi van Beverhoudt.  It doesn’t mention anything else about them, but it is possible to make a few educated guesses.  First, it registers Geutruy, not Claudius. If Claudius and Guertruy came from elsewhere and moved to St Thomas in 1754, then I would expect to see both of them listed.  This suggests that Claudius was already a member of the church prior to this time and not a recent arrival. 

There were many van Beverhoudts in the Dutch Reformed church, so Claudius was probably baptized Reformed and so would have already been a member of the church. The Magens family was another established St Thomas Family (they probably lent their name to Magens Bay, one of the world’s most beautiful beaches to this day). They were Anglican, so Guertruy was probably baptized Anglican. The registration is therefore likely to be a conversion following marriage of Gertruy.  I would suspect that it was soon after marriage, possibly immediately.  Based on this, and the fact that the document is dated 14 December 1754, I conclude that they were likely married in 1754 on St Thomas.

Further, since the custom then was for men to marry aroud 18-20, it is reasonable to guess that Claudius was born around 1730-35 and Guertruy to be a year or two younger, say 1731-36.  This of course is a guess, but mothers under 17 were rare.

1777-Head Tax-Claudius Beverhoudt
1777 Slave Tax for Claudius van Beverhoudt in Dutch
The Head Tax records show that Claudius and Guertruy had at least 7 children, although there are few indications of when they were born.  The earliest forms were written in Dutch by Claudius.  In some years, he listed his children, his sons, and his daughters, in age order.  This one, from December 1777 identifies:

1.My self 
2. Zoon (son) Thomas Magens
3. Zoon (son) Joannes
4. Zoon Claudius
5. Zoon Bertrand Pieter

6. Myn vrouw (my wife)
7. dogter (daughter) Dorothea
8. dogter Juliana Susanna
9. dogter Maria Elizabeth

It then lists slaves owned by each family member.  It is signed C. v. Beverhoudt.  I noted that the tax form was written in Dutch, and that Dutch was never widely spoken on St Croix.  The official language was Danish but the language most people would learn growing up would have been English.  I had concluded from this that Claudius was not born on St Croix.  Since the unofficial language of St Thomas was Dutch, he could have grown up speaking Dutch there.  Finding him on St Thomas in 1754 fit well with this conclusion.

The only baptismal record I have found to date is Bertrand Pieter’s.  He was baptized in the St Croix Dutch Reformed church on 3 Sep 1777, so he was only 3 months old when this tax list was filed.  I reviewed the FHL microfilm of the Dutch Reformed Church on St Croix from 1764-1814 (FHL 38865) and see no reference to any van Beverhoudts prior to this date.  This suggests that the other children were all born on St Thomas, and that Bertrand Pieter was the youngest.  In fact, at the baptism, Thomas Magens, Johannes, and Dorothea are all listed as godparents.

1777-Baptism-Bertrand Peter Beverhoudt-IMG_6517
1777 St Croix Baptism Record of Bertrand Pieter van Beverhoudt
To get more detail, I looked at the St Croix Matriculs at NARA.  The Matriculs are a wonderful if intimidating collection.  Each year, in November, the DWI government went house to house, collecting land and slave taxes.  They recorded each address, the home owner, sometimes tenants or other occupants, size of dwelling in square ells (an ell is about a cubit, or about 2 ft.), numbers of free men, women, and children, the numbers of slaves as well as the taxes due of each type.  The NARA collection of Matriculs from St Croix  are contained on 65 microfilm rolls.  If you have spent any real time sitting in front of a microfilm reader, you can guess how long it takes to go through all of these rolls, looking for entries.  However, the payoff is that I have a nice year-by-year listing of the addresses of many of my families.

The property at No 5 King St from 1773-1775 was owned by Claudius, he lived there with his family
There is no 1776 matricul, either at NARA or in the Danish Archives. From 1777-1787, Claudius is listed at No 4 King St, but it is likely that this was still the same house, as the house numbers were not strictly used at this time.  In 1788, the house at No 5 King St was listed as belonging to Guertruy van Beverhoudt.  This suggests that Claudius had died and that Guertruy took over as head of house.  I happen to have the Slave Tax papers for 1788 and Guertruy is listed as the head and Claudius’ name does not appear.  This tells me that Claudius died between Nov 1777 and 1778.  Guertruy maintained ownership of No 5 King St from 1788-1790.

Claudius was listed as a merchant, which would make sense as the family held no plantations in St Croix.  It is possible that he was co owner of a dry goods shop in Christiansted called “Ebbesen og Beverhoudt” with a Mr. Ebbesen.  Hugo Ryberg, in “A List of the Inhabitants of the Danish Westindian Islands 1650-ca 1825” states that Danish Archive records show this firm in Christiansted in 1776.  That would be about the right time.
1791-Head Tax-Gertruyd Beverhoudt Queen St. 07-p35-6
1791 Slave Tax at 47 Queens St
In 1791-1792, Guertruy moved to 47 Queen St.  Her 1791 Slave tax record lists her family as:
Dorothea Vogelsang,
Juliana Susanna van Beverhoudt
Maria Elizabeth van Beverhoudt
Bertrand Pieter van Beverhoudt
Dorothea had married Peter Vogelsang and, according to the Matriculs, they lived at 21 Hill St from 1785-1788. Peter declared bankruptcy and lost his property at this time.  While he worked as an estate manager at Green Key.  During some of this time, Dorothea lived with her mother. Dorothea is out of her mother’s house by 1794.

Nearly Illegible 1802 Slave tax Record
In 1794, Guertruy moved into the property at 52C Company St where she lived out her life.  In 1799 and 1802 she filed  Slave Tax returns. The 1802 is nearly illegible, but by comparing it to the 1799 return it appears that Guertruy, Juliana Susanna, and Maria Elizabeth comprised the family.

Two compilers have indicated that Guertruy died on 21 Mar 1813, and this is supported by the Matriculs.  In 1913, the house at 52C was listed as belonging to Johannes van Beverhoudt C.Z.  It was common for Dutch people to sign formal documentation by giving the first initial of their father, in this case Claudius.  C.Z. means “Claudius Zoon” or “Claudius’ Son”.  This is extremely helpful to the genealogist as there was a second Johannes van Beverhoudt in Christiansted at the time.  He signed his name E.Z., or “Engel’s Zoon”.  Claudius E.Z. was the Royal Bookkeeper (Bogholder) and so appears on numerous official documents (including the pages of the Matricul; he apparently was an enumerator).

Johannes C.Z. held the property for only a couple of years and sold it in 1815.  During this period, he was living with his family at 45 Fisher St with Amey Mc Nobney and their 12 children.


  1. The earliest mention of a "van Beverhoudt" is probably the story of Lucas van Beverhoudt.

    His first appearance in the Danish West Indies is in the island of St. John. Til this day, there is a historical trail that tourists can trek called the "Maria Hope Trail. Just a few hundred feet off of Centerline Road in the vicinity of the Reef Bay Trail, lies the ruins of the Maria Hope Estate, apparently totally hidden in the bush until it was rediscovered by local hikers early in 2009.

    Historically speaking these ruins have the distinction of being the site of the first sugar works on St. John.

    The Maria Hope Estate was also the setting for the following story of murder and deceit.

    The Story:
    We’ll begin our story in 1671, when the British kicked out all the Dutch settlers on Tortola. Lucas van Beverhoudt, a Dutchman born in the Netherlands Antilles, was one of these previously successful planters given one of those unfortunates who were given their walking papers. (Not as unfortunate as the slaves who had been working his land, I might add here)

    Von Beverhaut took his cane slips and whatever equipment he could carry and sailed to St. Thomas, where the Danes were welcoming foreign settlers and even offering religious freedom of sorts. Setting up shop again, he established St. Thomas’ first sugar works.

    When the Danes claimed St. John as their own, Van Beverhoudt took up a plantation there, which he named Maria Hope, and established the first sugar works on that island as well.

    Von Beverhaut died in 1728 and Maria Hope was taken over by one William Vessup. (As a side note, Vessup subsequently stabbed Karl Henry Kuhlmann to death on St. Thomas over a land dispute. Wanted for murder Vessup fled the island in 1732 leaving the Maria Hope Estate abandoned when rebellious slaves took over the island of St. John.)

    There is more information about Lucas van B here:

  2. Interesting and impressive history. From Ghana, traces my root to Henry Beverout who left Nova Scotia for Sierra Leone