The Bed-Wetting Colonist

Even after twenty-five years as a genealogist, I am often amazed of the level of detail we can find in archival records. Here is one of the things I ran across when searching for a New Netherland ancestor of a client.

In 1652, the colony of New Netherland—which encompassed large parts of what is now the state of New York—was eager for new settlers to arrive. The almoners’ orphanage in Amsterdam was approached to send orphans.

The almoners’ orphanage was the orphanage that took care of the poorest children. They created a list of candidates, which described their circumstances and whether or not they were willing to go to New Netherland.

One entry describes a boy named Pieter Jans:

Pieter Jans, age 13 years, reasonably well-built, lives at Wijbrich Hendrix in the Slepers alley, but still wets his bed most nights, as claimed but does not appear so, goes ribbon working, since 1 year.1

Dutch text about Pieter Jans

The meaning of the claim is not quite clear: did the orphanage suspect him of pretending to still wet his bed to avoid being sent to the colony? That seems like an odd thing to make up.

The X in front of his name suggests he did go to New Netherland, since most other children who had an X in front of their names were willing to go, and most children who were not willing or able did not have an X.

If anyone knows whether this Pieter Jans actually went to New Netherland, please leave a comment.

etching of a large builing

Almoners’ Orphanage in Amsterdam. Credits: Stadsarchief Amsterdam (public domain)


  1. Almoner’s orphanage (Amsterdam), list of orphans to New Netherland, 1652, call number 437; Almoner’s orphanage, record group 343; Stadsarchief Amsterdam; imaged as online finding aid and images, Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchief ( : accessed 10 June 2015), available via pay-per-view.
About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. I loved this story! I can’t say I have ever seen bed-wetting ever mentioned in a historical. It does seem from your translation that the officials suspected it was not true and I do wonder what happened to him.

  2. 1652 seems like so long ago to still have such detailed records! Pieter Jans. I wonder if he became anyone’s ancestor in North America.

  3. Kristy Lawrie Gravlin says

    Or perhaps he was related to a famous settler who was already there….? Anneke Jans Bogardus was there in very early “New York City” and the wife of the “second settled minister” there. She was a many great-grandmother to me. Everything I’ve read about her seems to praise her ability to roll with the punches, including the fact that her husband, returning from a trip to the old country, was drowned at sea. On the other hand, there is a children’s book by Peter Spier (sp?) in which he describes her as a
    crazy old woman who walks around New York City. Does anyone know the truth of it?

    • “Jans” is a patronymic meaning son or daughter of Jan. There were thousands of men named Jan in Amsterdam at the time. The chances of Pieter Jans and Anneke Jans being related are very slim.

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