5.29.2011

East Coast Vacation Part Three: A Little Jersey Family History


Jonny, Mom, and I got to do some fun little things while Brad was at school and Dad was traveling across the country introducing the re-branding of Hertz. One day, we went to a bunch of family history sites. So, how crazy is it that my parents are living in New Jersey when that was where my first relatives to come to the states lived (for 6 generations!)? All within 30-40 minutes of where my family lives now.

One place we went to visit was the Van Wagenen Apple Tree House. My "who knows how many greats" grandpa Gerrit Gerritsen settled there (present day Jersey City) in 1688 with a bunch of land he received. His last name was changed to Van Wagenen after his hometown in Holland. The house was built by his son Johannes (we think) and passed on in the family for over 250 years and is now a historic landmark called the Van Wagenen Apple Tree House. Legend has it that George Washington and Lafayette met under the apple tree in the yard to strategize during the Revolutionary War. Regardless of if it was that exact location, how cool that it was somewhere near there. We went to visit the home and it was all fenced off because they are restoring it to what it looked like in the early 1800s.

Van Wagenen Apple Tree House with Van Wagenen ladies

That's right Jersey City. Thanks for paying to restore our ancestor's family home:)

A view placing the camera over the fence

Van Wagenen Avenue, not far from the home. At one point the family owned land all around the house

Dutch Reformed Church of Fairfield where my ancestors Halmagh and Mary Van Houten were married. They later joined the church, dying in Winter Quarters.

The church where Halmagh and Mary's son John (my great great great great grandpa:) was christened
John was the one who started reading the Book of Mormon and meeting with the missionaries that came to New Jersey. His sister then found it in his sock drawer, told her mom, then Mary confronted him about it. He encouraged her to read it and soon the entire family (besides the dad Halmagh) were getting up the courage to tell Halmagh they had gained a testimony and wanted to be baptized. To their surprise, when they told him, he told the family he had been sneaking around too and reading John's Book of Mormon. They all got baptized together on the same day! Love that story.

It just amazes me that all of these things took place less than an hour from where my parents live. Jonny and I have been pretty into family history lately and were so excited to see places they were/lived and learn more about their lives and feel a wonderful connection and gratitude to those who came before me.

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