The present-day New York city neighborhood of Harlem was founded in the mid-17th century by Dutch Protestants, whose numbers included Huguenots (or their descendants) who had fled the counter-Reformation in France and the Walloon provinces of Artois, Cambresis, and Hainalt. Riker’s Harlem is an extremely detailed historical and genealogical account of Harlem from its establishment by Kuyter and Stuyvesant between 1656 and 1660 to the end of the 17th century. Following several preliminary chapters on the Dutch and French context for the settlement of “New Haerlem,” the author treats us to what seem like minute-by-minute accounts of its colonial development, including early efforts to settle the territory that became Harlem, the original land patents and their subsequent rearrangement, Indian wars, displacement of Dutch rule by the British in 1663 (and the brief reoccupation by Dutch forces in 1673), 17th-century village life, migrations to New Jersey, influx of Swedes, difficulties in assimilating English ways, and much, much more. Notwithstanding the historical detail, genealogists will be delighted to know that more than half of Riker’s 900 pages are occupied with multi-generational accounts of the lineages of the following Harlem patentees and their heirs or successors: Benson, Bogert, Brevoort, Bussing, Delamater, Dyckman, Haldron, Kiersen, Kortright, Low, Montanye, Myer, Nagel, Oblenis, Parmentier, Tourneur, Vermilye, Verveelen, and Waldron. The name index at the back of the volume refers to over 15,000 descendants of Harlem’s founding fathers.
Out of print for nearly a century, Riker’s Harlem is the first, if not the last, word on the origins of this famous section of Manhattan.