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The History of the Blews

Updated: Feb 23, 2020


Flag of the Dutch West India Company (Dutch: Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie)

When discussing the history of my Blew lineage (my paternal grandmother's maiden name), the first question was to determine from which branch of the Blew family we originated. It turns out there were two to research, one from Scotland and one from the Netherlands and the last name was also spelled as "Blue".


Following the lines, I found out we descended from the Dutch Blews and all in this branch in America trace back to a couple who were associated with the Dutch West India Company. They were Frederick and Greitien Janss and are believed to have initially lived in the northern part of the Netherlands. The first record that we have of this family comes from the colony of New Holland (Dutch Brazil).


In 1629, the Dutch made a serious attempt to gain a foothold in Brazil at Pernambuco, the best sugar colony in Portuguese possession at the time. In January 1637, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen arrived in Recife. He became the Dutch colonial governor and military commander who consolidated Dutch rule in Brazil. He developed the colony, building streets, bridges and roads and established a representative local government. On the island of Antonio Vaz he founded a town called Mauritsstad or Mauricia. The town featured the first observatory and meteorological station in the Americas and included zoological and botanical gardens. As a patron of the arts, famous artists and scientists started arriving in the colony.


The Dutch in Brazil belonged to two categories. The first were those employed by the Dutch West India Company, called "dienaaren" and consisted of soldiers, bureaucrats and Calvinist ministers. Records indicate that Frederick may have been a ship builder, employed by the Company. The other group, "vrijburghers" or "vrijluiden", were colonists, artisans, merchants and tavern keepers. This free-burgher class was the economic foundation of the colony and numbered about 3,000 in 1644, along with a Jewish community of 1,450 people. The colonization of Brazil was not going as the Dutch had planned and they were outnumbered by the Portuguese settlers who had been there first. They spoke a different language and practiced a different religion and were always ready to revolt against the "heretics".


They got their chance when Johan Maurits was recalled to Holland in 1644 and the Portuguese planters revolted. Battles would rage between the Dutch and Portuguese forces in the colony.


It was during this time that the baptism of Anna Frederickse, the first child of Frederick and Greitien, was recorded on 16 December 1646 at the Dutch Reformed Church of Pernambuco. Two more children, Jan and Aeltje, were baptized there in August 1649.


Most likely because of this ongoing situation, in 1651, Frederick and his family relocated to New Amsterdam where he received a land grant from Governor Peter Stuyvesant in Brookland (Brooklyn). As a note, in the early days of New Netherlands many of the settlers did not have surnames, but used the patronymic naming system. Thus, Frederick Janss was "Frederick, son of Jan". After the British took over the colony, they required that everyone adopt a surname. The records indicate that Jan Frederickse (John son of Frederick) took the name of Blauw.


Jan's first son, John Blaw, was baptized in 1677 in the Brooklyn Dutch Reformed Church. He later moved to Somerset County, New Jersey. Prior to 1742, John Blaw purchased 400 acres of farmland from Abraham Van Horn, a merchant of New York City and a large New Jersey landholder, and 95 acres adjacent to this tract from Nicholas Lake of New Brunswick, NJ. This land is located about one-half mile south of Blawenburg, Montgomery Twp., Somerset Co., NJ, on the Great Road leading to what is now Mercer County.


On 10 January 1741/2, John Blaw sold the east half of this plantation (247.5 acres) to his son, Michael Blaw (1704-1786). This gave Michael the part of the tract that lay east of the Great Road and John kept the land to the west of the road. On the same day, John sold the west half of his plantation to his son Frederick (1710-1793).

John died 14 November 1757. Per his will, he was described as a "yeoman farmer", meaning that he owned and worked the land. Based on the inventory of his estate, John Blaw was a fairly wealthy man; his personal estate was valued at almost £1000.


In 20 February 1738/9, Michael purchased 100 acres from Nicholas Lake, which was adjacent to the 247.5 acres he received from his father. Beden's Brook runs easterly through the middle of this property and Michael built a mill on that stream near the west boundary of his property. Later, the "Great Road" was built to provide access to the mill and the town of Blawenburg is believed by local historians to have been named for Michael Blaw and/or his mill. Michael and Helen are buried in the Blue-Nevius Cemetery, which is located in the west half of John Blaw's plantation, the part he sold to his son, Frederick. Michael's will was written 2 September 1782 and proved 26 January 1786 in Somerset County, NJ.


My Blew family line would reside in New Jersey until John Blew (1754-1810) moved to Pennsylvania, first settling in Shamokin Township, Northumberland County around 1798 and then Norwegian Township in Berks County (which would later become a part of Schuylkill County) in 1805. From that time forward, they would reside in Schuylkill County.


Source(s):

Descendants of John Blaw (Blue) d.1757 Somerset County.,NJ. Fifth Edition. Compiled by William H. Blue. Copyright 2003

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