Did Jacob Timmerman Marry an Indian Princess?
The End of a Myth

By Raymond Kuehne

 

About thirty years ago, as Genie and I began to collect information about her SZT ancestors, we encountered stories about the Indian wife of the immigrant Jacob Zimmerman. We eagerly accepted the information and added it to our files. After all, most Americans today would pay good money to have a real Indian ancestor.

However, we soon had to admit that we had accepted a myth. And we were not alone. Many others have accepted this story and passed it along to their descendants. I know, because people ask me why the SZT database does not include the Indian Princess, her father, her siblings, etc. So I should explain why that lineage is not on this site.

Let me first explain my qualifications for writing this story. Actually, I have none. Although I have done considerable genealogy research for over thirty years, using primary sources, very little of it involved the early Zimmerman/Timmerman family. But I do have books written by two men who have done excellent research in the oldest available records. That would be: Henry Z. Jones, "The Palatine Families of New York, 1710" (two volumes, 1985) and his "More Palatine Families" (1991), and David Kendall Martin, "The Eighteenth Century Zimmerman Family of the Mohawk Valley" (1994 edition).

(Hank's books are available via his website, www.hankjones.com. The two 1985 volumes cite original German sources to document what is known about the origins of hundreds of Palatine families who arrived in New York in 1710. His 1991 book provides additional information discovered after the 1985 publication. David's 1994 book complements and makes use of Hank's research, but he focuses on the earliest New York records in order to follow the Zimmerman family after their arrival in America. To purchase David's book, follow the link to SZT Publications on our home page.)

The following story is based on the findings of these two outstanding researchers. I will begin with some of their research, and come to the Indian Myth only after presenting the known facts.


Two Jacob Timmermans (and their wives):

We should begin by distinguishing between TWO Jacob Timmermans (father and son). Each was born in Germany. The birth date of the elder Jacob is not known. He married Anna Margaretha Jung in 1685, came to New York in 1710, and died that same year. The birth date of his son, Jacob, also is not known, but is estimated between 1686 and 1691. (Support for these dates will be given below.) To avoid confusion in this story, I will call these two men Jacob Sr. and Jacob Jr., although contemporary records did not use those suffixes.

Our story mainly concerns Jacob Jr., for he is the man who supposedly married the Indian princess. Moreover, since Jacob Sr. died in 1710, he does not play a significant role in this story.
Unfortunately, both Jacob Sr. and Jacob Jr. choose wives with the same name, ie., Anna Margaretha, which may be the source of some confusion. I will not say much about Jacob Sr.'s wife in this story, although she lived until at least 1717. Therefore, future references to Anna Margaretha refer almost entirely to the wife of Jacob Jr. Exceptions will be clearly stated.

 

The German and Early New York Records for Jacob Sr. and Jr.:

It is best to begin this story with the earliest known records, and then to proceed chronologically from there.

Jacob Sr.: Hank Jones has found German church records that show Jacob Sr. was married in the vicinity of Dunzweiler, Germany, in 1685, to Anna Margaretha Jung (see Jones, 1991, p. 382). German emigration records show that he left Germany in 1709. Jacob Sr. next appears on a 1710 New York subsistence list. (Known as the Hunter Lists, they are invaluable in tracing many of these Palatine families.) In his first appearance on such a list, he was shown with a family of four (three over age ten and one under 10). That would account for Jacob Sr., his wife, his son Jacob Jr., plus a younger son. Jacob Sr. apparently died in late 1710, because the next subsistence list shows his wife as a widow. The widow married Conrad Schütz, by early 1711.

Jacob Jr.: Hank Jones has not been able to pinpoint the birth or baptism record for Jacob Jr. But based on several German church records, it is estimated that he was born between 1686 and 1691. For example, Hank shows that Jacob Jr. was a sponsor of a child baptized in Germany in early 1709. Sponsors were routinely adults (either married or of marriage age). Therefore, he had to be at least 18, born no later than 1691. So he was probably at least 19 when he arrived in New York in 1710 with his parents.

After the widow of Jacob Sr. remarried in early 1711, the next June 14, 1711, subsistence list shows a new Jacob Zimmerman family consisting of two adults. That would be Jacob Jr. and his wife. So Jacob Jr. married between late December 1710 and June 14, 1711. He was living in Livingston Manor at that time. The date of his marriage fits with the earlier estimate that he was born between 1686 and 1691.

 

From the Hudson Valley to the Mohawk Valley:

According to David Martin, Jacob Jr. appears to have left the Hudson camps by early 1713. He was in the Schoharie area prior to an April 1717 list that shows him, his wife Anna Margareth, and one child, living in the village of Neu-Heesberg or Fuchsendorf.

The 1717 record does not give the maiden name of Jacob Jr.'s wife, but it does establish that he had married Anna Margaretha before he moved to the Mohawk Valley, (where he supposedly married the Indian princess). Based on other records, David Martin concludes that Jacob Jr. moved from the Schoharie to the Mohawk Valley as early as 1720 and no later than 1729.

The Surname of Jacob Jr.'s Wife:

The next relevant document is the baptism record of Jacob Jr.'s fourteenth child, Johan Jurriaan (George), recorded in the First Dutch Reformed Church, Schenectady, in January of 1734. It states that the mother was "Margrita Schitzen". David Martin explains that the name Schitzen was probably "a form of Schützen, itself a feminine version of Schütz." (In German, names are routinely made feminine by adding "in" or "en" to masculine names.)

We also can be pretty sure who her parents are. David Martin says, "The probability is extremely high that Jacob Jr.'s wife, Anna Margaretha Schitzen, is the daughter of Conrad and Anna (Eichelbrenner) Schütz." David came to that conclusion because of Hank Jones' research.

Hank found German church records that show that Conrad Schütz (who married Jacob Sr.'s widow in 1711), had a daughter, Anna Margaretha, by his earlier marriage. She was born at Selbold, Germany, and was baptized 3 November 1693. She would have been seventeen, (2-3 years younger than Jacob Jr.) when her father married Jacob Sr.'s widow. That is probably how Jacob Jr. met and married Anna Margaretha Schütz.

And that is why David Martin concludes that Margrita Schitzen, recorded as the wife of Jacob Jr. at the 1734 birth of their son George Zimmerman, was the daughter of Conrad and Anna (Eichelbrenner) Schütz.


Conclusion:

Based on the above documents, both David Martin and Hank Jones (the only researchers for this family who have relied on original sources rather than traditions) agree that Jacob Jr.'s wife was Anna Margaretha Schütz, whom he married in late 1710 or early 1711, in or near the Livingston Manor area on the Hudson River.

 

The Indian Myth:

According to David Martin, the story that Jacob Jr. married an Indian by the name of Anna Margaretha, was first printed in the April 20, 1904 issue of the Amsterdam, New York Recorder. No proof of such a marriage has ever been provided.

The Indian tradition appears to be based entirely upon a wishful interpretation of a 1734 Indian deed in which members of the Bear, Wolf, and Turtle Clans of the Mohawks "out of pure love and affection," grant a tract of land to their "beloved friend, Anna Marragrieta Timmerman." (see Martin, p. 54, for a photocopy of the deed.) While the deed does not give more information about this Anna Marragrieta, other property records link this tract of land to Jacob, Jr., so we know that she was the wife of Jacob Jr. But why was she assumed to be an Indian?

Since it was unusual for land to be granted to a married woman (rather than to her husband) it was assumed by some that "Anna Marragrieta" must have had a special relationship to the Mohawk tribe, or that perhaps she was even a member of that tribe, or perhaps even a daughter of a clan head, ie., a leader known as "King Hendrick." This is an example where "could have" theories take root in the absence of fact. But that theory is without any supporting evidence. It also flies in the face of the documents that I reviewed earlier (which were discovered after the Indian legend was first printed) that show Jacob Jr. married Anna Margretha Schütz long before he arrived in or near the Mohawk Valley. That is why David Martin concluded that the Indian tradition "is without foundation."

The 1734 Indian deed is indeed an interesting document, one that raises the question of why the grant was made to Anna Margaretha rather than to her husband. We can only assume that Anna Margaretha had established close relationships with the members of some Mohawk clans. David Martin says that there is a family tradition that she was unusually kind to the Indians. That could account for the statement in the deed that the grant was made "out of pure love and affection." But that wording is not unique to this deed. In his book, David cites another Indian deed that supported a 1732 patent to Rev. Petrus Van Dreesen, in which the grantors (including Hendrick Pieterse of the Bear Clan) state that it was made for "good will and affection." Yet no one has claimed that Rev. Van Dreesen was a son of King Hendrick.

We should remember that this document was written in Dutch, which was NOT a language spoken by many Indians. So all we have is what the translator chose to put into the deed. And he did not choose to provide any information about Anna Margaretha other than the statement that she was a "beloved friend." It would be nice if we had a tape recording of what the Indians actually told the writer of the deed. But since we don't, we should avoid extending the language of the deed to meet our own wishful thinking.

We do know that the Dutch wording of the deed has been translated into English by several qualified persons over the years. And those translations substantially agree. The translators specifically agree on the word "spinner," which follows Anna's name in two places and which some myth supporters thought might be the equivalent of the English word "spinster." Such an interpretation might imply that Anna Margaretha was either an unmarried woman or a widow at that time, thus accounting for why the deed was made to a woman. But Dutch linguists agree that in the Dutch language of the day, "spinner" could only mean "a woman who spins," and that the word tells us nothing about her marital status. Moreover, Jacob Jr. had not died by 1734. His last son, Hendrick (Lt. Henry Timmerman), was born in 1737.

We still do not know why the Indian deed to land owned by Jacob Jr. and his descendants was directed to Anna Margaretha rather than to her husband. But that mystery need not be resolved in order to determine the name and genealogy of Jacob Jr's wife.

The tradition that Jacob Jr. married an Indian Princess is contrary to all original source materials of that time. The story might have appeared reasonable in 1904, when it was first published. But subsequent research has given us the facts of the matter.

I think that exciting old myths have a place in our family history, but only IF clearly labeled as such. My wife and I cherish an old family myth about her great, great uncle who was supposedly hung as a horse thief as a young man. We still enjoy that story, although we long ago accounted for each member of that family and found that each died of old age. Well, maybe we'll find another horse thief somewhere else. We'd love to have one in the family. And we still would like to confirm an Indian ancestor tradition on another branch of her family. But the story about Jacob Timmerman's Indian Princess will have to remain just a nice myth.

Ray Kuehne

(My wife Genie is a direct descendant of Jacob Jr. through three of his sons: Lawrence, George, and Lt. Henry. She also is a Snell, via Peter Jost Snell and his wife Susanna Kilts.)