George O. Zabriskie was the recognized authority on the Zabriskie clan, and it was to him that I turned for a truthful account of the family’s origins, separating the wheat from the chaff, for here, there is a great deal of chaff.
[Note: this is only an excerpt from the chapter… Multiple illustrations and other materials were not carried over. For those who are really curious about the entire record, see the book.–LSL]
This history is devoted to the early immigrant, Albrecht Zaborowskij (Albert Zabriskie), his wife Machtelt Vanderlinde and their many descendants.
The name “Zabriskie” is undoubtedly of Polish derivation, and thus the Zabriskies form a Polish American family— the first such family of consequence. But it is so far removed in time from Poland, and from the other families of American Polonia whose roots in Poland are of much more recent vintage, that it has little in common with them except its Polish type surname and an appreciation of the value of its many centuries of Polish heritage. By virtue of locale, language, religion, and marriages with early Dutch Americans, the Zabriskies also form an early Dutch American family whose male members of direct descent are eligible for membership in The Holland Society of New York.
For many years the true European origin of the Zabriskie family has been the subject of much research by members of the family and by Polish American and Dutch American historians. To date nothing conclusive has been found— claims and traditions to the contrary.
The progenitor of the Zabriskie family (Albrecht Zaborowskij) came to New Amsterdam (New York City) in the ship d’Vos (The Fox), sailing from Amsterdam, Holland. One account says that the ship left Amsterdam at the end of May, 1662, crossed to England and left there the middle of June; arrived off Sandy Hook on 31 Aug 1662; the passengers disembarked at the foot of Wall Street on 2 Sep. This account also states that the log of the trip is at Albany, N.Y. An attempt to locate this log revealed that “the list of emigrants from Holland to New Netherland from 1654 to 1664, with their accounts, debit and credit (New York Colonial Manuscripts, Vol 14, pages 83 ff) includes persons arriving on various ships. These documents have nothing to do with a ship’s log and are nothing like a ship’s log, and there is nothing to indicate that the log of The Fox was ever at Albany.”
Albert’s debit account follows (no credit account was found):
[illustration not reproduced]
Thus, Albert and each of his fellow passengers paid 42 guilders for fare and meals, and three guilders and ten slivers for a storm coat and sleeping accommodations “to 31 Aug 1662”. The accounts appear to have been paid on 2 Sep. Contrary to these well‑documented facts, one German account says that our ancestor came to Pennsylvania in 1662. Another account says that he, as a school boy sailed from Danzig and landed at Staten Island.
In the list of passengers on The Fox and in the German Lutheran records in New York City, Albert’s surname was spelled “Saboriski”. The earliest entries in the New Jersey land records and those in the Bergen (Jersey City) Church record show similar spellings. However, the various signatures available today read “Albrict (or Albrect) Zaborowskij”, thusly: [illustration not reproduced] . In a deed dated in 1702 which our progenitor endorsed in 1708, his name is given in the body of the deed as Albert Zaborowski;. This can be accepted as his name because the Polish “Zaborowskij” and the German “Saboriski” are phonetically the same. The reason for the apparent shift from the German spelling to the Polish is not known.
In most records our ancestor’s given name was spelled Albert and his signature is in the German form of this name. Four of his sons each named his first son Albert; the fifth son so named his second son. (Such action followed the Dutch practice of naming the eldest sons for their grandfathers.) Even so, one Polish American writer claims that our progenitor’s first name was Alexander, not Albert. This illustrates the many contradictions found in the records concerning the founder of the “foremost, and most widely spread of the colonial Polish American families”, and concerning his name.
There are three different Polish ancestries (Sobieski, Zborowski, and Zaborowski) from which descent is claimed by various present-day members of the family. One claim may be correct, but certainly all three cannot be. None has been clearly proved to be correct and may never be.
Claim No. 1 ‑ Sobieski. The oldest and most widespread claim is that Albert was a Sobieski, either the son, brother, nephew, or cousin (depending on which version you accept) of King John III of Poland, Jan Sobieski. Jan was only about 14 years old (or 9 according to which birthdate for Jan is used) when Albert was born. Jan left no continuing posterity, nor did his one adult brother or other near relatives. Then too, if Albert was a Sobieski, why did he sign his name as Zaborowskij? No member of the family has claimed the right to the Sobieski coat of arms so far as is known. Whatever the ancestry of the Zabriskies may be, we are not Sobieskis. [The author goes on, in the Appendices to describe the breathtaking array of legends, many quite creative, surrounding the central notion that the Zabriskies were descended from Polish kings.]
Claim No. 2 ‑ Zborowski. This claim to Polish ancestry relates the Zabriskies to the magnate Zborowski family, and one branch of the Zabriskie family has used a Zborowski coat of arms. One Polish American writer says that the Zabriskies claim descent from Samuel Zborowski. Nowhere else has such a claim been found. A descent from Samuel’s younger brother, Christopher, has been claimed. This claim has been carefully researched over the years without success. No one has ever found that Christopher or any of his brothers left posterity that could have sired Albert, the progenitor of the Zabriskie family. And to have been a Zborowski, Albert would have had to add an “a” to his surname between the “Z” and the “b”. This he could have done, but why? It is not likely that he did. It does not appear that we Zabriskies are Zborowskis.
Claim No. 3 ‑ Zaborowski. Some members of the family claim a “Zabriskie” coat of arms. How there can be an authentic coat of arms for an American family with a surname developed in America, with no proven European ancestry, is not perceived. But one can be purchased! An inquiry to one firm about the source of the arms brought the evasive “We do not trace families.” Actually, as was already known, the alleged arms were those of one branch of the Zaborowski family of Poland. All supposed “Zabriskie” arms are not exactly alike ‑ they vary a little depending on which branch of the Zabrowski family the “author” copied them from.
Albert was likely a Zaborowski. That was the way he signed his name, and it is phonetically the same as the surname he used when he first came to America. But the Zaborowski ancestry erroneously claimed for him cannot be accepted, This claim gives his father as Hans Zaborowski who died in New Amsterdam in 1675. No basis for this or any information that such a person came to America has been found. The claim also gives Albert a brother, Hans Jr., who died 28 Sep 1718 in New Amsterdam. No indication that such a person was in New Amsterdam has been found. Although the German Lutheran records of New York City do show a death on that date, it is that of Hans Karoski. There are no family traditions that relatives of Albert lived in America.
In summary, it may be said that by reason of Albert’s use of the Polish spelling of his surname in his signatures, we can be sure that he was of Polish ancestry, but was not necessarily full‑blooded, for we do not know the identity of his mother. From the German form of his given name and the use of the German form of his surname in various records, we can surmise that he was likely part German. Again, we do not know where he was born. We do not know with certainty exactly how he spelled his surname in his early life. We do not know whether he was of noble birth (he was not of royal birth), or whether he was, instead, a commoner. We do not have enough established facts to make any claim as to his ancestry or his right to a coat of arms. Nevertheless, the conclusions of the compiler are that Albert was a Zaborowski, part German, and a member of the lesser nobility.
One final point: During the New York City World Fair of 1939‑1940, the Polish Government exhibition had a purported portrait of Albert and gave his surname as Zaborowski. The source of the portrait has not been found.
When Albert came to America on “The Fox” he gave his home (which was likely but not necessarily his birthplace) as Prussia. However, one writer has Albert coming to America from the Upper Palatinate. In the Old Bergen Church records at Jersey City, we find that at the time of his marriage Albert gave his birthplace as “Enghstburgh”. (There is a small “e” written above and between the “t” and the “b” as though in correction, so perhaps it might be spelled “Enghsteburgh”.) The Reformed Dutch records are a reliable source of birth places, but this entry, written by a Dutch clerk, may not have been spelled correctly. It has been variously located as Engelburg (Pokrayno in Polish) in Poland; Insterburg in East Prussia; in “Austrian Silesia” in “Zolkwa, Poland”; and as an old castle and section of Enns, Austria. Research has not revealed which, if any, is correct. It is the conclusion of the compiler that Albert was born in or near Insterburg, now called Chernyakbovsk (near Kaliningrad on the Bay of Danzig, Baltic Sea), in the USSR. In the 1600’s it was in Prussia.
As stated, Albert came to America on “The Fox”, arriving in August 1662. Only one other reference to him prior to his marriage in January 1677 has been located. In a deed dated in 1702 he is mentioned as having been of “Ackinsack” in 1675. This place has been variously located, but it was then, as now, in Bergen County, and therefore, on the east side of the Hackensack River, likely in or near the Teaneck Bogota‑Ridgefield Park area. Ackinsack is where Albert later owned land and where he lived as a planter— a farmer. Here is where he died and was buried, according to the New York City German Lutheran Church records.
But Albert’s several tracts of land on the east side of the River did not run from the Hackensack to the Hudson— rather to Overpeck Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack. There is no evidence that he owned land at Tappan, N.Y., as claimed by some. He did own land on the west side of the Hackensack (part of Essex County until late 1709), including large tracts at Paramus. He did not build the Zabriskie-Von Steuben House near Hackensack on the west bank of the River, as an account printed in Germany states. A grandson, John Jr. was the builder.
The extent of the land holdings of Albrecht Zaborowskij can only be partially determined from present‑day records, and precise locations cannot be determined. His homestead was on the east side of the Hackensack River in the Teaneck‑Bogota‑Ridgefield Park area (Bergen County) as stated. His holdings here ran from the Hackensack River to Overpeck Creek. North of this in present‑day Dumont his son Joost built his home and it can be surmised that Albert held land in that area (then Schraalenburgh). He may have held other land on the east side of the Hackensack which cannot now be identified.
Albert held extensive tracts of land on the west side of the Hackensack. Land here was in Essex County until 1709 and readily distinguishable from land on the east side of the river in Bergen County. One tract obtained by “Indian purchase” was “in old Paramus” (likely River Edge‑Paramus), and ran from the Hackensack west to Sprout Brook. Most or all of this land was sold and therefore not later owned by descendants of Albert. The home of his second son, John, was apparently in or near the present Hackensack, so we can surmise that Albert owned land in that vicinity also.
In Paramus, lying west of Sprout Brook to Saddle River, Albert held the “Old Paramus” patent; on 10 Dec 1734, Jacob, the eldest son of Albert transferred title for 1067 acres of this land to his brother Christian. This patent apparently ran along the last bank of the Saddle River, south to north from a polut a half mile or so north of Arcola to Midland Avenue or perhaps somewhat north of that street. North of this point descendants of Jacob and his brother Hendrick held much of the land and it can be surmised that Albert held patents for at least a portion of the land from about Midland Avenue north to about Glen Avenue or even Linwood Avenue. On the other hand it is possible that these lands were purchased by Zabriskie descendants or inherited by their spouses.
In 1702 Albert was given 1200 acres of land by the Indians in the “Werimus” area. This has been called the “New Paramus” patent. This land lay on the east side of the Saddle River running south to north from about the intersection of East Saddle River Road and Werimus Road to Woodcliff Lake Road. In 1708 Albert sold the northern half of this land to Thomas Van Buskirk. As few Zabriskie descendants lived on the southern half, it is likely that at least portions of it were also sold by Albert or his sons. Harvey (page 34) says that the patent was “bounded West by the Saddle River, North and East by Claes Jansen Romeyn, and South by Albert Zabriskie.” If this description is correct and Albert did hold land immediately south of this patent, then apparently he held a major portion of the land along the east bank of the Saddle River from just north of Arcola to Saddle River Village (a distance of about seven miles).
Albert was of the German Lutheran faith, not Dutch Reformed. Whether he studied for the Lutheran ministry before coming to America as some family traditions have it, is not known, as we have no records on the subject. The claim that he preached in the Lutheran Church in New York City or Hackensack is not substantiated by the records, nor is the claim that he founded a Lutheran church in Hackensack. That he was a Lutheran is evident; for example, his death and burial are recorded in the German Lutheran Church records.
Additionally, Albert’s wife, Machtelt Vanderlinde, was an American born Dutch; was christened in the Reformed Dutch Church in New Amsterdam; and was evidently a member of the Bergen Reformed Church at the time of her marriage. But she adopted her husband’s Lutheran faith, as shown by the membership records of the Old Bergen Church at Jersey City:
“A.D. 1680, The 11th of October, Machtelt van de Linden, wife of Albert Saburasky, but left us after having only once communed, and returned to the Lutherans, whose faith she had formerly forsaken ‑ which has been put down as a cliff in the sea, that others seeing this might not be wrecked in their faith.” (Holland Society translation)
(The printed copy of this entry is very misleading and has led many, including one Polish American writer to believe that Albert was a member of the Bergen Reformed Dutch Church for one communion. This was not true.)
Perhaps later Machtelt may have returned to the Reformed fold. Her five sons became members of the Hackensack Reformed Church. But Machtelt is not shown as a member of that church. Her last two sons were christened in the Hackensack Reformed Church, but this does not prove church membership.
An examination of the extant records shows that Albert, as a Lutheran, did not belong to the Reformed Dutch Church “on the Green” in present day Hackensack. He did not help found the church. He did not carve his initials “by his own hand” on its walls (in fact, there is no “A S” or “A Z” on the walls). He was not “one of the most diligent and generous members for over 25 years.” (By the way, one Polish American account says these same things about a Hackensack Lutheran church.) He does not lie buried in its churchyard. His name does not appear on its membership records. His name does, however, appear six times in the christening records of the church; i.e. twice when two of his sons were christened there and four times when he appeared as a sponsor (twice for namesake grandsons). Albert’s sons and their families were, of course, members of the church, and it was two of his descendants (Albert C and Peter) whose names are carved on its walls.
Albert and Machtelt were not married by the Dutch Reformed Church domine at Bergen (Jersey City), the entry in the Bergen records having been misconstrued. This is the official record:
[illustration not reproduced]
(Left end bound and could not be focused; dates entered in pencil)
“1676, December 17, Albert Zaberoski, Y.M. from Enghstburgh, and Machtelt Vander Linden, Y. D. from New York. Received certificate January 8, 16770” (Holland Society Translation.)
“(1676; 17 Dec) Albert Zaberoski, bachelor of Enghstburgh (?) and Machtelt vander Linden, maiden of New York, have had their first publishing of the banns, and without remission of three of the same they were given their certificate on ( ) January 16 ( )”. (English Translation by Professor Adriann Barnouw.)
(“The Professor is not sure of the date. However, the Voorlezer makes an 8 on its side, and the ‘77’ is now obliterated, as is also a part of the ‘6’.” ‑ 22 Feb 1961 ‑ David Rowland, Curator of the Old Bergen Church.)
It was Machtelt’s permission to marry after proclamation of banns to her church congregration that was given on 8 Jan 1677, and not a marriage certificate, as will be seen by a study of similar entries in the Bergen records. Unfortunately, the name of the church or minister to whom permission was given was not stated as was true in virtually all similar entries of that period. Nor is a record of the marriage entered in the Register of the nearby New York City Reformed Dutch Church. Hence, they may have been married by a Lutheran minister, although the available records do not show whether or not there was one in New York City at that time.
There are some traditional claims about which no factual information can be found:
(1) The claim has been made that Albert lived among the Indians for several years. It is likely that he did, for in 1679 and in 1709 he acted as an interpreter. It is also claimed that his eldest son, Jacob, lived among, or was stolen by the Indians. Perhaps so, but we have no factual knowledge on the subject. There is, however, no evidence that the Zabriskies have Indian blood, as claimed by one branch of the family.
(2) There is a claim that Albert was the first Justice of the Peace in upper Bergen County, being appointed by Gov. Hamilton in 1682. Perhaps he was, but no original source records in support of this claim have been found.
(3) Albert may have been well educated. We know that his signature was strong and firm at age 70. But this is all we have as evidence of his degree of education, and all it proves is that Albert could write his name.
(4) Albert may have been impressed into, or have otherwise entered the Prussian Army as alleged, but we have no factual knowledge of the subject one way or the other. The same is true of alleged residence in Holland before coming to America.
Now turning to two statements that demonstrate how far afield from the basic facts the family traditions have gotten we mention:
(1) “In America his (Albert’s) hands could not take the rough work, thus disclosing that he was of royal birth.” (By this reasoning all white‑collar workers without calluses are of royal birth.)
(2) In our selection of a Zabriskie coat of arms we chose the one with a crest which indicated that the family had participated in the Crusades ‑ for we have heard that our ancestors were in the Crusades.” (Which remote ancestors and from whence came the information down through the many centuries since the Crusades?)
Albert, “though not the first of the Polish settlers in the United States, will always be an important figure in the Polish immigration.” He was “humane toward the Indians, loyal to the white settlers; he helped build communities with his spirit and hard work, never marring the good name of Poland by a bad deed. He beat the path for succeeding generations, and fathered a Polish American family that became one of the most prominent in the United States.” Albert, “his sons and other descendants accepted the Dutch ways of their communities, and when the Dutch Americanized their ways ‑ so did the Zabriskies.”
We really know virtually nothing about Albert, for in his 49 years in America there are surprisingly few records concerning him, or made by him not even a will. He did leave five sons who had among them 39 children, 35 of whom married. From them has developed a large family whose members have been “mostly farmers, small manufacturers, tradesmen and merchants. Some intermarried with prominent American families. Some achieved fortunes. They have always displayed marked patriotism and in many instances have served their new country well. Beginning with the Revolution, there is no war in the history of the United States, where Zabriskies did not distinguish themselves. The family has spread all over the United States, yet there are some who still live on the lands owned by the original Albert.
All is not quite as painted by these quotations from several Polish American writers. For example, there were several Zabriskies who were Loyalists during the Revolution. And who knows a Zabriskie that was, or is, widely famed? On the other hand, whoever heard of a Zabriskie who was infamous? Albert, even though shrouded in mystery by the lack of records and by the passage of time, was an ancestor we can all be proud of. The Zabriskie family, “the oldest Polish family in America”, which at the same time became an early Dutch American family, is one of which we can likewise be proud, even if there are a few glamorous fables stemming from an absence of factual information about its progenitor.