by Shannon Butler

If you have ever heard the saying “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much,” then it is quite likely that you have Dutch in your blood (or at the very least, you have been heckled by a Dutchman). This saying is not terribly old, but the sentiment certainly is, and in the late 19th century there existed a group of men who wanted to preserve as much of their Dutch heritage as possible. In our collections here in the Local History Room we have a box of documents from the Holland Society (sadly not the cool early Dutch documents that they have collected). Inside the box are mostly dinner menus, as the Holland Society has become famous for their annual Dinners. However, these menus have inspired us to look into this society that still lives on today, with the same mission they have held for years.

This society was formed in 1885 by several prominent men from New York City, all of whom had been able to trace their heritage to the original settlers of New Netherland. In the late 19th century, these men had noticed the rise in immigration into New York City, just as the Dutch had done nearly 300 years before. They saw a need to save whatever Dutch traditions and documents they could before whatever was left, disappeared. When the society was formed they decided very early on that in order to become a member, you had to show proof that you were descended from a direct male line of a Dutchman who had settled in New Netherland or some other settlement “of the New World prior to 1675.”

While the main organization is centered in New York City, there were other districts that made up the society including ones located in Albany, Kinderhook, Kingston, and Poughkeepsie. Unlike the Amrita Club (who we mentioned in last week’s blog entry), the Holland Society here in Poughkeepsie did not have a fancy club house. They gathered at the Nelson House for various meetings and their Annual Dinner. Local members of this society included some of the big names in the area, Hasbroucks, Adriances, Roosevelts, and Van Kleecks just to name a few. The club had some famous members including Presidents Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and movie star Humphrey Bogart.

The main goal of the society, which they have strived to achieve over the years, is to preserve as much of the history of the Dutch in New Netherland as possible. Proof of their work can be found in the New York State Archives where the majority of their collections have been donated to the New Netherland Research Center. There, historians work to translate records that are centuries old in order to understand the Dutch and their global reach during the early colonial period. In their work, they have translated well over 7,000 documents.
One of our oldest pieces here in the Local History Collections is the Adriance Family bible, which is well over 300 years old. The language of this book is Dutch and this shows us that the Adriance family held onto their language and traditions when they came to the colonies in the 17th century. You can see this bible HERE in our video that showcases some of the bibles in our collection.

Holland Society – Pamphlet box – 369.12 – An image of FDR’s application to the society

01 – Image of the Holland Society 2nd Annual dinner menu – Oct 3, 1891 – LH Collections
02 – Image of the Holland Society 2nd Annual dinner menu, inside showing signatures of the local attendees – Oct 3, 1891 – LH Collections
03 – Seal of the Holland Society – LH Collections
04 – Image of the Nelson House where the Holland Society met for annual dinners, 1924 – LH Collections

From the Local History Room at Poughkeepsie Public Library District: Bibles in Our Collection Library District staffer and Historian, Shannon Butler, talks about the Bibles from our Local History Collection and their importance to Genealogy.