Speaking of Brazil…

In going over my family tree recently, I noticed that I had stopped doing any further research regarding the Roosa/Rosa line in New York after succeeding in cementing down, to my satisfaction, the names of the parents of Garret Rosa.

So last weekend I decided to continue in that vain and today I am going to talk about Garret’s mother Lena van Loon’s ancestors.

Lena van Loon was born in either Feb of 1764 or 1767. The reason for the not quite definite date is that her parents, Jurris/Jorge van Loon who married his cousin Helena van Loon, had two daughters with similar names. Helena (baptized 2 Feb 1764), and Lea (born 1767). I am inclined to lean towards the daughter Helena for two reasons: Lena is more appropriate as a diminutive of Helena; and the birth date is closer to the age of her husband Abraham Rosa, (who was born in 1759).

But regardless of which daughter it is – here is the tree I have been able to construct for Lena:


van LOON, Lena - Helena? - 2
The line down is: Lena van Loon, son Garret Rosa, son Abram Rosa, daughter Clarissa/Carrie Rosa, daughter Gertrude Cain, son Clarence John, son Vic.

Lena van Loon, like her husband Abraham Rosa, descends from very Dutch ancestors, with possibly a little German thrown in. (She is also a descendant of the van Loon and Hallenbeck lines twice.) And in pursuing this research I came across something very unexpected and very interesting. Lena’s gg (and ggg) grandfather Willem Hoffmire was born in Brazil.

My first response was “What!?” Of course my second response was to query and search like a crazy person, as I was intensely curious about how this came to be. So in the last week I have been learning about how in the 1600s the Dutch established a colony in Brazil through the Dutch West India Company, and for about 25 year were in conflict with Spain and Portugal while trying to keep control of their interests there. About 1661 they completely abandoned their efforts and ceded over control to the Portuguese.

Profit and greed was the motive for establishing a colony in Brazil, nothing new about that. The goal of establishing a colony in South America was to provide raw materials and import/export items for Holland’s own manufacturing industries. Tobacco, cotton, dye wood, gold, ivory and sugar would bring untold profits to the investors. Let’s not forget the slave trade.

When Johann Moritz arrived as the newly hired governor, he fell in love with the country and people. Admittedly, he actually did a pretty good job of overseeing the colony and trying to keep relations with the Portuguese on good terms. He was not a religious bigot and worked well with the locals as he had great respect for them, even trying to learn their languages.

He invited artisans and scientists, and touted free-trade as an advantage, all in an effort to promote colonization and lure immigrants from Holland.


Time-expired men, (soldiers) were encouraged to stay and settle in the area. Maybe Willem Hoffmire’s father, (whose name we do not know), was one of those soldiers. The soldiers hired by the Dutch West India Company came from many nations: France, Scotland, England, Scandinavia, Germany; and as the Hoffmire name sounds more German than Dutch…who knows. There were two types of people living in Dutch Brazil by this time, those who worked for the DWIC and those who didn’t. Willem’s father’s role is unknown. He could have been a merchant, soldier, artisan or a small land holder from Holland trying his hand at a farm in Brazil.

However, by the time Willem (born abt 1636) was a ‘young lad’ his mother Geertruy Hieronymus was a widow. Whether she was a widow in Brazil is not known. Sometime before 1652, either the whole family, or just herself and her children, made their way to New Amsterdam (present day New York), where she married a local baker by the name of Jochim Wessils (before 1652). Gert and Jochim are a whole other story!

Colonial landscape in the 1650s, Dutch Brazil.


Depiction of slave market of Recife with Dutch and Portuguese merchants.


If one is interested in learning more about Dutch Brazil, there is a pretty interesting book The Dutch in Brazil, by C.R. Boxer, that is an easy read and gives a good account of this time in Dutch history. Many folks don’t realize how incredibly powerful the Dutch nation was at one time. So powerful and rich they had more ships on the oceans than England, Spain, and France put together.

I guess now I will check out the summer olympics with a little more interest!


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