Melyn articles:
Apr 1936
Jul 1936
Jan 1937
Apr 1937
Jul 1937
Oct 1937

One of our earliest ancestors to come to America was Cornelis Melyn, who arrived in the New World in 1638 from Antwerp. A series of six articles in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record described his Old World roots, as well as Cornelis and his family's activities in the America, in some detail. The first of these articles appeared in pages 157-164 of the Apr 1936 issue. I am astounded by the quantity of detailed information which has survived for four centuries concerning the lives of Cornelis and his family members.

We present here excerpts from the articles which were provided by cousin Glen R. Winans. According to Glen the author of the articles, Paul Gibson Burton, is related to us, being a 6g-grandson of Cornelis Melyn. Throughout these articles, the author's footnotes are renumbered and relocated to the bottom of each web page for your convenience. Mr. Burton's footnotes are keyed to blue superscripts in the text. My own footnotes are keyed in red.

I have limited this transcription of Paul Burton's work to those portions pertaining to my own direct ancestors. If you share my Melyn and Winans roots, but don't see anything about your own ancestor, I would be happy to provide you the missing information. Just send me e-mail!

Chuck Carey
May 2006



Some thirty years ago the late Professor Samuel Ross Winans of Princeton University, Alfred LeRoy Becker of New York, and Mr. Paul Gibson Burton of Washington engaged in a concerted effort to discover the pre-American ancestry of the progenitor of the Winans family in America, and that of his wife's father, Cornelis Melyn, native of Antwerp, Patroon of Staten Island and prominent citizen and patriot of New Netherland. In the end success was attained in the case of Melyn.

In 1906 through the efforts of Professor Winans, the interest of the late Mr. Walter Winans was aroused. He was the grandson of Ross Winans, the famous railroad builder of Baltimore, and at that time was living on his estate, Surrenden Park, Pluckley, Kent. He also maintained an occasional residence in Brussels.

Mr. Walter Winans engaged European genealogists to gather information concerning the Melyn and Winans families in Belgium, Holland, and elsewhere. A large amount of material was thus obtained, and was sent to Professor Winans. The character of this material varied from wild speculationa as to noble descent to transcripts of church and other records covering a period of more than half a century, possessing genealogical and historical value.

The death of Professor Winans in 1910 delayed the progress of the investigations. In 1911 all of his genealogical papers were placed in the hands of Mr. Burton for safe keeping, collation and possible publication. Mr. Burton attempted to continue the correspondence with Mr. Walter Winans, but with little success. Probably the fact that no one in this country bearing the Winans name was desirous of prosecuting the work dulled Mr. Winans' interest. Then the World War broke out, necessitating complete cessation of European searches and correspondence.

Soon after the armistice, correspondence was resumed, culminating in a statement from Mr. Winans that he was on the verge of very interesting discoveries concerning the Melyn and Winans pedigrees, which discoveries he would forward as soon as they were completely developed. The sudden and tragic death of Mr. Winans on August 12, 1920 ended the active prosecution of researches in Europe.

The material that was sent over to Professor Winans has been carefully studied, and much confirming and supplementary material has been obtained from foreign books and publications available in this country, as well as from occasional correspondence with archivists and others abroad.

The most important result of these efforts has been the preparation of a connected narrative of the ancestry of Cornelis Melyn, beginning with his grandfather, Lambert Melyn and covering the ramifications of the Melyn family in Antwerp for three generations.

This narrative is based on church and civil records to which many references are given, and which include more than fifty baptismal entries, as well as many marriage and death entries, together with interesting items from wills, accounts of guardians and from other sources.

It had been hoped that this material might have been supplemented and amplified by further European investigations, but this seems to be impracticable at this time. It has therefore been decided to publish some of the more important material so that it will be preserved and made available to all who may be interested.

The first material to be presented consists of all the Melyn baptisms, 122 in number, that were found in the Antwerp Roman Catholic church records from the year 1580 to the year 1640, both inclusive. There are no Protestant church records for this period. Some of the baptisms, not included in the narrative ancestry of Cornelis Meiyn, may as the result of further study, be found to be of the family of Lambert Melyn. Definite proof of this is lacking at the present time.

To those unfamiliar with the history of Antwerp at the period under consideration, it may appear strange that baptisms of children of presumably Protestant families should be found in the records of Roman Catholic churches.

When after a memorable siege, the City of Antwerp was obliged to surrender to Alexander Farnese,1 Article VI of the treaty signed August 17, 1585, provided as follows:

"And because it is the wish of the King that this famous city, founded by trade and commerce, is not to be depopulated; or that they who are within it are not to be rigorously expelled; all the aforesaid Burghers and Inhabitants, shall be allowed to retain their residence there, for the term of four whole years, without being searched or questioned in the matter of their consciences, or forced to take a new oath in regard to their Religion; provided there living in quietness, and without disorder and scandal; in order that they may meantime consider and resolve if they shall desire to live in the exercise of the ancient Catholic, Apostolic Roman Religion; for in case they do not, they then within the said time may freely depart out of the country, as they shall think fit: in which case they shall be permitted the free use of all their goods, in order to dispose of them, to transport them, sell or alienate them, as they shall desire; or may cause the same to be managed, received, and administered by such as they may wish to place in charge and depute: and if they shall come to death, outside or inside the country, without making a will, the before-mentioned goods to descend to the nearest heirs, in direct or collateral lines."2

This article of the treaty caused a general exodus from Antwerp, the population "melting down" as one historian aptly phrased it, from 90,000 in 1585 to 55,000 in 1589.

There is among the Winans' papers, a copy of a memorandum ascribed to the Archivist of the City of Antwerp, in which he writes on this subject:

"That is to say, during the prescribed delay, about 35,000 Protestants left the City. But others, whose business affairs, or principal interest, kept them at Antwerp, submitted officially. Thousands of persons were baptized. Our Registers of Baptisms are in evidence, especially during the last months preceding the expiration of the interval of four years.

"Dare we assert that these conversions in a body, were sincere? Certainly not. They were dictated by the irresistible force of circumstances; by the overwhelming necessity. That which is proof is the great number of measures taken eventually by the government of the country, and by the magistrates of the city (all good Catholics themselves) to utterly destroy Protestantism by any means; by imprisonment, by banishment, etc.

"But the authorities were powerless. Ostensibly everyone was Catholic for fear of persecution, and meanwhile secret meetings and preaching multiplied. Antwerp overflowed with the adherents of the Reformation, in spite of the most severe ordinances against them.

"I am able to furnish you in support of my assertions the exact dates or even the very text of these ordinances, but that would lead very far.

"After all which precedes, it need not astonish us, therefore, to find entries concerning Protestants in the Registers of the Catholic churches."3

An instance of the effect of the practices mentioned will be found in connection with the baptizing of three children of Andre Melyn, the father of Cornelis Melyn, the Patroon, on August 14, 1589.4

From other sources, as will be shown later, it is reasonably certain that these children were about eight, five and three years of age respectively when they were presented for baptism three days before the expiration of the four years grace allowed by the treaty, and consequently they were considered by the Church authorities as being old enough to have sinned.

It was therefore necessary to perform the rite of exorcism, of which due entry was made in the margin of the Register of Baptisms.

It seems advisable to state here that the transcripts of church records and other papers sent to Professor Winans were in French, with the proper names given in French orthography, but it is known that the original records are in Flemish.2 To prevent errors which might possibly occur if these proper names were re-translated, they have been left as they appear in the transcripts.

With this exception, the manuscripts have been translated into English by the compilers. Notes which appear between parentheses are translated from entries in the manuscripts. Those which appear between square brackets are comments of the compilers.


At this point, the author lists 122 baptisms of Melyn family members at several churches. We will include here only those of our ancestor, Cornelis Melyn, and of his three siblings mentioned above. No record could be found for the baptism of any of his children.


[3] 14 Aug. 1589. Abraham, son of Andre Molyn and Jeanne van Santvoort.5 Wit: Naenken Batens.

[4] 14 Aug. 1589. Petronille, dau. of the same. Same wit.

[5] 14 Aug. 1589.6 Isaac, son of the same. Same wit.


[83] 17 Sept. 1600. Corneille, son of Andre Moleyn and Marie Botens. Wit: Corneille Lobeyn, Sara Verreyken...

1 This article is based on extensive researches and studies made some thirty years ago, and which are described in some detail in the opening paragraphs. Mr. Burton and Alfred LeRoy Becker,3 both of whom participated in the original work, have prepared the article from the material then collected, augmented by new matter obtained by them as the results of their own studies.
2 Translated by the compilers from Antwerpen Archievenblad, printed, Vol. IV, page 253.
3 Translated by the compilers from a memorandum (in French) among the Winans' papers."
4 See baptisms numbered 3, 4 and 5.
5 Error in the original church records. The correct name is "van Westvoort."
6 Opposite the three entries of 14 Aug. 1589 is written in the margin of the Register of the word "Exorcisata".

1 The siege of Antwerp, during the Eighty Years' War, caused the separation of this major Dutch city and the adjacent region of Flanders from the Netherlands. Antwerp became a part of the Catholic-dominated Spanish Netherlands, and later Austrian Netherlands. In 1830, the new country of Belgium was formed with French- and Dutch-speaking areas. Antwerp was included in the latter.
2 For all practical purposes, the Flemish language is the same as Dutch.
3 Read a letter written in 1940 by Alfred LeRoy Becker, who is a fellow Winans descendant, to his son.
This page was last updated 26 Dec 2008.