In 2011, I was contacted by Alison Leigh Cowan, who was then a writer at The New York Times, looking for leads on families that originated in New Amsterdam and, in the following centuries, had an impact on American history and settled across the country. She was looking for leads and intended to write a feature length story on the subject. I gave her the names of several possible families and, happily, she chose the Van Dusen family. "That is great," I said, "because my uncle is the world's expert on the family." Herbert D. Simons, a Houston lawyer and oilman, has studied the family for decades, and is today finalizing a 600+ page genealogy of the family - descendants of the builder of the first windmill in Manhattan, a family which includes two presidents (Martin Van Buren and FDR) and a First Lady (Elizabeth Monroe).
What followed was an in-depth exploration by Alison of the Van Dusen family of New Amsterdam and beyond for which my uncle, colleague Ryan J. Woods, and I were extensively interviewed. It appeared in The New York Times, with interactive extensions on its website, on July 22, 2011:
"As with the Old Testament patriarch who gave birth to a nation, it all began with Abraham, whose forbears were from the town of Duersen in northern Brabant. Known in official documents as 'Abraham the miller, or 'Abraham Pieterszen,' as in son of Peter, he landed on the island of 'Manatus' some time before February 1627. Nearly 400 years later, he has more than 200,000 descenants over 15 generations scattered across the Americas ..."
Left to right, Brenton Simons, Herbert D. Simons, and Ryan J. Woods, Treat Rotunda, NEHGS. Credit: Katherine Taylor for The New York Times.