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The Author Mary L. Bullock

My ethnic Dutch and Reformed Protestant Dutch Church roots extend back to 1568, when my Maternal 11th Great Grandfather, Jan de Pannebackker, was burned at the stake in Utrecht, the Netherlands, by the Spanish Inquisition for being Dutch Reformed; after his wife, Nancy, my 11th Great Grandmother, was drowned in a tub of water in front of him. Though we may never prove it, I like to think they were also involved in the resistance to the Spanish occupation and that they are the source of my interest in community activism

I knew none of this family lore when I moved to Staten island in 2001.  But I was raised in Edgewater, NJ which had been owned by Patroon David DeVries, who also owned part of Staten Island ca. 1640.

I was fascinated to discover, in Port Richmond, a Dutch Reformed Congregation that extended back to 1656, continues today, and that helped create our nation. Descendants of the original families still live nearby.  Then I discovered I have a profound personal connection to this particular religion, and this particular church, in this particular community.

After the execution of his parents, Jan and Nancy's son, Cornelius, fled to the Palatinate, where the family survived and later flourished in the town of Flamborn in present day Germany.  Cornelius' direct descendant, my 6th Great Grand-father, Hendrick Pannebecker, who came to Philadelphia in 1698, established my direct branch of the family.  In 1699 he married Eve Umstat, a Mennonite.  Three of Eve and Hendrick's children were baptized Dutch Reformed.  In 1730, Hendrick recruited the minister of the Port Richmond Dutch Reformed Church, Cornelius Van Santvoort, to establish his new Dutch Reformed congregation in Bensalem, PA, not far from Philadelphia.  So we are members of the same congregation!  (You can't make this stuff up.)


But that is not all, a male direct descendant of one of my 5th great uncles, married a female direct descendant of Cornelius Corsen.  The Burial Place was the Corsen family graveyard.  So the Corsens are also my Cousins, by marriage.

The Pennypackers -there are about 40 versions of the family name- directly supported George Washington.  We have a distant familial connection through Martha Washington's grandparents, the Custis family.  The Pennypackers contributed 148 men to the Civil War, the most of any family, including Galusha Pennypacker, still the youngest-ever U.S. Army General, appointed at age 22.  Other cousins:  11th Marlon Brando-Actor, 7th Harry Truman-U.S. President,  5th George Armstrong Custer,  General at 23 defeated at Little Big Horn, 3rd D.A. Pennebaker-Academy Award winning pioneer of direct cinema, arguably the pre-eminent chronicler of Sixties Counterculture.

The family has two major "amateur" historians, Cousin Samuel W. Pennypacker, governor of Pennsylvania 1903-07, who discovered Jan and wrote several books on Family and Pennsylvania history, and his protege, Cousin Morton Pennypacker, who discovered the identities of Culper Sr. and Culper Jr. of the famous Revolutionary War Spy Ring based on Long Island. 


I, and several of my contemporary Cousins, are following in their footsteps.  See my original research The Dutch Reformed Church & the American Dream.  America's story through the lense of one family and one neighborhood on Staten Island.

The Pennebaker Family website -thanks to genealogist and webmaster Bruce Pennypacker- includes information about Pennypacker Mills in Schwenksville PA, our ancestral home which is open to the public, and our Newsletters.  My articles begin with Volume 22-1 Jan 2023.

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