Herman Melville

Birth Name: Herman Melvill

Date of Birth: August 1, 1819

Place of Birth: New York City, New York, U.S.

Date of Death: September 28, 1891

Place of Death: New York City, New York, U.S.

*father – Scottish/Northern Irish, English
*mother – Dutch, some Belgian Flemish

Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet. Most famous for his novel Moby-Dick (1851), he also wrote the books Typee, Omoo, Mardi, Redburn, White-Jacket, Pierre: or, The Ambiguities, The Confidence-Man, and the posthumously-published Billy Budd, Sailor, as well as short fiction, including Benito Cereno and Bartleby, the Scrivener, and poetry, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War and Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Most of his writings were in the adventure genre. He worked as a customs inspector after 1859. An author of the American Renaissance, his works were rediscovered beginning on the 100th year anniversary of his birth, 1919.

Herman was the son of Maria (Gansevoort) and Allan Melvill, a wealthy merchant who died when Herman was a child. His father, who was from Boston, Massachusetts, was of Scottish/Northern Irish and English descent. His mother was from upstate New York, and was of Dutch, and a smaller amount of Belgian Flemish, ancestry; with the hamlet of Gansevoort, New York, having been named after her family. His brother, Thomas Melville, was governor of the buildings Sailors’ Snug Harbor, in New York. The family added an “e” to the surname beginning in 1832, evidently at the request of Herman’s brother Gansevoort. His uncle was politician Peter Gansevoort, of the Jacksonian party, and his first cousin, once removed, was commodore Guert Gansevoort. Herman’s great-great-great-grandfather was early Dutch settler Harmen Harmense Gansevoort, who was born in Dersum, Prince-Bishopric of Münster, Holy Roman Empire, and moved to America in 1655; he was a brewer, landowner, and patriarch of the Gansevoort family in the U.S. Herman’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a diamond and pearl merchant, who co-founded and was a director of the Dutch West India Company, was instrumental in the establishment of New Netherland, and was the first patroon of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, NY; which extended for miles on both sides of the Hudson River.

Herman began sailing at the age of twenty, on a merchant ship and on the whaler Acushnet. He spent time on the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Herman was married to Elizabeth Knapp Shaw, until his death, with whom he had four children. Elizabeth was the daughter of Boston jurist Lemuel Shaw.

Herman’s paternal grandfather was Thomas Melville (the son of Allan Melville/Melvill and Jean/Jane Cargill). Thomas was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and was a merchant, who participated in the Boston Tea Party and fought as a major in the Revolutionary War. He was a member of the Sons of Liberty, a fireman in the Boston Fire Department, and a Member of the Massachusetts State Legislature, in 1832. Herman’s great-grandather Allan was the son of Thomas Melville, who was a minister of Scoonie, Fifeshire, Scotland. Herman’s great-grandmother Jean was the daughter of David Cargill, who died at sea, and of Mary Abernathy, who was said to have been a relative of English-born doctor John Abernethy. Her parents were from Northern Ireland.

Herman’s paternal grandmother was Priscilla Scollay (the daughter of John Scollay and Mercy Greenleaf). Priscilla was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her brother was developer, merchant, and militia officer, Colonel William Scollay. John was the son of James Scollay and Deborah Bligh. Mercy was born in Yarmouth, Barnstable, Massachusetts, the daughter of The Rev. Daniel Greenleaf and Elizabeth Gookin/Gooking.

Herman’s maternal grandfather was Brig. General Peter Gansevoort (the son of Harmen/Harme Gansevoort and Magdalena Douw). Peter was born in Albany, Albany Co., New York, and was a Colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, leading the resistance to Barry St. Leger’s Siege of Fort Stanwix, in 1777. He was Sheriff of Albany County, in 1790. Peter’s brother, Herman’s great-uncle Leonard Gansevoort, was a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1788. Herman’s great-grandfather Harmen was a prominent businessperson, and was the son of Leendert/Leonard Harmense Gansevoort and Catarina/Catharine Janse de Wandelaer. Herman’s great-grandmother Magdalena was the daughter of Petrus/Pieter Douw and Anna Van Rensselaer. Anna’s grandparents were Jeremias van Rensselaer, the son of Kiliaen van Rensselaer; and Maria van Cortlandt van Rensselaer, of the prominent van Cortlandt family. Herman’s great-great-great-great-grandfather Jeremias was the first of the Rensselaer family to permanently establish himself in America, and was the third director, the fourth patroon, and the second Lord of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck, the estate and manor founded by his father.

Herman’s maternal grandmother was Catherina/Catherine Wessellse “Katy” Van Schaick (the daughter of Wessel Van Schaick and Maria Gerritsen/Gerritse). Catherina was born in Albany, New York. The Van Schaick Island, Cohoes, New York, is named after her family. Her cousin was Continental Army officer Goose Van Schaick, and her first cousin, once removed, was Goose’s son, politician Myndert Van Schaick. Herman’s great-grandfather Wessel was the son of Anthony Van Schaick and Anna Catherina/Catharina Ten Broeck. Herman’s great-grandmother Maria was the daughter of Jan Gerritse and Maria Winne.

Sources: Genealogies of Herman Melville – https://famouskin.com

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