H. L. SHAPIRO
Old New Yorkers
A Series of Crania from the Nagel Burying Ground, New York City
AXEPIICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, VOL. XIV, NO. 3
Among the various elements which make up the heterogeneous population of the United States, there is one which may conveniently be called Old American. Its exact proportion in the present population is unknown, and naturally would vary with the arbitrary standards one might adopt for such a classification. Following, however, the precedent of Hrdlicka (1) , Old Americans are “those American whites who those Americans whose ancestors on each side of the family were born in the United States for at least two generationsin other words, all those whose parents as well as all four grandparents were born in this country. The third native generation of adults means roughly an ancestry on each side of the family of at least 80 to 150 years American.” On the basis of this classification HrdliEka has made in his “Old Americans’’ an important contribution to the study of the somatological characteristics of the oldest American white stock in the population of this country. Unfortunately, up to the present time there have existed no data on the actual ancestors of the population with which HrdliEka was dealing. Consequently, a study on the stability of this physical type was hardly possible. One might, for example, compare Old Americans with the inadequate data on living Englishmen, but that is hardly as satisfactory as a comparison with ancestral whites of the colonial period, for inevitably the question of selection comes up. What has been needed, then, is data on the physical type of the colonial immigrants to the United States.
In this paper I am presenting such data on the actual American ancestors of the old American stock. The principal problems dealt with are the characteristics of a local New York group, their relationship to Old World types, whether they represent a random or selected type, and, finally, if their descendants have preserved the same characters under the influence of the American environment. The answers to these questions are vital in both a practical and a theoretical sense, but they can only be regarded as tentative until vastly more material is available to confirm or alter the conclusions suggested by the material in this paper. [. . .]
Late in November, 1926, I became aware that during the course of some excavations for the 207th Street Yard of the Rapid Transit System of New York City an obliterated burial ground was discovered between 212th Street and 213th Street, near the Harlem River. This district is in the northernmost part of Manhattan and within the present city limits of New York. Upon investigation by the Board of Transportation, it was learned that this site was the former Nagel, or Nagle, Cemetery, [. . .]
The origin of the Nagel cemetery was apparently as a family burial ground for the Nagels and the Dyckmans, who were settled in the neighborhood in the second half of the seventeenth century. [. . .]
The national origin of those buried in the Nagel cemetery is mainly Dutch and English. The principal landholders who inhabited the neighborhood of the Nagel cemetery were, in the late seventeenth century, the Dyckmans, the Nagels, and the Kortrights. Jan Dyckman and Jan Nagel, the original immigrants, were from Westphalia. Kortright was Dutch. Another important neighboring family was the Vermilyeas (Vermilye, Vermilya). The first Vermeille was a French Huguenot, who, after residing in Holland, emigrated to America. By 1800, when the headstones were generally inscribed in this cemetery, the Kortrights were no longer residents of the district. Many of the Nagels had moved to Westchester as a result of the Revolution, but William Nagel, the surviving brother of a large family, continued to live here until after 1800. Of these original families, only the Dyckmans and the Vermilyeas are marked by inscribed headstones. Nevertheless, we know from town records that this district of upper Manhattan was occupied principally by Dutch families in the early days. Intermarriage was the rule, so that the few Huguenots were soon absorbed in the dominant Dutch strains. Genealogical records also indicate that the Dyckmans and Nagels very early married into Dutch families. After Manhattan was taken over by the English in 1674, very few new Dutch settlers migrated to New York. During the eighteenth century the English immigration attained considerable proportions, coming in part from the New England colonies and from the home country. Just when the displacement of the Dutch in upper Manhattan by newer English settlers took place is difficult to estimate. Mr. Bolton is of the opinion that by the second half of the eighteenth century upper Manhattan was already largely English or mixed Dutch-English, for many of the original families were marrying the newer stocks. At any rate, when our information becomes definite, after 1800, the names recorded on headstones are predominantly English.
[. . .] the series, represented in this paper, are in all probability largely of English origin, with some Dutch admixture, and dating from the eighteenth century. [. . .]
In spite of what we might reasonably expect in a former Dutch colony, the physical type of the New Yorker in the eighteenth century was similar in most respects to that of the seventeenth century Londoner and the Lowland Scot. In relation to both these types, the Nagel series appears to represent a group from the same fundamental population, with the discrepancies one would expect in a small sampling. The one notable exception to this broad but tentative generalization is the marked difference in cranial height between the Nagel and London crania. This map be accounted for by regarding the Londoners as variants of the generalized English type in the direction of low-vaulted crania. The other alternative is that in New York the presence of a Dutch strain has made for a cranium much higher than is to be found in the London cousins of the New Yorkers of the eighteenth century. This latter hypothesis is unnecessary, in view of the presence of the same degree of head height in other British series.
[. . .] by estimating cephalic means from the cranial averages of the Nagel series, a cursory comparison with living Old Americans was possible. Recognizing the error inherent in such a procedure, it is interesting to note that, even after a century, apparently the Old Americans have remained similar to their colonial ancestors of New York.