I would propose as a THEORY (subject to further research that would support or disprove it) that the maiden name of Penelope (b. ca. 1626), the wife of Richard Stout of Gravesend, Long Island, New York and of Middletown, New Jersey, was Prince.Set forth below is my reasoning.
I begin with information drawn from written records of the time.While I have not personally seen it, I believe that the first volume of the Gravesend Town Book (which includes court proceedings?) from September 1648 contains an entry stating that “Penelloppey Prince" (or Prinse?) was residing at the home of Thomas Applegate.
I have concluded that the name “Prince” was not the name of her late husband, believed to be of Dutch origin, but was her own maiden name.This is based on Dutch naming traditions.
In the 1640s, the Dutch did not have fixed surnames as we understand them today.Instead, they used a patronymic system that resulted in changes in the “surname” from generation to generation.For example, a boy/man named John, who was the son of a man named Peter, in Dutch would have been Jan Pieterzoon or simply Jan Pieters.When John had a son, let’s say Cornelius, the boy would have been Cornelius Jans (not Pieters).Patronymics are formed from the father’s given name (or possibly from a diminutive form of the name).“Prince” does not appear to be any kind of Dutch patronymic.I am not aware of any Dutch men whose first name was Prince or anything like it.
However, when Dutch people needed further distinctions (e.g., between two men both named Jan Pieters), they might add a descriptor of origin, such as “from the dike” or van dyck.This undoubtedly led some early Stout researchers to “Dutchify” the name “Prince” by making it “van Princen” or “van Princes”.However, the word “prins” in Dutch means “prince” in English, and does not make a locational descriptor, and so is not plausible.
The Dutch naming system was evolving during the 1600s as Dutch people migrated out of the United Provinces.When Dutch people moved from their family’s hometown, they might have been identified by their origin, so that Jan Pieters from the city of Buren might be Jan Pieters van Buren.
I have not been able to find any cities, towns, villages, etc. in the Netherlands by the name of Princen.There are two possibilities, however.Near the city of Breda, in North Brabant, there are Prinsenbeek and Princenhage.I believe that “beek” means brook and “prins” means prince, so Prinsenbeek could be Prince Brook?I suppose it is possible that Penelope’s Dutch husband (known primarily by his given name and his patronymic) might have been described as Van Prinsenbeek or Van Princenhage if he was from one of those two towns, but since he never arrived in New Amsterdam (following the legendary shipwreck and Indian encounter), there would be no records of such a man.Therefore, the “Prince” (or “Prinse”) in the Gravesend record does not lend much credence to this possibility.I know that, today, there are instances of the Dutch surname Prins (various spellings) [during Napoleonic times, the Dutch were forced to pick and fix their surnames].I have also seen a reference to the 1660 arrival in New Amsterdam of a man named Matthys Princen (presumed to be Dutch, but possibly German, Danish or Swedish).While this is only some ten years after Penelope’s 1648 record as “Prince”, it certainly does not prove that Prince was her married name.
In the 1640s (and even later), a Dutch woman did not adopt her new husband’s patronymic as her “surname” but kept her own patronymic (e.g., Gertrude, daughter of John was, and remained after marriage, Gertruyd Jansdr. or Jansx.).In the United Provinces, Penelope would not have adopted her Dutch husband’s patronymic, but would have kept her maiden name, perhaps with the addition of “wife of” followed by her husband’s name.
Now the record keepers in Gravesend were more likely than not English, keeping records in English and not in Dutch.Would they have followed Dutch or English custom in recording the name of a young widow?My guess is that they would have recorded whatever Penelope herself (or her host, Thomas Applegate) said was her last name.Or, it may have simply been common knowledge within the community, by word-of-mouth, that Penelope called herself “Prince”.Did Penelope follow the Dutch custom and keep her own name?Or did she follow the English custom and try to adopt her husband’s patronymic as her new surname?I believe she kept her maiden name.
The name “Kent” has also been associated with Penelope, and we confused descendants, removed at 300-plus years, have wondered if she married a Kent, was born a Kent, or neither.My theory is neither, but if the name “Kent” was somehow connected with Penelope through long family tradition, then perhaps it actually indicates that her family came from the county of Kent (far Southeastern England) before emigrating to the United Provinces.Kent is certainly geographically close to the Netherlands.A quick search of the LDS IGI for Kent, England shows several instances of the surname “Prince” before 1600.
Why would Penelope’s family have been in the Netherlands?I immediately jumped to the most traditional explanation:religious dissent.I do not believe this was the reason, however, for several reasons.As early as 1593, some English dissenters or separatists had moved to Amsterdam and evolved into a religious group which history has called the Ancient Brethren.They were joined, by about 1609, by the Scrooby and Gainsborough groups that formed the foundation of the Pilgrims.A group of about 250 Ancient Brethren left for the New World before 1620 but arrived in Jamestown at one-fifth their original number.The Scrooby group had left Amsterdam and moved to Leiden, and then most left for Plymouth, New England in 1620 and the years following.A second group in Amsterdam (Smith, with the Mennonite and Anabaptist influence) broke up by about 1612, and Baptist groups reformed at Spitalfields in London by about 1616.Therefore, I do not believe that Penelope was the daughter of a dissenter or separatist (e.g., John Prince of East Shefford, in West Berkshire, England).Yet another reason for rejecting religion as the basis is that the name “Penelope” comes from classical Greek literature (wife of Ulysses) and, while certainly suggesting that her father was educated, it is not the typical Puritan (or Separatist) “virtue” name such as Prudence, Hope, Charity, Mercy, Experience, etc. or a solid “Biblical” name like Sarah, Hannah, Abigail, Mary, Elizabeth, etc.In fact, I imagine a good Puritan would have found the name Penelope rather frivolous.Furthermore, the Pilgrim group has often been described as fearing that their children would become absorbed in Dutch ways (including the Dutch Reformed Church) by intermarrying with the Dutch and frowned on this.If Penelope did indeed marry a Dutchman, her parents must have had a somewhat more enlightened attitude.
Completely apart from religious dissent, however, the 1600s were a time of trade and maritime enterprise, and English merchants had interests in the United Provinces.I would guess that Penelope’s father had commercial interests which took him to Amsterdam or some other Dutch city.
I also subscribe to the excellent research reported here about the 1647 shipwreck of the Kath off Sandy Hook.I certainly plan on incorporating it in my theory until something comes along to disprove it.The English girl held by Indians in 1645 may well have been
Anne Hutchinson's granddaughter, Susanna.(Katherine Kirkpatrick, author of "Trouble's Daughter- Susanna Hutchinson" 1998, Delacorte Press.)Therefore the 1647 arrival still stands as highly plausible.
If anyone has information to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.