Genealogy Overview

Since the Van Zandt Society was founded in 1969, a great deal of information has been learned. The Society reached out to Van Zandts of all spellings from across the country to join more than 40 years ago. At that time, basic information was known about the Adam Wensel van Santen, Gerret Stoffelse van Sand, and Joseph Janse Van Zante lines; however, it was not known whether these men were related to one another. Many other fundamental questions were also unanswered regarding how lines with the name Vinzant and Vinsant fit into the genealogical picture, if at all. In New Jersey, there was also another family whose earliest ancestor was Jacobus Van Zauen, whose descendants later adopted Van Zant and Van Zandt as their official surnames.

Research conducted by hundreds of people over four decades has revealed much information about each of the immigrant ancestors including when they arrived, where they settled, who they married, and the names of children. But the question of whether they were related remained elusive until the advent of DNA testing for genealogical purposes became available about ten years ago. We now know that the three men, Adam, Gerret, and Joseph were not related to each another—at least not along their paternal lines. (A DNA sample from the Jacobus Van Zauen line has not yet been studied.) Still, the original ancestors had many things in common. They each left the shores of or near the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century to embark on a radically different life in the often rough and dangerous New World settlements, which were little more than commercial outposts of the West Indies Company (WIC) at the time.

Gerret arrived the earliest in 1652 as an 8-year old boy with his father Christoffel Harmenszen and his step-mother, Tryntje Claes. Christoffel died during an Indian uprising in 1655 and Gerret was his only living offspring. Through his eight sons who reached adulthood, Gerret became the common ancestor to approximately 60% of those who carry some form of the name Van Sant in America today. Born in Amsterdam in April 1644, Gerret's ancestry reaches back to his father's origins in Ostfriesland (East Frisia, Lower Saxony, Germany). 

Second to arrive on the shores of New Amsterdam was the Adam Wensel van Santen family. Adam with his wife, Jannetje Jans, and their two young children sailed on “de Bruynvis” (the Brownfish) on June 19, 1658. No records have been found for Adam after this time suggesting that he either died during the Atlantic crossing or shortly after arrival. Jannetje Jans married Isaac Abrahamszen on April 5, 1659 and gave birth to several more children. Adam’s only living son, Johannes, born on April 22, 1657, approximately one year before the family’s migration passed the name van Santen and later Van Zandt to many descendants who initially settled in and near New York City.

Jacobus Van Zauen arrived in New Amsterdam in 1677 and married married Jannetje Lucas one year later on 08/25/1678.

The precise date of Joseph Janse Van Zante’s arrival to the New World is not known. However in 1715 when he became a naturalized citizen, he had already lived in Albany, New York for 30 years. Joseph and his wife, Seitje Marcelis Van Bommel, had ten children that included eight sons. This branch of Van Zandts resided in and near Albany for many generations and is therefore often called the Albany line.

Some descendants of each branch have used the spelling Van Zandt over the centuries. And regardless of DNA results, the Van Zandt Society remains united in its mission to perpetuate the memories of all people who have descended from these three immigrant ancestors and any others who may have adopted this fine name.