A Corson Family History

[Author's Note: The following pages are excerpted from the book Three Hundred Years With The Corson Families In America, Vol. 2, by Orville Corson, of Middletown, Ohio, and was transcribed by my uncle, James R. Corson, during his research into our Corson family history. Some of this data (English vs. Dutch origins, for example) has been called into question since the original's publication in 1939, so it is up the individual user to establish authenticity for any particular piece of information.]

The progenitor of the Cape May families was Carsten or Corsten Jansen. This man could write and his signature is preserved in many of the early records of Gravesend and Flatbush, Long Island. Although he seems to have signed his name more often as Carsten Jansen, on at least three occasions he used Corsten or Corsten. (New York Historical Society's Abstract of Wills, Vol. I, pg. 469.)

That this man should sign his name sometimes as "Carsten" and on other occasions as "Corsten" is not as unusual as it might seem. Carsten, Corsten, Cors, Corstiaan, Corst, Karsten, etc., are variant forms of the same name, all derived from the word Christ. They are all forms of the same Christian or Kristian. Carsten was used, it would seem from the records of New Netherlands, as a first or baptismal name, not only by the Dutch, but also by the Scandinavian. "Jansen" in Corsten Jansen is not a family name, it must be remembered, but a patronymic name, designating Carsten or Corston as the child of Jan, Jan is first or baptismal name of Carsten's father.

The two sons, John and Peter, of Carsten Jansen, were born about the time that the English took over control of New Netherlands from the Dutch. At the time they became of age and their names began to appear in the records, the effect of the English customs began to prevail. The sons of Carsten did not at first use the name Corson, but this name was evolved or corrupted from the patronymic, Carstensen.

It was believed that all Corson families came from a common progenitor and was of French Huguenot stock. But nothing could be found to connect Carsten Jansen to such a claim. That Carsten Jansen signed his name in the manner he did is in itself proof that he was not of French ancestry. He chose to sign his name in a manner where it was the exception rather than the rule. And that he was still signing his name this way as late as 1696 and 1697, thirty three years after the English had taken over control of New Netherlands.

From the records of him that are preserved, it is very evident that he did not associate to any great extent with Dutch people. It is true that "Jansen" is Dutch, but a Dane or Norwegian, known as Jensen, would be in a country controlled by the Dutch be readily called "Jansen". The name Carsten appears in other early records as Scandinavians. The compiler came in contact with many genealogists in the family and they all to seemed to be in agreement with this feeling.

We will assume then that Carsten was Scandinavian. But why did he choose to associate with English people? Did he marry into an English family. Did he first settled in New England, than immigrate to Long Island, with the settlers of Gravesend, who were of that despised sect, known as Quakers. No answers were found.

While the names of the parents of Barbara, the wife of Carsten Jansen were not identified, her name suggests English parentage. There is little doubt that the two sons married English women: John / Maria (Mary), daughter of Elias Daws and Peter / Deborah, English and probably Quaker. The names of the sons and grandsons were more typically Scandinavian but the names of the granddaughters are Scriptural and indicate English Quaker parentage. It is generally accepted that they became Baptist and Methodist ad many were ministers of the Gospel.

They seem to have been very clannish. This is reflected in the great many intermarriages. While in a few instances the contracting parties were first cousins, in most cases they were distantly related.

Whaling seem to have been the chief occupation of the earliest settlers of Cape May. Traditional John and Peter were on an expedition hunting whales when they became disgusted with the drinking and carousing of those aboard and disembarked and landed in Cape May County. Soon afterwards they purchased land there. The family members were lovers of the sea and good seamen. Some farm part of the time and went to sea part of the time. Other devoted all their time to tilling of the soil and may of the family had extensive plantations.

The family was very patriotic, taking an active part in civil and military affairs. They served at the state level, both Houses of Legislature, Township level and locally.