The story of the Albany Bleeckers begin with the life of Jan Janse, who emigrated from Holland in 1658. Settling in Beverwyck, he prospered in the fur trade. His marriage to Margarita Van Woert in 1667 produced ten children and laid the foundation for the family's success in America for generations to come.
The second generation built on Jan Janse's success - with two sons, Johannes and Rutger reaching the Albany apex - joining their father as mayors of the city. At the same time, Jan Janse's daughters and granddaughters married sons of prominent regional families.
Although the Bleecker family continued to grow and extended far beyond its Albany base, in 1720 four Bleecker households were prominent in the city. That number grew to six in 1756 and to nine Bleecker-named households by 1790. Clustered chiefly in the second ward, those households placed the family among the most numerous in the colonial city. By that time, the descendants of Jan Janse had spread across upstate New York and were moving even farther north and west!
The 87 individual Bleecker family members who lived in Albany before 1800 constituted one of the most influential families in the city. The family business soon extended beyond fur trade to include other commodities that supplied the settlers of an emerging region and the forts that protected them. Trade with the Indians made the Bleeckers prominent members of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, often called on as interpreters, and frequently out in the Indian country where several Bleeckers established frontier homes.
Jan Janse's success in the fur trade led him to extensive land holdings. His sons and their sons built on that legacy - making the family prominent patentees and landholders throughout the Hudson-Mohawk region. John R. Bleecker surveyed many of those lands and his maps represent important historical resources - some of which have been engraved and widely reproduced.
Although the Bleeckers have disappeared from the Albany phone book, the Bleecker name has become part of the Albany folk tradition with Bleecker * Stadium, Bleecker Street, the Harmanus Bleecker Library building, Bleecker Terrace Apartments, and the Bleecker Cafe still important landmarks on the community landscape.
Sources: We still search for a comprehensive printed family history and for a useful website since the once-useful postings of Jim Boulden have been de-activated. Genealogical material follows the work of Jonathan Pearson - some of which is available online.
Built during the 1930s, Bleecker Stadium is surely a historic place. However, I do admit that my affinity for the old bowl stems largely from my own experiences playing and coaching there and from watching my daughter tearing up the Bleecker turf as well!
first posted: 03/12/02; revised 12/25/08