Catherine Douw


Catherine Douw was born in March 1724. She was the daughter of Petrus and Anna Van Rensselaer Douw. She grew up in the large family of wealthy and prominent parents in comfortable homes in Albany and Rensselaerswyck. All nine of those children lived to reach adulthood including city father Volkert P. Douw - her older brother. However, their mother died in 1756.

Even though she was the second eldest daughter, Catherine did not marry. At this point, we cannot say why not! Instead, she succeeded to her father's Albany property on Court Street following Petrus Douw's death in 1775. For the next three decades, she shared that home with her unmarried and much younger sister, Rachel. Their names were featured on censuses and assessment rolls. She also owned additional properties along Foxes Creek. In 1790, their household was served by six slaves.

By the outbreak of war in 1775, Albany was home to a sizeable population of women-headed households. Never-married spinsters, these Douw sisters were prime examples of one type of these early Albany homes. With a substantial and well-connected network of surviving siblings and their children, these single women were able to survive and live out their lives in the new Albany that emerged following the winning of independence and the end of the war.

Rachel Douw died suddenly in August 1806 leaving Catherine alone in her Court Street home. After a winter illness of two weeks, Catherine Douw died on January 1, 1811 - the last of her parents' large family. She had lived almost eighty-seven years. Her will passed probate in March.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Catherine Douw is CAP biography number 2067. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

first posted: 9/10/08