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The Story As I See It

by Dennis Brokaw

It has long been thought, and the story as it has been told for years has that the Brokaw Family progenitor was one Bourgon Broucard who was purportedly born in a place called Bungary, near La Rochelle, France on the Bay of Biscay which is located on the Western seaboard of France. He has been referred to as both a Huguenot and as a Walloon who fled his native land because of religious persecution. He is said to have migrated from France through Belgium into Mannheim, in what is present day Germany at some time before 1663 where according to church records he married twice and had children. From there the family along with others from the area migrated to Amsterdam, Holland in about 1672 and finally to Long Island, New York, America in late 1675 or early 1676. Bourgon was said to be a man of great faith and was one of the founders of the French Church of New York and took an active part in the affairs of the colony oh his day.

There is no known dispute that all Brokaws, Bragaws, and numerous variant spellings of the name (there are some exceptions of course) are descendants of this man. However, recent discoveries of information contained in old church documents, and even more recent research of geographical information have led some of us modern researchers to believe that the story may actually have a slightly different beginning.

The first area of question is that we cannot establish with any certainty that there ever was a town or village named Bungary near the city of La Rochelle, France. Also during this portion of the research we found no evidence of the Broucard name in that vicinity, which led us to question whether or not the spelling of the name was correct.

This researcher was then made aware of translated transcripts provided by Mrs Ruth P. Heidgerd to the Huguenot Historical Society, New Paltz, New York, from the French Congregation, sometimes referred to as the Walloon Congregation, at Mannheim, Germany. Upon examination of these records we noted that our progenitor's name is spelled in various ways during his two marriages there and at the baptisms of his children born there and as were the names of his relatives and the names of the children of his relatives. These documents also indicated that our progenitor is the brother of one Royer (Rogier) Brouquart who was listed as the son the late Louis Brouquart, during his life living in Mouqueron in the "Low Country". This would indicate that Louis Brouquart is also the father of our Bourgon, which adds another generation to our ancestry and therefore a different Progenitor. At this point in time we do not have any birth or death dates for Louis nor do we have a spouse, so for the time being we will still concentrate on Bourgon being our 1st generation. We also find in the French Congregation transcript other possible family members with the name spelled Broncart, Brocart, Broucart, Brounquaert, Brancart in addition to the commonly accepted spelling of Broucard. We also find that Bourgon's first name is spelled Gourgon on at least two occasions (I believe this phenomena to be a spelling error on the part of the transcriptionist) . Regardless of the spelling we feel with a fair degree of certainty that this is the same man, all part of one family.

During our research another Brokaw cousin, James Russell (Russ) Brokaw of Wisconsin, befriended a French Professor (Francois) who has played an invaluable roll for us in researching surnames and geographical locations in France and surrounding countries. More recently I have befriended a man (Mr. Patrick Lernout) who lives near Mouscron, Belgium and he has subsequently provided invaluable information regarding the meaning of the Broucard name along with additional information concerning the "Low Country". He has also provided us with a more likely origin of the Christian name "Bourgon", and possible birth location. The first thing to note here is that the "Low Country" as it is called, is located in an area of North Eastern France that includes Flanders and Belgium. In fact the literal translation of "The Netherlands" in English is "The Low Lands". The first part of the last name (Brou) means "swamp dweller". Mr. Lernout has also told us that the given name Bourgon is an old French name meaning "Boss of the drivers".

Reproduced letter from posting by Dennis Brokaw

Mouscron is a small city (I think about 40.000 habitants) in the South West of Belgium and on the border with France. It has always been cause for dispute between Flemish and French spoken part in Belgium. Now it belongs to the French community of Belgium although its territory is completely surrounded by Flemish speaking cities. It was a poor region until 15 years ago. Now many new industries are building there with support of the European community, for improving the situation of poor regions (I hope I can explain this all that you understand it, there are many words I would like to use, but I don't know how to say them in English.) They even have a website, but only in French: www.mouscron.be . There is also an e-mail under "contact" at the right upper side. (they have a soccer team in the 1st Belgian division).

Broucard: is not a French name bur is originally a Flemish name who was transformed later into a French version. It is a current name here. The original name is "Broeckaert" or "Brouckaert". In attachment I send you a list of names of people living in Mouscron (or Moeskroen in Flemish) with this name.

What does the name mean ? You certainly heard of our capital Brussels (Bruxelles in French). The original name (in the middle ages) of it was "Broucksella" what means "Place at the swamp". "Brouck" means swamp, but that word is not used any more. So Brouckaert means "person living at the swamp". As you say in your letter: it were the "Lowlands". Many regions were constantly submerged since a big part of Flanders is under the sea level only protected from the sea by embankments.

So, hoping I have been a little help to you. Sincerely, Patrick Lernout

During this period in history the area's borders were constantly changing. Cousin "Russ" also found that there was a village called Bongre' near another La Rochelle in that area which could have possibly the source of the Bungary story. Russ with a tenacity for accuracy, has also found through extensive name searches on the Internet, that most of the above variant spellings of the name were common in that area near Mouqueron (Mouscron). We believe that the location of Mouqueron in the "Low Country" mentioned in the Mannheim transcripts, is in fact what is now known as Mouscron, Belgium near Lille, France which is near the French / Belgium border. Additionally we find in the history of the "Low Lands" there was an area called Bourgondy of which we see a reference to a Mary of Bourgondy and I believe this to be the area of North Eastern France famous for its Bourgondy (Burgondy) (Burgundy) wines.

Even after Bourgon, (Gourgon) or whatever he may have been called came to America in approximately 1675, there continues to be questions about the spelling of the name as we have seen in various baptismal, marriage, death, wills and other records. And no doubt there most assuredly has been some literary license taken over the years with respect to spelling. With all this said, it does cast some legitimate doubt on the validity of the correct spelling of the original name and the actual birth location of our progenitor. It does not however, negate the fact that all members of this vast and diversified family are descendants of this man called Bourgon Broucard.

Pitman's Version of the Story

Taken from: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record

vol. 86 (1955) & vol. 87 (1956)

THE BROKAW-BRAGAW FAMILY

Compiled by H. Minot Pitman

88 Summit Avenue, Bronxville, N.Y.

1. Bourgon Broucard, a Walloon or Huguenot, was a member of the Walloon Church at Mannheim in the German Palatinate at the time of his marriage there, Dec. 1, 1663, to his first wife Marie du May. On Dec. 18, 1666, he married there (2nd), Catherine Lefevre (Lefubure, Le Febre) and moved to Amsterdam, Holland, between June 1672 and March 1675. Later that year, or early in 1676, he came to New, York City. Riker, in his Annals of Newtown, N. Y., 1852, Page 371, says that Catherine was probably a sister of Magdalena Le Febre, wife of Joost Durie, "a respectable French Protestant," who also came to America in 1675. He was the ancestor of the Duryea family. Others bearing the surname Broucard were found by a professional genealogist in an examination of the Walloon Church records of Mannheim in 1935 but their relationship, if any, to the pioneer Bourgon is unknown. They are included here for the benefit of any future researcher doing work on the European origins of this family.

A. One Pierre Broucart, who died in Magdebourg Dec. 1693, aged eighty years, married Marie Taele (Le Tale), and had the following children baptized in Mannheim:

i. Catherine bap. Aug. 19, 1655

ii. Jacob bap Oct. 5, 1656; d. y.

iii. Jacob bap. Mar. 14, 1658

iv. David bap. NOV. 27, 1659

v. Daniel bap. Sept. 8, 1661

B. Another Pierre Broucart was married three times in the Church at Mannheim. On Oct. 12, 1658, he married (1st), Marie de la Court (Delcourt), widow of Estienne Deschamps, and had two children:

i. Pierre bap. June 26, 1659; d. y.

ii. Pierre bap. Oct. 19, 1662

On Dec. 2, 1666, he married (2nd), Peronne Hybou, widow of Philippe le Conte, and (3rd), on Apr. 9, 1684, Jeanne Desombres, widow of Isaac du Moulin. Two children are recorded of this third marriage:

iii. Susanne bap. Mar. 8, 1685

iv. Jean PierTe bap. June 22, 1687

C. Rogier Brocart (Broquart), "son of late Louis," married (1st) Jan. 7, 1657, Anne Bernard, who was called Anne le Roy at the baptism of her second child. They had three children recorded in Mannheim:

i. Jean bap. Aug. 2, 1657

ii. Marie bap. Oct. 11, 1663

iii. Elizabeth bap. Jan. 14, 1666

On Dec. 18, 1666, Rogier married (2nd), Marie L'Emond (le Mic), widow of Jean Lefevre, and had another child baptized in Mannheim.

iv. Marie Jeanne bap. Nov.1, 1668, mar. Apr. 23, 1687, Jean, a son of Jean Mercier, and was bur. May 19, 1692, in Magdebourg.

 

The Dutch in America had a difficult time handling the French name of Broucard. It is found in more than twenty different variant spellings including, among others, Bergaw, Borcaart, Bragan, Brega, Brocca, Brokaerd, and Burgau. The Christian name Bourgon also gave the scribes trouble, being found as Bergoon, Bergun, Bregu, Brogun, etc. His descendants in New Jersey finally adopted the spelling Brokaw, while those on Long Island called themselves Bragaw.

Bourgon Broucard settled in Brooklyn where he was assessed in 1676 as owning about 11 morgens (about 23 acres) of land and valley and two cows. The following year he was in Midwout, at which time his wife was, transferred from the Dutch Reformed Church of Brooklyn to the French Church in Manhattan by certificate, but her name does not appear in the early French Church records. In 1684, he moved to Cripplebush in Bushwick, L.I., where he bought a farm, and four years later to Dutch Kills, now a part of Long Island City. Here, in 1692, he bought a large estate, which he sold in 1702. In a deed, dated June 21, 1690, he and Hans Tunis Couert "of Bedford in Kings Co.," yeomen, bought land in Maspeth Kills, Newtown, and on July 16, 1693, he bought 19 morgens and 400 rods of land there, called the Mill Land (Queens Co. Deeds, B 2, pp-352-53). On Oct. 30, 1700, a bill was brought before the Assembly for the quieting of title to the lands of "ancient freeholders," including those of "Bergoon Bragan," who were "inhabitants of Hellgate Neck, within the bounds of Newtown, on Long Island." This bill was rejected and when again brought before the Assembly in May 1703, his name does not appear as by that time he had moved to Somerset County, N.J. (Annals of Newtown, PP-131-33).

On May 9, 1702, he and his son-in-law, John Coverson, bought, for £4OO, of William Dockwra, merchant of London, two thousand acres of land in Somerset County bounded on the north and northwest by the Raritan and Millstone Rivers (Deed Bk. Lib.C-2, P-447, in Off. of Secy. of State, 'I'renton, N.J.). 'I'hereafter we have no record of him unless he was the Bourgon Broka appearing as a witness, June 2, 1717, at the baptism of Johannes, son of Thomas and Antie Cosyn, at the Dutch Church in Jamaica, L.I. It is possible that this was his grandson Bourgon who could not have been over twenty at that date. His wife appears at the Raritan Dutch Church, Aug. 6, 17l2, at the baptism of her grandchild, Catalyntie, daughter of Abraham. She is then called "wife of Beugon," not widow. Over a score of his great-grandsons and at least one great-great-grandson fought in the War of the Revolution.

 

Elsie Foster's Version of the Story

Taken from:

"Our Brokaw-Bragaw Heritage"

THE BROKAW FAMILY STORY

(compiled about 1958/63)

The progenitor of the Brokaw; Bragaw and other families, given in this genealogy, who are descendants, was one, Bourgon Broucard who was born in France. He was a member of the Huguenot party, which was, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, struggling to maintain Protestantism in that country. Soon after the Luther resistance to the Roman Catholic Church, in Germany, there developed a religious pressure, in France, and it continued for several centuries. After the Edict of Nantes, issued by Henry 14 (Henry of Navarre), the Huguenots enjoyed a considerable freedom of worship, for a time, but during the latter part of the reign of Henry, and during several subsequent reigns, the privileges granted by the Edict were finally withdrawn in 1685, and the Edict was revoked and most of the civil rights of the Huguenots were withdrawn. As a result of the increasing religious pressure, many thousands of the French Huguenots left France and sought freedom in surrounding countries and in America.

It was in the early 1660's that Bourgon Broucard, before he was twenty years of age, sought religious freedom in Mannheim, Germany. There he was affiliated with the Protestant branch of the Walloon Church. The Walloons were remnants of the Belgae, or rather descendants of the ancient Gauls, who remained in Southeast Belgium and near parts of Holland and Germany. They were essentially Dutch in religion, customs and culture. It appears that the immigrants readily accepted the Dutch way of life.

While in Mannheim Bourgon Broucard married 1st to Marie Du May and had one child. Then he married, 2nd to Catherine LeFebre (Le Fever) and three more children were born at Mannheim. In the early 1670's he moved to Amsterdam Holland, and there one more child was born. During the year 1675 he and his family moved to what is now Brooklyn, New York, where he remained for more than twenty five years.

Following Henry Hudson's famous voyage under the Dutch flag and the discovery of the Hudson River in 1614, the Dutch took possession of the territory of what is now New York and named it New Amsterdam. Four Dutch governors were sent to govern the territory and a stream of Dutch settlers followed. The tenure of the Dutch in New Amsterdam lasted only about 50 years, but the stream of settlers did not stop with the loss of the colony, but continued until the whole territory became almost a Dutch settlement, adequate to maintain their customs and habits over a vast scope of the country around New York and surrounding parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Needless to say that the Brokaw, etc. descendants were constantly under the influence of the Dutch culture and maintained their habits for many years until the whole lot was swept under the leavening influence of the "American Melting Pot", and dropped their racial characteristics.

For a little over twenty five years the family lived in the vicinity of New York, but in about 1702, all of the family except one son Isaac, moved to Somerset County New Jersey. Isaac remained near the old home site in Brooklyn, and his descendants began to spell their name Bragaw, and many still retain that spelling. The parents and the rest of the family found homes on the Raritan and Millstone Rivers, in New Jersey. The New Jersey branch spelled the name as Brokaw. Since then others have converted to other ways of spelling such as Bercaw, Brocaw, Berkaw etc. as you will find them in the (Our Brokaw-Bragaw Heritage). More than twenty different ways of spelling were found in old records of New Jersey.

In those times the French gave the sound of o or u to the dipthong ou and the final d was silent. So the Original pronunciation must have been Brokar or Brucar, the r has been dropped and a w substituted so that the pronunciation is not so remarkable for it's changes, as for it's persistency.

The Huguenots of France became soldiers to protect their religion and country. Like other soldiers of the time, they adopted emblems known as "Armorial Bearings" or "Coats of Arms". Such emblems were first used to identify armored warriors on the battlefields. Later, however, they became marks of honor or distinction, and could be used by members of the family on civil occasions. Regulations became so relaxed that their value was much impaired.

There is evidence that some members of the Broucard and Le Febre families adopted such emblems, but Authentic "Crest" have not been found. It is certain that Bourgon Broucard was never a soldier.

We can assume that Bourgon was a militant man from his connection with the French Huguenots, the Walloons in Mannheim, Germany, Holland, and in America. Later with the Dutch Church, and further from the fact that most of his immediate descendants in and around New York; Somerset County, New Jersey and on into Pennsylvania, adhered to the Dutch Church for several generations. And for the same facts we may assume that he was a man of character and influence.

The second generation of Brokaw's was composed of eleven children, of whom four were born in Mannheim, Germany, one in Amsterdam, Holland, and six in America. When the move was made to New Jersey, five of the family went with him. Those were Jacob, Jan (John), Peter, Abraham and Catherine. A large tract of land was purchased by him and his son-in-law John Coverson and the second large colony of the family was started. Many of their descendants still live in and around Somerville, New Jersey, but most have gone to other localities, as will be seen as the Brokaw story unfolds.

A third colony was developed in Eastern Ohio, where George Brokaw of the fourth generation settled near Flushing in about 1798, and there he raised a family of twelve children. He had eight sons and each son reared a family. They were all farmers and lived on contiguous farms. For a time that community was mostly of that family.

The descendants of Bourgon Broucard are legion and from the original places of settlement here in America, they have spread all over the country. Ever westward they moved and carried the frontier with them, or followed closely behind. They carried banners of Faith, Truth and Industry wherever they went. In every War, from the first in 1776, to the latest wars, there have been many soldiers defending their country and it's honor. Few have attained wealth or fame, as the world defines it, but the vast majority were men that farmed, "The Backbone of the Nation",- tradesmen; businessmen; teachers, etc. and numerous ministers of the gospel. Our Heritage indeed is great and for this we are truly thankful.

(see: Brokaw History)

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