Calling Rapaljes, Rapeljes, Raplees and all descendants!

Get ready for some surprising encounters when you visit the Brooklyn Museum’s beloved period rooms this February, when several of the rooms will be the site of a group show called Playing House, which I’ve been working on with curator Barry Harwood. Artists Ann Agee, Anne Chu, Mary Lucier, and Betty Woodman will be creating “activations” in several of the rooms by installing their own artworks on and around the existing furnishings. The four artists will create both discordant and harmonious juxtapositions, encourage dialogues between past and present, and alter the visitor’s perception of the rooms and of their own art works.

A future blog post will take a more detailed look at the different projects and a behind-the-scenes look at their installations, but first we want to reach out to our online community on behalf of one of the participating artists, Mary Lucier. She is descended from a Dutch family from the same 17th century colonial period as the original occupants of the Brooklyn Museum’s Schenck Houses, where her works will be installed. For part of her project, Lucier wants to add a few new branches to her family tree.  If you are a Brooklynite from WAY back, Mary Lucier wants to hear from you:

Joris Jansen de Rapalje and Catalyntje Trico and…you?

During the 1600s and 1700s, severe persecution and even massacres by Catholics, forced many Huguenots (French Protestants) to leave Europe for what was then “New Netherland,” an area including Manhattan, Brooklyn, and land farther up the Hudson River.  Included in this migration were numerous Dutch families as well, and as they established life in various colonies, they began to intermarry.

Terpenning family

The Terpenning family, Dryden, New York area, c. 1895. Sarah Rapalje's 6th and 7th great grandchildren. Photograph courtesy of Drew Campbell.

In 1624, a young refugee couple, both around 19 years old, left Amsterdam aboard the Eendracht, bound for New York harbor.  Their names were Joris Jansen de Rapalje and Catalyntje Trico.  Upon arriving in New York, they sailed up river to found a new colony, which would eventually become Albany.  After hardships and skirmishes with the Mohawks, the Rapaljes decided to return to New York two years later, settling in Wallabout, an area in what is now Brooklyn. They brought with them an infant girl named Sarah, reputed to be the first European child born in New Netherland (1625).

Sarah married twice (once to Hans Hansen Bergen, who died at age 27, and then to Teunis Bogeart) and had a total of 15 children, setting in motion a vast lineage of descendants that includes Humphrey Bogart, Tom Brokaw, Gov. Howard Dean, myself, and possibly you!  By now there are estimated to be at least a million descendants of these lines, many of whom may know little about their Dutch/Huguenot ancestry and nothing about the people to which they are purportedly related.

For my “activation” in the Schenck Houses of the Museum’s Period Rooms, I will create a mixed-media video and sound environment that will investigate the subject of cultural identity through a personal exploration of my own ancestry, using recorded performances in situ, references to literature and other historic texts (including various family trees such as the Schencks), and audience participation.

To that end, I am appealing to all Rapaljes, Rapeljes, Raplees, and all descendants (regardless of the name) to send me information that I may use in my museum installation.  Please let me know your particular connection or line of descent and please send a high-quality photograph (tiffs or jpegs only please; I can’t use or return original prints) of yourself, your grandparents, family groups, whoever you like, for me to display on the mantel in one of the Museum’s period rooms.  Please also indicate that you give me, Mary Lucier, and the Brooklyn Museum, permission to use these photos for this purpose.

Please send all material to