CHH Reader Challenge – results!

At the end of last month, while working on some longer posts about the Turcks and Clarks, I had some fun creating the first Clark House Historian Reader Challenge: where you get to be the historian!, and today we have the results. The original challenge went something like this:

Here’s an excerpt of a document that will be part of an upcoming post. Can you read and transcribe it? (Ignore the squiggles in the top right corner, they belong to another record on the same page.)

The original CHH Reader Challenge #1. Click to open larger image in new window.

And I gave y’all a hint, the full page from which this record was excerpted. And as a second hint, I suggested that a look at my discussion of Kurrent handwriting might be helpful.

So what is this a record of, and what does it say?

It’s Peter Turck’s 1798 baptismal record!

It’s the 1798 baptismal record for Peter Turck, the future father of Mary Turck Clark and father-in-law of Jonathan M. Clark. Peter was born in Kinderhook, Columbia County, New York and was baptized at the Gallatin [Dutch] Reformed Church in the same county. But how do we get that information—and more—from the faded scrawls of our image?

Let’s take another look at our source document. Here’s a slightly color-corrected and sharpened version of the full page, with the header and Peter’s baptismal record enclosed in red rectangles:

Durk, Peter [Turck], baptismal record in The Archives of the Reformed Church in America, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Gallatin Church, Records, Consistory Minutes, Baptisms, 1748-1900, in, U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 [database on-line], accessed January, 2021. Click to open larger image in new window.

The header

To start, take a look at the top of the page. The header has what looks like three words, each labeling a column of information. The words are written in cursive, and it’s not a typical English-language script. We know that Peter Turck and his kin lived along the New York’s Hudson River in the old Dutch-American settlements of Greene, Columbia, Ulster, and Dutchess counties. By the time of the American Revolution the Turcks and many of their neighbors spoke English, Dutch and—to accommodate more recent immigrants from the Rheinland Palatinate—German. I have found that many of the area church registers contain records that are sometimes in English and other times in German or some variety of Low German or Dutch (I’m not expert enough to know exactly which). So let’s assume this record is written in German or a related language, possibly using Kurrent or a similar script:

Durk, Peter [Turck], baptismal record (detail). Click to open larger image in new window.

I read the original as the German words: Kinder — Eltern — Taüfzeügen or, in English: Children — Parents — Baptism-witnesses. In modern “standard” German (Hochdeutsch), Taufzeugen would not be spelled with umlauts. This minor spelling variation is not a surprise, as 18th- and 19th-century German spelling was highly variable, as was English. I don’t know if this is just an idiosyncratic spelling by the Gallatin church’s Domine (pastor), or a “correct” spelling in one of the regional languages or dialects of the members of the Gallatin Church congregation.

Peter’s birth date, parents, and baptism witnesses

Durk, Peter [Turck], baptismal record (detail). Click to open larger image in new window.

The handwriting is tricky in spots. Knowing Kurrent helps, and looking at lots and lots of similar church registers—and expert transcriptions—from other, similar, parish registers is invaluable. Here’s my transcription of the original handwriting:

And here’s my English translation:


When Peter was baptized in 1798, the pastor recorded the family surname as DURK, and not TURK or TURCK. Peter’s older brother Jacob was baptized in the same church in 1795, also with the paternal surname DURK. Variable surname spellings like this were common, and all three spellings sound quite similar in spoken conversation, especially if the speaker has a German or Dutch accent. I am certain this record is of the baptism of our Peter Turck, future father of Mary Turck Clark.


There are two mysterious abbreviations in this record. One mystery that I think I have found an answer for is the curious symbol, outlined in green, between Peter’s given name and the date of his birth:

Every baptized child has this symbol between his or her given name and their date of birth. I believe it is the letters de, written in Kurrent and used as an abbreviation for one form or another of the German definite article (der, den, dem, etc.) and literally translated as the. The meaning seems clear and consistent for all those baptized, in our particular case: “Peter, [born on] the 11th of March, 1798.”

The other abbreviation follows the name of the first witness, Peter Klein, and appears to be Ungetr. I have transcribed the curving line that indicates that the Ungetr. after Peter Klein’s name also applies to the name of the other witness, Balli Knickerbacker. I believe Ungetr. is a shortened form of the German word Ungeheiratet, meaning unmarried. (I’m not completely convinced about the spelling of the abbreviation or my choice of German word that it represents; in any case, a reliable typed transcription indicates that “unmarried” is the meaning of the word. German-speaking readers: any suggestions?)

It’s useful to know that both witnesses were single, that makes it unlikely that they were grandparents of Peter Durk/Turck. It’s possible then that witness Peter Klein was a brother or other relative of little Peter’s mother, Marnitchan Klein. This is useful information, as I do not have much documentation for Peter’s mother’s family. As for Ms. Knickerbacker, this was a well know family in the area (also spelled Knickerbocker). But as far as I know, this baptism is their only connection to the Turck and Klein families.

Dutch names and diminutives

Speaking of baby Peter’s mother, what kind of name is Marnitchen? Welcome to the world of Dutch-American names and diminutives. The maiden name of Peter’s mother, the wife of Jacob A. Durk/Turk/Turck, most often appears as Anna Maria Klein (or Cline), or something similar.

Anna is sometimes replaced by Ann or Amme. And Maria is sometimes replaced by the English Mary, or the Dutch diminutive Maritje or, the doubly-diminutive Marnitchen.

When was the baptism?

Typically, pastors would only perform baptisms once or, at the most, a few times each year. All the children born in the parish since the last baptism would be baptized on the next day appointed for baptisms. A quick glance through this volume of Gallatin Church records shows that some baptism services would only involve one or a few families and children, and other services would involve many, many families. Records show that Peter was one of 18 children that received the sacrament that June day in 1798. So exactly when was he baptized?

Here is the previous page from the church register (it precedes the page recording Peter’s baptism, above). The dates of each Gallatin Church baptism service are centered above thee middle (Eltern/Parents) column. The page includes, from the top, records for one baptism on May 14, 1797, another on August 31, 1797, and five baptisms on October 22, 1797. The next date, the date of Peter’s baptism, is inside the red rectangle:

Baptismal records beginning May 14, 1797, from The Archives of the Reformed Church in America, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Gallatin Church, Records, Consistory Minutes, Baptisms, 1748-1900, in, U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 [database on-line], accessed January, 2021. Click to open larger image in new window.

Click on the page and click again to enlarge. Look inside the red rectangle. What do you see? It looks to me like a mix of English and German words and script, reading Juni the 2 1798. For some reason, the indexes and transcripts that I’ve seen for this document give a date of June 9th, and not June 2, 1798. Admittedly, the manuscript is faded badly in spots, including the numeral for our day in June, 1798. But it looks like a 2 to me.

So, for now, I believe Peter Durk/Turk/Turck and his 17 little neighbors were all baptized at the Gallatin Reformed Church, Columbia County, New York on June 2, 1798.

And the winner is…

I promised that the first reader to make a correct transcription would win a short Mequon-related post (by me) at Clark House Historian, or I’d do a free historical document lookup from the major online document sources that I have access to (success not guaranteed, but I’ll do my best).

We only had only one—partial—solution, from long-time Clark House Historian reader Laura Rexroth. Nice going Laura! Let me know what you’d like me to write about here on the blog.

Next time: Durk, Turk, or Turck—what’s up with that?

Stay safe. Be well.

3 thoughts on “CHH Reader Challenge – results!

  1. Pingback: Turck, Turk…Durk? | Clark House Historian

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  3. Pingback: “Rev.” Peter Turck in New York | Clark House Historian

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