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Guide to the Lefferts family papers ARC.145

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Craig P. Savino

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on January 19, 2021
eng using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Revised by Amy Lau, Archivist, to remediate oppressive language from subject terms and scope and contents note.  , December 2020

Scope and Contents

The Lefferts family papers contain the records created and collected by members of the Lefferts family as well as some records created and collected by the Lefferts Historic House. This includes documents of the Lefferts farm, Lefferts land acquisitions and indentures, business transactions, genealogical records, photographs and other graphic materials, news clippings, books, personal papers, and ephemera.

The contents of the collection span from the 1650s to the 1970s though the bulk of the collection span from the 1720s to the 1930s. Much of the earlier material includes the land deeds and other estate matters of the family and shed light on the family's growing economic and political importance over time. This growing economic and political role includes the growing farm and land holdings, involvement in the development of Brooklyn's transportation infrastructure, and important positions among Brooklyn's banks, legislative system, and judicial system. Many prominent members of the Lefferts family are represented by these documents which were either created by them or reference them. Some of these family members are John Lefferts (1719-1776), Peter Lefferts (1753-1791), Femmetie Hegeman Lefferts (1760-1847), Jacobus L. Lefferts, Leffert Lefferts (1774-1847), Maria Lott Lefferts (1786-1865), and Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt (b.1824). The papers also include some records of individuals and families related to the Lefferts family such as John Cortelyou (1772-1829), the Lott family, the Remsen family, and the Alexander family. The case of John Cortelyou is particularly interesting as he was declared "A Lunatic" and had his estate handled by John Lefferts. The papers of Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt include manuscript notes on her family's experience in the 1863 Draft Riots and on her family in general. The Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt documents give a greater sense of the social history of the family and of Flatbush. The majority of the other papers on these Lefferts family members are in reference to their business matters and include inventories, promissory notes, land indentures, account ledgers, and some correspondence. Other Lefferts business is accounted for in the Lefferts Businesses series which includes Incorporations which the Lefferts were involved in (primarily transportation infrastructure companies) and some general receipts and business items in regards to the Lefferts farm.

The collection contains many items related to slavery including property lists, wills, and financial transactions that included enslaved people, bills of sale for enslaved people, slavery related news clippings (primarily from the late 19th and early 20th centuries), and financial records of payments to possibly free black men for manual labor. Among the draft manuscripts of Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt are accounts of the New York Draft Riots of 1863 and accounts of slavery among the Dutch in early New York. The collection also has some Civil War materials including a collection of clippings with accounts of battles and political issues and some clippings in regards to the assassination of President Lincoln.

Genealogical materials on the Lefferts family are also well represented in the collection. The collection contains copies of Teunis G. Bergen's Genealogy of the Lefferts family, 1650-1718 and Lefferd M.A. Haughwout's  The Lefferts-Houghwout family: a chart genealogy in eight generations (these monographs can also be found in the Brooklyn Historical Society stacks). The collection also contains several hand-written pages of Lefferts, Hegeman, Haughwout, Cortelyou and Lott family births, deaths, and marriages. Many of these genealogical records came from the Lefferts family bibles and some of these bibles still contain pages with genealogical or other notations written on their flyleaves. Many of the family bibles are in Dutch and are interesting artifacts of the religious connection of the Dutch families in Flatbush. This is further illustrated through the other religious books (also primarily in Dutch) that have been preserved within this collection. Other personal books of the Lefferts family within the collection shed light on Lefferts life as artifacts, such as the various cookbooks, one of which is entirely hand-written and probably belonged to Maria Lott Lefferts and Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt.

The collection contains images of various Lefferts family members, though many of the figures in these images are unidentified; these images are in a variety of formats including photographic prints, glass plate negatives, daguerreotypes, and tintypes. In addition to the photographs the collection contains a handful of maps. Most of these maps appear to be related to surveyor assessments and the sale of Lefferts-owned property. Other graphics include images of Brooklyn, New York City, and representations of the Battle of Long Island which resulted in the burning of the Lefferts homestead. More information on the Lefferts homestead can be found within the clippings files. The articles are primarily retrospectives concerning the place of the Lefferts family and their home in Brooklyn history, particularly as an old Dutch family which rose to prominence. There are also some articles concerning the house's eventual move from Flatbush to Prospect Park. More images of the house and other Lefferts buildings are among the graphic materials, showing the state of the house and Brooklyn at different periods. The collection also contains a handful of items in relation to the maintenance of the Lefferts house as a historic house and some ephemeral items that were among the materials within the house.


The files within most series are arranged alphabetically according to description with some exceptions. The Lefferts Family series is arranged chronologically according to figure with some miscellaneous documents appearing at the end.

Users of the collection should be aware that it is likely that documents on some matters will be found in various series, and in various folders within series. Check the series Scope and Content notes for specific examples.

Folders labeled with a date range might also include undated documents. Also, in some cases the date range was determined by the archivist based on a broad survey of folder contents and not on an item level review; accordingly, there may be items in the folders that fall outside the indicated range. Users of the collection should also be aware that some oversized items have been moved to four oversize containers. Notes have been made in these instances both in the folders from which the material was removed and in the container list in this finding aid.

The collection is organized into the following eight series:

Missing Title

  1. Lefferts Family, 1661-1925
  2. Lefferts Businesses, 1783-1882
  3. Lefferts House and Ephemera, 1728-1938
  4. Genealogical Material, circa 1720s-1930s
  5. Maps, 1794-1890s
  6. Graphic Materials, circa 1800s-1970s
  7. Clippings, circa 1830s-1957
  8. Books and Scrapbooks, 1659-1917