Cliff McCarthy, 2016
Last Updated 19 December 2018
William Jones Skillman, in his “Skillmans of America and Their Kin,” described the origins of our Skillman ancestor this way:
“The Skillmans of the New World are quite commonly assumed to be of Dutch descent. In one way this is a mistake, though in another clearly a fact. They are Dutch in two respects. First, the mothers of them on this continent were of Dutch or Huguenot lineage, though the father was an Englishman, an enlisted soldier under Col. Nicholls, to whom Nieuw Amsterdam surrendered in 1664, becoming thereafter New York. This conquest achieved, the ancestor, so the story goes, being specially attached to his commander, now made Governor of the Province, did not return with his comrades in arms to the home land, but soon took a wife and settled permanently in the Newtown, (L.I.) region, at Maspeth or Dutch Kills. Then the children afterwards intermarried with their Hollandish neighbors, and so the family ultimately came to be much more largely of Belgic than of British blood…”
“The Skillmans of America, hence, though not strictly Dutch, are yet, near the outset, really more Dutch than English. The head of the family came probably from London or from near there. He was a musician in the Nicolls forces, and all his life, tradition says, was a musician. With his commander, he sailed in the Guiney, the chief of the three (possibly four) very small vessels that brought the adventurers to these shores. Down to this day he is known among his descendants always as Captain Thomas Skillman, a courtesy title, or one gained in later service in this country, or possibly it came from some militia connection, merely. After that August morning when Nieuw Amsterdam became New York, we next hear of our ancestor the following year, when, Feb. 19, 1665, at Elizabeth Town, fifth in a list of 6o or more, bearing such names as Ogden, Drake, Tuttle, Dickenson, Whitehead, Woodruff, Crane, Marsh, and others, he took oath of allegiance to King Charles II; but he did not stay in that first New Jersey settlement, for the next year, in the Nicolls’ Patent, dated Jan. 23, 1666, he is named as an “inhabitant and freeholder” of Newtown [now Maspeth, NY]. Then very shortly, he took to another spell of soldiering, or was one of twenty-five men, sent apparently as a special contingent by the Governor himself, to chastise the Indians who three years previously had perpetrated the cruel Wiltwyck Massacre… He received his discharge as a soldier (Vol. II, p. 390, Court of Assizes, Dept. Hist. Records, Sec. of State’s Office), and we note (Legis. Proceed’s 1689-90) that he also was given “14 oz. of plate for services at Albany under Captain Lewis.” This I cannot explain. Particulars other than these of the ancestor’s life are of scant record. His death must have occurred about 1697, his widow afterward marrying Cornelis Breese… At his death his estate fell, by his will (assumed) to Sara, his wife, she, however, April 1, 1699, transferring the fourth part of it, “housing, lands, meadows, and orchards, rights, privileges, advantages, hereditaments and appurtenances thereunto belonging and in any wise appertaining” to their only son, Thomas.”
Since this formidable narrative was written, additional research has been performed and new information has come to light which enables us to give this updated record of our immigrant ancestor, Thomas Skillman.
Thomas Skillman was born about 1637 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England. He sailed from Portsmouth, England on May 15, 1664 with Colonel Richard Nicolls. Their frigate, Guinea, anchored August 26, 1664 at Nyack, near the present Fort Hamilton, next to Verrazano Narrows Bridge, with 4 ships, 92 guns, 450 men. Under threat of attack, the Dutch relinquished control of the colony without bloodshed. New Netherlands became New York under Colonel Nicolls. Afterwards, Thomas Skillman settled in Newtown, now Maspeth, Long Island, becoming an “inhabitant and freeholder” there under Nicolls’ Patent of 23 January 1666. He also served in the Esopus War and was honorably discharged April 6, 1668. For a first-hand account of the Wiltwyck Massacre & the Esopus Wars, see: Journal of the Second Esopus War; By Capt. Martin Kregier
In 1669, Thomas married Sara, whose identity is in dispute. The original Skillmans of America had Sarah as the daughter of John Petit and Sara Scofield of Stratford, Connecticut. Later research has disproven that claim and convinced many that she is really the daughter of Thomas Pettit and Christian Mellowes of Boston. (I can find no record of this marriage anywhere in the New England records.) The Skillman Family Association website says she was born about 1634 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, of Dutch or Huguenot lineage. She died about 1704 at the age of 70 in Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens, NY and was buried there.
Note that three of Thomas’ children, Thomas, Elsje & Lysbet, married three siblings of the Aten family.
Thomas died about 1697 at the age of 60 in Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens, NY. (Ancestral file says he died 1 April 1699). Thomas was buried on 4 April 1699 in Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens, NY.
Children of Thomas & Sara (Petit) SKILLMAN
THOMAS SKILLMAN was born 1637 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, Eng., and died 1 April 1699 in Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens Co., NY. He married SARA PETIT. She was born Abt. 1634 in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA, and died Abt. 1704 in Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens, NY. The Children of THOMAS SKILLMAN and SARA PETIT are:
i. THOMAS SKILLMAN, b. 1671, Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens, NY; d. Bef. 4 July 1740, Helgate Neck, L. I., NY; m. ANNETJE “ANN” ATEN, 1693, Flatbush, Kings Co., NY; b. Abt. 1667, Flatbush, Kings Co., NY; d. Aft. 1741, Helgate Neck, L.I., NY.
ii. ELSJE SKILLMAN, b. 1672; m. THOMAS ATEN; b. 1674; d. 1757.
iii. SARA SKILLMAN, b. 1675.
iv. LIJSBET “ELIZABETH” SKILLMAN, b. 1677, Newtown (Maspeth Kills), Queens, NY; d. 20 August 1742, Somerset Co., NJ; m. JAN ADRIAESEN ATEN; b. 1664; d. March 1742/43, Somerset Co., NJ.
- “Earliest American Ancestors of Somerset County, New Jersey,” Somerset County Quarterly, Vol. 5.
- Skillman Family Association, (Website at: http://www.skillmanfamily.org/), “Electronic.”
- Skillman, William Jones, “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin,” New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vols. 37-38.