What Was New Netherland?

What was childhood like?

Babies in New Netherland were not born in hospitals but in homes. Dutch settlers celebrated the birth of their children. But many of their children never made it to adulthood. Injuries and diseases--even chest colds--were more deadly then than they are today, because medical care was less effective. In fact, it was common for Dutch parents to give the same name to several children--until one survived.

Children in New Netherland were also more likely to lose a parent than we are today. It was common for settlers' children to grow up in mixed families with a stepparent, stepbrothers, and stepsisters. Some became orphans.

By the time they reached the age of seven, children were expected to help out at home by doing chores. Boys and girls typically performed different tasks. Often working side by side with their fathers, boys chopped wood for cooking and for heating the home. They also helped their fathers hunt and fish. Mothers taught their daughters how to cook, sew, and clean house. Both boys and girls helped tend the family's crops and livestock.

In addition to household chores, boys typically learned their father's trade. The son of a carpenter was likely to become a carpenter. Other families sent their sons to live with master craftsmen as their apprentices.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. More


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By supporting NNI you help increase awareness of the 17th century Dutch colony of New Netherland and its legacy in America.