WHO IS ANNEKE JAN YOU ASK?
She is one of New York’s most famous citizens. Her own lifetime was not so remarkable. Her fame was attained years after her death. Anneke's notoriety was gained by having descendants who initiated one of the country's most famous litigations. In a long series of lawsuits, the claimants asked for ownership, in whole or part, of real estate on Manhattan that had belonged to Anneke. They claimed that Trinity Church had illegally acquired title, and that the property rightfully belonged to the descendents of Anneke Jans.
The Jan's property encompassed 62 acres of lower Manhattan. This property was of little value untill New York's northward expansion, and this mediocre farmland was improved to the point that commercial buildings and private dwellings had been built on it. After a number of transfers the farm became property of the Trinty Church. However, in one of these transfers, one of Anneke's minor grandchildren had inadvertently been omitted from the deed. His descendents discovered this fact about 1750, and between then and1847 sued repeatedly and unsuccessfully to break the church's title to the land. In spite of these legal defeats, the myth would not die; another suit was instituted in 1909, and in the next quarter century the cause attracted much publicity. Lawyers, genealogist, and promoters seized the opportunity to make a fast buck and started searching for all living descendants ofAnneke Jans, who turned out to be more numerous than the descendents of the passengers on the Mayflower. Finally, the Legislature passed a special act quieting the title and forbidding any further suits, on the grounds that similar irregularities would have called most titles dating from the seventeenth century into question. It also became clear that if the heirs had won, there would be so many of them that the share of each, even in the vast wealth in dispute, would have been less than the contributions many of them were induced to make toward the expenses of litigation.