Getting the Name Right – Isaac Michael vs James Frederick

Isaac Michael Dyckman and James Frederick Smith (1813-1899)

It is always a bit of a confusing point in the Dyckman family history that there is one person known as both Isaac Michael Dyckman and James Frederick Smith.  The reason behind the name switch is intriguing .

Isaac Michael Dyckman

Isaac Michael Dyckman aka
James Frederick Smith

About 1820, a seven-year-old boy moved into the Dyckman farmhouse to live with his grandfather Jacobus and uncles Isaac and Michael.  Born in Yonkers, NY, young James Frederick Smith was one of 10 children of Hannah Dyckman Smith and Caleb Smith, Jr.

James grew up in the farmhouse and worked with his uncles running the family farm until the 1860s.  In October 1867, Isaac Dyckman turned over some of the family property to his nephew James.  James then began construction of a grand estate, known as Mon Desir, in preparation for his marriage.  In December 1867, 54-year old James married his distant cousin, 35-year old Fannie Blackwell Brown Dyckman (1832-1914).

In January 1868, just one month after James and Fannie married, Isaac Dyckman died.  Isaac was the last of Jacobus’ sons and was the holder of a vast amount of real estate in Northern Manhattan. Isaac left quite a complex will with very detailed instructions on how the family landholdings were to be distributed.  He dictated that the bulk of the family property, including the farmhouse, were to be auctioned.  However, he also left specific bequests to James with an important caveat. James was given one year to change his name to Isaac Michael Dyckman.  If he failed to do so, the bequests were revoked.

On March 20, 1868, James Frederick Smith, legally became known as Isaac Michael Dyckman. In return he inherited money, personal possessions and land in Northern Manhattan, the Upper East Side, Lower Manhattan and Yonkers.

The newly named Isaac Michael Dyckman and his wife Fannie ultimately had two daughters – Mary Alice (1869-1950) and Fannie Fredericka (1871-1951).  It would be these two daughters who would buy the farmhouse in 1915 and ensure its preservation.

What quick tip can researchers into Dyckman family or Inwood history take away from this complex tale of name change?  If you run across a reference to Isaac Dyckman before 1868 no doubt it refers to Isaac Dyckman (1793-1868) while references about post 1868 activity refer to  his nephew Isaac Michael Dyckman.

New York State. Laws of the State of New York. Volume 2. NY: 1869, page 2425.
Record of Plans and Specifications for New Buildings. 1867 Plan No. 790. Department of Buildings Records, New York Municipal Archives.
Romer, Dorothea H. and Helen B. Hartman.  Jan Dyckman of Harlem and His Descendents. NY: 1981.

Will of Isaac Dyckman, February 6, 1868.