Season 8, Episode 2

Nick Offerman

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Nick Offerman traces his ancestors’ arrival in New York, his family’s role during the Revolutionary War, and their history with the Mohawk Nation.

Stage, film, and television actor Nick Offerman loved growing up in rural Illinois, where his beloved maternal “Grandma El” ran the family farm. Nick always admired Grandma El’s wild spirit and troublemaking streak, but he regrettably knows nothing about her family or where she came from.

Fortunately, Nick’s mom and Aunt Micki have been working on researching their genealogy for a long time. He meets with them at his parents’ house in Minooka, Illinois to go over what they know, and Aunt Micki shows him her family tree on Ancestry®. They can trace all the way back to Nick’s 5th great-grandparents Joseph Loucks and Margretha Mabie—and Nick is quick to note that they were alive during the Revolutionary War. Aunt Micki tells him that she wasn’t able to find anything else about Joseph and Margretha, so she emailed a historian to ask for his help. Nick is excited and can’t wait to learn more about his family.

New York During the American Revolution


New York During the American Revolution

Controlled by the British throughout much of the American Revolution, most New Yorkers resisted the occupation while others joined the Crown’s ranks.

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See what type of records were found to uncover the story of Nick’s 8th great-grandmother—almost 100 years before the U.S. started taking census records.

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Eighteen months later Nick arrives in Albany, New York. The pandemic put a halt to his journey to learn about his maternal lineage, but he arrived eager to finally pick up where he left off a year and a half earlier. With the assistance of historian and Revolutionary War expert Scott Stevenson, Nick manages to push his family tree back a few more generations from Margretha Mabie—starting with her father Joseph Mabie, Nick's 6th great-grandfather. Joseph Mabie lived in New York in the 1700s, which at that time was home to many Indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, and European settlers, including the English and Dutch. Upstate New York is the ancestral lands of the Iroquois Confederacy and was considered valuable territory to colonists—whoever controlled the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers could control virtually all of North America. It was hugely strategic and constantly fought over, especially during the Revolutionary War. Nick is then thrilled to discover that, just as he'd hoped, Joseph Mabie fought on the Patriot side in the Revolution. He's grateful to know his “Grandpa Joe” wasn't Benedict Arnold’s right-hand man.

Returning to his expanded family tree, Nick sees that it goes all the way back to his 8x great-grandparents Bartholomew Pickard and Eve Claasen, but their birth and death dates are marked unknown. He decides that his next step will be to find out when and how Bart and Eve first arrived in New York.

Still in Albany, Nick learns that Bartholomew Pickard was actually a young English soldier who arrived in New York in 1698, as part of a military force of 300 men hired to protect European residents in the region. The Dutch began settling in the New Netherland colony on the Hudson River in Mahican land in 1613, but the English seized the colony from them during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and New Netherlands became the Province of New York in 1664. The Dutch settlers already residing in the area were allowed to stay, and the English brought soldiers like Bart from overseas to protect them. At the time Bart Pickard arrived, in the late 1600s and early 1700s, the English and French were already fighting over who would control the highly profitable trade in furs and enslaved Native people in North America. The French had their own Indigenous allies in the fight, and the English partnered with the powerful Iroquois Confederacy, which wielded the most control over the region.

Shifting gears, Nick turns his focus to Eve Claasen, Bart’s wife, and learns that they married in the Dutch Reformed Church in 1698, the same year that Bart arrived in New York from England. Unlike Bart, Eve—also known as Eechje—was a local from Schenectady and of Dutch heritage. Her Dutch upbringing also meant that, in contrast to the illiterate Bart, Eve knew how to read and write and was a full participant in local affairs, able to do everything a man could except vote in elections. It was using these talents that Eve and her husband were able to apply for a liquor license from the Albany City Council in 1709, and they established a tavern together. As a soldier, Bart would have been on the road a great deal, and capable Eve was canny enough to run the family establishment by herself. Bart and Eve’s “beer joint” would have been a gathering place for all kinds of people: English soldiers, Dutch settlers, the Mohawk. But Nick then learns that Bart passed away in 1742, leaving Eve to be a widow running a business alone in a somewhat precarious situation. Nick is determined to find out how Eve, this smart and savvy lady, got along after her husband's death.

In Fonda, New York, near where Eve’s tavern stood a few hundred years earlier, Nick is shocked to find testimony from a leader of the Mohawk Nation, Sachem “Hendrick” Theyanooguin. It states that though the Mohawk have been more than generous to the English in allowing them to settle nearby, he feels that the Mohawk now have no land left for themselves and their communities. Not only that, but a “Pickett’s wife”—whom Nick realizes is his ancestor Eve—is serving so much alcohol at her tavern to the Mohawk that it was causing them “a great deal of damage” and making them “destroy one another.” Eve was given a spot of land for her tavern but is now grabbing more than she's entitled to. The Mohawk seek an order from the governor to turn her off the land. Since Eve’s tavern has now become a blight on their community, they want her gone. Nick is dismayed by this turn in the story, since he had initially been so charmed by the idea of his ancestors running a tavern, but he still wants to know what became of the complaint.



Discover your family’s personal story within our Revolutionary War Records.

Discover your family’s personal story within our Revolutionary War Records.

Nick stops next in Johnstown, New York and discovers that things went from bad to worse between the Mohawk Nation and his ancestors. More than a decade after the initial complaint, Eve was caught trying to force some Mohawks to sign a false land deed and, two months later, her grandsons got several Mohawk people drunk on purpose in order to force them to sign yet another deed for 1,100 acres of their land. Sadly, Nick discovers that behavior like this from European settlers was not uncommon at all, and in fact occurred with increasing frequency in the 1760s as settlers tried to make landgrabs seem legitimate. As a result of his ancestors’ trickery, Nick learns that the Mohawk asked English officials yet again to deal with Eve and her family. Sir William Johnson, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs and a representative of the English crown, ordered that Eve and the Mabies were to be evicted in 1767 and gone within 18 days, to which they agreed. Eve would be somewhere in her eighties, Nick guesses, and now she's an elderly woman without a home. He wonders what became of her next, following her eviction.

Nick goes back to Albany to look through land records, and soon discovers that Joseph Mabie, his 6th great-grandfather who fought in the Revolutionary War, applied for and received a huge tract of land in Montgomery County—a whopping 1,200 acres. To entice potential soldiers to enlist, the New York legislature had passed various laws in the mid-1780s wherein soldiers were promised bounty lands in exchange for their military service. Joseph used these laws to apply for the very land his grandmother Eve had fought so long to steal.

As he later walks on that same land with his mom and aunt, Nick contemplates his 8th great-grandmother Eve’s legacy, that of the Mohawks who once lived there, and the responsibilities of descendants who learn these stories generations later.