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Was the first "Lithuanian" in 1659's New Amsterdam ethnically Lithuanian?

"Aleksandras Karolis Kuršius" by Edvinas(Aptarimas | indėlis) at

Dr. Alexander Carolus Curtius's name appears in many sources -- not just at Lithuanian sites or in Lithuanian reference books, but also at wikipedia -- as the first Lithuanian in New Amsterdam, which existed 1624-64, when the British took over, and renamed it New York.

Wikipedia: "Alexander Carolus Curtius (Lithuanian: Aleksandras Karolis Kuršius) was a Lithuanian nobleman and scholar purported to be the first Lithuanian immigrant to The New World. He founded the first Latin school in New Amsterdam in 1659 and became its headmaster. Due to disciplinary problems and disputes over salary, he returned to Holland in 1661."

The University of St. Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research says otherwise:


Title/rank: PROFESSOR

Nationality: SCOT

Text source: A Scot named Alexander Carolius Curtius lived in Kedany [Kėdainiai], Lithuania. In 1659 he was appointed the first schoolmaster in New Amsterdam (New York) after they had found trouble finding any other qualified Latin Schoolmaster. L. Eriksonas, "The lost colony of Scots: unravelling overseas connections in a Lithuanian town," in A.I. Macinnes, T. Riis, and F. Pedersen eds. Ships, Guns and Bibles in the North Sea and Baltic States, c. 1350-c. 1700 (East Linton, 2000), pp.180-181.

Service record: LITHUANIA, KEDANY. Arrived 1655-01-01, Departed 1658-12-31. Capacity: LATIN SHOOLMASTER, purpose ACADEMIC. THE DUTCH REPUBLIC, NEW AMSTERDAM (NEW YORK). Arrived 1659-01-01, Capacity: LATIN SCHOOLMASTER

And a third view: Polish historian Miecislaus/Mieczysław Haiman, in a 1938 pamphlet titled "Poles in New York in the 17th and 18th Centuries" (available to read in full online at ) agrees that Curtius came from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but that "Curtius" is probably a Latinized version of the noble Polish name: Kurcz/Kurczewski. He references more back-up sources than anyone else.

On Tuesday, October 11, I attended a webinar sponsored by the New Amsterdam History Center on the languages spoken in New Amsterdam ( where linguist Ross Perlin ( said that there was, for a time, a person in New Amsterdam from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He said it is not known whether he spoke Lithuanian or Polish.

So, was Curtius Lithuanian, Scot or Polish?


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