How Staten Island Got Its Name

It’s like this… Henry Hudson, the English explorer who convinced the Dutch government to finance his trip to the New World in 1609, was finally approaching land after months at sea. Henry, who despite his European heritage had an unexplainable Brooklyn accent, was notified of a land sighting by his men. Looking through the primitive eyeglass of the day, he said with excitement, “Is dat an Eyelandt?!!!”

No. Just kidding.

First inhabited by the Lenape Indians in the 16th century, the Indians referred to the island as “Aquehonga”, and as “Monacnong”, which translates as “Enhanted Woods”. (And, we totally get that, because Staten Island today still has more green space than any other part of New York City.)

In 1609, when Hudson arrived, he named it “Staaten Eylandt” after the Staten-Generaal, the Dutch parliament which had financed his voyage to the New World. And that is the name that stuck, although Anglicized, of course, to “Staten Island”.

The Dutch, who successfully settled Manhattan, didn’t make a lot of progress in settling Staten Island, and it was the British who later firmly established it. In 1683, King Charles of England rechristened the island “Richmond County”, after King James II of England, who also was Duke of Richmond.

When Staten Island became part of the Greater New York City in 1898, it became the “Borough of Richmond”. In 1975, the city changed this to make “Borough of Staten Island” its official name. The Borough of Staten Island actually includes more than just Staten Island itself; today the boundaries of the borough also encompass Prall’s Island, Island of Meadows, and part of Shooter’s Island. At one time, Ward’s Island was also part of the County, but it is now part of Manhattan.

If you are doing genealogy, I think the proper citation is therefore “Staten Island, Richmond County, New York”. Or, if you have a town/neighborhood name, then “Town, Staten Island, Richnond County, New York.” Other opinions welcome!

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