A glimpse into the Dutch Records of the Sri Lanka National Archives:
The first recorded instance of the ‘de fonseka‘ name in Sri Lanka, that of Adigar Don Michael de Fonseka (1658).
The origin of record keeping in Sri Lanka goes back to earliest times, beginning with the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka during the 3rd Century B.C. Buddhist temples spread thru ought the country and they preserved the teachings of the Buddha in record. The Mahavansa (the great chronicle) written during the 5th century A.D. by a Buddhist monk named Mahanama records a continuous history of the island from the earliest times up to the 6th century A.D. The other chronicle, Chulavansa, follows this. This record keeping later on expanded from the temples and the palace to other administrative tasks as well.
The Portuguese who ruled this island from 1505-1638 AD made use of the indigenous land records relating to the maritime districts under their control, which formed the basis of their “Thombos” and “Forals” (Rent registers). When the Portuguese possessions in the island were attacked by the Dutch in 1640 A.D. bulk of the records were destroyed. Today there is very little original material preserved from the Portuguese period of Sri Lanka. Although the Island has a well-documented history based on inscriptions and the great chronicles covering a period of twenty-three centuries, its oldest archives extant in Sri Lanka dates back to the 17th century. Its meager 16th century archives are in Lisbon and Goa and the Archives of the Sinhalese monarchy has been lost to posterity. The history of Sri Lanka can be studied from original archival sources only from the 17th century onwards, and this refers to the Dutch period.
The Dutch who ruled the country subsequently realized the importance of the ‘Thombo’ registers. They expanded the registers to cover both land (Land Thombos) and people (Head Thombos) and kept meticulous records of their administrative work. These Dutch records covers material from 1640 -1796 and are found in a good state of preservation even today. It is also the largest and the best-preserved archives of Dutch material found in its former colonies in the East. It is from these records that we pick the earliest references to the de Fonseka family.
The Dutch also for the first time introduced the systematic surveys of land, conducted by qualified surveyors. This was begun with the Jaffna Tombos during the time of Governor Gerrit de Heere. He appointed highly experienced Jan Christiaansz Toorzee to measure lots and draw accurate maps. Surveyors Claaesz Issaac, P. Bolsho and J. Shouten assisted him. As the documents in the volume deals with a land case, the names of these pioneering surveyors appear many a time in the volume, together with that of Disave Class Schot.
|A Dutch Seal found within the records||The stylized signature of Johannes Berghuysen, Secretary of the Ceylon Government, 28th June 1695.|
Earlier research done by S. R. de fonseka and others with the help of archivist E. Reimers, found references to the family in a case now filed as Dutch Records Volume 3210. The volume was compiled and translated to English by J. H. O Paulusz, Govt. Archivist from 1940 – 1958 and subsequently published as the D’andrado Manuscripts in the Sri Lanka Archives Volume II of 1984. The information in this volume helped to build up a documented and authenticated family history, going back to the year 1658. This volume also gives us an interesting insight into the life and times of the early 18th century, including possession of ‘Paraveni’ lands, and the ownership and transfer of slaves. The earliest recorded instance of the ‘de Fonseka’ name in Sri Lanka is found in this volume.
Marking another first this website is proud to present to you extracts from these original Dutch records. This is the first time that some of the Dutch records, now preserved in the National Archives of Sri Lanka, has been brought online. The records are presented to you with the kind permission of the Director of National Archives. As the records are in the early Dutch language, they have been included within its English translation known as the D’andrado Manuscripts. Links from the different documents in this collection will take you to the images containing the original Dutch work. This arrangement makes it possible for the reader to understand the contents and the structure of the volume, contents of each document (both in English), and then study the images of the original Dutch manuscripts.
The de Andrado papers (volume No. 3210, Dutch records) are an interesting collection of legal and administrative documents of the 17th and early 18th centuries, which illustrate the various stages of a long conflict between the Judiciary and the Executive.
They consist of deeds and certificates affecting land, dating back to the early years of Dutch rule – petitions and declarations submitted to Court, extracts from the Judgment Roll, copies of writs and summonses, counter petitions, minutes by the Governor and reports from executive and judicial officers. These various papers were collected into a single file and deposited in the Secretariat for ease of reference by contemporary litigants.
The facts in the case are briefly as follows. Bras de Andrado had promised his future son-in-law Thomas Pieris, Junior Surgeon, a dowry of Rix – dollars 400 and had remitted in cash, jewellery or in land, the bulk of this amount. But a quarrel seems to have broken out between the two families (a notable feature of the case is the implacable hostility between the Andrados and the Pierises) and Bras refused to pay over the small balance of the dowry money still due, even though threatened with legal penalties.
The case, Bras de Andrado Vs Louise Pieris, father of Thomas Pieris.
Pieris sued him for the recovery of the money. But, though he obtained a decree against Bras he still could not force him to pay. Finally, various properties belonging to Bras were seized and auctioned by Disava Schot, in satisfaction of this and certain other claims. Most of the lands confiscated in this way were parveni properties, a fact well known to Bras who was so sure that they could never be taken from him whatever the circumstances, that he looked upon their sale and transfer to others with indifference, if not sardonic amusement.
The main interest of the book lies in the action of the Judiciary in declaring null and void the orders of a Governor de Heere, as carried out by Disava Schot and the extra ordinary strictness with which the sanctity of parveni lands was upheld.
Other elements of interest are the character of Bras de Andrado, often vilified without justification in the heat of legal exchanges, and the social customs among his kinsmen of the Fonseka family and others.
J. H. O. Paulusz
Government Archives No:
4333 & 4334 The Attorney of Wilhelmus Philippus van Cuylenburg, married to the widow of Rij & kloff Izaak Kriekenbeek contra Michiel de Andrado. 2 files. 1761.
4219 & 4220 Andries Peiris, as guardian of the minor, and Dominicus Peiris contra Thomme and & Mighiel de Andrado. 2 files.1743.
4335 Petrus van Dort and others contra Wilhelmus Philippus van Cuylenburg. 1761 – 1762.
4493 Joan de Fonseka contra the “weesmeesteren”, as executors of the estate of the late Captain Johannes Everhardus Jongbloet. 1787.
4513 The Secretary of the court of justice contra the executors of the estate of Nicolaas Fonseka and Catharina Fernando, widow and executor of the estate of Philip Gomes Rajepakse Mohandiram. 1789.
2622 1781 January 3 – December 31, Nos. 1 – 188. By Hendrik Diederi, Dias da Fonseka.
2623 1781 – 1796 January 25.( n.b. Although composed by different clerks the numbering in this file is consistent), Nos. 1 – 54. The specification is as follows:
Nos. 01-11: 1781 – 1783 September 5 by Dias da Fonceka ; (see No. 2622).
Nos. 12-45: 1791 November 6 – 1795 April 14 by Gerrard Joan Fybrands ; (see Nos. 2626-2631).
Nos. 46-51: 1795 November 10 – December 22 by Johannes Henricus Schroter ; (see No. 2632).
Nos. 52-54: are by sworn clerks Jan Andriesz Paauw and Pieter Adolph Loffman.
3671 Allied Cases. Translations of Sinhalese garden Registers in the Kalutara district. 1772.
2848 Letters from the Colombo disava Class Schodt to the chief of Kalutara, Gerrit van der Scheur, and a letter from van der Scheur to the Governor. 1698 July21 – 1701 June 16.
(n.b. The letter to the Governor is not the one which accompanied this file, which, according to the old index list, was found among the documents of governor de Heere after his death. These letters have some relation to the complaints in Kalutara against the disava and the chief there, regarding which we have some information in that list. As the council minutes of this period are missing, there is no further information regarding this matter.)
2850 Extracts from various letters from disava Class Schodt to the chief of Kalutara Gerrit van der Scheur. 1698 – 1701.
(n.b. The originals are in No. 2849.)
Register of the documents, enumerated below which have been brought, on the orders of His Excellency the Governor Hendrik Becker, to the Secretariat, by the Hon’ble Captain da Costa, to be registered and preserved there, viz:
– Images of the original Dutch records could be found within the following documents. Please follow the link to read the English translation and then to view the images.
No. 1 – Deed of gift of a piece of land named Coilwatta, situated in the village of Calamulla granted by H. E. the Governor of Ceylon, L. Pijl, on the last day of August A. D. 1687 to Bras de Andrado covering in area 303 1/2 square perches.
No. 2 – Deed of gift of a plot of ground named Alegiduriawatta, situated in the aforesaid village of Calamulla, and covering in area 204 square perches, granted by and to the same persons and on the same date as above.
No. 3 – Certificate of ratification granted by the same persons as above on the 13th September 1687, confirming that the said Bras de Andrado was entitled to possess the above mentioned two pieces of land in hereditary ownership, but in the event of his dying without issue, these same lands should revert to the Hon’ble Company.
No. 4 – Deed of transfer, executed before the Secretary Johannes Berghuysen, by the said Bras de Andrado on the 28th June 1695 of the aforesaid two pieces of land, as dowry of marriage portion, for his daughter Barbara de Andrado who had married the Junior Surgeon Thome Pieris.
No. 5 – Three short instruments in Malabar, executed by Bras de Andrado relative .to certain goods which he donates to his abovementioned daughter, with the translation thereof annexed.
No. 6 – Certificate issued by H. E. Admiral Rijkloff van Goens on the 3rd of January 1664, in favour of Manuel de Andrado, relative to a certain garden, situated in the Kalutara District, which at an anterior date, had belonged to the Portuguese Dom Manuel.
No. 7A – Petition submitted to H. E. Governor Simons by Louis Pieris pleading therein that everything might be left stayed, in the same position as at the beginning of the lawsuit.
No. 7B – Declaration executed on the 14th December 1702 regarding the sale of the different lands of Bras de Andrado by the Dessave Class Schot.
No. 7C – Extract from the Civil Judgment Roll, maintained on behalf of the Hon’ble the Court of Justice here, wherein the said Pieris is condemned to surrender back to Bras de Andrado the two bought gardens with the profits derived there from and enjoyed since the sale.
No. 8A – Petition submitted by the above-noticed Bras de Andrado, addressed as above
- No. 8B – Judgment, (whereto also is added ) put into execution
No. 9A – Writ served by the Procurator Douwe Peterson on the person of Louis Pieris to quit the two purchased gardens.
No. 9B – Summons served by the Procurator Douwe Peterson on the person of Louis Pieris to quit the two purchased gardens.
No. 9C – Declaration of the 24th October 1703 wherein is shown how the goods which were sold by the Hon’ble the Disava (. in ownership. Always. ) held by the purchasers.
No. 10 – Counter statement by the former Disãva and then Captain Lieutenant Class Schot, dated the 28th June 1706, against and in rebuttal of a petition from Bras de Andrado, and certain annexed papers, numbered 1 to 4.
No. 11 – Order made by H. E. the Governor, Doctor Cornelis Joan Simons on the 12th of June 1706 last, directing the Hon, Messrs Jan Christians Toorzee, Gregorius da Costa and senior Merchant Gerard Bessels to examine the above mentioned papers and make a written report thereon.
No.12 – Written statement made by the Hon. (P) Bolscho and da Costa on the 28th October regarding the two bought gardens of Louis Pieris and what profits could have been derived there from since the sale, so that these amounts could be refunded to Bras de Andrado.
Colombo, the 4th May, A. D. 1709.
The foregoing documents have been deposited here in the Secretariat, by Captain Hon. Gregorius da Costa in order that parties who might require them could make use thereof ; and His Honour accordingly hereby relinquishes responsibility for them.
Colombo, on the date as above.
Signed: Francoys Thivart. Sworn Clerk.
Annexes & Extracts from various Works & Files :
These form no part of Vol. 3210
- No 1 – Extracts from Council Resolutions.
- No 2 – Translation of Memorial.
- No 3 – Instructions from the Governor General and Council of India to the Governor of Ceylon 1656-1665
- No 4 – Secret Resolutions : Tuesday 30th September, 1656.
- No 5 – Extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ceylon 12-16th January 1660.
- No 6 – Memoirs of Ryckloff Van Goens, Governor of Ceylon (1663-1675)
- No 7 – Resolution of Council; 28th January 1670
- No 8 – Register of Land Grants : Vol 2510 6th January 1687
- No 9 – Extracts from Resolutions of Council
- No10 – Extracts from Rev. P Baldaeus ‘ Description of Ceylon’. See the Reference page for a full description of this book.
- No11 – Extract from Valentyn’s Ceylon
- No12 -Extract from ‘Dutch Power in Ceylon’ by Dr P. E. Peiris
Letter from Dom Manuel D’Andrado to Admiral Rycloff Van Goens, dated 6th February, 1659, Jaffnapattam.
- No13 – List of Documents in the possession of Mr. S. R. de Fonseka, submitted to the Historical MSS, Commission.
Note by the Editor:
The d’Andrado papers and other references pertaining to that family had been brought together and translated by Mr. J. H. 0. Paulusz,, who was the Government Archivist, from 1940 to 1958. Since its translation, the papers had been lying with a member of that family, Mr. F. B. de S. J. Wijenayake of Colombo, who very kindly, brought it to my notice.
In perusing the papers, given to me by Mr. Wijenayake, I found them to be most interesting, not only as Illustrating a conflict between the Judiciary and the Executive, but also as documents providing illustrative information on personalities, their land holdings, the nature of land documents, like deeds, grants and gifts, the operation of judicial procedures, and also as material yielding a cursory glance into the society of the period.
Thus, although the documentation seems inconclusive, and the other evidence too, may sometimes seem disjointed, yet it was decided to publish them for the per Se, interest, they yield, as well as for the illustrative value they provide, of documents that are available at the Archives, for research in genealogy, social history and other fields of study.
Mr. Paulusz, who is presently in Abergele, Wales, has written to say that he had carried out this work during the War under varying disabilities. He states that the subject would have been given fuller editorial treatment if he could have consulted the Jakarta records, then under Japanese occupation He, further says, that even later, severe restrictions had been laid by the Soekarno regime, on access for the repository, so that no thorough search had been possible there. This explanatory note by Mr. Paulusz, throws further light on material that would be available elsewhere, for studies in the Dutch Period’ of Sri Lankan history.
Readers are also referred to the published Catalogues of Jurriaanse and Mottau for information on the Administrative Records of the Dutch period (1640-1796), available at the Sri Lanka Archives.
© Copyright Department of National Archives, Sri Lanka.
Reproduced with the permission of the Director, Department of National Archives.
- Mottau Catalogue – Administrative Records of the Dutch Period,
Department of National Archives.
- Land for Money – K. D. Paranawithana.
- The Journal of the Sri Lanka National Archives, Volume II 1984.
Department of National Archives
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