Since the Dutch pronunciation of Van Petten sounds more like "Van Patten", it is understandable that there is confusion in the use of the name. Most, if not all families used the Van Petten spelling prior to the Revolutionary War. Van Patten spelling of our name after the American Revolution of 1776 came about because of a possible clerical error. Our patriotic fore-fathers were granted Land Bounty Rights (free land) for their part in fighting the British but, a Quartermaster or the Company Scribe misspelled the name as Van "Patten", due to the way it was pronounced with the still heavy Dutch accent. To receive the land grants and benefits due them after serving with the Army of the newly formed United States, they had to adopt the spelling as it was written in the official company records. Further confusion arose after 1800 due, in all probability, to the similarity of the handwritten letters "r" and "n", thus we now have the Van Patter families of Ontario, Canada and Iowa, U.S.A. (written by Frances I. (Van Patter) Hindmarsh).
Recently, a new branch of the Van Patten family of Schenectady, NY has been located in the Spartanburg and Greenville counties of South Carolina due to the migration of Nicholas Viele Van Patten (1803-1889) who went south to make his fortune in the milling industry. Through this patriarch comes a whole new family line; the Van Patton family that records still to this day intermingle with the Van Patten name of official records and we are awaiting family updates to clearify the proper spelling of their family.
The Dutch were much slower than the English in adopting surnames as we know them. Patronymics ended theoretically under English rule in 1687 with the advent of surnames. (the Engish needed last names for TAXation reasons) Patronymics is the naming of children after the father's first name (because they had no last name).
The most common Dutch naming custom was that of patronymics, or identification of an individual based on the father's name. For example, Claas Frederickse (1641-1728) is named after his father Frederick Albertse (abt.1610), who is named after his father Albert Albertse (abt.1580), who is named after his father Albert (abt.1565). The patronymic was formed by adding -se, -sen, or -szen for a male.
An individual could also be known by his place of origin. For example, Claas Frederickse is now known as "Van Petten", meaning 'from Petten' (Petten). Petten was a small fishing village on the north coast of Holland, the Netherlands at the time of Claas' birth). Now you have Claas Frederickse Van Petten and you now know by his name that Claas is the son of Frederick and that he came from Petten. The place-origin name could be a nationality, as in the case of Albert Andriessen from Norway, originator of the Bradt and Vanderzee families - he is entered in many records as Albert Andriessen de Noorman, meaning 'the Norseman'. Albert's sons and daughters took the surname Bradt except for his son Storm, born on the Atlantic Ocean during the families sailing to the New World. Storm adopted the surname Van Der Zee (from the sea) and this is the name his decendants carry.
An individual might be known by a personal characteristic, for example, Vrooman means a pious or wise man and De Witt means the white one.
Schermerhorn (pronounced Scare-mer-horn) is Dutch for a point of land at a clear lake and was/is also a commercial town of note in Holland.
(The basis of this was written by Lorine McGinnis Schulze)