Netherlands - Dutch Research Introduction (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in May 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Dutch Ancestors in the Netherlands  by Susanna de Groot, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Searching for Dutch ancestors can be exciting! Records in the Netherlands often have a great deal of information. For example, a marriage in the Netherlands, depending on the time period, produced up to as many as six documents! The amount of information extracted from these records alone is astounding.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

A bonus to those who have Dutch ancestors is, women are always identified in documents with their maiden name. In the Netherlands, women rarely lose their last name during their lifetime. There are special circumstances for the last name to change. Sometimes you will see a women identified with both her married name and maiden name. When this occurs, it is always written: married name first, hyphen, and then maiden name; e.g. Akke de Groot-Horjus – “de Groot” being the married name and “Horjus” being the maiden name.

As you do your Dutch genealogical research, you may think there are no errors or problems in the records. Wrong! There are errors and you will find them more often the further back in time you search. Often problems involve the men you are searching, unlike North American research where women create roadblocks. The mother is always named in a birth record; however, if the woman is unmarried the father is not always stated.

Dutch Language[edit | edit source]

To carry out genealogical research of your Dutch ancestors in the Netherlands, you will need to know some of the Dutch language. The records from about 1814 to present are all written in Dutch. Prior to 1814, the documents may be written in Dutch, French or Latin, depending on the time period and the type of record that you are looking at.

For those unfamiliar with the Dutch language, you will need to become familiar with Dutch genealogical terms. This will ultimately give you the ability to navigate through the records.

It is suggested you keep a good Dutch-English dictionary handy whether you are searching documents, surfing the Internet or translating your information. It is also suggested you start your own list of often used Dutch words for a quick and easy reference.

Accessing Records[edit | edit source]

There are several ways to access copies of Dutch documents from afar. A number of records can be viewed on microfilm at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City and some family history centers. Many of these microfilms are being digitized and are available to be searched on the FamilySearch website. Records can also be requested by postal mail or via email directly from the archive or repository in the Netherlands.

There are a number of resources that can be obtained from FamilySearch through your local FamilySearch Center (FSC). Make sure you know where the closest FSC is to your home; you will visit the center often to do your research. Be sure to check the FamilySearch website to find the closest one to you.

You will find databases on the Internet that will provide you with the details needed to obtain the documents directly from the archives in the Netherlands or through the FamilySearch. There are many Dutch citizens volunteering their time to make genealogical information available through the Internet. Be sure to check the databases often, as they are being updated with new information quite frequently.

About Dutch Names[edit | edit source]

Naming Patterns[edit | edit source]

The Dutch often named their children after family members from both the father’s and mother’s families. Generally the first born son was named after the father’s father, the second son after the mother’s father, and the third son would be named after the father. This same pattern would be followed for the daughters; first daughter named after the mother’s mother, second after the father’s mother and the third after the mother. Other children could be named after deceased family members, such as siblings of the father and mother or even a deceased wife of the husband who remarried. Today, the naming patterns are not followed as much as it traditionally was in past centuries.

Given Names[edit | edit source]

When Dutch names are shortened to be used in everyday life they can cause some confusion when you see a person’s full given name. Below is a list of some names and with their short names.

Given Name
Shortened Name
Given Name
Shortened Name
Jan, Hans Cornelis Kees
Wilhelmus Wim, Willem Berta Bep
Wilhelmina Mien, Willie Margrieta Grietje
Josephina Jopie Alexander Sander
Antonius Toon Elisabeth Lijs
Hendrika Henne Jacob Co
Catharina Trijntje Cornelia Neeltje
Nicolaas Claes Sophia Fije, Fie

Patronymic Names[edit | edit source]

Prior to the adoption of surnames, many people used patronymic names for identification. These are generally patterned after a person’s father’s name with “son” added to the end. In Dutch the word for son is zoon; in Old Dutch, it is soen, zoen or soon, which can be abbreviated to sz, z, se, sen and x. Daughter in Dutch is dochter and in Old Dutch it is doghter which can be abbreviated to d, dr, s, se, sen, sens, and x. Examples of patronymic names are: Jansen (son of Jan), Everts (son of Evert) or Evertse (daughter of Evert).

Surnames[edit | edit source]

On 18 August 1811, Napoleon issued a decree, based on French law, regarding adoption of surnames. Everyone was required to adopt a surname and those who did not comply were fined. Name adoption registers (naamsaanneming registers) were created to record the family names that were adopted. These registers often assist you in your research when moving from the civil registration period to the church registers.

The name adoption registers were maintained by each municipality and did not follow a particular format. They vary from one municipality to the next and were seldom indexed. Unfortunately, not all registers have survived. Most registers provide the name and age of the registrant and that of his living children and grand-children. If you are lucky, the full date and place of birth was recorded. Many municipalities included the registrant’s address.

Interestingly, a wife was not usually listed with her husband in the name adoption registers. If her grandfather or father was alive at the time, she would be listed under their entry. Often widows were listed with their children and grandchildren.

Other than this time period, surname changes made in the Netherlands were and are rare. You may find a child born out of wedlock who would initially have its mother’s surname. When the mother married later, the child would be acknowledged by her husband and a marginal note was made in the marriage register. Often a marginal note was made in the child’s birth registration as well. At this time the child’s surname would change to the husband’s surname.

Adopted children have only been allowed to change their surname since 1956. Ten years later, in 1966, legislation was passed allowing individuals with common surnames, such as Smit or Jansen, to make a name change. These changes were allowed when a prefix or suffix was added to the original surname.

Surnames in the Dutch Provinces[edit | edit source]

Many of the provinces in the Netherlands have surnames common to their area only. They are usually identified by the endings to a patronymic or surname. In some cases, identification to an area comes from the prefix or the name reflects a geographical name or physical description.

Province Surname Prefixes Surname Suffixes
Groningen sema, tjer, huis, ker
Friesland a, ma, sma, stra, inga
Drenthe ing(h)e, in(e)k
Overijssel ten, ter ing(h)(e), in(c)k, huis
Gelderland Klein, Groot in(c)k, ing
North Holland sz, x
South Holland van, van de(n), van der, ver, de, den
Zeeland de, d’, ver sons, aert, g(h)e, se
Utrecht laar, laer, horst, schoten
North Brabant mans, ers, ens
Limburg mans, ingen

In North Holland's southern region, surnames are similar to those from South Holland and Utrecht. Often many surnames are a single syllable, such as Dam, or Bos. Surnames found in Amsterdam originate from a number of areas, mainly Friesland, Germany and Flanders.

In the province of Utrecht, surnames are often derived from geographic origin. Many common names include: van Doorn, van Schaik, van Vliet, and van den Brink. Flemish and Huguenot (French Walloon) surnames are common to Zeeland. And, in the larger cities of South Holland, surnames are the Dutch version of French and German surnames.

An interesting website is the Database of Surnames in the Netherlands, made available by the Meertens Institute. On this site you can type your surname into the database and retrieve information about the number of occurrences the surname appeared in the country, with a breakdown by province, in 1947. The site also provides a printable map with the search results. The details on the site were extracted from the 1947 census. This site is available in Dutch and English.

Additional Information[edit | edit source]

For additional information see:The Netherlands

See: Netherlands Civil Registration


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Dutch Ancestors in the Netherlands offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.