Netherlands Church Records

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Church records [kerkelijke registers] are excellent sources for accurate information on names as well as dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Most people who lived in the Netherlands were recorded in a church record.

Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly called "civil registration" because critical events in a person’s life are recorded in them. Church records that contain vital records were made by ministers and priests. They are often called parish registers or church books. They include records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials. In addition, church records may include account books (which record fees for tolling bells, fees for masses for the dead, and so forth), lists of confirmations, and lists of members.

Church records are crucial for pre-1811 Dutch research. Church records continued to be kept after the introduction of civil registration, but the Family History Library has not microfilmed many post–1811 church records. See the "Civil Registration" section for more information about post–1811 sources.

General Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The practice of keeping parish registers evolved slowly. The first surviving register is from 1542 at Deventer. Catholic churches in general began requiring baptism, marriage, and death records in 1563; Dutch Reformed churches after 1572. There are Dutch Reformed records for most places after 1650. Dutch church records are usually written in Dutch or Latin.

Note the following points about Dutch church records:

  • Large cities have many churches, each serving part of the city. Rural churches often serve several villages and hamlets. Parish boundaries often changed, thus affecting where church records were kept.
  • Military churches in garrison towns and cities often kept their own records separate from those of other parishes.
  • In many parts of the Netherlands the death registers began later than the baptism and marriage registers.
  • The registers of baptisms, marriages, and deaths from different geographic areas vary considerably in the amount of information they provide. Each jurisdiction had its own recordkeeping rules, and each recorder had his own style.
  • In some areas the records of people of other faiths were kept by the predominant church. The principal church in the Netherlands was the Dutch Reformed Church.

For more information, see the "Church History" and "History" sections.

Feast Dates. Each day of the year had several patron saints and was a feast day to honor those saints. Some vital events are recorded in church records only by the holy day (feast day) on the church calendar. For example, the feast day called All Saints Day [Allerheiligendag] is 1 November. To convert feast dates to days of the month for either the Julian (old style) or Gregorian (new style) calendar, use the following book:

Bukke, Inger M., et al. The Comprehensive Genealogical Feast Day Calendar. Bountiful, Utah: Thomson’s Genealogical Center, 1983. (FHL book 529.44 C738; fiche 6054630.)

There is an online source to convert the various calendars at:

http://www.calendarhome.com/converter/

Duplicate Church Records[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, some of the church records of the Netherlands were destroyed in wars or when parish houses burned. Because of concerns about such destruction, authorities in some areas began requiring copies of church books in the 1700s. Copies were either stored separately or sent to a central archive. These copies are called transcripts or duplicates [afschriften or contra-boeken], and most are housed in state archives or central church archives.

Use duplicates, where available, to supplement parish registers that are missing or illegible. Keep in mind that duplicates often differ slightly from the originals.

Information Recorded in Church Registers[edit | edit source]

The information recorded in church records varied over time. Later records usually give more complete information than earlier ones. The most important church records for genealogical research are baptism, marriage, and burial registers. Other helpful church records may include confirmation lists, lists of members, church council minutes, and account books.

Most Catholic records were written in Latin. Protestant records were generally written in Dutch. Local dialects may have affected the spelling of some names and other words in the church records.

There was no specific record-keeping style for church records. Early records were usually written in paragraph form. As record keeping improved, columns were often used in the entries. However, some places (especially Catholic parishes) used the paragraph format for a long time.

Baptisms [Dopen][edit | edit source]

Children were usually baptized a few days after birth. Baptism registers usually give the infant’s name, parents’ names, status of legitimacy, witnesses or godparents, and baptism date. You may also find the child’s birth date, the father’s occupation, and the family’s place of residence. Death information was sometimes added as a note or signified by a cross.

Earlier registers typically give less information, sometimes including only the child’s and father’s names and the baptism date. Until the end of the 1700s, ministers in some communities did not name the mother in the records, or they included only her given name. Sometimes only the baptism date was recorded, but in later years the birth date was given as well.

Because of social conditions in the Netherlands, the birth of illegitimate children was not uncommon.

Marriages [Akten van trouw or Huwelijken][edit | edit source]

Marriage registers give the marriage date and the names of the bride and groom. The registers also indicate whether they were single or widowed before the marriage and where they were from (which may or may not be their birthplace). They often include other information about the bride and groom, such as their ages, residences, occupations, birthplaces, parents’ names, and witnesses. In cases of second and later marriages, they may include the names of previous spouses.

The earliest marriage records may give only the names of the bride and groom and have little or no information about the couple’s parents. Couples were usually married in the residence parish of the bride. Typically, women married for the first time between 18 and 25. Men typically married for the first time in their mid to late twenties.

Marriage entries for soldiers usually only give the name of the commander or company that the groom was in. To locate the groom’s birthplace, consult the military service records. See the "Military Records" section for more information.

From 1588 to 1795 the Dutch Reformed Church was the state church. Nonconformists had to be married in that church or by civil authorities. You may also find their marriage recorded in their own church. For additional help, see the "Public Records" section.

In the province of Holland a tax on marriages was imposed from 1695 to 1805. If you do not locate your ancestor’s marriage in any other source, look in the marriage tax records. See the "Taxation" section for more information.

Marriage Intentions [Ondertrouw]. In addition to the actual marriage registers, many churches in the Netherlands kept a separate book where other records of marriage were recorded. These records are called marriage intentions. Often the marriage intention date and marriage date are recorded in the same register.

Marriage registers sometimes give the three dates on which intended marriages were announced (either read out loud or posted in church). These announcements, called banns, gave other community members a chance to object to the marriage.

Burials [Begrafenissen][edit | edit source]

Burials were recorded in the parish where the person was buried. The burial usually took place within a few days of death.

Burial registers give the deceased’s name, marital status, and date and place of death and/or burial. Sometimes the age, place of residence, cause of death, and names of survivors are given. Often the amount of money paid for ringing the bell or renting burial cloths is given.

Burial records may exist for individuals who were born before the earliest baptism and marriage records. In other places, burial records may start many years later than the baptism and marriage records of the same parish.

Church account books [kerkrekeningen] often give details about burials.

Confirmations [Belijdenissen or Vormsel Registers][edit | edit source]

Catholics were usually confirmed around age 12, Protestants about age 15. Most confirmation registers merely list the names of those being confirmed and the confirmation date.

Membership Records [Lidmaten][edit | edit source]

Most churches kept a record of their members, usually organized by village or street. The records contain members’ names, dates of confessions of faith, and dates of arrival from other parishes. They may also contain death dates, dates members left the parish, communion lists, or names of those attending catechism school.

Membership records are usually in the archive of the church council [kerkeraad] of the parish. Sometimes they are part of the baptism or marriage register.

Church Council Minutes [Kerkeraadshandelingen][edit | edit source]

Minutes of the church council can provide important information about your ancestor. They usually contain ministers’ names and dates of service, appointments of elders and other parish officials, disciplinary actions, names of fathers of illegitimate children, and money paid for the poor.

Certificates of indemnity or surety [akten van indemniteit] were sometimes issued to church members moving to a new town. The certificates guaranteed that the former parish would receive the people back in case they became poor.

Church Records Indexes[edit | edit source]

Most of the registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials for the Netherlands have been indexed by the archives and other interested genealogists.

An example of an important index is that for the city of Amsterdam. Hundreds of registers for several denominations are easily accessible by using a card index. See the following guide:

Church and Civil Records of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, before 1811. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1975. (FHL book 929.1 G286gs ser. C no. 25; fiche 6000355–6000356.)

The Family History Library has collected many indexes to Dutch church records. These are listed in the Place search of the catalog under:

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – CHURCH RECORDS – INDEXES

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – CHURCH RECORDS – INDEXES

Locating Church Records[edit | edit source]

Church records were kept at the local parish of the church. The term parish refers to the jurisdiction of a church minister. Parishes are local congregations that may have included many neighboring villages in their boundaries.

To use church records, you must know both your ancestor’s religion and the town where he or she lived.

Some gazetteers indicate parish jurisdictions. For more information, see the "Gazetteers" section and the section below, which discusses church record inventories.

A small village that did not have its own church was usually assigned to a parish in a nearby larger town. Consequently, your ancestor may have lived in one village but belonged to a parish in another town. This is particularly true of Roman Catholic parishes. In predominant Dutch Reformed Church areas, Roman Catholic records include people for a wide area.

The Family History Library Catalog refers to parishes by the town in which the parish church was located, unless there was more than one church in the town. In large cities there may be many parishes for each religion. Church buildings were often named for saints, so the catalog uses the church name such as St. John to distinguish between different parishes in the same city.

Church Record Inventories[edit | edit source]

Church record inventories are essential tools for finding Dutch records. They identify records that are available, their location, and the years they cover. The following source, prepared by the Central Office for Genealogy, lists all known church records of the Netherlands:

Wijnaendts van Resandt, Willem. Repertorium DTB: Globaal Overzicht van de Nederlandse Doop–, Trouw– en Begraafregisters e.d. van voor de Invoering van de Burgerlijke Stand (Concise Repertory of Dutch Parish Registers, etc.). 2nd ed. ’s-Gravenhage: Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, 1980. (FHL book Ref 949.2 K2w 1980.) This inventory has explanations in Dutch, English, and German.

Church record inventories are also available for each province in the Netherlands. They are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under:

NETHERLANDS – CHURCH RECORDS – INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – CHURCH RECORDS – INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS

Records at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has filmed nearly all church records of the Netherlands. The library has church records to mostly 1811; some are later. The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. You can determine whether the library has records for the locality your ancestor came from by checking the "Locality Search" section of the Family History Library Catalog. However, if a record has been destroyed, was never kept, or has not been microfilmed, the Family History Library does not have a copy.

In the Family History Library Catalog, look under the name of the town where the church was, not necessarily the town where your ancestor lived. Look under:

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – CHURCH RECORDS

Locating Records Not at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

Baptism, marriage, and burial records not at the Family History Library may be found by contacting or visiting local parishes or archives in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has no single repository of church records. The present location of records depends on several factors of nationality, religion, and local history. Records are located in one or more of the following places:

  • Local parishes. Recent registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials are at the parish; older ones are at the state and municipal archives. Other church records such as membership lists, church council minutes, and account books are usually still at the parishes.
  • State archives. In 1929 the government ordered that all pre–1811 records be sent to the state archives. Most places complied. Some of the records have since been deposited in regional and municipal archives. Records at these archives have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library.
  • Church archives. Some church records are collected in diocese or general church archives. Church archives are often unable to handle genealogical requests but can determine whether specific records are available.
  • The Central Office for Genealogy. This office has copies of many parish registers. See the "Societies" section for more information.

Correspondence. You do not need to write in Dutch when corresponding with archives in the Netherlands. When writing for copies, send the following:

  • Check or money order for the search fee (usually about $10.00).
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event you want information about.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.).
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
  • Three international reply coupons, available from your local post office.

Search Strategies[edit | edit source]

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies in addition to the general strategies:

  • Search for the ancestor you selected in step two. When you find his or her birth record, search for the births of the person’s brothers and sisters.
  • Search for the marriage record of his or her parents. The marriage record will often lead to the birth records of the parents. Marriage records usually give the birthplace or the place of residence and marital status. Some records like the Amsterdam marriage intentions are more informative.
  • Estimate the ages of the parents, and search for their birth records.
  • Use the above three strategies for both the father and the mother.
  • If earlier generations are not in the record you are using, search neighboring towns and other denominations.
  • Search the burial registers for all family members.