When I look at online trees, especially on Ancestry.com, I often see “Reusel, Reusel-de Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands” listed as the place of birth. At first I was puzzled how all these people with names that are typical for Friesland, Groningen or Gelderland would have children in a village on the other side of the country. There was obviously something wrong there. But then I started using FamilyTreeMaker and tried to resolve some place names. Guess what? “Holland” resolves to “Reusel, Reusel-de Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands.” Say what?
Holland is not a country, it’s a street…
“Holland” is listed as the place of birth in many US sources, such as census records or marriage records. Usually, it refers to the country the Netherlands, which is officially called The Netherlands but often mistakenly called Holland.
When you record “Holland” as the place of birth, and then try to automatically resolve that to a geographical name that is located on the map, the program starts to look for a geographical location named Holland. Earlier versions of FamilyTreeMaker didn’t find the country, but it found a street called ‘t Holland (or the woodland) in the village of Reusel in Noord-Brabant. It then changed the place name ‘Holland’ to ‘Reusel, Reusel-De Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands’.
The good news is that this problem has been fixed, “Netherlands” is now the first suggestion that comes up when you try to resolve “Holland.” But there are thousands of people in online trees that still have “Reusel, Reusel-de Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands” instead of Holland as their place of birth.
Since many genealogists just copy information from online trees without going back to the underlying sources, this mistake has found its way to trees at Ancestry.com, Familysearch, MyHeritage and several paper publications. I predict that this mythical place name will continue to confuse researchers for generations to come. Since knowing the place of origin is vital in tracing your immigrant ancestor, I’m sure this mistake has caused many brick walls.
What are the chances your ancestor really is from Reusel?
Reusel is a very small village in Noord-Brabant, with a population of less than 1,000 in 1849.1 Not many people emigrated from the area so the chances that your (immigrant) ancestor is actually from Reusel are very VERY small. The municipality of Reusel-De Mierden, however, has only existed since 1997, so did not exist during the time your ancestors alledgedly lived there.
If you want to make sure, just check your sources and see where the information came from. If it came from an online tree or another undocumented publication, I would be very suspicious. But if you found the place name “Reusel” in an original record, it could be legit, especially if other family members were also from Noord-Brabant. But you won’t find “Reusel-De Mierden” in original records prior to 1997.
Check your own tree
If you’ve ever used online trees to find information about your ancestors, I advise you to check your own tree for people born in Reusel. If you have any, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment and share your thoughts. Let’s all work together to debunk this myth!
I created an infographic to show the extent of this error.
- 1849 census, Noord-Brabant, “Eerste gedeelte. Plaatselijke Indeeling. Indeeling der bevolking naar de kunne, het verblijf, den burgerlijken staat, de geboorteplaats en de godsdienst” [Part 1, local divisision of the population into sexes, domestic situation, marrital status, place of birth and religion], Volkstellingen 1795-1971 [Censuses 1795-1971], Excel-file, accessed 8 november 2013