Dutch term – Vonnis

Courtroom of the court in Tiel

A vonnis is a verdict by a court. You can find vonnissen in court records, which are mostly not available online. … [Read more...]

A (Reverse) Witch Trial in Winterswijk

Cemetery with a church in the background

In the late medieval period, many unexplained phenomena were attributed to witchcraft. If a healthy child suddenly became ill or a cow would not give milk, the influence of witches was often suspected. Many people were persecuted and burned at the stake, particularly in the Southern Netherlands (current-day Belgium). By the 1600s, the hunt quieted … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Witches in Flanders

Witch burning

The website Witches in Flanders offers a great deal of information about witch trials in Flanders. It includes lists of witch trials and convicted witches in the 1500s and 1600s. Several people who were accused of witchcraft fled north to the Protestant parts of the Netherlands, where witchcraft was often considered a Catholic superstition. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Heks

Witch being weighed

A heks is a witch. Witch trials were held in the Middle Ages and lasted until the 17th century. In modern Dutch, a heks is typically female, but in the past, the word was used for men as well. If you were accused of witchcraft, one defense would be that you were too heavy to fly on a broom. Since 1545, people could go to the heksenwaag (witches' … [Read more...]

Five ways the Eighty Years’ War affected our ancestors

Massacre of Naarden

The Dutch war of Independence, commonly known as the Eighty Years' War or the Revolt, took place from 1568 to 1648. By the mid 1500s, the provinces that would form the Netherlands were part of the Habsburg empire, ruled by king Philip II of Spain. He was a staunch Catholic, while in many places in the Netherlands  the Reformation had taken root. … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Most people did not have crests

Coat of arms of King Willem-Alexander

If you're looking for your family crest, you might be disappointed. Most families did not have family crests. If your ancestors were poor farmers and laborers, like the majority of families, they would not have had a family crest. Read more on how to find out if you have a family crest. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Gilde

Regents of the surgeons' guild in Amsterdam, 1756

A gilde was a guild, an organization of people of the same occupation in a certain town or region. Guilds were since the Middle Ages and some of them continued to operate until around 1800, when the French made an end to their monopolies. Most guilds had rules about admittance and training. Apprentices or gezellen could only become full members … [Read more...]

Dutch Genealogy Webinar – Questions about Dutch Names

Information desk at the Amsterdam Civil Registration

This is my third post answering the questions asked by viewers of my "Researching Your Dutch Ancestors" webinar. In this post, I will answer questions about Dutch names. What are patronymics? Patronymics are names that are derived from the father's name, like Jansen = son of Jan. In some parts of the Netherlands, people did not  have a hereditary … [Read more...]

Quick Tip – The Pull of the Dutch East and West India Companies

View of New Amsterdam

The Dutch East India Company and West India Company attracted workers from all over Europe. Many came from the German states or the Baltic. So if your ancestor was employed by one of these companies and settled in the West Indies, South Africa, New Netherland or the East Indies, it is possible that they were not Dutch at all. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Dienstbode

maid scrubbing the pavement

A dienstbode was a domestic servant. Many dienstbodes lived with the families where they served. Because dienstbodes moved a lot, many municipalities started keeping seperate "dienstbodenregisters" [registers of domestic servants] as part of the population registration to keep track of who lived where. … [Read more...]