Quick tip – Not many records on passengers passing through Rotterdam

harbor

If you've been watching Who Do You Think You Are? in the US, you may have noticed that both Josh Groban and Angie Harmon had ancestors who left Europe via Rotterdam. Rotterdam has been one of the most important harbors in the world for centuries. Since the 17th century, it has been the final port of departure for millions of emigrants. These people … [Read more...]

April Fool’s Day in the Netherlands

Bike

April Fool's Day is celebrated in the Netherlands. The first recorded April Fool's joke in Dutch dates to about 1560, when a poem mentioned how a servant recognized a prank that his master was trying to pull on him.1 The best April Fool's joke that I've seen up close was when I was studying at the University of Twente. The nearby Grolsch brewery … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Achterneef

Kwartierstaat of Jan van de Poll, 1749

An achterneef (literally: behind cousin) is a male relative. The term covers the English terms great-nephew, first cousin once removed and second cousin. … [Read more...]

The illegitimate, doubly baptized, incestuous orphan

St. Martinus Church, Venlo

Sometimes you read records and you wonder how much bad luck one person can handle. While doing research for a client I came across the following baptism in a transcription of the Roman-Catholic baptismal records for Venlo in 1750-1760:1 1751 13 november Anna Elisabetha conditionaliter rebaptizata est filia spuria Andreae Ketels et … [Read more...]

Quick tip – The meaning of terms changed

Old woman reading a newspaper holding a looking glass

Over time, the meaning of terms could change. For example, the term stiefvader [stepfather] now means the husband of your mother. But in past times, the word would be used for any type of father-by-marriage, including the father of the wife (now called schoonvader or father-in-law). To fully understand the meaning of a record, it is important to … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Begraven

Doodgraver

Begraven means to bury. People were usually buried two to five days after they died, sooner if there was an epidemic. Burials were recorded in the Begraafboek (burial book). … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Advocaat

Advocaat (lawyer)

An advocaat is a lawyer. I am often surprised at the number of court cases my ancestors were involved in. Even some of my serf ancestors hired lawyers to defend their rights to cutting trees or taking over the farm against the landlord. Most lawyers would have had a university education. Since 1575, Leiden had a university where people could get a … [Read more...]

The Josh Groban episode – the Dutch part

destroyed city with one church still standing

A couple of months ago, I was asked by the producers of the US version of Who Do You Think You Are? to help with the final leg of Josh Groban's journey to uncover the story of his ancestor Johann Jacob Zimmermann. They had found out in Germany that Zimmermann came to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on his way to Pennsylvania, and died around the time … [Read more...]

Column – The right to be forgotten

maid scrubbing the pavement

A new European guideline ensures that citizens have the right to be forgotten. They can ask search engines to remove results that are no longer relevant. That will prevent your drunk selfie from appearing on the first page of search results the next time a potential employer searches for your name. The guideline is primarily aimed at search … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Check the margins of a record

Birth record with note in the margin

If you consult an original record, make sure to check the margins for any notes. For example, the margins of a birth record may tell you that an illegitimate child was later acknowledged by a man who married the mother. The margins may also contain corrections of the main text, for example if an error was made. These corrections can be made … [Read more...]