Dutch term – Drost

portrait of a corpulent young man

A drost or drossaard was a sheriff, someone who governed a region or town on behalf of the landlord. Some drosten required their subjects to provide special services to him, like feed his horse or do chores twice a year. These were sometimes called drostendiensten (sheriff's services). These services were a relict of feudal regulation in the … [Read more...]

Holiday wishes

Family gathering around the table for Christmas

My best wishes to everyone, and Merry Christmas to all my friends who are celebrating Christmas today. It's the time of year to look back and forward. This past year has been a wonderful year for me. It was my first year as a full-time professional genealogist and I've enjoyed myself very much. I've worked on a range a projects covering … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Emigrants often used agents


Did you ever wonder how your emigrant ancestors bought their tickets and how they knew where to find a ship to go to America? By the end of the 1840s, many shipping companies had agents in most of the emigration hot spots. Emigrants would be able to purchase tickets form these agents, who would arrange for their travel to the harbor and for the … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Koekoeksgraad

painting of a Dutch cuckoo

I first heard the word Koekoeksgraad last week and liked it so much that I wanted to share it with you. Koekoeksgraad means "degree of cuckoos," the degree of non-paternity events per generation. I first heard the term in a presentation by forensic DNA expert Maarten Larmuseau, in a Youtube recording of his presentation about using Y-chromosomes … [Read more...]

Case study – Working with farm names


In parts of the provinces of Drenthe, Overijssel and Gelderland, people used to call themselves after the farm they lived on. It wasn't until the introduction of the civil registration in 1811 that their names became fixed. My own name, Hoitink, is an example of such a farm name. Since the name could change every time a person moved, this … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Napoleonic army records available online

mocking image showing France and the Netherlands as a bridal couple promising eternal faithfulness

During the French occupation (1795-1813), many Dutch young men were conscripted into Napoleon's army. The French department of Defense has now made scans of the military records for this period online on the "Mémoire des hommes" [Memory of the men] website. The website contains military records of other French soldiers as well, including those … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Schoonmoeder

Marriage of Henk Hoitink and Mien Woordes, 1942

A schoonmoeder is a mother-in-law. In older documents, the term is also sometimes used for stepmother (another type of mother-by-marriage). … [Read more...]

My Attempt to Free Anne Frank’s Diary

Anne Frank sitting behind a desk

This year marked the 70th anniversary of Anne Frank's untimely death. Under Dutch law, works by an author are in the public domain on 1 January following the 70th anniversary of the author's death. This means that Anne Frank's diary should be in the public domain as of 1 January 2016. However, the Anne Frank Fonds claims that her father, Otto … [Read more...]

Sinterklaas Giveaway Winner

Children putting shoes by the fireplace

The winner of the Sinterklaas giveaway is Victoria Davis from Texas. She will receive the DVD and syllabus of the "Researching your Dutch Ancestors" webinar. Congratulations, Victoria! All of you who did not win can still view the webinar at the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website. If you're not a member of Family Tree Webinars yet, you need to … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Akte van Bekendheid

Woman testifying before a judge

An akte van bekendheid is a record of knowledge, usually a statement by four witnesses who all testify about the truth of something. For example, when people got married after 1811, they had to submit extracts of their birth records and sometimes also extracts of the death records of their parents, former spouses and even grandparents (in the … [Read more...]