Time machine – I think we can do it!

blue spiral galaxy

I've wanted to use a time machine ever since I read Thea Beckman's Crusade in Jeans when I was ten. In the book, a modern boy is sent back to the Middle Ages and ends up in the children's crusade where he uses his knowledge of modern medicine, science and geography to help them. Like Dolf in the book, I would love to travel through time and see … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Dutch immigrants kept great records

Hubregt Risseeuw Family. Source: Mary Risseeuw collection

The other day, my friend Mary and I were talking about Dutch immigrants to Wisconsin. She explained that in Wisconsin, registration of births, marriages and deaths wasn't mandated until 1907. Dutch immigrants had been used to civil registration since 1811. Unlike many of their new neighbors, they were used to having their vital events recorded and … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Slachtmaand

November. Image credits: Koninklijke Bibliotheek

Slachtmaand literally means "slaughter month" and is the old word for November. … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Don’t trust the archivist! (at least: not blindly)

Border near Dinxperlo. Postcard (public domain)

Earlier this year, I emailed an archivist in Germany to ask about the sources that might be available for my 18th century ancestor. The archive is 2.5 hours from where I live, so I didn't want to drive there for nothing. Unfortunately, the archivist informed me that the town hall had been bombed in World War II, destroying all the old records. For … [Read more...]

My Great-Aunt’s Polish Lover

Allied soldier hugged by girls.

Seventy years ago today, on 29 October 1944, the city of Breda in the Netherlands was liberated by the Polish Panzer Division. For the people of Breda, World War II had come to an end. Everybody was celebrating and girls flocked around the tanks to thank the brave men who had freed them from the Nazis. One of them was my great-aunt, Riet … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Landbouwer

Farmer

A landbouwer is a farmer. There are several related terms that you may encounter in the records: Boer (farmer) Boerenknecht (farm hand) Landgebruiker (literally: land user, often a tenant farmer) Landman (farmer) Bouwman (farmer) Akkerbouwer (field farmer) Veehouder (cattle holder) Varkenshouder (pig holder) Graanboer (grain … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Understanding borders

Dinxperlo, street exactly on the border. Credits: Michielverbeek (Wikimedia Commons) under CC-BY-SA license.

If your ancestors lived near a border, try to understand the influence it may have had on their lives. At different times, it may have been very easy or very difficult to cross the border. Your ancestors may have been involved in smuggling or border patrol. They may have been called as witnesses to determine where the border was. These activities … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Waterschap

Water board charter of 1286

The Waterschap is the water board, the government agency responsible for water management. With half our country below sea level, that is a big responsibility. Just last night, the water boards decided to close the storm surge barriers between the North Sea and the rivers to prevent major flooding. Water boards have been around for a very long … [Read more...]

Lecture – From the Achterhoek to America

Fragment of a plat map of Clymer, Chautauqua county, New York in 1880, showing several Achterhoek names

Last week, I gave a lecture about emigration from the Achterhoek to America in the 19th century. I was invited by the historical society of Aalten, Dinxperlo and Wisch, of which I am a member. The interest was overwhelming, they kept having to find more chairs to seat everyone. The Achterhoek is the eastern part of the province of Gelderland. … [Read more...]

Nominated for APG board

Manning the APG booth at Who Do You Think You Are? Live! in Glasgow, August 2014.

I have been nominated for a position on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). What an honor! APG members can cast their votes in the members-only section of the APG website between 15 October and 2 November. The Association of Professional Genealogists is "an international organization dedicated to … [Read more...]