About this website

Creating a website like this is a fun activity. There are so many options, so many choices. What do visitors want? What do I want? In this blog I will describe some of the things I encounter in developing and maintaining this website.

Why are the Dutch so tall?

When I visited Salt Lake City earlier this year, I was once again reminded that the Dutch are the tallest people on earth. At 1.75m (5'9"), I'm a bit above average height for a woman in the Netherlands, but in the US I was taller than most men and women. Here in the Netherlands, almost all of my male friends and some of my female friends are over … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Use bond letters to find out where your ancestor came from

If you can't find a Dutch ancestor from the 1700s, it could be that they originally came from elsewhere. At that time, you had to provide a bond letter (borgbrief or akte van indemniteit) from your previous place of residence before you could settle elsewhere. This letter assured the new town that you would not be a burden to them, because the old … [Read more...]

Open data case study: Changing names in Winterswijk

The Gelders Archief just published many of their genealogical indexes as open data. This allows everyone to download the indexes and re-use them. Being a bit of a geek, I could not resist downloading some of the sets for Winterswijk to see what I could do with them. Winterswijk is the town where my father was born, and most of his ancestors to0, … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Don’t search too broadly too soon

If you are stuck, it is tempting to start searching broadly. You might use Google or a national database like WieWasWie to see where your ancestors' name pops up. However, this strategy often does not give you the result you're hoping for. You may find dozens of namesakes all over the country, without any way to tell if any of them is your … [Read more...]

Why You Are not Finding Anything in WieWasWie

If you are using WieWasWie to search for records about your ancestors, you may have trouble finding them. Here are three of the most common reasons why you have no results when you search in WieWasWie. You fill in too much information WieWasWie only finds records that exactly match everything you search for. Since the introduction of the paid … [Read more...]

Quick tip – The Netherlands: Beyond Amsterdam

If you want to learn about the history of the Netherlands and our fight against the sea, watch this 25-minute YouTube Video by Rick Steve. The Netherlands: Beyond Amsterdam (YouTube) … [Read more...]

How Civil Registration Records were Created

If you are researching nineteenth and twentieth century Dutch ancestors, the civil registration records of births, marriages and deaths are among the first sources you should consult. Understanding how these records were created will help you assess their reliability. Birth records When the civil registration was introduced nation-wide in … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Was that last name a patronymic?

If the last name of your ancestor ends in -s, -se, -sen, or -en, it could originally have been a patronymic; a name derived from the name of the father. Common examples are Jansen [son of Jan], Pieters [son of Pieter] or Cornelissen [son of Cornelis]. Other names are more difficult to recognize as a patronymic, such as "Flooren" [son of Floris], … [Read more...]

Visiting the Family History Library in Salt Lake City

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City while I was there for an institute and board meeting. What a special place. I can't believe how many people I met, all so generous and wonderful. I had never met any of them in person before but I had known many of them online for several years (or several … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Do the names of the children match?

In the Netherlands, children were often named after family members. When you have a theory about who the parents were, make sure to check for repetition of names. If the names of the children of your brick wall ancestor do not appear in the family you think he belongs to, you may have the wrong family. Read more about naming traditions. … [Read more...]