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...]

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...]

Quick tip – Population registers are like movies

Population register of Carolus Demessemaecker

Population registers can be difficult to understand, because one page can have information about people at different times.  This can be especially confusing for people who are used to dealing with census records. Here's an analogy that might help you: Census records are like snapshots, population registers are like movies. Population … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Check your photos. Again.

Marriage of Henk Hoitink and Mien Woordes, 1942

Last week, I wrote a post about What spouses promised each other, in which I used a photograph of my grandparents' wedding. When browsing my Facebook feed, the story came up and I looked at the photo just like I would at any other photo. And there he was. My great-great-grandfather. Next to my grandfather sits his mother. Then, an empty … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Not many Dutch DNA cousins

DNA spiral

When you take a DNA-test for genealogical purposes, don't be surprised if you don't find many Dutch matches. Because DNA testing isn't very popular in the Netherlands, there will be few Dutch people in the databases. So not finding many Dutch matches doesn't mean that your paper trail that shows a Dutch ancestor is wrong. Why DNA testing isn't … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Your ancestors may have gotten older than you think

Hendrik Hoitink and Johanna Piek

Many people think that people died a lot younger in earlier centuries. While poor healthcare, contagious diseases, risks of childbirth and dangers at sea certainly took many of our ancestors before their time, several of them lived to be quite old. The main reason that the average lifespan was shorter than today is because of infant mortality. … [Read more...]

Quick tip: Reading Dutch handwriting (video)

Teacher in front of a classroom

Familysearch has three free videos that teach you the basics about reading Dutch handwriting: Reading Dutch Handwritten Records Lesson 1: The Dutch Alphabet Reading Dutch Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Dutch Words and Dates Reading Dutch Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Dutch Records … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Visit the virtual Jewish monument

Auschwitz main gate with the text 'Arbeit macht frei'

Today we commemorate that Camp Auschwitz was liberated 70 years ago. I visited the camp with my class in high school and it made a lasting impression on me. We saw rooms packed with children's shoes, toothbrushes, toys, and then read that it was just 1% of the total number that had been collected. Each one representing a tragic story. The … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Most people did not own real estate

Meerdink farm

Historically, most people in the Netherlands did not own real estate. Most farmers were tenant farmers, often living on the same farm for generations. Others were seasonal laborers who moved from farm to farm every year. It is rare to find tenancy contracts or rental agreements as these things were usually arranged between the owner and the tenant … [Read more...]

Quick tip – research the collateral lines

Group of cousins, all grandchildren of Cornelis Trouw and Maria Gommeren

Most people are more interested in ancestors than their siblings, but records of the siblings can contain vital clues. For example, death duties files (memories van successie) of siblings who died without children can show that nieces and nephews or more distant relatives inherited. The death duties files can reveal complex family relationships, … [Read more...]