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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

Quick tip – No Cousin is Too Distant to Have the Information You Need

When corresponding with cousins about genealogy, we tend to stick to the close ones: first or second cousins, maybe a third cousin, with the occasional once or twice removed. I recently solved a puzzle using a letter shared to me by a fifth cousin twice removed. I was trying to resolve a conflict in death dates. Her grave said a woman died on … [Read more...]

Quick tip – That Frisian female might be male!

If you do research in Friesland, you will notice that the names there are quite different from the rest of the Netherlands. Friesland has its own language, Frisian (Fries) which comes with its own unique set of names. Some Frisian male names look like female names to those of us who are not from Friesland. Some of these names are used as female … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Occupations ran in the family

Occupations often ran in the family. The eldest son usually inherited the father's business, and would step in his father's footsteps. Guilds often had friendly terms for children of members, with reduced fees for apprenticeships and membership. Even younger sons who could not take over their father's business often found similar work. The son of a … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Check the records of neighboring towns

When you're looking for records about your ancestors, don't just limit yourself to the town where he or she lived but also check out the records of the neighboring towns. One of my most amazing finds was a map I found in a German archive, created about a boundary dispute. It showed how my ancestor Tonnis Willinck being shot and killed, around … [Read more...]

Quick tip – New Years’ traditions

Different areas in the Netherlands have different New Years' traditions. Making a lot of noise is pretty universal. I recall my grandfather showing me his too-short finger on New Year's Eve to warn me about the danger of fireworks. It had cost him the tip of his finger so he only had half a nail. Another one of my ancestors was fined for … [Read more...]