Dutch term – Brief


A brief is a letter. Brieven are a great source of information. Personal letters written by emigrants to their family back home can give you a great idea of what their pioneering life was like. I've also found valuable information in official correspondence, for example in the correspondence of the municipality where my ancestor lived. In … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Dodenherdenking

Dam palace filled with people commemorating the dead

Dodenherdenking means commemoration of the dead. On May 4th, we commemorate all the war victims since the outbreak of World War II. The next day, on May 5th, we celebrate our liberty. The dates are chosen because 5 May 1945 was the day of the German capitulation, which ended World War II in the Netherlands. On Dodenherdenking, the whole country … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Kerk


A kerk is a church. Before 1811, the records that the churches kept of baptisms, marriages and burials are the main sources for vital events. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Oorkonde

Charter with seals hanging from the bottom, some missing

An oorkonde is a charter; a record with seals hanging from the bottom. In the Middle Ages, most transactions went unrecorded, but the ones that were, were recorded in charters. Oorkondes are usually written on vellum or parchment, made from animal skin. With the invention of paper made from rags, charters went out of style although they … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Archiefvormer

women working with card catalogs

An Archiefvormer is the creator of an archive. Examples of archiefvormers are municipalities, churches, societies, foundations and private persons. Thinking about which archiefvormers your ancestor may have been in contact with is a great way to discover unknown records. Read the article Find your ancestors by understanding how records are … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Pasen

group of children pulling a cart loaded with wood

Pasen is the Dutch term for Easter. In the Netherlands, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are official holidays and most people have the day off. Most of the Easter traditions that are celebrated in the Netherlands are pretty universal, like painting and hiding eggs. In the eastern part of the country there is a more unusual tradition: Easter … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Achterneef

Kwartierstaat of Jan van de Poll, 1749

An achterneef (literally: behind cousin) is a male relative. The term covers the English terms great-nephew, first cousin once removed and second cousin. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Begraven


Begraven means to bury. People were usually buried two to five days after they died, sooner if there was an epidemic. Burials were recorded in the Begraafboek (burial book). … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Advocaat

Advocaat (lawyer)

An advocaat is a lawyer. I am often surprised at the number of court cases my ancestors were involved in. Even some of my serf ancestors hired lawyers to defend their rights to cutting trees or taking over the farm against the landlord. Most lawyers would have had a university education. Since 1575, Leiden had a university where people could get a … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Schoolmeester

Etching of a school teacher

A schoolmeester is a school teacher. Most school teachers taught in small village schools, consisting of one room, where they were expected to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to their pupils. Reading was considered more important than writing, as they could then read the bible. Most children would only go to school for about six years. … [Read more...]