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...]

Dutch term – Geslacht

Old farm with a driveway

The word geslacht has two meanings: Gender/sex. "Man" or "mannelijk" is male "Vrouw" or "vrouwelijk" is female "Beide" is both "Onbekend" is unknown. Family/house ("Het geslacht Hoitink" = the house of Hoitink). This meaning of geslacht is slightly archaic, a more contemporary way to say this would be "De familie Hoitink" [the … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Naastingsrecht

Town crier

Naastingsrecht was the right to have the first option of buying a property. Whenever a property was sold, a person who had naastingsrecht could match the purchase price and buy the property for himself, cancelling the original sale. Different parts of the Netherlands had different variations of this right. In most regions, next of kin had … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Weesmeester

Jacob Gerritsz van der Mij, orphan master in Leiden. Image credits: Geheugen van Nederland

A weesmeester was a government official charged with overseeing the administration of the estates of orphans. They were usually appointed by the city government. Weesmeesters worked for the Weeskamer. Read the article about Weeskamers for more information. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – slager

butcher cleaving the meat

A slager is a butcher. An old term for slager is 'vleeshouwer' or 'vleeschhouwer' (literally: meat cleaver). Poor people did not often eat meat. One of the recurring themes in letters written by emigrants to the United States is their surprise that everyone is able to afford eating meat. These 'spekbrieven' [bacon letters] are one of the reasons … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Poorter

Row of books with names of poorters

A poorter was a burgher or freeman of a chartered town. Being a poorter conveyed several privileges: Guild membership was often limited to poorters Poorters often were exempt from paying tolls Being a poorter was a requirement for many public offices People could become poorters by being born to a poorter, by marrying a poorter's … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Echtscheiding

The neglected wife encourages her husband to sort himself out

Echtscheiding (or scheiding) is the Dutch name for divorce. Up until the last part of the 20th century, divorce was pretty rare in the Netherlands. There are several ways to find out if a couple got divorced. The most common one is to look in the margins of the marriage record, where the divorce will be noted. The divorce will also be recorded … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Koopman

Etching of a merchant

A koopman was a merchant, with the plural being kooplieden. Kooplieden could trade in all sorts of goods, ranging from spices from the Far East, timber from the Baltic or fur from the Americas. Others traded in domestic products like grain, cloth or glassware. One of the nice things about having a koopman in your tree is that they left much … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Familieberichten

Marriage announcement of H.J. Kastein and E.J.E. de Monye

Familieberichten are family announcements, ads people placed in the newspaper to inform the readers of births, marriages or death. They are often less informative than obituaries but can help to provide background information and serve as illustrations. Read more about family announcements. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Overspel

woman and man sitting secretively in an inn

Overspel is the Dutch word for adultery. Depending on the period, adultery was not only a private matter, but could be criminally prosecuted. The church council also wanted to find out so that both parties could be censored. One of my own female ancestors was fined for insulting another woman, saying "You are keeping company with my man" and … [Read more...]