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...]

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...]