Civil registration

For the nineteenth and twentieth century, the civil registration is the primary genealogical resource. All the births, marriages and deaths (BMD) were recorded. Usually, only using the civil registration you can compile a ‘backbone’ of a pedigree that goes back to the late 1700′s.


The civil registration was introduced in the Netherlands during the French occupation. In 1794, the French emperor Napoleon invaded the Netherlands from the south.

As early as 1795, the civil registration was introduced in some southern parts of the Netherlands such as Limburg and Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. The rest of the Netherlands followed in 1811. Early records are maintained in French.

The primary reason for the civil registration was to know which boys to draft for the military conscription. The major events in a person’s life (birth, marriage and death) were registered. The civil registration records can be found at both the provincial archives and the local archives.

Before the civil registration could start, everyone had to have a fixed family name. Most people in the Netherlands already had a surname but in some regions people still called themselves after their father (patronymics) or farm (farm names). See the Geography section for more information about surnames in each of the provinces.

When the civil registration was introduced, “Registers van naamsaanneming” (registers of taking a name) were kept to record what name everyone took. Some municipalities only registered names of people that didn’t previously have a surname, like Jews. Other municipalities registered the name of every inhabitant, including people who had used a surname for generations.

From then on, the births, marriages and deaths of all Dutch citizens were recorded in the civil registration. The church records, which had effectively served as a population registration up until that point, were taken to the state archives. That way, they were available as evidence of births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burrials.

10 year indices

Starting in 1813, indices were created to disclose the information in the civil registration. Each index covers a period of 10 years. Hence the name, “tienjarentafel” or 10 year index.

For small towns, these indices are often only alphebetized by the first letter of the last name. Within that letter, the documents are arranged chronologically.

The index lists the people by name. For marriage certificates, be sure to check the bride’s name as well as the groom’s if you cannot find what you are looking for. A reading error is easy to make. When you find the name, it will either list the date of the record, or the year and the record number.

For birth and death records, the birth or death has to be recorded within 5 working days. This means the record date can be up to 7 days later than the actual date of birth or death. Never use the date from the index (which is the record date) but always check the original document to find out the correct date.

Dutch Genealogy source score

5 Stars Amount of information about births, marriages, deaths
4 Stars Amount of background information about your ancestors
4 Stars Online availability of scans
4 Stars Online availability of indexes or transcriptions
2 Stars Easy to understand if you don’t know Dutch

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 25 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Tara Walsh says:


    I need to get a death certificate from Holland, but I cant seem to be able to order it from the UK.

    Can you help?

  2. rebecca carter says:

    Good Morning,
    Ive been had some success tracing my dutch roots until now – I cannot find any records of my Great Grandfathers siblings or their spouses and am now at a loss as to where to search?
    My grandmother – his daughter is only able to supply me with limited information due ti failing memory.
    Its also very difficult from the UK.
    Is there something more i could be doing? or somewhere else i could be searching?

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