Drenthe is a province in the north of the Netherlands. It borders on the province of Groningen in the North, Germany in the east, Overijssel in the south and Friesland in the west.
The capital city of Drenthe is Assen. Other large towns are:
Drenthe has always been one of the least populated parts of the Netherlands. The reason for this is the natural circumstances. Especially in earlier years, Drenthe was covered by swamps, bogs and heath fields.
In the nineteenth century, the Dutch government decided to use Drenthe as a place to put ‘unwanted elements’ of society. Beggars and vagabonds, but also orphans that could not be placed, were transported to Drenthe to live in colonies. They were to till the land. This way, people all over the Netherlands ended up in Drenthe.
Genealogy in Drenthe
For the nineteenth century, almost all of the primary sources can be found online through WieWasWie. Most of the records are kept by the Drents Archief. They also have their own provincial version of Genlias: Drenlias. Select ‘Zoeken’ to search.
Before 1811, and for some time after 1811 as well, most people in Drenthe used patronymics instead of last names. This can make it harder to trace your ancestors.
Although Drenthe was the least populated province, it ranked forth when comparing number of emigrants. In the nineteenth century, many people in Drenthe worked in the agricultural sector which means this province was struck particularly hard when the crops failed. Also, many people in Drenthe joined the Secession and were among the first to emigrate.
The Drents Archief has published lists of emigrants in an emigrant section of Drenlias. Select ‘English’ in the top right corner for the English version.
Most Drenthe emigrants settled in Holland and Grand Rapids in Michigan, and Orange City and Pella in Iowa.
There are several online resources for images about Drenthe:
- Drenthe photo archive. This site is in Dutch only. Select ‘Zoeken’ (search) and then ‘Zoekscherm’ (search form). Fill in the name of the town or person you’re looking for in the field ‘willekeurige woorden’ (free text) and click ‘Zoeken’ (search).
- Drenthe provincial atlas 1865-1870. This atlas contains both a map of the entire province and maps of all the municipalities.