Drenthe traditional dressDrenthe 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:

  • Emmen
  • Hoogeveen
  • Meppel

Work colonies

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 genealogical website: Alle Drenten.

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.

Most Drenthe emigrants settled in Holland and Grand Rapids in Michigan, and Orange City and Pella in Iowa.

Online images

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.


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. Flo Beijer says

    My husband’s family comes from Meppel. I would love to buy him some books with information about the town. Could you recommend any books? We plan to visit and I’d love to surprise him with the books for Christmas. 🙂
    Thank you,
    Flo Beijer

    • Hi Flo,

      Meppel is a small town so there aren’t many books written about it. Waanders press has a nice series called the … book that has lots of great photos and other images that I can recommend. They are pocket-sized booklets but very nicely done: full color and a hardback. I see they have a Drenthe boek. The book itself costs € 14.95 but international shipping is € 23.90 so the total would be € 38.85 (depending on where you live).

  2. My dad’s family comes from Drenthe (the towns of Deiver and Dwingeloo). My dad’s grandpa, with all his siblings and their widowed father, emigrated in the late 1800s and, after a brief stay in Iowa, came to Lynden, Washington (USA), where many of us still live. My dad’s grandpa is in the county records buying a farm here in 1903.

  3. Maryke Ladeur Dick says

    My mother was from Drenthe and her maiden surname was drente

    • How appropriate!

      • Samuel Drenth says

        I live in Northern Michigan. My last name is Drenth and I have a huge family. Everyone around here knows at least one Drenth and I am constantly asked, “Oh! are you related to so and so?”
        My Grandfather came from the Netherlands (do not know where from) and my grandmother came from the Netherlands (also do not know exactly where) when they were toddlers. They met and married in Michigan. Her maiden name was Plookstra (sp?) my grandfather is Drenth, obviously.
        Does Drenth come from the province of Drenthe? Do you think it might just be a name they took to Americanize when the immigrated?
        Just curious. Thanks!

        • “Drenth” is a common name in the northern Netherlands. It probably means “someone from Drenthe.” It does not mean that your immigrant ancestor came from Drenthe, their ancestors could have been calling themselves “Drenth” for many generations prior to emigrating.

  4. Ed Van Alstine says

    Apparently my ancestors came from Meppel, Drenthe in the Netherlands. Earliest ancestor is Martin Janse Van Alstyne (or Van Alstine), birth Abt. 1591. The son of Martin which I am descended from was Janse Martense Van Alstyne. Birth Abt. 1623 of Meppel. Death 1698 in Kinderhook, Columbia, New York. Janse’s wife was Dirckje Harmense Boartgens, Abt. 1625. Through genealogies I am able to trace my ancestory back to Martin Janse Van Alstyne, birth Abt. 1591.

    Question: Is there some way I locate relatives in the Netherlands?.

    • Dear Ed,
      Locating living relatives is difficult in the Netherlands for several reasons. You could spend a lot of time tracing descendants of your immigrant ancestor’s parents, only to find that you will get stuck in the 1900s because privacy laws prevent access to information about living people. Your best chance is looking through published family trees of Dutch genealogists, in the hopes of finding someone who has your ancestor in their tree, and contacting them. The biggest source of online trees in the Netherlands is http://www.genealogieonline.nl.

  5. Maddie Drenthe says

    My last name is Drenthe! I however have met no one other than my dad and aunt (now married so she doesn’t carry the last name). I’ve always wanted to meet another Drenthe or a name close. From Illinois (ISA)!!!

  6. Paul Janssen says

    My last name is Janssen. I have quite a bit of family history on my father’s side, where his Grandfather left from the Island of Juist in Ostfriesland Germany. My Grandfather and Grandmother spoke some German. We have always been told they were of German decent. As I do more research I see Janssen as being Dutch. Certainly the Nerherlands and northern Germany are neighbors, so easy to see some connections happening there. I’d like to do my family research. Would you suggest looking more at Drenthe?

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