Friesland is one of the northern provinces in the Netherlands. It borders on the province of Groningen in the east, Drenthe and Overijssel in the South, the IJsselmeer in the west and the North Sea in the north.
The capital city of Friesland is Leeuwarden. The largest towns are:
Friesland is the only province in the Netherlands with an official language: Frisian. Although many people in Friesland also speak Dutch, many prefer to speak Frisian. The official documents in Friesland are drawn up in both Dutch and Frisian, but in the 19th century most were in Dutch.
Genealogy in Friesland
Before 1811, hardly anyone in Friesland had a last name. People called themselves after their father, which was called a patronymic. For example: If a man was called Rindert and his father was called Oebele, Rindert would call himself ‘Rindert Oebeles’. In Friesland, this tradition continued long after the civil registration was introduced in 1811 which forced everyone to take an official last name. Some people in Friesland today still give their child a middle name which is the same as their father’s name.
Good starting points for online research in Friesland:
- AlleFriezen has an index of all public civil registration records (births, marriages and deaths) and has scans for most of them.
- Tresoar is the Frisian provincial archive and has many online databases, including the civil registration and the records of nametaking in 1811 (with scans).
Especially in the period between 1880 and 1920, many people left Friesland to find a new home in the United States. Many of them settled in Michigan, although quite a few ended up in other states such as New York or Wisconsin.
There are several online sources for images of Friesland:
- Friesland image database. Use ‘vrije tekst’ (free text) to type the name of the town or family you’re looking for and then select ‘Zoeken’ (search). This database includes many photographs and postcards.
- Friesland atlas of about 1865-1870. This atlas includes both a map of the entire province and detailed maps of all the municipalities.