Many Dutch family names have prefixes like 'de' or 'van'. They have a special role in the Dutch family name which you have to be aware of when researching names with prefixes.
Prefixes and their meanings
The most common prefixes are:
- de - the
- van - from
- van de, van der, van den - from the
- te, ter, ten - on
Examples of such Dutch surnames: De Vries (the Frisian, person from Friesland), De Bakker (the baker), Van Raalte (from Raalte, a town in Overijssel), van den Heuvel (from the hill), te Kolste (on Kolste, a name of a farm).
Using prefixes in practice
In Dutch family names, family names are sorted without their prefixes, so 'Van Raalte' would be alphabetized as 'R'. If both the name 'Raalte' and 'Van Raalte' occur in the same index, 'Raalte' comes first, followed by 'Van Raalte', in indices most often written as 'Raalte, van'.
Many people use online sources for their genealogy that require you to fill in a family name. Most Dutch search forms that ask for a family name, require the name without the prefix. If you're looking for the Van Raalte family, only fill in 'Raalte' as family name. Sometimes a search form provides a separate textbox for the prefix. The Dutch word for prefix is 'Tussenvoegsel' or 'Voorvoegsel'.