The end of the year is fast approaching. And what a year it has been!
One of my first highlights of the year was attending Who Do You Think You Are Live in London in February. I was able to stay with an American friend/cousin who was living in the UK at the time. I had not seen her in person since 1997 and was so happy to see her again and finally get to meet her two children. Attending Who Do You Think You Are also gave me the opportunity to meet some great genealogists from around the world. I just booked my flight to go there again next year, so I hope to see some of you there!
February was also when I went ‘on the clock’ to become a Certified Genealogist. I submitted my initial application and now have a year to finish a portfolio demonstrating my skills at doing genealogy. The Board for Certification of Genealogists is an international organization that certifies genealogists that meet their high standards. Most Board-Certified Genealogists come from North America, where the certification is well-known and recognized as a hallmark for quality. There are only three Board-Certified Genealogists in Europe, none in the Netherlands. I hope to become the first!
My genealogy business also expanded. I welcomed new clients from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States and continued projects for several existing clients. Some of the highlights:
- Uniting a woman in her 80s with her half-brother who did not even know she existed but was really happy to learn about her.
- Having tea in a Winterswijk farm with a client whose ancestors left that farm in 1700s. The farm name ‘stuck’ so the client’s last name was the same name as the farm. I traced his male line back to the farm and then was his tour guide to show him all the places where his ancestors lived and worshiped.
- Coaching several Dutch genealogists to overcome their brick walls.
- Confirming the identity of the biological father of an adoptee, who only knew a garbled version of his name and the name of the ship he worked on.
- Finding out that one client’s ancestors owned no less than 20 houses, and then locating each of those houses. Some of these houses still exist, and the client will come to the Netherlands next year so I can show her where they were.
- Finding the marriage record in the (old) Netherlands of a New Netherland ancestor of one of my clients, confirming his identity and opening up a range of research possibilities on this side of the ocean which we will pursue next year.
- Doing research on the Zeeland ancestors of a client, who then went on to write a series of blog posts about my findings.
Besides running my genealogy business, I also work part-time at the National Archives in The Hague, where I am a project manager in the IT department. This year, my largest project was to arrange for all the hard- and software needed for our new reading room and exhibition space. This ranged from creating custom multimedia exhibits for the opening exhibition ‘Memory Palace’ and providing wifi access to creating software for the reading rooms so users could see that the records they had ordered were ready to be picked up. There were a lot of people involved in this project, from several different departments within the National Archives and several different suppliers. We all worked very hard to make it a success, and were happy with the results, that were ready in time for the grand opening. The new reading rooms were opened by King Willem-Alexander in October, and I had the honor of being introduced to him.
This year also marked the 20th anniversary of my website. I started it in 1993, when I studied Computer Science at the University of Twente. In the middle of this year, I created a new version of this website and set up a new publishing schedule with two short and one longer article per week. I also started the newsletter, for which I’ve received some very nice feedback. The most viewed posts of this year were:
- History of the Phoenix disaster
- Population Registers
- Top 10 most common Dutch surnames
- English versions of Dutch last names
- Using birth records (geboorteaktes) to find your Dutch ancestors (also the article that received the most comments)
- Prefixes in surnames
- English versions of Dutch first names
- Civil Registration
- Types of archives
It is interesting to see that almost all of these articles are over five years old. The only article that I wrote this year is the “Top 10 most common Dutch surnames.” One of my own favorite features of the new version is that visitors can now comment on articles. It has been very inspiring to read what visitors think about these topics and try to help them with their questions.
So what were your highlights in 2013? What amazing discoveries did you make?