“The past is a foreign country, they did things differently there.”1 One of the fundamental differences is the way that people were named. In many parts of the Netherlands, people did not have a hereditary surname until 1811. But even after 1811, names could get changed, for instance if someone emigrated or if the clerk made an error.
The next time you’re stuck, ask yourself: what other name could this ancestor have used?
- Leslie Poles Hartley, The Go-Between (1953), opening sentence.