A (Reverse) Witch Trial in Winterswijk

Cemetery with a church in the background

In the late medieval period, many unexplained phenomena were attributed to witchcraft. If a healthy child suddenly became ill or a cow would not give milk, the influence of witches was often suspected. Many people were persecuted and burned at the stake, particularly in the Southern Netherlands (current-day Belgium). By the 1600s, the hunt quieted … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Witches in Flanders

Witch burning

The website Witches in Flanders offers a great deal of information about witch trials in Flanders. It includes lists of witch trials and convicted witches in the 1500s and 1600s. Several people who were accused of witchcraft fled north to the Protestant parts of the Netherlands, where witchcraft was often considered a Catholic superstition. … [Read more...]

Five ways the Eighty Years’ War affected our ancestors

Massacre of Naarden

The Dutch war of Independence, commonly known as the Eighty Years' War or the Revolt, took place from 1568 to 1648. By the mid 1500s, the provinces that would form the Netherlands were part of the Habsburg empire, ruled by king Philip II of Spain. He was a staunch Catholic, while in many places in the Netherlands  the Reformation had taken root. … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Most people did not have crests

Coat of arms of King Willem-Alexander

If you're looking for your family crest, you might be disappointed. Most families did not have family crests. If your ancestors were poor farmers and laborers, like the majority of families, they would not have had a family crest. Read more on how to find out if you have a family crest. … [Read more...]

Dutch Genealogy Webinar – Questions about Dutch Names

Information desk at the Amsterdam Civil Registration

This is my third post answering the questions asked by viewers of my "Researching Your Dutch Ancestors" webinar. In this post, I will answer questions about Dutch names. What are patronymics? Patronymics are names that are derived from the father's name, like Jansen = son of Jan. In some parts of the Netherlands, people did not  have a hereditary … [Read more...]

Quick Tip – The Pull of the Dutch East and West India Companies

View of New Amsterdam

The Dutch East India Company and West India Company attracted workers from all over Europe. Many came from the German states or the Baltic. So if your ancestor was employed by one of these companies and settled in the West Indies, South Africa, New Netherland or the East Indies, it is possible that they were not Dutch at all. … [Read more...]

Column – Everything online?

Computer demonstration, 1966

About twenty years ago, I gave a lecture about internet genealogy. Internet was in its infancy. I could answer the question "Do you think archives will ever put everything online?" with a negative. The hundreds of miles of archives would be too extensive to digitize. I also figured that repositories would be hesitant to give up their monopoly … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Naming Traditions May Vary

Grandfather playing with his grandchild.

Many genealogists know that Dutch children were usually named after their grandparents. But the order in which children were named can vary between regions, religions and also in different periods. In some cases, the maternal grandmother took precedence over the paternal grandmother. Also, parents sometimes only named children after deceased … [Read more...]

Dutch Genealogy Webinar – Questions about Immigrant Ancestors

Departure of an emigrant ship

This is my second post answering the questions asked by viewers of my "Researching Your Dutch Ancestors" webinar. In this post, I will answer questions about finding immigrant ancestors. A good general strategy for finding immigrant ancestors is outlined in my article How to find my immigrant ancestor in the Netherlands? How do you trace your … [Read more...]

Quick tip – The Dutch Language Changed a Lot

young man reading a book

The Dutch language changed a lot these past centuries. It's not just the script - the words themselves changed a lot too. Most Dutch people today struggle to understand a text from the 1600s, even if it's reprinted. This explains why automatic translators like Google Translate or Chrome struggle to understand archaic Dutch. They often don't … [Read more...]