Dutch term – Particulier

Woman leaning on her arm with a vacant look in her eyes

A particulier is a private person, someone not working for the government and not a business. For instance, when you buy something, it is important whether you buy it as a particulier (consumer) or as a business since your warranty may be different. The female form is particuliere. In some records, the term was used to indicate a person who was … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Gezel

Etching of a carpenter at work

A gezel is a journeyman, a craftsman who had already finished basic training but had not passed his master's exam yet and had not been admitted to the guild. The term is also used to indicate someone who worked for a boss rather than having their own shop, so a gezel doesn't mean the person is young. You can find the word gezel used as a suffix … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Doodgraver

Doodgraver

The term doodgraver literally means 'dead digger.' It is the person who digs the graves for the dead. In larger towns, this was a full-time occupation. In small towns, the church sometimes hired poor people to dig the graves, making them work for their allowance. A grave digger was not only supposed to dig the graves but also to collect any … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Wasvrouw

Laundress, by Gesina ter Borch, about 1652.

A wasvrouw was a laundress. It was an occupation for poor women, who were usually single or widowed. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Voogd

Girls sitting around a table doing needlework

A voogd is a guardian. Before 1811, guardians were usually appointed by the Weeskamer (orphan chamber). After 1811, they were appointed by the court. You can find guardianship appointments in the court records. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Advocaat

Advocaat (lawyer)

An advocaat is a lawyer. I am often surprised at the number of court cases my ancestors were involved in. Even some of my serf ancestors hired lawyers to defend their rights to cutting trees or taking over the farm against the landlord. Most lawyers would have had a university education. Since 1575, Leiden had a university where people could get a … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Schoolmeester

Etching of a school teacher

A schoolmeester is a school teacher. Most school teachers taught in small village schools, consisting of one room, where they were expected to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to their pupils. Reading was considered more important than writing, as they could then read the bible. Most children would only go to school for about six years. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – slager

butcher cleaving the meat

A slager is a butcher. An old term for slager is 'vleeshouwer' or 'vleeschhouwer' (literally: meat cleaver). Poor people did not often eat meat. One of the recurring themes in letters written by emigrants to the United States is their surprise that everyone is able to afford eating meat. These 'spekbrieven' [bacon letters] are one of the reasons … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Vroedvrouw

Newborn baby presented to the father

A vroedvrouw was a midwife. There were also vroedmeesters, doctors specialized in helping women deliver children. The midwife was responsible for more than just seeing the mother and the child safely through the birth. In the case of an unwed mother, she was also urged to press the mother into revealing the name of the father of her child. It … [Read more...]

Dutch term: Molenaar

Dutch etching of a miller

A molenaar was a miller. There were different types of mills. Besides the classic Dutch wind-powered mill, there were also horse-drawn mills and water mills. Mills could be used for different purposes, the most common being grind grain or to drain water from low-lying fields. People could not just build a mill, that right was reserved for the … [Read more...]