Quick tip – Occupations ran in the family

Occupations often ran in the family. The eldest son usually inherited the father's business, and would step in his father's footsteps. Guilds often had friendly terms for children of members, with reduced fees for apprenticeships and membership. Even younger sons who could not take over their father's business often found similar work. The son of a … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Dienstbode

A dienstbode was a domestic servant. Many dienstbodes lived with the families where they served. Because dienstbodes moved a lot, many municipalities started keeping seperate "dienstbodenregisters" [registers of domestic servants] as part of the population registration to keep track of who lived where. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Particulier

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

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

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

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

Dutch term – Voogd

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

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

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

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...]