If the last name of your ancestor ends in -s, -se, -sen, or -en, it could originally have been a patronymic; a name derived from the name of the father. Common examples are Jansen [son of Jan], Pieters [son of Pieter] or Cornelissen [son of Cornelis]. Other names are more difficult to recognize as a patronymic, such as “Flooren” [son of Floris], “Dielen” [son of Egidius], or Celen [son of Marcel].
Patronymics were common in most parts of the Netherlands. In the northern provinces, most people used patronymics exclusively before 1811. In the western and southern provinces, people often used patronymics in combination with a last name. From 1811 onwards, the civil registration required hereditary last names.
If you encounter an ancestor with a name that looks like a patronymic, two things could be going on:
- It could be a true patronymic. In that case, the patronymic will reflect the first name of the father.
- The patronymic could have evolved into a hereditary last name. That could have happened at any point before 1811.
Finding the first person who used a patronymic is always exciting, since it will tell you how the family got its name.
My mother’s maiden name is Marijnissen, meaning “son of Marinus.” Her ancestor Marinus Peters was baptized in Chaam, Brabant in 1649. His son Joannes called himself Marijnissen, and so did his children and further descendants in the male line. My own son is named Marijn, after my mother’s last name and indirectly after that Marinus Peters who was born in 1649.