Ask Yvette – How to Record Transgender People?

In the Netherlands, it’s legal for transgender persons change their gender and names on their birth records and in the population registration. You need to be at least sixteen years old and need a declaration by a gender specialist before you can go to the municipality to have your information changed, so it’s not an easy process. In recent years, the requirement to have gender confirmation surgery was dropped, so transgender people can now have their gender changed without undergoing forced sterilization or surgery.

Several people have asked me how they should handle these changes in their genealogical software.

There are two interests at play here:

  • The transgender person deserves to be referred to by their own name and gender, the way they are legally registered. Referring to a transgender person by their name or gender assigned at birth is disrespectful. They may refer to their name assigned at birth as their “dead name,” to give you some idea about how they may feel.
  • The genealogist needs to know the names and genders a person was recorded with in their life to be able to find relevant records. Knowing a transition took place resolves conflicts between different records that use different names. Knowing the gender assigned at birth is also necessary to determine biological relationships, such as in the case of children born to transgender parents.  Knowing a person likely has a Y-chromosome and one X-chromosome or likely had two X-chromosomes can be helpful to sort out DNA matches.

So how do we record the changed information in a way that respects our transgender relatives, but still allows us to do our research? My recommendation that respects both these interests is this:

  • Use the (current) gender and name of the transgender person as the default.
  • Add the gender and name assigned at birth as alternative facts. Mark these private.
  • Make a private note about the transition, for example as a custom fact. Mark this private as well.

Information about living people should be privatized when published online anyway, but marking the facts related to the transition as private adds an extra layer of protection. When creating charts or reports, for example, most genealogy programs allow you to choose not to print private facts even when sharing with family.

By recording the gender and name assigned at birth as private facts, the information is available to the researcher, but not to other people with whom the information is shared. It respects the wishes of the transgender relative.

pink and blue baby shoes

Credits: Congerdesign, via Pixabay (free for commercial use)

Update: why I don’t ask the relative

This post has been shared a lot on social media, which I appreciate. One piece of advice I often see there is to ask the relative. Personally, I don’t ask, since I think that is unnecessary and potentially insulting. They told me their name. They told me their gender. Why would I then ask how they want to be recorded? Asking would just make me look like I don’t take them at their word, or that I’m asking for an exception.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Michael Duffy says

    Hello Yvette. Thank you for producing such a helpful and interesting newsletter. I look forward to reading each and every edition, and thanks to you I have learned a great deal about Dutch genealogy issues!

    I have a question about the term “next of kin” and who would have been described as that in New Amsterdam in the 1660s.

    On my wife’s side of the family, the 1668 minutes of the orphanmaster’s court referred to “the petition of Dirck Jans, Jan Adams and Cornelis Mattysen, next of kin of the dec’d Hage Bruynsen.” Dirck Jans was a blood relative – he was the maternal uncle of the orphan child. The other two next of kin were not blood relatives. As far as I know, they were married to women who were likely sisters of the orphan child’s stepmother (i.e. the child was the son of the next of kin Dirck Jans’s sister and Hage Bruynsen; after the death of his first wife, Hage went on to marry and was survived by the woman who was related by marriage to the other two next of kin).

    In the 1660s, would non-blood relatives have qualified as next of kin? Would husbands of women who had no blood relationship to an orphan child have qualified as next of kin? Would it have been enough for them to be married to a woman who the widowed step mother of an orphan child? Or must the two other next of kin have had a more direct relationship to the orphan child? Having the answers to these questions may help confirm the sibling or other possible relationship between the stepmother and the wives of the two other next of kin. Thank you for whatever insight you may be provide on this.

  2. Jessica Wilson says

    Thank you so much. Very thoughtful but more importantly respectful. I appreciate the mechanics of adding the trans relative to my tree. Thank you.

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