Ask Yvette – Where is “Friesland” anyway?

Holly (De Fries) Flaherty wanted to know more about Friesland. Her paternal grandfather was from Friesland and spoke Dutch, but her maternal grandfather was from Friesland and spoke German. She heard that there were two provinces called Friesland – one German and one Dutch. She wanted to know if they were connected, historically, and whether Denmark was once considered Friesland.

three women in costume

Frisian costumes, early 1600s. Credits: Pieter Feddes van Harlingen, Rijksmuseum (Public Domain)

To answer this question we have to go back. WAY back. 

Map of Frisia

Frisia in 716. Credits: Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA)

Once upon a time, in the first centuries BC and AD, the Frisians lived along the North Sea coast. They covered an area from the modern province of Zeeland in the Netherlands all the way to the Elbe river in northern Germany, or perhaps as far as Denmark. 

Over time, the region was divided and got different rulers. One part in the Netherlands became the province of Friesland. One part in Germany became Ost-Friesland [East Frisia]. The northern part of the province of Noord-Holland is still known as West-Friesland [West Frisia]. 

In the Netherlands, the Frisian language is mainly spoken in Friesland. In Ost-Friesland, most people speak a Low Saxon dialect. People from the different modern areas known as East, West, and [plain] Friesland cannot understand each other’s language. Emigrants from any of these regions may identify as Frisian though, which can confuse their descendants. 


  • “Frisia,”, Wikipedia ( : revision 14:46, 16 November 2016‎)
About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Jenny Popma Fryer says

    I really look forward to your weekly post maybe one day I can look for my ancestors but at the moment I am not in a position to do so.Please keep writing the Friesland peace was very interesting as my father I think came from there I am not sure. It could be another part of north holland.
    Please keep writing
    Kind regards
    Jenny Fryer.

    PS the costumes were amazing.

  2. Kelly Dinsmore says

    Did many Frisians emigrate to Curacao. I have an ancestor moving from Curacao to New Amsterdam around 1620. Originally from Friesland.

  3. Hi,
    My ancestors are apparently from Friesland. My parents spoke a Low German that I still understand and speak a little since it was the first language. My own parents were Mennonites whose own parents moved to Canada from Friesland in the late 1800’s. The ancestors landed in New York, traveled up the Red River to Winnipeg where a lot of my relatives still live. My family lived in a little village in Manitoba called Barkfield and all of my many relatives made up that little Canadian farming village. I look forward to learning more about Friesland and exactly where and how my ancestors lived.

    • Zuidema, waltraud says

      My Husband comes from Sneek in Friesland. As I research the Mennonites it tells me that Sneek hat or has a large Mennonite population.They all speak the low German.The old Friesens language. As I visited Sneek the street signs were in Frisian and Dutch. What a surprise.

Leave comment