Quick tip – Beware of same-named towns

If you are researching immigrants, beware that immigrants often named towns after their place of origin, so there might be two or more places by that name, perhaps thousands of kilometers apart.

When a New Netherland records says “Haerlem,” did they mean Harlem in current-day New York or Haarlem in the Netherlands? If your Michigan ancestor was born in Holland, was he born in Holland, Michigan or somewhere in the Netherlands?

Studying the surrounding records can help, for example if you see that everybody who is from the Netherlands has a country or province included in their record.

Even in the Netherlands, there are several same-named towns. Examples:

  • Hengelo: a town in Overijssel and Gelderland
  • Geesteren: a town in Overijssel and Gelderland
  • Alphen: a town in Zuid-Holland (Alphen aan den Rijn), Noord-Brabant and Gelderland
  • Roosendaal: a town  in Noord-Brabant, not to be confused with Rozendaal in Gelderland.
map showing different Dutch names in Michigan

Detail of map of Michigan showing Holland, Zeeland, Vriesland and Groningen, 1873. Credits: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG® 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 certificate 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. Bart Lenselink says

    Other examples in the Netherlands: Laren, Zuidwolde

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