Source: church council minutes

Protestant or Reformed churches have a church council that administers the church. The church council consists of the minister, the elders and deacons. Some churches also appointed guardians who were responsible for the management of the church estates.

Church council Zaamslag

Zaamslag church council. Image credits: (public domain)

Especially in earlier centuries, the council was involved with all aspects of the lives of their parishioners, ranging from the baptisms of children to the admonishment of sinners. The minutes of the church council can be a real treasure trove of information.

Example: church council minutes of Sint Anna ter Muiden

Sint Anna ter Muiden is a very small town in Zeeland, near Sluis. Since the Reformation, it only ever had about 20 houses. Still, it had its own church and its own council. Here are some examples of topics mentioned in he church council minutes:1

Church at Sint Anna ter Muiden, Zeeland

Church at Sint Anna ter Muiden, Zeeland

  • 13 April 1628
    With great mildness was censured Mayken Christiaens for being absent from the sermon on multiple occasions. Promised to do better.
  • 21 January 1629
    Stayed away from the Supper Guiljaem v Rentergem and his wife and Elisabeth Lems because of the foul weather that prevented them from coming.
  • 19 March 1630
    The church council will try to mediate between Guiljaem v Rentergem, member in Sluis, and the bailiff Nicolaes de Vos, who disagree about accounts.
  • 25 October 1631
    Carel Parmentier has submitted his attestation from WesterSouburg
  • 5 December 1632
    Was reported that the younger Marcus Bauwens allowed some shameless gambling on Sundays during the sermon at his house, to the great temptation of the youth and disorder of the audience of the word of God, is therefore necessary that the same (not being a member of the church) will be reported to the magistrate, and requested that they will use their authority to prevent any further desecration of the Sabbath and defamation of God and justice.
  • 13 January 1633
    Understood that the hired hand and servant of mayor Iman Imansen live dishonorably and unchaste in his house. The mayor and his wife say they know nothing and he will take measures.
    Cornelis Blanckaert went to Westkappelle on 9 January 1633 and had a child baptized in the idolatry church [i.e. Roman Catholic church], and had the child baptized while seeing their idolatrous and conjurous ceremonies. He is summoned before the full church council, which convened especially.

Genealogical information in church council minutes

These examples give a good impression of the type of information about your ancestors that can be found in church council notes:

  • Information about church officials, like ministers, elders and deacons.
  • Information about misconduct, such as unchaste behavior, adultery, gambling or fighting. Sometimes you can even find the names of the fathers of illegitimate children in the minutes.
  • Information about their religion, such as people who went to a Roman Catholic church even though they were members of a Protestant church.
  • Information about where people came from, when they submitted attestations from their previous church to show they were confessed members.

Card-playing farmers at an inn. Vincent Malo, 1623-1650. Credits: Rijksmuseum

Where to find church council minutes

Church council minutes can be found in the church records. Older church records are usually kept at a regional archive, although some churches still keep their own records. Search for the words kerkeraad or kerkenraad (church council) or kerkeraadsnotulen or kerkenraadsnotulen (church council minutes) in the catalog of the archives, or do a Google search for these words in combination with the name of the town you’re looking for.

Handwritten manuscript

Church council notes of Sint Anna ter Muiden, 1632-1633

Hardly any church council notes have been digitized or transcribed, so these records can usually only be consulted on-site at the archives. You need to know Dutch to understand the records. Alternatively, you can hire a researcher to consult and translate these records for you.

Dutch Genealogy source score

2 out of 5 stars Amount of information about births, marriages, deaths
5 out of 5 stars Amount of background information about your ancestors
1 out of 5 stars Online availability of scans
1 out of 5 stars Online availability of indexes or transcriptions
1 out of 5 stars Easy to understand if you don’t know Dutch


  1. Marianne Gossije, “Kerkeraadsacta St Anna ter Muiden, ZA, HG Sint Anna ter Muiden, 1, 1627-1660” [church council minutes Sint Anna ter Muiden, Zeeuws Archief, Reformed Church Sint Anna ter Muiden, call number 1, 1627-1660], transcription, PDF-file, Sint Anna ter Muiden ( : accessed 30 November 2013)
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. Janice Hesselink says

    Marcus Bauwens de Oude was a direct ancestor of my husband. If Marcus Bauwens the young was his son, it could explain some of the wildness in Mark’s family ; )

  2. This explains yet another story I heard about Muscatine’s First Baptist Church. 220 years after these stories, my ancestor Jennie Schreurs Freers routinely stayed home from church while her husband and nine children always attended. Apparently the minister actually paid her a visit to ask her why she was never in church!

    (Her answer: It was the only time all week she could have any time to herself.)

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