Quick tip – Did they know the witness?

You may encounter witnesses in several types of records:

When you come across witnesses, ask yourself: would this be the type of event a random person would witness? Or is the person likely to have been a close connection to the person of interest?

For example, a notary may have asked a neighbor to witness a will, but the witness may not have known the parties in the record. Civil registration records may have been witnessed by a clerk at town hall. But parents would not just pluck someone off the street to become a godparent of their child. Some records will list how the witness is related to the main parties in the record.

I have solved several cases by looking closely at the witnesses, and seeing whether their presence could indicate a close relationship. They often provide a link to the families of the parties, and may help to determine which of two or more same-named people we are looking for.

Crew member on the lookout. Credits: Willem van de Poll, collection Nationaal Archief (CC-0)


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.

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