Dutch term – Dienstmeid

A dienstmeid is a maid servant. The tasks of a dienstmeid depended on the wealth of the family, the presence of other servants or a housekeeper, and whether she worked on a farm or in the city. Tasks typically included cleaning, laundry, setting the fireplaces, etc. Richer households might hire a separate washing woman or cleaning lady, but in many households, this was all the task of one servant. On a farm, a dienstmeid would also be expected to milk the cows, take care of the other animals, churn the butter, and many other tasks.

Most dienstmeiden were young unmarried women. In poor families, daughters as young as 12 were often sent out to work as a dienstmeid. It would mean one less mouth to feed, even if the pay was poor. Living away from home could put these girls in a vulnerable position. Dienstmeiden who became pregnant would lose their jobs.

Most dienstmeiden lived with the families they served. From 1850 to 1939, you can find dienstmeiden in the population registers to find out if they lived with another family. Some towns keep special servants registers (dienstbodenregisters) that refer to the page of the family they worked for, while other towns listed the dienstmeiden on the same page as the family. I used these records to find out my grandmother worked as a dienstmeid for a doctor before her marriage.

Maid servant scrubbing the pavement, Amsterdam 1912.
Credits: Spaarnestad Photo, Flickr the Commons (no known copyrights)


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.

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