Dutch term – Doodgraver


Doodgraver, print by Jan and Casper Luyken, 1694. Credits: Picturing the past

The term doodgraver literally means ‘dead digger.’ It is the person who digs the graves for the dead.

In larger towns, this was a full-time occupation. In small towns, the church sometimes hired poor people to dig the graves, making them work for their allowance.

A grave digger was not only supposed to dig the graves but also to collect any bones that would surface before the dogs could get to them. These bones would often be stored in a ‘knekelhuisje’ [bone house] in the corner of the cemetery, and reburied in a communal plot every once in a while.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Out of curiousity, is the “k” and the “n” pronounced in the word ‘knekelhuisje’? In English we wouldn’t pronounce the “k”, but centuries ago we would have.

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