Drenthe traditional dressDrenthe is a province in the north of the Netherlands. It borders on the province of Groningen in the North, Germany in the east, Overijssel in the south and Friesland in the west.

The capital city of Drenthe is Assen. Other large towns are:

  • Emmen
  • Hoogeveen
  • Meppel

Work colonies

Drenthe has always been one of the least populated parts of the Netherlands. The reason for this is the natural circumstances. Especially in earlier years, Drenthe was covered by swamps, bogs and heath fields.

In the nineteenth century, the Dutch government decided to use Drenthe as a place to put ‘unwanted elements’ of society. Beggars and vagabonds, but also orphans that could not be placed, were transported to Drenthe to live in colonies. They were to till the land. This way, people all over the Netherlands ended up in Drenthe.

Genealogy in Drenthe

For the nineteenth century, almost all of the primary sources can be found online through WieWasWie. Most of the records are kept by the Drents Archief. They also have their own provincial genealogical website: Alle Drenten.

Before 1811, and for some time after 1811 as well, most people in Drenthe used patronymics instead of last names. This can make it harder to trace your ancestors.


Although Drenthe was the least populated province, it ranked forth when comparing number of emigrants. In the nineteenth century, many people in Drenthe worked in the agricultural sector which means this province was struck particularly hard when the crops failed. Also, many people in Drenthe joined the Secession and were among the first to emigrate.

Most Drenthe emigrants settled in Holland and Grand Rapids in Michigan, and Orange City and Pella in Iowa.

Online images

There are several online resources for images about Drenthe:

  • Drenthe photo archive. This site is in Dutch only. Select ‘Zoeken’ (search) and then ‘Zoekscherm’ (search form). Fill in the name of the town or person you’re looking for in the field ‘willekeurige woorden’ (free text) and click ‘Zoeken’ (search).
  • Drenthe provincial atlas 1865-1870. This atlas contains both a map of the entire province and maps of all the municipalities.


About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 25 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Flo Beijer says:

    My husband’s family comes from Meppel. I would love to buy him some books with information about the town. Could you recommend any books? We plan to visit and I’d love to surprise him with the books for Christmas. 🙂
    Thank you,
    Flo Beijer

    • Hi Flo,

      Meppel is a small town so there aren’t many books written about it. Waanders press has a nice series called the … book that has lots of great photos and other images that I can recommend. They are pocket-sized booklets but very nicely done: full color and a hardback. I see they have a Drenthe boek. The book itself costs € 14.95 but international shipping is € 23.90 so the total would be € 38.85 (depending on where you live).

  2. My dad’s family comes from Drenthe (the towns of Deiver and Dwingeloo). My dad’s grandpa, with all his siblings and their widowed father, emigrated in the late 1800s and, after a brief stay in Iowa, came to Lynden, Washington (USA), where many of us still live. My dad’s grandpa is in the county records buying a farm here in 1903.

  3. Maryke Ladeur Dick says:

    My mother was from Drenthe and her maiden surname was drente

Leave comment