Dutch Ancestors Research Plan – 19th century

In my Level-Up Challenge, I defined six levels of ancestral profiles. In this post, I will give you a basic research plan for an ancestor living in the 19th century for levels 1-4.

Level 1: Names only

I usually find the name of the person in records of somebody else I am researching. No specific research plan needed.

Level 2: Vital statistics

The civil registration was introduced in 1811 in most parts of the Netherlands (around 1795 for some parts of Limburg and Zeeland). I try to find all these records for vital events after this date.

See the  level 2 checklist for more ideas.

Birth record of Johannes Marijnissen, 1864

Level 3: Occupations, residence, children, spouses

The vital records will already have given me the names of their spouses and occupations and place of residence at the time of marriage and death.

  • Census records for 1830 and 1840, where available.
  • Population registers, which were introduced nation-wide in 1850 though they started earlier in some towns
  • Address books. Often available via Delpher or the local or regional archives.
  • Birth, marriage, and death records of the children and spouses (see level 2). I research all the children and spouses at least at level 2 but that is a personal preference.

See the level 3 checklist for more ideas.

Level 4: Property ownership, military service, religion, criminal activity

The population register should already have given me the religion.

  • Death duties files to find out if they owned any property when they died.
  • Notarial records, to find land records.
  • Cadastral records, for ancestors who were alive in 1832 when the cadastre was introduced. These are available via the Kadaster website but it requires a subscription. Also available in reading rooms of many archives in the Netherlands.
  • Marriage supplements for people who married after the introduction of the civil registration. I usually look those up as part of the research into the marriage and births, but at level 4 I use the declaration of the groom’s military service.
  • Military service records.
  • Prison records. Not indexed for most prisons.
  • Criminal court records. Not indexed for most courts.
  • Newspapers and magazines (including trade journals).
  • Prayer cards.

See the level 4 checklist for more ideas.

Level 5

At level 5, I consult records that will give me a deeper understanding of my ancestors’ lives. These are often triggered by discoveries during the level 1-4 research and differ greatly from one ancestor to the next, so there is no generic research plan I follow.

Some examples:

  • I research the history of the towns where they lived to get an understanding of what life would be like. If possible, I try to find old photos, videos, and maps.
  • I would research the houses where they lived, trying to find contemporary photos or maps.
  • I would try to find employment records and pension records. These can be available for civil servants, railroad employees, sometimes for teachers, etc.
  • If they owned a business, I would look for ads in newspapers and magazines, mentions in address books, business records that may survive in archives, bankruptcy records in the archives of courts, etc.
  • I would research their employers, trying to find photos or a history of the firm.
  • If they were in the army or navy, I would research their unit and/or ship.
  • I would check for school records if these have been preserved.
  • Sometimes, the marriage record will indicate that the couple had dispensation to marry, as in the case of my great-grandparents’ marriage. Or I may find a reference to a royal decree in a newspaper or personnel file. In that case, I will obtain the royal decree from the National Archives.
  • I would find court records for guardianship appointments of people who lost their parents before they were adults.
  • If research in other records shows the ancestor was poor, I would try to find poor relief records.
  • I may try to find church membership records.


Examples of 19th century research:

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. Thanks for posting this – very helpful…I do most of it as a matter of course, but will share the link with the genealogy group I lead at the library 🙂 I think the levels will really help those who are still beginning and sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work ahead of them. Seeing it broken down in levels makes it seem less daunting!

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