Quick tip – Emigrants in the 1800s came from poor areas

If your ancestors left the Netherlands in the 1800s, chances are that they came from poor areas of the Netherlands such as East-Groningen, Friesland, Gelderland, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, Limburg, or East-Brabant. These agricultural communities were hit hardest when the potato famine struck in the 1840s, and later when cheap American grain flooded the market.

farm in snow

Farm in the winter. Credits: Louis Apol, collection Rijksmuseum (public domain)

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. Virgil Hoftiezer says

    Would you be willing to provide some specific details regarding the timing in the 1840’s potato famine? and more about the cheap American grain glut? I was aware of the potato famine in Ireland, but am not fully aware of how much the Dutch depended on the potato. Of course I am particularly interested in the years just before and during 1847 when the majority of my ancestors left Gelderland and Friesland.

  2. I am also interested in the potato famine aspect. Was there a potato famine in the Netherlands or did the Netherlands depend on Ireland for potatoes? My husband’s family immigrated to the Holland, Michigan area as a planned community by a Dutch pastor in 1837. I wonder what the motivation for this settlement was. Yes, I will be at the National Genealogical Society conference in Grand Rapids in May.

  3. Another descendant of Gelderland emigrants here. Shirley, I’ll be at the NGS conference, too! You might want to read Yvette’s paper, From Winterswijk to Wisconsin. She talks about the economic and religious pressures — including the potato blight — that pushed people into emigrating. Here’s her blog post:


    • Thanks Teresa
      My husband’s family did immigrate to Michigan as a result of Rev Van Ralte’s efforts. They were from Overijsel (probably spelled it wrong). They were brickmakers but would have been impacted by economic problems of the farmers.

      • Shirley,

        Hey, my Freers family were brickmakers, too! In the forties, my grandmother took my mother on a walk along a creek in Muscatine, Iowa, and pointed out the remnants of bricks scattered around the banks. She told her that was where their ancestor first put his brickmaking “factory.” The Freers’s were from the Winterswijk area.

        • Hi Teresa

          That’s very interesting! My husband’s family were Veneklassen – their brick yards were in Zeeland and 2 other places in the Holland, MI area.

          My husband’s Crampton grandfather was a button cutter (pearl buttons) in Muscatine, Iowa although he was from Michigan. His children were born there.

          • Mother tells me the creek was the Evers-Meyers creek (odd name for a creek) which ran through some woods down from East Hill, going somewhere near the Heinz factory. It’s probably been all developed by now. She says she didn’t know any Cramptons that she remembers, but she certainly remembers people who were involved in the button industry.

            If any of your husband’s relatives do Facebook, Mom enjoys a community there called, You Know You’re From Muscatine When.

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