Quick tip: Endogamy did not start after immigration

People whose ancestors live in small Dutch immigrant settlements have probably noticed that many of them were distant cousins. The size of these communities limited the pool of potential spouses. Endogamy (marrying within the community, also known as ‘kissing cousins’) is not unusual.

What most people don’t realize, is that many of these settlers came over as a group. Their community did not start across the ocean, but may well extend over several centuries. The places of origins were often small too, so the cousin marriages may have been going on for a lot longer than you might think.

One example is Winterswijk, a village in Winterswijk where most people today are cousins of mine one way or another. Read about the worst case of pedigree collapse I have ever encountered. Many people emigrated from Winterswijk in the 19th century and settled in small towns in western New York and Wisconsin, still marrying the same families.

Bride and groom

Bride and groom. Credits: Nationaal Archief

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

    Glad to have the ‘scientific’ name for “kissing cousins”. This is something many of us have discovered in our genealogy in the USA and it was not surprising to find that it is an ‘extension’ of what occurred for many generations before (but only after we were able to find our ancestors in the Netherlands). It also explains why our ancestors might have settled where they did when they left the Netherlands.

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