Finding Maritime Ancestors from the Netherlands

People from the Netherlands have always lived with water. Many of our ancestors made a living from the sea: as sailors, marines, fishermen, or traders. Here are some websites and sources that can help you find your maritime ancestors.


Dutch ship in Bremen harbor, 1868. Credits: Willem Gruyter jr., collection Rijksmuseum (public domain)


  • VOC sailors, database of people who sailed on ships of the Dutch East India Company. West India Company muster rolls no longer survive.
  • Marine personnel records at the National Archives, search indexes that start with “Marine.” Note that many marine records were lost in World War II.
  • Monsterrollen, database of muster rolls of sailors in the northern provinces of the Netherlands.
  • Sound toll registers, register the ships and their captains that passed the Sound Toll between Denmark and Sweden
  • Comportementsboeken, database of pupils of the sailing school in Amsterdam (select “uitgebreid zoeken” and filter for “comportementsboeken”).
  • Maritiem Digitaal, portal to search collections of maritime museums in the Netherlands.

Other sources

Information about sailors can also be found in other types of records:

  • Notarial records may have work contracts, cargo transport contracts, last wills of sailors, etc.
  • Marriage records (church records before 1811 or civil registration after 1811) may include occupations that show that your ancestor was a sailor.
  • Death records may show your ancestors died at sea. After 1811, deaths were always also recorded in the place of residence, even if the resident died elsewhere.
  • Newspapers may show the names of captains and ships when they arrived in harbors. Newspapers can be found at Delpher.


For an example of searching for maritime ancestors, see the article Finding your ancestors by understanding how records are created.

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.

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