Friesland

Friesland traditional dressFriesland is one of the northern provinces in the Netherlands. It borders on the province of Groningen in the east, Drenthe and Overijssel in the South, the IJsselmeer in the west and the North Sea in the north.

The capital city of Friesland is Leeuwarden. The largest towns are:

  • Dokkum
  • Sneek
  • Bolsward
  • Drachten
  • Heerenveen
  • Wolvega
  • Franeker
  • Harlingen

Language

Friesland is the only province in the Netherlands with an official language: Frisian. Although many people in Friesland also speak Dutch, many prefer to speak Frisian. The official documents in Friesland are drawn up in both Dutch and Frisian, but in the 19th century most were in Dutch.

Genealogy in Friesland

Before 1811, hardly anyone in Friesland had a last name. People called themselves after their father, which was called a patronymic. For example: If a man was called Rindert and his father was called Oebele, Rindert would call himself ‘Rindert Oebeles’. In Friesland, this tradition continued long after the civil registration was introduced in 1811 which forced everyone to take an official last name. Some people in Friesland today still give their child a middle name which is the same as their father’s name.

Good starting points for online research in Friesland:

  •  AlleFriezen has an index of all public civil registration records (births, marriages and deaths) and has scans for most of them.
  •  Tresoar is the Frisian provincial archive and has many online databases, including the civil registration and the records of nametaking in 1811 (with scans).

Emigration

Especially in the period between 1880 and 1920, many people left Friesland to find a new home in the United States. Many of them settled in Michigan, although quite a few ended up in other states such as New York or Wisconsin.

Images

There are several online sources for images of Friesland:

  • Friesland image database. Use ‘vrije tekst’ (free text) to type the name of the town or family you’re looking for and then select ‘Zoeken’ (search). This database includes many photographs and postcards.
  • Friesland atlas of about 1865-1870. This atlas includes both a map of the entire province and detailed maps of all the municipalities.

Map

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.

Comments

  1. Gareth Tjasink says:

    I have always been told that my surname was Norwegian, but on entering the KLM business lounge yesterday I was informed by the staff that it is definitely Friesan. I would love to find out more about my unusual last name. I am a South African citizen, so it is quite likely we are from Dutch descent.

    • Dave Simmer says:

      Gareth, It is important for you to first find out when your family came to South Africa and their names. I have used many sites in The Netherlands since 2009 to trace my family, but there is a new site that has combined the information from many. http://www.wiewaswie.nl I went into this site and found 97 results by just looking for your last name. Some records will include scanned original documents that can be downloaded in PDF format. You may alo find copies or original documents on http://allefriezen.nl.

    • The name Tjasink or Jasink is also a farm name in the hamlet Buurse near Haaksbergen in the province of Overijssel. I have Jasink/Tjasink ancestors myself. The -ink suffix is typical for the provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland, so that would be my guess. Tjasink is definitely not a Frisian name, as Frisian names have different suffixes (like -stra or -ma).

      • w. aardsma says:

        In the U.S. we’re told that “-ink” names are “Dutchified” Germans, cases in point were Masselink, Veurink, Stegink, Bronsink, i’ve forgotten the rest.
        in earlier years Dutch communities usually drew Hollanders, Frisians, East Frisians, Germans. and Huguenots. One of the last 3 men who could still preach in the Holland language at the time that Dutch immigration “took off” was actually of Huguenot stock. The First Reformed CHurch of PHiladelphia was part of the REformed Church in AMerica (“Dutch REformed”) ’til the post-Civil War 1860’s, and it was “High German.” .

        also, not all Frisian names have suffixes – Bode and Wyckoff (various spellings) are very common over here but are East Frysk as is Freylinghuysen, the great preacher of the First Great Awakening. Dirksen, a political leader of the 1960’s, was East Frisian. Buwalda is supposed to be DUtch Frisian but there is disagreement on that . HOwever a man named “Bulwalda” was one of the 3 who worked on the Frisian-ENglish bilingual dictionary in the early 20th century.

  2. Thank you Yvette, much appreciated

  3. Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma says:

    Hi Yvette: I am looking for the first names of the Parents of Aaltie Degrouw, she was born about 1902/1905 and married Tjeed Boomsma about 1930/1931 in Ostermeir Friesland. I was told that Aaltie’s Parents drowned at Sea when she was a child around 1910/1915. I am gathering the information for a Family Tree for my Great-grand-daughter and I hope you can help me in my quest.Having a time as I do not write or speak Dutch and all information on line are in Dutch. The first names of the Boomsma Family would be helpful also, Tjeed Boomsma date of birth was 1907. Many Thanks for your time. Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma

    • Hi Diana,
      The best place to look would be the marriage record, since that contains the names of the spouses so you can be sure you have the right couple. Marriage records are public until 1932, so Aaltje and Tjeerd’s marriage record should be public. However, the 1923-1932 batch has not been indexed yet. The records themselves are available at Familysearch and can be found through Genver.nl, but you would need to know the town in order to look in the contemporary tables to find the date and then browse to find the correct image. This is hard to do if you don’t read Dutch. Alternatively, you could order a copy of Aaltje’s personal record card from the Central Bureau for Genealogy. See the article about personal record cards for more information about this source and how to order.

      • Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma says:

        Hello Yvette: Thank you so very much for your quick response and for giving me the information for the web sites to look at. I was told the Town or Village, hope I spelled it correctly was Ostermeier, Freisland, Netherlands that both Aaltje and Tjeed were born. It is so wonderful to have people like yourself helping with the history of past which is important for the future generations. Looking for my Grand-parents side of my families I got back to the 1740’s which is awesome. Again Thank you. Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma

        • Correctly it is OOSTERMEER, or in Frisian EASTERMAR

          I guess this is “your” TJEERD:

          He lived at Oostermeer 68
          Since 1950 called Achterweg 6

          2. Tjeerd Boomsma

          in 31.05.1939 van Small
          out 27.04.1948 naar Canada

          • Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma says:

            Bert: Thank you for all of this wonderful information and will be Posted on the Family Tree for my Great-grand-daughter to see and to know and to be inspired by her Dutch Roots and the History of the Netherlands. Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma

        • Aaltje De Grouw

          Geb.datum/Birthdate: 13 april 1906 Bijzonderheden: Wonende te Oostermeer Laatste woonplaats/left from: Gekomen van/came from: vertrokken naar/left for: Waterdown Ontario, Canada, 27 april 1948

          http://www.frieslandwonderland.nl/bedrijven/systeem/template_10.php?pagina=persoon&klant=frieslandwonderland&plaats=eastermar&taal=frans&thema=emigranten

          • Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma says:

            Bert: Thank you very much for your reply and yes this Tjeerd and Aaltje are the family members that I am looking for. They did come to Waterdown Ont Canada. I did not know the year they came to Canada and thank you for that information. I have the date of birth for Tjeerd Boomsma as 1907 ( the month and day not known) and death Feb. 9 1991. Aaltje ( De Grouw ) Boomsma’s death may be around 2001 not sure and I will check Canadian records here for the date. Again Thank you very much. Diana ( Kuzyk ) Boomsma

  4. Hi Yvette (or anyone with some tips!)

    From what I could find out from my grandfather (Johannes Petrus Eygelaar) before he passed away my family came from the Netherlands around the 1790’s from the Friesland area. Have you heard of the my surname Eygelaar in the Friesland area? I’m a South African citizen (Afrikaans), but has been living in Oslo, Norway, the last 7 years. As I grow older I have became more interested in my ancestry and today strongly associate myself with the Netherlands.

    Kind regards
    Anton

  5. Hi,
    my grandmothers family name is Cats, she is from Franeker, but was raised in Toronto.
    I am curious as to the origin of this name… it may have been Vanderkats, or maybe even Katz.
    Thanks.

    • As you can see in the family names database at the Meertens institute, the name is not uncommon in Friesland. The origins are unclear: it could be a topographic name derived from the town of Kats in Zeeland, a patronymic derived from the name Kat or Kette, or several other theories. The best way to find out why your family was named Cats is to research the Cats line until you find the first person using that name and researching what their reasons might have been for choosing that name.

  6. Kenneth Jansma says:

    Hi there. There are also Frisians in Australia. I’m sure you already knew that. We have quite a Jansma dynasty here in two states, NSW and QLD. Hi to all my cousins in Europe and North America.

  7. Hi Yvette
    I am researching my family that comes from Groseingen (I can not locate this town). My 8th great grandfather was Hannes Reynier Vander Sluys. According to American family history, he was born in about 1673, married a women named Anna. To this union he had the following children, all born in Harlingen: Adriann, Anna, Johannes, Arnold, Henry, Anthony, and Elencha.

    He emigrated to the United States (Philadelphia) in 1709 with his wife and children and he died in 1713.
    Family legend states that he is an ancestor of a baron. The American legend is, The first Van der Sleize was found by a nobleman’s wife lying on a beach of the North Sea near or in the city of Groseingen, Holland. He was adopted by the family, but could not take their name. They, not knowing his right name, gave him the name of Van der Sleize, meaning – From the sea Beach. He grew up in their family and married their daughter. The father and mother died and left him and his wife their estate and title which was the father’s, he being a Baron. The crest of the Baron was an Arm with a Coat of Mail on it and a dagger in its hand striking downward. The Baron Van der Sleize on taking his title was given as a Crest a Shell representing the place or beach where he was found. He amassed a fortune and was very charitable. For his charity, which was very great, he was endowed with the Cross of the Legion of Honor which was put on a Shield (Dutch) in addition to his Father-in-law’s Crest and his own, and the motto ‘Sans Crainte’ to constitute his Coat of Arms. The motto means ‘without fear.

    I cannot locate a baron or any family history that agree with this history. Can you point me in the correct direction?

    • Connie VanDerslice Kreis says:

      Hey Betty,

      My tree has led me to the same spot, and I also am stuck on finding any information about this Baron. Have you been able to find anything?

      • Nick Posthumus says:

        Hello Connie VanDerslice Kreis,

        I have more information about this and other families Van der Sluijs from Harlingen but am also still searching.
        Can you please send me an e-mail on nnpposthumus@ziggo.nl?

        Best regards,
        Nick Posthumus

  8. Christian Wright says:

    Would the surname Misegaes/Muesegaes/Myseagaes sound Dutch or Frisian?

    My ancestors were from Oldenburg

  9. Don’t know if this website is still ongoing or not?
    My mothers maiden name was DeFreese from Hillburn NY/ northeast NJ across the Hudson river. My genealogy dates back to Lenape (Native American), African American and Dutch ancestry. Trying to learn more of our history and connections. Some good, some bad. With that said, it has always been of great interest to me all of my life.

  10. Sarah Harrison says:

    I was told that my mothers side (Monsma) were Freislander. I do not have much to go by or know where to start.

  11. I grew up in Michigan and have ancestors from Friesland with the last name of Esther. We have been told it is neither a Friesian name, nor is it common there, so I am wondering where it may have come from. I am wondering if it might be German or Huguenot.

    Can you shed some light on this?

    Thank you very much.

  12. Mark Spencer says:

    Hello Yvette. Very nice page. I have been doing a lot of research on Ancestry.com on my Mother’s side. Based on what I found it seems her side is Dutch although she still thinks is from Sweden. Maybe when I get my DNA test back will shed some light… 🙂 Her maiden name was Corson, and according to what I found came over from the Netherlands in the 1600-1700’s to New York, then settled in Cape May, New Jersey. I may need your services some day to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. :-).

    Traced back to Barent Jansen in the Netherlands. But then before the Netherlands they seemed to come from Germany? Gets very confusing as the entire name seems to change from father to son… not like typical English names which generally keeps the same last name.

    Barent Jansen
    1594–1647
    BIRTH 1594 • Harlingen, Harlingen, Friesland, Netherlands
    DEATH 1647 • New Amsterdam, New York, United States

    Mark

  13. Marguerite Butzow says:

    I live near a community of people whose ancestors immigrated from East Frisia in the 1870s. Most of them came from Emden and Aurich and surrounding towns to IL by way of New Orleans and up the Mississippi River, and traveled north of the Illinois river. They founded the town of Emden, IL.
    Many came east to settle in Champaign County. IL where they live in the countryside surrounding the towns of Flatville and Royal, IL.
    These new settlers knew how to drain the flatlands and today, that part of the county has the richest soil and their descendants enjoy the wonderful yields from their farms.
    Some of the surnames are: Osterbur, Busboom. Huls, Sjuits, Schleuter. Emkes. Jansen, Frerichs. Franzen, and Ehmen – among others.

    My own ancestor immigrated from Harlingen in Frisia to
    New Amsterdam in the 1600s. His name was Jan Wybesse Spoor.
    Thank you for your very informative articles

    • Alison Martin says:

      I too am a descendent of East Frisians. My family came in the years 1851 to 1868 and the first of them traveled through New Orleans and up to Illinois. The later immigrants (all were sons of the same man) came through New York. My family settled first in Gillespie Illinois.where the brother of my direct ancestor founded the Zion Evangelical Luthern Church along with the 2 other East Frisian immigrants. Branches of the family moved further west with land obtained through the Homestead act. This saw the family spread to Iowa and Nebraska. I descend from the Oyen, Wempen and Weyen families Members of my family married into the Jansen and Frerichs families. I find the East Frisians absolutely fascinating to research. Thank you for this article.

  14. Jerry Ennen says:

    Good evening. I am looking for information on the last name of ENNEN. I have seen some from Friesland and Germany. My father passed away last year, leaving us with very little ancestry answers. My great grandfather John Ennen b. 1881 or so supposedly came to the US around 1895 or so and settled in Iowa and Minnesota. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • “Ennen” is not a Frisian name, but does occur in Groningen and Drenthe. I see several Ennen records on WieWasWie, including several for a Jan Ennen (Jan is the Dutch version of John). If he arrived around age 14, chances are that his parents or other relatives were also in the US, so I would recommend you first try to reconstruct his family in the US so you have more information to compare to the Dutch families.

  15. Brent Clark Elzinga 1945- says:

    Yvette,

    I happened upon your site in a search for my Dutch roots (Harlingen Friesland I am told but you can correct me)

    I am looking at the point that the single name gained a last name going from Sybren Clases Elzinga 1753-1828 from Claes Sybrens 1712-1782. (I’m generally familiar with the fact that they used to use their father’s first and last name as last and last names) It then goes back/forth a few generations and last I can find ends with Claes Sybrens 1620-deceased.

    I am confused on how to go back further and would like to get some advice on how to proceed.

    Thank you very much! Brent

    • Most Frisian church records go back to the early 1600s. Before that, it depends on the circumstances of your family whether you will be able to trace them back further. If your family owned property, they may be traced in court records. These records are mostly unindexed and are time-consuming to use. For Harlingen, also check the Kleine Kerkstraat website, which has several abstracts of records and a reconstruction of the owners of many of the houses in the town.

  16. Lisa Teemsma says:

    I am trying to trace my 3rd great grandmother, Aukje Teemsma, and her parents. I am certain that this is a mispelling but it is the name used on the birth certificate of her son, my 2nd great grandfather Harmen Hendrik Teemsma, This name was carried to Belgium and then to the US. I found records of many children for her, no father listed on any birth certificates or marriage records. A census has her birth as either being April 11, 1823 or April 11, 1821 in Harlingen. There is no birth record for her.

    I was able to find a record for a Harmen Henrik Teensma and Gerbentje Germens Kingma having a son Andries in Harlingen, 1818. In other’s geneology trees, I see that these people linked to the name Kiewiet instead of Teensma, with daughters being born with the name Kiewiet instead of Teensma. This Harmen Hendrik Kiewiet was born in Sciermonnikoog where Teensma is a popular name. One of the daughters was born April 11, 1921 but her name was not Aujke, it was Marijke. I see Gerbentje passing away in 1837. Marikje would have only been 16 at that time, I have seen people change their names. Marikje’s maternal grandmother was Aukje Rinses; perhaps she decided not to use her given name.

    I am getting very confused with the names Teens, Teensen, Teemsma and I am starting to think that it is not a last name; it is reference to something else. Any tips on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you
    Lisa

    • This is very soon after the mandatory adoption of surnames, so perhaps they mistakenly used a different name in some of the records. I recommend you try searching without a last name, just focusing on the first names and dates. It is also possible that her parents lived in Harlingen but that she was actually born elsewhere. I would recommend researching her in the places where you know she lived to see if she ever appeared with any relatives or if the records tell you about alternative places of origin.

      • Lisa Teemsma says:

        Hi Yvette!
        The person I think is my 3rd great grandmother lost her mom in 1837. She waz 16. Her father was already deceased at that time. If she was placed in an orphanage( I read you stayed until age 25), would there be searchable records available?

        Lisa

  17. Hi Yvette,
    This is a fascinating blog. I love research, and I love to learn more about Friesland, as my great grand parents emigrated from there. Of course there’s Dykstra (which I know is rather common), but I was wondering about the last name Gezel . (I believe that’s the spelling). I haven’t had much luck finding it anywhere, or what it might mean. Could it be an “Americanized” version of a Frisian last name?

    Also, as a family, we are getting our DNA tested, and the service we used apparently does not recognize the “Dutch” much less Frisian Dutch as a group. My results are not in, but family members (with no) Irish/English/Scandinavian roots are skewing that way. Do those ancient roots have an effect on last names? Or are they so far back, it was before last names were given? I am curious for your thoughts on this.

    • “Gezel” doesn’t look like a Dutch name I’m familiar with. “Gezel” is a Dutch word, meaning apprentice, but I haven’t seen it as a last name.
      Most Frisians only had last names since 1811 so DNA would definitely go back to before the surnames got fixed. There was a lot of interaction across the North Sea so it’s not surprising the DNA on both sides is similar.

  18. I’ve been grappling with the suffix -ma for some time. Most of the family assume that Thomasma means “son of Thomas”. The problem is, our ancestor who chose it wasn’t. His father was named Johannes; his grandfather was Thomas. And in the end, he kept both names, Rein Johannes Thomasma. That leads me to think that -ma denotes more of a general relation to a place or family, such as the Thomasma Huis in Leeuwarden, which predates our family name by about 300 years.

    • The -ma is not “son of” but more like “the people of.” So “Thomasma” is “Thomas’ people” or “Thomas’ family.” That works with a grandfather named Thomas, especially if Thomas was a well-known person in the area.

      • My guess is that his grandfather raised him. Johannes Thomas died when Rein Johannes was 5 (he had a younger sister named Johanna Posthuma, who grew up to marry a Boersma). I think he chose Thomasma as a family name in deference to his Oom Thomas.

        I have only been able to find one more Thomasma family in the Friesland records, Freerk Thomas Thomasma, a shoemaker in Westdongeradeel. No relation, and the Freerks Thomasmas all died out by the 1960s. So if you meet a Thomasma today, it’s a Reins Thomasma.

        • I agree that being raised by a Thomas would explain the name. And those names derived from first names can occur independently in different places like you discovered, which can be confusing. Glad you figured it out!

          • The name’s still fraught with mystery for me. When we were in Friesland, I was surprised to find the phone books with pages full of Thomas families, but no Thomasmas. We even had to learn how to pronounce the name properly before people recognized it as a Friesian name.

            • Thomas is quite an uncommon first name in Friesland, so that explains why there weren’t many families who adopted the name Thomasma.

              • I can see you’re right. A quick search through the Friesland online phone guide gives me only Thomas and Thomassen as results. And not as many as I remember. With generations of male children named either Rein or Johannes, it seems just a lucky happenstance that our family would intersect with Napoleon’s Family Name Act just when there was a Thomas in the mix.

  19. Lisa Teemsma says:

    Hi Yvette!
    The person I think is my 3rd great grandmother lost her mom in 1837. She waz 16. Her father was already deceased at that time. If she was placed in an orphanage( I read you stayed until age 25), would there be searchable records available?

    Also, her brother was about 19. I am told that he went into Dutch India Trade Co. If it was common for children to be sent there, would there be records from 1837 to about 1850?

    Thanks!

    Lisa

  20. Do you know of any information on the surname Balt? My ancestors are from Sint Annaparochie/ Sint Jacobiparochie.

  21. Elizabeth Walma Brady says:

    Dear Yvette, my father’s family, Walma, immigrated from around Sneek to western Michigan in the late 1800’s. Walma is still a very uncommon last name! Thank you for your interesting site!

  22. Barbara Titus says:

    No one has researched my ancestor, Titus Syrach De Vries, in the Netherlands and now I am coming there in August 2019 specifically to see my ancestor’s homeland but I don’t have a clue about where to go! I believe records start in New Amsterdam in 1650 as he is listed as one of the first settlers there. I am wondering if I should visit Friesland since his last name could be from that general area or visit Vries. I only have one day to travel out from Amsterdam to see the countryside. I would like to find a genealogical tour guide too if you could recommend someone or if you do that, Yvette.

    This is the basic information I have on Titus Syrach De Vries:
    Born about 1630 in Friesland, Nederland
    Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
    [sibling(s) unknown]
    Husband of Jannetje Teunis — married 7 Mar 1660 in Flatbush, New Netherlandmap daughter of Teunis Janse Couverts and Femmetje (Jans) She b. Mar. 29, 1648 at Heemstede, Netherlands. Her parents had emigrated from Heemstede, North Holland in 1651.

    Father of Tryntje Titus, Femmetje Titus, Arays Titus, Teunis Titus, Syrach (Titus) Tites, Jannetje Titus, Francis Titus and Pheobe Titus
    Died 26 Jan 1689 in Flatbush, Kings, Province of New York

    I am descended from Titus Syrachs De Vries’ son Teunis Titus listed above.

    Thank you!

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