Friesland 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:
The province also includes several of the Wadden Islands:
Genealogy in Friesland
Before 1811, hardly anyone in Friesland had a hereditary last name. People called themselves after their father, which was called a patronymic. For example: If a man was called Jan and his father was called Rindert, Jan would call himself ‘Jan Rinderts’. In Friesland, this tradition continued long after the civil registration was introduced in 1811 which forced everyone to take an official last name. They would then be called ‘Jan Rinderts Hulshoff,’ for example. Some people in Friesland today still give their child a second name which is the same as their father’s name, though without the -s since it is no longer allowed to give the child a name that is also in use as last name. Name taking records often survive to show the first use of the last name.
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.
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 now drawn up in both Dutch and Frisian, but until recently they were in Dutch. You may encounter the Frisian language in personal papers or some newspaper articles.
Websites for Friesland genealogy
Good starting points for online research in Friesland:
- AlleFriezen has indexes and scans of public civil registration records (births, marriages, deaths), population registers, name-taking records, some military records and some criminal records. They also have indexes of other sources, including church records, death duties files, and other tax records. They have images of court records (search for the name of the municipality as first name and select ‘Nedergerechten’ as type of sources. The website has an English version that translates the search pages and field names, not the contents of the database.
- Open Archives has all the indexed data that AlleFriezen provides but has slightly different search capabilities.
- FamilySearch has images and indexes of various Frisian sources, including church records and tax records. Search for the name of the municipality or parish in the catalog.
- Tresoar is the Frisian provincial archive. The website is available in Dutch only.
- Historisch Centrum Leeuwarden is the municipal archives of Friesland’s capital Leeuwarden. The website is available in Dutch only.
- Fries Archiefnet is a website where several Frisian archives publish their finding aids and indexes. The website is available in Dutch only.
- MpaginaE has name lists of various early Frisian records. The website is available in Dutch only.
- Historische Vereniging Noordoost Friesland is the Historical Society of North-East Friesland. Their “bronnen” [sources] section includes several genealogical indexes. The website is available in Dutch only.
- Memorabilia from Friesland. Website with inscriptions in Friesland on graves, museum pieces, art, etc. The website is available in Dutch only.
- Genealogysk Jierboekje [Genealogical Year Book], a publication with compiled genealogies and articles about Frisian genealogy. This publication is mainly in Frisian. The books from 1990-2020 and an index are online.
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.
- Leeuwarden image database.
- Leeuwarden map database.
- Friesland atlas of about 1865-1870. This atlas includes both a map of the entire province and detailed maps of all the municipalities.