Ask Yvette: how to find my grandparents’ birth records

In response to an article about different types of archives, Larry Joosse wrote:

Looking for birth records for Anthonie de Wijze born March 2, 1886 in Zand, and Catharina Johanna vanKeulen born on July 16, 1888. they are my mother’s parents.

I thought I would respond in the form of a blog post and show you all the different steps that I take to find the answer. The methods I use to answer this question may also be helpful in finding your own ancestors.

Step 1: assess the information

Whenever I start working on a problem, I first analyze the information for any clues or problems. This is what I noticed about Larry’s question:

  • Both grandparents were born more than 100 years ago. This means that their birth records are public.
  • Unless they were in their forties when they married, their marriage took place before 1932, so their marriage record should be public as well.
  • The name vanKeulen is not spelled the Dutch way. Van is a prefix that has a special role in Dutch surnames. Searching for vanKeulen will not yield any results. The Dutch spelling would be van Keulen, where van is the prefix and Keulen is the surname.
  • The place name “Zand” is unfamiliar to me, so I check the Zand article on Wikipedia. This tells me that there are two very small hamlets by that name in the Netherlands. Alternatively, the name may refer to Loon op Zand or ‘s-Gravezande, be a local field name (zand means sand) or a misreading of Zeeland, a province in the south-west of the Netherlands.
  • There is no birth place for Catharina Johanna van Keulen. Just her name and birth date may not be enough to uniquely identify her in Dutch records. We will need to find more information, such as the place where she was born or the names of her parents, first.
  • “Anthonie” is not a typical spelling of the name. I would either expect Antonius (Roman Catholic) or Antonie or Teunis (Dutch Reformed). The -h- may be derived from the English spelling.
  • The first name Catharina Johanna sounds more Roman Catholic than Dutch Reformed, which could point to an origin from the southern provinces, where most people are Roman Catholic. Alternatively, she could be from Zeeland, where these names are also common.
  • There is no information about where or when they died. Since the question came through a visitor of this blog who wrote the name van Keulen as vanKeulen, it is possible that they emigrated so their death records may not be in the Netherlands.

Step 2: Create a research plan

The information about these persons by themselves is not enough to uniquely identify them, so the first step is finding their marriage record. Most marriage records are indexed at WieWasWie, scans are available at Familysearch. The marriage supplements at Familysearch should tell us where and when they were born and who their parents were. This should allow us to find their birth records on Familysearch as well.

Step 3: Do the research

Find the marriage entry on WieWasWie

[Note: this section was written before there was an English version of WieWasWie available. Click the “English” link in the top navigation of WieWasWie for the English version].

Whenever I need to find a marriage record between 1811 and 1932 and I don’t know where in the Netherlands the marriage took place, WieWasWie is my first stop. In the advanced search form I add a second person by clicking “Voeg een persoon toe” [add a person]. This allows me to search for records that name two people. Since WieWasWie only finds information that matches exactly what I type, I enter as little information as possible. In this case, I only fill in the last names of both spouses: Achternaam [last name]: Wijze for the “eerste persoon” [first person] and Achternaam: Keulen for the “tweede persoon” [second person] and press “Zoeken” [search].

WieWasWie - search form with Wijze and Keulen filled in

WieWasWie – search form with Wijze and Keulen filled in

There are 14 results, which I sort by date by clicking the ‘Date’ column. One of the results is an index entry for a 1907 marriage record. This shows that Antonie de Wijze, a 21-year-old shop clerk born in Middelburg, married in Middelburg on 8 May 1907 to Catharina Johanna van Keulen, age 18, born in Domburg. His parents names are given as Adriaan de Wijze and Johanna Sturm; hers as Simon Adriaan van Keulen and Anna van den Werf. The bottom section of the index description gives us the information we need to locate the record: the event date, type, place and record number.

WieWasWie - index for De Wijze-Van Keulen marriage record

WieWasWie – index for De Wijze-Van Keulen marriage record

Locate the original marriage record

[Note: This section uses Genver, which has since been replaced by Geneal-IX, which works in a similar way.]

To locate a scan of a civil registration record, I use that has waypoints to the scans on Familysearch. On, I first click the province of Zeeland. This gives me an overview of all the municipalities in Zeeland. Next, I click the “BS” [Burgerlijke Stand = Civil Registration] link behind Middelburg. The 1907 marriage record should be in the “Huwelijken 1895-1912” [Marriage 1895-1912] record set, so I click that link which takes me to Familysearch.

I am now on page 1 of over 3,000 records. I have to manually browse to find the marriage record. Since 1907 is about 2/3 between 1895 and 1912, I start by going to page 2,000 by typing 2000 in the image box and press Go. This is a record for May 1908, so I have to back up a bit. The record numbers are in the left margins, I know I’m looking for record number 48 of 1907. After a couple more educated guesses, I find the marriage record at image number 1825.

Marriage record of Antonie de Wijze and Catharina Johanna van Keulen, Middelburg, 8 May 1907

Marriage record of Antonie de Wijze and Catharina Johanna van Keulen, Middelburg, 8 May 1907

The marriage confirms all of the information from WieWasWie.

Now I correlate this information from the record with the information in the original question to see if I have the right couple. There are some minor discrepancies: the groom’s first name is Antonie instead of Anthonie, the bride’s name is Van Keulen instead of vanKeulen, and the birth place of the groom is Middelburg rather than Zand. These potential problems were already picked up during the initial analysis. These differences are only small, most of the information matches very well: the names almost match, the time period matches and their ages match the birth dates in the question. I conclude that this is indeed the marriage record of Larry Joosse’s grandparents.

Find the marriage supplements

Whenever I find a marriage record, I always consult the marriage supplements, the documents that the bride and groom had to submit. I go back to the page on for the civil registration records of Middelburg. This time, I look for the Huwelijksbijlagen (huw-bijl.) [marriage supplements]. The supplements for this marriage record should be in the set Huw-bijl. 1905-1908 v/a 33. Clicking the link takes me to the corresponding image set on Familysearch.

I land at page 1 of 3,043 images. 1907 is about 2/3 in between 1905 and 1908, so I go to image 2,000. I end up on a page with a scanned document that does not say which marriage record it belongs to. This means there is probably a cover page, so I browse backwards until I hit a cover page. The previous page is the cover page which shows these are the supplements for marriage record 95 in 1907. I need to go back 37 records. Since most marriage supplements are about 5 pages long plus a cover page, I try going to page 1750. I hit the jackpot: the cover page for record 48. The marriage supplements contain the following documents:

  • Certificate that Antonie de Wijze was excused from military service for physical ailments, under article 293 of the military regulations from 30 May 1904, as published in the Staatsblad [National paper] nr. 13.
  • Extract of the birth record of Antonie de Wijze, that shows he was born in Middelburg on 2 March 1886 as the son of Adriaan de Wijze and Johanna Sturm.
  • Extract of the birth record of Catharina Johanna van Keulen, that shows she was born in Domburg on 16 July 1888 as the daughter of Simon Adriaan van Keulen and Anna van der Werf.
  • Extract of the death record of Anna van der Werf, that shows she died in Domburg on 5 March 1896, wife of Simon Adriaan van Keulen.

These birth dates are an exact match to the information in Larry Joosse’s original question and confirm that we’ve found the right couple.

Find the birth record of Adriaan de Wijze

Now that we know the birth dates and places, we can use to find the birth records on Familysearch. On the Middelburg page on Genver, I select the Geboorten 1883-1886 mei image set that should contain the birth records of 1883 until May 1886. The image set at Familysearch is 514 pages long, and I know I need to be towards the end of the range so I go to image 500. This turns out to be a November 1886 record, so the label of the image set isn’t correct. I jump back to image 400 and then go back and forth until I find the birth record for Antonie de Wijze at image 408.

Birth record of Antonie de Wijze, Middelburg 2 March 1886

Birth record of Antonie de Wijze, Middelburg 2 March 1886

The record shows that Antonie de Wijze was born on 2 March 1886 at 2.30 AM in house district F number 76. The informant was Adriaan de Wijze, 33, coach driver, the father, who registered the birth the same day. He states that he is the father, and his wife Johanna Sturm is the mother. The record was created by an unnamed alderman and witnessed by Izaak de Pagter, 33, freight driver in Domburg and Jan Lous, 70, work man in Middelburg. The record was signed by the father and the witnesses. The signature of the last witness is very shaky.

Finding the birth record of Catharina Johanna van Keulen

To find Catharina Johanna van Keulen’s birth record, we return to Domburg is also located in the province of Zeeland, so we click Zeeland, and then the BS [Civil Registration] link behind Domburg. The 1888 birth record should be in the record set Geboorten, Huwelijken, Overlijden 1883-1892; Tafels 1883-1892 [Births, marriages and deaths 1883-1892; indexes 1883-1892]. The title of the set suggests that births are listed first, so I start at page 20 of the 387 page record set. I end up in the table of birth records, not the actual birth records. I jump forward 50 pages to image 70. I now find myself in 1886 birth records, so I am in the right part of the set. After some more trial and error I find the birth record on image 95.

Birth record of Catharina Johanna van Keulen, Domburg, 16 July 1888

Birth record of Catharina Johanna van Keulen, Domburg, 16 July 1888

This record shows that Catharina Johanna van Keulen was born in Domburg on 16 July 1888 at 1 AM in house district A number 114a. Her birth was recorded the same day. The informant was her father Simon Adriaan van Keulen, 38, shoemaker living in Domburg. He declared that the child was born to him and his wife Anna van der Werf, without occupation. The record was witnessed by Cornelis Shout, 49, carpenter in Domurg and Huibert Marten Kesteloo, 45, secretary in Domburg. The record was signed by the father, the witnesses and the alderman.

Alternative route: Zeeuwen Gezocht

Instead of using the marriage supplements to find the birth date, I could also have searched the index of the birth records from Zeeland at once I knew that they were born in Zeeland. This would have been quicker than browsing for the marriage supplements. The marriage supplements, however, provided me more additional information: I now know that Antonie was unfit for military duty due to an ailment and I know the death date of Anna van der Werf, the mother of Catharina Johanna van Keulen. The marriage supplements are also a more certain route, since an index may not be complete or may have missed or misspelled records.

Step 4: Research plan for next phase

After I achieve the goal, I always create a research plan for the next phase. Depending on what Larry Joosen would like to know next, some suggestions for the next steps are:

  • Follow up on the other hits in WieWasWie to see what other records for Antonie de Wijze and Catharina Johanna van Keulen can be found.
  • Find the marriage record of the parents of Antonie de Wijze and Catharina Johanna van Keulen using WieWasWie, Genver and Familysearch to trace their ancestors back further in time.
  • Locate the Staatsblad nr. 13 dated 30 May 1904 and check article 293 to see what ailment caused Antonie de Wijze to be unfit for military duty. This publication is not available online and can be consulted in many libraries in the Netherlands, including at the National Archives or Royal Library in The Hague.

Closing thoughts

I hope this description of all the steps involved in tracing Larry Joosen’s grandparents’ birth records has given you some suggestions for your own research. If so, please leave a message. Also, feel free to ask a question that I can use as an example in a future post.

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.


  1. Hi Yvette,

    My mother was born on 18/11/17 I think in Oosterhout or Nijmegan. I have been unable to find a birth certficate. My mothers name was Maria Petronella Van Brakel. My cousin Guido has been doing a family tree but there seems to be confusion round the date of my mothers birth. My grandparents were: Gerardus and Janna Catrina van Brakel -Lamers. Can you please help me to find a birth certificate.

    Thank you

  2. Hi Yvette I’m trying to start my family history and I know that my grandpas side of the family is from the Netherlands but don’t know where to begin. His name is Klass F Gunnink and his parents where Thea and Frank Gunnink but can’t seem to find any info on them is it because there names are different in duch

  3. Dawn Zandstra says

    I can’t find the records for Births, Deaths and Marriages before 1811 on TRESOAR. I have used them for years now the seem to have dis appeared.
    Help please

  4. Elly Ferguson says

    Hello Yvette, I wonder if you can tell me why I can’t access records on Wiewaswie before 1800.
    Thank you
    Elly Ferguson

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