How to Record Prefixes and Patronymics

Dutch names often have prefixes like Van der, De, and Ter; and patronymics like Jans (son of Jan) or Pietersen (son of Pieter). Dutch genealogy programs have separate fields for prefixes and patronymics but most international programs do not. So where do you enter these name parts in a genealogy program that only has fields for First name and Last name?

My solution

Politician speaking to a crowd

Pieter Jelles Troelstra, a Frisian politicus. Credits: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Here is how I handle it:

  • I put prefixes in the Last name field, uncapitalized.
  • For people who do not use a last name, I put patronymics in the Last name field.
  • For people who used a patronymic in addition to a last name, I put the patronymic at the end of the first name field.
  • For people who sometimes use a last name and sometimes just use a patronymic, I add an alternate name.

This means that names will be alphabetized by their prefix, “De Vries” would be under “D.” In the Netherlands, “De Vries” would be capitalized under V, not D, so this is not the Dutch way. But if you are using an international program you probably expect “De Vries” to be capitalized under the D anyway.

I recommend against creating custom fields for recording the patronymics and prefixes, since these won’t display as part of the name in lists, reports and overviews. You run the risk of seeing only a part of the name which can be confusing.


Name First name field Last name field
Pieter Jelles Troelstra Pieter Jelles Troelstra
Trijntje Sjoukes Trijntje Sjoukes
Greta de Jong Greta de Jong
Wolfert Gerritse van Kouwenhoven,
also known as Wolfert Gerritse
Wolfert Gerritse
van Kouwenhoven
Gerritse (alternate name)

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. Virgil Hoftiezer says

    My genealogy program allows me to chose to have the surnames all in CAPS which I prefer on printouts (so I never confuse given names or middle names with
    surnames). So my problem is names like DeYoung – which are written as one name but with two capital letters. In these cases I add a space so the name appears as DE YOUNG. I don’t think this is a standard, but it works for me.
    Do most people prefer to have surnames all in CAPS, or am I another lone voice in the wilderness?

    • Hello,
      No you are not a lonely voice in the wilderness.
      I have a fabulous Genealogy program called Ancestral Quest,. All names are like this one: Catharina Francisca LEFERINK., whether in a single family, a pedigree form, a name list or anything else..
      Enjoy your genealogy.

    • I dislike having surnames in caps, because it masks the correct spelling of the name.

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