Dutch term – Koopman

Etching of a merchant

The Koopman, etching by Jan and Casper Luyken, circa 1694. Credits: Picturing the Past

A koopman was a merchant, with the plural being kooplieden. Kooplieden could trade in all sorts of goods, ranging from spices from the Far East, timber from the Baltic or fur from the Americas. Others traded in domestic products like grain, cloth or glassware.

One of the nice things about having a koopman in your tree is that they left much more records than the average person: purchase contracts, partnership agreements, declarations of debts, powers of attorney and a range of other contracts regarding their business. You might be surprised to find out how extensive their trade network was. Merchants were also wealthier than the average person and more likely to have a prenuptial agreement or leave a last will.

All these types of records were created before a public notary. Before 1811, not all regions had public notaries so in that case you will find these records in the archives of the local courts, in the section for voluntary cases.

When business deals went sour you can also find them in court records, in the section for civil suits.

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.


  1. I wonder if Koopman is cognate to Kaufman? If so, I must have had some in my past, somewhere. 🙂

  2. Judith romain says

    My ancestors Benjamin Coster on my fathers line were Jewish cigar makers from Holland. Just found a long family tree which states my earlier grandparents the occupation was described as Koopman. Im wondering what i can find out about this way of earning a living. It sounds enterprising, but was it seen as slightly dishonest.

    • A merchant was someone who sold merchandise. Nothing shady about that, though I’m sure there were rotten apples like in any profession. As Jews, they would have been barred from regulated professions since they were not allowed to join a guild. Merchant was a pretty common occupation for a Jewish person.

      • Judith Romain says

        Thanks for the reply. Feel better no criminal elements in the forebears. Always loved being a salesperson myself. So must be in the DNA.

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