Quick tip – Languages that may come in handy

These languages will come in handy when researching your ancestors from the Netherlands.


Not surprisingly, most records in the Netherlands have been written in Dutch.


During the French occupation (1795-1813), most government records were written in French, including early civil registration records.


During World War II (1940-1945), the Netherlands was occupied by Germany so some official records created at that time were in German. Also, in some parts of current-day Limburg, people originally spoke German so some of the early civil registration records there are in German.


Roman Catholic church records (baptisms, marriages, burials) are typically written in Latin. If you’re researching Catholic ancestors in the period before 1811, you will need these Latin records. If you are lucky enough to trace your family back to the Middle Ages, you will also need Latin if you want to study the earlier charters.


medieval manuscript

Manuscript in Middle-Dutch, about 1450-1460.
William, Duke of Guelders, submits to Charles VI.
Image credits: Royal Library, The Hague

Modern Dutch is different from old Dutch. The language used before say 1700 (called Middle Dutch) is so different from modern Dutch that most people today cannot understand it even if the record is transcribed into legible script.


In the province of Friesland, many people speak Frisian. Since 1985, both Frisian and Dutch are recognized as official languages by the Dutch government and both are used to create official records. Older records will typically be in Dutch, although some newspaper accounts may be in Frisian.


Few if any of the records you will need are in English, but many people in the Netherlands speak English. You can use English to ask questions to archives, genealogists or historical societies. Some archives and municipalities have English versions of their websites.

Struggling with all these languages? You can let your browser translate for you or hire a professional researcher to help you.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG® 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 certificate 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. Cheryl (Vanden Eynden) Jones says

    Hi! I was wondering if you have any recommendations for resources to translate Middle Dutch and/or Latin to English. Are there any websites or books you like to use for this? By the way, your blog has been so helpful to me in researching my Vanden Eynden family! (I believe that my direct ancestor, Petrus Josephus van den Eijnde, came to Cincinnati, OH from Sint-Oedenrode, Noord-Brabant, NL around 1865.)

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