My great-aunt Hendrickje Stoffels, partner of Rembrandt van Rijn

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of going to the Rijksmuseum to visit the Exhibition “Late Rembrandt,” featuring the works of the latter part of Rembrandt van Rijn‘s career. A long-term wish of mine came true: I stood eye-to-eye with paintings and portraits of Hendrickje Stoffels, my 11th great aunt.

Hendrickje Stoffels, partner of Rembrandt

Hendrickje Stoffels came into Rembrandt’s household in 1649, after his wife’s death. The 23-year-old woman took care of his household and his young son Titus, and became Rembrandt’s mistress (not the word that the church council used when they censored her!). She bore him a child in 1654. When Rembrandt went bankrupt, she and Titus founded an art company together, which sheltered him from creditors and allowed him to work on his art.

There are several portraits and drawings by Rembrandt that may feature her. Some were included in the exhibition.

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Hendrickje Stoffels, the sergeant’s daughter from Bredevoort

About twenty years ago, I found out I had a personal connection connection to Hendrickje Stoffels when I read an article by Henk Ruessink, in which he proposed a parental family for her: sergeant Stoffel Stoffels, also known as Jegers, and his wife Mechteld Lamberts, who lived in Bredevoort in the first half of the 17th century.1 His theory was plausible but unproven at that point, as he had not found any records that mentioned Hendrickje with her birth family.

I recognized these names, as they are my 11th great-grandparents. I descend from their son Harmen Jegers, a lieutenant in the Bredevoort garrison during the Eighty Year War. While researching this family in the unindexed court records of Bredevoort, I found a record that showed Hendrickje together with her siblings, selling their parental home on 13 December 1653. Henk Ruessink’s theory proved to be correct.

Court record

Deed of sale of the Stoffels house, 13 December 16532

Locating the house where Hendrickje Stoffels was born

Unfortunately, the deed that recorded the sale of Hendrickje’s parental home did not mention the location of the house, just the neighbors. Other court records that mentioned sales of other houses, including the neighbors, allowed me to reconstruct the population of Bredevoort in the seventeenth century. I was able to localize some of the houses that stood next to landmarks like the city gates and the church. Like corner pieces in a puzzle, they helped to anchor strings of houses. By combing 5,0000 records for clues about Bredevoort houses and piecing them together, I figured out the location of the house where Hendrickje Stoffels was born.

Henk Ruessink and I revealed the location of the house in 2006, on the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth. The timber house mentioned in the records had been replaced by a brick one in the centuries since Hendrickje lived there. A sign now marks the spot.

Location of Hendrickje Stoffels house

Location of Hendrickje Stoffels’ house (photo by author)

After spending so much time researching her family and location of her house, it was a privilege to see her portraits. My family was mostly poor so I don’t have any portraits of relatives from before 1900. To see one painted by a master like Rembrandt was very special.


  1. Henk Ruessink, “Hendrickje Stoffels, jongedochter van Bredevoort,” Jaarboek Achterhoek en Liemers 13 (1990), 28-36.
  2. Court of Bredevoort, Netherlands, voluntary procotols 1652-1654, call number 418, fol. 81v; Oud Rechterlijk Archief Bredevoort, record group 0136; Gelders Archief, Arnhem, Netherlands. The court records of Bredevoort have since been transferred to the Erfgoedcentrum Achterhoek and Liemers in Doetinchem, where they can be consulted as record group 3017.
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. What a great story! Nice work determining the location of the home!

  2. Teresa says

    Yvette, this is SO COOL. I can’t believe you reconstructed 17th century Bredevoort! What a project. Did you publish it anywhere? Because you know I’d LOVE to see it.

    I have an ancestor who was painted by Jan Van Eyck. I can’t prove the connection that far back (he’s my 15th g-grandfather) but he’s my ancestor if all the published genealogies of that family are correct. It’s this man:

    • I have not published the research anywhere, but the results are included in my online tree..

      The (Dutch) slides of a presentation I gave about the reconstruction is available on my Heerlijkheid Bredevoort website. The first half talks about all the discoveries I made while browsing the records, including the location of the houses destroyed when lightning hit the gunpowder tower of the castle which blew up. The second half shows the reconstruction of the location of Hendrickje Stoffels’ house.

      • Are the map screens of Bredevoort in the presentation from the atlas you won? They’re beautiful.

  3. Awesome story! The ink wash drawing is one of my favorites.

  4. Donovan Craig says

    What a find! I would love to find out information like that about members of my family.

  5. Pamela Huizenga says

    Great work Yvette. Very interesting. I recently had a distant cousin of my father’s message me to see if I had heard of a connection between his wife and the Algera / Algra family lines. I haven’t done any research on it but I looked up some information on his life and found it interesting. That connection for you is great as it gives “life” to your family history many generations back.

  6. Cassandra Nash says

    Hi Yvonne! We’re relatives! I’m also related to Stoffel Stoffels & Mechteld Lambert as 11th Great Grandparents but through their daughter Mechtelt Stoffel!

    Great article!

  7. Cassandra Nash says

    Hi Yvette! We’re relatives! I’m also related to Stoffel Stoffels & Mechteld Lambert as 11th Great Grandparents but through their daughter Mechtelt Stoffel!

    Great article!

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