‘Patronymic’ literally means ‘father’s name’. It means that someone calls himself after his father, for example a son of Jan would call himself ‘Jansen’. This is similar to the English name ‘Johnson’.


Patronymics were very popular before the introduction of the civil registration in 1811. Only when the civil registration was introduced, people were required to chose a fixed surname. Before that, people could call themselves however they want. In some regions, people named themselves after their fathers by using patronymics.

Even after the introduction of the civil registration, many people still used the patronymics. Especially in the early years of the civil registration, this was tolerated. The patronymic was used as a sort of middle name in addition to the official family name.

Regional variations

Patronymics were used instead of last names especially in the northern provinces of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe and the northern parts of Overijssel.

In some southern regions like Noord-Brabant, patronymics were used in addition to last names. There, people often named themselves after more generations of ancestors. For example: A Willem Peter Adriaan Jan Verschuren would be Willem, son of Peter, son of Adriaan, son of Jan Verschuren. Beware however, because sometimes a son had the same name as the father and that name was skipped. Instead of Willem Peter Peter Adriaan Jan Verschuren, he might be called just Willem Peter Adriaan Jan Verschuren, which ‘skips’ a generation.

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. Aubrey Jacobus says

    Jewish naming is special The idea of a surname was not a Jewish tradition especially alien to poor yiddish speaking Jews not long having left European ghettos and migrating to the Netherlands
    They resisted integration and William the third was keen to encourage integration by banning yiddish being taught by whatever means . This caused difficulties as eg there was few bilingual teachers.
    If you look at the Jewish surname registers ca 1811 onwards you will find may ridiculous surnames registered indicating they did not consider the idea necessary – they did not realise they would be saddled with the surname which could not be changed. The Sephardic community kept aloof from their poor religiousness being more middle class. I have worked on Dutch Jewish Genealogy for 25 years see

  2. Lorraine James says

    This is a helpful article. Do you have any research tips for finding records when only patronimics were used? How do I know I have the correct lineage (as siblings named their children after parents/grandparents also)? Thanks

  3. Jonathan Horstman says

    Researching my last name Horstman

Leave comment