Quick tip – Are you Searching for the Right Name?

There can be different reasons why you can’t find the person you’re looking for. Perhaps they were from a different town, or the record you need doesn’t survive. But they could be hiding under a different name.

Before the introduction of the civil registration (1811 in most parts of the Netherlands), there was no requirement for a hereditary surname. People could be using different surnames in different records:

  • They could use a patronymic, named after their father’s first name. The father would have a different patronymic. Some people use patronymics in some records and a last name in other records, such as my ancestor Laureijs Denis Peter Pulskens.
  • They could use a farm name, and used the name of the farm they lived on, that changed when they moved.
  • They could use a van-name, showing their place of origin. It could be that the indexer mistook an indication of origin as a last name. The person would not have used the van-name in the place of origin, since people only adopt those types of names after they move away since it is not distinctive while they live there.
  • Immigrants might use a translation of their name. A French Huguenot named Du Jardin might be known as Van der Tuin in the Netherlands. A Dutch immigrant named Konings might be known as King in the US.

Even the first names could be different:

  • They could appear under a diminutive or call name. One of my ancestors, Cornelia Platschart, appeared in deacon’s records as Kee, for example.
  • Roman Catholic records usually have the Latin version of the name. A woman who appears in Dutch records as Grietje might appear in Latin records as Margaretha.
  • Records created during the French occupation (1795-1813) may have the French version of the name. My ancestor Hendrik Smulders appeared in French census records as “Henri.”

Spelling variations might also affect your ability to find someone, especially since Dutch genealogical search engines typically only find exact matches. For example, I have seen the name Hoitink spelled as Huitink, Haitink, Hoijtink, Hoytink,  Hooijtink, Hoitinck, Hoijtinck, Hoytinck, Hoiting, Hoijting, Hoyting, Huiting, Hooijting, and even Hooijckijnck.

Name cloud of the 100 most popular names

Name cloud of the 100 most popular names

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Hi Yvette,
    Do you have a guess which of the kinds of names you list Freers and Schreurs might be? They don’t seem like patronymics or farm names?

  2. And about Cornelia. I have a Dutch ancestor, Kate Morel, who turned out to be really named Cornelia. Not knowing that held me up for a long time.

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