Dutch term – Schoolmeester

Etching of a school teacher

School teacher; etching by Jan and Casper Luyken, about 1694. Credits: Picturing the Past

A schoolmeester is a school teacher. Most school teachers taught in small village schools, consisting of one room, where they were expected to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to their pupils. Reading was considered more important than writing, as they could then read the bible.

Most children would only go to school for about six years. Children of farmers would be kept home in the summer to help with the harvest and in the winter they would not always be able to attend school if the roads were bad. Especially in rural areas, the nearest school might be an hour walking away; two hours if the roads were bad. It’s easy to see why many people never got any further than signing their name, or did not even get that far.

School teachers were often appointed by the Dutch Reformed Church. The church would usually provide a house and pay a basic income plus a small fee for any poor children who attended the school. The other parents were required to pay tuition.

In church council minutes, you can often find information about appointments and dismissals or deaths of school teachers. Sometimes you will read about occasional lapses in morals or rivalry among teachers when an unofficial teacher set himself up in the area.

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. In Prussia many of the school teachers (“Schulmeister”) were retired soldiers and it probably was directly fun having them for a teacher….

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