Ask Yvette – Is my last name Dutch?

One of the questions I get asked frequently in person is whether a certain surname is Dutch. That can be tricky to answer, especially if a name got spelled differently after emigration. To find out where your name comes from requires genealogical research to trace the line that bears the last name back to its place of origin. That being said, here are a few resources to see if a last name occurs in the Netherlands: Database of surnames in the Netherlands. This is the first place to … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

Quick tip – “De” Names do not mean Huguenot

The prefix "de" in a name can be confusing. It means "the" in Dutch but can also mean "de" in French. People who have done Huguenot research often assume a "de"-name indicates a French or Huguenot origin. But when you're dealing with a Dutch family, think horses not zebras: your Dutch ancestor with a "de" name was probably Dutch. The most popular Dutch "De"-names are: De Vries [the Frisian] De Jong/Jonge [the younger] De Boer [the farmer] De Groot [the great/tall] De Wit … [Read more...]

Eight Dutch Naming Patterns to Watch Out For

Understanding how Dutch people named their children or themselves will help you solve your family mysteries. Here are eight Dutch naming patterns to watch out for. Naming children after grandparents Many Dutch children were named after their grandparents, often in a specific order: the first son after the paternal grandfather, second son after the maternal grandfather, first daughter after maternal grandmother, second daughter after paternal grandmother. After the grandparents were named, … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Search without the last name

If you can't find the person you're looking for, try searching without the last name. Before 1811, last names were not fixed in many parts of the country. People may appear in records using farm names (in the eastern part of the country) or patronymics (everywhere else), or even under a different last name. By searching for other characteristics, such as the first name of the person you're looking for and their father's first name, you may find people even if they're hiding under a different … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Patronymics May Not Be Easy to Recognize

Sometimes it's hard to see the difference between a patronymic and a middle name. One of my ancestors, Hendrik Jan Smulders was called "Jan" because his father was named Jan. At that time, people in Tilburg didn't use a genitive form to indicate patronymics so it's difficult to see if "Jan" is a middle name or a patronymic. In other regions and times, the name might have been Jans, Jansen, Janssen, Janse, or Jansse, which more clearly define it as a patronymic. Another situation where a … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Last Name or Patronymic?

If you're researching a family with a name like Jansen, Zwiers, or Pieterse, at one point you will find the original person for whom the name was not a hereditary last name but a patronymic derived from the father's name. My mother's name is Marijnissen. As a beginning genealogist, it took me a while to realize that the father of her brick wall ancestor wasn't called Marijnissen but had Marijnis as a first name. I found his father as Marinus Peeters. When dealing with such names before … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Hiding under another name

If your ancestors were from a small town and you can't find their parents, perhaps they're hiding under another name. There wasn't a great influx of new people in a small town, so don't automatically assume that people came from elsewhere if you can't find them. They could be hiding under a different farm name, or their last name could be a patronymic referring to the first name rather than the last name of the father. Or maybe they were the first in their family to use that particular name … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Names Sometimes got Shortened

If you're looking for the Dutch origins of your immigrant ancestor, keep in mind that the name originally could have been longer than the name the family used in the new country. Long names were often shortened to make them easier to pronounce in another language. After some of my Esselinkpas cousins emigrated to Michigan in the 1800s, they went by Pas. Some members of the Roerdinkveldboom family went by Veldboom after emigration. Another thing to keep in mind is that there might be family … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Some surnames were adopted gradually

As you get further back in time, you will get to the point where you find the first person who adopted a surname. Sometimes that's a distinct event; for example when a Frisian family adopts a last name in 1811 because it is required by the Napoleonic laws upon the introduction of the civil registration. Before 1811, there were no laws and regulations that mandated people to have surnames. Names were often adopted gradually. Not all family members may have adopted the name. A person may appear … [Read more...]