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 … [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 … [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 … [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 … [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 … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Common Spelling Variations in Dutch names

If you can't find the name you're looking for, try a spelling variation. Most Dutch search engines only find exact matches, so playing around with variations and wildcards may be necessary to find the person you're looking for. Knowing the different spellings of certain sounds in words can help. Examples of spelling … [Read more...]

Quick tip – New URL for Database of Surnames in the Netherlands

The database of surnames in the Netherlands has a new home. It is now maintained by the Central Bureau for Genealogy and available at cbgfamilienamen.nl. In the database, you can look up a name to see how popular it was in 1947 and 2007, and where those people lived. In many cases, there will be a description of the origin of the name and … [Read more...]

Open data case study: Changing names in Winterswijk

The Gelders Archief just published many of their genealogical indexes as open data. This allows everyone to download the indexes and re-use them. Being a bit of a geek, I could not resist downloading some of the sets for Winterswijk to see what I could do with them. Winterswijk is the town where my father was born, and most of his ancestors to0, … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Was your ancestor the first to use the surname?

Let's say you've gone all the way back to the 1500s, 1600s or 1700s and can't find the parents of your brick wall ancestor. Could it be that your ancestor was the first one to use the name? Perhaps your Van Etten really was from Etten, and his parents only used a patronymic. Perhaps your Hoitink ancestor was born on another farm, and only called … [Read more...]

Quick tip – The last name may not have come from the father

In genealogy, we are used to children having the same last name as their father. But there are several circumstances in which the child could have a different name: If the child used a patronymic, in which case the name of the child would be derived from the father's first name, not his last name (e.g. Pier Hessels, son of Hessel Jans). This … [Read more...]