Dutch term – Loopgraaf

A loopgraaf is a trench. They were most famously deployed in World War I, when the Netherlands was neutral, but also in other wars. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Schutterij

The schutterij is the citizen militia responsible for the defense of the town. In times of war, they could be called up to defend the country. Schutterijen existed throughout the Netherlands from at least the 1500s. Regulations for the schutterijen were standardized in 1814. Male residents between the ages of 18 and 50 (from 1827: between 25 and 34) were elligible to serve. By law, 600 schutters were required per 20,000 residents. Schutterijen existed until 1901. Records for schutters can … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Broederdienst

Broederdienst literally means "brother service." It was a reason for exemption of military service. If a family had an even number of sons, half of them had to serve. If they had an uneven number of sons, the lesser half had to serve. The brothers who did not have to serve got an exemption for broederdienst. You will often find these exemptions listed in the marriage supplements. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Hollandse Waterlinie

De Hollandse Waterlinie (Holland Water Defense) was a uniquely Dutch defense system that combined large-scale inundations with strategically placed forts. In times of war, large sections would be inundated to prevent an approaching army from reaching the rich cities of the province of Holland. Some smaller scale inundations had been used in the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) but in 1672, when the Netherlands was at war on three fronts, the larger scale defense line that became known as the … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Soldaat

A soldaat is a soldier, the lowest rank in the army. Before the French occupation, the Netherlands only had a professional army. Soldiers were recruited from all over Europe, bringing many Scots, Swiss and other soldiers to the country. Conscription for men between the ages of 20 and 45 was introduced in 1810. It was suspended in 1997, though never officially abolished. … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Napoleonic army records available online

During the French occupation (1795-1813), many Dutch young men were conscripted into Napoleon's army. The French department of Defense has now made scans of the military records for this period online on the "Mémoire des hommes" [Memory of the men] website. The website contains military records of other French soldiers as well, including those who served in World War I, but these won't include many Dutch men. An indexing project is underway, but scans can already be browsed. Go to the … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Loteling

A loteling was a conscripted soldier, whose number came up. This 19th century term literally means "lottery person," which refers to the lot numbers that were assigned to all eligible young men. The ones with the lowers numbers had to serve. Until 1896, you were allowed to switch numbers, and the person who had to serve in another's place would be called a nummerwisselaar. … [Read more...]

Quick tip: Find out what your ancestor looked like

In the marriage supplements, the documents that a bride and groom had to submit when they got married, you will usually encounter a certificate stating that the groom had fulfilled his military duties. About half the time, this form will include a physical description. See elsewhere on this site for a list of terms with their translations. The example below is the certificate for Arend Kastein, showing that he was 1.74 m (5'9") tall, an oval face, ordinary stern, blue eyes, an ordinary nose and … [Read more...]

Dutch term: nummerwisselaar

A nummerwisselaar or number changer was a person that was hired as a replacement for military service. Often, this was somebody who signed up in the same year, but whose number did not come up. They literally "exchanged numbers" so one man served instead of the other. In most cases, a contract between the (father of the) draftee and his substitute was drawn up before a public notary. It stipulated the terms, often involving a sum of money to be paid immediately and another sum after the … [Read more...]