Quick Tip – Unexpected Nicknames

My grandmother’s official name was Catharina Flooren, but she was known as “Toos.” That’s a common derivative of Catharina, which came about via Catharina > Cato > Toos. Other examples of nicknames that  might seem surprising are Mees for Bartholomeus, Elen for Aleida, and Nel for Petronella or Cornelia.

Especially before the introduction of the civil registration, you can find people in records under different variations of their names.

To find out other forms of a name, you can check the Corpus of First Names in the Netherlands. The “Verklaring” tab will often provide a link to the root form of a name.


Toos and Annie Flooren (circa 1922)

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. Worth Anderson says:

    Is Neeltje also a diminutive of Cornelia, or is it a separate name?

  2. I had a dead-end with my genealogy for a long time with a Dutch ancestress named Kate Collier (born 19 Sept 1831, Netherlands died 4 Jan 1912, Wayne County, New York). Finally a DNA match to me figured out she was the niece of her own ancestor, and her name was Cornelia Carlier. This DNA match also had an ancestress named Cornelia who went by Kate (my ancestor’s aunt) so it was clearly a family trend. I would never have known! And Carlier/Collier was a surprise to me, too. The brick wall crumbled. Kate was born Cornelia Morel married Izaac Carlier.

    Then there’s the tight little colony from Winterswijk who settled in Muscatine, Iowa. I am related to all of them, apparently, and they all had daughters named Gesiena whom they called Senie (but spelled it Sena). In 1880 they all lived on 8th Street, and the census taker dutifully wrote Sena down for a daughter in almost every house. The transcriber for the online version must not have been familiar with that name, but he or she knew the name Lena, so now every house on 8th Street in Muscatine in 1880 has a daughter named Lena.

  3. Doris Waggoner says:


    My ggg grandmother, born in Schenectady, New York in 1783, was baptized and married as Neeltje Schermerhorn (or Schermerhoorn. Her grandmother was also Neeltje Schermerhorn. Some of my ggg grandmother’s children were baptized with the mother’s name as Eleanor or Nellie. As recently as 15 years ago, I corresponded with a descendant who was named Nell, who told me there had been a woman in every generation from the first Neeltje, who was born in 1725, whose name was some form of Eleanor or Nellie or Nell. But is Neeltje the “original” name, or is it too a nickname for something else?


    • Doris Waggoner says:


      I just used the “Corpus of First Names in the Netherlands” to search for the popularity of the feminine name Neeltje after 1880. It was never popular during that period, and declined precipitously. In the “statement” section, it clearly states that Neeltje is a diminutive of Cornelius.

      I was also interested in your noting that Mees is a nickname for Bartholomeus. I have a late 17th or early 18th c. ancestor named Bartholomeus who went by Mees.

      Nicknames are fascinating in other cultures as well–my mother’s family is entirely Norwegian and there are many versions of Hans and Henrik. But my Dutch ancestors, though fewer, seem to have many more nicknames.


  4. I just used the Corpus of First Names in the Netherlands tool to answer another question. There’s a family story that has persisted to my mother’s generation about a family member who visited Muscatine from the Netherlands named Cobus. What wasn’t remembered was exactly who he was to the family, and I’ve poked around my tree looking for a Cobus or Cobas or Kobis (I’ve only heard the name said, never seen it spelled), but I’ve never found him. Now I know Cobus is a nickname for Jacobus! Maybe I can find the guy, now.

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