Dutch term – Verzuiling

Verzuiling, literally: “pillarization,” is the segregation of a society by religion or socio-economic background.

By the late 1800s, the Dutch society become increasingly segragated. As a child of Roman Catholic parents, you would not just worship in the Catholic church, but you would also attend a Catholic school, sing in a Roman choir, and join a Catholic gymnastics club. When you grew up, you would vote for the Catholic party, joined the Catholic labor union, and later you would tune in to the Catholic Radio Station.

Each group in society had their own pillars: Roman Catholics, Dutch Reformed, Christian Reformed, Socialists, Communists, Liberals, et cetera. You could ask a person what newspaper they read, and that instantly told you what faction they belonged to. Marrying outside your own group often encountered resistance.

children in front of tents

Christian Youth Society Camp, 1950. Credits: Harry Pot, collection Nationaal Archief (CC-BY-SA)

By the late 1900s, the system gradually diminished and people started to mingle more. At this moment, the remnants of pillarization are most visible in the school system. Many schools are still associated with one of these pillars, usually a religion, with the majority of children in a school being from the same background.

Personally, I prefer that children from all backgrounds learn together, so they get to know and respect each other’s similiarities and differences. It may be a few years before depillarization integrates the schools, so in the meantime, our son goes to a public school.

You can read more about pillarization on Wikipedia, which includes an overview of major institutions per pillar.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Shirley Crampton says

    I recently learned that my husband’s grandfather who was born of Dutch parents who immigrated to Michigan, USA in the 1840’s was kicked out of his family around the time that he married. I knew that he married a Catholic woman, although he was not Catholic, and that he changed his name from Veneklasen to Veneklase at the same time. Apparently he was kicked out of the family at this time. Now the possible reason becomes more clear.

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